Tag Archives: feminism

Anger

Anger is a powerful force for change.

That’s what Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach told me yesterday.  Well, me and a room full of a few hundred people.

It was a message gratefully received, because good Lord am I angry.  I have anger to spare. 

The world seems to be on fire — literally, in the case of the UN climate change report — and I am irate.  It feels sometimes like anger is impotence, like I am screaming, both mentally and physically, into a void of indifference.  Like nothing I can do will change the problems I see all around me.

But sometimes you just need a reminder: your anger is justified, it is not useless, and with it you can change the goddamn world.

We live in a society that values men over women.  This is a BIG PROBLEM.  It’s a problem that fuels my rage.  This problem makes me the Hulk, a rage monster of superhuman size that just wants to smash everything.  Every single thing. 

I have spoken to men in the last few weeks who quite easily give a man the benefit of the doubt when accused of sexual assault, but refuse to see that in doing so, they deny the woman accusing him that same benefit.  I have spoken to men who say they “believe” that the woman was a victim, but that they don’t believe she knows who her assaulter was even though she says she knows it with 100% certainty. These men are fools enough not to be able to see that those two things are mutually exclusive: you cannot believe the woman if you don’t believe the woman.  MEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE SEXIST AND MISOGYNISTIC AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE.

I have spoken to women in the last few weeks who say things like “what was she wearing? what did she expect would happen going off with teenage boys who were drinking?” in reference to a woman being sexually assaulted. WOMEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE BRAINWASHED BY A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE. 

So instead I turn around and I look at my family to make sure I am raising a generation that knows freaking better.  That I have a daughter who knows that she even if she were to walk naked and drunk down Broadway, no one has the right to touch her without her consent because her body is her body.  That I have sons who understand that they must respect every. other. body. on. earth. and keep their hands to themselves and that no means no and that they will always, always be the only ones responsible for their actions and nothing anyone else says or wears or does will excuse them if they act wrong.  That I have children who know that not all other children will have been taught these things and that it might be up to my children to tell their peers if the things their peers say or do are not okay. 

I cannot fix the broken people who believe that victims are to blame for the actions of assaulters, but I can make goddamn sure that my own children will be better than that. 

(And I can vote out every last representative who doesn’t support the Equal Rights Amendment, who gives the benefit of the doubt to assaulters instead of victims, and who doesn’t actively and overtly call out and work against the misogyny and sexism inherent in the system.  My kids aren’t old enough to vote yet, so they can’t do this.  This is my job.)

The world is facing catastrophic climate change in the next decade.  This is a BIG PROBLEM– maybe the biggest of all because if we don’t fix this one, the rest won’t matter.  Bridget and I were talking about the UN report on climate change and I told her that it said we basically have until 2030 to reverse the course of doom we’re currently on, and even then we can only do it with massive wholesale societal changes worldwide.  In 2030 she’ll be 26 years old.  This is her life we’re talking about saving, and the lives of her brothers.  The lives of any grandchildren I ever hope to have.  It seems insurmountable and the reality of it brings a huge heaving wave of anxiety and hopelessness and rage up in my body that I can taste.

But thank god for the sense and rationality of my daughter, who said the best thing to do is just start: we examine what OUR family can do to change any habits we have that might make even the most infinitesimal difference.  And then we mention to our friends what we’re doing and maybe they make a few small changes.  And maybe it adds up.  We start small and we scale.  She is smarter than me and maybe a bit naive, but her response gives me a chance to breathe.

(We also vote out every last candidate who doesn’t include as a foundation of their electoral platform a larger-scale plan to address the very real threat we face.  But Bridget can’t do that; she’s only 14.  That part is my job.)

We live in a country where nearly 100 people die every single day as the result of gun violence.  We live in a country with a population of 300M people and an estimated 393M guns in circulation.  There are more civilian-owned guns than people in the United States. We live in a country where my children do lockdown drills during school and tell me that they stand near the red dot on the floor because, as Owen says, it’s the place least visible from windows and doors so the shooter wouldn’t have a good line of sight to shoot them, and Quinn adds in that they have to be really, really quiet when they stand there so a shooter can’t hear them.  My imagination plays pictures in my mind of bullets ripping through the bodies of my babies in their classrooms and I have to leave the room to take deep breaths and wipe the tears off my cheeks before I continue our conversation. 

That there are people who believe that their right to own any weapon they choose supersedes my children’s right to LIVE IN SAFETY fills me with enough blind rage that I know I should never own a firearm myself.  So I joined Mom’s Demand Action and I will go to meetings and stand in the State House and host events teaching people how we can respect the second amendment and still create a safer place to live for every person. 

