Saturday, October 16, 2010

teen mom

I started watching the show on MTV, Teen Mom online a few months ago. As a former teen mom, I was intrigued that such a show existed. What? Talking about the realities of teen parents?! Yes, please.

Backup. I got pregnant December of 2000, my senior year of high school. I turned 18 a few months before. The dad was 17. I gave birth to my daughter on September 25, 2001 at the age of 19. Her dad was 18, just got out of jail for selling drugs, and I seriously had no fucking idea what I was doing.

So ... since watching the show, I started reflecting on my own experiences. This show has brought up a lot of pain I went through as a mother. Struggling between the roles of teenage-hood and motherhood was FUCKING hard. And now at age 28, I realized that I DID miss out on being a young adult, a young 20's something independent woman. Because I was a mom. I went from high school to mom. I felt like a freak when I was pregnant, I hid from everyone. People talk shit when girls in high school are pregnant. Never did I want to be one of those girls. But I was.

In season one, Farrah struggles between being a teenager and a mom. FUCK, I totally can identify. I feel that way at times, still. I am envious of my non-parent friends, who literally can go to the store, no questions asked. My friends who can leave their homes whenever to do whatever. I never experienced that because I have been a mom since I was a teenager.

Maci struggles with it, too. She is really grounded in being a really good mom, too. She wants to make Bently's life as good as she can make it. I can totally identify with that, too. When my daughter was 4, I cut her dad out of our lives. He was abusive and neglectful. This reflected on my daughter, that was not fair for her. It's taken me 4.5 years to work through the shit I went through with him and I am STILL going through it. Like, only recently I realized it is NOT my responsibility to make her dad know her school schedule. That is HIS responsibility, he needs to call me or the school and figure out when parent/teacher conferences are. Honestly, I can't imagine not knowing who my kid's teacher was. While I can see parrallel's in my baby-daddy and Ryan, they do not have tools on how to be a parent. Ryan is way better than my baby-daddy, but it's similar, as well.

Amber needs to have her child taken away. She reminds me of my ex. She is putting HER shit on Gary and Gary, as the abused survivor, in the relationship reminds me of myself when I was with my ex. He apologizes to her for "everyone" he's done. While, of course, he has made his mistakes, he is not abusing her like she is. Gary is the sane parent in the situation, just as I was for my daughter. I've taken responsibility for many of my choices, have gone to counseling and got sober, went to parenting classes, and so on. I can see Gary benefitting from a lot of the same thing while being a single dad.

Finally, Catelynn. She's very mature and comes from a shitty family. Her mom is an alcoholic, I do not know where her dad is, and her boyfriend's mom seems to be the sane parent out of all of them. I feel for her and Tyler's pain. The whole show and their role in it is how much they miss their daughter. The feelings of giving her to the adopted parents seem to relive every time they see Carly or hear from. While I understand their intent completely, I think it will be something so painful they will deal with for the rest of their lives. I looked into adoption when I was pregnant, and while I had a lot of shame for that - I am glad I chose to keep my daughter.

I have been on some sort of welfare ever since my daughter was born. She is 9 years old now. I am still one of the youngest moms of the kids her age. I am still thought to be her sister or an aunt. Being in poverty has gotten so old and no matter how much I make, I seem to not be able to get ahead. Having a high school diploma is hardly enough to get a job to survive on. It's SO FUCKING hard with a kid.

Last night I was watching the check-up with Dr. Drew for season 1. Dr. Drew stated that 2% of teen moms graduate college before they are 30. And I am one of those 2%. 2 fucking %. I cannot believe it. I did it. At the age of 27, I graduated with a 3.533 GPA from a university with a BA in sociology and feminist, women, and queer studies. Within a month, I was accepted into a Master's of Arts counseling program, and started that this past August. This made me reflect on how fucking hard I have worked, how much sacrifice I have made, and how it was not easy. I have faced many barriers head on and I fucking did it. WTF? Seriously I hardly believe it.

I'm hoping this show continues. While I may get sucked into the drama, this show contains the true realities of teen moms. It's SO FUCKING HARD. I do not suggest becoming a teen mom but I also want there to be support and encouragement for teen moms. I would LOVE to work with teen moms to support and encourage them, but to also talk about the realities of it and how hard it really is.

The show has really opened my eyes to my own experiences and other's. I want to support and encourage, and I also want to present the real realities of the situation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

why radical parenting didn't work for me

Radical parent has not worked for me. However, to clarify I do not necessarily mean the gender aspect of it or letting my kid explain how she feels. Telling my child that just because she's a girl doesn't mean she can't play with trucks and boys can play with dolls. Teaching her about transgender people and things as such have been a good thing. Not to mention race, class, disabilities, and so on.

But the radical parenting in which I treat my child as an "equal" or do horizontal parenting, letting my child have a say in everything, or letting her do whatever she chooses. These things have lead to my years of parenting =ing hell.

This does not work.


Because my child is almost 9 years old and I am 28 years old. She does not developmentally, have the same brain as me. She has not been in the world as long as me. This is not ageist. This is reality. I cannot expect her to make sane decisions, honestly. I cannot expect her to do things without being told what they are, what to do, or even the consequences of her own actions. She needs to learn these things.

For too long I allowed her to have a save in things. Honestly, I was doing everything opposite of my mom and step-dad who were very authoritative and strict. What I did was not good enough either. I needed to find a middle ground because radical parenting was not working for me.

The reality is I am her parent and she is my child. This is not oppressive. This is reality. I am responsible for her and how she grows as a person. I can be supportive and let her enjoy the things she does, but I can also teach her about respecting others, respecting their boundaries, setting her own boundaries, and not being an all around mean person. These things I teach her make her into a person. She is not born to know what boundaries and respectful behavior is - I, as her parent, have to teach her.

This also means telling her what to do from time to time. For too long, I asked her to do things or gave her a choice in EVERYTHING. Reasonably, I let her have choices from time to time. But I also can guide her and give her advice and support. When I let her have a choice with everything, she started controlling what was going on with everything. Even when I was giving away extra bicycles we have - she freaked out, asking why I had not discussed it with her (honestly I do not have to) or when I mentioned getting a new car, she did not want me to do and needed to talk to her. Letting her have a choice in all aspects of our lives was leading to extreme frustration and a lot of stress for me (and for her I'm sure).

A lot of this lead to a power struggle between her and I. As a parent, I am in charge and I can be in charge without being oppressive. As a child, she does have to follow guidelines I have to set up because she was not born with life skills or behaviors that helped her grow. My daughter wanted to constantly be in charge of what was going on and started developing a very entitled attitude toward everything. She also was beginning to be disrespectful to me and others, especially when we would tell her no. She expected to negotiate with everything.

Now, I let go of letting her have choices in everything. Sometimes I have to tell her what to do. For chores on the weekend, I tell her she has to do them on the weekend, but she can decide what day. She used to come out all the time during bedtime for water, bathroom, extra hugs, etc. I used to give in because I did not want to tell her what to do but now I say "no" and bring her back to her room. Now she rarely comes out of her room.

Since I started making choices with my parenting, things have become so much smoother and I feel less like wanting to curl up in a ball under a rock or jumping off the roof. Bedtime has been less hectic and now she listens. I give her time limits, as well. I have also been more consistent and have set more routines. Sometimes I have to tell her no so she doesn't hurt herself or do something unhealthy. Telling my child no also prepares her for reality. She is not going to live in a world in which she can choose everything for herself, have choices with everything, and/or negotiate.

In the end, I feel way less stressed out and feel far more sane. I feel I can be around my child more because it is not a constant power struggle. She is realizing I am in charge and responsible for her and she can also focus on being a kid. She's also learned to trust me more and less focused on "making decisions" and more focused on again, being a kid. She, as a 9-year old (almost) is not capable of making choices the same way I am.

With all this, I can still listen to her and be supportive of her. She is allowed to voice her emotions and feelings and tell me when she is mad or happy. She can still ask me questions and develop her own interests.

I can be an authoritarian parent (not authoritatve) and allow her her own autonomy, choices, and emotions but at the same time I can still tell her what to do, give her reasonable boundaries, and trust her. This leads to better choices as she gets older and allows both of us sanity.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I haven't posted in a while. Things have happened. I've had a change, politically (more to come in a later post). My rabbit, Ramone, died on June 17 - very hard for me to grieve him. I've also decided to go back into counseling to deal with recovery more, but also because I have had a lot of emotions come up on my eating disorder I've had for years. I want to write about that more and I will later. This summer has not really turned out so far, how I thought it would. So while it has been a huge rollercoaster of emotions ... I know it's what I need right now. And I am okay exactly where I am (and fuck you, phrase. That's hard to grasp!!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

clinic escorting

Today I went clinic escorting, the first time of the summer!

The anti-choicers had two large crosses and a small plaque a Jesus figure with blood all over it. I heard "they'll hurt you in there!" and "don't kill me, mommy!" So so fucking supportive! Today I realized how grateful I am that I escort and grateful for the courageous womyn who go to the clinic and walk through those extremely non-supportive, judgmental people. I am thankful for abortion rights and wish we had more.

I totally think clinic escorting is so helpful for the womyn walking in. I can see the frightened look in their eyes start to disappear when they see the escorts walking up to them, completely respecting their boundaries, not touching them, saying, "Would you like an escort?" And if they say no, we say okay and let them walk.

