Solidarity With Take The Knee

My late father was a huge football fan. He was also openly racist — something I wish he had lived long enough for me to confront him about, steadily challenge and change in him.

He was not a stupid man or a garden variety asshole, but a stubborn and macho one. His racism was lazy and flimsy enough that I think he could have been converted. But as I said, he loved football and the Take The Knee protest would have gotten his attention, and gotten him to think. Dad was not an unfair man, and as a Jew, he understood historic persecution and irrational hatred. I think it would have jolted him to consider that the guys he loved watching play his favorite game were not just gladiators being paid to entertain him but human beings with justified anger and concern about social injustice suffered by their people. It would have opened conversation with him, I think, in a way that no other Black Lives Matter action has done.

This is how social change movements MUST work: coordinated and engaged across diverse areas and places in a sick society so that they can meet and confront people where they are. How brilliant and brave and effective for Colin Kaepernick to interrupt the mindless entertainment of football with a statement about reality beyond the stadium.

Please engage with the enraged and tell them what this is about. Tell them to stop repeating the stupid mantra “Stick to sports.” Tell them to LEARN. Tell them that the whole point of protest is to make people like them uncomfortable. Tell them that this is not about protesting Trump, and that it began during the Obama Administration. Tell them to read Ta-Nahesi Coates Between the World And Me or Wesley Lowery’s They Can’t Kill Us All, or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow or to to read Race Matters by Cornel West or Waking Up White by Debby Irving. Tell them to read Peggy McIntosh’s seminal essay, “Unpacking The Privilege Knapsack.”  Tell them to see the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” and to read James Baldwin. Tell them that black lives are more important than white feelings and to stop centering their own defensiveness in conversations about systemic racism in America.

Tell them that white privilege is separate from economic privilege and to stop insisting that they don’t have privilege because they grew up poor or disadvantaged or Irish or Jewish. Tell them that comparing Irish indentured servitude and prejudice against other groups of immigrants in the U.S. to the unique horror of the African slave trade is a diversion that needs to stop.  Only Native American peoples have an equal status as survivors of white genocide on this soil. Tell them to stop intellectualizing and sparring and opining when there are dead bodies in the streets and packed into our prisons. Keep at it. And while you’re at it, tell them that even my bigot of a father knew that what he and his brothers fought for in World War II and the Korean War was EXACTLY what those who Take The Knee are doing now, and not for a flag and an anthem.

Fetus Worshipers All Over Again

In January of 2001 I stood on the steps of the Maryland State House and referred to George Bush as the “semi-elected” president and to his anti-choice friends as “fetus worshipers.”

I would have hoped by now that I could have toned down my rhetoric; that things would have progressed in this nation of hypocrites and zealots.

The zealots I can forgive: they’re theologically persuaded and led by some kind of authentic conviction that every woman should be obligated to host a promising blob of cells in her body to full term and to mother that child.

I wish every pregnancy could be reason for delight and wonder and gratitude. I wish all fetuses were gestating in women’s bodies who were willing and able to mother them or give them into adoption by loving and responsible adults.

But it’s not and they aren’t and that’s not reality. Women are independent moral agents and it’s up to each one to decide what she wants to do about a pregnancy. Period. It doesn’t matter what you or I believe about fetuses or children: if it’s not our pregnancy it’s not our business.

I remember having pregnancy scares when I was a younger woman.  The stomach churning uncertainty was made worse by my boyfriends’ sudden degeneration from strong, brilliant, opinionated, confident men to slack-jawed juveniles.  They simply did not want to be worried and told me they were sure I’d be fine. They did not want the candy store to be closed for business. They did not want the fun abandon of sex to be sullied by such downer concerns as a baby neither of us wanted.

Relationships are supposed to be sexy and a pregnancy scare is not sexy. I kept my anger to myself.

But I found that each of these pregnancy scares, though I was eventually relieved of the fear that a fertilized egg was making itself at home in my uterus, did plant in me a gestating seed of contempt for both of the men who had cavalierly told me I’d “be fine.” I could never afterward regard them complete respect. This is a secret that many women keep from men. I will no longer do so. It remains with me today, at what I hope are my menopausal years (I’m pretty close to menopause, if not technically there yet). Men, are you listening? Figure it out. Women, don’t keep this secret. Don’t just walk out on them. Tell them exactly how they have totally failed you when they say, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”

All of these men in Washington –or just about to get there — who are so eager to legally mandate motherhood for every pregnant woman in America deserve nothing but contempt. Their disregard for actual life is a glaring matter of public record. When these anti-choice crusaders legally mandate that each man responsible for a pregnancy commit to parenting and financially supporting the fetus until its age of legal adulthood I might start to take them seriously as pro-lifers.

