just another little “ah ha!” moment (privilege)

Today I thought of a very simple example of how my privileged background puts me at an advantage, no matter what my own pitiful bank accounts look like at the moment.

Over the last few months, I’ve been going for walks in shoes that weren’t great for walking. I ended up causing quite a bit of pain in my feet, legs, and even up into my hips and back. (It’s all connected, yes?) Because I have friends and family who are financially more comfortable than I am, I received gifts for my birthday this summer. One of them was a gift card to Lamey Wellehan shoes.

So…

gift card for my birthday to Lamey Wellehan —> I get to buy really good shoes for walking —> able to go for walks without damaging my feet or the rest of my systems —> general physical and emotional health improves —> am not in physical pain and am better able to carry on my day-to-day tasks —> no need for time consuming medical appointments to deal with physical pain problems –> my overall life has less stress because I’ve been walking and because I’m not in pain from that walking.

There are countless threads like this for people who come from privileged backgrounds compared with people who come from real poverty. Many people will say, “well, DUH, this is obvious.” But maybe some of you will read it and have an “ah ha!” moment or two of your own about some of your own threads of privilege and the advantages it affords you. Awareness isn’t creating change in our broken systems, but it’s a step in the right direction. And, in this case, it’s a STEP IN REALLY GOOD SHOES. (Ha.)

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“The hoarding of wealth is violence.”

“The hoarding of wealth is violence.” I saw this somewhere on the Internet and can’t find the original source. I appreciate it because “greed” is a term that can be disputed; it’s so relative. While “hoarding” is still a bit slippery, it captures the kind of greed that crosses the line into violence.

The top 1% of the wealthiest people in our country fit into the “hoarding” category. Maybe more people do, but if we could force (yes, force, through legislation) the hoarders to share with people living in poverty (or something like reparations for slavery), a lot of our broken system could be fixed.

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Jill Stein is not Jesse Ventura (why I might vote Green in the presidential election)

In 1999, I voted for the Green Party in the Governor’s race. I was young and idealistic. I voted for a candidate who really fit with my values. After Jesse Ventura was elected Governor, a lot of people told me it was because of people like me not sticking with the Democrats. Back then —whether the corporate world had already purchased our government or not, I don’t know (I was young and idealistic, remember)— I believed everyone’s vote made a difference, so I believed my vote had ultimately been a bad decision.

Here we are again, but the stakes are much higher. The idea of voting for a candidate who truly represents my values is terrifying. The consequences could be deadly, without any exaggeration (a President Trump would lead to many deaths around the world, I have no doubt).

At this point, I have no allegiance to any party or any candidate. People who know me are surprised to find I’m not an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders. It’s not that I think he’s not an amazing politician; I just don’t think he’s radical enough to change our broken system. I’ve given no energy in the time of primaries as the Democrats have selected their candidate. If I’m going to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” I’m simply going to vote Not Trump.

As I stay in my place of indecision with my mind as open as it can be, I do wonder if perhaps the time is right for real change? What if everyone who loves Bernie Sanders for all of his progressive and practical values really looked at Jill Stein as a candidate? What if the major media outlets all included Jill Stein in their reporting? What if…?

A lot of people hate Hillary Clinton. I don’t. I think she’s about the same as President Obama. Both are owned by Wall Street but both care deeply about trying to do the right thing with the cards they feel they were dealt.

What if everyone who recognizes Donald Trump for what he is — a very, very dangerous man — took some time to look at Jill Stein’s plan? What if there was an actual revolution in our political process? What if we tell the corporations we’re sick of them making all of our decisions, that we want to create a government by the people, of the people, and for the people in ways it never has been before?

 

 

 

 

 

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walking the walk, social justice through parenting

Reading a “facts of life” book last night with my almost-7 year old daughter, she stopped me after I read about what makes boys boys and what makes girls girls. She said, “That’s in the brain. It’s not there [pointing to the genital areas].” She was talking about the fact that there are people whose bodies are biologically one sex, but their identities are another gender. I’ll admit I felt a little proud of myself that I’ve been mothering my daughters to understand that gender is much more complex than biology alone.

