5 Do’s and Don’ts For Communicating With The Chronically Ill

dos-and-donts

When you love someone who’s chronically ill, it’s hard to see them in pain and you (naturally) want to help. But intent is not the same as impact. Sometimes your well-intentioned efforts to assist can result in our feeling frustrated that you just don’t “get it.”  Follow these Do’s and Don’ts to improve communication with the chronically ill person in your life.

Do’s:

1. Actively listen to us. Give us your full attention without rehearsing what you’re going to say. Let there be silences and pauses in between our sentences without making us feel rushed. Try not to insert a story about yourself or how our pain reminds you of someone else.  Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give us.

2. Be empathetic. Empathy is not the same as Sympathy. Empathy involves perspective-taking, staying out of judgment, recognizing & communicating emotion, and “feeling with” the other person. Empathy fuels connection, but Sympathy drives disconnection. The following video aptly conveys the difference.

Empathy Vs. Sympathy

3. Respect the struggles we deal with. Approach the chronically ill like a soldier returning from war. Recognize that we’ve been exposed to a wider, deeper, more complex presentation of illness than you probably have. Appreciate that we’ve seen and felt things beyond your experience.

4. Please make us laugh if you can. Illness is heavy and laughter is light. We will be most appreciative of every giggle or chuckle you can bring us.

spoons5. Make an effort to learn about spoon theory. People with Chronic Illness have a finite amount of energy (spoons)- far less than you do. When we run out of spoons, we have to rest, replenish, and recharge to get more spoons. This may involve ice-packs, heating pads, or other treatments. Understand if we run out of spoons and can’t accomplish a desired task.

Don’ts:

1. Please don’t offer us unsolicited medical advice. unsolicited-medical-adviceWe understand you want to help.  However we get inundated with suggestions all the time, and it can be very frustrating for us. People tell us to “get more sleep” or “don’t sleep so much.” We are constantly told to try the latest diet and the newest alternative therapy. A lifelong chronic illness requires that we keep abreast of the latest medical research for our disease. Imagine how frustrating it can be, after spending studying our illness, to be told by someone who’s just heard of it that they have found a cure for us. Especially when there is no cure. Chronic illness goes into remission but is not cured.  It can be overwhelming for us to hear from family, friends, and even strangers that we would be well if we could just change what we eat, take (or don’t take) a certain medication, start (or stop) a particular exercise. The most helpful attitude you can have is one of open-minded willingness to learn.  Ask us, and we’ll tell you. Whenever possible, please refrain from making suggestions. You may only be aware of the advice you are giving us. When we take into account the advice we get from everyone else too, it can just become too much. A good rule of thumb is to trust us. If we want your opinion, we will ask you what you think.

i-dont-look-sick-2

2. Don’t assume we aren’t sick because we don’t “look sick.” 96% of chronic illnesses are invisible. Often we are in some kind of pain even when we’re not complaining.  If you want to know what’s going on beneath the surface, just ask and we’ll share it with you.  When we feel terrible but put an effort to “pass” for looking okay, it feels great to be complimented. It does not, however, feel great to be told “you don’t look sick, therefore you must not be sick.” That feels invalidating, which is most certainly not your intention.

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3. Please don’t second-guess the current treatment plan. Chronic Illness can be very complex. With my illness, the doctors themselves do not agree on the correct protocol. It can be difficult to stay abreast of the latest medical research and make informed decisions about what is best.  We have had to become our own patient advocate, weighing doctor opinions against evidence. Sometimes medical decisions may seem counterproductive to an outside perspective.  For example, the antibiotics I take often make things worse before they get better.  This happens when dying bacteria release toxins into blood and tissues, provoking inflammation (called a Herxheimer reaction) . As ‘professional patients’, we are always evaluating and modifying our treatment plan, weighing the pros and cons of medication tradeoffs and side effects. We struggle to learn as much as possible before making an informed decision.  Asking questions is welcomed when your goal is to understand.  However asking questions that are really judgmental statements (like “are you sure you should…” or “why do you think it’s a good idea to…”) makes us feel worse, not better.  It makes us feel doubted, not trusted.

4. Try not to complain about your medical problems to us. We all have the right to vent about our frustrations, and people without chronic illness are no exception to this rule. However when we are carrying the heavy burden of extreme suffering, it can be very challenging to be receptive to your pain, since by comparison we are dealing with so much more. People who are not chronically ill are far more likely to be empathetic and comforting regarding your flu symptoms. But someone who daily deals with the muscular aches and pains that feel like flu (but aren’t) on top of migraines, neurological shocks, fatigue, limping, and vision problems may struggle to see how hard it is for you. Often when you are attempting to commiserate (“I feel your pain because I had to go to the hospital once and it was horrible”) leaves us feeling like a false comparison was made (when we’ve spent months living in hospitals).  It is difficult to listen to you make a fuss about one visit to the doctor when we have to see several doctors a week. They are not equivalent. You want us to feel like you “get it” but ironically the opposite of your intention is created and we’re left feeling like you “don’t get it.”

5. The following phrases are said extremely often to the chronically ill. Your desire may be to cheer us up but that is not what happens.  Intention is not the same as impact. Empty platitudes don’t make us feel heard; instead they make us feel misunderstood, which is very isolating. You probably just don’t  realize how these common everyday sayings are received or interpreted. Whenever possible, please don’t say any of the following:

It must be nice not to have to work.
When are you going back to work?
I wish I had time to take a  nap.
You’re just depressed.
could-be-worseYou just need a more positive attitude.
It can’t be that bad.
Fake it till u make it!
It could be worse
At least…
Get well soon. (Chronic Illness is a long-lasting condition that can be controlled but not cured.)

