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North and South

It’s raining here, softly but firmly, and Wendy Davis is filibustering in Texas.

She’s speaking in a low, quiet voice in the other tab, talking about admitting privileges, standing quietly as Senators raise points of order, resuming her flood of speech flawlessly when the floor is returned to her. Her voice is calm and clear, measured, thoughtful, as she explains a subsection of SB5. My Twitter is flooded with commentary on Davis, on SB5, on reproductive rights. The Texas Senate is filled with people in orange, most of them women, coming out in droves to support the right to choose; to refuse the restrictions on abortion services embedded in SB5, the attempt to deprive them of access to basic medical services.

The past few years have been particularly bad ones when it comes to reproductive autonomy. (Continued)

Kiera Wilmot: The Future of Feminism

A steady diet of science fiction has got me looking toward the stars. I think about it a lot. I look around trying to see the future of our planet and this is a definite step in the wrong direction:

Kiera Wilmot was arrested April 22 for two felonies after school administrators reported she combined toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a bottle, and the resulting gas blew the cap off the plastic bottle.

She was quoted as saying “she didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” Whether or not she meant to hurt anyone is clearly beside the point: she should have been given better stewardship. The school should more clearly outline the rules of experiments:

  • Wear safety goggles
  • Know where the eyewash station, the fire extinguishers, the first aid kits are.
  • Never start an experiment without a clear hypothesis.
This is super simple stuff. Every science class starts out with a handout on it, outlying the dangers. If smart, bright, intelligent girls like Kiera don’t know this, we need make sure we aren’t putting them at risk for failure or even worse, expulsion.

When I was in 9th grade I had a crotchety old science teacher for my mentor. He said “cool beans” a lot, a habit I picked up and used for years. I used to wear long sleeve shirts under short sleeve shirts and when the schools “Dress Like a Weirdo” day came around, he called it “Dress like Garland Grey day.” He made a science seem like an adventure.

I wasn’t always the hardest worker — homework was my Achilles’ heel — but when I failed his class he told me I could do a report on sheep to make it up. He was a sheep rancher and the topic interested him, and thats why I know so much about the subject today.

Science has been one of the most powerful forces for good in my life, but it can’t flourish if the education system isn’t nurturing girls like Kiera. We need to find a way to make education come alive for kids, otherwise we’ll never be able to compete in a global economy.

How to Cook Brown Rice

Cooking was never a very high priority in my household. Until my brother got married and met his wife, the only thing any of us knew how to cook well was my Dad’s celebrated spaghetti sauce, and not very well. When I moved in with my Mee Mee to take care of her after she had a fall, I had to learn a whole lot. I watched demonstrations of the oxygen tubes she needed so she could breathe — the bubbler that kept her sinuses from drying out, the machine that pulled in air and turned it into pure O2 — I swept her porch just like when I was a little boy, and I cooked her breakfast every single day.

She was my Mee Mee, I thought cooking for her would be impossible. She was the best cook in the world; that’s a tough act to follow.

So I made her breakfast that first day. The eggs ran, the potatoes were unyielding. I put the plate in front of her expecting the worst  – “Here Mee Mee, have a disaster.”

And she didn’t hate it. So I got back on the horse and tried again. Each time I did I learned a something new. Now, cooking brown rice isn’t simple, but it is same basic process. The easiest way to cook brown rice is with a rice cooker. I know, a rice cooker is expensive, food deserts exist, access is important. If you cannot buy a rice cooker, here is the basic starter recipe:

  • The ratio of water to rice is 1 cup rice to 1.5 cups water
  • Set your burner to medium, get the water to a boil. Add the rice. Let it simmer for 20 minutes. Put a lid on off-kilter so the steam can vent.
  • What you are looking for is the point when the rice looks like it has absorbed all the water and there are holes spaced evenly around the pot.
Okay now, the first time you are going to be rubbish at it. That’s totally fine. The first time I handed that plate to my Mee Mee she didn’t throw it across the room like a prima donna, or log on to Yelp to tear me a new one, she told me she liked it.
Once you have a pot of brown rice, you need to get it in some oil. Cooked brown rice has no flavor so start with aromatics. Aromatics are anything that gives off a smell when you cook them onions, bell peppers etc. etc. — and you cook those until you can smell it wafting. Then you add the rice. Push it around the pan to coat it in oil. I always put on music or a podcast to pass the time — try not to make it simple drudgery.
After the rice has started to soften you can add an egg. Pile all the rice on one side of the pan and crack an egg on top. The egg white will cover the rice, then you break the yolk. You can just crack the egg directly into the pan but then it is all moist and has a weird mouthfeel. Cover the rice in egg white, then cover it in yolk, then add whatever you want. Hot sauce has always worked for me, salt and pepper are a must.

Once you have the basic recipe down, then you experiment. Some things are going to be yucky, some will be delicious. Adding a pat of butter at the end makes it taste like something you’d get at a restaurant. There. You know how to cook brown rice.

Choice, neoliberal, libertarian feminism and intersectionality bullies

When Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, came out I didn’t have much to say. I just scribbled a short comment on my personal blog about the fact that capitalist feminism is being presented as “the neutral” and everything else outside this paradigm needs to be qualified. Instead of writing something myself (which I couldn’t do as I was dealing with some pressing stuff), I recommended people read two pieces that more or less articulated what I would have said, had I written about the book (in fairness, my writing is a lot more fragmented and less articulate so read this statement as: what I would have said, had I been as articulate as these two women). Namely, I thought that both Sarah Jaffe at Dissent and Melissa Gira Grant at The Washington Post were expressing many of my ideas around Sandberg’s book.

