Something stinks

And it’s diapers. Or more specifically what happens when parents can’t afford to buy them. In case you don’t have young children, you might not realize how much diapers cost (up to $1000 a year)! Yikes. That’s a big percentage of someone’s income if they are making $20,000 a year or less. But that’s not the kicker. Many childcare facilities won’t let you leave your child if you cannot provide an adequate supply of diapers. And if you don’t have childcare, you can’t go to work. For parents in low wage jobs, they often have to choose between diapers or food in order to get their kids off to daycare and themselves to work.

Babies are gonna poop, so lawmakers in California proposed a bill that would give families on public assistance money for diapers. Because you can’t buy diapers with food stamps (they are considered a “luxury” item like booze and cigarettes).

Leslie Knope saying WHAT?

It remains to be seen if this California bill passes, but I think it’s great to see this issue being talked about. A friend of mine is grouchy that they are talking about such a small change, when we really should be talking about the big problem of poverty and exploring big solutions. And he’s not wrong. But I’m excited about the potential for this to spark bigger conversations. Addressing poverty and barriers to work are critical to people being abused. Having money gives women more choices about their relationships. If talking about diapers is the window that opens our eyes to the bigger issues of poverty, that’s fine with me. Diapers for all!

Shouting about guns. Again.

There was another mass shooting last week. This one was in Pennsylvania. As I write this (on March 10) there have been 8 mass shootings in the U.S. this month. EIGHT MASS SHOOTINGS IN TEN DAYS!!!! Sorry to get shouty, but I’m super mad. My heart breaks for the children whose parents were taken from them. My heart breaks for the communities that have a lot of healing to do. I’m struck by how little media attention this last shooting has received (the fact that the victims were Black probably also had something to do with it). How jaded we’ve become about mass murder.

Image from Demand Action To End Gun Violence
Image from Demand Action To End Gun Violence

Did you know that more than half of mass shootings in America are domestic violence related? Most of the victims are women and children. Most of the shooters are men. This sounds all too familiar to advocates like me. We hear about this kind of thing all the time―survivors who fear for their lives because someone who is supposed to love them has threatened them with a gun.

The media pays less attention to mass shootings when the victims are family members of the perpetrator. But some of the more high profile shootings also include elements of domestic violence. Like this recent tragedy in Kansas where the gunman was just issued a restraining order by his girlfriend and promptly went on a shooting spree at his workplace.

We know the facts, so why aren’t we putting domestic violence front and center when we are talking about guns? Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently asked his first question from the bench in a decade. Why? To question if we should be taking guns away from abusers. The New York Times calls the case in question a “minor” one. I disagree. A gun in the hands of an abuser is anything but minor.

Preschool problems

I’ve got a problem. My little girl needs to go to preschool next September and after weeks of research and help from fellow parent friends I’ve found one―ONE!―school in my neighborhood that I can afford that might work when pieced together with, literally, four other childcare options like drop-in daycare and kind friends. And only if I also rearrange my work schedule, which I’m super lucky to be able to do because I work part-time and have a very understanding supervisor. The number of balls in the air here are dizzying and just might crush me if they all drop.

woman-laundry-with-babyBut then I think about how much harder it could be. How on earth do single parents do this, or parents in a toxic relationship? My partner is loving and supportive, but I’m still the one doing all the research, comparing preschools, visiting the schools, and rearranging my schedule. The title of this Slate article sums up what so often happens: When childcare costs more than rent, women stay at home. Of course, even that is not an option for many families.

The issue of childcare has a huge impact on people in an abusive relationship. Having a job can be a literal life line for someone being abused. It means time during the day when you are not isolated and can build relationships with other people, and it means a paycheck. Money gives you options and the power to make your own decisions. No one who is trying to keep themselves and their children safe should have to struggle to find affordable childcare so that they can keep their job. That’s my hope for everyone.

So be good for goodness sake

Ah, the holidays. That glittery season of joy and forced togetherness with people that we both love and love to argue with. I’m preparing for my annual trip back to Atlanta where my ENTIRE Southern conservative family still lives. I love them. And we pretty much disagree about everything. (Except barbeque. We all fully support smoked meat).

I’m already feeling a bit low lately with the many bad things happening in the world, so as part of my mental preparation for enduring conversations with loved ones about Trump’s greatness, here are five things that I’m going to do before the end of 2015 to spread a little love, kindness, and cheer.