It is very challenging to be chronically ill, and also difficult to be our support system. Don’t give up!  We need you! You are vital to our sense of well-being and we very much appreciate everything you do to help.

invisible-illness-week-2016September 26th to October 2nd is Invisible Awareness Week.  Share YOUR story with the hashtags #ThisIsChronicIllness and/or #Invisible Illness.

The Author: A Chronic Illness Expert
imagese1vdgeggKerri Lyn is on disability. She has been diagnosed with 14 different physical and mental disorders including neurological Lyme Disease and Fibromyalgia. She is currently managing 16 symptoms with over a dozen medications, monitored by 11 specialists. She has spent several months sleeping in hospitals. She gave birth to a son with eight birth defects, whose own chronic illness required 47 surgical procedures, chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant.

Drawn To The Propeller: The Allure of the Abusive Man on #BachelorInParadise

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Josh and Andi 1When a rageaholic is the nation’s Prince Charming, young girls learn abuse is part of the fairy tale. Josh Murray, an emotional abuser, won 2014’s The Bachelorette when Andi Dorfman accepted his proposal. But several months later they ended their engagement. She’s since written a bookAndis Book called It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Never After. In it, she details Josh’s verbal abuse, calling it “the most volatile and fucked up relationship of my life.” At one point she was concerned enough for her safety to tell her friend Nikki Ferrell that if she turned up dead, Josh did it. Andi says she was “trapped in a relationship that made her feel utterly worthless and dismally defeated.” Sounds like a dream come true, right?

Apparently ABC thinks so, because Josh was cast on Bachelor In Paradise (BIP) to find another unsuspecting victim, which he did, in the form of Amanda Stanton. Amanda confusedNick Viall, the runner-up on Andi’s Bachelorette season, is also on BIP, where he’s raised concerns to Amanda about Josh’s history with Andi. Josh has called Andi’s book “fiction” – a questionable characterization given Nick admits it is “factual” in its depiction of him, so why wouldn’t it be accurate about Josh?

Nick rather scald myself with coffee than deal with josh againNick has compared Josh to the anger character on Inside anger characterOut. After Nick confronted him, Josh responded “You need to hope that everything’s good with me and her!” Nick wondered “Or what?…all he wanted to do was just murder me.”

red flags of abuseTraits of a Misogynistic RelationshipNow that Nick Viall has been named the next Bachelor, do we have actual romance on tap? Unlikely. Andi described her sexual encounter with Nick as cringe-worthy, lady boner-killing, and awkward. Nick’s sexy move was to ask if Andi would rather make love or fuck, and then slut-shame her on After The Final Rose by asking why she’d make love to him if she wasn’t in love with him (Double Standards, anyone?). Nick’s season of The Bachelor will air in 2017, serving up sexism for two.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/andi-dorfman-reveals-secret-after-secret-in-new-book-its-not-okay_us_5745d076e4b03ede44137836

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2016/05/18/bachelorette-andi-dorfmans-book-its-not-okay-josh-murray-nick-viall/84436284/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bachelor-in-paradise-giving-potentially-abusive-men-a-platform_us_57aa4f3de4b0ba7ed23e0bc2

The Four Women Who’ve Accused Donald Trump of Rape

trump FINAL

JANE & MARIA DOE

Jane Doe was 13 years old when Donald Trump tied her to a bed and raped her. She begged him to wear a condom. He responded by violently striking her in the face and screaming he would do whatever he wanted. She asked what would happen if she were to get pregnant, at which point he threw $100 dollar bills at her and screamed that she should “get a fucking abortion.” witness affidavitJane’s rape was witnessed by Tiffany Doe, who has signed a sworn affidavit confirming her testimony.  Jane and Maria Doe (who was 12) were forced multiple times to perform oral sex on him. After one incident, Trump zipped up his pants, physically pushed the minors away and “angrily berated them for the quality of their performance.” Jane, now 34, filed a civil lawsuit in California in April, which was thrown out because she had filled out the wrong paperwork, without the aid of a lawyer. This week she filed a Federal lawsuit in New York.

Trump is a co-defendant in this lawsuit along with Jeffrey Epstein, a known pedophile playboy and convicted sex offender who has already served time for soliciting minors. Trump and Epstein had argued over who was to take Jane’s virginity. When Epstein found out Trump had “popped her cherry”, he became so enraged he brutally attacked, raped, and sodomized Jane while beating her with closed fists.

Jane and Maria had been lured to Epstein’s house with promises of a modeling career and then kept as “sex slaves” for “sex parties” at Epstein’s house between June and September 1994. They were warned on more than one occasion by the two powerful men that if they ever revealed the details of their sexual and physical abuse, both they and their families would be physically harmed if not killed. Trump specifically threatened Jane (in front of Tiffany) that if she told, he would make her “disappear” like 12 year-old-Maria. Jane remains traumatized by the abuse. Since Trump launched his campaign and received mass media coverage, she has been “subjected to daily painful reminders of the horrific acts.”

Trump Epstein commentsTrump has said of Epstein “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. He likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” Asked under oath if he had ever socialized with Trump in the presence of underage females, Epstein pleaded the fifth.

IVANA TRUMP

During their 1991 divorce, granted because of Trump’s ‘cruel and inhuman treatment’ of her, his ex-wife Ivana claimed in a sworn deposition that he raped her in 1989. He’d become angry over painful scalp reduction surgery he was having in an attempt to deal with his hair loss. The encounter was detailed in Harry Hurt’s book “Lost Tycoon.” Ivana assault ivana assault 2Ivana’s divorce included a gag order hat keeps her from talking about her marriage to Donald Trump without his permission. It is surmised he purchased her recant, as she later said “I referred to this as a rape, but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.” Ivana’s lawyers claimed Trump verbally abused and demeaned Ivana so as to obtain her submission to his wishes and desires, as well as humiliated and verbally assaulted her.

