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Saturday was awesome. I’m not generally a march person. I don’t do crowds well; I get panicky. But it was local (so, familiar) and I went with friends who would have understood if I’d needed to run away for a bit. I attended the women’s rally in Denton, had lunch with some friends afterward to talk about it, and then met for decadent waffles and coffee with another friend who had her reasons not to attend but was eager to hear the reasons I did.

Yesterday, however, was one of the days I had to get off Facebook to retain my sanity.

It wasn’t all bad. I had several friends who posted why they chose not to march. While wow, we’ve had very different life experiences and disagree about a lot of things, I respect that, just like I do, they do not shy away from the responsibilty of acting according to their convictions. I even clicked “like” on a couple that were particularly well reasoned and eloquently stated. I’m thankful that they shared.

Then there were the others – some original, some reposted from another source. They listed lots of reasons they didn’t march, but they also listed many disrespectful assumptions about us marchers. And most of them ended with some version of the condescending sentiment, “Oh, but go ahead and have your little march if it will make you feel better. Bless your hearts.”

 

Incredibly, many of the people posting these messages are some of the same people I see calling for unity. Hmm. Maybe it would be more unifying if they listened and tried to understand the positions of others instead of automatically dismissing them as stupid and whiny. Just a thought.

More to the point, I get that people feel compelled to explain why they didn’t march. After all, I often feel compelled to explain why I don’t do something others see as important. It’s very human to want to be understood and to feel defensive when we’re not. As one who marched, let me assure those of you who didn’t that you don’t owe me an explanation. We all have different work to do, and if this march wasn’t part of your work, then that’s your decision. I am happy to listen if you want to explain anyway, but you owe me nothing.

[Aside – your other friends who marched may feel differently. Don’t assume I speak for everyone, because I do not.]

If you do explain, however, be careful. There is a thin line between “This is why I didn’t,” and “This is why people who march are stupid.” And most of the posts I saw in my feed crossed that line from disagreement right into disrespect. I understand the draw. I’m certainly not innocent of it. Acting petty is super gratifying – cathartic, even. Some of my favorite people are petty by default. And it is a whole lot easier to dismiss people who disagree as unintelligent or uninformed or just plain unlikable without going to the trouble to listen long enough to discern if those things are true.

The problem is that when we choose to take the low road by insulting whole groups of people, there are probably going to be people who read or hear it whom we would claim to love and respect as individuals and who also happen to fall within that group. It lands on them just as if we had said it to their faces. If you are fine with this, well…you do you. On some level, I get that, too. I’m certainly working through some of my own feelings of betrayal and anger, and I hope Jesus and I work through them soon, because they are hella stressful. I want you to have space to work through it, too.

Just know that, if you posted one of those messages, it landed on people you call friends. It landed on me and my friends (which frankly, is more offensive than it landing on me. How dare you. My friends are awesome, and you would be lucky to know them).

If that’s the message you meant to send me – that you neither like nor respect me – then okay. Not everyone does. So…why are you here? Stop torturing yourself. Unfriend me, unfollow me, and stop reading. Life is too short, and the steady rise of your blood pressure with every word you read is making yours even shorter. Save yourself. Just go.

If, however, that isn’t the message you intended to send, let’s see if I can help us work our way back from it.

First, full disclosure – those calls for unity? I’m not even close to there yet. Before you get judgy, I want you to reflect on our time in the Obama administration. Think of how long it took you to say, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s our President, and it’s still our country, so I’m going to make peace with it.” How long did it take you to get rid of the opposing candidate’s yard sign and take your “I didn’t vote for this Obama-nation” bumper sticker off your car? How long did it take for you to stop posting snarky and often hateful memes poking fun at the First Family on social media, and how long after that did it take for you to stop liking those memes or finding them funny? When voicing your opposition to Obama’s healthcare plan (which is an opinion you have every right to voice), how long did it take you to stop calling it Obamacare and refer to it by its actual name, the Affordable Care Act?

Was it two months? Six months? A year? Eight years? Be honest.

Take that measure of time, add it to January 20, 2017, put it on your calendar, and mark it as the first day you have any moral ground whatsoever to ask me for unity. You may get it well before then, on account of my annoying, stubborn idealism and the inconvenient fact that achieving the goals we marched for – freedom for all – will ultimately require some semblance of an all. But in the meantime, stop asking people to do what you yourself could not.