(And I will vote out every single elected official who doesn’t have an F-rating from the NRA, and who doesn’t support common sense gun laws that would mean my children don’t have to stand on a red dot and wait to be shot in school.  My kids can’t do this yet, but I will do it.  And everyone I know will know I am doing it and will know that if they aren’t also doing it, I believe they are actively putting my children in daily danger.)

Since I can remember, I have looked around and wondered why other people weren’t as bothered as I am by the problems all around us.  Why everyone isn’t constantly enraged too.  I have no memory of not feeling like this and I have absolutely no ability to turn it off.  I learned to hide it in order to operate like a normal human in an abnormal world, but all that does is push my rage down inside, it doesn’t extinguish it.  I don’t have anxiety over small things, but I have massive anxiety over the big things: the societal problems, the global issues.  The things I’m least able to change.  I swallowed my rage for decades in order to not seem like a crazy person.  But the state of the world has made me realize, along with the thoughtful and inspirational words I hear from women and men who want to create change: my anger is my power.  And it’s time to use it.

March

Despite the cold and wet and snow, despite a train cancellation that added 90 minutes to our journey, despite a million other things we could have been doing on a Sunday afternoon after a busy week, yesterday the six of us made our way into London for the Women’s March. 

It was my babies’ first protest.  Not their last though, I’m willing to bet. 

When I first mentioned I’d like to go, Matt of course was all for it.  Love that man.  Bridget was ALL for it. Quinn was all for it, in his absolute unwavering happiness to do whatever it is we’re going to do.  Gabe and Owen were not as convinced.  But mama was adamant, and so we went.

It was COLD in London yesterday.  And so wet. But we made our way to Downing Street and saw the crowd and heard the chants and read the signs and it was all worth it.  My boys were ALL IN then. 

They chanted.  “We want justice, not revenge.”

“Time’s Up” they cheered. 

Bridget took the good camera, because she’s a good photographer and I am not, and wound her way as far into the crowd as she could get without losing sight of us, snapping pics all the while. 

And then it snowed, but not a light, dry snow.  Big, fat, wet flakes mixed with big, fat raindrops made a sloppy mess of the sidewalks.  And my children stood shivering and uncomplaining in a crowd of people who were all there to make a point and make a difference.

But a mama can only ask so much, and so we cut out after about 45 minutes and made our way 15 minutes across the Thames to Wagamama for a bowl of warm ramen.  And the restaurant was closed.  But the one wayyyyy back where we’d started was open, according to the sign.  I felt so guilty — we’d walked a long way and it was cold and windy and snowy and rainy and everyone was damp.  And they were all out there because of me, mostly.   

“Nevertheless, we persist!” Gabe shouted out.  The kids all cheered. 

I’m not gonna lie, I almost cried.  I held it together though, and Matt and I grinned at each other, and we rallied.  We walked back across town to the open Wagamama, ate our lovely spicy ramen, and warmed our freezing fingers and toes.

It was a good day.  One of those days that makes me proud to be their mother, proud to be his wife, and excited to see what the future holds for these babies who are paying attention and want to make a difference.

Harassed

Matt and I went in to London last weekend to see a show in the West End.  When the play let out we walked through Leicester Square toward the underground station to get the train home, stopping at a shop so Matt could grab a coffee for the trip.

I waited outside because the shop was teeny-tiny, texting with Bridget to double check that everything was good at home and to let her know that we were heading to the train.

As I stood alone outside the shop, head down, focused on the phone in my hand, a man came up and got right in my space, directly in front of me, basically forcing me to look up.  I gave a small smile initially, because I don’t immediately assume people’s intentions are bad and maybe he needed directions or something.

He said hi and I said hi.  And then he just started talking at me.  It became obvious that he didn’t need help, he was just there to speak to me.  I was not interested, so I forced another tight-lipped smile and did my best to make it clear through my body language that I didn’t want to continue the conversation.  Multiple times I said “no thanks”, shook my head, indicated I was not interested in speaking to him. 

He stood right in front of me though, right in my personal space, talking at me.  He wasn’t drunk or unkempt.  He was well-dressed, coherent, aware of what he was doing. 

Then he took a clear plastic bottle out of his pocket and motioned toward me with it, and I immediately and clearly said, “I don’t know what that is, don’t put that on me or near me.”

I wasn’t loud but I wasn’t quiet.

“Oh,” he replied, laughing like we were in on a joke together, “this is just anti-bacterial stuff,” and he put it on his hands and rubbed it in and offered his hand to shake mine. 

