Monday, March 1, 2021

Why Our Pain Matters

Last week I saw a tweet from an OB/GYN on Twitter questioning the lack of routine sedation options for women during Intrauterine Device (IUD) insertion and removal, and I was immediately transported to the worst physical pain I had ever experienced: having my cervix manually dilated during childbirth. It was by far the worst pain in a very long, painful induced labor with my daughter that ended in a C-Section, and ultimately the worst pain of my life to date.

I was lucky to have competent and compassionate care from everyone involved in my labor and delivery, and I consider myself to have a high pain tolerance. But this particular procedure made me cry actual tears of pain in a way that I hadn't since childhood. While not the same thing as an IUD insertion or removal, I’ve hesitated to get an IUD after experiencing someone monkeying around with my cervix.

Here's what Planned Parenthood--one of the best organizations in the country for accessible birth control and one that I support with my own wallet--says about the pain of IUD insertion:
How does it feel to get an IUD put in?

People usually feel some cramping or pain when they're getting their IUD placed. The pain can be worse for some, but luckily it only lasts for a minute or two.

Some doctors tell you to take pain medicine before you get the IUD to help prevent cramps. They also might inject a local numbing medicine around your cervix to make it more comfortable.

Some people feel dizzy during or right after the IUD is put in, and there's a small chance of fainting. You might want to ask someone to come with you to the appointment so you don't have to drive or go home alone, and to give yourself some time to relax afterward.
I posted something on Twitter and Facebook to start a conversation about this, and take sort of an informal poll of people's pain in IUD insertion and removal, which involves manipulation of the cervix. 

Perhaps a third of the people who contributed to this conversation said it was painless, but about two-thirds said it was the most excruciating pain of their lives. Many described humiliating experiences of being told to “suck it up” and having the discomfort undersold to them, both before, during, and after the procedure. Some worried that the conversation itself could discourage folks from accessing effective birth control (which is the last thing I want to do).

But I think it’s still important to talk about women's (and trans men with uteruses) experiencing pain in reproductive procedures and birth control. I think it's important that we ask the question why people are made to endure the kind of pain that would never be tolerated for a second during a dental procedure or a vasectomy. I don't recall a dentist ever telling me to suck up any pain. I recall being given options for three different types of anesthesia for every dental procedure I've undergone.

So why is routine sedation like this not more common in IUD insertion and removal? I'm not a doctor, so I really don't know the answer. I'm really just posing the question, because I think at least some of the reason is plain vanilla misogyny.

I get that it’s become fashionable to blame The Patriarchy™️ for everything, but that’s because we live in a patriarchal society, and that fact infuses and informs every aspect of our lives, from the wages women earn to the research, time, and attention devoted to our healthcare. Reproductive health is an obvious flashpoint for this, regardless of the gender of the medical provider (or so says my informal poll).

I think as a society we subconsciously want to punish women for their sexuality. We want them to fight and suffer for reproductive autonomy, and we want them to feel pain and humiliation for seeking it out. We want them to associate sex with violence, trauma, and pain. Or, at a minimum, we are indifferent to it. Again, none of this is necessarily conscious. But it’s a reality that is reflected in the lived experience of countless women.

We need to at least entertain the possibility that this is the real reason why this procedure is so brutal for so many. Although it’s a small thing, acknowledging and addressing the very real pain of IUD insertion and removal is one way to chip away at a deeper form of medicalized and societal misogyny.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

This Should Make Us All Very Mad.

Lizzo said it best: why men great ‘til they gotta be great?

Ruth Botstein and I didn’t get the courtesy of 48 hours’ notice when our “friend” and colleague of a decade plus, Ed Sniffen, illegally/unconstitutionally fired us for off-hours, anti-Trump tweeting that offended Governor Dunleavy’s loyalist agenda. It happened three hours after the governor was sworn into office, and we packed our boxes that very day.

I worked with Ed for twelve years. He was kind, smart, professional, great to work with, handsome, and charming. But the day he illegally fired me and Ruth, I knew it was all a lie. I then watched for two years as he desecrated the rule of law in Alaska. There was, seemingly, no order he wouldn’t follow. I started referring to him, only half-jokingly, as “Nuremberg Ed.”

I thought things couldn’t get worse than signing on to a frivolous and seditious lawsuit over the 2020 election. In so doing, he undermined the State’s interests and violated several bar rules of professional conduct. Of course, casting doubt on the election was all of a piece with the reason for the subsequent Capitol insurrection that killed five people, including a police officer.

And this was all before he was promoted from Acting Attorney General to permanent Attorney General, and after his predecessor resigned in disgrace amid a sexting scandal.