Second, while I don’t owe you an explanation either, if you are still reading (and good on you – this is a long one), I’d like to tell you why I marched. It’s possible that you might even find something here to agree with, and I suppose that’s a start.

The equal rights we allegedly all have on paper are not fully practiced in reality. Equality is not just a legal issue; even more than that, it is a heart and attitude issue. Lack of a heart and attitude for equality is still a big problem in our country. I marched to protest that reality.

We just swore in a man who, through all his years in the limelight and throughout his campaign, actively displayed a heart and attitude of inequality. He has disparaged women, people of color, military veterans, people with disabilities – basically, anyone who has ever appeared to disagree with him. And he’s not dumb. He has been in the public eye his whole life, and he knew exactly what he was doing and exactly the effect it would have. He knew his open ridicule would embolden other people to act out their similar hateful biases in more extreme ways which he could then publicly denounce, passing himself off as reasonable by comparison. He will make promises and tell people he is on their side, and then betray them to get what he wants. Then he will turn around and ask them to be friends again and pout (or tweet) when they understandably decline. As long as I’ve known who he is, these have been his signature moves. This is not friendship or leadership; it is a cycle of abuse that he has, to date, shown no intention of breaking. I protest that.

If he were to want to show intention to turn over a new leaf, I’d be happy to see it. A good way to do that would be to enforce the equal rights we are supposedly guaranteed by law. You know, instead of threatening to repeal those laws or to cut funding/defund agencies that exist to protect them. I protest that, too.

I marched to be part of an audio-visual reminder to the president and the country that, while he may have been elected by a different group of people, upon taking that oath, he works for all of us now. An across-party-lines calling for that is a unity I could maybe think about starting to get on board with.

Barring that far-fetched possibility, the march also served as a not-so-subtle reminder that those who oppose inequality, particularly the inequality that laces the president’s words and actions, are not the small, docile, silent minority he would like to believe we are.

And finally, I marched in repentance for white feminism. White feminism is a larger discussion but for our purposes here includes all supposed freedom work that pursues one group’s freedom at the expense and exclusion of the freedom of others, particularly the freedom of women of color. I can believe we still have to protest this shit, because we cannot free and oppress at the same time, and that’s what a lot of the work of white feminists has done. It has tried to take a step forward by pushing others back. Freedom and oppression are opposing forces. No wonder progress has been slow, because much of it simply has not been progress.

On Saturday, I know we did a whole lot of getting things right. The rally in Denton seemed peaceful and inclusive. Having said that, if someone told me that they were excluded from it, I would believe them, because with its roots in white supremacy, white feminism is pervasive as hell. I marched in recognition that we still have so much work to do and that a lot of that work was created by our own selfishness.

Marching isn’t the only thing we’re doing, or even the most effective. Of course it isn’t. I know a lot of people who didn’t march because they were doing important work elsewhere at the time. That’s great – more power to them!

The march did spark hope in me again. If you are one of the people calling for unity, and you truly want it, this should give you hope that one day I’ll get there, too.

 

 

 

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Really, this is just an excuse to show off my new floor.

“If you lost about fifty pounds, you’d have guys lining up to date you. Heck, I might even be one of them.”

 I looked at the slice of pizza in my hand as I tried to pick my chin up off the floor. Had he really just said that? I decided to give him a chance to recant. I raised a warning eyebrow. “What?”

 He didn’t get the hint. “Yeah. If you lost some weight, you’d be the perfect girl. Totally date-able.”

 I performed a quick mental search of the backlog of our conversation up to that point. Had I asked his opinion on how I could be more attractive? No. Had I inquired as to why the guy I was interested in wasn’t going for me? Nope. Had I accidentally hit on him, inspiring him to make it clear that he wasn’t interested in being my next crush? Definitely not.

 I suppose I could have returned the attack. I could have pointed out that it certainly wouldn’t have hurt him – skeletally and scientifically speaking, of course – to drop 50+ pounds himself and that doing so might just be the answer to the knee and back problems he was always complaining about. You know, since we had entered into the unsolicited advice portion of our dialogue. Apparently.

 But this was not random street harassment that could be dealt with and dismissed with a stunning display of pettiness. This was my friend, who allegedly cared about me. He probably thought he was being helpful. He probably even thought he was paying me a compliment about what an awesome human I was.

 It was not helpful. It was not a compliment. And unlike comments from strangers who could be dismissed because they didn’t know me, coming from a friend, it was personal.

