“Feminist” Isn’t a Curse Word or Insult

feminist

A friend recently admitted to getting emotional while watching Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic Presidential nominee. Then qualified her statement with, “I’m not a feminist by any means . . . “

Well, I am.

Because I believe that all human beings, no matter what their genitalia looks like, are equal.

Because if I am hired to do a job and get paid for it, and I do that job well, I should get paid the same as anyone else who does the job. No matter what either of our genitalia looks like.

Because I believe that women shouldn’t be treated like a liability simply because we can, or might, reproduce.

Because it’s disgusting that the United States of America has yet to have a female leader, while various countries around the world have. England, France, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Nicaragua, India, South Korea, Sri Lanka, just to name a few.

Because I’m sick of reading about rape victims’ lifestyle choices, clothing choices, drinking choices, career choices, walking choices, friend choices, motherhood choices, who she chose or didn’t choose to accompany her to a party, what party she chose to attend, why she chose to attend, and on and on and on. Oh, and the accuser’s swim times.

Because I’m tired of women who avail themselves of social service programs being treated like thieves, emptying your pockets of your hard-earned money. Like they immaculately conceived their child(ren) as a way to avoid work their entire lives. Like they are all drug addicts and alcoholics. When, in fact, a study revealed “that 56% of federal and state dollars spent between 2009 and 2011 on welfare programs — including Medicaid, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit — flowed to working families and individuals with jobs. In some industries, about half the workforce relies on welfare.” (Source.)

Because I hate how women are treated as if they’re ornaments. Like they’re daft. They’re asked stupid questions if they’re actresses. They’re asked stupid questions if they’re astronauts. They’re asked stupid questions if they’re politicians. They’re asked stupid questions on job interviews.

I’m a proud feminist.

No matter what you think of that word.

No matter how much it sounds like a sneer when it comes out of some people’s mouths.

No matter that you treat it like it’s a curse word or an insult.

I’m a proud fucking feminist.

And if you believe in equality, for all human beings, you are as well.

So embrace it. Take the bitter taste out of the word. The very people who want to keep you down, are the ones who keep it tainted. Don’t buy into their patriarchal, ignorant bullshit. Flip those fuckers off.

Want to know how?

Be a fucking feminist.

 

Give Me My Moment With All the Female Pronouns

Anyone else sick of politics? Yeah, me too. But if you would please indulge me for a moment . . . 

Because I’m having a moment.

It hit me just a little while ago.

She is an official nominee for President of the United States of America. 

She wasn’t my first choice. She wasn’t in my top ten of potential choices. I do sort of feel as if I’m voting for her because she is the lesser of two evils. Way lesser. In fact, not even in the same realm of evil. Despite not being my first choice, I still think she has fuck tons of experience that will serve her well.

All that aside . . . 

SHE is an official nominee for President of the United States of America. 

I grew up thinking that would not ever happen. Not from one of the two major parties.

I grew up assuming, never questioning, that the President of the United States is a man. Always had been and always would be.

Kids today will not grow up with that assumption.

If you think this isn’t a big deal, consider recent articles from NPR and The Wall Street Journal that discuss the implications of a “First Dude” and his role. 

I mean, he certainly won’t give up his post-Presidential career, right? A First Lady sets aside her career, but not a First Dude, right? <insert manly shudders of horror>

My favorite debate is the one about picking place settings and decor. 

With respect to my own husband, I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that, but I will certainly turn to him, as prior presidents have, for special missions for advice,” Hillary Clinton said in the ABC News Democratic debate in December.

That right there is why this is a big deal.

So give me my moment of relishing she and her. Let me enjoy my moment chock full of all the female pronouns and the realization that, finally, being she and her is the same as being limitless.

Sometimes I Just Want to be Right

Like when I ask him a question and he says he already told me the answer.

When did you tell me that?

When I called to ask you about that other thing, he answers. 

Which is wrong. More wrong than saying Courtney Love had all the talent in the relationship.

He didn’t tell me during that conversation. He called and asked me for a password. I told him I’d have to look it up and text it to him. He thanked me and we hung up.

Clearly, he’s wrong.

So we end up in a bit of a spat over whether he did or didn’t tell me the information he claims I should already possess. (He didn’t.)

