reclaiming my time

One of the more recent books I’ve read was the autobiography of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I’ve followed her work, off and on, for a number of years and I’ve long appreciated her voice and (often hilarious) candor. It was interesting to read her book right after reading Roxane Gay’s memoir — both of them strong women, yet both having very different approaches when talking about body image.

Here are some of the parts of Lindy’s work that stood out to me, and that I want to remember/mull over, going forward.


On relationships:

“Mike made me feel lonely and being alone with another person is much worse than being alone by yourself.”

Gah, I know this feeling, maybe more than I’d like to admit. Lindy talks about many relationships she found herself in where the person she was with wasn’t able (or willing) to accept her for herself. It wasn’t until she was able to find a secure place of self-acceptance that she was able to find the connection she was looking for. (which, yes, sounds incredibly cliche — but there’s some lessons there that I’m still working on, cliche or no)

Lately I’ve been really embracing the quiet alone moments that I can find for myself. I haven’t always been in a place where I enjoyed being alone — but now I can honestly say that there are many times when I wish I had MORE time to enjoy some solitude.


On privilege:

“All I had to do [to get an abortion] was wait two weeks, or have an awkward conversation I did not want to have with my supportive, liberal, well-to-do mother. Privilege means that it’s easy for white women to do each other favours. Privilege means that those of us who need it the least often get the most help.”

When it comes to discussions of privilege, I struggle and wrestle and feel guilty and angry and then want to go out and address societal change. And then I start the process all over again. I worry that I’m being too much of “a Becky,” and then at the same time get angry that I’m identified with such a label.

But when Lindy put privilege in such terms as she did above, I got it. There are times when I feel disadvantaged, but then when I have a gut-reality-check, I realize there’s so much that I have access to. How I choose to use and acknowledge those privileges is what I need to be more aware of.


On self-acceptance:

“I always thought that if I just never, every acknowledged [that I was fat] — never wore a bathing suit, never objected to a fat joke on TV, stuck to ‘flattering’ clothes, never said ‘fat’ out loud — then maybe people wouldn’t notice. Maybe I could pass as thin, or at least obedient. But, I was slowly learning, you can’t advocate for yourself if you won’t admit what you are.”

This is one quote that really resonated with me — especially the last sentence. Lately I’ve been working through lots of self-issues, and I’m working on understanding what it means to like who I am, and not to be ashamed or feel guilt over what I’ve done (that has, in part, made me who I am).

Maybe a big part of that process is being able to admit some of the parts of me that could be perceived as weakness — and instead of letting others tell me how I should view myself, I can instead claim that label for myself.

Something I really admire about Lindy is how she’s able to embrace who she is, often unabashedly so. I want to have some of that same confidence when it comes to how I see (and advocate for) myself.


On standing up to injustices (“How to make a Rape Joke“):

One of the best parts of her book was when she describes what happened when she decided to speak out against Daniel Tosh’s idiotic rape joke(s) a number of years ago. She writes:

My point was that what we say affects the world we live in, that words are both a reflection of and a catalyst for the way our society operates. Comedy, in particular, is a tremendously powerful lever of social change. […] When you talk about rape, I said, you get to decide where you aim: Are you making fun of rapists? Or their victims? Are you making the world better? Or worse? It’s not about censorship, it’s not about obligation, it’s not about forcibly limiting anyone’s speech — it’s about choice. Who are you? Choose.”

Of course, as soon as she vocalized her objection, many male comedians started circling the wagons and crying censorship. Lindy then quotes part of an essay by Molly Knefel, and what she quotes really gets to the crux of the issue. Knefel was addressing the fact that many of the male objectors to Lindy’s argument (“nothing is sacred and everything can be joked about”) were the same ones who also said that some subjects were “too soon” to be jokes (ex:/ the Boston Marathon bombing and Aurora theatre shooting).

Knefel writes:

The suffering in Boston, as horrifying as it is, is largely abstract to a nation that has, for the most part, never experienced such a thing. On the other hand, in every room Oswalt performs comedy in, there will be a rape survivor. Statistically speaking, there will be many. There will be even more if he is performing at a university. If exceptional violence illuminates our human capacity for empathy, then structural violence shows the darkness of indifference.