 I was so appalled, however, that I was unable to completely remove all the sass from my reply. “No, what I need to lose are the misogynistic jerks in my life who think a girl has to be thin to be lovable.”

 The conversation got really awkward after that.

 This is one of the stories I like to tell when people ask where I get my confidence. They usually aren’t looking for the real answer, particularly if the question is part of a conversation about beauty or dating. They’re not really interviewing me about my greatest strengths. They don’t want to hear that I love my intelligence and my wit and my loyalty, or the fact that my cooking has brought tears to people’s eyes (because they enjoyed it, to be clear). They don’t even really want to know how much I’m obsessed with my adorable feet or how I’m really growing to love my arms. They want to know how I – a fat girl – could possibly think so highly of myself, particularly in a society that does not statistically share that opinion about the rotund.

 Where do I get my confidence? By standing up for myself. By calling a lie a lie, particularly when it was a lie that – until I heard it spoken aloud and realized how awful and wrong it sounded – I had secretly believed myself.

 I get confidence from friends who remind me to fight the lies. Since I have been trying to lose weight (19 pounds down, btw), I have had several concerned friends affirming their love for me and making sure I remember what the changes I’m making in order to work toward this goal will do for me (lower my blood pressure/calm my blood sugar levels down/allow me to run without snapping my small-boned twig ankles) and what it will not do for me (make me even more fantastic and worthy of the space that I take up in the world, because according to us – and really, who else’s opinion even matters at all? – I’m already there). I have good friends.

 I also get confidence from reading books like Shrill. Lindy West is hilarious. I particularly liked her chapter on how she answers the confidence question. This is a book I’ll be buying so that I can read it aloud at parties. I highly recommend it for people of all shapes and sizes.

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The Best WTF Face

The ninth grader in Irving who was arrested for showing his English teacher the cool clock he made has the best WTF face ever.

Yes, Ahmed Mohamed. That face exactly.

If you’re wondering if racism is still a thing, watch this story.

[Also, stop wondering if racism is still a thing.]

Watch the comments. Read the letter that the school sent to parents to cover their ass. Watch people excuse them for doing so because the school has to protect itself from liability or even praise them for grossly overreacting in the name of safety.

I disagree.

I am just as afraid as anyone about violence happening at schools. I work on a college campus. You better believe we’re suspicious and on high alert all the time. But when you make that big and that public a mistake, you admit it and apologize for it, no strings attached. It’s embarrassing enough for an institution of education to have made the mistake in the first place. It’s unconscionable not to follow up with just as big and just as public an apology.

On the bright side, he did get an informal invitation to the White House because of it.

If there are updates, I’ll edit and post them. Feel free to share related links in the comments.

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If You Want My Vote

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Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson. People assembled to mark their remembrance of the four and a half hours that Michael Brown was left lying on the street. There was gunfire again. A year has passed, and so little has changed. Church, we need a better theology.

And I need better candidates.

I don’t know who I’m voting for. I disagree with most of the candidates, and I actively dislike a few of them. The rest? I have strong meh feelings about. Sure, I have a soft spot for Jill Stein leftover from the last election when she got arrested for trying to join the debates and when she got arrested for passing out candy to protesters in Texas, but I have zero hope that she’ll be elected, so it’s hard to work up enthusiasm. I often nod to the things that Bernie Sanders says, but I am displeased with his response to the Black Lives Matter activists who interrupted his rally in Seattle.

No. “Displeased” is too tame.

My sister and brother-in-law have this signature deep, guttural sigh that they exude when they want to convey utter exasperation with the situation at hand. That. That is the response to that foolishness that I would like to insert here now, for mere words will not suffice.

To all Presidential hopefuls, especially Mr. Sanders, if you want my vote, here’s how to get it.

Stop telling me what you’ve done or what you plan to do, and show me what you’re doing. The new plan is step in the right direction, but if it’s not followed up by action, I don’t want to hear it. If you say you believe in racial justice, be just. Lead the way. Be a real ally, not just someone who plays one on TV.

When Black Lives Matter shows up at your rally, roll out the damn red carpet. It’s not hard. Share your stage. Listen to them. Because I don’t care half as much about your civil rights record as I do about your current civil rights activism. And when you put yourself at odds with the very people doing the work or demand that they only do the work on your terms and in your time frame, you reveal a gargantuan lack that I am not likely to forget.