I would like to know enough is enough. When abortion is made illegal? So that womyn give themselves abortion with hangers and needles again, desperate NOT to be pregnant. The pressures are on the female body, the male body does not have to ever worry about being pregnant. Yet, most of these people are men, being a fascist sexist misogynist toward other womyn. There was a priest there today, praying and protesting. I wonder if he know that preachers, nuns, and priests did things to find womyn safe, non-lethal abortions in the USA before Roe v. Wade was made a law. They made the conscious choice: continue seeing womyn die in extremely violent matters that can be completely prevented or NOT find places for those womyn to have safe abortions and continue seeing womyn die, needlessly. What is that was their daughter? Their granddaughter? Their wife? Mother? Daughters, granddaughters, wives, mothers, aunts, friends DIED because abortion was illegal because they desperately did not want to be pregnant. Beautiful, courageous, amazing womyn died because a simple, safe, medical procedure was illegal. And sadly, womyn like this are STILL dying all over the world.

It's so infuriating - some of the anti-choicers do not even KNOW that womyn did things like that. It's an easy google search ... it's NOT made up. Plus themselves. When, fine: I am SO GLAD they had that choice and I s some of the anti-choice people have abortion think everyone else should, too.

They also have a facebook page: Weekly Death Toll in Fargo North Dakota


They've started to have a sign with "daily death toll", however I am confused as to how they are counting the number of "babies murdered." Because it seems as though some of the people going in get counted as two. But someone going in to have an abortion may go in with their friend who is a female. Maybe they're going that person, too? Not sure.

Well seeing how it was today made me want to continue clinic escorting.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

unschooling, deschooling our kids?

Recently, someone posted on this on their facebook:

I responded with:

I really like this idea. I just wonder how do people afford to do something like this? I would LOVE to home school my kid. But I'm a single mom on welfare (who may/may not get child support every month) going to school so I can actually be maybe somewhat competitive in the awful job market (so I can afford to buy food by myself someday! pay bills! be self-sufficient, save up for my kid's future education). I also live in North Dakota and while the classrooms are small and my kid is thriving in public school (based on ND educational standards), there are no options of co-op schools, montessori, etc. My kid luckily is in the gifted and talented program, so gets to touch on some of the critical thinking skills (which from my understanding - has a huge positive impact on kids). We do unschooling at home when we can, navigating the restrictive gender roles, family structures, and sexuality that are enforced in public schools, deconstruct the history that kids learn in public schools, and continue positive reenforcement of her own creativity, autonomy, self-love, and self-respect. I agree with what (previous person who commented) said about homeschooling and the social reasons. My kid loves to be around her friends and gets a lot of benefit from that. I don't know many home schooled kids in the city I live in and the ones I do, do not live near me (even if they did - I have school, who'd watch my kid?) My kid is also luck to be involved with theatre stuff during the summer, after school, and gets involved with the yearly Talent Show at her school. She gets to learn Spanish next year in school (something I'd have no time or resources to do and have wanted to for a long time). I can and do see the destructive consequences of public schools and I see the wonderful, loving benefits of homeschooling/deschooling/unschooling. But unfortunately, a lot of these are based on positions of privilege and oppression, it's a really hard thing to navigate.

The thing I have noticed with unschooling/deschooling movement is that it is mostly white people. Why? Because they are the ones with the resources, time, and money to do something like this. Are they all rich and well-off? No, that's not what I am saying. But for someone to be able to take time off and travel to teach their kids does lead me to ask questions on how they are able to do it. I so wish I could have the money to do that and I completely agree with the reasons for doing it. My kid gets frustrated with school, she is already judged for her gender, and has to deal with shit from other kids concerning her religious beliefs (she believes Jesus was a historical figure and has no belief in a higher power other than, she can't control everything) and that she is a vegetarian. While I certainly do not put these judgments fully on the kids themselves: their parents clearly have not taught them about other people's beliefs, experience, and so on, it still hurts my kid. Not cool.

I wish all parents had the resources they needed to give their kids the fullest lives possible. I truly fucking wish that. I also think that it's not realistic. So, I think finding ways to resist the patriarchal, capitalist, hegemonic, racist, abelist, classist structures of our lives is sometimes do those resistant acts within the structure we are in. This is why I unschool my kid while she's enrolled in public school. Teach her about the people's history and who Christopher Columbus really was, create a safe space for her to explore what she wants, let her be creative and autonomous at home, be open about sexuality and the changes her body will go through, let her still be the person she wants and keeping a critical eye on how gender, sexuality, and family structures are portrayed (we have an on-going scenerio with her Littlest Pet Shops: two mom bunnies with kid bunny and two dad penguins with kid penguin), and letting her create her own space as well (she has been building a club house out of boxes and tissue paper for a couple weeks now). This is certainly hard and never easy. To be in opposition of the mainstream narrative is hard, especially when having a kid - because they are bombarded everyday. But it is certainly worth it. It takes a lot of work, reenforcing, and a lot of discussion. So far, my kid is awesome. She understands these restrictive roles of gender and sexuality but also understands race and class and how people are treated when they are not the "norm."

I would love to create a community in which a bunch of parents could get together and we could all teach our kids, in our space, and on our own time. But it's not possible for everyone. Plus, I know my kid needs space and time away from me, as I need space and time away from her. Public schools offer that. I would love for it to be completely restructured into a way better space for kids to be. However, I also think some of us this can start with parents, too. There's a lot of pressure to be the "perfect" parent. No one is. I want there to be resources so parents can be better parents if that's possible. A space where they can grow as parents and have spaces to talk things through with other parents on the rollercoasting of raising kids.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Empowerment and passion through interdisciplinary studies: Using my education to pursue counseling for women, teens, and the LGBTQ community

I wrote this for a class, seminar paper.

The real world. I feel as though I have been living in the “real world” since I got pregnant in 2000. I was 18 years old and a senior in high school. However, the transition from being an undergraduate to possibly going into the graduate program in counseling at the University of North Dakota will also be a huge change. Being ready for a challenge to learn new skills, concepts, and interact with other faculty and students is exciting to look forward to in the next school year.

Since high school graduation, I have had jobs that required a Bachelor’s Degree. These jobs have made boring, office, marketing jobs very unappealing. Sometimes I find this problematic, I feel that paid labor is slavery within our capitalist system. Unfortunately I have to trade my labor for money so I can survive in our society. Otherwise, I will end up in an unstable life, traveling with the “punk rock, train kids” I know. I have a daughter; I need to stay somewhat put, somewhat static. If I did not read Karl Marx, would I still have this view? I cannot turn the critical theorist off in my head and while this makes my experiences somewhat problematic (it is really hard to NOT question things!), I still feel this is a good thing. I do not totally buy into the “status quo” and I do not feel that I can. Besides, I got pregnant in high school; my existence is already against the “status quo.”

My time as an undergraduate has been an amazing experience, as I have been able to focus on what I potentially wanted to do, learn new concepts, and meet a lot of people. The experiences I have had working with professors through research, expanding my knowledge beyond the “punk rock” view I had on the world, and improving my writing and analytical skills have been really worthwhile. The experiences I have had at the UND have really been more than I initially expected, but I think this partly came from me talking to professors, networking, and being willing to do new things and take the initiative on asking for help and introducing myself.

However I have been an undergraduate since 2004 and I am ready for a change and a challenge. Graduate school is the venue for that change and challenge, particularly a different program. I will be learning counseling skills, using theory, and working with new faculty and students. Since I am 27-years-old single mother of an 8.5-year-old, I will also feel I will “fit in” more with other graduate students. I am fairly older than most undergraduates and I feel I have experienced more, so it is hard to “fit in” with the undergraduate students. As I believe this is a pretty common view among “non-traditional” students.

Before I went to college after high school, I took two-and-a-half years off before I started and moved to Minneapolis to attend Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Although I majored in Graphic Design, this was where I actually got my first experiences of women, gender, feminist, and queer studies/theory in an academic setting. I took a couple courses and had a feeling that I wanted to continue this as I went on with my college career.

When I transferred to UND, I was overjoyed to see those courses available. Between UND and the community college I attended, I honestly enjoyed the experience at UND more because I got to know professors and do research. However, I enjoyed the experience at the community college for the range of wide backgrounds of my fellow students. Instead of being the oldest in most classes, I was one of the youngest. There were all kinds of class backgrounds, races, genders, ages, student parents, and so on. Both have come together to be an enriching part of my experience as an undergraduate, however. While I have learned from students in both settings, it was less alienating at the community college.

With being an undergraduate, I will miss having the “expertise” in the class of feminist and queer theory. As I have heard in graduate school, a student’s mind gets broken down, built up, and broken down again. I have also heard, people get their brains picked until they cannot be picked anymore. Honestly, it sounds scary and over whelming, but I am excited and ready for that. I have been bored with school this semester because I am not being challenged the way I want or can be. I will also miss the more leisure time I have. With counseling, I will have an internship and have a lot more work. However, I am ready and really excited.

