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.