But he’s right. It doesn’t matter how absofuckinglutely sure I am that I’m correct. He’s equally as sure he’s correct.

That right there is one of the most difficult things about being married (or in any other type of relationship/entanglement.) Having to back down from being right when you know, you fucking know, how right you are.

Because sometimes it’s not about something stupid like the example above. Often it’s the two of you trying to navigate life together while also working and maybe raising kids and trying to achieve goals and worrying about a metric shit ton of things that could derail all your dreams. It’s two individuals trying to make a partnership work.  

It’s two people moving through life as a cohesive unit but also fiercely holding onto their sense of self.

Sometimes I just want to be right.

So he backs down. 

I forget that he does that. In the heat of the moment, when I’m pissed he’s arguing with me, I forget about all the times he backed down. All the times he knew he was right but walked away anyway. I forget until he does it again and I’m reminded we both get our moments of basking in the smug.

Sometimes I just want to be right.

Then I remember that even when we argue, we don’t call each other names. We don’t put each other down. Aside from that time I threw the peanut butter at the wall, we’ve never forgotten that respect for each other is more important than being correct. We can dig our heels in and tug back and forth and still love each other at the end of the day. 

Sometimes I just want to be right. 

Until I take a breath and realize that sometimes being wrong just means I love him. And he loves me, too.

I know because he’s wrong way more than I am.

Kidding!

(Sort of.)

I’ll Answer Your Question, But I Don’t Think You’re Asking the Right One 

Ask the right questions, and the answers might help you hurdle obstacles. – Photo by Allison Bedford

​I wrote an article recently about my commitment to making my voice heard in regards to the racism I was raised around, the racism I still see exhibited from others, and the culture existing in law enforcement that fosters racism and bad behavior in some officers. In the wake of its publication, I was asked one question more than others.

Why didn’t you say something sooner?

A very valid question. Not the most valid question, in my opinion,  but we’ll get to that. 

First, let me answer why.

My Upbringing

I come from a family of law enforcement officers. The one who raised me was also mentally unstable and abusive. Growing up, I knew he was racist. He frequently expressed racist views to me and my siblings. I do recall some discussions with him in which we expressed disagreement. But they were only when he was in a good mood. Typically when he was in a good mood, we did everything we could to keep him that way. So even were I able to somehow get in touch with his superiors (in a time before email and website contact forms or even having my own phone to use) I would have been too afraid to ever actually do so. 

And I’m not sure his superiors would have listened or had any recourse.

Privilege 

I grew up in a middle class neighborhood that was almost entirely white. The area in which I grew up was largely segregated. Most of the towns and cities around us were also white, and the adults in my family openly discussed not going to the neighborhoods that weren’t white because they weren’t, in their opinions, safe

This meant that the struggles others faced were largely invisible to me growing up. 

Life 

I moved out of my family home as soon as I was able and within a year was living with my husband and helping to raise my stepchildren. Soon after, I became pregnant with my first child. As I grew into adulthood, the struggles of others were no longer hidden. I saw them in the news. The advent of social media brought them into my home in tangible ways. 

But I was also starting a new journey through motherhood. While I made a concerted effort, one I still put the full force of my being behind every day, to ensure that my children are raised very differently from how I was raised, I still didn’t jump into social action right away. I didn’t know there was anything I could do. 

Eventually I did focus on creating change within my community, particularly in regards to projects that focused on education, literacy, and food security because I felt those issues are important to all people, regardless of race. 

But, no, I still didn’t focus my attention on issues concerning racism.

Other things happened, too. Life, with all its inherent ups and downs. More kids, health issues, family struggles, moves and deaths and graduations and crises and . . . well if you’ve done any amount of living, you know.

So, does any of this provide for you a satisfactory enough answer?

I look at the answers and in some respects I think, Hey, this is all valid. It’s not that you didn’t care. Life just got in the way and the issues our nation is discussing now weren’t in your face.

Then I look at them again and think, You failed. This isn’t good enough. Why haven’t you spoken up sooner?

No matter what you think of my answers, your opinion of them won’t ever change them.

That’s why the question,”Why didn’t you say something sooner?” is not the most important one to ask.