Lastly, one of the issues I face is actually getting into the counseling program at UND. I have been on public assistance and have been wondering how that will pan out because if I get a job and make past a certain amount of money a month, as I will get kicked off partially or all the assistance. I am not sure if I can afford the bills on my own. My financial situation has been a struggle since I got pregnant. The feminization of welfare and the static federal government’s definition of who/what falls under the poverty line have made it harder for poor people to get ahead. Prices have changed since the 1960s, while food has stayed somewhat fixed when put in comparison with inflation, other factors such as rent, electric bills, gas, and medical expenses have gone up. Women are more likely than men to be in poverty, single parents are more often single mothers, and single mothers are more often than non-single mothers to be in poverty. Speaking on that, I feel I have had a lot of barriers since becoming pregnant.

Having the experience with interdisciplinary studies has been so important to how I see the world. Not only with being a woman and a single mother, but identifying as a feminist, as well. I have gained a perspective on the world that analyzes power, oppression, and privilege. I am constantly bringing up the issue of gender and how sexism, racism, heterosexism, and classism interact. My track has also helped me to deconstruct social constructive binaries of gender (female/male) and sexuality (straight/gay), as well as many others that I try to break down, even in my daily conversations with others.

The training I have had in interdisciplinary studies has most certainly prepared me for my analysis and critique of the world. I want to be a counselor and continue my passion for women, the LGBTQ community, abortion issues, domestic violence and rape survivors, poor communities, and children. I want to work with pregnant teenagers, women who are having abortions, survivors, and transgender and queer youth. Being able to provide empowerment, support, and love to these people would be a wonderful experience. Anything from holding a woman’s hand during an abortion, to crying with a teenager who came out to her/his parents as queer, or hugging a teenager and telling her she is not a “fuck up” for getting pregnant. My track has certainly given me perspective and knowledge on these issues. Not only will I gain counseling skills in graduate school, but I will also come in with an understanding of their experiences and the societal views and norms they face.

Being able to provide support and empowerment to people who are part of a marginalized group has been part of the aim as and interdisciplinary studies major. To be able to act out that support and empowerment would be want I want to continue in graduate school and my career. Having been focused on feminist, women, and queer studies has completely prepared me for the future road I want to continue.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sexism as a public health issue?: Chemicals and their toxicity in female “beauty” products

I wrote this for my last "Math/Science/Technology" course as an undergraduate. I used feminist theory in a science paper and it was really fun.

TITLE: Sexism as a public health issue?: Chemicals and their toxicity in female “beauty” products

What is wrong with a vagina? Is there a particular way that a vagina ought to smell, look, or taste? The industrial beauty complex and capitalism has certainly decided that vaginas are smelly, bad, ugly, and even colored wrong. How do issues grounded in patriarchy and sexism connect to issues of public health? What could be in these products that may be causing far more harm than the so-called “good” the companies claim their products do?

To explain the theoretical lens I am looking at this through, I will define a few terms. One term being patriarchy which is “rule of fathers… [generally] patriarchy characterizes the pervasive control men exercise over social, economic, and political power, and resources” (Ford, 2002, p. 2). Feminist theory has also informed the theoretical lens and interest for this paper. bell hooks defined feminism as, “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” (2000, viii). Feminism can also be defined in a less activism and more academic approach, as it:

provides a direct challenge to the gendered world, as well as to patriarchy, capitalism, and the sexist assumptions that women’s differences from renders them inherently inferior (Ford, 2002, p. 19).

Since I wanted to explore products that contain chemicals that are marketed for the female body, I felt it was important to define the theoretical lens in which I am critically analyzing this issue. The products and chemicals that I wanted to further study have implications on the female body and prove the industrial beauty complex continued control of the female body.

The two chemicals I want to analyze are sodium hydroxide and benzethonium chloride. These are toxic chemicals that have huge health implications and benzethonium chloride has been listed as a poison in Sweden and Canada (Erickson and Neet, 2010). These products are also marketed strictly for the female body and there is nothing in comparison for the male body. The products that I want to analyze are a product by South Beach called “Lightening gel for sensitive areas” (here) which contains the sodium hydroxide and the other product that contains the benzethonium chloride is “Summer's Eve Deodorant Spray” (here).

The South Beach lightening gel is a gel-like substance that is put on the vagina with a cotton swab-like applicator. The website claims the product “was discovered by beauty-conscious celebrities who wanted to enhance the appearance of their intimate areas.” The website went on to claim that these celebrities went to salons in which harsh chemicals were used, yet sodium hydroxide is in their product and the only mention of it is in their list of ingredients. They claim the discolored and darker areas of the “intimate” areas are embarrassing and their product can help with that (here).

Summer Eve is a company that produces “hygiene” products for the female body. In the 1970’s, they tried to use the Women’s Liberation Movement as a marketing ploy to sell a product they called, “The Freedom Spray” (here), which they seem to be still doing (they claim to be woman-focused/friendly). The product from Summer Eve that I wanted to focus on is a deodorant spray. The company claims this product is safe enough to be sprayed directly on the vagina area and helps “control odor … and to stay fresh and clean” (here).

The way that these companies make assumptions about the female body is not pro-woman at all. It continues to degrade and objectify the female body. Using science to analyze the chemicals in these products is a leverage to start supporting who/what the female body looks like, instead of using science and marketing to make new products creating the “ideal” female body.

Finally, the rest of this paper will be focused on the two chemicals. The chemicals will be defined, analyzed, and I will provide case studies for each chemical the health consequences that were found in the studies. This paper is certainly not an exhausted list of case studies for each chemical or is it an exhausted list of chemicals found in female “beauty” products, however crossing science and toxicology with feminism and women’s studies is an important step to be more inclusive for these two disciplines. It opens the disciplines to more dialogue and lets feminist theory be a part of science and lets science be a part of women’ studies.

Sodium Hydroxide
Sodium hydroxide is a “white crystalline substance that readily absorbs carbon dioxide and moisture from the air. It is very soluble in water, alcohol, and glycerin. It is a caustic and a strong base” (Here). It is also a white solid and can be found pellets, grates, and granules. It can also be found in a 50% saturated solution (et al). It is used mostly for chemical purposes in manufacturing and helps manufacture other chemicals. It is also inexpensive, thus making it a benefit for industries to use. It’s chemical property is: NaOH(aq) + HCl(aq) → NaCl(aq) + H2O(l). Other names for sodium hydroxide are lye and caustic soda.

The Dow Chemical Company is the largest manufacturer of sodium hydroxide in the world. According to their website, sodium hydroxide is used for manufacturing, pulp and paper, textiles, bleach manufacturing, petroleum products, aluminum production, and chemical processing. It is also used for “water treatment, cleaners for beverage bottles, cleaning products such as drain and pipe cleaners, oven cleaner and other household cleaning products and home soap making” (here). According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “it is commonly present in commercial drain and oven cleaners.” It is very corrosive and in the USA it is not considered carcinogenic.

According to ATSDR’s ToxFAQ’s, some of the health risks involved with sodium hydroxide are irritation of the nose, throat, and respiratory airways. It can produce similar asthmatic symptoms. It can also inflame the lungs and cause fluid build-up. Indigestion can cause vomiting, chest and stomach pains, and difficulty in swallowing. Skin and eye contact can cause irritation and severe burns. In rare and severe cases it can cause clouding and blindness of the eye (here).

Case studies: health implications of sodium hydroxide
In a study by Brender and Harris, they explored the consequences of public health after the accidental release of sodium hydroxide in a public water supply in Texas in 1993. They discovered that much of the literature related to injury resulted from sodium hydroxide were based on ingestion or contact of cleaners. However, their study focused on the health consequences of a public health issue that affected many people.

The results of the study showed that 44.6% of the patients had contact with sodium hydroxide through their skin and that the most common (32%) symptom was burning of the skin. Some of these patients also had first-degree burns. With the follow-up question, people still reported health issues such as skin pain (only 23% sent responses back, however).

In a study cited by the National Library of Medicine HSDB Database (here), Mackison, Stricoff, and Partridge (1981) found:

On the skin, solutions of about 25 to 50% cause the sensation of irritation within about 3 minutes; with solutions of 4% this does not occur until after several hours. If not removed from the skin, severe burns with deep ulceration will occur; Exposure to the dust or mist may cause multiple small burns, with temporary loss of hair.

Another study cited by the National Library of Medicine HSDB Database, Lewis (1996) found, “has a marked corrosive action upon all body tissue. ... dangerous.” This finding was similar to a study cited in the National Library of Medicine HSDB Database by Environment Canada (1981) that found:

Skin contact; Levels of toxic effect: (1) There is not necessarily an immediate sensation of irritation or pain. (2) Primary irritant dermatitis. (3) Multiple small burns with temporary loss of hair. (4) Deterioration of keratin material. (5) Intracellular edema. (6) Severe burns, corrosion of tissue, and deep ulcerations.

While I did find studies that affected other parts of the body from exposure to sodium hydroxide, I wanted to focus on the skin because of the lightening gel product sold by South Beach and how it is a product for the skin. Finally, the National Library of Medicine HSDB Database state (et al):

Alkaline corrosives cause liquefaction necrosis. They saponify the fats in the cell membrane, destroying the cell and allowing deep penetration into mucosal tissue. In gastrointestinal tissue an initial inflammatory phase may be followed by tissue necrosis (sometimes resulting in perforation), then granulation finally stricture formation.

