Wednesday, January 16, 2019

No, We Are Not ‘Okay’

“Are you Okaaaaaaaay?"

Do people ever ask you that? Like, in that specific way?  It's like they know you’ve been having a hard time, or maybe they don’t. But maybe you look sad, and they don’t know what else to say, so they ask you a generic question that you know is well-intentioned, but that nonetheless makes you want to punch them in the junk.

I know, I know. Everyone carries around some unseen burden, which is what makes the question even sillier. The "are you OK?" asker typically has an air of condescension about them; you always get the distinct feeling that the person asking if you're okay is somehow pretty okay themselves, and already strongly suspects that you're not.

Which, in and of itself, is okay. Here's what I mean by that: Being "Not Okay" with where we are as women in this moment is extremely okay. In fact, it's excellent. It's the status quo that's not okay, and it's our job to say so out loud.

It isn't easy. 

Women are raised in a fog of fear and shame that obscures our vision of ourselves and the realization of our full potential. We are taught that our bodies are currency, that our sexuality is taboo; and yet we are blamed for our own assaults. We are told to be quieter, to smile more, and to comply with patriarchal standards of decorum and propriety that reenforce patriarchal systems. We are told we are bad at math or science or deal-making or governing, and that we should shut up and keep our heads down. And when we don't, we're called unlikable and punished. Often severely, and even when there are laws and systems in place that are supposed to protect us. We don't have true agency over our own health care. We're paid less for equal work. And all of it is to serve one end: to keep us in our place and to lull us into a false sense of okay-ness.

Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not okay. The President of the United States can't spell hamburger, our constitutional norms are under assault, and the entire mess is set to a soundtrack by Imagine Dragons.

And that's the way it will stay if we don't each do our part to change the status quo.That old Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote about well-behaved women seldom making history is truer today than it ever was. My plea to you now is to find the courage to misbehave. To put a monkey wrench in the inexorable march of fear; to fight the internalized shame and the stasis of silence that keeps us from moving forward. 

We are in the fight of our lives for our bodily autonomy, our livelihoods, and our agency. It's the biggest battle in a generation, and it's going to take every last one of our voices to win it.

I'll be doing a reading of this blog post to open LUNAFEST on Friday, January 19, at 5:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall. "LUNAFEST is a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for and about women. The Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition brings LUNAFEST to Centennial Hall every year in recognition of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and to celebrate the legacy of women's reproductive rights." Tickets are $15.00 and benefit the JPCC and the Cancer Connection.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Ribs Pass

I happen to be writing this at Pork & Pickle in the Anchorage Airport after my little foray into plaintiffing in a civil rights case brought by the ACLU. But despite Pork & Pickle being a ribs joint that sounds like a sex toy shop in Vegas, this idea actually came to me last night when a friend and I decided that the real landmark of this week will not be judicial precedent, but rather the fleshing out of the Ribs Pass.

The Ribs Pass is the permissive abdication of manners you get when you eat ribs. I love ribs and I’m not proud of it. Meat is a vice and it’s killing the planet and probably my colon. But IDGAF because I love a bacon cheeseburger, and I especially love a giant rack of ribs that I can eat like a caveman/woman/person. And since we’re all gonna die somehow, it’s like smoke ‘em if you got ‘em with ribs.

When you’re eating ribs, all bets are off. No one expects you to be polite or clean. You’re SUPPOSED to look like a lion after the kill, covered in gooey bloody looking sauce and people just kind of leave you alone and look the other way. Or look on in envy and respect. Like ohhhhh, she’s got RIBS. We’ll just leave her to that. And you are somehow allowed to gnaw on the actual ribcage of an animal at a table in front of other humans like that’s normal civilized behavior versus a feline monster on the Serengeti. 

I think I just need to take the Ribs Pass approach to this whole next phase of my life. I’m trying very hard not to pay attention to any of the press or mean, booooooring comments around my Civil Rights Warriorship. I’m just sort of approaching democracy like it’s a giant rack of ribs, and hoping people give me a pass and leave me to it. But I’d be remiss not to thank everyone for all of their love and support (and of course any interesting paying legal work) they wanna send my way! I promise to devour it politely yet voraciously.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Can We Please Talk About Bird Box for a Second

Bird Box? More like TURD Box, amirite?! BADUM-DUM-CHHH!  But seriously, folks. I just rowed in from the river last night, and boy are my triceps tired! Take my traumatized and blindfolded unnamed children, please. And don't forget to tip your waitress. 

