Political Flavors


Why I Gave My Son My Husband’s Last Name

Posted in Editorials, Personal Essays, Pregnancy And Motherhood Thinkpieces on November 21st, 2016
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Push the button?

Six years ago, when my husband and I got married, I did not change my last name. I’ve written about the subject and discussed it on my podcast, twice. I didn’t see a good reason to change my name – it was a lot of work for no perceived benefit and historically a sexist custom. I did ask my husband if he would like for both of us to hyphenate but he declined, considering the effort that would take. So neither of us changed our names.

“But what about the children?!” people have asked me. I did consider giving our child a hyphenated or double barrelled last name. And if either my husband or I had done that I would have done so in a second. I am fond of saying that in Latin America many people have two last names and no one bats an eyelash. It’s a great custom which preserves both halves of a child’s heritage and I have no aesthetic qualms about it. Unfortunately in the United States many of the people I know with hyphenated last names face a bureaucratic nightmare that neither my husband nor I were willing to face. As we rejected the paperwork and red tape of having two last names in a country where this is seen as an odd choice, I hesitated to give my child a hassle I didn’t want for myself.

There was the option of giving my son my last name as his middle name, a custom I also like. But I preferred to give my son the middle name of my great uncle who was a wonderful man – charming, kind, generous and who maintained his sense of humor and his appetite for candy and scotch sours until the last days of his 95 years.

And so it seems I was giving my son only one last name. It could have been mine. But I chose to give him my husband’s last name alone for several reasons. I think parents who choose to give their children their mother’s last name are doing the hard work of defying a patriarchal custom. And as I will explain, it is work.

There is no logical reason why in the United States and other Western countries we give children only one last name and it’s always their fathers. The reason is our cultural taboo about paternity. We name children after their fathers as a way of signaling paternity. Not counting astronomically rare hospital mix-ups, as a fact of human biology, mothers are certain which children are theirs. And although we could easily replace last names with the paternity tests of modern medicine, they’re just not as salient as a last name.

Imagine two birth announcements:

Ms Mary Smith and Mr John Jones announce the birth of their son, Michael Jones, born October 1, at 12 noon, 8lb 20in

or

Ms Mary Smith and Mr John Jones announce the birth of their son, Michael Smith, born October 1, at 12 noon, 8lb 20in. A paternity test confirmed that John Jones is Michael’s father.

Doesn’t have quite the ring, eh?

The feminist argument that if a woman carries a child for ~40 weeks and then goes through childbirth and recovery she should name them after herself as a tribute to the work of pregnancy is a very good one.

But it ignores the cultural context in which we live and asks women to push the large red button labeled “PATERNITY TABOO.” People will quickly assume that a child named after their mother was named thusly because their father was absent at the time of birth, or that her current partner is not the biological father. They may even go on to assume that the child was the product of infidelity.

I was more than willing to take any ignorant or sexist comments for not changing my name when I got married. But I’m unwilling to take an action in the name of my feminist ideals which may cause people – however uninformed, or malicious – to reflect poorly on a child who cannot consent to my political action. And I do believe that under the current political climate, giving a child their mother’s last name is a political act. I would also prefer not to be put on the defensive about my fidelity to my husband for the rest of my life. I appreciate that some families are willing to take this on, but I do not want to take on the burden of signifying my resistance to patriarchy in this way. My choice is not feminist. Just angst savingly expedient.

Dear America, Stop Gaslighting Me

Posted in Editorials, Personal Essays on November 12th, 2016
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Dear America,

Well here we are at the end of the second election during my 33 years and the fourth in our 240 years where one person (ooh I get to say “person” now and not “man”) has won the popular vote for the presidency but lost the electoral college. God, our system is arcane and incomprehensible.

I’m sad and I’m angry and I will probably be OK. Probably. As long as we get one thing straight. Stop gaslighting me. Stop telling me Donald Trump didn’t say the things that he said, that I didn’t hear him with my own ears, or worse that he didn’t mean them. Despite being a mixed ethnicity liberal woman in New York City I have a very simple approach to interpersonal relations: listen to what people say. “Listen, don’t just wait to talk” is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. And I try to live by it every day.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

So believe me when I say I was listening to Donald Trump. And I heard him. Loud and clear.

Hell, now that he’s issuing policy papers I don’t even have to suffer his terrible oratory. I can read what he has to say and we can look at it together America. Right there in plain English.

