During these last lazy days of summer, spend some of your afternoon spinning around in your desk chair looking at these lovely lady entrepreneurs of the interwebs. Some of these would be fantastic bookmarks for holiday gifts.
Goddess Leslie Hall
Leslie Hall is one of my new feminist heroes. Her YouTube channel is a treasure. And if you want to buy some things she made, you can just visit her website.
A very strange woman I know recently got serious about selling some of this spectacular soap she and her people make. Check it out.
An annoying vegan told me they might be doing gift packs + wrapping for Xmas at very, very reasonable prices.
So, if you like whales, and I totally do, this thing is happening. It’s a newly funded kickstarter an acquaintance of mine ran to make researching whales a) easier, and b) less stressful for whales by COLLECTING THEIR MUCOUS. USING ROBOTS. Huzzah! Girl Power!
Lady Lucy’s Madness
I really love knowing creative people. Mad Lucy makes the most excellent accessories I have ever seen using doll parts, clay, sequins, eyeballs, and all manner of other fantastic things. Visit her Etsy store for more info.
Sojourn of a Hungry Soul
Laurie Cannady’s memoir is beautiful and powerful and astonishing. I’ll be introducing her at her book launch in November, at Lock Haven University where she teaches. Reserve your copy on Amazon or at etruscanpress.org.
It also blew up the internet a little. You Go, Susan.
I’ve been noticing these past six months or so as a teacher and person-who-occasionally-reads-and-writes-emails-in-a-professional-setting and a person-who-has-relationships-with-other-people-that-sometimes-include-talking-about-important-shit, that people in general do not see nuance.
Roxane Gay, in her book Bad Feminist, agrees with me. I am obsessed with that book right now. It is saving and affirming my life.
But people are even less likely to be able to see and appreciate nuance if a situation is emotionally charged in any way.
I become a dreadful adherer to the divine principles of black and white when I am upset. We all do.
And therein lies some of the danger of the immediacy of internet publishing (tweeting, blogging, rocking out an essay for Slate, etc).
Discourse between Jennifer Weiner and Jonathan Franzen could be so interesting, complex, and helpful.
But because they both have the platform and freedom to reply in the heat of the moment, and because they are both super brainy people with big opinions, and because they genuinely rub each other wrong, they do a lot of name calling.
Jennifer Weiner’s not the only woman lobbying for equal representation for women in publishing.
While punchy and entertaining, her remarks are defensive. She ignores the nuance. She sort of takes what JF said about her out of context. She writes as if he just randomly decided to say something else inflammatory about her.
That’s not really what happened. He was asked, specifically, about women writers and Jennifer Weiner. My girl Susan even mentioned VIDA.
Something else he didn’t do? Slam all women writers.
I think he asked an important question, “Do we want Jennifer Weiner to be the spokesperson for equal representation of women’s writing?” to which I would add the following questions:
Why aren’t there many male spokespeople on this topic?
How is it not clear that crime novels and romance novels and other commercial novels have the same value as each other, and if some are reviewable, well damnit, so are they all?
Why does Jonathan Franzen get to ignore the fact that there are other spokeswomen on this topic, some of whom I’m sure he’s actually read? Some of whom probably also have a fraught relationship with Twitter!
These are important questions, all of them, and even though he’s a blowhard some of the time, Jonathan Franzen would be interested discuss. So would Jennifer Weiner.
Jonathan Franzen actually said *this is an important issue.* And the problem with the idea of Jennifer Weiner being perceived as The Spokesperson is that a) she is not, and b) she is not the only kind of woman writer. There are lots of us.
The bigger problem, as I see it, is that Jonathan Franzen (and many other white male writers) are able to live in a world of total ignorance of this conversation.
They just don’t know how many of us women writers are speaking out–on twitter, on our blogs, as teachers at universities, as public figures, sharing the VIDA count link every year, getting together with our lady writer friends and guzzling wine and talking talking talking about this very shit.
They don’t know because they don’t have to, because the stakes are very very low for them.