Whether you’re discussing with someone the issue of racism in our country, or police violence, or domestic violence, or rape culture, or sustainability, or childhood hunger . . . 

Whatever the issue, if it matters to you and you’re discussing it with someone who says, “I hear you. I understand. I want to help,” then WHY can be placed on the back burner. 

Yes, it’s a valid question. But you can get to that later. 

Instead, ask WHAT.

  • What can you do to help?
  • What ideas do you have to help bring about change?
  • What are you willing/able to contribute towards enacting change?

If you’re serious about change, if you’re dedicated to a cause, then WHAT is so much more important. It’s so much more timely. 

Asking what keeps you moving forward. The answers you receive could be the stepping stones needed to hurdle obstacles.

When change has been achieved, when you fought the good fight and hopefully have a moment to put up your feet and take a breather, even if only for a moment, then ask why.

Those answers are the guidelines for ensuring you, and the cause you fought for, don’t end up sliding backwards and repeating history.

Ask what. It’s important. 

Even if the conversation is just with yourself. 

I Won’t Keep Your Secrets Any Longer

 

One of the scariest stories I ever heard was told to me and several others at a child’s birthday party. Over the ringing bells and music of the indoor rides and video games. Across a background symphony of children laughing, I listened to a police officer brag about taunting a young man as he lay dying in the street.

I don’t remember whose parent he was or even whose birthday we were celebrating. My son was in Kindergarten or first grade at the time and it was the type of party you’re invited to because you are in the same class as the birthday boy or girl. The parents tend to stand around making small talk, holding their coats draped over their crossed arms, and watching to make sure their kid isn’t the one smacking the others.

This particular dad was standing around in a small semi-circle of other parents. I was sitting alone at a table next to them. I don’t remember how the topic came up, because the conversation was banal enough that I wasn’t really paying attention. I want to say it was about particular neighborhoods in the area.

I grew up in one of the most expensive areas to live in the United States of America. It’s also one of the most segregated.

Nobody talks about it though. Not if you actually live there. And are white.

They don’t want to hear words like systemic racism or residential segregation. 

They don’t care that we’re told things like, “Oh, you don’t want to live there,” when searching for an apartment. Nobody comes out and says why you don’t want to live there. If you ask the real estate agents, they talk about things like high crime rates and shitty schools.

The reason you, you lily-white white girl don’t want to live there, is unspoken. They forget, though, that I’ve sat at their knees and listened to what they say when they aren’t in public.

I want to say that it was the talk of certain neighborhoods that sparked this dad, this police officer, to tell his story. He started by saying that if we really wanted to fix crime in our area we would blow this one particular town off the face of the map.

That was when my ears perked up.

He went on to tell his listeners of the time he spent working in that town. In particular, he recalled a drug dealer, a young black male, who was set up by another black drug dealer to pick something up at a house. When he arrived, the door opened and he was shot several times. The police arrived to find the house empty and the young black male in the street. Still alive, but bleeding profusely.

This police officer told all the parents listening of how he and the other officers stood over the young man. They did not administer first aid. He admitted to taunting the man, bending over him to ask, “How does that feel?” as he died.

Nobody seemed shocked by his story. Nobody said anything like, “Dude, that sounds like some cold shit to do to a person who is dying.” They just nodded and kept chatting.

———

I should probably tell you now all the things I left out in the interest of reporting that in as unbiased a fashion as possible.

I left out the word “alleged.”

I wanted to add it several times. As in “alleged drug dealer” and “allegedly set up by another alleged drug dealer.”
But the police officer left out that word as well. Maybe because by leaving the young man to die in the street, he’d become the judge, jury, and executioner. Despite our nation’s constitutional claim of “innocent until proven guilty,” that man’s guilt had been decided on the unforgiving black top of a local street.

I left out the emotion behind the story he told.

Because there was none. The officer never appeared sad. He never acted sorry. He joked. At times, he seemed . . . not gleeful, but as if he were telling a story about his drunk uncle that’s sure to get laughs.
He never used the “N” word. We were in public, after all. He didn’t have to, though. The story was being used as an example of why everybody in that town, a town consisting of a largely (if not entirely) black population, should be, in his words, “wiped off the face of the map.”

I also left out the truth.