JILL HARTH

Jill Harth filed a lawsuit in 1997 accusing Trump of sexual assault and attempted rape. Jill and her boyfriend George Houraney were Trump’s business associates.. Upon meeting Jill, Trump told George, “There’s going to be a problem.  I’m very attracted to your girlfriend. I am going after her.” On multiple occasions, Trump made unwanted advances including groping Jill under the table during business dinners. Trump repeatedly and aggressively propositioned her for sex.

In one incident, Trump forcefully removed Jill from a public area and forced her into his daughter Ivanka’s bedroom in an attempt to have sex with her.  He forcibly kissed, fondled, and restrained her from leaving, against her will and despite her protests.

Her lawsuit states that Trump violated her physical and mental integrity when he touched her intimately without consent , leaving her emotionally devastated and distraught.

IVANKA TRUMP

Trump-with-IvankaTrump is known to carry lust in his heart for his daughter Ivanka. He told Rolling Stone last year “she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father . . . ” He said on The View” in 2006 “she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” ivanka rolling stone quote

ivanka quoteHe also bragged to Howard Stern in 2003 that Ivanka has “the best body.” He once asked Miss Universe “Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?” Miss Universe said “She’s 16. That’s creepy”

CONCLUSION

The New York Times conducted 50 interviews with dozens of women who worked for Trump, revealing a pattern of “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, and unsettling workplace conduct.” Trump’s misogyny demonstrates rampant cruelty, violent impulses, a thirst for revenge, and an absence of compassion. In the early 90’s he told New York magazine: “Women, you have to treat them like shit.”

REFERENCES:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/us/politics/donald-trump-women.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/why-the-new-child-rape-ca_b_10619944.html

http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/295335/donald-trump-child-rape-lawsuit-jeffrey-epstein-jane-doe/

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/rape-lawsuit-donald-trump-resurfaces-new-york-court-article-1.2681196

https://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2016/06/donald-trump-accused-of-raping-13-year-old-in-federal-lawsuit/

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/03/donald_trump_has_one_core_philosophy_misogyny.html

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/6/29/1543742/-Why-Recent-Child-Rape-Case-Against-Trump-Should-Not-Be-Ignored-Victim-Has-A-Witness

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/donald-trump-accused-rape-federal-court-lawsuit

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/27/ex-wife-donald-trump-made-feel-violated-during-sex.html

http://lawnewz.com/high-profile/exclusive-inside-the-donald-trump-sexual-assault-lawsuit/

http://gawker.com/report-woman-who-dropped-1997-sexual-assault-lawsuit-a-1761431501

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2016/06/21/breaking-donald-trump-is-being-sued-for-repeatedly-raping-a-13-year-old/

http://theantimedia.org/lawsuit-could-end-donald-trump/

http://gothamist.com/2016/06/20/trump_rape_lawsuit.php

http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2016/06/21/24243542/donald-trump-is-being-accused-of-rape

http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/294361/donald-trump-jeffrey-epstein-teen-girl-rape/

https://usuncut.com/news/trump-lawsuit-13-year-old-rape/

http://theresurgent.com/donald-trump-sued-for-rape-a-second-time/

http://www.redstate.com/sweetie15/2016/04/29/donald-trump-named-lawsuit-alleging-rape-teen-girl/

http://www.pajiba.com/politics/donald-trumps-history-with-rape-accusations.php#.V2nTDHbVZWI.twitter

http://gawker.com/does-donald-trump-want-to-have-sex-with-his-daughter-1756738294

http://gawker.com/report-woman-who-dropped-1997-sexual-assault-lawsuit-a-1761431501

http://heavy.com/news/2016/04/donald-trump-jeffrey-epstein-katie-johnson-lawsuit-accused-rape-teen-girl-sex-slave-documents-pdf/

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/rape-lawsuit-against-donald-trump-7891182

http://www.inquisitr.com/3044556/donald-trump-rape-lawsuit-claims-trump-forced-12-and-13-year-old-girls-to-peform-oral-sex-on-him/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3578088/Dark-tales-molesting-beauty-queens-raping-ex-wife-Claims-racism-cosying-mafia-gets-closer-White-House-TRUMP-stripped-bare.html

Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.  Hardcover – May, 1993 by  Harry Hurt III (Author)

[i] Not her real name

3 Primary Reasons #ImWithHer

Donkey feelin burn of Hillary

When I was a Human Resources Manager, I compared hundreds of resumes to job descriptions to find the right candidate. This methodology is even more important when casting your vote for the President of the United States. As a liberal Democrat, I will vote for the Democratic nominee in November. For the primary, we have a choice between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. A comparison:

The President’s Job Duties 

1. Commander in Chief 

Closely related to Chief Diplomat. Who will decide when, where, how and why to deploy troops or use weapons? The President negotiates with other countries and makes the foreign policy of the United States.

  • ExperienceForeign Policy Experience

    As a former Secretary of State and highly visible figure in two Presidential administrations, Hillary has far more foreign policy experience than Bernie. This was made painfully clear during a cringe-worthy episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews where Bernie bragged he could deal with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin because he ‘took on a lot of people as mayor of Burlington.”