I thought it couldn’t get worse, but as usual these days, I was wrong and it did.

Ed now faces a potential class B felony—a serious charge that carries bigly jail time with no statute of limitations —for sexual abuse of a minor, because he was involved with a high school student whose mock trial team he coached in the 90s. Had it not been for Kyle Hopkins and ProPublica’s in-depth and meticulously-sourced reporting, and the courage of the woman involved, no one would ever have known any of this.

The fact that Ed Sniffen thought for one second that he could simply slide into the top law enforcement job in Alaska—a state with the highest rates of sexual assault in the country—with an alleged sex felony against a minor in his background—tells you everything you need to know about how privileged and powerful men in positions of authority are accustomed to a consequence-free existence. A life of Riley in which their opportunity, careers, ambition, and reputations are prized and elevated over everyone and everything—especially women. 

But you can hardly blame them. Experience and society tell them they’re entitled to it. Men and women alike fearfully and fawningly scoot them along and protect them, whether due to their own intimidation and ambition, or in the case of many women, the internalized misogyny that makes us leap to their defense and feel sorry for them even now. 

Here I might add that the self-policed bar association and its membership deserve scrutiny as well. We pay $650 in mandatory annual dues for our law licenses. Some of this sum is supposedly for attorney discipline in an old boys club that rarely metes out any. This organization had scheduled Alan Dershowitz—himself an accused minor sex offender—to be keynote speaker at its 2020 convention until “cancel culture” came for the honor. Many women lawyers are forced to prop up and quietly condone or defend this simply for self-preservation and the survival of their own hard-won careers.

Also, there is next to zero vetting for the job of Alaska’s Attorney General. The governor appoints whoever he wants, and the legislature more or less rubber stamps the appointment in confirmation

Only one AG appointment has ever been rejected by the Alaska legislature. Only two women have ever held the job. Electing an AG, as many states do, is potentially worse, but here the quality of any given candidate is dependent solely on the questionable judgment of the governor, and the equally questionable diligence of the legislature.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has a past. Everyone has skeletons in their closets. And unless we do some serious soul-searching, we all invent years-long narratives and justifications to excuse them. 

But men with these types of “mistakes” (though this really wasn’t a mistake since he knew what he was doing was illegal) don’t belong in the top law enforcement job in the state. Ed knows this, of course, which is why he packed up his office before the shit hit the fan. Not every man’s unrealized career advancement is a tragedy.

Good looks, privilege, and a passable level of intelligence can go a long way toward fooling the whole world into thinking you’re entitled to positions of power you have no business pursuing, much less holding. 

So in counterpoint to “let’s not make a spectacle of someone’s destruction,” I’d humbly offer that we should indeed make a spectacle out of the fact that the 27 year-old man who plied a 17 year-old with booze on a youth court field trip he was chaperoning to New Orleans still reasonably assumed he would be Alaska’s number one cop. 

All in all, the whole thing is incredibly sad and a giant black eye for the State.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

14 Foreign Words Besides Taco That Woke Cancel Culture is Coming For

Fuhrer means leader or guide in Deutsch, Reich is realm. If you speak the language fluently, you would know the English definition of the word, the progressives have put a spin on it and created their own definition. Now, before you know it the German word Danke will be outlawed as it sounds to [sic.] close to Donkey. Please leave taco out of this! Ban on foreign words? Do they know how idiotic they sound?

—Anchorage Assembly Member and Alaska State Commission for Human Rights Commissioner Jamie Allard, defending previously recalled Alaska license plates 3REICH and FUHRER, Jan. 24, 2021.

It's not going to stop at taco you guys. Or donkey. There are a lot of foreign words that Radical Left Woke Police Cancel Culture is coming for. Nazi license plates are just the beginning and a bellwether of MUCH worse to come. 

Here are my predictions:

1. CANNOLI: This is a delicious Italian pastry that the Nanny State wants to ban from school lunches because they think it makes kids fat and unable to stay awake in common core math.

2. MENAGE A TROIS: The Radical Left only wants you to masturbate or have sex with one other person at a time, max.

3. DANISH: See number one above. 

4. BURRITO: Leftists won't stop at taco. They want you to subsist on a steady diet of mayo and Jell-O salad, just like us.

5. JALAPENOS: See number four above.

6. BON VOYAGE: If Libtards had their way, you could only say goodbye in Chinese or Russian.

7. QUID PRO QUO: Make no mistake, leftist snowflakes want to cancel Latin, because it's too "white" and "classic." If we let them get away with this, we would lose one of our country's most cherished words for bribery, and government would cease to function.