Epidemiology reports also state that exposure is common because of it’s prevalence in household products, however serious exposure happen more in third world countries than in industrialized countries.


Benzethonium chloride is a “manufactured chemical used in detergents, deodorants, astringents, topical antiseptics, cold sterilization techniques and spermicides” (Caldwell). Usually it is used in ways that other chemicals and processes will delude it, so this prevents some of the toxicity of the chemical. However, I found studies and articles that supported how the chemical is carcinogenic (as Sweden and Canada declared).

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Household Products Database, “benzethonium chloride is synthetic quaternary ammonium salt. This compound is an odorless white solid; soluble in water. It has surfactant, antiseptic, and anti-infective properties” (here). One of the largest manufacturers of it in the USA is Alsuisse of America Inc. The molecular formula is C27H42NO2.Cl.

According to NIOSH’s International Chemical Safety Cards and Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazard, it can cause redness and pain of the skin, redness, blurred vision and serve deep burns of the eyes, and nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. It can also cause convulsions, shock, and/or collapse.

Case studies: the health implications of benzethonium chloride
In a study cited by the National Library of Medicine HSDB Database (here),
Goodman and Gilman (1975) found vaginal irritation that included burning sensations and itching from the use of spermicides that contained benzethonium chloride. Another study that was cited by Verschueren (1983) found that benzethonium chloride is “highly toxic by ingestion; 1 gram may be fatal.” This was similar to the findings of Dreisbach (1977) who found that 1 to 3 grams had proven to be fatal by accidental ingestion and Budavari (1989) found that, “ingestion may cause vomiting, collapse, convulsions, coma.”

The National Library of Medicine states:

Many consumer and other products containing small amounts of cationic detergents are coded to this document, primarily due to the potential for eye and skin irritation. There are insufficient data to determine a "non-toxic" amount following ingestion of non-corrosive concentrations (here).


Sodium hydroxide and benzethonium chloride have numerous health issues, most of the implications are if the exposure is long term and a specific amount. However, benzethonium chloride is listed as a poison in Canada and Sweden, but why not here? Perhaps this points to the power that corporations have with lobbying groups that have for the Congress and Senate.

Not only do these chemicals have huge health implications, but they are also in products that claim to provide women with more self-confidence to get rid of “embarrassing” aspects of their vagina when the “embarrassing” aspects are natural parts of the female body.

While this paper would be considered a secondary research paper, as I did not perform research on sodium hydroxide and benzethonium chloride, I provided the information and studies to look at the toxicity of these chemicals and risks that may follow. The theoretical lens in which I used was to provide the reader with an understanding as to why I wanted to research sodium hydroxide and benzethonium chloride.

In future research, perhaps some areas to explore would be the health consequences on long-term use of South Beach lightening gel and Summer Eve deodorant spray (and other similar products, as there are many). Since the studies I found provided a basis to understand what sodium hydroxide and benzethonium chloride does to the skin, a hypothesis could be formed on what may happen to the vagina.

The issues of patriarchy and sexism and how they connect to public health could start being answered with this paper and more research. One could study how patriarchy and sexism provides a reason to market such products as vaginal lightening gels and deodorant sprays and how this leads to health consequences for women, as well as low self-esteem and a “normalized” and internalized view of the “ideal” female body.


Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2002). ToxFAQs™ for Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH).

Brender, J. D. & Harris, R. (1998). Community exposure to sodium hydroxide in a public water supply. Journal of Environmental Health, 61, 4-21.

Caldwell, M. (n.d.) Benzethonium Chloride Side Effects. E-how: Public Health and Safety Fact Sheets.

Erickson, D. & Neet, J. (2010). Benzyl chloride added to toxic list. Lexocology.

Ford, L.E., (2002). Women and Politics: The Pursuit of Equality. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

hooks, b. (2000). Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. (n.d.). International chemical safety cards: Benzethonium chloride.

National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. (2005). NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazard (DHHS NIOSH Publication No. 2005-149). Pittsburgh, PA.

National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Hazardous Substance Data Bank.

Sodium hydroxide. (n.d.) In Encyclopædia online. Retrieved from

The Dow Chemical Company. (n.d). Product Safety Assessment (PSA): Caustic Soda. Product Safety. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Household Products Database: Health & Safety Information on Household Products.

Wright, A. (2010). The 6 Weirdest Things Women Do to Their Vaginas.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Support UND's SG Daycare Bill

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Nathan Elness through the listserv of UND's Business & Public Administration department (apparently I get on it automatically for taking a class through that department - Problems in Political Science: Women in American Politics). He was emailing about how he is the Business & Public Administration Senator for Student Government, as well as updates on bills that were approved in the Student Senate.

As a student parent, I was excited to see the “UND Student Child Care” bill that had recently been approved. According to anther email I received from Mr. Elness:

This bill allocates up to $10,000 dollars from the Student Projects account to offset the cost by $2 a day for every child of a UND student enrolled at the University Children's Center. This will cover both the Fall '10 and Spring '11 semesters (cannot find this online right now, unfortunately).

I think this bill is beneficial to students who have children. The costs of daycare can be anywhere from $500 to $1000 a month (and that is based on ONE child). Not only that, but in the state of North Dakota, one of the restrictions for being eligible for childcare assistance through the state. Is that going to a four-year university does not count as “work.” Of course, I could work at a paid job while going to a four-year university and I may be able to get assistance during those times ONLY, if my child was at daycare. I could also get childcare assistance if I was going to Northland in East Grand Forks (because it is a two year college). The other thing about receiving childcare assistance is that a parent may have to work at night or on weekends and there are not many other childcare centers open during those times (specifically the center on campus). These are institutionalized barriers for parents.

This then leads to “Letter: SG daycare bill a waste” written by Senior Commercial Aviation student, Adam Fincke, in last week’s Friday edition of the Dakota Student (Letters to the Editor are not published online). He states that the bill is a waste because the bill does not include ALL students at UND. He also discusses the personal sacrifices non-parent students makes such as not owning a car, not flying home on weekends, working night and weekends jobs, and not owning a companion animal.

While I commend anyone for making personal sacrifices in order to further their education (because I am sure most of us have done this on campus as a student), I would also like to point out that student parents are probably making some of the same sacrifices as non-parent students. These are personal choices, as well, for ALL. The choice on whether to continue a pregnancy is a choice that students face (and I could argue that this is more critical than choosing whether or not to have a companion animal). I am sure the institutional barriers come to mind when making this decision such as: can I afford it? How much harder will school be? Will I be able to graduate? When is the baby due? Is the father going to be involved? And so on. Those questions crossed my mind.

I support/ed the SG daycare bill because it HELPS parents who are students, instead of blaming them for a personal choice they have made or making the barriers of higher education even harder. Of course, this bill does not include every student on campus; there have been other bills that do not “include” every student at UND, as well. Bills that I found on the UND Student Government website are: (Computers for Underprivileged) Project (added 12/9/09) or Studio One Closed Captioning (added 12/4/09). Would any of us NOT be favor of these bills because they technically do NOT cover all students (or community members)? I support both bills. Again, these bills help people who have institutional barriers that can lead to furthering their education and experience at UND. Thank you, Student Government.

As students, we have all made sacrifices to go to school, whether that has been moving from another state to UND, going to school as a parent, or having a job as a student. If the Student Government can help students that do not have the same equal opportunity as everyone, I applaud them. Not only can these types of bills make student-life a little easier for the ones who have barriers, but it also helps people who might make choices to NOT attend college because of some of the barriers we face. Like I have said before: we are not all born or are ever on the same “playing field” as everyone else. We can reduce specific barriers by attempting to provide services.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

federal government handouts, the free market, and "personal responsibility"

I can agree I do not like huge control of the government. I like being able to not have my clothing choices dictated or how I walk or something like that. However, I get confused when people start talking about the market “will just take care of it all” and to live based on the values of “freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility.” Well, I have some questions about that.

People that say those types of things are usually against social welfare programs because you know, 30% of one’s income shouldn’t be handed out to “lazy fucks”. Well, first: we are not all born onto the same exact equal opportunity. Life isn’t just about “working hard and getting a job.” Many, many people have obstacles they have to face and nothing is just like, handed to them like others. People are born homeless, poor, with a disease or disability, not being born a white male, and so on. Most of these are NOT choices. Even if people have jobs, sometimes those jobs do not pay enough to take care of basic needs.

Personally, I like having a water department so I can take showers and drink clean water. I like having the federal government having a roads department so I can drive or bike on decent, paved roads. Tax money pays for that, I am okay with that. I honestly don’t see people who think the “market will just take care of it” organizations businesses to start building roads or companies to clean public water.

For example, if we lived in a society where businesses ran absolutely everything and say, a house is on fire. Would we need to call a business to see if we could maybe get our house put out? Would we have to pay for that? Or what if it was an apartment building on fire? Would we have to talk to every resident in the building to see if they wanted to pay for the apartment to be put out? What if they said yes, but couldn’t afford it? Would the privatized fire department just not come then? Guess who this also leaves out? People who are poor. People who are on assistance to help them say, pay their heat bill every month so they don’t freeze to death.