“I don’t know what that is,” I repeated.  “Don’t touch me please.”

He laughed again.  I was not smiling.  “Do not touch me” I repeated when he stuck his hand out to shake again. 

He took the bottle back out of his pocket to show me that it was anti-bacterial gel.  “In case you’re dirty,” he said to me, a grin on his face.

I am not even sure what facial expression I made at that unbelievable statement.  In my head I was screaming “get the absolute fuck away from me”, but my face mustn’t have matched my thoughts, because he repeated himself, like it was cute and I was supposed to laugh and immediately want to then shake his hand.

“In case you’re dirty, for when we shake hands,” he said again.

“DO. NOT. TOUCH. ME.” I said again.  Still not loud, but loud enough and clear enough that my feelings were unmistakable.

Still, he stood in my face.  Right in my face, hand outstretched.

I flicked my eyes up over his shoulder to where Matt stood in the coffee shop and made eye contact with my husband.  The man turned around to follow my gaze and saw Matt and — boom, he was gone instantly.  Disappeared.

Matt raised his eyebrows at me and mouthed “Are you okay?”.

I nodded and grimaced and rolled my eyes.  I was fine.  I had never been scared or intimidated, I had just been annoyed and frustrated.  And now I was PISSED.

I had made it crystal clear through my body language and my words that I did not want that man to talk to me or touch me.  I was not quiet or shy or apologetic.  I was vocal and clear and adamant.  It’s taken me a long time to get to a point in my life where I am not apologetic or conciliatory in a situation like that.  But I’m there now, and I won’t feel badly about saying I want to be left alone.

But this guy did not care.  He was unfazed by the fact that I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to be engaged by him.  Not one thing I said mattered to him.  The word “no” did not matter to him.

My husband standing 15 feet away, though, without making a sound or a face or a move, was enough to make him leave.

I am still irate about it, nearly a week later.   Anger actually seems like my permanent emotion these days.  Why wasn’t it enough that I had said no?  What else could I have done to make him go away?

I know the answer to those questions already: that guy was going to keep trying to engage me until I gave in and went along.  I would have had to have made a scene, actually yelled or screamed at him or physically moved away in order to make him stop.

I don’t know what his ultimate intentions were, but it doesn’t matter.  My intention was to be left alone.  It pisses me off that my clear expressions that I wanted him to go away weren’t enough; that Matt’s presence, though, was a deterrent. 

My wishes didn’t matter, but my husband’s did.

I wasn’t assaulted.  I wasn’t abused.  Nothing truly bad happened to me.  It certainly was not the first or even the tenth or probably even the hundredth time in my life that something like that has happened.  It definitely wasn’t the worst.

But I am so goddamned tired of it.

There are very few men who have ever been in the position I was in, faced with a harasser who will not leave you alone despite your very clear statements that you want to be left alone, a harasser who is bigger and stronger than you, and who you cannot make stop on your own.  This is not a concern that exists within the consciousness of most men. 

And sadly, there’s probably not a woman alive who hasn’t been in that position at least once, probably more than that.  We have all learned to be on the lookout for inevitable harassment: we walk in groups, accompany each other to the ladies’ room, carry our keys between our clenched fingers, and we’re relieved when it’s just words and not physical actions that we have to deal with.

I am tired of feeling like I am crazy for my strong reactions when men say stuff like “not all men” or when they question what rights, exactly, women don’t have.  I didn’t even have the right to stand quietly alone outside a coffee shop texting my daughter without being molested by some creep who wouldn’t stop bothering me even when I told him to. 

I’m lucky to have a husband who knows why that pisses me off and who understands why, although I’m grateful his presence scared that asshole off, I am angry to my core that it was Matt who made him leave and not me. 

I’m grateful that Matt doesn’t say stupid stuff like “I’ll protect you” when something like this happens.  That he knows I don’t want to HAVE to be protected.  I just want to be treated with respect and not have to rely on someone else to have that happen.

I don’t have answers, just anger.  I don’t have a better response for next time this happens, except maybe to go right ahead and make a big scene instead of hoping that my words alone will be enough to stop someone. 

I just want things to be different.  I’m done being apologetic or conciliatory or allowing for excuses.  I won’t be quiet.  I won’t even be loud.  I will be deafening.

Things have to change.

I will no longer accept the things I cannot change, I will change the things I cannot accept.

–Angela Davis

Photo creds to my brilliant friend J. Hayhurst.  From the Boston Women’s March, January 2017.