  • Interventionism:

    Hillary understands it is unfortunately sometimes necessary to intervene in other governments’ foreign affairs. Bernie would rather focus on domestic issues. The problem with his approach is we cannot allow abuses of human rights to go unchecked. When there are murderous despots inflicting genocide, our nation should get involved. Hillary learned the hard way, from our non-interventions in Rwanda and Bosnia, that many deaths and much harm can come from standing by and doing nothing. “If the U.S. had gone into Rwanda sooner following the start of the 1994 genocide, at least a third or roughly 300,000 lives could have been saved.” When we become aware of wrongdoing, we have an obligation to do something about it if we can. The United States military can often do things other countries can’t. Weighing the risks of action vs. non-action is important. Standing up to oppressors is a sign of a strong moral compass. If you see your neighbor abusing a child, you step in, and you intervene to save the child.

  • Hawks & Doves:hawk

    For her willingness to intervene, Hillary has been labeled a “hawk” and Bernie “a dove.” It really no longer makes sense to use these political labels, because while “hawks” advocate a foreign policy based on strong military power, common sense dictates no one wants war. Theoretically “doves” try to resolve international conflicts without the threat of force. In reality, diplomatic options are always explored before the threat of force is used. Personally I’d rather be protected by a hawk than a dove, and the Democratic Party needs a hawk to stand up to (and win) against the Republicans.

2. Head of Government/Chief Legislator

Who will be the main author of public policy? Who will initiate legislation and influence Congress in its lawmaking?

  •  The Climate:

The Republicans currently control Congress.  In fact, Democrats have the lowest number of House members since 1947. This is unlikely to change in the near future. President Obama, a seasoned negotiator, has encountered significant pushback passing legislation.

  • A Team Player vs. An Individual:

Bernie admitted to Chris Matthews on Hardball that he was “not an inside the Beltway guy,” yet cultivating those relationships is exactly what’s required to navigate legislative deals with a Republican-controlled Congress. Paul Krugman wrote that the Sanders movement has a “contempt for compromise.” Hillary Clinton has an impressive command of policy, the details, trade-offs and how it gets done. Unlike Hillary, Bernie has not raised any money for down-ticket Democrats, showing himself to be less of a team player. When questioned about this proclivity, he told a reporter to go fuck himself. This does not demonstrate a presidential temperament. Bernie has certainly tapped into a wellspring of voter dissatisfaction, but anger does not make a case for the ability and experience to govern.

  • FeasibilityPowered by Unicorn Farts

“Every time Bernie is challenged on how he plans to get his agenda through Congress, he responds that the “political revolution” that sweeps him into office will somehow be the magical instrument of the monumental changes he describes. This is a vague, deeply disingenuous idea that ignores the reality of modern America. With his narrow power base and limited political alliances, how does he possibly have a chance of fighting such entrenched power?” Hillary has demonstrated that change requires incremental progress. She has the greatest chance of passing legislation. In fact, her plans to rein in Wall Street have more teeth. Bernie’s policy plans are not feasible. The New York Times called his economic plans “overly optimistic”, “wishful thinking,” “a fairy tale” and “a fool’s errand,” with estimated costs topping $30 trillion by 2026. According to The Washington Post, “no credible economic research supports Sanders’s economic assumptions and predictions.” Since Bernie’s “revolution” is implausible, he is simply “forming a mob of angry, misinformed people and then turning it on the likely Democratic nominee.”

3. Head of State

Who will represent the American people to the world and to themselves? The notion of REpresentation tells us the represented are not present. Both candidates have released racial injustice platforms that address important topics like mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, environmental racism, police brutality, and racial disparities in housing and education. Both candidates support same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. So how are they different?

  • Character:

Hillary is the most vetted, most scrutinized woman on the planet. Bernie’s history, on the other hand, is largely unknown. At her graduation from Wellesley, Hillary became the first student commencement speaker ever, giving a speech that made her right-wing military father cringe- in which she chided the guest speaker, a Republican Senator, for criticizing anti-war protests. At age 21 she had more courage and confidence to speak for the unrepresented than some people will ever have. In contrast, Bernie was at the “forefront” of nothing. He participated, but he never really put his butt on the line for his ideals. He never led the charge. Bernie didn’t even collect his first paycheck until he was elected at age 40. Hillary is a leader with a calm demeanor. Bernie has no social skills and he’s quick to boil over. A former New York Times editor who has covered multiple Clinton “scandals” and Republican smear campaigns over the last twenty years says Hillary is fundamentally honest and trustworthy. Politifact shows Hillary has the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates. She’s been criticized for “flip-flopping”, but changing positions over time is not dishonest. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”  Gallup polls have listed her as the most admired woman in America a record 20 times.

  • Gender:glass ceiling breaker

Representation matters. Women make up half the population in this country but hold less than 20% of congressional seats and comprise less than 25% of state legislators. The US ranks 72nd in women’s political participation, worse than most industrialized countries. Having a black President created growth in our national racial discourse. A woman President would similarly change conversations about gender. It’s important for girls to see an example of a woman holding the highest political position in the land. I give Bernie credit for his feminism, but he is not a woman. There is a glass ceiling and Hillary is breaking it. Gender representation has been shown to increase legislatures’ responsiveness to women’s policy concerns. The science of power suggests her election would increase women’s political influence. 

Only in a sexist society would women be told that caring about representation at the highest levels of government is wrong. Only in a sexist society would women believe it.”-Jessica Valenti

  • Women’s Rights: womens rights are human rights

Hillary has defended women’s rights for decades. Her landmark speech “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” at the 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing still resonates 20 years later. While both Bernie and Hillary support women’s rights, Hillary pushes harder. Planned Parenthood endorsed her because “we need someone who will do more than just defend reproductive rights – we need a steadfast champion who will fight to expand them, and do so not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.” The National Organization for Women also endorsed Hillary because she has a stronger record as a women’s rights advocate.

