Reproductive Justice: Activism on the Sidewalk

I don’t have any new stories from clinic escorting for you. Two weekends ago, I was out of town for Secular Social Justice. This weekend, I was still recovering from con crud.

You don’t need me, though. Instead, have Niki Massey, who’s been doing this far longer than I have and who inspired me to start escorting. This was her talk at Skepticon, given on about ten minutes notice on Sunday morning when another speaker couldn’t appear. She volunteered without thinking when she found out about the problem, and neither I nor the organizers gave her any time to change her mind.* You can see why.

* I did make sure she was well taken care of after the talk. I’m only so cruel.

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

Yesterday, I posted something about the race for the Democratic nomination. It wasn’t an endorsement of either candidate. It made no argument in favor of either candidate. It didn’t even express my preference for either candidate.

What I posted yesterday was a critique of the political process as it’s playing out this year. It pointed out that allowing our progressive selves to embrace decades of right-wing character assassination of Hillary Clinton harms more than Clinton. It pointed out that doing this harms me and other women who have been subjected to similar campaigns for being politically active and effective. And it pointed out that it’s nearly impossible to get people to pay attention to this problem.

It also said this:

Commenting note: If you think a personal reflection like this is a place to argue for or against your candidate, whoever that might be, think again. Think hard. Trying to talk about this problem–and having that treated as though I were campaigning instead of engaging in the same cultural critique I do every day as a feminist–has been exhausting and disheartening. My reserves of diplomacy are running low.

Here are the comments I received on that post that you won’t see there. [Read more…]

If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I

I was chatting with someone last night about politics, like you do, privately, like you do, so we could have a conversation instead of being interrupted by people telling us how Hillary Clinton is evil. Things get a little rough when politics turns people into sea lions. He mentioned appreciating a piece on the Democratic contest at Shakesville, so I went looking for it.

I don’t know whether “Expectations of the Monster” is the piece he was talking about, but I didn’t get past it. I got stuck instead, stuck trying to figure out how to share it. I got stuck trying to figure out how to get people to read it as it was, there on the screen, instead of as a piece of partisan propaganda. It was the same stuck I’d been trying to figure out how to share the “All-Caps” piece (warning: brief auto-play video at the bottom of page) from earlier.

I was still stuck when I went to bed. When I woke up, this is what came out.

When we’re talking about the Democratic presidential nomination, and I tell you that Hillary Clinton’s actual record shows continual movement to the left (which is not flip-flopping), some of you will tell me that you just don’t trust her. You’ll tell me Clinton is calculating, cold, evasive. You’ll point to “scandals” as though the existence of so many allegations proves there must be some core of fact.

You might as well call me “dogmatic” and “authoritarian” to my face. [Read more…]

Getting Fun Again

Late Saturday afternoon, we were arguing about armed revolution, and I was grinning my head off. (I have a minor interest in the topic.) Sunday morning, talking plans and projects, I thought to myself, “You know, this movement could get fun again.”

Me listening to Sikivu Hutchinson at the end of Secular Social Justice. Photo by Alix Jules. Used with permission.

Me listening to Sikivu Hutchinson at the end of Secular Social Justice. Photo by Alix Jules. Used with permission.

It’s hard for me to talk about the value of a conference like Secular Social Justice. We need space for these topics, yes. We need to hear from these activists both about the problems they’re grappling with and about the solutions they’re finding, yes. We need to put this vigorous humanism center stage in a movement where even the humanists have centered atheism, yes.

More than that, though, we need to come together sometimes in places where we’re not having to justify any of that. We need to spend our energy on each other and our work and our dreams. We need to be where our voices drown out all hostile chatter instead of it happening the other way around. We need the time and the space and the energy to concentrate on each other.

There aren’t many places in the atheist and humanist movement where I see that happen on this scale. It happened at the first Women in Secularism conference, where what happened on stage was only the smallest part. Nearly five years later, we’re in a different movement, one where women are approaching 50% of conference speakers, anti-harassment policies are standard, and even Richard Dawkins faces significant consequences for targeting feminists. [Read more…]

Enough “Crazy”

There are plenty of frustrating things about this year’s presidential contests. I’ll probably write more about some of them soon. Goodness knows, I’ve been writing enough about them on social media. I should formalize my thoughts on the matter somewhere.

