Independence

Feminism, News, Personal, Politics

 

On Tuesday, June 25, I was in Texas.  I was in Texas because in six weeks I will move there for an MFA program, and I needed to find a place to live.

That MFA program is for another post.  I mention it here because a) it’s the truth and b) there was no reason I would have gone to Texas otherwise.  I grew up — and currently live — in New England; I’d never even been in the South before, if you discount the touristy parts of Florida.  But here I was with a three-year promise to write books and study literature and eat a metric ton of Mexican food in the meantime.

I spent the majority of Tuesday, June 25 driving around the town where I would live, getting lost, and getting a parking ticket.  By the time I arrived back at my host’s apartment in Austin, the filibuster Wendy Davis had begun 11 hours before had been shut down by male Republican senators; she remained standing, unable to eat, drink, lean on anything, or use the bathroom until the men decided whether her filibuster had stuck to the topics they deemed “germane.”  (Apparently women’s personal testimony regarding abortion was not.)

My host and I sat in her living room watching the livestream of the Senate special session, unfolding twenty minutes away.  We’d talked about going to the Capitol building ourselves, but by now the crowds had grown so massive that it seemed impossible we would be able to enter.  She was furious, as was I.  Of course, she had been following the SB5 story for some time; I am embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the bill at the time.  Watching men argue over the right of a woman to speak in public office, my general anger at the state of women’s rights in this country — “How can people NOT see that the patriarchy is real?!” — gave way to a realization that this bill would affect me personally.

Here I’d been thinking of myself as a Bostonian who happened to be in Texas, but in six weeks’ time I will also be a Texas woman.  The extreme restrictions that SB5 — now HB2, in its newest form — would impinge upon the livelihoods and  constitutional rights of women in Texas would impinge on me too.  A strange feeling, because I have always been privileged in that regard.  Never pregnant, never lived in a place that would prevent me from deciding among a full range of options if I were to get pregnant.  I have been lucky.  Even in Texas, I will be lucky; if HB2 passes, two of the five clinics that will remain open are within driving distance of my new town.  I will have a hell of a better chance getting safe, legal care than a woman who lives in West Texas.

The problem is that reproductive rights are called “rights” for a reason.  A woman’s ability to choose is not meant to be a privilege, available to some but not others.  And yet, so often, it is exactly that.  I call bullshit. Abortion is 14 times safer than the process of childbirth, and yet women are permitted to give birth at home in their bathtubs.   Out of the 42 reproductive clinics in the state of Texas, this bill would shut down all but five.  FIVE.  Five in a state that contains thirteen million women.

This is not a debate over women’s safety.  It is a debate over bodily autonomy, and whether women should be allowed to make their own choices.

I don’t know how much we can do to combat a system that believes people without uteri have the right to make decisions for those with uteri.  But to the extent we can — donating money to pro-choice organizations and activists like Senator Davis, protesting in real life and online, making ourselves seen — we must.  If not for ourselves, for others.  For those who can’t afford to drive to the places that give them options.  Independence isn’t something we earned when we became the United States of America; in a lot of places in this country, women still need it from those who would make decisions for them.  Tomorrow’s a work day.  The holiday’s over.  Let’s get started.

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Boston

News, Personal

I live in Boston.

Last Saturday, several of my cousins came to visit.  We all grew up not too far from the city — the length of a long commute — but we’d only spent a handful of afternoons there as children: field trips, Disney on Ice, maybe a birthday.  Boston seems like a world away from my hometown.  Though I’ve lived here for two years, Saturday was the first time most of them had come to see me.  In other words, it was a big deal.

So we squired them about downtown, my boyfriend and I.  The seven of us ate Boston’s best burgers, walked past Berklee College of Music and the reflecting pool at the Christian Science Monitor.  Symphony Hall.  The Prudential Center.  Copley Square.

“This is the Boston Public Library,” I said.  The BPL is one of my favorite places in the city.  We were walking along the right side of the building towards the square, on the other side from Boylston Street.  In front stood a giant white tent.  It took us a few minutes to realize why.

“It’s for the Boston Marathon,” three of us sighed, almost as one. The medical tent, where less than 48 hours later EMTs would be treating sudden amputees.

Right now I am in my bedroom waiting for news.  Where I work has been closed today per instructions by police, as well as my way to get there, were it open.  They have asked everyone to stay inside and not answer the door.  Vague sirens in the distance — not sure if this is related or unrelated to the fact that law enforcement are on a manhunt for the second suspect.  Probably unrelated; the suspect is supposed to be in Watertown.  But he’s got a car.  But it’s unlikely he would head back into Boston, isn’t it?  I don’t know.  I am afraid.  Sad.  Stunned, again.  I felt that I needed to say something about this, but I have nothing.

For everyone in the area, stay safe. For others, please donate to the One Fund Boston — it’s raising money for the bombing victims and their families.  (A friend of mine has decided to run a half-marathon over the summer to raise funds for the charity; if you’re interested, here’s her pledge page.)