If you have managed to convince yourself that his whole campaign was some big fucking joke, that he didn’t really mean it, that he would never actually, could never do those things – STOP. You can’t know that. Telling yourself you somehow have an alternate way of knowing how another person will act aside from their previous words and actions may comfort you, but in the end you are hurting yourself by believing in a delusion that will not come true.

“You think you know someone. But mostly you just know what you want to know.” -Joe Hill

And you are HURTING ME. Every time someone tells me “it’s going to be ok.” “Everything is going to be fine.” “The Republicans will stop him.” You are causing me pain. You are telling me that I did not see the things I saw or hear the things I heard. You are telling Mexicans that he didn’t call them rapists. You are telling Muslims that he didn’t say he would ban them from entering the United States. You are telling women he didn’t brag about grabbing by them by the pussy. You are telling girls that he didn’t walk into their dressing rooms unannounced to leer at their naked bodies.

I really don’t like 1984 analogies because I think they are trite and I thought we were more headed towards Huxley’s Brave New World, but when you say Trump didn’t say those things you are holding up four fingers and telling me there are five. When you tell me he didn’t mean the things you said you are Gul Madred showing Captain Picard four lights and torturing him until he says he there are five. When you tell me “everything is going to be ok” you are Petruchio insisting Katarina say that the sun is really the moon. Please stop doing this. You are hurting me. You are making me doubt my sanity and it’s not fun. And you are hurting other people – who don’t have the resources to escape what this administration will unleash – much worse.

And finally, a word about the people who voted for Donald Trump. Jay Smooth said we should focus on “that racist thing you said/did” rather than “you are a racist.” I can’t know what’s in the hearts of 60 million Americans. I know what the Trump supporters I know personally have said (lots of racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic comments, climate change denialism…) and I know what the person they voted for said. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that voting for Donald Trump is a racist act. And it doesn’t matter what’s in their hearts.

If you voted for a racist sexual predator because he said he would repeal NAFTA, YOU STILL VOTED FOR A RACIST SEXUAL PREDATOR.

If you voted for an Islamophobic fascist because you wanted a tax cut, YOU STILL VOTED FOR AN ISLAMOPHOBIC FASCIST.

And just to pre-empt the comments: I voted for Hillary Clinton because I wanted to repeal the Hyde Amendement, raise the minimum wage, get paid maternity leave, slow climate change, and rebuild our infrastructure. BUT I STILL VOTED FOR SOMEONE WHO HELPED START THE IRAQ WAR, RACE BAITED ABOUT SUPER PREDATORS AND RAN A SHITTY RACIST CAMPAIGN AGAINST BARACK OBAMA IN 2008. I own my shit, and I expect Trump voters to do the same. Fair is fair.

So please America. I’m not stupid. I know what I saw. I know what I heard. Stop telling me to doubt my own memories and perceptions to ease your own conscience about what you did, or soothe your anxieties that we have elected a president who is a fascist. No one knows what will happen next. But I certainly know what happened in this campaign over the past two years, I will not deny it and you cannot take my knowledge away from me.

Happy Holidays!

Elizabeth

Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 14: Clinton vs Trump

Posted in Podcast Episodes on November 3rd, 2016
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Episode Fourteen Clinton vs Trump

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We weigh in on the general election.

We had some audio distortion on this episode. It comes and goes, our apologies.

Discussed in this episode:

Listen to our previous episode Clinton vs Sanders if you haven’t already.

Ten children are dead after taking homeopathic teething remedy
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The C-Word, But For Men

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Why I Bowled For Abortion Access While I Was (Trying To Get) Pregnant

Posted in Editorials, Personal Essays, Pregnancy And Motherhood Thinkpieces on September 28th, 2016
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Note: This piece has been corrected. See below.

I’ve taken part in the New York Abortion Access Fund Bowl-a-thon for four years. In 2015 I bowled while I was trying to get pregnant. And this year I was in the middle of my second trimester. I even wore a shirt like this one to the event.

In 2015, no one knew I was trying to get pregnant, but this year many of my friends and family knew that I was pregnant while I made facebook and blog posts, and tweeted asking for money to pay for other women’s abortions. When I had just started to show, I organized a comedy show at my (Unitarian Universalist) church to raise money for the cause. This is probably something few others can say they’ve done!