People have a voice.  They are certainly paying attention to what you’re saying and doing. Reciprocate. They have things to say, and they want to be heard. When you neglect to make room for them to do so, you leave them two choices – shut up or interrupt.

When you back Black Lives Matter into that corner, I hope they always, always interrupt you.

If you want my vote, you will welcome their input.

Don’t like to be interrupted? Then you need to be more intentional about listening. Instead of taking your toys and going home to pout, stay and pay attention. If you want my vote, you need to be the candidate that hands them the microphone, not the one who directs them to the back of the bus.

Added bonus – the inevitable money shot of you checking your ego and privilege enough to hand off the mic? Easiest. Campaign. Ever.

We don’t have to agree on everything, but I want a candidate who knows how to listen to the people. That’s my President.

ETA: This is my favorite thing on the Internet today.

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This Friday, “five” is more of a guideline than a rule. Here is my online week in snippets:

1. Of course, I am upset about Cecil the Lion. Dentist Guy, an apology is not enough. I need you to get a whole new personality and do some jail time. I am fascinated by the outrage over the outrage. On the one hand, it’s okay to care about multiple things. That’s a thing humans can do. Caring about Cecil doesn’t mean that we don’t care about abortion (although I do feel compelled to question people who say they’re against abortion and want to shut down Planned Parenthood altogether, as knowledge of and access to affordable contraception – both of which are services they offer on a more comprehensive level than any other agency – is positively correlated with both lower teen pregnancy rates AND lower abortion rates), and it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the lost human lives that are also eating up my news feed. On the other hand, if you are sadder over a lion than you were over Charleston or Chattanooga, that’s a problem and you need to fix it. Don’t know where to start? Clicky and start here. And Roxane Gay is my favorite person this week – “I’m personally going to start wearing a lion costume when I leave my house so if I get shot, people will care.”

2. I am heartsick over the death of Samuel DuBose. I suppose I should feel happy that it seems it is being dealt with, but all I can feel is heartsick. I am heartsick over the death of Darrell S. Murphy. I’m tired of these ridiculous deaths and the extreme, systemic prejudice that is at the root of them. I can’t stop listening and cocoon myself in my privilege, though, because desensitization is worse than heartsick.

3. The sheer volume of misinformation and baseless conclusion jumping on Facebook this week (or any week, for that matter) is exhausting.  The one that sticks out most is a Buzzfeed post making the rounds about a 17-year-old disgruntled ex-JC Penney employee claiming body shaming because they asked her to go home and change before her shift.

My annoyance is threefold.

First, this is not body shaming. It is an employer asking an employee to represent the company the way the leaders of the company want it to be represented (which, by the way, is what employees are paid to do). The issue is not that they thought her clothing was bad; the issue is that the clothing violated their dress code for employees on the clock. Aspiring feminist children – while I applaud you standing up for yourself, don’t just throw out hot button terms (especially ones that aren’t relevant to your situation) and run away. That makes you look uninformed, not brave.

Second, if real change is what you are going for (and if you’re going to use the label “feminist,” I’m gonna need real change to be your goal), there are concrete ways of getting that done. Don’t like their dress code? Draft a petition, complete with well-reasoned arguments that go beyond “I should get to do what I want,” to have it changed. Schedule a meeting with your manager to talk about it and see if s/he can put your ideas before someone who has the power to actually do something about it. Leaving in a huff and quitting without proper notice makes you a bad employee, not an activist.

Third, don’t sell out for clickbait and squander your chance to make a good point. There are elements of this story worth being upset about. She could have called for the need for better training resources so that others in the future could avoid the embarrassment this incident caused her. Because under the false bravado, that seems to be what she’s really upset about – she got in trouble for something that she didn’t know was against policy. She wasn’t trying to defy the company’s standards; she just wasn’t properly trained regarding them. And that’s a problem JC Penney should want to resolve. You can’t just hand part-time employees – of any age – a manual, tell them to read it on their own time, and realistically expect to be able to hold them accountable for it. That’s terrible management. She also could have focused on the actual discriminatory practice of sending her home while letting the guys get away with violating the policy. That’s the point I personally would have made. But I would have stayed and made it. Now, all that’s going to come from this is her fifteen minutes of fame from being the subject of a Buzzfeed post. What a waste of a golden opportunity.

THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO REQUIRE SPEECH AND DEBATE FOR HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STUDENTS. So that they learn how to make an argument and stand up for themselves and others in a way that actually makes a difference and so that they grow into voting citizens who also know how to do that.