8. SCHADENFREUDE: Cancel culture Antifa sympathizers don't even realize that if they ban this word--just because it's German, of course--they won't even have a way to relish dunking on God-fearing American patriots anymore.

9. ENTREPRENEUR: Capitalism is a dirty word to these Marxist socialist dingbats. We all know that.

10. CROISSSANT: Again, they won't stop at Cannolis and Danishes. This flaky French pastry is next on the chopping block for socialists who want you to stand in line for stale bread like a bunch of sad Commies.

11. WANDERLUST: You'd think the vulgar left tree-huggers wouldn't want to cancel anything with the word "lust" in it, or "wander" for that matter, but you'd be wrong because German was spoken by Nazis.

12. CIGAR: Bet you didn't know this word was Spanish, did you? With all the Mexicans they want to let into our country and hop over the wall, the Democrats still want to ban cigars because they want to tell you how to live your lives and take away one more fun way to celebrate lynchings.

13. SAFARI: If the Left gets its way, you can say goodbye to killing an elephant or a giraffe and hanging its head in your foyer like real Americans do.

14. KARAOKE: If you think the mask police are bad now, wait until you realize that every karaoke bar in the United States is closed because of Big Government's unconstitutional social distance policies and racism left over from World War II.

I'm telling you. You heard it here first. Woke Cancel Culture is coming for the entire Foreign English Language.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

First Amendment 101

The events of this week have the First Amendment on top of everyone’s mind, so I thought I would do a VERY basic and quick review of some key questions about when and how it applies. 

First, here’s the full text, adopted in 1789:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This covers a LOT of rights we think of (and maybe even take for granted) when we think of American democracy: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, right of assembly/protest, and the right to demand action of your elected officials.

The first thing to know is that only the government has to comply with the constitution. It’s a contract between the government and the people. 

Private companies like Twitter have their own contracts—user agreements—with users. When you sign up for the service, you agree to abide by its terms. That is why Twitter is not violating the constitution by banning Trump. 

I’m not saying it’s good that Twitter has so much power over public discourse, only that the constitutional right to free speech is not part of that analysis. Private companies also do not become government actors when they go “public” on the stock market. That’s a totally different thing. 

The second thing to know is that freedom of speech is not absolute. It can indeed be restricted by the government. So the government can and has enacted content-neutral restrictions on the “time, place, and manner” of certain speech thought to be especially dangerous.

The third thing to know is that statutes are subordinate to the constitution, and SCOTUS gets to decide if statutes are unconstitutional. 

Take the Civil Rights Act. A good question is how the government can force private businesses to not discriminate against people on the basis of race, sex, etc. The answer is that Congress enacted a statute that governs private business: in other words, it regulated in this area. 

Private businesses have challenged the Civil Rights Act itself as unconstitutional but SCOTUS said no, Congress is empowered by the commerce clause of the constitution to adopt it (the commerce clause is about free movement of goods and services through the country).

There have also been analogies of the Twitter “purge” to the “gay wedding cake” case in which a Colorado baker was allowed to refuse service to a gay couple. 

The SCOTUS cake case was decided on narrow groundsbut the point is a state agency in CO said the baker couldn’t refuse to bake the cake, and he said that was a violation of his freedom of religion. SCOTUS said the state hadn’t been neutral in its application of the free exercise clause, and undid the State’s decision. So that case was not about free speech, it was about free exercise of religion.

There’s a lot more to say on all of this. But hopefully these points offer some context for recent events. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Two Apps, a Treadmill, and a Shit Sandwich

I guess it was the pandemic that finally did it. Now I was really out of excuses. My kids were getting older and more independent every day. Work was great. My once-debilitating eczema was under control thanks to an injectable interleukin blocker (brand-name Dupixent).

I was planning to start exercising regularly again, but it wasn’t really sticking. And then the whole world changed almost overnight, with a slight “incoming tsunami” vibe for about a month prior. 

One day I was taking my kid to a crowded ice skating competition, and the next day the whole planet went into hunker-down-lockdown-quarantine-shelter-in-place mode, where we have all miserably been ever since. (I still can’t get over the fact that my last trip pre-rona was to Wasilla for a fucking figure skating competition and not Hawaii or somewhere with sun at least).

By whatever name, the result was the same: isolation and darkness. I had a best case scenario to try to fix this with improved diet and exercise: a job I could do remotely, one parent who could reliably monitor Zoom school, and a treadmill-shaped towel rack. I was finally bored and depressed enough to at least try to stop feeling like the business end of a toilet brush. 

So I dusted off the towel rack, signed up for Noom to police my daily produce-to-cookie dough ratio, and upgraded to the paid version of an app called Seven, which features a little crash test dummy coach doing squats and triceps dips and similar physical torture in 30-second intervals.

