Writing About Not Writing
Tuesday April 08th 2014, 1:57 pm
Filed under: Commentary
I am not a writer.
It seems that feminists write. I came to feminism through feminist blogs; almost all of the feminists I look up to are writers or bloggers. I got involved in WAM!, but felt left out because it seemed like all of the workshops were about how to get published (or how to get paid for being published). Meanwhile, some of my feminist college friends were starting to get noticed. I felt inferior because I wasn’t getting published – and more so because I wasn’t trying to.
I have a blog, I’m on the listservs, I think I’m a good writer, but I don’t feel that “urge to write” like writers are supposed to feel. And these days, I find myself trying hard not to write. Let me explain.
As I follow more marginalized people on twitter, I find myself wanting to write less and less. I follow people of color, queer folks, trans folks, folks who are disabled or gender-non-conforming or all of the above. When they write about privilege and feminism, they know what they’re talking about because they have lived it. Instead of jumping in, trying to get published, or making sure my voice is heard, I’ve been asking myself: “What do I have to add to this discussion?”
I have a lot of privilege. I’m write, I’m straight, I’m cis, I’m non-disabled, I’m upper-middle class. I’ve been told all my life to step up, be seen, take charge. It feels revolutionary to sit down, to move back, to listen. I don’t want to say that my opinions don’t matter, but…they don’t. My activism is about centering marginalized voices, and creating a feminism where folks on the margins are listened to and recognized as the experts in their own lives.
This brings up some complicated feelings. It’s my mom telling me that my experience is valid, and that I have things to say. It’s my tattoo that says #feelings telling me to access my emotions. It’s also got to do with thousands of overprivileged white men who don’t seem to have any any voice in the back of their heads telling them to Sit Down. Aren’t they the ones who should be battling these conflicting feelings? (OK, can you imagine? All the WM asking themselves if they should engage? OK, wow). It’s the farce that is Lean In: if I don’t stand up, who will?
I wonder if I’m sitting down for the wrong reasons – is it because I’m scared? It is because I feel like I’m no good? What if I’m selling myself short by hiding behind ‘good politics’? What if the theory is being wasted on me – I’m being silenced by theory that is meant to silence those with even more privilege? But that doesn’t sound right – I’ve got lots of privilege. But it only works if other folks who look like me are also actively practicing Sitting Down.
I’m trying to separate the forces that say “You don’t have a right to speak” from the part of me that is asking “What right do I have to this space?” or “What am I saying that hasn’t already been said?” and more importantly, “Can I signal boost instead?”
When I told my good friend Dan about this blog post, he said, “writing about not writing is the first step ”
The first step toward what?
Bowling for abortion access
As you may or may not know, I moved to the Boston area a few weeks ago! As you also might know, I’ve participated in the NYAAF bowl-a-thon for two years running, raising over $2,000 to fund abortions in New York State (many of you donated in past years — thank you for your support!). What better way to acclimate myself to the Boston area than by bowling for abortion access?
It wasn’t hard to find the EMA fund. The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion (EMA) Fund is a volunteer-run organization that works to ensure that all people living in or traveling to eastern Massachusetts have access to abortion.
The EMA Fund provides people with financial counseling and with money for their abortions. They help them get onto MassHealth quickly or find doctors that will take their insurance. They negotiate with abortion providers for discounts, and they help callers pay for bus or train tickets, childcare, and translation services.
Only, here in Boston, the EMA Fund can’t host a “Bowl-a-thon” because no bowling alley will have us. You read that right: no bowling alley will have us. Either they outright don’t support abortion access, or they charge a high fee for use of the space.
On April 25th, I’ll be supporting the EMA Fund by participating in their 3rd Annual “Triathlon”
(of Wii bowling, karaoke and board games). I’m fundraising for abortion access because I believe that every person has the right to make their own healthcare decisions. I believe that abortion access is a matter of social justice, economic fairness and human rights. My personal goal is to raise $1,000. Your support is crucial. Your donation of $10, $50, or $100 will help me support my new community when they need it most. Even $5 will help me reach my goal.
Check out my fundraising page here and please consider giving what you can.
If you’re unable to give right now, I understand. Instead, consider forwarding this email to your friends and family, and/or posting the link to my page on your social networks to encourage others to donate.
Thank you for your support!
A pretty good year. True to form, it begins and ends with Beyonce.
1. Beyonce – Love on Top
2. Taylor Swift – I Knew You were Trouble
3. Beyonce – End of Time
4. Old Table – Sherry
5. Icona Pop – I Love It
6. Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
7. Azaelia Banks – 212
8. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
9. Lorde – Royals
10. PORCHES – The Cosmos
11. Paramore – Still Into You
12. Sara Bareilles – Brave
13. Beyonce – XO
Albums of the year:
• Janelle Monae – Electric Lady
• Beyonce – Beyonce
2007. 2008. 2009. 2010. 2011. 2012
SYF is important.