What is the problem of having the federal government take care of certain issues? How come those issues I brought up or not talked about? It’s always framed more toward people who are “chose” to be poor, people who “chose” to live in certain areas, or “chose” to be black (all examples, there are many more!) Why is it bad to help the people of New Orleans or help people so they don’t starve? Do we really think that the Salvation Army can just take care of it all? Or people on their own “good will” would donate food to poor people? (Not to mention how great that would make the rich person feel, too. Poor people can be so “thankful” to the rich people then, right? Hello? Isn’t living a basic right to anyone?)

I like to use the example of when I lived in Minneapolis. My rent was $1050 a month and my childcare was around $500. I made $15 dollars an hour and worked full time. While that was the most I’ve ever made in my life, I barely made enough to pay for other bills, yet I made too much to be on food stamps. But I was working, right? Oh wait, I shouldn’t just gotten a better paying job (because those are everywhere!) Oh wait, it’s my fault that I had a child and chose such an expensive place to live? But if we go upon “personal choices and freedom” – then wasn’t it MY choice to have a child and choose where I wanted to live? I wanted to live in a safe part of town because I have a child and I am a woman. So, the question was: safety or money? Food or electric bill? What does one choose, especially when they have a child? Oh, but I suppose I could have stayed with my abusive ex, just so I could have “another’ income right? Or maybe just find another man! Or wait, I could have moved out of Minneapolis! Note: moving out of Minneapolis also cost money that I did not have. Of course, I had my personal say in some of these issues, but I also had to make those choices based on the current system I was in or am in. So did I really have complete freedom to make an absolute free choice? Or was I making a choice under these specific circumstances I was in? Like many other people.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

response to an article

Someone wrote an article that seemed directed toward me in the Dakota Student today. Here it is: (they haven't posted it online, but when they do I will link it).


I read your article today and assumed the columnist you were speaking to was me. Hooray! I seem to be the attention of a lot of people ... anyway. People usually get so angry at my columns.

I don't feel that I NEED to explain my article to you ... but in regard to what you said about how me being educated has proved my position of oppression, or I guess what I read from your article that my education oppressed me.

I was speaking about Marx when he talked about false consciousness. Many people do not even realize they are oppressed. We are stuck in these positions, they're normalized, no one questions them. Personal example: I was in a shitty, highly abusive relationship for 5.5 years. Did I realize it? Not really. Even after I left the stupid piece of shit fuck, I couldn't admit he actually raped me and more than once. Or admit he was abusive. Many of our sexual encounters were not consensual and what does that mean? Rape. Another example, womyn get treated like shit because they're womyn and unfortunately, they have no tools to tell someone to shut the fuck. They'll be called a bitch (I certainly have) or abused even more (guess what? It took me over a year to leave my abusive ex because I thought if I did, it'd get worse and in some ways it did, he stalked me). Is that me victim-blaming womyn? Hell no! It's me pointing out that, hey, I used to be there, and yes, we can do something about this. And I will support you! I used to bend backward for my abusive ex or take sexism from men. This is what education gave me. It made me realize, fuck I AM oppressed (which in itself was a source of empowerment) to be more of a feminist and speak out! Which is why my articles are almost always focused on social change and inequalities.

Education has been completely fucking amazing for me. Because I am educated, like, I said: wow: I am poor and oppressed, I'm a single mom and oppressed, I'm a womyn and oppressed. But education also helped me realize that maybe I can do something about it. However, all these social inequalities are totally normalized. So I talk about them.

And if you read my other articles, maybe you'd think otherwise about me being a "real" feminist (whatever that means). But all in all, it doesn't matter what you say or think about me (nor does it matter what anyone else says or thinks of me either). Things like that are true empowerment from education and feminism.

Oh well if I "hate men." What good does it do? I'm honest, I guess? Who cares if I hate men? Why are feminists always told that? Would you tell a person of color they are "white hater" because they talk about racism from white people? Men are sexist because they are men. (Just like white people are racist because they're white and so on). Is it necessarily their fault? No. They're socialized that way, unfortunately. Almost every man I know has been sexist or is sexist in one form or another. Do I really want to be around that? No. Gross. Again, that's why I talk about it!

I am a feminist and that's one reason why I talk about the issues I talk about. I realize my oppression as a womyn because I want to and I am empowered to realize it is there. I can talk to other womyn about it. Do I allow unequal treatment? Mygod, no! Have you ever spoken to me about this? I am a single mom, I work my ass off without the help of men, I NEVER let men have control, I NEVER assume they have power over me because they don't. I left a rapist, an abuser, my kid's dad. Do I need qualify my "feminism" to you? No. I don't need to qualify it to anyone.

Unfortunately, in a world run by white men (look at the government, corporations, so on) ... this is what I mean. I don't think I need personal attacks from a person who assumes that I let men control me. Part of what feminism is about pointing out gender inequality and talking about it. Isn't feminism about talking about oppressions? Talking about gender inequalities? Other inequalities? Instead of talking about the oppressor - I talked about the oppressed. I DID NOT chose to be a womyn when I was born to have been socialized that way so I could be oppressed. I did not chose our society. No one did. A person of color does not chose to be victims of our white dominated society. Who on earth would chose that? How can we dismantle it? At least, let's talk about it!!

I have my own autonomy, agency, and my own life. I do not oppress myself. I am not a victim. I am a survivor, I am autonomous, I am so happy I am a womyn! Finally, I also do not look up to "successful" womyn: don't they just perpetuate the white, capitalist patriarchy? (Say, womyn CEO's ... if that's what you mean by "successful" womyn ...) I love up to womyn who are amazing, mothers, kids, pregnant teens, people of color who speak out against racism, the riot grrls of the 1990s, any oppressed person who has the courage to speak out even if it means losing friends and getting called every name in the book. Because to me: that is honest and so amazing.

Oh, one last question: would you be telling a person of color who was talking about the racism they experience from people a victim? Would you be telling them, you're totally victim blaming yourself, take agency and "get over it"? Maybe they're taking agency simply for talking about the racism they feel and experience. Because, guess what? it's real! Kind of like, when I am talking about the sexism I experience. Because, guess what? It's real, too.

- Heather

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

inapprorpiate mothers: radical reproductive justice for all

I edited this:

Every time I see an article or statistics about how teen pregnancy rates have gone up - I scream. “Why?” you may ask.

First, the reason may be because the lack of access to sex education, birth control, and abortion. This may be partly why rates have gone up. Teens are oppressed - they do not have full "legal" rights as say, I do. Often their choices are decided for them (and we can argue that be good or bad thing) and their autonomy is rarely considered.

Second, those statistics are negative (negative as in it's "bad", "unwanted," "disgusting", "not desirable."). Of course it could be negative if teen women are not offered reasonable education to sexuality (as I stated above). I certainly wasn't. But it is also negative because our society does not want teen pregnancy to go up. There is an assumption that being a pregnant teen or a teen mom is super bad situation. These young women need to be going to college, get married, and THEN have children. It assumes we have all agreed on some abstract "appropriate" age of a pregnancy. So if we talk about how the rates have gone up, people can automatically think - well, kids are having sex, kids are having kids, and so on. I never see statistics on the rates of women in their 20's or their 30's having children. Is it because society has assumed those are "appropriate" ages to have children?

The other thing I get frustrated is how these statistics view teen pregnancy, as a "problem.” So when I ask the question, “what is the ‘appropriate’ age to become pregnant?” I will not get an answer. I know some people choose to become parents after they are married and have careers, but it was still a HARD choice. I feel that the constant focus on teen pregnancy as an "issue" as opposed to just another population that may get pregnant, perpetuates the idea of the “ideal mother” is the one who is done with college, has a career, and is married (or maybe just married right out of high school and is a stay at home mother). Of course, she would have to be married to a man. (I want to note that these mothers are STILL mothers and are still important. However, I am focusing on "inappropriate" mothers.”)

As a group, teens are oppressed and (just like women, queer people, people of color and so on), have a right to sex education just as anyone else. But if teen pregnancy rates raise, let’s talk about it as an issue in regard to radical reproductive justice and rights for all, not blaming the teen for “fucking up” or “being a burden.” (Hello? Because didn’t and are not!) Sometimes a teen choosing to parent is a wonderful thing ... it was for me. And it took a lot of prying and searching on my part to find other people who thought like me about being a teen mom, unfortunately. The access to empowerment for teen parents (particularly mothers) should be like, right there, right here!! (Because it often is for mothers of "appropriate" ages, as it should be!)

Of course, most of these statistics focus on the one who is pregnant or has birthed or will birth. The teenager (or not teenage) men and male-bodied people are not being asked about their sexuality and/or sex lives. The mark of a pregnant belly will never happen to them that screams, "Hey guess what everyone? I had sex and I am in high school. See?! See?!" But apparently, isn't more cool for the teenage man to “get laid”, then for the teenage women to have sex and get pregnant? He's a hero, she's the whore.