I filed all of this under “self-care,” remembering Audre Lorde’s famous quote that self-care is not “self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation, which is an act of political warfare.” But Audre Lorde, I’m pretty sure, never did reverse lunges in her kids’ playroom between the toy kitchen and the basketball hoop while peeing a little. She was definitely a zillion times more legit than that. 

Still, I liked the framing. It imbued my “journey” (everything is a fucking personal “journey” now) of eating fewer Cool Ranch Doritos and investing in a FitBit with more meaning than “I need my ass to be Kim in these jeggings” or “I need to keep up with all these REI catalogue types.” Not that I’ve ever had those thoughts. I have a friend in Canada who has though, and many people are saying that this is how some women have been socialized to think. 

Anyhoo, the self-preservation angle stuck with me, because it helped reframe the whole self-care concept as some revolutionary act of defiance against the shit sandwich. And if you’ve been even casually reading this blog, you know that defiance is my preferred weapon for carving up shit sandwiches.

2020, of course, is nothing if not a Super Bowl party-sized, submarine-style, shit sandwich with lettuce pickles onions and special sauce on a sesame seed bun. You couldn’t get a better shit sandwich if you owned a Subway franchise.

Listening to and watching our insane “President” and his block-headed Alaskan mini-me for months on end. Picking fights with friends, family, and total strangers over everything from masks to toilet paper. Watching 350,000 Americans die mostly preventable deaths. Helplessly standing around like deer in the headlights while record-breaking hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, and other climate-change catalyzed natural disasters engulfed the planet for the umpteenth year in a row. Witnessesing late-stage capitalism explode on working Americans in brutal ways all over the country. Sliding into dark, cold winter. 

I mean you guys. It’s bad. It’s a REALLY big shit sammy.

But I DO feel like we are MAYBE past the lowest, darkest point in the rank, fetid center of this particular shit sandwich? This is literally true because Solstice. But it’s also metaphorically true because science is amazing. The COVID vaccine is likely to end this pandemic on the 18 month schedule my scientist friends and family predicted back in March. Trump is going to leave office because he never executes on any of his threats or promises, and we’re all going to breathe better for one minute.

When that minute is over, I hope, we can have a good look around and survey the wreckage of how we got here and how we begin to confront the many problems that the last four years have blasted into the harsh light of day. It’s going to be a huge undertaking to begin repairing the past 240+ years of fuckery. 

But I am up to the task now thanks to wall sits and burpees. The revolution starts in plank pose, mah bitchez!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Please Allow Me to Recap 496 Pages of WAP from Memory

No no, not that WAP. The original WAP. War and Peace, by Cardi B. I mean Leo Tolstoy. 

Longtime readers of this blog will recall a more verbose period of my blogging, when I wrote mostly about books, bad TV, and miscellaneous misadventures in motherhood. 

But in addition to being distracted by the past four years of civic conflagration, I’ve since admonished myself that brevity is the soul of wit—an axiom unknown to the author of this Russian novel.

Ok—and I will try not to include any spoilers for those who have not tortured themselves with this alleged classic of towering import in the canon of western literature—but it is, first and foremost, very long. In fact, one might say that length is this book’s defining feature.

The first thing I did when I opened WAP was flip to the end to find out what happens. JK, I flipped to the end to see how many tissue-thin pages of 8-point font translated Russian, French, and sometimes German I’d be committing myself to. 

The answer was 1,244. One thousand two hundred and forty-four. 

That, by the way, does not include the two translators’ introduction; the chart of principal characters (each of whom is called by 12 different names and all of whose names sound the same as the others); the Appendix (by Tolstoy himself with “a few words” apropos of the aforementioned 1,244 pages); the hundreds of translator footnotes; a historical index, and a summary of each of the four volumes (each of which has multiple subparts) to remind the reader of the key plot points.

But I don’t need any of that, because I’m about to tell you everything that happens in WAP. Or at least in the first 496 pages, which by now you might be able to tell is all I’ve read so far. And let me just say: I’m pretty sure it’s all you really need to get the gist of things.

Lemme break it down.

Picture it: Russia, 1812 or thereabouts. Napoleon is invading from France, because that’s where he lives, because he’s the emperor. (Btw my phone just tried to correct Napoleon to “Nap” when I typed that, which is apt). 

Anyhoo, there is a lot of high society stuff going on in Moscow and Petersburg at this time. We’re talking counts. We’re talking carriages. We’re talking princes with estates and peasants and stewards of the peasants and soldiers dying of gangrene in piles on top of each other. We’re talking fancy balls. We’re talking wolf hunts on horseback. We’re talking death marches through the forest and groups of men standing around, homoerotically warming their naked bodies by the midnight bonfires of military encampments.