But who wants to pay attention to a conversation full of name calling, especially if they are on the long end of the privilege stick?
I like Jennifer Weiner. I heard her speak, shook her hand. She is funny and warm. I would have coffee with her without thinking twice. I bought one of her books for my mom for Xmas. New.
But these two are publicly quibbling over a VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE, that I doubt, when the rubber hits the road, they differ on much at all.
Imagine if these two leveraged the breadth variety of their audiences to raise awareness and !Action! on this issue? Weiner’s already made strides.
I think that Franzen must be ignoring information that is certainly at his disposal, since he claims “[Jennifer Weiner makes] no case for why formulaic fiction ought to be reviewed in the New York Times.”
The thing people have seized about that statement is, “Jennifer Weiner makes no case.” (she does, it’s in her rebuttal)
I haven’t read anything that notes how Franzen’s got the wrong stick here. Nuance, anyone?
NY Times Book Review lets you search all reviews since 1981. I typed in Stephen King , got numerous hits of reviews both by him and of his books on the first page. Then I typed in the less-famous-and-way-less-notoriously-tight-with-the-intellectual-lefties, John Grisham, and the same.
Just for funzies, I typed in Anne Rice and got two articles. One from 2014, a year after Times Books’s controversial hiring of a female Editor Pamela Paul, and another, on the second page of results, from 2008. (I also found the review of Weiner’s most recent).
But Franzen says something else, too, in that interview. Something surprising. Something I think Jennifer Weiner would have to wholeheartedly agree with. He says what people read doesn’t have to be emotionally complex, that adults reading YA Fiction aren’t doing anything wrong, even though other Grumpy White Dudes think so.
I think Franzen would have to agree that fiction on par with Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, and Stephen King, is the same kind of delicious, ready escapism.
And some other day I will write about the problem that almost everyone mentioned in this little blog post is white.
So let’s all unbunch our panties, boxers, or dingleberries, shall we, and have an actual conversation. Let’s ask honest questions and discuss them after taking a break to scream, privately, into our pillows, about how much of an arrogant prick the question asker is, or what an entitled c-word.
Maybe she went on to describe the ways in which The Bible has been bastardized by Christian rhetoric. Maybe she means the parts where Jesus is an all-around good dude who had positive ideas about how to be a human in the world. But what is more likely? Her team of Election Manipulators have encouraged her to say shit like that so as not to fully alienate the Religious Right (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days).
Which, as a mother of a female child, TERRIFIES ME. I’m scared to leave her out of my sight when not in our home. I’m scared some mentally ill person she goes to school with will decide this fall is the fall to tote a little firearm to school and rain bullets.
I’m pissed that I have to worry about that.
I’m angry at how powerless myself and all the other people in the whole country who are worth less than several million dollars are.
And today I’m really fucking sad because a kid I grew up around (our grandmas were BFFs), went to school with, who had loads of friends and was a genius at fixing cars, killed himself.
He killed himself because his dad shot his mom when he was 4. He was there. He killed himself because of domestic violence. He killed himself because of somebody else’s mental illness and gun violence.
I am so wound up today that, after I couldn’t locate my previously existing Yoga DVD, I went to Target and bought two. I did about 50 minutes worth of cardio Yoga and Yoga for stress relief and I feel reasonably calm now. For the rest of the afternoon, I am going to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love, and I am going to try to figure out how to move to space in between frustrated crying jags.
I’m not glad Rodger is dead. I feel badly for his parents. I think the whole thing is awful and probably, in its rawest most elemental parts, not even Rodger’s fault. I feel awful that I live in a world that would foster an Elliot Rodger and his manifesto. I feel yucky that not enough people (including therapists and police) Rodger reached out to in his time of misogyny said, “Dudebro. Chill. Someday, you’ll have sex and it’ll be great. For now, concentrate on being smart and kind. Let me help you. PS, women are awesome + smart people just like you, not property, merchandize, or beasts to be tamed.”