“On the question of experience, the ability to enact progressive change, and the issue of who can win the general election and the presidency, the clear and urgent choice is Hillary Clinton.” -Rolling Stone

The Racist Roots of Bernie’s Sexist Tree

Bernies Sexist Tree

Bernie Sanders’ most robust group of supporters is white males, labeled “Bernie Bros” by the Atlantic, and described as “flustered, shouting, white guys.” polithilThe Bernie Bros are predominately young, white, liberal males who’ve demonstrated a pattern of sending derogatory and misogynistic messages to Clinton supporters (or anyone who disagrees with Sanders.) BernieBros express their grievances with Hillary in sexist ways mostly through their sanctimonious, lecturing, hectoring tone. A BernieBro is certain that you are not voting for Bernie because of your own willful ignorance. Their patronizing condescension mirrors the communicative weapons usually wielded by their ideological foes – those who diminish, demean, and infantilize women.

Bern The Witch
bernthewitchIn October, an event called Bern The Witch was created on Sanders’ official campaign website. The event stayed on his official site for five months, until it was removed in March. During this time, the hashtag #BernTheWitch was used. The organizer of the event holds no remorse for the sexist, gendered slur in his event title, and said “We’re gonna burn her at the ballot box”. Bernie himself may not have known about this event, but it does not excuse him from accountability. There is no counterpart on Hillary’s campaign because there are no events organized around disparaging Bernie based on his gender. If we hold Trump responsible for his supporters’ racist conduct, should we not be allowed to argue that Bernie is setting a tone for character attacks on Hillary like this one?

Bern The WitchThe word witch carries the baggage of anti-woman historical violence. There were no male witches burned. Burning was the preferred method of killing these women because it was considered more painful. Between 40,000 and 50,000 women were murdered because of witchcraft allegations.The word witch is a sexist, gendered slur & inherently carries the anti-women historical violence associated with it.

Bern The Witch TweetThe first woman to run for President of the United States, Victoria Woodhull, was also called a witch. That was in 1872. Why are gendered, sexist slurs still used 144 years later? Because they work. A 2010 study found that sexism directed at women in politics actually hurts them at the voting booth, as does ignoring the slurs instead of calling them out.

“Ffuck her reviseduck Her”
At a Trump rally in Chicago, Sanders supporters passed out free buttons saying “Fuck Her”, using the “H” from Hillary’s logo. They were also distributed at Bernie’s appearance in North Carolina. This is a symbol of our rape culture, where sex is portrayed as violent and violence is seen as sexy.

BernieBro Rage Pivots to Elizabeth Warren
BernWarren
When Bernie lost the Massachusetts primary, a BernieBro recommended rage be directed at Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has yet to endorse either Democratic candidate.  Senator Warren subsequently recorded over 9000 threats on her Facebook page.

By not opting to endorse their candidate, she was treated as a Warren Attacks man 1pariah who betrayed some imagined cause. As Maurice Cunningham, a UMASS professor said, “It isn’t Sen. Warren’s place to throw a life line to the Sanders campaign.”

Warren Attacks man 3For not endorsing Bernie, Elizabeth Warren was subjected to vitriolic hatred.

Excuse Me, I’m Talking
Excuse Me Im TalkingDuring a Presidential debate, Bernie interrupted Hillary by wagging his finger in her face and saying “Excuse Me, I’m Talking.” This is sexist for many reasons. First, double standards apply. If a woman tried to shush or interrupt a man in this fashion, she would be skewered by the press. Second, interrupting and over-talking happen as the result of a difference in gender rules. Women know it is rare to complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by mansplaining in a condescending or patronizing manner. Bernie interrupted Hillary three times as often as she interrupted him.  He is Excuse Meepitomizing what we’ve been socialized to accept: that male speech is more important or should dominate. Girls are taught to listen politely and boys are taught to speak their mind. Parents are  twice as likely to interrupt daughters as sons. Disruptive speech is used to establish dominant masculinity. Even male actors engage in more disruptive speech and garner twice as much speaking and screen time as their female peers. In the workplace, women find it difficult to be heard when they are continually interrupted. Male bosses are interrupted less often than their female counterparts.

The way Bernie repeatedly jabbed his finger in her direction reminded some women of the aggressive way some men invade their personal space. This is not the first time Bernie’s body language has been problematic. His hands were literally in Fox reporter Abby Huntsman’s personal space so much she was forced to push him away:

Does the inability or unwillingness to examine his body language, tone, and actions for hints or indicators of sexism tell us all we really need to know?

Rape Fantasies
rape fantasies
A few decades ago, Bernie published an essay which included the following rape “fantasies”:

A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused. A woman enjoys intercourse with her man- as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously.  Do you know why newspapers with articles like ‘Girl 12 raped by 14 men’ sell so well? To what in us are they appealing?’’

rape fantasyThis is problematic on many fronts, regardless of when he wrote it. He  implies that men fantasize about raping women and that women fantasize about being gang raped. Abuse and rape are violent crimes. Women who are “tied up” are done so against their will.  Yet this essay has largely been ignored. Sanders gets excused – because he’s a liberal. Normalizing and condoning sexual violence is not Presidential.

Racist Roots
Bernie is the Senator of Vermont, one of the whitest states. His base has been and continues to be white males. In 1963 he attended the March on Washington. Contrary to popular opinion though, he did not march with Martin Luther King Jr from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. In fact, Bernie’s participation in the Civil Rights movement was brief and localized and effectively ended in 1963.  What has he done since then?  He hightailed it to Vermont, a phenomenon so common it’s referred to as “white flight” (when people migrate from racially mixed to more homogenous regions).