Other things people have written about the bombing at the Boston Marathon:

An Open Letter to Gentleladies

Feminism, Personal, T.R., Uncategorized

Dear readers,

Please remember the following:

You deserve to feel safe in your expression of your sexuality.

You do not have to apologize for other people’s violations.

The world will try to make you feel ugly; you are not.

Recently, I was at bar with some friends. I was buzzed and we were dancing. The bar was full of beautiful people. The blacklight made dust motes look like galaxies. I was happy.

Abruptly, a man shoved his way over to me, grinning. He pinned me up against the wall with his ass and started grinding, hard. I didn’t approach him, hadn’t been dancing with him; it was jarring. Out of a combination of drunkenness and anxiety developed from my personal history, I panicked and lashed out. I barked into his ear: “Hey, get the fuck of off me, okay?”

He stepped back, stunned. He looked at me with disgust. He looked offended.

I stood around awkwardly. Eventually my friend and I moved to the other end of the dance floor. I wondered if I had overreacted—I had been dancing hard. Maybe I looked like I wanted to dance harder.  I posed this to my friend and she, of course, called bullshit. “You do not have to apologize. If you were uncomfortable you did the right thing. It’s not about his feelings.”

She was right. I was okay; I’d dealt with this. I had dealt with worse. I wasn’t going let some bro ruin my night. We kept dancing.

Walking home, we happened to pass the same man. He was wasted and apparently pissed. He yelled at us. “You girls are all fucking ugly. Fucking ugly. Especially the one in the middle.” I was in between two friends. We flipped him off and kept walking.

The fact is, I could tell him to fuck off but his words still got under my skin. Ugly. Something to manhandle.

This is how rape culture works. This is how it plays out on daily basis. Bar Bro believed that my rejection justified verbal harassment from him. Rejected, men are socialized to believe, is on of the worst things you can be. So he spat back at me the worst thing that a woman can be: ugly. He wanted to punish me for being sexually unavailable.

And even though I fought back, my internal response was in essence to victim-blame myself. In the same way that I can promote body positivity and genuinely believe that the beauty myth is a load of shit and yet still feel bad about my thighs, I told myself a narrative that I would never tell another woman. As much as I abhor slut-shaming, I seem to have internalized some slut-shame of my own.

If you’ve been in a situation like this, I’m sorry. Use your astute feminist brain to critique it. Don’t apologize. You are in charge. You are beautiful.

❤ T.R.

How to Stop a Runaway Train (or: how not to be an anxious wreck)

Essay, Personal

Maybe your heart races all the time and you’re not sure why. It batters your ribcage like a dazed bird against a windowpane. You skip breakfast because you have a vague, persistent ache in your stomach. If you speak in class you start stuttering like your pulse.
Maybe you’ve got memories that reel unbidden through your mind,  a movie on mute and fast-forward. You sleep little. Sometimes you shake. City buses make you implode. Your internal monologue is very scared and very loud, much of the time.
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” I saw that scrawled on a bathroom stall. I like the the ring of the words, though I don’t know if they’re true. I do know a few ways to quell dizziness.

1. Go for ambling, aimless walks: you need to get out of your head. It doesn’t much matter where– urban and natural landscapes alike are throbbing with Things That Have Nothing to Do With You. It’s grounding to be amongst them. Try to think of nothing but the flex of your muscles and the rhythm of your steps. Take hard, hungry breaths that burn your lungs a little.

2. Make a Playlist for Chilling Out. This doesn’t have to be a slow or soft playlist. Ambient electronica might be soothing for a lot of people, but maybe the rawness of riot grrl or hiphop does it for you. Have no regard for niche or snobbery– if Ke$ha calms you down, have no shame.

3. Clean like a motherfucker.

4. Make art, whether you think you can or not. Perfectionism is paralysis, and breeds more anxiety. Urgent creativity is cathartic and sometimes produces shitty art. That’s great– shit is fertilizer.

5. If these methods sound a little clichéd or superficial, it’s because they are– they’re worth doing, but they won’t provide sustainable stability. Mental illness is cyclical. Severe anxiety can’t be washed away in a bubble bath. Find a good shrink if you haven’t. If you’re uninsured, don’t be afraid to ask about a sliding scale; many therapists will be willing to work with you or to refer you to someone who can. If you’re a student, your campus may have free counselors. Keep in mind, though, that therapy can make you feel messier sometimes. Analysis doesn’t necessarily help the hyper-analytical. Medication is fickle and can be hard to obtain. If treatment isn’t feasible for you, coping mechanisms become vital. Know yourself and what you need. Try not to get entangled in self-diagnosis- the internet can make you into a psychological hypochondriac. You are not a list of symptoms.

Some resources/reading:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Icarus Project
Mad in America
The Magic Bullet by Anita Felicelli for The Rumpus
 On Falling Apart by Sady Doyle for Rookie
 Blue Christmas by Rachel Prokop for Rookie