I dreaded someone calling me out for a perceived hypocrisy or heartlessness. I see my fundraising activities as wholly compatible with my desire to be a mother and my compassion for other people. Reproductive justice means that everyone should be free to make the decision to parent or not. And my decision to become a mother does not mean that others must or should make the same choice. My freedom is bound to everyone else’s, and so raising money for abortion funds fits with that belief.

Being pregnant for this year’s NYAAF event was especially hard because their email list was somehow leaked or hacked [SEE UPDATE BELOW] to antichoice extremists who took the opportunity to harass those fundraising. I was sent disturbing bloody fetus pictures (which FYI are often photoshopped or pictures of miscarriages, not abortions) and a picture of a sonogram with a though bubble saying “I hope I can grow up and go bowling one day mommy.” Was I upset because I suddenly realized abortion was wrong? Not in the least. As I progressed into my second trimester, this kind of rhetoric did not reassure me that people were looking out for the “life” within me. Rather, when I heard people going on about late term abortions, what I heard was “If something goes wrong with your pregnancy at this point, you deserve to die.

That is exactly the mindset of Catholic hospitals which turn away women with life threatening complications from miscarriages. Antichoice extremism hurts women, and in cases like Savita Halappanavar‘s, it kills them. In fact, we know that defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in the United States has led to an increase in maternal mortality.

I did many things to give my baby the safest and healthiest pregnancy I possibly could. And raising money for abortion funds was something I did to both protect my own life, and to create a world where everyone is free to make the best decisions for themselves and their own families.

UPDATE: See the following message from Heather K. Sager, Volunteer Coordinator – New York Abortion Access Fund

In the piece you mention that our email list was “somehow leaked or hacked.” I want to take this opportunity to clarify that in fact, it was not NYAAF’s email list, but rather the entire fundraising website for NNAF that was hacked. This was the work of a malicious attack on the larger web server, which ultimately meant that email addresses were accessed, rather than internally or purposefully leaked.

I know that immediately after the attack we were able to share information on the security steps NNAF took in order to ensure that this is prevented and that everyone’s security is protected going forward. This included immediately hiring a security specialist, providing Q&A sessions on cyber security for those whose accounts were affected, and ensuring that additional resources were and continue to be available. I am more than happy to discuss these with you should you have any questions on this.

On behalf of NYAAF, we would also greatly appreciate it if you could correct the language in the article, so that it does not imply that anyone at NYAAF or NNAF was complicit in the attacks. The piece is really great, but I do want to be clear that no one in either organization had a part in the server being hacked.

Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 13: Jex Blackmore and Satanic Feminism

Posted in Podcast Episodes on September 2nd, 2016
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Episode Thirteen: Jex Blackmore and Satanic Feminism

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We interview Jex Blackmore, National spokesperson for The Satanic Temple and Director of The Satanic Temple of Detroit.

Discussed in this episode:

The Satanic Temple’s Fight to Protect Your Abortion Rights (Broadly)

Satanic Temple seeks to start after-school programs in nine US districts

We had some audio distortion on this episode. Our apologies!

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Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 12: Feminist Blockbusters We’d Like To See

Posted in Podcast Episodes on August 5th, 2016
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Episode Twelve: Feminist Blockbusters We’s Like To See

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It’s summer movie season. Here’s a list of the movies we’d green light if we were in charge.

Discussed in this episode:

Richard Kim calls “Crash” the worst movie of the year.

Ta-Nehisi Coates says it was the worst of the decade.

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Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 11: Rev Hope Johnson, Juneteenth, The Living Legacy Project

Posted in Podcast Episodes on June 16th, 2016
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Episode Eleven: Rev Hope Johnson, Juneteenth, The Living Legacy Project

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Discussed in this episode:

Make Juneteenth A National Holiday

NYT: Housing Bias Outlasts Ruling in a Long Island Village

The Living Legacy Project

“Lessons from Selma” (Video) Rob Eller-Isaacs and Rev Hope Johnson

The Divided Methodist Church

‘Black Lives Matter’ signs stolen off church lawn in Hartford

How the Children Feel When Their Church is Wounded

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Our theme song is composed by Bridget Ellsworth, check out her sound cloud page!

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About those “jokes” comparing Hillary Clinton to Dolores Umbridge or Winn Adami…or Tracy Flick

Posted in Editorials on June 14th, 2016
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People I know and respect along with a ton of people I don’t know have latched on to the meme that Hillary Clinton is Dolores Umbridge, the sickeningly sweet teacher at Hogwarts who tortures Harry, is useless as a Defense Against The Dark Arts Teacher (though weren’t they all) and has a generally fascistic worldview.