Honest to god, I didn’t get the #YesAllWomen thing the first time I heard it. I was like, wait, what? Yes All Women What? What single experience could possibly read across cultures for all women? Clearly I was not spending (any) time on Twitter.
I began to pay attention in my own life. I wait tables for money in a brew pub. I love my job. I love people. I typically have a great time at work. But sometimes, way more often than it seems I notice, I act to protect myself. This behavior is ROTE. Most of us don’t even think about it, we just act. To be nice. To be ladylike.
Anecdote: I waited on a table of a big family. A sweet older woman grabbed my arm and read my tattoo. She looked at me quizzically. She said, “You don’t look like a feminist. You look cute.” #YesAllWomen
At the brew pub, I waited on a pair of old guys visiting from a big city. One of them, after most of their second pitcher of beer and about three hours of bossing me around (read, taking up a table through the dinner rush), told my tits that he’d treat me like a queen if I ever visited his city.
Instead of saying what I wanted to say, which is “Stuff it, Perv.” I mustered a phony laugh and a “Sure!” from my reserve of phony laughs and crazy-agreeable lady speak. Jack ass didn’t even tip 20%.
I asked myself why I did that.
I did it because of fear. Because I was scared that if I told the old guy to go fuck himself, he would wait for me and do something mean and shitty or just stalkery and frightening to me after work.
I started to pay attention to my feelings around men I don’t know all the time: when I’m running, if I’m alone somewhere, if I’m picking up my kid at school, if I’m walking across a parking lot.
I realized, unconsciously, I give all strange men, regardless of their race or age, a wide berth. Yesterday, I was at the park running and there was an old guy sunbathing with his newspaper. I was a little frightened of him because I couldn’t reckon out why the heck he would be hanging out at the park with half his clothes off, reclining like it’s his fucking living room. He coulda been the sweetest dude on the planet, but the alternative was too horrifying to attempt to find out. #YesAllWomen.
Which brings up two things. 1) my personal belief that if we are going to end sexism, racism, and all other bigotry, we must accept that we are complicit and begin to see ourselves as part of the problem (that means, stop saying, “but I’m not a racist,” because it’s just not true); then act, moving forward with empathy, with a conscious desire to change our thinking, our emotional responses, and our unconscious and intentional reactions to the subjects of our bigotry. Here’s a humbling appeal from a woman of color to us white women who do not always provide the empathy we demand. And 2) some men, those who would doubtless put themselves in the #NotAll category, do not see this problem for a number of reasons, but the two main ones are lack of empathy + lack of visibility. Here, give this a think.
Anecdote: YESTERDAY, I drove in my car past a very beautiful young woman who was wearing a pair of short black shorts and a sheer tank top with a black bra underneath. My first thought was, “she looks great, I love her outfit.” My second thought was, “But is she trying to get raped?” My third thought was “Ohmigod I can’t believe I just thought that bullshit. Followed by a long self-hating lecture I’ll spare you all from outlining how she can wear whatever she wants and she is powerful and beautiful it is not her job to act to circumvent rape and rape is not a result of women wearing awesome outfits and so on. WE ARE ALL PART OF THE PROBLEM.
And as a counterpoint to lack of empathy? Of awareness? Some men, young men even, are starting to notice and want to help to affect change. Here’s an appeal for more empathy, for all people to be feminists. Let’s all try to be more like that writer’s son. Like that writer for raising a son who can look at himself unflinchingly and honestly.
I’ve been crabby this week. Short with the people I love + generally feeling full of rage. I have these periods occasionally. Ones where, when I learn things about myself and the world around me, I am pissed off. I don’t think this huge social problem is all that’s making me grumpy: I’m at a transitional period in my life + I’m sorting through stuff in my mind that I don’t always understand until I talk it over with my therapist.
