Women’s March on Washington

I attended the Women’s March yesterday with one of my friends, and it was absolutely amazing. We knew it was going to be big when we got to the New Carrollton Metro station and there were people *everywhere.*  Signs galore, pink pussy hats as far as the eye could see.  Our train was jam-packed with people headed to the march, and we had some chants going on the train.  The next few stations we passed were also filled with people.

Estimates I’ve heard put the march at 500,000 making it the largest protest ever held in DC. Including sister marches around the country and around the world, it numbered in the millions.

The mood was hopeful and determined. There was a lot of cheering, and a lot of laughter.

I have a lot more hope now than I had throughout November and December.  This can’t be a singular thing. It has to be a beginning. We have to yell and scream and fight as loud and as hard as we can, and not give up.

The double standard of not taking women seriously

In the Washington Post, a few days ago, Petula Dvorak wrote that next week’s Women’s March on Washington won’t be taken seriously unless we step away from “well-intentioned, she-power frippery” like the pink pussycat hats.

While she has a point that we need to focus on the serious issues, she misses the fact that we can be as serious as she wants and still not be taken seriously, simply because we’re women. Hillary Clinton was nothing if not serious during her campaign. She put out reams of policy documents, and she discussed the issues in nuanced detail. The whole time, she was criticized for not being warm enough or likable enough. There is no appropriate level of seriousness where a woman will be both likable and respected. It just doesn’t exist.

Women aren’t demeaned and brushed aside because of pink hats or signs with glitter.  Things that are pink and sparkly are viewed as trivial and infantile *because* they’re associated with women. Look at the snarky comments about Teen Vogue and the absolute shock that people who write about fashion and celebrities for teenage girls might also know a thing or two about politics.

Also, matching hats have been kind of a thing in the last election. Funny, I don’t recall anyone criticizing Trump supporters’ “Make America Great Again” baseball caps as insufficiently serious, even though no one could point to what they meant by great or what period of greatness they wanted to go back to. There’s nothing inherently more serious about a red baseball cap than a pink knit hat with ears, except that one is coded as masculine and one is coded as feminine.

For that matter, Dvorak alludes to the fact that feminists will be criticized no matter what we do or don’t do when she mentions bra burning.

Bra burning. That’s the trope that folks have been using to dismiss feminists for nearly half a century.

In fact, no bra was burned at Miss America protests in 1968 and 1969. Feminists threw false eyelashes, mops, pans, Playboy magazines, girdles, bras and other symbolic “instruments of female torture” into a trash can. But the Atlantic City municipal code didn’t allow them to set it on fire.

Yet because the idea of a burning bra was so lurid, it eclipsed the fact that in the 1960s, women couldn’t get a credit card without a husband’s signature, couldn’t serve on juries in all 50 states, weren’t allowed to study at some of the nation’s Ivy League schools, couldn’t get a prescription for birth control pills if they were unmarried, were paid 59 cents for every dollar that men earned and could easily be fired from a job if they got pregnant. Among other outrages.

Because of this stunt, she argues, feminists were painted as foolish and extreme, and attention was drawn away from the serious issues they were fighting to address. But, as she points out, no bras were ever burned. That didn’t stop bra-burning from being a go-to insult against feminists. If anti-feminists need excuses to dismiss us, and the impossible double standards of sexism don’t provide them with one, they’ll just make one up.



That doesn’t sound like love to me

Trigger warning for discussion of homophobia and suicide.

Hey, look, it’s another iteration of the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument, this time from HGTV’s Chip Gaines. Apparently there was a dust-up about his and his wife’s attendance at an anti-LGBT church, and he took to the interwebs to blog about, you guessed it, “loving disagreement.”  And Noah Michaelson isn’t having it. 

People disagree about whether New England clam chowder is better than Manhattan clam chowder or what to name their new iguana or whether or not Kylie Jenner has really gotten butt implants. But a church or an individual or a government telling a queer person that they are a sinner or that they don’t deserve to get married or that queer people should be treated any less or any differently than non-queer people merely because of who they are is not “lovingly disagreeing.”