Again, the last sentence!

I keep thinking back to the public outcry for the victims in the recent Las Vegas shooting — how horrific and evocative the media coverage has been for this story. And then, I think about the statistical reality that anywhere from 1 in 4 (or 1 in 5) women will have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime — and somehow, this is a stat that isn’t getting the public (or media) just as horrified and empathic for the women who have experienced that kind of abuse. It’s stunning.


On love:

And finally, I really liked what Lindy had to say about what it means to “love with an open hand.” She quotes her sister, who says to her:

“Dude”, she said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, “don’t you know you have to love with an open hand?” […]

“If you have a bird that you love, and you want the bird to stay and hang out with you and sing for you, you don’t clutch it in your fist so it can’t get away. You hold your hand out, open, and wait for it to perch there. If you’re holding it there, it’s not your friend — it’s your prisoner. Love with an open hand. DUH.”

So yeah. The analogy of setting what you love free does sound like something so simple (and cliche) to do, but it’s a lesson that I’m also still working on.

I like the idea of what it means to love (and be loved) with an open hand. I don’t think I can be loved in any other way.

Keep asking hard questions

As I wrote about earlier, Tuesday night was a huge night for the Democratic party and liberals.  Not only did Obama get reelected, but there was a huge repudiation against many GOPers who had spoken out about their pro-life positions in ways that were shocking (but consistent) with their extreme ideology.

Rachel had an epic takedown of some these politicians in her show on Wednesday night:

Here’s where the Republicans ran into trouble — they had to justify what their supposedly “pro-life” views looked like when applied to actual people. It didn’t go over so well. From Rachel:

Where they were in power between the 2010 elections and the 2012 elections, Republicans governed very, very, very aggressively on this issue [of restricting access to reproductive choices]. They governed so aggressively on this issue, it was unprecedented.

What happened then, though, which maybe the Republican were not counting on was that Democrats decided they were going to make the Republicans explain themselves. Democrats decided they were going to hold Republicans to account for what they had been doing in terms of their governance and their philosophy on this issue, and what they planned to
keep doing if Americans elected them again.

And when Republicans started having to answer specific appointed questions about their issue on abortion, some creepy stuff happened this year. We learned a great deal, very specific, very creepy detail of what Republicans really do believe about this issue they’ve been so energized about.

Yes, who would have guessed that the “gotcha” moments for these Republicans would simply be to have them explain themselves on this issue?

In all honesty, though, I’m not surprised. Asking hard questions is now my preferred way of talking to people about reproductive choice, as I’m no longer that concerned about persuading people to my side of the issue. What I want to hear is how pro-lifers justify their ideology being applied to someone else. It’s all fine and good to say that “life begins at conception!” — but what does that LOOK like in our society? What are the implications of that statement in terms of the law?

The other line of approach I’m taking when it comes to discussing abortion is to say this: There is no such thing as no abortions. There is only such a thing as no safe abortions. Think about that. Does the “life” portion of being pro-life apply to the lives of women who die from unsafe procedures? If the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to reduce the amount of abortions that are taking place every day, why isn’t there more support for women to have access to contraceptives?

The best article/essay I’ve read on that question is this one: How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life” Movement. So much of this essay has resonated with me, because I, too, once counted myself in the “pro-life” ranks.  PLEASE take the time to read this article, no matter where you fall on the issue — it’s going to be one that I read over and over again.

From her conclusion:

The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.

But I am very sure that there are other dupes out there. If you’re sitting there reading this thinking “but I really am in it to save unborn babies,” I am sure you’re not alone. After all, I was one of you.

If you are one who has been a part of the pro-life movement because you really do believe in “saving unborn babies,” it’s time to cut your ties with the movement. You may be an honest and kind-hearted person, but you’ve been had. You’ve been taken in. It’s time to let go.

This is an important enough issue that these difficult conversations need to keep happening — on my part, I’ll keep asking the hard questions.

practically pro-life

One of the most effective ways to describe why I support a woman’s reproductive choice is to show what being “pro-life” looks like, when its principles are practically applied.