 

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A Woman’s Work: Samantha

Samantha is my baby sister, but she’s not a baby anymore.  She is thirty, a new mom, and an entrepreneur, although she probably hates that term.  Sam was born when I was just shy of my 8th birthday, so I’ve always thought of her as little.  She’s not though, she’s a full-fledged grown up.  (She probably also hates that term!)  It’s really amazing from my perspective as the big sister to look at how she’s made these unexpected and really cool decisions about what she’s going to do and how she’s going to do it.  She just impresses me. 

She’s not necessarily doing something she expected to do, but she’s doing something she loves — which is way more important.

1) What is your job?

I am a new mom, and also one of the owners of a restaurant called Dillon’s Local in downtown Plymouth, MA.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

I double majored in history and political science at Umass Amherst — and I have the student loans to prove it — but after college I worked for years as a bartender and waitress.  I was employed at so many different places, and always thought I would eventually leave the service industry, but I was having fun and not ready to stop doing what I was doing and look for a 9-5 job.  I figured I would use my degree eventually, but the longer I worked in restaurants and the more I learned the intricacies of the business, the more I fell in love with it. I did not, however, love working for absentee owners or in huge restaurants with way too many employees. While working at a nearby bar & grille, I met my now-fiance, Colin.  Together we decided to try this whole restaurant thing for ourselves. For years we essentially ran bars and restaurants for other people…so we figured, why not do it our way?! 

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

In high school I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, then during and immediately after college I worked at low-paying or volunteer internships and I substitute taught for a while.  But I always had the bar industry as a fall back — it’s hard to walk away from leaving work with cash in hand and switch to waiting for a paycheck!  I worked at small bars, huge restaurants, dives, fine dining establishments, and everything in between. One year I worked at at least five different places. I was sick of bouncing around, and so was Colin. So we worked together and saved up all our money and took the risk!  We are now co-owners of our own place (along with our Head Chef), and we work for ourselves and do things the way we think they should be done.  But, just to complicate our venture, I found out I was pregnant about one month after we opened our restaurant.  Surprise!  Colin and I had to shift gears a bit — we went from opening a business and a follow-your-dreams mentality to working for something even more important: our son.

4) What do you love about your job?

I love everything about my job — both jobs!  I love being a mom, even though it’s still new to me. John Francis is only 7 months old so I am definitely still learning.  My outside job is the most rewarding one I could have ever imagined for myself.  I never thought I would be a business owner, but it suits me (and Colin) well.  I get to socialize and talk to my friends and strangers all day.  I get to run a restaurant with my partner how we think it should be run.  It’s nice not to have to follow someone else’s rules.  We get to be creative and we get to set the standards ourselves.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

I was broke for years after college! I’m still broke, but it’s for a good reason now. Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Bouncing from job to job was torturous. Working for someone else was never what I wanted. I do not like to be bossed around!  So now that I get to make the decisions, I am much happier.

6) Has becoming a parent changed your perspective on work?

Becoming a parent has changed my perspective on everything in life!  Gone are the days when I came first.  Now everything I do is for my little guy.  I’m still up all night, but it’s a much different scene.  I went from a pretty carefree existence to one that is way more worthwhile and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I’m new to the whole mom thing, but so far I think the best advice I’ve received is to RELAX.  I’m going to mess stuff up in work and at home, and it’s going to be okay.  I’m still struggling to balance my schedule, so I’ll take any advice I can get on that!  I’m pretty much winging it…but so far it’s going pretty well!

*********************

Sam is managing a crazy new life in a pretty chill way — in the course of a single year, she became a self-employed business owner AND a new mother.  But she is happy and content and confident and it’s so clear that she loves her life.  Even when things get stressful, she gets over any momentary freak-outs, straightens up, and moves on to make things work.  And you know things can get stressful when you’re running a business and taking care of an infant!  (In my highly unbiased opinion, though, John Francis is basically one of the sweetest and cutest babies ever to grace the face of the earth, so that has to make things easier!)

The thing that makes me happiest reading Sam’s words is this: “Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much.”  It is absolutely true that doing something you truly enjoy makes all the hardships worthwhile.  And I love seeing my sister so happy and so fulfilled. 

And you guys, Dillon’s Local is seriously awesome — right on the water in Plymouth, MA, it’s a cool, cozy, unpretentious place and the food and drinks are seriously AMAZING.  They’ve already won awards for best local bar and been featured in the Boston Globe and at the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival at Fenway Park in Boston.  So not only are Sam and Colin happy, they’re also killing it in a very competitive industry.  I’m so proud of them both.  If you’re ever in Plymouth, MA, you should totally go eat there.

Thank you Sam for taking the time in what I know is an insanely busy life to answer these questions!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”? Shoot me an email at

jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

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