And here’s the bullshit thing about my crabbiness: I’m pretty fucking privileged. I get to feel crabby on nice furniture in a house that has plenty of space and always food in the fridge. The ridiculous and horrifying things that have happened to me at men’s hands are pretty minimal compared to what other women have experienced. I know that where I work, there are at least a dozen people who would have my back if some stalkery nonsense happened. I happen to be heterosexual and white, so I live with a nice, tall white dude which is a fine asset. I have a baller education and the freedom to get more, which is also a huge, huge privilege.
I guess the thing that makes me mad is that it matters I’m white and heterosexual. I just don’t understand why it can’t be the same for all humans, regardless. I mean, I can explain why, I can regurgitate the things I have learned (in college, not in my conservative upbringing), I can even sort of understand the fear that makes some of the bad stuff happen.
But here’s the part that I don’t get: We live in a culture where we can use a device that has enough advanced tech in it, it can tell when it’s laying on a table, in a purse, or check your pulse. It can teach you anything you can ask it about. Why the hell can’t we get our shit together to teach our children, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that differentness is not a cause for oppression. Differentness doesn’t mean that another person’s experience is invalid. All humans have experiences that exist even if we can’t see or understand them. And differentness is a thing to be honored and experienced and edified by. All of us with the same opportunities, working together to make the world awesome? If I could snap my fingers and make one thing happen, I would eliminate hate. We would be so powerful and so. much. happier.
And I’m not the only one trying to make sense of this, weighing in on the Blogosphere. I hope I’m not the only one who’s working hard to abolish her revolting racist, sexist, classist, ageist, internal garbage with which I’ve been acculturated.
And for some vaguely related historical tidbits, read about the sadly departed Maya Angelou’s history as a sex worker and how uncomfortable book people–the people whom I would wish to be least narrow about acceptable behavior, sexuality, ideas from women–are with her stint as a prostitute. Or about how the Christians are trying to stop Harvey Milk’s Forever Stamp legacy. Because, y’know, he was gay and stuff, and as Westboro Baptist is so fond of reminding us, “God Hates Fags.”
Scream in the comments if you want. Tell me which link you liked best. Share your #YesAllWomen story. Or tell me how I can be a better ally if you are part of a group my straight, white brethren are so fond of oppressing.
About twice a year for the last few, I’ve had the privilege of judging poetry contests for NFSPS and its organizations.
One year, I judged the unrequited love category.
I’m not going to lie. A lot of those poems were intensely bad. I believe there were upwards of 400 of them. But finding the few excellent ones makes the whole thing worth it, every year. I get to choose nine. Sometimes, it’s really, really hard. Sometimes I wish I could choose twenty or at least twelve.
Sometimes, I want to write the poets who finally do not win long admiring letters about how much I like the way they paint with language or their rhythm or diction or just the words they choose. I want to encourage them to keep writing, to live and dream and be in the cold, scary ocean of words.
I want to explain that at a certain point, especially when dealing with poems of high literary merit, it becomes only about taste, that their poem was good and worthy and probably would’ve won if the judge were different.
Note 1: Writing an unrequited love poem in second person is a pervasive impulse, and perhaps one to avoid, at least as an experiment or in early drafts–we always need to dig deeper than our first impulse because the first impulse is usually the easiest one, and the easiest thing is nearly never the best thing.
This year, I’m judging the Social Issues category and though I have made it through less than a quarter of the pile of around 200 poems (pictured above), I have read many about Wall Street, about how kids these days don’t pay any attention to nature because they’re too plugged in, and about war.
Note 2: When writing a poem about Social Issues, or anything really, remember that everyone else has been disturbed or illuminated by the same news as you have, lives in the same world you do. A fresh take is warranted, a new perspective, turning an issue on its head to look at it from the genitals down. If I wanted Fox News, I could just watch it. If I wanted NPR, I would just listen. If I wanted SARK, I would’ve read her.
At the risk of seeming indelicate: this year, I am especially glad that the poets remain anonymous to me.
One of the poems is by a right-wing gun rights person. It imagines a dystopian future wherein all people’s guns have been confiscated by the government. The final stanza closes with a woman’s imminent rape because, you guessed it, her gun is no longer in her bedside table drawer. As if a gun is her only option. As if a gun would absolutely save her. As if she wouldn’t have locked her doors, the feeble minded, wibbly, bad-at-life woman who needs a firey phallus of protection.