Lauren Burke from The Root pointed out that “Sanders’ record in Congress, which began in 1991 in the House and 2007 in the Senate, is not deep on the type of racial-justice work he’s discussing on the campaign trail today.”  But if you talk to any BernieBro, they will beat you over the head with the infamous picture of Bernie getting arrested as if it proves he found the Civil Rights Movement. As Propane Jane aptly summarized it, “He’s running on a record of civil rights advocacy that can only be believed by people who were not actually there.

While Bernie was Senator for Vermont, the black leaders in Vermont stated they were invisible to him. A civil rights organizer said Bernie was really  dismissive of anything that had to do with race and racism, saying they didn’t have anything to do with income inequality. When he was confronted by Black Lives Matter activists, he fumbled badly at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix.

Bernie GhettoIn a recent Presidential debate, Bernie said white people don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto and don’t know what it’s like to be poor. When questioned, Bernie doubled down on his comments by saying: “I don’t want to be lectured about talking about poverty, whether it’s white, black, Latino”. This is problematic on many fronts. First, it is inaccurate: most poor people in America are actually white; in fact 8 million more. Second, it reinforces harmful stereotypes. Third, systemic racism impacts far more than poverty. It impacts education, the school-to-prison-pipeline, employment, housing discrimination, and criminal justice. It includes patterns where whites have been enriched by the labor of people of color (like the BernieBros’ demand for black votes). Sanders sees racial inequality as less important than economic inequality and he shouldn’t.

Mississippi BerningDuring the Mississippi primary, the BernieBros created a #MississippiBerning hashtag. “Mississippi Burning” refers to the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, the subsequent court case, and film of the same name. The hashtag was inappropriate, extremely offensive, and naturally led to outrage.

Bernie continues to alienate the coalition that elected President Obama. He has expressed his disappointment with President Obama for making “weak” deals with Republicans. Paul Krugman wrote that the Sanders movement has a “contempt for compromise,” yet cultivating those relationships is exactly what’s required to navigate legislative deals with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Bernie is running on the platform that money is the root of all evil. He doesn’t recognize or validate the significant oppressive forces of racism, sexism, and prejudice. As Ta-Nehisi Coates from The Atlantic asked, “Why should black voters support a candidate who does not recognize Jim Crow and its legacy were not merely problems of disproportionate poverty?”

The sexist pattern Bernie and his supporters follow of talking down to women as if they just don’t understand is also seen with People of Color. Janell Ross from the Washington Post pointed to the “racial cluelessness, an infantilizing and almost colonial kind of condescension about policy, and a tendency to react to anyone who points that out by supplying even more evidence of racial tone-deafness, self-ordained intellectual superiority and completely open displays of various forms of outright bigotry.”

We’ve come to expect this type of superiority from Republicans, but these are supposed to be progressives! Charles M. Blow from the New York Times also observed their grossly offensive “not-so-subtle, not-so-innocuous savior syndrome and paternalistic patronage.”

The Foundation of Bernie’s Support is White Male Rage
angry white men

The sexism and racism of the BernieBros is fueled by feelings of  dissatisfaction, emasculation and humiliation. These guys refuse to admit they’ve been handed privilege all these years by a world that puts white men on top. Sociologist Michael Kimmel, author of “Angry White Men” calls this “Aggrieved Entitlement.”

A prime example is the “Bernie or Bust” movement to either a) not vote at all or b) vote for Trump if Hillary wins the nomination. Bernie or Bust is a stance based on privilege, since the sexist, racist policies of Trump will hardly affect their white male lives.bernie or bust Over 58,000 people have pledged to write-in Bernie’s name in the general election if he loses the Democratic nomination. They describe themselves as “Revolting against Plutocracy.” Ironically, in reality, their stance will (as Bill Maher said) “help elect a plutocrat (Trump) who is revolting.”

take ball go home

1 in 10 Sanders supporters think Trump is the next best thing to their candidate and reported being motivated by an anti-Hillary feeling (sexism). These voters were white, low-income men. While Hillary’s supporters are mature adults who openly state they’ll vote for the Democratic nominee, the hyper-masculine combative BernieBros plan to take their ball and go home.

If you consider yourself a progressive, help raise awareness of the sexism and racism we’re seeing on the Left. Talk to your fellow progressives. We need to hold Bernie and his supporters accountable and help them see what they do not: that their sexist, racist behavior has no place in the progressive movement and will only continue to alienate us and push us toward his opponent.

How I lost 200 pounds: 3 Essential Steps to Recovery from Binge Eating Disorder

untitled

My Binge Eating Disorder (BED) began in middle school. At age 13, I was six feet tall and relentlessly teased for being “too big.” Humiliation was eclipsed by a warm cookie. images 1Uncomfortable feelings were smothered and stuffed down. Food was a self-medicating anesthesia, making me numb so I wouldn’t have to feel. A victim of childhood sexual abuse, I grew up subconsciously believing I needed a soft layer of fat to protect me from unwanted male attention.

images 1For 20 years I routinely ate other people’s food. I circled leftover buffet carts in work hallways like a shark hunting prey. I snuck around parties gobbling holiday chocolates like a vacuum cleaner attacking dust bunnies. My weight grew and my confidence shrank as I embarked upon codependent relationships with men. My voice became smaller as I became bigger. Outwardly accommodating, I inwardly seethed. Topping 400 pounds, I enrolled in an Eating Disorder Program. My classmates were all teenage girls with anorexia. I devoured everything on my plate while they pushed their food around.