For today, though, I want to talk about “crazy”. I want to talk about this habit we have of looking at politicians who say things that don’t conform to reality and writing them off as “crazy”. Mostly, of course, I want to tell people to knock it off. [Read more…]

Sidewalk Shamanism

A beautiful thing happened on Saturday morning outside the clinic where I’ve been escorting.

A car with a young couple in it pulled up and parked at a meter, which is, of course, the cue for the protesters to flock. They started on the driver’s side, both because it was closest and because Saturday seemed to be a day for targeting companions over patients. (A lot of “You need to get your girlfriend out of there” and  “You are a defender of women and children.”)

They never got around to the passenger’s side, so the patient and I had a leisurely walk to the parking station. The machine gave her some trouble, taking longer than expected. Her companion and the protesters caught up to us while she was still working on paying.

As they came up, Guitar Guy–who actually made people wish he had his guitar that day, he was so obnoxious–said to the companion, “I have to ask you: Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?” [Read more…]

After Cologne: Reflections from a Refugee Neighborhood

By now, you probably know about the attacks in Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve. An unexpectedly large group of men surrounding and robbing people, groping the women and teenaged girls. At least one woman was raped, although reporting has been unclear on whether this was connected to the other incidents.

There are accounts saying the perpetrators were of North African or Arab descent. There are reports saying they were migrants or refugees. The implication is that they are Muslim. I don’t have the resources to sort out the truth of any these reports, to analyze the biases of the German press and officials and figure out how to weight these claims, particularly in such a politicized atmosphere.

Honestly, I don’t want to spend the time to gain the resources either. Not only is keeping track of the biases of English-language press and politicians exhausting, but knowing who was behind the attacks in Germany isn’t going to change my views on immigration in general or Muslim immigrant specifically. Let me tell you a little story about why. [Read more…]

What I’m There to Do

I’ve been escorting for the past few weeks at the local reproductive health clinic. That is to say, I’ve been making sure people who want and need abortions are able to get past the local holy rollers to get the health care they need.

Things got a little ugly on the sidewalk this past weekend. Not unusually ugly, I suspect, but ugly in a noteworthy way, in a way that could make some people very uncomfortable with clinic escorting.

It started with a protester almost being run over. That wasn’t the ugly part, but it was a clue something was up. The driver of the car was doing a particularly aggressive parking job. Ann (if I had to guess) smelled strong emotions and was on the car before it was parallel to the curb, much less stopped. She had to duck out of the way more than once. I was annoyed, mostly at the thought of having to supply emergency aid if she were injured.

It looked like a parent-child situation, though I don’t know. I didn’t ask. It’s not my business. By child, I mean a girl probably in her mid-teens. By parent, I mean a woman much closer to my age. She was angry and bossy. The girl was crying and reluctant to get out of the car.

She did get out, eventually, into the space the other escort had made. (There were only two of us that morning, to about 10 protesters.) By this time, Ann was yelling to the other protesters that the girl was being coerced, that she didn’t want to have an abortion but was being forced to. They converged on the pair. [Read more…]

Walking With Fear

You love your city. You love how your city transforms from day to night. You love it when the suburban people leave and the city people look knowingly at each other.

You love walking. You love walking in your city. You love seeing how people have chosen to fill up the spaces between destinations, the places too small to do more than flash by even on a bike. You love the myriad reasons city people chose to walk to get themselves around.

People try to make you afraid to walk in your city at night. They don’t always say it. Sometimes they just look at you with all the confusion that you don’t share their fear painted across their faces. Sometimes they assume you need a ride to get anywhere.

Sometimes you do want the ride, but not because you’re afraid.

All that fear has a viscosity to it, a clamminess. No speed of walking, no brisk night breeze can brush it away completely. It can’t claim you, but it’s there. It chitters to itself while hoping for your attention, a distraction from your city, your night, your walk, your love. [Read more…]

I Am Afraid

I’ve spent much of my life afraid, but I’ve only been afraid like this once before. The fear I feel today is twin to the fear I felt after the terrorist attacks of September 11. This will surprise no one. The parallels are too many. The city has changed. The name used to organize the terrorists was different. Still, so much is the same.

But I am not afraid of the terrorists. I mourn their victims. I have mourned them in all the attacks between then and now. I feel the weight of the knowledge that there will be more. There were more today, in Mali. I grieve for the interrupted lives, dead and survivors alike. But I am not afraid of the terrorists.

I am afraid of us. [Read more…]