“But, but…we don’t want to hurt gay people,” the disagreer might say. Unfortunately, this is one of the many, many cases where intent is not magic. Here’s a little secret. The rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for LGB youth than for straight youth.  Half of trans youth have seriously considered suicide, and a quarter have made an attempt. One of the biggest risk factors for LGBT youth suicide is family rejection. Youth who come from highly rejecting families, those who “disagree” with their orientation or gender status and think it’s sinful, are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. (All stats from The Trevor Project.)

You may not want to hurt LGBT people with your “loving disagreement,” but you are. You’re killing them. If they’re your kids, or you’re an important mentor they look up to, you may be literally driving them to suicide. Even if you aren’t close enough to an LGBT kid to have that direct an impact on them, by “disagreeing” with who they are, you close off a potential avenue of support. They know you’re yet another person who isn’t safe to come out to. You lose the chance to provide hope and encouragement to a kid who may be struggling.

This might seem harsh, but Children. Are. Dying. If you aren’t doing anything to stop that, and are actively contributing to the problem, don’t talk about how loving you are.

When Criticizing Trump, Let’s Stick to Behavior

This is an excellent post on why armchair-diagnosing Donald Trump with a mental illness is not helpful. I particularly appreciate the point that drumming up fear of the other is the *last* thing we want to do when Nazis have already been emboldened and are coming out of the woodwork.

When we’re operating in a society where literal fucking Nazis are feeling emboldened, legitimizing fear against another “other” only makes them stronger. Attempting to weaponize mental illness stigma against Trump is a failing strategy. “He’s crazy” isn’t going to be the silver bullet that will finally bring him down; it’s more likely to ricochet and kill some innocent bystander.

All the behaviors that lead people to think Trump is mentally ill are reprehensible on their own. They’d be reprehensible whether they were related to mental illness or not. As dyrbert points out, if they weren’t enough to sway people away from Trump on their own, they’re not going to be enough when linked to mental illness.

The “Trump is crazy” spiel reminds me a lot of the “Emperor Has No Balls” statues, depicting Trump as fatter than he really is, with a small penis and no testicles. Yes, I’ll admit I got a vindictive kick out of public mockery of Trump, whose inflated ego knows no bounds. But it didn’t really affect him. It just made fun of fat people and people with small penises, neither of which have anything to do with how qualified someone is to run the country.

It’s not like there isn’t enough terrible behavior there to criticize.  The dude  is a misogynistic bully whose comments supporting Russia over US intelligence are borderline treasonous. (I’d argue that asking Russia to hack Clinton in the first place was legitimately treasonous, even if he was joking.) He’s an unprecedented threat to US democracy.  But when we talk about his balls or his mental health status, we get sidetracked into areas that not only add nothing substantive to the conversation, but increase stigma toward whatever group is being made fun of.

The only discussion of mental health that relates to Trump that I’ve seen as helpful is less about his sanity and more about his effects on ours: how to deal with gaslighting, coping strategies from folks with mental illnesses, or the ways electing an admitted sexual predator re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. Likewise, a discussion of narcissistic *behaviors* and strategies for addressing them could be worthwhile. Discussion of whether Trump actually has NPD is only appropriate for him and a mental health professional actually treating him. (And if he does have a therapist, heaven help that poor soul.)

The key thing here is that, whether Trump is mentally healthy or mentally ill, there is no mental illness that forces you to assault women, stiff your contractors, or torpedo a company’s stock with a tweet. Nor does the size of his belly or his penis have any relationship to his being in Vladimir Putin’s pocket.

Sweet, blessed apathy

It’s January, New Year’s resolution season, and a number of my coworkers have a diet pool going, with weekly weigh ins and a cash prize for the winner.  I’m moving to another office on Monday, and you would not believe the whining when a coworker brought in goodbye donuts.

The best thing about this for me was the realization that I. Do. Not. Care. I don’t feel like maybe I should join in, or wonder what people will think about the lunch I’m eating.  It just rolled past like any other workplace chatter that I wasn’t interested in.  That all by itself is kind of freeing.