I give thanks on a regular basis for having passed reproductively unscathed through my fertile season as a woman.

I am disgusted by every man who talked me out of using protection, and furious that I was socialized to care about men’s feelings and egos above my own security and well-being. I commit myself to mentoring girls so that they never make that mistake.

I am angry at every boyfriend I had who never offered to pay for birth control or even learn about its effects on me unless I informed him. I rejoice in young women’s jeering at this expression of male privilege and I encourage them to reject such selfish partners.

I will call out conservative politicians and justices for the craven misogynists they are. They do not have the interest of “unborn children” at heart but the oppression of women. They know that being responsible for a new life when unprepared and unwilling limits women’s emotional capacity, energy to participate in democracy, ability to move out of poverty, and to pursue career advancement and educational opportunities. They hate women. They are furious that women are out-performing men in so many walks of life and coming into power in America, and outlawing abortion is their way of punishing us.

We are not idiots. We know exactly what this is and we won’t go back.

Young women, you know what’s going on. I watch and cheer you. Call it out. Jeer at these misogynist control freaks. Reject them in bed and as friends. Don’t make nice. Don’t smile at them and let them think you have any respect for them. And keep working, supporting each other, graduating, excelling, re-defining family, having the babies you want, dumping the men who don’t deserve you, sharing love and care with those who do, and teaching your children that these dinosaurs won’t always be roaming the earth.

When they’re all dead and buried, we can clean up the earth and breathe free.

Keep the faith. And stockpile Plan B and bc pills and as we used to say in my day, “Just Say No To Sex With Pro-Lifers.” While you’re at it, just say no to sex with any guy who doesn’t fully understand and support why you’re marching in your pussy hat. Don’t believe him when he says he’ll take care of you. Don’t believe him when he says he’ll pull out. Don’t believe him that he’s infertile. Don’t believe him when he says he’s “almost” divorced. Don’t believe him when he says he had a vasectomy. Don’t believe him when he says he has a condom unless you see it in his hand. Don’t believe him when he says he just wants to talk in his room when you’re too drunk to really focus or fight back. Don’t believe him when he cries and says he loves and needs you and please, oh please.

Protect yourself.  Protecting yourself takes practice. Start now.

These are dangerous times, and many of us have never lived through what is likely coming.  Remember: withholding health care, destroying the earth, terrorizing black and brown people, protecting rapists and abusers who violently enforce patriarchy, persecuting queer folk, and strapping us down to the ob/gyn table for the crime of being sexually active — it’s all an agenda of hatred. They hate us. They hate us and they want to make us suffer.







Urban Decay’s “Razor Sharp” Ad

Urban Decay, a make-up company I adore and have written about many times in positive terms, produced this ad [click to enlarge]:

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Rightly called out for going over the edge of their self-description as a brand that sells “make-up with an edge,” UD Tweeted a baloney explanation about how they always use swatches on the arm.

I’m not buying it. Someone being paid good money decided to pair a single female arm in corpse-hued nail polish with razor cuts reminiscent of self-harming next to the product and approved that copy. These decisions are not arbitrary: advertising costs a lot of money and needs to generate a lot of money. It could have been handled differently.  Take a look at how, because every single one of the images I will share come from UD’s own Instagram account. which someone is also being paid to manage.

They could have used a neutral background with no human arm, as they did in these two cases:

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They could have shown several arms in relaxed or even fun hand formations. They’ve done it before:

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They could have shown the wrist only: an image much less evocative of cutting one’s wrists. They could have shown an open hand.

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They could have swatched the colors farther apart and gone way down the arm as they did here. In fact, the swatches would have been easier to see that way.

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They could have shown their product on actual eyes. They don’t always use the swatch design in their promos. I know. I’m a super loyal customer.

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The image they did use is a lone female’s arm in a pose that is nothing but evocative of wrist-cutting.  The position of the hand, the length and placement of the swatches  — it’s wrist-cutting. The coy, “edgy” copy for the ad confirms it.

It’s wrong, and Urban Decay should stop explaining and start apologizing.

As I said, I’m not buying their apology. As to whether I’ll be buying their make-up again, that remains to be seen.