God this movie sucked so hard you guys.

You get the sense that Bird Box was originally supposed to be released in the theater, but then someone quickly realized it sucked and that no one would pay $15 including popcorn for this POS. Someone at the studio rightly recognized that this movie's only redeemable feature was getting to ogle Trevante Rhodes and Sandra Bullock (quite possibly the two hottest people on earth) for 108 minutes. At that point, Netflix probably picked it up and hyped it like it was the next Silence of the Lambs.

Holy shit but what an unfresh tomato this movie is. And yet, I couldn't stop watching. I couldn't decide what was the most ridonks part: The extremely un-woke portrayal of mental illness? That we never find out what the "creatures" are? That the post-apocalyptic school for the blind has fresh linens on hand? That Sandra Bullock is legit some 30 years older than Trevante Rhodes and they look like a totes norms couple because Sandra Bullock sold her soul to the devil for eternal youth?  

Nope, none of those things. The most ridonks part was the fact that these kids listened to their mother. Now I know all you early childhood experts are going to come for me with theories as to why this is, but for now let's just pretend that I'm Sandra Bullock (YAY) dropped into rapids (BOO) with my kids (BOO) in a post-apocalyptic hell-scape (BOO).

Me/Sandra: Whatever you do, do NOT take off that blindfold. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!
Boy: But the blindfold is ITCHY!
Girl: I'm huuuuuungry. I only had like, ONE granola bar for breakfast.
Boy: *Wailing* FINE! I don't care! Just leave me on this river bank to DIE then!
Girl: Mommy you're scaring me! *starts to remove blindfold*
M/S: I SAID DON'T TAKE OFF THE FUCKING BLINDFOLD! Oh shit, the rapids are coming ... 
Boy: What are rapids?
Girl: This one time in Mr. Z's class this kid threw up and we couldn't leave for rece--
Boy & Girl: *Lift corner of blindfold juuuuuuuust to take one tiny peek?

Needless to say this would not end well. Kind of like Bird Box which ended in an aviary full of tropical birds in the middle of a temperate rain forest somehow.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Letter to My Grandfather

Dear Grandpa,

That's probably what I would have called you, had we met. As far as I know, I'm your only grandchild, and I think about you all the time. Especially lately. A couple of months ago someone asked me, "if you could have a conversation with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?" 

I said you. 

I have aaaaaaallllll the questions for you. What made you unafraid? Or were you actually secretly afraid constantly and pretending you weren't, like me? Why did you care about the things you cared about? What made you help start the labor movement? Even as you were being tried and convicted for sedition? And in prison all those years? What was it like there? 

Thanks to mom's research I only have the one letter you wrote to your mom and some history books, but that's not the same thing as talking to you obviously. Your mom clearly thought you were kind of a reckless nut job, but you'll be pleased to know that my mom (your daughter!) is totally on board with my reckless nut-jobbery.

You're very handsome in your mug shot, I must say. Like dude, you were kind of a ten! I wonder what you were thinking at the moment this picture was taken. It almost looks like you're laughing a little. I can see the fight in your eyes, and I know that little half-smile. It's a "fuck you, I'm playing long game three-dimensional chess, motherfuckers" smile. 

I see it in the mirror on my best days.

You would not even believe how stupid the world is now. Actually, you probably would. The President is a sadistic tire fire. The constitution is under attack and our whole democracy is in peril. Oh! And they hate us Jews again. Surprise! LOL! (That stands for Laugh Out Loud). Hating the Jews never goes out of style. If it's three things you can count on in this life, it's death, taxes, and anti-Semitism.

I think maybe you do know this, actually; even though I don't believe in God, an afterlife, spirits, or ghosts. (I bet you didn't believe in that stuff either). I want to believe in them, though, because when I do, I imagine you really are looking out for me and watching everything that's happening and telling me what to do next.

I cried a little on the chairlift today sitting next to Paige thinking about you. She asked if I was crying and I lied and said it was just the wind in my eyes. I bet they didn't have chairlifts in 1920s' Pennsylvania, just guessing. Paige is your great-granddaughter and she just turned 11. She's so cool. Like so much more well-adjusted than me. She makes me feel better about myself. I bet you would never imagine in a million years that you'd have a great-granddaughter who skis in Alaska. You barely even knew my mom because you died when she was a toddler and you didn't even get to meet Aunt Alexis. 