If I knew who wrote this poem, I do not think I could possibly keep myself from writing him a rant.
Note 3: If you know or can find out who the judge is for a contest you want to enter, use the Google. Unless you are genius like Billy Collins or Harryette Mullen, you have very little chance of winning with a poem that strips a woman of her agency when the judge is openly feminist.
I only read all of some of the poems. There has to be something in the first line or stanza to keep me going. A baffling number of poems open with passive voice or with a tired, tired metaphor, or they blow the load in the first line. A lot of poems exit the gate with heavy handedness and some of them read like a person put line breaks into a news story.
In my system, I run through the poems quickly the first time. I make three piles: No, Yes, and Maybe. Marked N, Y, and M. The N pile is always the biggest, then the M pile. The Y pile typically has fewer than five poems, and often, not always, the top three prizes come from these.
In my first read, I’m also looking for poems that don’t follow the guidelines. These are easy to identify, and the upper line limit exists for good reasons. First, it’s fair. Second, if the poem will appear in any sort of publication, the organization running the contest knows its formatting limitations. So if the limit is 34 lines and you send 35, I am afraid you get a N, even if I think your poem warrants something better.
Note 4: More than half the poems get less than a full read. You get one chance. Sometimes, poems have great things going for them, but they are riddled with bad grammar and misspellings that are not intentional. This has been written many times before, but first drafts are almost never good drafts. And a proofread first draft is still a first draft. And poetry contests (and all writing contests) are competitive. You must send your best, most polished work. Even if you are sick of it. Especially if you are sick of it because that means you know it like your own soul and it’s probably as good as you can make it.
Friends who’ve judged writing contests, what is your method? If you select writing for a literary magazine, do you do it differently?
Poets, how closely do you look at the contest guidelines? Is it helpful to know that sometimes even good poems can’t win?
This morning, I got knocked on the chest by equal parts nostalgia, outrage, and WTFship. It was the sort of morning where spending an hour on Facebook made me feel like a more informed citizen and reminded me how big the world is. Sometimes, facebook is good like that.
First, let’s talk two icons from my childhood/pre-early teen years: Monica Lewinsky writes about her affair with Clinton + Rob Lowe’s moving essay about sending his older son off to college.
Two sentences from the tiny amount that’s available from the Lewinsky piece without subscribing to Vanity Fair really got my feminist hackles up. 1) Lewinsky saying she regrets it, but that it was consensual. Fine, fine. BUT WHY DOES SHE HAVE TO SAY IT?? If it were a male intern + a female president, we’d be way angry at the female president and talking about what a stud the intern was. I don’t remember a single person saying “shame on President Clinton.” I remember lots and lots of people slut shaming a very young female intern. 2) Lewinsky says she heard Mrs. Clinton blamed herself for the affair because she was “being emotionally distant.” Women blaming themselves for the bad behavior of men (and men blaming women for the bad behavior of men) is a huge part of the reason I need feminism. <– Rage, Nostalgia, WTF?
And then, THIS BULLSHIT. A whiny white boy from Princeton “checking” his privilege. This is thematically relevant because I was young + dumb and clueless (even if I was intellectually apt, as he clearly is) like this kid around the same time Lewinsky + Lowe were pretty omnipresent in the news/entertainment/network TV world. I also would’ve once pulled a stunt such as this: misunderstanding the entire point + then using my stunning awareness of multiple meanings of words to take “check your privilege” to mean “examine the history of your privilege, then act like an indignant asshole” I am sure I also participated in slut shaming Lewinsky at the time. I am ashamed. <— WTF + nostalgia over being young and stupid once, too.
And then the lovely open letter followup from a saner, more reasonable, less Fox-News-Informed voice. <— relief.