As I reclaimed my Self, I learned how to know and speak my truth. Feminism taught me misogyny hates women taking up space and hates fat women more for taking up more space. As a bisexual, my girlfriends have been more indifferent to my weight than my boyfriends. Most men have strict superficial weight guidelines. Dating ads abound with headlines screaming “No BBWs (Big Beautiful Women).”

bed_patients-700x474I have medical and financial obstacles to weight loss. Bipolar depression, fibromyalgia, and neurological lyme disease leave me lethargic, short of breath, and exhausted from simple tasks like showering. The metal implants in my ankle make walking challenging. I live on a fixed disability income. Poverty dictates you eat what you can afford. I shop at discount grocers. The selection is less desirable for healthy eating goals. Fruits and vegetables are pricier and less fresh. Shopping at Whole Foods is a privilege of the wealthy.images

Age has provided growth and perspective. At 45, I’ve discovered confidence comes in plus sizes, too. I’ve reclaimed the word “fat” as a descriptor, like “tall” or “white.” After years of therapy and Overeaters Anonymous meetings, I’ve found:

3 Essential Steps to Binge Eating Disorder Recovery:

  1. lionMirror work[1]. View your reflection while saying the following affirmations:

I love you unconditionally.

I accept you and your imperfections. 

I embrace your vulnerabilities.

 I treat and view myself with the respect I deserve. 

 I am enough, right now, as I am.

  1. Daily journaling. Writing down your thoughts allows you to see which ones are dysfunctional and discard the negative beliefs. Venting the inner critic creates more space for self-love.
  2. Connect with a Higher Power. BED is a spiritual disease. To reduce susceptibility, light the fire of your deeper consciousness with meditation and prayer.

images 2I always had this cavernous empty void within me that I tried to fill with food. When at last I turned to a Higher Power and asked for my spiritual thirst to be quenched, I finally began to feel full.

[1] Richardson, C. (2009). The art of extreme self-care: Transform your life one month at a time. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

The Snowflake Awards: A Review of White Feminism™ in Pop Culture

Last month at the Emmy’s, Viola Davis became the first black woman in its 67 year history to win Best Actress in a Drama Series. In her acceptance speech, she quoted Harriet Tubman:

“In my mind,
I see a line.
And over that line
I see green fields and lovely flowers
and beautiful white women
with their arms stretched out to me
to get over that line
but I can’t seem to get there no how
I can’t seem to get over that line.”

Though it was written in the 1800’s, “that line”  is still there, and it represents the racism that separates Intersectional Feminists from White Feminists™.

racism-divides-intersectional-vs-white-feminists

White Feminism™ (well defined by Catherine Young) is feminism for white people, not necessarily by white people.  It ignores intersecting systems of oppression (like racism) and centers its feminism around the ideals, struggles, and lens of white women who are typically heterosexual, able-bodied, and middle-class or wealthy. You don’t have to be white or a woman to be a White Feminist™ and not all white women are White Feminists™.

viola speechViola continued: “The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

When Viola won, black women everywhere erupted with joyful celebration, clapping and cheering at Viola’s strength and courage. Black actress Taraji P. Henson, nominated for the same award for her groundbreaking role on Empire, stopped to hug Viola and express sincere congratulations.  But a white woman wasn’t happy. Nancy Lee Grahn, an actress on General Hospital, felt excluded.  She took to Twitter to express her dismay.

nancy-lee-grahn-viola-davis-general-hospital-hate-tweets-after-historic-emmy-win-leadI wish she’d brought every woman into the picture,” she wrote.

She did what White Feminists™ do – she made the conversation about herself.  A classic symptom of White Feminism™ is self-absorption and ego centrism. “I wish I  had the  opportunity to play roles she has” she sighed in her self-pity.

Nancy took it a step further.  She attacked Viola’s right to use the acceptance speech as a venue for speaking on racism.

I heard Harriet Tubman and I thought it’s a fucking Emmy for God’s sake.  She wasn’t digging through a tunnel….my upset is acting awards don’t fix racial justice.”

Her stance is ironic, given her enthusiastic support for Patricia Arquette, who used her Oscar acceptance speech just six months ago to address social inequality in the form of the wage gap.  The difference is, Nancy felt included then because whiteness was centered.

Good use of your win to champion women. Make your moment matter. I like that,”  Nancy had tweeted then, in support of Patty.

2C9A33D500000578-0-image-a-74_1442843516120More horrifying than Nancy’s hypocrisy is her historical ignorance. Harriet Tubman may have been the leader of the Underground Railroad, but she did not literally dig tunnels. She helped hundreds of slaves escape from the South to the North before and during the Civil War. But there’s another important hallmark of White Feminism™ here. Nancy was policing Viola’s right to speak on the topic of her choice. Nancy’s assumption that she could do so demonstrates a devaluing of black women, and an erasure of their humanness. Nancy then spoke on something she had no knowledge of – Viola’s personal experiences of racism, positing that Viola “has never been discriminated against.”

When her comments were questioned, Nancy demonstrated “Miss Millie” syndrome.  In the movie The Color Purple, Miss Millie famously defended her racism by saying “I’ve always been nice to you people!”  Nancy’s version of this rhetoric went like this: “30 years an advocate for human rights and now I’m a racist. Color me heartbroken.” This is what White Feminists™ do when they are called out for racist words and actions: they get angry about their feelings being hurt, act defensive and self-righteously indignant, and deny accountability.

untitled 1I’m a fucking actress for 40 years,” Nancy continued. “None of us get respect or opportunity we deserve. Emmys not venue for racial opportunity. ALL women belittled.” White Feminists™ typically apologize badly and Nancy was no exception.  “Tried to respond with love,” she complained. “Gotten mostly condescension and vitriol.”