But I still feel like you know us. 

People tell me I'm a badass, but it's not true. I cry all the time under my weighted blanket, and feel like I totally fucked up my whole life just by banging pots and pans for what I think is right. 

People are so cold and mean, it's crazy. It's amazing the things people will do and say. The people and systems you think you can count on but can't. LOL. Look who I'm talking to. You totally know this already. I hope you're reading the shit people say on the internet and LOL'ing and exacting vengeance from above on all of my trolls.

Anyway, Grandpa, I wish you were here so I could tell you everything that's happening and ask you what I should do and how to stay strong in my convictions. If you could keep sending me signs, that'd be great.



Saturday, January 5, 2019

Impeach-the-Motherfucker-Gate is the Weakest Gate of the Year So Far

You guys. I legit almost pissed myself laughing this week at "impeach-the-motherfucker-gate," because this is the weakest gate of the year so far (granted the year is only a few days old).

For those of you who haven't been paying attention (and for your mental health, you probably shouldn't be), freshman congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said at a party what literally three-quarters of the country is thinking and probably also said out loud at bars this past Thursday when she related her understandable desire to  "impeach the motherfucker." 

Needless to say, the faux-scandalized, faux-civility police establishment was insta-quick to decry four letter words uttered by people with vaginas. Need I remind you that these are the self-same folks who let brown toddlers die in cages in U.S. custody with a shrug, but God forbid we use a curse word. 

Trump's number one Bottom Bitch Mitt Romney went on Twitter to decry Tlaib's comments as "degrading our public discourse," and all I have to say to that--and you can quote me on this--is:
Need we remind Jell-O Mold Mitt and anyone else who comes for Tlaib for "degrading public discourse" that the naked emperor who has brought us closest to the collapse of our constitutional democracy in 242 years called Nazis "very fine people" and Haiti a "shit hole country" and bragged that he routinely "moved on women like a bitch" and "grabbed them by the pussy!?" 

Like that doesn't "degrade" us, I suppose? Like do we really need to stoop to this basic level of Sherlock's Logic to combat gaslighting? I guess we do.

But alright, let's do this shit, because it illuminates a larger point. I too have been tsk-tsk-tsked for cursing too much and using profanity by everyone from professional mean girls and knock-off Ann Coulters on the internet to Baby Boomers in my own family, and all I have to say to that is SERIOUSLY FUCK THAT SHIT. 

And here is why:

Cursing for women in the Trump era especially is an act of self-care and an expression of rage to which we are entitled. MORE than entitled. The command to women to stop cursing is not about civility in public discourse or "elevating" anything. To the contrary, it's about elevation's antonym: repression. It's about deploying a double-standard to silence women and cow them with fear while men can brag about grabbing our pussies and still be elected president. 

Sure it's fine for the President of the United States to call sovereign nation states "shit holes" in his official capacity, and boast about grabbing women's genitals. Oh. He gets a full pass for that. You'd better believe it.

But the second--THE SECOND--a brown Congresswoman or even a mid-level social media presence like me DARES to use a four letter word to describe the ABSOLUTE MOTHERFUCKING DISASTER we are in, then I'm "unprofessional," deserve to be fired, and should go kill myself. These are all things that have been said to me and/or have actually happened, by the way.

So here's the point: telling women to be polite and civil and not to curse or use profanity in expressing our justified rage and frustration at the collapse of the country that's supposed to protect us is a form of misogynist tone policing and repression. It's insult to injury. And when the government does it, it's unconstitutional. SURPRISE, Y'ALL! There's no "civility" or "professionalism" clause in the First Amendment. 

Tone policing is one more way of telling women to shut up and take what society dishes out to us right up the ass, with a smile on our faces. To SMILE more. To take our lower pay for equal work. To take our rape and sexual assault with a smile, and in silence. To take our unconstitutional and illegal firing and call it good. To take anti-Semitism. To take it all happily, but God forbid we use a four letter word to describe any of it. 

Because, you see, if they succeed in silencing our rage and policing the language we use to describe it, then they can continue to perpetrate injustices on us with impunity because they deprive us of one of the only tools we have: 

Our voices.