Instead of being bogged down with statistics pointing to how it is a "bad" thing that teen pregnancy rates have gone up. I graduate in May with two majors (already have a two year degree) and am off to graduate school in the fall. I honestly probably would not have been so motivated unless I had a children because no one at home was encouraging me either way. I found other amazing single and/or teen/former teen mothers and knew I could do it. Solidarity!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

gender fucking: a response to a FtM trans individual

lore dickey, a Ph.D. candidate in Counseling Psychology at the University of North Dakota, spoke in the class, Psychology of Women on February 10. He is a FtM trans individual, which means he was born with a female body, assigned the “female” gender, and was socialized that way. As he mentioned to the class, he (and probably no one in class) never had his chromosomes checked. He explained that after he had been sober for almost five years, he decided to transition to be male and identify that way. He now passes as a man and identities as a gay man. I know lore from the UND Counseling Center, as well as him being a person I have gone to for gender identity resources for my senior paper and other reasons. But I had never heard his personal story, so it was really fascinating and awesome to hear it. lore brought in gender identity politics, psychological issues, and his own personal insight. It was inspiring to hear someone who thought like I did in regard to the issues of gender and sexuality.

As a student who is interested in identity politics, I was aware of most of the things that lore spoke about. My senior paper had a queer theoretical approach and I had interviewed a FtM transgender parent who identified as a “parent”, but his daughter called him “mom.” Since I am not a trans/gender/sexual individual, I also have made myself aware of the privilege I have for NOT being a trans/gender/sexual individual. Which means that I have cisgender privilege. I have a female body, I am a woman (and pass as one), and I have not gone through different (legal, medical, psychological, and so on) procedures to change my gender. While, my oppression as a woman is a different issue, it was a good realization for me to have/come to.

Schooling myself on gender identity, I also reflected on my own gender identity. Being there for lore’s presentation allowed me to reflect on that, again. I identify as a “womyn” for the most part and still think it’s important to do that. However, I sometimes identify as “GenderQueer”. I do not like associating things as “feminine” or “masculine.” For example, I do not shave or wear makeup, but I also wear dresses. However, I bike in a dress and tell men (for the most part) to f*ck off when they are sexist toward me. I recently realized that perhaps some of my gender to not identify with anything feminine was internalized misogyny and/or feeling that I was not “queer” enough or my femininity was “too traditional.” I recently started being okay with my gender identity as a “womyn” and realized that identity is how I chose, no one can tell me otherwise. And as much as I’d rather not have gender be in our world, it is, and there is privilege and oppression from it on many levels. It needs to recognized, analyzed, and deconstructed.

It was surprising to see gender identity in the DSM-5. I also found it interesting in how one determines the “issue.” For example, the dress and toys coming into the diagnosis with children. I have a girl-child, a daughter. I have raised her to be somewhat gender neutral; I have raised in a way for her to feel and be okay with playing with any toy that she wants to and any other child can, too. She also understands that if a boy wants to wear a dress, that’s okay. I remember getting along with boys in high school more or telling my mom that sometimes I wish I was a boy when I was 14. I do not think this necessarily means that I want/ed to be a boy/man/male. Right now, I do not want to. I embrace my female-body, I fight back the oppression I experience, and am an ally to trans/gender/sexual individuals if they want me to be. Would I had been diagnosed with “Gender Identity Disorder in Children/Adults”? What about my child? The fact that I have normalized “gender-fucking” with myself and with her explains that we understand gender that is fluid, not gender that is rigid and static. To us, it is okay for there to be “masculine wimmin”, “androgynous queers”, “femme bois” and so on.

lore handed out a wealth of information in regard to gender identity. I particularly enjoyed the terminology, I believe some of them were from (a website he moderates and I used for my senior paper). The terms were also easy to understand, which I feel is important when talking about this issue. This is very new for a lot of people and we are completely socialized and then we internalized the gender binary of female/woman/girl and male/man/boy. The terminology already starts to break down that binary by explaining to people that there is more than the binary and that it is okay (and I think, good!)

I felt lore was really open about his experience. In fact, he brought in pictures of how he looked “before.” I know of some trans/gender/sexual individuals that do not want to remember their past and/or acknowledge that they have transitioned. I felt he was courageous, brave, and honest.

lore also provided a great list of resources and books on this subject! I am happy to say that I can personally recommend a few of these because I have read them myself. One of my favorites is The last time I wore a dress: A memoir by D. Scholoniski. He also had Stryker, Feinberg and Bronstein listed who are two big authors in transgender studies. I was excited to see the many more readings suggested.

On the second page of the information, there is a listed of legal documents that need to be changed. From the trans/gender/sexual people I know, this has been a long, drawn-out process. Often times, it seems as though they will get stuck on the birth certificate. Or the fact that the financial issues become an issue of race and class. Things like this are never talked about or at least people do not think of all the aspects of one’s life that needs to be transitioned beyond the actual body.

Finally, lore’s story of the bathroom was fascinating. It is sad that men cannot engage with other men in the same context as women. They would be seen as “feminine” which is misogyny, I believe (like, lore mentioned in his class in regard to another issue). People do not want to be associated with femininity because it is lower than “masculinity” in regard to worth. So many of these restraints hold so many people back and place them into positions of how they “should” act and behave.

All in all, the presentation was wonderful. It was a great way to put a human face on an issue that is a part of our reality, but yet not spoken for much. Trans/gender/sexual people are discriminated against and murdered, which is a hate crime. His presentation was also a way for students to be educated on this issue, to start making the connection of a body may not necessarily mean a specific gender. It was also a way for them to start breaking and deconstruction gender as a whole and gender for themselves.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

bikini kill: i fucking love you

This is what I sent to the Bikini Kill Archive (

and awesome live video:

I am a 27 year old mom of an 8.5 year old. The first thing that came to mind when I saw that (WTF???!!!! ahhhhhh!!!!!) there was a call for stories about how Bikini Kill, was when my kid was 4 said, "White boy, just die!!!" I have taught her well. :) She continues to like Bikini Kill and many other awesome riot grrrl, queers, and other all/mostly womyn bands. Good, good. Oh, she's going to Rock n Roll Camp for girls this summer which she has been excited about since she was 4 or 5.

I remember listening to Bikini Kill years ago in high school. A queer friend of mine put in the song, "Carnival" and I was like, wtf? and I totally fucking loved it. We were in fucking Minot, North Dakota and being queer/feminist/punk/riot grrrl in high school there was not a good idea. We were the "Liberty Fags" (The Liberty was the place that we went to shows). Luckily, we went to shows there, so that helped at least. I believe Bikini Kill played in Minot, but unfortunately I was not going to shows yet.

Oh, Bikini Kill. Thank you for helping me find my feminist, myself, my own love for myself, my self-confidence, and the reason to start doing shit. I am a survivor of a 6 year abusive (emotional, sexual, mental) relationship. I listened to Bikini Kill a lot when I was with him and it helped me realize that I am a human being and it is okay to feel that. I remember listening to "Double Dare Ya" and getting chills down my back. The lyrics, "For you can stand up for your rights Rights? Rights? You DO have Rights" God, it felt so fucking good to realize there were other womyn speaking out about their oppression. It's fucking hard to do that! People don't want to see/realize they are oppressed and the oppressors don't want to change their behavior.

Bikini Kill helped me realized that it's okay to speak about how i feel, speak out about sexism/patriarchy and misgony, speak out against other forms of isms like racism, classism, capitalism, able-bodism, transphobia, heterosexism, and so on. Bikini Kill helped my self-confidence because even when I write for the student newspaper that I write for now about patriarchy, or call men out on sexism, I can not let what they say back to me, bother. The more I let them get to me, the more they have power over me. And fuck that. They can dwell on their being called out for the privilege "boo-hoos" by themselves.

Bikini Kill also helped me embrace my own gender. I'm a womyn and I like to wear dresses and don't give a shit if my legs are apart or ride a bicycle.

I can see sexism everywhere, all the time, and I call it out. I don't think I would have been able to do that if I never listened to riot grrrls.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me find myself, love myself, and not give a shit what others think. This stuff carries onto my daughter who tells the boys at school they're stupid for not letting her play football, calling out gender bullshit, and reading books about strong womyn from herstory. Raising a girl is hard and I am grateful for have found my feminist self through Bikini Kill and other riot grrrl music.

EDIT: Here is the post.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Requestion Victim Blaming

This semester I am in a Sociology 436: Social Inequalities, taught by Clifford Staples. One of the approaches of the class is to start deconstructing victim blaming that goes on when people are in specific situations. Such as, known statements like, “welfare moms are taking up the resources,” or “poor people are lazy” or even recently, statements blaming the people in Haiti for the lack of resources they have after the earthquake. Aaron Wentz’s article from Tuesday is a good start pointing on the history of Haiti.

I am sure we have these statements or maybe even participated in them ourselves. Can we really assume that poor people are lazy? I can’t. Someone who works three part time jobs to feed their family is hardly lazy. Sometimes they can work really hard for decades and never get out of their economic status/class. Sometimes they were born into poor families and never get out.

How about rich socialites like Paris Hilton? Is she busy? Hardly. She parties and is in the spotlight for having reality shows or a recent drama with a friend. She was born into a family with money: the Hiltons. They own those hotels that I am sure most people at this university have heard of. She didn’t choose her family, she was born into, and she doesn’t have to work. Ever. She has more than enough resources to live. Of course, she can star in movies, make records, or have her own clothing line. But she is only able to do that without any sort of education or business experience because she was born into the right family: the family with experiences, ties, networks, money, and a name.

Now that I’ve explained some things, the assumptions of certain situations and ordeals that people happen to be in, often gets blamed on them. Perhaps we can look at the situation on a broader scale. Why are people in the situation they are in? Is it their families? The country they live in? Capitalism?