4. I love Cara Delevingne. I loved her awkward interview, and I love John Green’s defense of it.

5. How do we INTJs defy our stereotype of being narcissistic know-it-alls? By being open-minded and wanting to hear all the things from all the people, even if we disagree with them. YEP. Also, the line “indisputably aware of their own intelligence” made me giggle. Also yep.

6. And finally, this is the thing that made me laugh the hardest this week – Glennon Doyle Melton’s post “I’m Not Sassy, I’m Suzanne.” In related news, I need this mug.

What stories stuck out to you this week?

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Don’t Go Blind

My personal life is scrambled and crazy this week, and it would probably be better for my sanity and anxiety levels to just shut out social media and not pay attention and let some things slide by unnoticed. But there are things I can’t ignore, even when much of the news does.

Kindra Darnell Chapman was found dead in her cell in Alabama after being arrested on robbery charges. If you Google this one, click on the news link at the top, because the straight up web searches will make you pray for another flood. Actually, if you are of the opinion that racism isn’t a thing that happens very often any more, go ahead and click on some of those vile links of asshollery that show up and learn.

This was a day after Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell in Texas, where she was brought after a traffic stop. I’m gonna need Texas cops to stop kneeling on top of black women they’ve thrown to the ground. Get it together, Texas. I’m also going to need this to be investigated by an outside party. Because that’s how justice works. You can’t get an objective, fair assessment by doing the investigation in-house. We need someone who doesn’t have Texas pride at the heart of their inquiry to look into this. It’s not a turf issue; it’s a fairness issue. Sign this petition if you agree.

Fight the urge to go blind to these things. Read a lot. Listen a lot. If something you read upsets you, don’t just assume it’s wrong – ask yourself why it upsets you.

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Broken Record

This post is going to feel like a broken record. Or maybe it’s just me – I feel like a broken record.

Part of me wants to spend my first day back from vacation doing what I do best – navel-gazing and talking about food. I don’t know that I need to say anything about that police officer’s behavior in McKinney, but if my choice of risk is between saying too much and saying too little, I do know what side I want to land on.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me sum up – the world is broken and awful. I don’t even know if there’s anything left to say about the McKinney situation that hasn’t already been said by people who understand what it’s like to watch that video and still hear people wonder what the whole story is.

When it comes to analyzing the situation as a whole – why the police were called, who did things right, who did things wrong – sure. Get the whole story. I suspect that it will still reveal that when it comes to race, community, and police relations, there is still work to be done. Saying that doesn’t mean that I hate McKinney and think everyone who lives there are unwashed racist miscreants. It just means that I have some hope that doing better is possible.

I also find hope in the courage shown by some of those kids. My ideal world is a place where everyone has friends like that.

But when you talk about the girl…don’t tell me to look at the other side of that story. Nope. Not gonna happen.

PSA to grown men everywhere – HANDS OFF THE TEENAGE GIRLS. You may think you have a good reason, but let me make it simple for you. No. You do not. Unless you are personally saving her from a burning building or pushing her out of the path of a moving vehicle, do not touch her without her permission (and if she’s below the age of consent, even with her permission most types of touches are not okay). He verbally attacked her, and when she responded in kind, he physically attacked her, flinging her to the ground and kneeling on top of her. What possible other-side scenario makes that an acceptable course of action? A grown ass man laying his hands on a girl in a violent way (or in any way, for that matter) is completely inappropriate – and in most cases, criminal – behavior. There is no other side to the story that changes that. Just….DON’T.

Good police officers everywhere – this man assaulted her, and he did it in uniform, providing the whole world with yet another place to point when they tell their kids that sometimes they can’t trust the police. When you defend him or dismiss it with an attitude of “well, yeah, that can happen sometimes,” you give them another place to point. Even if he had been a great cop in every other situation in his career, that is irrelevant in this story. In this case he was not. This time, he failed to live up to the exemplary standard that you risk your life to live up to. He dishonored you. Good cop friends, I am livid, and I don’t understand why you aren’t. My expectation is that when things get out of hand like that, my good cop friends would be the first to stand and say, “That’s not what a police officer is supposed to do, and that’s not okay.” You want me to trust you? Stop siding with the bullies instead of the bullied. I hope that you can turn this narrative around, but I can’t do it for you. It has to come from you.

I have hope, but it’s buried under a lot of frustration.

Edited to add: The police chief’s response. I have a little more hope today.

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