I don’t know who I would be if it wasn’t for SYF*.
SYF was the first place I saw kids who didn’t seem to care how they looked, and didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of them. SYF was the first place I saw girls who didn’t shave their legs; I was shocked and curious and intrigued. SYF was the first place I felt like I fit in, no matter how I dressed, no matter what I looked like. At SYF I felt safe, and that allowed me to become the person I am today.
Every Sunday, high school students from around Westchester come to a church** in Scarsdale, talk about how their weeks have been, introduce themselves, and go over the SYF rules. One rule is no drugs. One rule is not to be late. One rule is to “speak from the eye” and not to generalize or stereotype. One rule is that you can’t go to SYF and tell your parents you’re elsewhere (or tell your parents you’re elsewhere and be at SYF). Then, the group breaks into smaller groups, where everything is kept confidential, and discuss the weekly topic: anything from communication, to dreams, to gender roles, to change, to religion. Then the “big group” gets back together, plays a game, and breaks until the following week. There are two weekend retreats every year, and one lock-in, as well as other special nights and events. There are also parents nights, where SYF parents can come participate and see what SYF is all about. There are always adult advisors present, and everything is supervised.
Every high school kid needs a place like SYF. It’s a place where high school kids can be who they have been trying to be, without fear of rejection. Without fear of judgment. SYF is a place where kids can safely experiment with their identities. It’s a place where kids can meet teens from other high schools in the area, and learn from other perspectives about issues that are important to them.
Everyone who went to SYF agrees with me: SYF changes lives. I feel like most SYF alumni can’t quite imagine what high school would’ve been like without SYF. And, being an SYF alumna means you’re part of a network. If I meet an SYFer, I know they are a friend; I know they get it.
Basically, we are low on kids! If you know any high schoolers who could use a support group, think about sending them to SYF. Or, rather, if you know any high schoolers at all (they all need a support group like SYF), think about it.
Senior Youth Fellowship
7pm-9pm every Sunday
1 Heathcote Road, Scarsdale NY
*Senior Youth Fellowship (SYF) is a nondenominational peer support and enrichment group for high school students in Westchester. This year, I am an advisor! If you’d like more info or you know someone that should come to SYF, tweet me @sammylif, message me on facebook, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this blog post.
**SYF meets in a church, but is not religiously-affiliated at all. SYF started over 50 years ago as a fraternal church group, but has evolved drastically. Most SYFers today are “alternative” kids — but the whole point is that everyone is welcome.
Twitter 102: Quoting a Tweet
Note: This post is specifically designed for those using the twitter app (although it could be useful for anyone). The screenshots are meant as a guide for text; they are web screenshots, but this post is for mobile users.
Another note: This post is for tweets that are not directed at you and don’t @mention your handle. We’ll tackle those options in another post. And, the first two options are for tweets much shorter than 140 characters. Scroll down for tips on longer tweets.
You already know about “retweets” – click the buttons and having an original tweet show up as-written, on your timeline. But sometimes you want to add your own opinion, or you want to see peoples’ reactions to you posting a tweet. A retweet simply won’t do – here’s a quick guide of how to properly “quote a tweet”.
So you see a tweet, and you like it! You want to editorialize and share it with your followers.
You have some options!
Addendum: My Brothers
Shortly after I sent my letter to higher-ups about the rape apology abounding in Eta Phi, I received this response from Justin Mertz, CC’d to other Setnor faculty:
First, I wish I was hearing from you under different circumstances. Thank you very much for bringing this unfortunate and terrible situation to my attention.
The tweets you saw are disgraceful and abhorrent to say the least. The ideas expressed by the @skullguy1992 account have no place in the SUMB, Kappa Kappa Psi, or SU. In fact, several years ago I added comprehensive language to the SUMB’s handbook and syllabus outlining our unequivocal and vehement opposition to this kind of conduct in any form.
When I was at Syracuse, I put up with a lot of garbage from the brothers of the Eta Phi Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi. A lot of disrespect. The person I am now would never stand for that; now I have the tools to respond, react, and understand why they have the audacity to act that way. Part of it is because they never face any consequences.
Today, I sent this letter to the National President of Kappa Kappa Psi fraternity, the Director of Bands at Syracuse University, and the Chancellor of Syracuse University. If you want to report their triggering and misogynistic twitter account for spam, please do. I’m not linking to it due to triggering content.
Assemblymember Dov Hikind should resign.
Wednesday February 27th 2013, 5:25 am
Filed under: Commentary
To Speaker of the NYS Assembly, Sheldon Silver:
People make mistakes – we all make mistakes. We can’t expect to know everything; we can’t expect our elected officials to know everything about every issue.