Make no mistake: the people who are in power right now want to take everything from us, including and ESPECIALLY our voices and our language of rage. But the problem is they lost the right to police our words when they elected a self-proclaimed "pussy-grabber" to the highest office in the land. 

I don't regret a single word I have ever put out into the world. Not a single motherfucking one. So here are three more for posterity, and I'll say them nice and slow so they can understand:


Monday, December 31, 2018

The Externality Trap

I'm not sure if this will be my last blog post of 2018 or my first of 2019, but either way, it's a new beginning for me in terms of my outlook on the future. In 2019 (barring some intervening catastrophe, which I always secretly feel is around the corner) I'll be looking for kindness, reason, and allies in the repudiation of silence. I'll be looking to feel useful, safe, and valued in my work. And I'll be fighting for human rights and our constitutional norms while cursing about boob hairs and Twinkies on my blog. But mostly, I will be looking within myself for guidance on what to do (or not do) next. 

My mom texted me this:
Being resilient means using adversity to gain strength. That’s what you can do now. I know I’m right about this. Don’t let yourself feel defeated. That’s a form of surrendering to the enemy. Life has some nasty unfair turns. Don’t let external events define your sense of who you are.  
Sadly the world is fairly corrupt. The longer you live the more you learn from experience that this is true. And under Trump we are fighting to maintain even the most basic democratic norms, ones that we thought we could take for granted. This is a dark time and unfortunately you are directly experiencing the consequences of it. But you will overcome this adversity—you have what it takes to do that. So fight the thought that you are defeated.
Separately, she wrote that whatever successes I've had in my life have been because of who I am, and not any job I've had. She pointed out that just because someone else does something to me doesn't mean that anything about me has changed; and that's because a person's talents and motives reside within them.

That's the part that really stood out to me: The idea that we let external events define our sense of who we are, and we do it a lot. At least I do. Most of us seek some form of external validation driven by ego. Does this person find me attractive or want to date me? Will I receive this award or that? Will I get the credit I deserve? Will I win some contest or race? Will this person be mad at me if I say/don't say/do/don't do something?

And on and on, ad infinitum.

What my mom said resonated with me so much because I realize that I do a lot of this and it's unhealthy. I've done it with men and I've done it with work and I've done it with blog traffic and I've done it with activism. It's the idea that we are somehow reliant on an external force of some kind to determine our own happiness, and this traps us into ceding control of our self worth to another person or circumstance.

It's a more grownup version of a sign hanging in my son's second grade classroom that reads, "Rule #1: You are Responsible for Your Own Happiness." It's a great first rule of life in general.

I'm not too into New Year's resolutions. I think they're kind of corny and basic so I don't like to admit that I make them to myself every once in awhile. But I guess this is the year I am resolving to climb out of the externality trap and take responsibility for my own happiness once and for all.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The ‘I Have Been to Alaska a Lot’ Bro

Scene: Locker room area of Snowbowl Ski Area in Missoula or literally any public location West of the Mississippi when I'm wearing Xtra-Tufs.

I’ve Been to Alaska a Lot Bro: Hey I recognize those boots! You must be from Alaska!

Me: Yeah, I live in Ju—

IBTAALB: Ya know, I’ve been to Alaska before I worked on a fishing boat out of Nikiski for 16 consecutive seasons also my friend in Haines owns a heli-ski company do you know him?

Me: Well, probably n--

IBTAALB: His name is Hal Haines Hal that’s what they call him he's been there for like three decades also I was in Kenai I worked on another fishing boat it was the F/V Maria Jane have you heard of it?

Me: Huh not sure, that’s super int—

IBTAALB: So this friend of mine? We worked on a cabin one summer out of McCarthy and then I was a fishing guide on the Yentna do you know that river?

Me: Actually I had a-- 

IBTAALB: My friend was a bush pilot in the Brooks Range and was a caribou hunting guide you know that's what they call reindeer up there

Me: Wow, yeah, I mean you're literally Alaska Mansplaining the place where my kids were born but I meeean

IBTALLB: I actually was briefly in a degree program at UAF and then--

Me: *Walks away*

IBTALLB: *Still talking and trying to establish Alaska cred for literally no apparent reason whatsoever somehow?*