So lets say this poor person who is “lazy” doesn’t work. Lets say they are on welfare or as so many would “living off the system.” Instead of assuming they’ve never worked a day in their life and sits in their living room watching TV (and then of course, the ignorant question: how could they afford to pay for TV if they’re on welfare?!). Let us start questioning how did this person get into this position? Why is this person in this position? How could this happen to someone? Why do we accept a world in which people need welfare to survive? Why don’t we talk about a world in which EVERYONE has access to basic needs? Why do we normalize poverty, suffering, and welfare?

As the old saying goes, “the surest way to get rich is choose your parents/family carefully.” I didn’t choose mine. Did any of you? My mom and dad are from working class families, my step-dad is from Iran, and I am a first generation college student paying for it through loans, grants, and scholarships. If I was Paris Hilton, I would not have this issue. I certainly don’t think I am “unlucky” or got the “bad deal”, this is just a point of reference.

Another common victim blaming statement I have heard is, “if a homeless person is homeless, how can they get cardboard and a pen to write signs begging for money?” First of all, does it matter where they got the pen and cardboard? Also, the person who is homeless is more than likely to have clothes on, maybe some belongings. Are we going to start assuming if one is homeless, they must be naked with no valuables? But again, why is this an issue? Someone is homeless! No one should be homeless, anywhere, ever. As humans, we all have a right to have at least our minimum requirements meant. Why must we blame this person for being in the position they in? Why not start questioning what kind of world we have BECAUSE someone is homeless? Is it a fair world in which the top 1% of society posses 40% of income in a country?

Not everyone is born into the same opportunity. Because I live in the United States I have gained privileges to (for example) education, sadly not everyone in the world has this opportunity. We are not born into a world with the same “playing field.” Many of have obstacles or oppression that may put us in positions "less" than others. Things like race, gender, sexuality, class, and where we live are a part of this. These things certainly need to be thought about before we start claiming we know other people’s experiences who are in other positions than ourselves.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Green living? Really?

I wrote this in December after being extremely frustrated by the ignorance of the green movement. First, it doesn't analyze any power/oppression dynamics (race, gender, LGBTQ, class, ableism, etc) and second, it is all bullshit. There is no real alternative, it's all fake - like, shutting down coal plants while continuing to consume and drive. So the following are questions, thoughts, and concerns I have.

As a vegan, bicycle commuter, student, and environmentally conscious individual, I consider myself aware of the destruction posed by pollution, energy, cars, consumerism, capitalism, and so on. These are reasons that I chose a vegan diet, commute by bicycle, reuse products, create some of my own clothes, take the bus, make my own soaps and cleaning products, garden, share, and shop at thrift stores.

However, I am confused about some of the mainstream environmental movements. Are we looking for "clean" and "alternative" energies so we can continue to live the lives we live now? So we can continue to drive to places where most able-bodied people could walk or bike? Continue to endlessly consume what we really do not need? Continue to be completely unaware of our own choices and the impact those choices may have on our environment?

I am a mother, as well, and a potential environmental collapse horrifies me in that context. Are my daughter and children her age going to have the same access to things that I have now when they are my age? Probably not, especially if we continue to live the lives we live.

A huge part missing in most mainstream environmental movements is a sense of self-examination. I am just as guilty. I still participate in consumerism, buying stuff I do not really need. However, this is why I made the choices I mentioned in the first paragraph. Let's look at the huge implications of our everyday purchases and choices.

For example, where did this organic orange come from? Of course, it's organic - but was it grown in North Dakota? No. How much energy was put into transporting it to the store where I purchased it? How much energy did I use getting to the store? Did I drive? How much energy was used to organically grow it? How were the workers treated? Just because something is labeled as "organic" or "fair-trade" does not mean it is completely free of any type of pollution or mistreatment of workers.

How about recycling? How much energy goes into recycling? I still recycle, however, I still keep in mind that energy is used to recycle and that it is not the only "earth saver."

What about eating meat? Animals are treated now as commodities, not beings. They are raised strictly for slaughter for the First World countries to eat. What about the grain that is grown for these animals? Or the water used?

How about the shirts I see at so many stores that say things like, "green is the new black"? Look at the label - was it made in the United States? It was probably made in India under extremely poor working conditions, possibly by children. It probably required a ton of energy for transporting it to the store for purchase. If it was made in the United States, were the workers given health insurance and a decent pay? What is the point of wearing a shirt that says that anyway?

I live near campus. My daughter and I bike or walk to her school and then I bike, walk or bus to my campus. I see people who live closer to the campus than us who are driving and sometimes I get to my destination faster on my bicycle. I walk home in the winter sometimes, too.

I understand the comforts we all have grown up with. It is so easy for me to drive somewhere that is 8 blocks away. Or to leave lights on in my apartment. Or take a 30-minute shower. However these choices have huge implications on the planet and the population of it. We can continue to look for alternative energies, but let's not forget our individual choices and the implications they have. Many of us can make better choices for the future by looking at ourselves. We do not need to buy into advertisements that claim our lives will be better by having a "more improved" product. The things I have work just fine, even if they are a few years old.

If environmental groups are going to continue to look for new alternatives and pressure our leaders to "do something" so we can continue this over-consumed, unsustainable way of living, then what is the point? If we want to take this seriously, part of helping the planet is to look for another, sustainable way of living for everyone and everything.

Looking at ourselves and our personal choices and the ways we live is a part of that. We need to stop being huge consumers and realize that that's not something we ought to be aiming for. We need to change completely.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Taking community building seriously: a single mom's suggestions on helping out with kids

I am a single mother (I got pregnant in high school) and have been since my daughter was born (besides the years I lived with her drug addict father who hardly worked. However I feel I was single with two humyn beings to take care of). I never realized that parenting has been marginalizing from the very beginning. It took me a few years to realize that I was feeling this and I still feel it. I did/do not fit the patriarchal view of motherhood or a nuclear family.

Part of building radical communities and actually living anarchism, feminism, and/or anarcha-feminism is making sure that the people in our communities are supported. This includes parents and children. The problem I have discovered with political activist groups is that they are very inclusive toward middle to upper class, white, and power and authoritative sympathetic people. And of course, people that have free time to participate without any regard to children. If they do have children, they have a lot have resources to get childcare during these times.

This reminds me of when I went to a 2004 Moms for Kerry event. I was new to the area and found it awesome that there were moms who were politically active (not fully on the same political spectrum, but regardless). I went to the event that was 30 minutes from where I lived. I was dressed in jeans and a hoodie, while my kid was in her Halloween costume (it was Halloween). I ended up being the only parent who brought their kid with. I walked into a home that had grand piano in the entryway, everyone was
dressed in almost ballroom-like attire, and the owners of the home had a nanny for their children. I hung out with the nanny with whom I was closer to age with then the parents and left without saying goodbye. Of course this is a class and age issue; however, this is not too far of how I have felt from events that claim to be more radical. In the past, when I have volunteered with Planned Parenthood, I brought my daughter with. For some people having her there was an annoyance because of the “out of place talking” she made or the fact that I would have to leave early because she was

If one thinks about the number of events that go on in our own communities and the lack of childcare or integration of children into these events, it’s disgusting. Rarely are children included or even thought about.

A 9pm event that COULD include parents and children comes across as being a late event that would be exclusive to my daughter and me. If events are scheduled at 9pm, some sort of community childcare could be provided so parents can have child free nights and participate if they choose to. Parents need to be asked what time works for them. For example, my daughter is 8 years old and has school at 8:10, Monday to Friday. A time that would work for us would be any time from 5 to 7:30. But with this
time, supper needs to be provided. So another good time would be on weekends. If times of events are during meal times, make sure food is provided! When my kid is hungry, she wants to eat. My experience with other kids is similar. I also want to point out that if alcohol and/or drugs are at event; this puts children and their parents at risk, as well. I do not feel comfortable bringing my child to an event where people could possibly be getting drunk or high.

This also brings up how children’s interests vary as they grow. This needs to be recognized and addressed in radical communities. One thing my kid likes to do is help the childcare providers with the younger kids. This can help older kids feel included and help the childcare provider with the younger kids. Different activities need to be provided, too. I am involved with a pro-choice feminist group at the university I attend. I bring my laptop, movies, puzzles, color books, crayons, baby toys, and art supplies to our events and meetings. This covers a large array of ages and helps the
kids from getting bored.

My life is structured to fit my daughter’s needs and my mothering self. Like I said, if an event is at 7:00pm, it is hard for me to go. One reason is because I know there will not be childcare. The second reason is because 7:30pm is when my daughter starts settling down to get ready for bed. So this is exclusive to people who can go to those events. Of course, in turn, this makes me feel awful and also results in my family being unable to participate and potentially get our voices not heard or our presence known. My daughter’s voice is just as important as others’ and my own.

I helped with organizing protests for the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Minneapolis after that. I was helping out with workshops and getting the word out about the consultas. At one of the first consultas I attended, I brought up childcare and how this needs to be provided. People were somewhat receptive to it and I was working with a few others on it. There were some issues with safe spaces at some of the actual workshops. The space that the event was going on at had nails and was dirty and was not good for children. We ended up going to a nearby library and were able to provide activities for the children to do. However, this is an example of childcare not being taken seriously. We had to walk to another space that was thought of at the last minute. Children and childcare were not thought of during the planning of this event. I am sure if these issues had crossed organizers’ minds before I brought up that childcare needed to be provided: a new space would have been used. Again, having to walk to a few blocks to a library was an alright option, but we were away from everyone.

One consulta, in particular that I attended had a safe space house available for childcare. The group facilitating the consulta had volunteers for childcare throughout the day and there were other children there. The people involved were taking shifts and drove the children between the house and the consulta. However, there were no car seats and booster chairs in the cars. This is another example of childcare and
the safety of children not being taken seriously. The organizers could have asked parents to bring their own car seats (if they could) or asked to borrow them for the event. It was refreshing to see that there was childcare. A womyn that the organizers knew, used her house as a safe childcare space. She had plenty of toys and activities for the children to use, as well as healthy food choices. I felt comfortable leaving my daughter there.

As a student, I have been involved with Students for a Democratic Society in the past. As a mother, I brought up the fact that the group needed to provide childcare at events. One event was a talk by Bill Ayers. Everyone in the group supported having childcare at events. However, at this particular event and others, I was the one who watched my child. No one helped (and luckily, my child was the only
child there). It was a hypocrisy to see a group say they supported childcare but did not help. I was not able to see him speak and afterwards, everyone went to a restaurant/bar (which was around 8 or 9pm) and asked ifI could with. Of course, I couldn’t. Why? Because I had to go home and get my kid to bed. I felt so excluded. Not only did I help organize this event, but I also provided the childcare, made the fliers, and got the word out. Everyone went to the restaurant, while I ended up going home. I emailed Bill Ayers about it, as well. However I never heard back from
him about it. Of course, I know the "you made the choice to have your kid, deal with it" but really? Of course, I've "dealt with it", I'm a mom. But if we want build strong, supportive communities, then we need to ALL DO THINGS that can involve everyone.

One important thing to remember is that non-parents need to help out as well. If this childcare is happening and only the parents are doing the work, what is the point? Parents need and want to participate in their events. Another thing is to look at are the gender dynamics and see if there are only womyn and trans people doing the childcare. Cisgender (male-bodied) men can help out too.

Some suggestions to help with this (besides what I already mentioned) are:
- provide workshops prior to events to talk about supporting parents in our communities and providing childcare at events
- safety and legality issues
- non-sexist, non-racist, and non heteronormative child rearing
- privilege dynamics
- making sure everyone is comfortable, which alsoincludes not excluding people because they are not anarchists or radicals.
– continue to have this conversation!

People need to acknowledge the needs in our communities and most communities have parents and children. If we are going to take our communities, seriously, then we need to take this issue seriously.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

parenting is the most radical thing I can do

I got pregnant 9 years ago, December 2000. She turned 8 on September 25th. I cannot believe my kid is that old already and I cannot believe that she was conceived almost a decade ago. I remember the day, I lied to my mom and said I was at my dad's an extra day. I lied to my dad and said I was going back to my mom's that day. I actually stayed at my ex-boyfriend's at the time and while on the pill, we had a nice holiday night together and had sex. Little did I know, I got pregnant that night and my life was completely changed forever. I was in high school, I was just a few months into being 18 and was in my first hardcore relationship, my first love.

Time has past since that day, obviously. My kid is a person of her own. She doesn't "need" me as much as she did the day she was born and sometimes I am sad about. I miss having a seven pound, four ounce baby to hold and rock to sleep. I miss giving her baths in the baby bath tub, putting her in her crib, and feeding her. While the time has gotten fun, I still get all "mommed up" and long for a baby sometimes. She's in second grade now, kicking ass in math and reading, telling the boys who fuck with her off (like, girls can't play football!) and reading books about Anne Frank and science. She's curious about things, like why did the Holocaust happen? What do drugs and alcohol do to the body? How does diabetes work? What does my lungs look like when I have an asthma attack? I'm often amazed at the things she says or asks sometimes. The way she sees things is amazing. Some of the most favorite things I hear from someone come from her brain and her mouth: "... are there onions on here? Oh wait, my tastebuds were daydreaming. Nevermind!"

I have to say I am proud to be her mom. I am also proud that I've given her the space to be who she wants to be. I do not shame her for liking things and let her be who she chooses to be, let her wear what she wants to wear, and let her create who she wants to be by herself. Clearly, I step in when things become a safety issue, but she's turned out to be a pretty amazing eight year old. She questions everything, is aware of the things around her, loving and caring, animated about what she likes, honest, and fierce.

Parenting has challenged me. It has challenged me on levels I never thought it would. Who I AM as a persyn, how my actions can affect her, my language and how I speak to her and others, my patience, my abilities, my mental health, my honesty. Parenting has fallen on a huge range of emotions and raw feelings: pure love and happiness to frustration and irritability. The beginning of the book "Of Woman Born" by Adrienne Rich hit me so hard because the sheer honesty Rich explains how she has felt from mothering completely explained myself. It refreshing to hear the sheer honest words of a fellow mother.

I still get blown away that I am a 27 year old womyn with an 8 year old daughter. That I have already gone through pregnancy, birth, first tooth, first steps, first day of Kindergarten when so many around me have not had those experiences.

The choice I made so many years ago created the persyn I am today. I sometimes have guilt for the choices I made because most of it affects the fact that I am a mother. Intensive mothering is SO engrained in our society, I HAVE to be with my child at all times and that thing inside my head that says I am not doing it good enough is always there. Even though I know I am doing the best I can in the moment I am in. Nothing is perfect, ever. Including my mothering and with that I still think I am doing a good job, even if that guilt of not being with her every waking moment is there. I still need to balance myself and being a mother, otherwise I lose myself and I am not as good of a mother that I can be.

Parenting is a radical act because I am raising a fucking child. I grew her, she is a part of me, she grew inside my body, and I pushed her out of me. I saw her come into the world, crying and starring at me. My body grew her and she was healthy (and still is!). Parenting is the most radical thing I do because like I said: I am raising a child, a humyn being, a persyn who will once, someday maybe have her own kids, develop her thoughts more than she has now, move away from me, and have her own life. And even through all of that, I am still her fucking mom. How fucking beautiful.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

everyday radical actions.

The following is an ongoing list of everyday radical things.
- being in medicine
- donating blood
- creating a bicycle collective
- building and fixing bicycles for people
- talking about privilege
- supporting parents and kids
- supporting people with disabilities, illnesses
- supporting people of color
- supporting womyn
- supporting trans and queer people
- having potlucks
- gardens
- sobriety
- art collectives
- making zines with friends/zine nights
- making art with friends/ art nights
- doulas
- creating my own stuff
- calling out perpetrators

Monday, January 4, 2010

why I left most communities

I feel I've disassociated myself with most communities. Why? Because I am not queer enough to be queer because I am not a lesbian (bisexual, omnisexual, pansexual), I have a child (thus has resulted in being called a 'breeder'), I am not the typical traditional student because I m older and have a kid, I'm not straight enough because I'm not straight and do not have a nuclear family. I'm not "anarchist" enough because I have to fucking work to live and I can't go to protests and potentially get arrested and have my kid taken away. Because all of that is SO not worth it.

But fuck it.

Who gives a shit if I am not "whatever enough" to be a part of these communities. I never need to prove myself to anyone, if I do or have to ... than everything is bullshit.

I don't want to be a part of communities in which I am referred to as "breeder" or be afraid that drugs around. I don't want to be a part of communities who equate getting wasted at every event is resisting capitalism and the "status quo" in society. I don't want to be a part of communities in which I am the one providing the childcare at the events so the non-parents can sit and participate in events, completely ignoring the fact that they say they are "child-friendly" but really aren't. I don't want to be a part of communities that have stalkers or sex offenders and no one calls them out on it. I don't want to be a part of communities who judge me because I have a kid, or because I am going to school, or because I am on welfare. I'm not radical enough because fuck! I'm on foodstamps and medicaid - I am just "buying into the system" right? Well, okay - then ya'll provide the $300 a month that my daughter's asthma medication is. Or feed us. Can any community do that? Probably not. Not here anyway. How about the thousands of dollars from her hospital stays and visits because of asthma attacks? I don't want to be a part of communities that smoke weed and do illegal activities that can put my kid in danger.

Most communities I've been involved with have varied politically, however would probably all agree with each other. I have felt judged for having a kid, for going sober, for being not straight or a lesbian, and for going to school. None of those are like, radical enough for some people. Is it because I can't dress in all black with a mask on and knock over garbage bins anymore? Is it because I "breeded" and got pregnant and decided to continue it? But wasn't that my choice? One of the most radical things I do is raise my kid and a be mom.

I don't want to be a part of a community that gets drunk for the revolution, that has every event centered around alcohol, that I can't bring my child with, and that doesn't support my choices to parent and my sexuality. I refuse to be a part of a community that I am referred to nothing more than a "breeder". I refuse to be a part of a community that thinks I "sold out" because I decided to get an education so I don't have to be in poverty my whole life. I refuse to be a part of a community that does not acknowledge their privileges and whether that be white, male, able-bodied, cisgender, non-parent, sexuality, class, etc etc.

I want community-building to be fucking serious. I don't want people to be left out or marginalized within these communities. Everyone needs to be included and everyone needs to be inclusive.