Because between his side of the story he told and the dead man’s side of the story which can’t ever be told . . . lies the truth. Something none of us are ever likely to hear.
So I don’t know if what the police officer told is the accurate version of what happened. I don’t know if what he told is just the bragging of a hardened law enforcement officer who is perhaps forever changed at having to watch a young man die at his feet. I don’t know if perhaps he wakes up nights in a cold sweat, haunted by the face of a young man gasping his last breath in a pool of blood. Yes, even if the taunting didn’t really happen, standing around while a young man dies is still some cold shit to do. But I don’t know if maybe there is some type of regulation that prohibited those officers from administering first aid prior to an ambulance arriving. Or if maybe the man was already dead, and the standing around and/or the taunting, if either happened, didn’t matter to his survival anyway.

But I also don’t know if the man was a drug dealer. And if so, why? What drugs did he sell? Was he selling heroin to school kids? Or did he have a bit of a side hustle selling weed to local friends? Does it matter? I don’t know what kind of son he was. What kind of friend he was. If he was a father or not. Or a lover or not. I don’t know if he had dreams of a better place doing something honorable.

There’s a lot I don’t know.

————

There’s a lot I do know.

I know that I grew up in a white neighborhood. I don’t have to say mostly white. It was white.

Full stop.

The entire time I attended school there, Kindergarten through 12th grade, only two black families lived in the district and attended school with me. The district started a business program in the high school and bussed in children from other area high schools and many of them were black. My neighborhood though?

Two families.

Remember the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag that trended for a while? I know all about that first hand.

One evening, I drove into the city with four friends in my car, hopping from bodega to bodega searching for the one that sold weed. Once we found it, my friend came out with a handful of nickel bags. We made it maybe a block away before I was boxed in by two cars. When I came to a stop, we were surrounded.

No guns drawn. Nobody was even touched. The officers had been staking out bodegas in the area. Had followed us from the previous one to this one.

We were asked to get out of the car. I was never searched. Had I been, they would have found the bags I shoved down the front of my pants. My friend admitted he was the one who bought the weed and he was taken in and booked.

A few hours later, we stopped into the local Dunkin Donuts and saw two officers there from the same precinct that arrested our friend. We asked about him and about how we could help get him out. It was the middle of the night so we figured he wouldn’t be arraigned until morning.
The officers shared the following advice:

“You want to know why you got pulled over? You’re white. In that neighborhood? No white people go to that neighborhood unless it’s to buy drugs. If you want to buy weed and be less conspicuous, go to XXXXX. It’s a more mixed neighborhood so you won’t stand out as much.”

Not only did we not get thrown to the ground and shot, not only were we allowed to walk away with the illegal drugs we purchased, we were handed advice on where to buy drugs the next time we needed some.

————-

Jesse Williams, an actor I had never heard of because I don’t watch television, recently gave a speech at the BET awards.A hardcore, passionate speech calling for black people to learn more about from where they came, to fight for a restructuring of how police forces work in the wake of documented violence against blacks, and encouraging the wealthy people in the room with him to use their money to help bring about change rather than waste it on brands.

I can, in no way, do it any justice. You should watch it.

Justin Timberlake tweeted afterwards, a seemingly benign response about all of us being one. He faced a large backlash from Williams’ supporters who pointed out that not only had Timberlake missed the point of Williams’ speech, but he happens to be a white man who makes a living off of music and dance moves largely derived from black culture. He also happens to be a white man who doesn’t publicly discuss or acknowledge that. (As opposed to an artist like Eminem.)

There went my social media channels, blowing up with outcries from white people about “reverse racism.” There’s even now a petition going around calling for Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, to fire Williams. You can google it if you don’t believe me.

I won’t dignify it with a link.

————-

Here’s the thing.

I’m white. I’ve seen and heard other white people say and do racist things. Yes, racism still exists.

Is it better than it was in the past?

I’d like to think so.

Is it gone?

Not by a long shot.

Is there such a thing as reverse racism?

No, and that’s a silly question.

Racism is endemic. It’s systemic. It’s societal. Are there black people who hate white people just because they are white? Sure.

But that’s not racism.

It’s prejudice. But it’s not racism.