  1. I know many of us are hemorrhaging money this time of year, but I’m going to find a little bit to donate to an organization I believe is doing good. For me, I think it will be Planned Parenthood.
  2. Read the Humans of New York blog and sign the petition to bring Aya and her family to the U.S.
  3. Read this post about how to be a good non-Muslim ally. Try at least one idea and share the author’s thoughts with others.
  4. Rather than say something rude when someone I love espouses hatred, I’ll grab my phone and answer trivia at freerice.com, where each round helps end world hunger. That’s much better than calling mom racist during a shouting match.
  5. Look at and share these Emergency Kittens. For when I or someone I know needs a smidgen of cheer.

It’s true, doing these five things are not going to change the world. But when we we find ways to do good, to spread love and kindness, and behave the way we would like to see others behave we are setting examples for those who are close to us.

scary-place1

Tactical frivolity

Is it me, or is there a ridiculous level of horrible news stories lately? My usual reaction is to feel outrage, which I will defend: Outrage is an honest and legitimate feeling. But then I read an article about Mary Numair, who single handedly broke up an anti-choice protest in front of a Planned Parenthood. How? By standing beside them yelling “Yeast infection!” and holding a sign thanking Planned Parenthood for helping her with that particular issue. Her description of how the protesters reacted is hilarious.

Photo courtesy of Mary Numair
Photo courtesy of Mary Numair

I love her use of humor (maybe fueled by some internal outrage) in this protest. Turns out there’s a term for this: tactical frivolity. Finding levity in tough situations makes space for us to contemplate them in a way that rage and indignation do not. And using humor can lower defenses and resonate with people in a different way than being confronted with anger or even charts and facts.

Mary Numair’s story was a beautifully timed reminder of this amid a tsunami of heart breaking news. She literally created a safer space for others in a way that was light, funny, and in no way harmful to the other protesters. She sent a loud-and-clear message about an issue that was important to her and it resonated far beyond her community. Fantastic!

I’m going to keep feeling outrage. I need that in my work to end violence against women and girls. But I’m also feeling inspired to figure out some new ways to engage with people. I mean, we all know violence isn’t funny, but perhaps there’s a way to use humor to make the topic more approachable that would ultimately make us more effective. Maybe I’ll ask Mary if she has any ideas.

Back to school!

School has finally started here in Seattle!

giphy

You might have heard that Seattle schools didn’t start on time because the district and the teachers disagreed on several contract issues. So the teachers went on strike for our kids and our schools. As the mother of a first grader I’ve been scrambling to secure child care, but I support our teachers.

The thing that made this strike a bit unusual (as far as teacher strikes go) was the huge amount of support teachers received from parents and communities. I’m not talking about a handful of parents bringing brownies to the picket lines. I’m talking about district-wide grassroots organizing. Parents, students, and community members came out strong—they walked picket lines with teachers, held their own march, and kept teachers supplied with food, water, and that liquid sunshine known as coffee.

Neighborhoods with lots of support trekked across the city to places with less and provided food and supplies there. Neighborhood childcare collectives popped up. An organization started by a couple of parents called Soup for Teachers exploded on Facebook as the place for parents to not only organize lunches for teachers, but also a place for accurate and timely updates on how the negotiations were progressing.

So kids, let’s review what we’ve learned from this strike about community engagement:

  • It’s possible for A LOT of people to come together and rally around an issue that is pressing and important.
  • Community members who are not directly affected will get involved when they understand how others in their community are impacted.
  • When community members show up and do what they can, people get the support they need.

Awesome! Guess what? Violence in our homes is also a pressing and important issue affecting all of us. How can we take what we’ve learned from the strike and apply it to supporting survivors, holding abusers accountable, and promoting healing for all?

A lion’s share of outrage

Photo by Arno Meintjes
Photo by Arno Meintjes

Poor Cecil. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about how Cecil the lion met his sad and painful end. I don’t know what kind of person thinks this kind of violence is fun. I wonder how that dentist from Minnesota treats the humans in his life, but this post is not about him.

It’s about us. I am struck by how many people—on social media, mainstream media, the water cooler—are so vocal about their disgust, shock, and condemnation of the murder of Cecil the lion. Not because their outrage isn’t justified. This was a terrible act. But there is a lot of terrible violence happening right here in our communities every day that I think deserves at least an equal amount of outrage. Some are angry that people are quick to condemn Cecil’s death but not so willing to do the same for other atrocities happening around them. I can respect that anger. And it isn’t an either/or situation. We should be both outraged by what happened to Cecil and about black lives cut short, women and girls being raped…I could go on.

So if you’re feeling that anger, that outrage about Cecil—good! I’ve got five more things that we should muster up that same outrage for:

1) Women of color dying in jail cells—Sandra Bland, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, and many others.