It’s one thing to cite the emotionally-evocative platitude of “life begins at conception” — it’s another to see what life looks like when such a talking point is put into law.

Case in point: Georgia Representative wants to investigate all miscarriages

Georgia state Rep. Bobby Franklin want abortion classified as murder, according to his latest bill, the police will have to investigate all miscarriages to ensure that they were “spontaneous.” Here’s the complete bill.

Via Daily Kos: Franklin wants to create a Uterus Police to investigate miscarriages, and requires that any time a miscarriage occurs, whether in a hospital or without medical assistance, it must be reported and a fetal death certificate issued. If the cause of death is unknown, it must be investigated. If the woman can’t tell how it happened, than those Uterus Police can ask family members and friends how it happened. Hospitals are required to keep records of anyone who has a spontaneous abortion and report it.

One step closer to becoming a Pro-Life Nation — who’s on board?

Ooops, I did it again…

…stirred up a little bit o’controversy, that is.  I started another Meetup group (yes, Jerry, this will be my last!).

My latest foray into the atheist activist’osphere is a group I call “Reasonable Women.”  Here’s how the Meetup description reads:

Why a group for atheist/agnostic/skeptic/freethinking women?

After reading this BlagHag post about the troubles some women faced at a recent American Atheist conference, we got the idea of forming this group.  Don’t get us wrong — the local atheist groups in Saskatoon are not sexist in their treatment of women members, but we thought it may be fun for the women of these groups to have a place of our own.  And, maybe, having this kind of group available could encourage other female-minded folks to join the movement!

Are you anti-men?  Why aren’t you allowing men to join this Meetup?

Well, this group’s purpose is meant to engage one particular subset of the larger atheist/freethinking movement: the women.  We welcome the men to start their own “Reasonable Men” Meetup!

So much of the current “new atheist” movement is dominated by its male voices — this little group is meant to counteract some of that testosterone by inserting estrogen into the mix!

So far we have 9 members, and it’s only been a day!  I’m quite excited about the potential of having such a group in Saskatoon — not only for what this kind of group can do for our immediate area, but what this type of group can do for empowering women in the larger atheist movement.

And yes, I knew when I started this group that there would be some people who wouldn’t be so keen on the idea of having a women-only group.  So far there have been some interesting discussions back and forth on the pros and cons of a single-gender group — my commitment to the conversation is to not get too defensive when it comes to explaining why I support a women-only group.  For one, I don’t think there’s reason for me to be defensive, and for two, it’s just not necessary at this point.

Anyway, stay tuned.

Home-grown religiously-inspired terrorists (and their enablers)

Oh how easy it is for those of us in North America to think that terrorism is only bred in countries overseas.  Tonight I watched The Assassination of Dr. Tiller, and I’m just sick about what happened to this heroic and compassionate doctor.

No matter which side of the debate you fall under, you should watch and bear witness to Dr. Tiller’s story (not to mention the stories of the women he sacrificed so much for).

Here’s a bit from the conclusion of the documentary:

For those who worked for Dr. Tiller, a raw anger remains — though not for the man who pulled the trigger.  For them, much of their rage is focused on the anti-abortion forces in Wichita who targeted Dr. Tiller for so many years.

“The ones who don’t carry guns definitely incite the ones who do have guns.” [Shelly Sella, MD]

“They gather all these people up, they fill them with hate, and then they stand back when the least imbalanced among them does something.  They stand back and say they didn’t have anything to do with it.” [Joan Armentrout, Clinic Administrator]

“[They say:] ‘We never advocated violence.’  No?  You didn’t? You advocated everything else.  You put [Dr. Tiller] up to hatred, contempt, and ridicule.  And he gets killed, and you step back from it now and say, “Well, that really wasn’t our intent.”  Well, what the hell was your intent?!  [Nola Foulston, District Attorney of Sedgwick County, Kansas]

When it comes to discussing the abortion issue with people who disagree with me, I try to get them to see what their position looks like when it’s practically applied.

Now I’ll also get them to see what their stance looks like when their ideology is drawn out to its extremes — this documentary provides a very good picture of how anti-life that view really is.