Racism and prejudice aren’t quite the same thing. Racism, rather, is best known as a system in which a racial majority is able to enforce its power and privilege over another race through political, economic and institutional means. Therefore racism can be described as “prejudice plus power,” as the two work together to create the system of inequality.”

Refusing to acknowledge racism is not going to make it go away.

————-

Getting offended every time the black community celebrates black history and/or black culture, is racist.

“Why do they have Black Entertainment Television? If we had a white only channel everyone would be up in arms about it!”

Um, for years every single channel on the television was white only. That’s why.

“What about Black History Month? We don’t have a white history month.”

Have you looked in a history book lately? It’s all white history, all the time. And when you do read of black history, it’s typically about slavery and/or the fight for civil rights.

Can you tell me about a black inventor if I tell you George Washington Carver doesn’t count? Because he’s the only one I was ever taught of during formal schooling. Now, can you name for me some white inventors?

I can list at least a dozen off the top of my head. That’s why.

Why do some white people get so upset when black people celebrate their heritage? Or encourage other black people to take ownership over their culture and be proud?

Where is the societal uproar every time a local Native American tribe holds a powwow? Do white people not care about that because there aren’t as many Native Americans? Does that make them feel less threatened?

My stomach turns when I see people I went to high school with posting garbage that argues against black culture being celebrated. I grew up with them. I know first hand the white privilege with which they were raised. Having moved out of that area, I know that my own children are not getting the caliber of education I and my schoolmates were lucky enough to have received.

Why can’t people admit that their experience is not the only one? We all walk very different paths across this earth. When black people speak of the experiences they’ve had, why can’t white people just acknowledge? Why do so many feel compelled to argue and bristle and fight back?

—————

I’m not knocking police officers. I won’t go so far as to say they have a thankless job. I think most of society is thankful that there are people who sign up to keep us safe. We realize they sign on to witness society at its very worst on an almost daily basis.

I don’t think most cops are racist. Maybe that’s the optimist in me. It’s in my nature to believe the best about someone and always give the benefit of the doubt.

I truly believe that the vast majority of cops just want to do their job, do it well, and have everyone go home safe. Themselves and the public they swore to protect.

The majority.

Are there racist cops? I’m sure of it.

I’m sure of it because I’m white.

I’m white and I’ve been allowed to hear the conversations that don’t happen in public. The ones that take place in family dining rooms, during backyard barbecues, against the backdrop of kiddie parties. I’ve gone home with my skin cold and my wind swirling around the idea that people still, still, will judge a human being based solely on the pigment of his or her melanin.

The stories and the videos are disturbing.

Even allowing for the argument that the videos may not show the whole story. That the video you watch on the news may not show every single angle of a struggle. Even admitting that the videos typically don’t show the confrontation from start to finish. Even knowing that I can’t possibly understand what the police officer felt in that moment. Fear or confusion or a hot course of adrenalin pounding through his ears and heart. Probably all three and more.

The stories and videos are still disturbing. 

What disturbs me just as much are the arguments. The immediate, and swift, rallies of “All Lives Matter” and “Police Lives Matter” and the arguments on social media that police officers are being persecuted by the liberal media.

A lot of white people refuse to admit there is a problem. That some, maybe not all, but some of these incidents have happened because the police officers involved were judging (judge, jury, and executioner) the person stopped by the color of his or her skin.

White people won’t admit to what they hear and learn behind closed doors. It might mean admitting your grandmother, that sweet woman may her soul rest in peace, who taught you how to crochet and bought you a treat at the bakery every Saturday, was a raving racist who yelled at the white people on Wheel of Fortune who were stupid enough to let the n***** win. Or maybe you don’t want to confess to your father, himself in law enforcement, owning a KKK belt buckle he kept tucked away in his armoir and only brought out to show his friends when they stopped by.

I can’t be the only one.

I can’t be the only white person who’s been privy to this kind of closet, subversive racism. I know there are a lot of white people standing up and speaking out and supporting the black community in saying, “This isn’t right. There needs to be change. We still have work to do.

But not enough of them.

I’m telling you, as a member of the white community, not enough of you are speaking up. Not enough of you are being truthful about the racism you grew up with. The racism your friends spew. I hear it. I’ve been to your parties and your barbecues.

I know you hear it, too.

I won’t stand by and keep your secrets any longer.