You know, shit like that.

A 16 year old second-tier aristocrat named Natasha is being pursued by a count’s wealthy son named Pierre and also a prince named Andrei whose first wife died in childbirth. Both of these men decide they are going to marry Natasha on sight, because that’s how it was before Tinder, and there was no Tinder during the Napoleonic wars.

The main thing about Andrei’s first wife is that she had a mustache (which totally made me feel seen since I myself am of hirsute Russian Jewish ancestry and prone to a “Tom Selleck” in Magnum PI aesthetic). As I just mentioned she also died in childbirth, which I’m sure I would have too had I been unlucky enough to be born in a time when leaches were basically oxy.

Pierre is super into the Freemasons and becomes obsessed with them after his wife supposedly cheats on him. He goes on sort of an “Eat, Pray, Love” journey around this time, but it’s less “feminine empowerment” brand, and more “checking up on the peasants and trying to do semi-woke things to make their lives better, to the consternation of middle management on multiple estates” brand. Oh and before all that, he killed his wife’s cocky paramour in a duel, and found out afterwards that the dude lived with his mother and sister.

Meanwhile, Andrei’s dad doesn’t want him to marry Natasha, or at least he wants him to wait a year to evaluate his poor life choices. Natasha loses her shit because to a 16 year-old a year is a long time, but to a pervy old prince and his dad it’s not. Andrei is also working on the new civil government following an agreement between Napoleon and “the sovereign,” who is a total snack and the whole country Stans him.

Ok that’s all I can tell you. Stay tuned for the second installment of this blog post: WAP pages 497-884.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Whatever it May Bring

I wasn’t THAT into Sinead O’Connor.

I mean, like, I didn’t see her in concert or have her poster on my bedroom wall or anything. I bought the Nothing Compares 2 U single for $2.99 on cassette at the Columbus Circle Tower Records. I gawked at her shaved head and her shock-and-awe heresy on Saturday Night Live like everyone else. 

“This bitch is CRAZY!” I remember thinking to myself at the time, with something between voyeuristic cringing and a subtle undercurrent of envy. 

What was that about?

I didn’t find out until later, when a few more of her songs started to show up on mix tapes mailed back and forth between me and my friends. I could see that her tortured sense of social justice (along with mental illness probably) both defined and doomed her to mockery and ultimate obscurity. 

There was no internet then, so I could only guess at why she hated Margaret Thatcher, but I later came to get her lyrics stuck in my head. Like REALLY stuck, and from two songs in particular.  

From Black Boys on Mopeds it was:

I’ve said this before now
You said I was childish and you’ll say it now ...
These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to lay your own grave 
Remember what I told you 
If they hated me, they will hate you....
Remember what I told you
If you were of the world they would love you ...

Then from the Emperor’s New Clothes:

Everyone can see
What’s going on
They laugh ‘cause they know they’re untouchable 
Not because what I said was wrong 
Whatever it my bring 
I will live by my own policies 
I will sleep with a clear conscience 
I will sleep in peace 

I could not stop thinking about these lyrics then, and years later they crept back into my head, occupying real estate I could’ve used for things like my kids’ social security numbers and the password to my credit card statement. But there they were again, and after being unconstitutionally fired for criticizing the government, I finally understood why.

“It speaks to me,” people say. They say that about books, poems, or art. In this case, I felt like Sinead O’Connor’s lyrics were speaking to me, and I didn’t even want to hear them. I would’ve just as soon forgotten these words, but there they stayed—not so much inspiring as nagging, warning, and haunting me.

These are dangerous days ... to say what you feel is to lay your own grave ...

Whatever it may bring ... whatever it may bring ... whatever it may bring .... 

Those last four words—specifically—have been on loop in my head since 2015 when the Trump era began. I kept telling myself that I was not going to stay silent, but I needed the courage to absorb the consequences of speaking up.

I needed to find a way to stop trying to conform to things I couldn’t bring myself to conform to, and instead just be myself by saying what I thought—in the way I wanted—and letting the chips fall where they may.

Those four words brought me courage and reminded me that there is always a price to pay for living by your own policies. If there weren’t, everyone would do it. They don’t, and that’s because when you do you get laughed at, gawked at, called crazy, lose friends, jobs, credibility, opportunity. You’re walking across what feels like a gauntlet of burning bridges at all times.

But the sleeping in peace part is where the comfort is. It’s the faith that there are lucid clearings beyond those incinerated bridges. It’s the conviction that you’re more at peace being yourself and letting the world burn down around you than you are burning down yourself to satisfy the world.