And this video, while clever and entertaining, filled me with rage. Ignore the year-ago date and spend 1.5 minutes of your time. I watched it with Child leaning over my shoulder, and she asked me “what is that all about?” While I was explaining it to her, saying it out loud with words that I made with my vocal cords and tongue and teeth, I got so. Friggin. Angry. <— WTF.
Anybody else refreshingly enraged by Facebook rabbit holes recently?
I have traditionally avoided funks by being addicted to productivity. If I am constantly in a flurry of activity, I cannot introspect enough to be depressed.
I become anxious if I’m not getting stuff done. (I think, lately, because I’m scared of facing myself.)
But this semester, I have intentionally lightened my load.
The result? I have been in a 3-month long funk of rage and sadness.
The usual thing (writing) isn’t helping. Neither is working out. Though I’m still doing both. Less than I’d like to be.
I have been getting much, much less done; and I’m trying to be okay with that. It’s hard.
I’m not saying this to elicit pity, so if it is your impulse to say something like, “It’ll get better!” and “You go girl!” please don’t. I know it will get better. I am totally going.
I am sharing about my funk because funk shouldn’t be taboo. Because women’s funk especially should not be taboo. A lot of us have memorized lessons that say, “contentment is not your birthright: internalize and adjust, you can make everyone happy.”
I’m calling shenanigans on all that. That shit is a recipe for an eternal motherfunking funk.
There’s a lot of media about women in extreme funks: substances and addiction, abuse, approximate or near life-ending funks.
This funk I’m having isn’t anything like that.
This is a low-grade, sometimes ignorable funk. But ignorable funks are dangerous: my intuition is lower, I feel like checking out. Ignoring things that are important can have lasting physical, emotional, and financial consequences.
But funks are also a healthy part of the process. And I’m learning how to use it to be a better person, instead of just ignoring it or launching back into a frenzy of hyper productivity. I’m making conscious, deliberate, steps toward no mo funk. Or low mo funk.
Part of my funk is the result of plugging into books about women, about feminism. Intentionally becoming more tuned in to my daughter’s education (which is fucking depressing and a post for another day). Paying attention to politics.
Looking at myself and the ways in which my religious, rural upbringing has shaped the way I think about myself and other women, how I have voluntarily believed(and sometimes still believe) I am not worthy or deserving of things that, frankly, I want. Basic things like professional fulfillment and money and self-assurance, confidence, and to be taken seriously by people in authority.
I’m staring the fact that I talk myself out of a lot of self-confidence directly in the face.
I’m trying to figure out how to stop getting in my own way when I want to communicate in important and meaningful ways.
I am trying to get to the locus of my fear.
I am trying to become a better woman so I can teach my daughter to be powerful and self-actualized and know how to ask for and pursue what she wants without feeling like an imposter.
And over the last few days, I’ve had a couple of experiences in my communities that made me feel relevant. And strong. And proud.
So I want to take this moment to be grateful for my communities and share them with you.
One of the communities, the best one is the Wilkes Creative Writing community. Just being connected to so many productive writers gives me the warm fuzzies. So many of my peers, friends, colleagues, and teachers from Wilkes are doing amazing things.
And an editor at a tiny press who has my manuscript has been sending me poems and links that my work reminds him of, challenging my thinking and being generally awesome.
And the facebook group dedicated to raising awareness to Opt Out of Standardized Testing for PA has provided assurance that I am not, in fact, insane. And encouragement and advice when I was seriously millimeters from letting apathy win.
I had a wonderful, long, simpatico conversation with a district administrator when I showed up to opt Child out of the PSSAs.
And last week, after a failed hour with Angie’s List and web searches for talk therapists in my region, I put out a Facebook update asking for recommendations of secular (you wouldn’t believe how difficult this is in my area), female talk therapists so that I can get help to untangle this mess in my head. This mess that I don’t even have specific words for. My friends delivered. And I even have insurance. Thanks, Obamacare.
It feels good to do things that give me power and that I want to do. Small steps.
Anybody care to share a moment of funk? Or a month or year? How did you get out of it? or How did you cope?