2) The 35 women on the cover of NY Magazine coming forward about being sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the empty chair that represents so many other women and girls who are sexually assaulted every day.

3) The dreadful conditions that exist in Family Detention Centers and the continuing struggles of immigrant women and children who flee violence in their families and countries.

4) Transgender women are being killed at alarming rates.

5) Thousands of women across the country and here in Washington State are being abused by partners who promised to love them.

Last week my fearless coworker Tyra Lindquist had some excellent thoughts about how to fight injustice. Today we are talking about Step 1: Pay attention and get fired up. If we can do it for a lion, we can do it for each other.

I just can’t even…

Today I saw the story of a woman who was shot and killed by her (recently) ex-husband who is a police officer. And I got angry and started to write about how leaving an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous time, and about how the news reports didn’t even call this domestic violence. I started to write about how this murderer’s fellow officers saw the whole awful scene take place and waited it out for 30 minutes, so they could end this situation without using deadly force despite the fact that he was yelling and brandishing his gun. I probably don’t need to tell you that he is white. But as I wrote, I got so depressed about the amount of work we need to do to end the violence. Sometimes it’s hard to stay hopeful.

So I just can’t write that post today. Instead I’m going to tell you how excited I am about a 5K run. (For those of you who know me, you can pick yourself up off the floor. I still only run if being chased and occasionally for the bus).

For the 4th year, WSCADV in partnership with the Seattle Mariners is hosting a 5K run/walk at Safeco Field. Yes, it’s a fundraiser. But it’s really turned out to be so much more. Over a thousand people come together on one day—some because they love to run, some because they have a personal connection to the issue—to have fun and rally for healthy relationships. How great is that?! One runner said “By far the most fun event all year!” See? Working to change this culture of violence doesn’t have to be depressing. I am excited because the hope that springs from the Goodwill Refuse To Abuse 5K at Safeco Field will refuel me. It will inspire others. Bringing people together to have fun and talk about healthy relationships is a great way to carry on the conversations that we want—no need—to be having to change the culture of violence.

From the Supreme Court to the WNBA

ruthshirtLast week I was eagerly anticipating the gay marriage arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court. I even bought this shirt because I’m a big nerd who could listen to Nina Totenberg on NPR recount Supreme Court arguments all day long and I’m a big fan of justice. But when I went to check my news feed, I saw the news of the domestic violence arrests of engaged WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson instead.

I know that abuse happens at the same rate in same-sex relationships as it does in opposite-sex ones, but some folks are thrown off by this. The media had a hard time figuring out how to talk about it. ESPN reporters published their email chain debating how to cover it: How could they report on this in a way that holds the abusive partner accountable and calls for the WNBA to treat this as seriously as other sports leagues have recently promised to do, without feeding into the myth that women are just as abusive as men? Yeah, they didn’t come up with an answer either.

Here’s the thing—power and domination over others is a part of our culture and it rears its ugly head in a lot of different places. We are seeing it in the police brutality in Baltimore and around the country, in the wage gap between races and genders, and in the anti-LGBT backlash to marriage equality. With all this institutional violence it’s no wonder we see abuse in personal relationships as well. Straight or gay, it happens. Not exactly the kind of equality I was hoping for, but one we must recognize and address.

Striving to improve personal behavior is not the only work to be done to end violence in relationships. We have to work on institutional violence as well.

So, you’re a feminist

What’s the deal with so-called male feminists? You know who I’m talking about. Men who say they support women, call for equal pay and wear Pro-Choice tees and then get caught for sexual harassment. Or the guy that’s shocked by the “obvious misinterpretation” of what he’s doing and is like “But I love women! Look at my t-shirt—solidarity, sister! We’re cool, right?” WRONG.

 

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of great dudes out there. Some who truly understand feminism and act on behalf of the rights of women. What does that dude look like? Here are my thoughts:

  • He makes space to amplify the voices of the women in the room. This means consciously not talking or offering his commentary on everything the women say, even if it’s supportive. We don’t need your constant approval, dude.
  • He refrains from making sexist jokes and remarks (which means he knows what would constitute a sexist joke or remark), and he lets other dudes know that it’s not cool when they do.
  • He makes space to include women in places where they are absent in ways that are not patronizing or disrespectful.
  • He offers support to women-centered organizations, asks how he can help, and does not take the lead.

I’d like to see more dude feminists step up. And being a feminist does not mean declaring it from the mountain top—actions speak much louder than words. When men support women to be heard and respected, abuse of women will have less and less space to exist. It won’t be tolerated. It will be stopped before it gets dangerous. There will be powerful social consequences for abusers. I’m looking forward to that.