A couple years ago, my older daughter called out, distressed, when she realized — admittedly after years of playing with them — her playmobil figures had only one person of color among nearly fifty people. We searched the website and found one brown skinned figure with what looked like a Native American set among hundreds and hundreds of characters. Looking at the site this morning, I see they have new figures that look like people of color in the top banner. Scrolling through the characters, I don’t see that much else has changed. The point I’m making here is that I felt glad when my daughters noticed the playmobil set was made with a foundation of racism. We talked about not playing with the set, what is our responsibility? How can we help? We talked about different things we could do (color with markers?) to make the set have a wider range of people figures. We ended up writing a letter to the company complaining about the issue. That’s not nothing.

There will be people who think these kinds of smaller exchanges are not as important or valid as participating in a drastic overhaul of our entire system. And, indeed, we need to change our whole system. We need to do more than have conversations in our own families. Personally, I am doing more. But there are times when “all I’m doing is parenting.” During those times I’m not missing my opportunity to help my children know more than I did about injustice. I want them to notice problems and think critically about solutions. I want them to practice responding to injustice with action. I believe these smaller steps count. They matter. They are more than “better than nothing.” My children and many like them are people who know that just thinking about and talking about changing the world is not enough; they want to walk the walk and, as my daughter said (she’s sitting on my lap and I asked her how I should finish this), “make the world a better place than we found it.”

vulva. vulva. VULVA (not vagina!)!

In my late 30s (in the early 2000s), the Houston Press hired me to write a review of a play showing in Austin, The Vagina Monologues. By now, most people have heard of the play, I’d imagine.

Guess what I found out as I watched the play? I found out that my vagina isn’t my vagina. That is, the vagina is actually the soft tunnel that leads from the outside of a female’s body up to the cervix (which leads to the uterus).

A vagina is not, it turned out the whole squishy area on the outside. That, I learned, is called the vulva.

Did you know that?

A lot of people, full grown adults, don’t know that. In fact, I’d venture to guess a lot of people will find the word “vulva” very silly sounding.

I was in my 30s. I was an adult. I didn’t know the name of my own body parts. I was not alone.

Why does this matter? Why am I writing about it?

I’m writing about it because this kind of knowledge is power. I saw an article recently advocating for using proper names for body parts when teaching children. You know, instead of hoo-ha or pee-pee, use the correct language. It was a good piece. But, guess what? It referred to the female parts as “the vagina!” Even an article stressing the value of naming body parts correctly got it wrong!

It winds me up because we women (cisgender) are encouraged to live in ignorance. How can we accept ourselves unconditionally when we don’t even know ourselves?

I’ll end with this post I saw recently that I think illustrates my point well:

“Imagine if male genitals were treated like female genitals? Like testicles weren’t even referred to as testicles and some men didn’t even know what they were actually called and the general area was just called “penis”.

Imagine if boys were told that their prostate doesn’t exist. Imagine if hairy genitals on men were called “bearded snakes.” And they don’t know how many different holes they have until adulthood. Imagine.

imagine if men were flocking en mass to get “testicle tightening” surgeries.  imagine if men weren’t taught that they could have orgasms.  Imagine if it were considered rude to say “penis” even in debates regarding legislature involving medical care about men’s penises.  Imagine penis was a word that was considered too “dirty” to be said on television. Imagine if penis’s were depicted only as meat-sticks that fit in vaginas with no other value.  Imagine if teenage boys heard joke after joke about how all dicks smell terrible no matter what

Imagine if people thought the more a penis was used, the smaller and more useless it became.

Imagine if people didn’t understand how penises ‘work’ and therefore their orgasms didn’t matter.

Imagine if having a penis meant you were paid less money.”