Get-out-WHICH-vote?

Photo by Fiona B.

Ilene told me, that her mother told her, that she has a friend who said her husband tells her how to vote.

I have no right to find that alarming. Because if it were legal for me to wed my girlfriend of 26 years and make her my wife, I too would be guilty of telling my wife how to vote.

Basically what I have going on here is a glorious mental gyration where I think a man who tells his wife how to vote will steer her wrong. But a lovely twist of internalized sexism gets me thinking “if he were, by some miracle, a feminist, it would be okay for him to tell her how to vote.” Meanwhile, if I, as a woman, tell my wife how to vote, I’d automatically be casting two votes in women’s interest.

Ha!

I got a total kick out of reading Erin Gloria Ryan today. She is one funny woman and if you have not had a good laugh recently read What the hell does ‘the women’s vote’ even mean?

Apparently what is true is true. Women vote all over the map. Men vote all over the map. And if anyone were to parse out the voters who identify as neither a woman nor a man, we’d find out this demographic votes all over the map.

If we plant those facts pretty squarely in our thinking, how would we proceed in the upcoming election to get-out-the-vote? Say we wanted to re-weave the safety net, work for nation-wide and world peace, bring respectful dialog back into civic life, and lots of other things that are good for women and children. How could we attract voters of like mind? And I mean voters who actually, you know, vote.

I would sure love to hear your opinion about that. Could you vote if you wanted to? Do you? Do you know people who care about women’s issues who could vote, but don’t? Shed some light on this.

My dirty laundry is a national debate

They told us in law school that we the people drive how laws are shaped. For some of us, this notion does not feel real, and so we distance ourselves from political debates on things like violence against women and marriage equality. But these aren’t just political issues. They are connected to our everyday life and to each other.

I was talking to a family member about how frustrating it is that my mother is pressuring me to marry an Indian man. After a lengthy conversation, her response in ‘my support’ was that she doesn’t care who her daughter marries, as long as she marries a man. Later she said she would accept and love me even if I were single or gay. I would have thought that was a very progressive thing to say―about a decade ago―and would have probably said something similar myself. Now I see the sexism, racism, and homophobia in this snippet.

I am very clear that it is through conversations with friends and family that we can make a difference. Even when it doesn’t seem like I am getting through to them, I keep the conversations going. I tell my family that although I know that my getting married is important to them, I am not willing to do it any cost. I tell them about all of my friends: single, married, gay, straight. I refuse to choose one segment of my life over another. And the more of us who keep having these honest conversations, the more change we’ll see in the national dialogue as well.

Occupy yourself

I’m on fire about Occupy Wall Street.

As a child of the 60’s, I will always love a good demonstration.

Occupy!

As a child of a high school English teacher, I will always love words.

Occupy.

From my earliest years, my mom never talked down to me. She always used really big words. A deer in the headlights, I’d ask “what does that mean?” She’d say “go look it up” failing to notice that I was only 4 years old and didn’t know how to read yet.

Happily, I can read now and dictionary definitions offer hours of gleeful irony.

Occupy.

Merriam-Webster’s says occupy means “to reside in as an owner or tenant.” Is Occupy Wall Street asking whether we own our democracy? I find myself inspired by this cartoon I saw on Facebook to ask a much more personal question. Am I, the woman writing this blog, the owner of my own body?

Because I wear neither a bikini nor a burka, I can pretend that I am not occupied by the patriarchy just like I used to think that Wall Street didn’t affect my life. But that would be ridiculous. Of course I am. We all see very clearly now how Wall Street impacts us. I want everyone to come to the same realization about the impact of sexism.

I challenge and cheer all women who are participating on Wall Street and in all the other towns across the land. Shout about your experiences of sexism in every conversation, every chant. Help your sisters and brothers make the connection between how much you earn, what you can provide for your kids, and who decided your wages and if you have ANY access to the healthcare you need.

Women unite. Stop paying rent for something you already own.

Occupy!

The gay agenda

Last month, I celebrated along with 53% of Americans when New York became the 6th state to legalize gay marriage. But while I cheered the happy gay couples, another part of my brain is ambivalent about the victory. After all, the institution of marriage has a sordid history—from sexist wedding rituals to cultural and legal ties that keep women trapped with abusers. And getting married means more housework for women and less for men.

At the same time, marriage brings benefits that LGBT folks have been denied. And full access to marriage (and divorce) removes one strand from the web of homophobia, sexism, and racism that batterers can use to control their partners. For example:

  • When a couple’s relationship is publically acknowledged and celebrated, homophobia loses its power to isolate LGBT people from the support of their family and friends. This means they have more help—both to have great relationships and when violence happens.
  • We know that child custody issues are a major barrier to leaving an abuser. And for LGBT parents, marriage means that the non-biological parent is more likely to have their parental rights recognized by family courts, schools, and health care providers.

Right wing rhetoric claims that the mere act of gay couples saying “I do” is enough to upend the institution of marriage. If only radical social change was that simple! I’m rooting for a day when we achieve marriage equality and much more—economic justice for women; healthy, equitable relationships for everyone; and public policies that support all families, married or not.