I mean, I guess? Clinton voted for the USA Patriot Act and she views Edward Snowden as a criminal more than a whistleblower. That’s kinda fascist. But she’s also solidly against torture, said that we should screen and accept Syrian refugees and is making one of the themes of her campaign “Love Trumps Hate.” So, maybe?

What bothers me the most about this comparison though is how things end for Umbridge. Did you forget that part? I’m almost positive most people have, especially when making this comparison. She’s raped by centaurs. And it’s supposed to be funny. When she comes back to Hogwarts, she’s in shock, and our heroes know what happened. Ron makes clopping hoof noises to scare her (trigger her?) and Hermione and Ginny crack up. Granted, they’re teenagers, and they have bad judgement. But no one in authority tells them “Hey buzz off, that’s not funny.”

Similarly, though even more geeky and less widespread I see Trekkies making “Hillary Clinton is Winn Adami” jokes. On Deep Space Nine, Winn Adami, played by the amazingly badass Louise Fletcher, was one of the best villans in the history of Star Trek. She’s a religious cleric with both fascistic and theocratic tendencies (although on her home planet of Bajor it’s pretty accepted that the religious leadership shares power with the elected government). She’s a master at manipulating people’s fears to get what she wants no matter the consequences. Like Umbridge, she’s uses sickeningly sweet faux coquettishness to mask her true intentions. Unlike Umbridge, as the writers reveal the complexity of her character, we are meant to empathize with her as a person while still despising her actions. Her crisis of faith is relatable to so many people who have searched for truth.

Is Hillary Clinton like Winn Adami? They’re both blonde and religious and ambitious. I suppose you could draw it out further by bringing up Clinton’s connections to The Family. But that’s still a bit of a stretch.

And yet, like Umbridge, in the end Winn Adami is also raped. Deep Space Nine draws out a more complex story than Order of the Phoenix. Winn is seduced and deceived by her greatest enemy and she is sexually, emotionally and spiritually exploited. The storyline is fascinating one, with an unsettling trainwreck quality that still viscerally disturbs me.

I know that most people making the “Hillary is Umbridge” or “Hillary is Winn” jokes don’t really mean that they think Hillary Clinton should be raped by centaurs or a sociopath in disguise as punishment for her more imperialistic tendencies. I’m not immune to this myself. I love Tom Perrotta novels and when I saw people comparing Hillary Clinton to Tracy Flick I saw it as a backhanded compliment. Tracy Flick kicks ass. She’s super smart and accomplished and wins in the end.

Then I remembered that most of the plot of “Election” is driven by the fact that Tracy is seduced (statutorily raped) by her Math teacher, Dave. Tracy is smarter than most of her peers but she is far behind them in terms of social skills. She has no real friends. This makes her an exceptionally easy target to be groomed and taken advantage of by a much older authority figure. Dave’s actions set off a chain of events which Tracy’s teacher Jim blames her for on some level. In a moment of frustration Jim threatens to ruin Tracy’s reputation by telling the whole student body what happened to her. Tracy takes this in stride because she has a very thick skin, but it’s hard to watch her be manipulated and then blamed and threatened for it.

So perhaps this isn’t the best comparison either.

This is one of those things that once seen, cannot be unseen. So keep that in mind. If you keep making those clever memes, I’m going to keep rolling my eyes and thinking “Ugh. Raped by Centaurs. Really?”

#NotBuyingIt 2016 – Misogynist Trolls Tell Me Kissing Is Bad

Posted in Editorials on February 8th, 2016
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So I had a very successful tweet last night:

The #NotBuyingIt hashtag was started in 2012 by the Representation Project as a way to call out sexist commercials during the Superbowl. It’s since continued, growing every year. And I believe this year we have reached a threshold, because to my dismay the #NotBuying hashtag was overrun with trolls to the point where it was mostly sexist bullying and trolling rather than media criticism. I am STILL getting angry responses to the above tweet over 15 hours later. How long will people be butt hurt? Start an over/under betting pool in the comments.

I’ve been on the internet long enough to expect trolls. What I am surprised about (and maybe I shouldn’t be) is that so many people will watch this ad and think “Yes! *That’s* responsible fatherhood.” And not “I feel sorry for that girl.”

The “over protective father being played for comedy meme” is pervasive in our culture as this ad shows. And it’s incredibly sexist, perpetuating ideas of women as property and alienating teenage girls them from a healthy relationship with their own fathers and boys their own age.