But when someone gets called out for being racist (or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic, or anti-Semitic!) it is that person’s job, as a decent human being, to take a step back and think. Dressing in blackface has a long complicated history that I don’t need to enlighten you about. Assemblymember Hikind did something with “pure intention” that had a racist result. The effect didn’t match the cause – this sometimes happens. Yes, an assemblyman dressing in blackface is despicable and racist and probably warrants some action on your part. But what me more was Hikind’s refusal to accept any wrongdoing.
When someone gets called out, it’s important to step back and think about the effects of your actions. The intention can sometimes be important too – but pure intention doesn’t always equate to pure consequence. Someone got hurt, someone got offended – that is Hikind’s fault, and that’s the part that he doesn’t grasp. It’s not about black people learning about Jewish culture; black people know about the racist history that blackface has. It’s not about Hikind not having “a prejudiced bone in his body;” clearly some people feel that he did something prejudiced, and it’s his job to own up to that – not tell them they must be mistaken and they just don’t understand what he meant. And it doesn’t matter that his intentions are pure. It Doesn’t Matter. He did something racist and is refusing to respect the people that were kind enough to let him know.
We need politicians that can own up to their mistakes, and can be willing to learn. It worries me that the assemblymember refuses to take responsibility and admit that what he did had racist consequences. It’s good that he feels he isn’t racist, and therefore could never accidentally do something racist – but he’s wrong. Good people do bad and stupid things sometimes. And that has to be OK; what matters is how you learn and grow after someone alerts you to your folly. And that’s where Assemblyman Hikind has failed.
New York State Resident
Write to Speaker Silver here.
2012 Year in Music
Thursday January 03rd 2013, 3:48 am
Filed under: Commentary
1. Old Table – War is Garbage in the Human Heart
2. Neko Case – Set Out Running
3. Old Table – Each is Good in his own House (Robert Pollard cover)
4. Steve Yankou – Parasite (NOATS cover)
5. Steater-Kinney – I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone
6. Sleater-Kinney – Good Things
7. Fun. – We Are Young
8. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
9. Defiance, Ohio – You Are Loved
10. Evil Sword – Digging a Hole
11. Kimya Dawson – Game Shows Touch our Lives (The Mountain Goats cover)
12. Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
13. The Drinkers Themselves – I Will Go Anywhere
The last song segues nicely into the new Drinkers album, which is clearly the album of the year.
I’ve been doing this for 6 years, which is a long time.
2007. 2008. 2009. 2010. 2011.
Come lobby with me in albany
Wednesday December 19th 2012, 2:42 am
Filed under: Commentary
This will be my 4th year in a row accompanying Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic to Family Planning Advocates’ Annual Day of Action. Every year, it’s incredibly moving and gratifying. And every year I am full of #feelings about it afterward.
My first year lobbying in Albany, I got huge blisters on both my feet from my hip new heels. I was angry at myself for not wearing more comfortable shoes, but I was also angry at the patriarchy! Why should I have to dress fancy in order to be heard on capital hill? Why did I feel the need to femme-it-up for a day of feminist activism? I felt sour about the efficacy of non-profits and confused what radical change might really look like. But I also felt good about meeting legislators and talking to them about the importance of the Reproductive Health Act – because in reality, those folks make the decisions that impact us. Sometimes theory intersects with practice and it doesn’t always line up.
A lot of my activism is grassroots. You all know by now that I helped organize SlutWalkNYC. I’m involved with a relatively militant activist coalition called Feminist Resistance. We are invested in antiracist work, and we are trying to work closely with sex workers and trans groups to enact real radical change in our world. My friends and I sometimes scoff at the “non-profit industrial complex” and the compromises that it seems to breed. “N.O.W.” tends to be the butt of a joke – a caricature of what feminism should be, an old-fashioned second-wave organization that isn’t seeing what the reality actually is for marginalized folks.
But at the same time, the Annual Day of Action reminds me that laws matter. That, in fact, the most marginalized communities are the most vulnerable to these laws, and in need of better laws. Encouraging lawmakers to maintain family planning funding isn’t kowtowing to the corporate feminist world – it will drastically make the lives of poor people better, and make healthcare more accessible to everyone. It’s worth a shot.
I don’t know. If you’ve never lobbied before, you should consider coming with me this year on January 14th. Maybe it will change your mind about politicians. Maybe it won’t. But I always leave feeling like I’ve made a difference, on some level. It feels a lot like direct action – you get to talk to people, face to face, and convince them to support the things that you support. It’s an experience. And anyway, it can’t hurt.
(full disclosure: I’ve attended the Day of Action for 3 years as a volunteer, and this year I’m staff!)