(Continued)

Modern Love

I. Microcosms

She’s antiabortion, and a photographer. He thinks flag burning is more offensive than book burning, but he would never date a law enforcement officer. He says jealousy is healthy in relationships. He ‘don’t got good pix right now’ and he’s just here for some casual sex. She’s got a warm smile and says she’ll fill this out ‘real soon.’ He writes that he’s caretaking a friend’s pot farm, and oh, by the way, do you have a car? He’s very horny. Always. She likes salsa dance and karoake.

I don’t know why I feel myself compelled, pulled back to these tiny, carefully-structured narratives day after day, fascinated by them. They are little biographies of the ordinary and the hungry, people looking for something many of them will never find, because it exists only in their minds. Sometimes I think about messaging them.

‘Why are you okay with book burning?’ I want to ask. ‘Can you explain the logic behind thinking that a girl having sex with more than 100 people is not okay, but it’s fine if it’s a guy?’ ‘Why do you think there are circumstances in which someone would be obligated to have sex with you?’

My hand hovers over the keyboard, but I wisely move away. (Continued)

NPR joins liberal attacks on disabled people

The emails have been arriving steadily. Subject line: ‘Thought you might be interested in this’ ‘Have you seen NPR’s story on disability?’ ‘Thoughts on this?’ ‘Saw this, thought of you’ ‘WTF is wrong with this story?!’ ‘Wait, how much of this is actually accurate?’ The content is sometimes just a single link, to This American Life’s six-part series on disability in America, picked up by Planet Money and All Things Considered. Sometimes there are a few lines of commentary, but not usually.

In a nutshell, the series tells listeners that the number of people on disability in the United States are skyrocketing, and that this is due to some sort of stealthy scheme to work the system.

And people on all sides of the political divide, but especially the right, are eating it up, despite the flood of stories attempting to counter the numerous factual, ethical, journalistic, and social problems with this story, how it’s reported, and how Chana Joffe-Walt chose to interpret the data available to her. It’s quite clear that she went looking for a particular story and conclusion, and she got exactly what she wanted. In the process, she contributed to familiar hateful rhetoric about disability in the United States, and what it means to be disabled.  (Continued)

A Love Song, with Tegan and Sara

All you think of lately is

getting underneath me

All I dream of lately

is how to get you underneath me

Tegan & Sara, “Closer”

 

This could be any love song, but it’s our love song.

(Continued)

Enough with Jon Hamm’s penis already!

The internet loves Jon Hamm’s penis. Women, I am told, heterosexual women, that is, cannot stop gazing Jon Hamm’s penis. Even feminists seem to love Jon Hamm’s penis! The penis is courted by underwear manufacturers to showcase their “product”.  The penis is said to be too big for clothes! So much so that it needs airbrushing! It’s like a penis for every woman’s taste, a penis of mainstream appeal, a penis, if you will, to end all man hating feminist penis envies!

It so happens that said penis is also attached to a human being: a cisgender, white, heterosexual, conventionally handsome, successful man. Namely, the penis belongs to Jon Hamm. And Jon Hamm is not happy with all the attention his genitalia is getting. Anna Klassen, at the Daily Beast, reports:

Jon Hamm would like you to focus on his face please and stop thinking those dirty thoughts. In a Rolling Stone interview posted online Wednesday, the actor asked everyone please to stop talking about his penis. A New York Daily News report claimed that the producers of Mad Men asked Hamm to start wearing underwear because his “impressive anatomy is so distracting” in the season’s tight pants. Hamm acknowledged that “most” of the comments about his package are “tongue-in-cheek,” but called them “a little rude.” “But when people feel the freedom to create Tumblr accounts about my cock, I feel that wasn’t part of the deal … but whatever.”

(Continued)

Horse meat, gender and food sovereignty

There is a food safety scandal sweeping Europe since the second week of 2013. Every week has brought more chilling details of how tainted our food production is and how we, as consumers, have our agency removed by fraudulent corporations that show utter disregard for our autonomy and right to choose what we eat. The scandal has been mostly focused on mislabeled food products containing horse meat while they were (probably still are) sold as beef. The responses to the scandal have ranged from baffling to downright complicit, with numerous “experts” bringing up the “silly” cultural taboos behind eating or not eating a certain product. At the Globe and Mail, one such expert says:

“It is completely irrational,” says Pierre Desrochers, who teaches food-policy courses at the University of Toronto, when I phone to ask him about the origins of culinary taboos. Prof. Desrochers grew up eating horse in Quebec, and it was quite nice. “What’s the difference between a horse and a goat?”

Europeans commenting on internet sites (from Gawker to local news sources) are similarly nonplused, their responses best summed as “who cares? horse is delicious anyway! I eat horse” etc

The issue, however, isn’t about “enjoying” horse meat or merely about being fed a type of meat without one’s knowledge. This is also about food sovereignty and our right to decide for ourselves and our families what we consume. This is, undisputedly, a feminist issue.

(Continued)

Here I am. Fatigue, depression and infertility

I sit here typing and deleting, typing and deleting, again, another try. I keep thinking I need to go back to writing, to thinking out loud, to sharing because at this stage in my life, this is the only thing I know how to do.

I take a breath and I type.

I was once an illegal alien in The Netherlands. I was once pregnant. I was once reported to immigration services by a Dutch woman who knew I was both illegal and pregnant. I was once detained. I was once denied medical care while in a deportation center. I was once deported. I had a miscarriage (the baby was dead, I had a botched clean up procedure in an understaffed and badly maintained hospital in a suburb of Buenos Aires). I am now sterile.

That was fifteen years ago and this is now.

There, I typed it. That’s my story in a nutshell. And it’s the most difficult thing I ever typed in my life.

(Continued)