What gets me is they hypocrisy of at least some of my detractors. It seems like I got two flavors – general MRA and Christian Patriarchy. The MRAs are giant hypocrites on this one. Men who sling around “incel” and “kissless virgin” as fates worse than death are excited by a commercial where a Dad constantly prevents his daughter from kissing her suitor. This seems counter productive. Unless they really do think that kissing is bad. If that’s the case, then a change of rhetoric is needed. Stop pretending a lack of intimate contact is a bad thing. Isn’t it a badge of honor that you didn’t sully some young woman with your filthy mouth?

As for the Christian Patriarchy types, I suppose that it’s exciting to see a famous comedian and a major corporation expressing their worldview on such a big platform. But they dropped the ball when they started annoying people on Twitter. No one has ever changed religions because some stranger disagreed with their tweet. Maybe take out your own ad next time. It’s what the Scientologists did.

The Signal To Noise Ratio Of Blood Flow To One’s Genitals

Posted in Editorials on December 3rd, 2015
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There’s an idea floating around our cultural conversation that has too long gone unquestioned. This is one of those fallacies that is so much a part of our rhetoric that we hardly even recognize we are perpetuating it. It’s the idea that sexual arousal is inherently meaningful aside from one’s personal subjective experience or actual participation in sex with a partner. And this is not only wrong, but it can be very harmful.

If anything, we don’t have enough compassion, education or care around human sexuality. And I wish we lived in a world where we took care of ourselves and each other in that way. As we do not, I think that our ignorance is part of what lets this fallacy flourish.

Here’s what I mean. I see this on the Red Pill, but it’s in other places too. It’s the idea that a person getting sexually excited means anything else than their particular brain was stimulated and is now sending the signal “hey there goes a good person to mate with.” So when someone says they wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders) because they aren’t hot and don’t want to look at someone old on TV – they are falling victim to this fallacy – that the amount of blood flowing to their junk can tell them anything meaningful about who should be president. (Insert Martin O’Daddy/Marco Rubio-oh-oh-OH joke here.)

Recently on the Red Pill, a guy dismissed Philippa Rice, best selling illustrator and author as:

a low value woman’s musing about being the queen of a loser

I wanted to respond that she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank, but I didn’t. Because according to this guy, her creative or financial success mean nothing if she can’t give him a boner. She has no other value as a human being.

It goes the other way too, an attractive person is seen as being capable regardless of their qualifications. Tons of dudes said they’d vote for Sarah Palin for this reason, as if being attractive means she would be a good leader. Note to those dudes: voting for a person is not an effective way to get that person to sleep with you.

It’s not just manosphere misogynists that do this either. I was giggling over Rachel Bloom’s “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” when I sent it to my podcast co-host Karen. She said, “I don’t want to police her sexual choices or her celebration of her sexual choices but wanting to fuck somebody is not a compliment. It doesn’t compliment them for their accomplishments.” And as much as I still like that song, she’s right. Maybe we should lay off the “That person is such an awesome writer/artist/scientist that I want to have sex with them” proclamations. They add nothing to the conversation aside from an acceptable way to say “Hey everyone my genitals are pleasantly engorged right now!”

And this can get really gross really quickly. I’m disturbed by David Tennant fans trying to change the meaning of Jessica Jones from a revenge fantasy to one about unrequited love. If any given person wants to fuck Kilgrave, brilliant, enjoy your mind control fantasy. But that does not mean that the other characters in the show should feel the same way! Any given fan’s personal pants feelings about David Tennant do not and should not have any impact on the plot of the show. Those feelings of lust don’t make Kilgrave not a rapist – which is why I will judge you if you ship Kilgrave and Jessica.

It’s hard to know how big of a leap there is from defending fictional rapists because the actor who plays them is hot to defending actual rapists because you think the accused person is hot. And it happens all the time. “James Deen [/other famous actor/athlete] can’t be guilty because I personally would have wanted it, ergo she must have wanted it.” As I said, really disgusting, really fast.

In an ideal world, everyone would be healthy and fulfilled in their sexuality. But we need to stop giving that delightful rush of hormones an intrinsic meaning other than “Ooh. I think I’d like some sex now.” It’s meaningful in discerning one’s own sexual desires but says nothing about anyone or anything else.

If you like this post, you might also like:
The Projection of Hate – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rolling Stone and Right Wing Sex Panic
Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser