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.