Time then did what it does for all White Feminists™ – it gave Nancy the opportunity to reflect about what she said and to say she was sorry.

“I apologize for my earlier tweets and now realize I need to check my own privilege.”special snowflake

For her outrageous narcissism and sense of entitlement, for inserting herself and her whiteness into Viola Davis’s moment, for derailing the conversation, for devaluing and erasing a Woman of Color, Nancy Lee Grahn wins The Snowflake Award, for being the most offensive White Feminist™ this month.

EF Cartoon Sexism vs WFMany White Feminists™ understand their role as the oppressed in sexism, but fail to see how they can be the oppressor in White Feminism™. 

The level of White Feminism™ in our culture is disturbingly high. I’ve noted recurring themes in this Bingo Card, so feel free to “play along.”

The second place Snowflake Award goes to Meryl Streep and the Suffragettes. Unfortunately, the United States is not the only country where White Feminism™ flourishes. rather be a rebel than a slaveTime Out London magazine recently released a photo shoot for the movie, about the British suffragette movement. In the pictures, Meryl Streep and her costars pose wearing t-shirts that read: “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”

The quote was originally said by UK suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and the ad campaign is offensive for many reasons.  First, if you were offered a choice between being a rebel and being a slave, which would you pick?  The quote implies women of color had an option to be enslaved, which is both historically inaccurate and disrespectful.

UK suffragettesSecond, there were UK suffragettes of color, though they were not as well-known as Americans Ida Wells or Sojourner Truth. In the UK, the non-white suffragettes were mostly Indian, and they’ve been erased from history and representation in the movie.  An example is the Indian princess Sophia Duleep Singh who “wasn’t just welcomed by the movement” but considered a “rock star suffragette.”[i]

Third, given the racist nature of suffragette history,[ii] it was insulting for a group of white women to wear this white t-shirt for UK and US audiences.  American suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters, is known to have said: “White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.”[iii]

Right to VOTEIn fact, black women didn’t even get the right to vote when white women did.  Although the U.S. 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 and legally enfranchised all women, state laws and vigilante practices disenfranchised most black women in the South, who couldn’t vote until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.”[iv]

Time Out defended the photo shoot as a “rallying cry” for women, arguing that it “was not intended to criticize those who have no choice but to submit to oppression, or to reference the Confederacy, as some people who saw the quote and photo out of context have surmised.” [v]  The two countries do have different historical interpretations of the word. In the UK, a “slave” has referred to a domestic slave, while in the US, “slave” usually summons imagery of black chattel slavery. However intentions do not equal impact.

Pankhurst herself made the comparison between white and black women painfully obvious when she said that “out of women’s voteless condition had grown the most appalling slavery, compared with which negro slavery falls into insignificance.”[vi]

And therein lies the heritage and heart of White Feminism™, caring only for itself, oblivious to the struggles of women of color, erasing them from the picture, the movement, and historical representation.  To date, no one involved has issued an apology.

matt and effieMatt Damon wins third place in the Snowflake Awards. On HBO’s Project Greenlight, Effie Brown, the successful and respected black female producer of Dear White People, openly questioned the decision to select a white director for a film about a black prostitute. Matt Damon interrupted her, talked over her, and condescendingly explained that effiediversity would be achieved through the casting of the film, not the director.  His combination of mansplaining and whitesplaining was so obnoxious it spawned a new term all its own that became a trending Twitter hashtag: #Damonsplaining.

White Feminism™ has a listening problem.  If Matt had listened more and talked less, he might have heard the point she was trying to make.  But White Feminists™ are usually so busy talking they make no room for the silence necessary to amplify the voices of the marginalized.  Maybe Effie’s inclusion as the only black woman in the room was enough “diversity” for Matt.  Effie had a valid point, that a white male director could have significant blind spots in framing the story of a black female prostitute.

But White Feminists™ usually do not say “thanks for pointing out my blind spot. I’ll do some reading about this and try to do better.” Instead, it’s usually more along the lines of: “It’s really hurtful that you don’t acknowledge my place in this struggle with you, and you should be nicer to me. We’re on the same side.”[vii]

damon apologyAfter significant and justified backlash, Matt apologized.  In typical White Feminist™ form, his apology was weak. He said: “I am sorry that they offended some people, but, at the very least, I am happy that they started a conversation about diversity in Hollywood. That is an ongoing conversation that we all should be having.”

In standard White Feminist™ fare, Matt’s apology demonstrated an arrogant lack of humility that simultaneously denied responsibility and attempted to take credit for sparking a conversation that has been ongoing for decades.  The unconsciously embedded White Supremacy in his statement displays a core element of White Feminism™ – that the white point of view is the right point of view.

EF Cartoon WF needs to fade awayWhite Feminists:  As a group, our racist behavior is appalling. We need to do better.  Will you join me?  Will you talk to EVERY WHITE PERSON YOU KNOW about WhiteFeminism™? We cannot dismantle the unconscious White Supremacy within us, as individuals, or as a united team, until we are willing to CLGKxf2WEAA58ZSacknowledge it’s there. When we point out racist behavior to each other, please do not say “you’re dividing feminism!” Let’s be grateful for the mirror that points out our blind spots, and use this as an opportunity for personal growth.

 

All cartoons by Alli Kirkham, originally published for Everyday Feminism

[i] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11914757/Racism-and-the-suffragettes-the-uncomfortable-truth.html

[ii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/24/suffragettes-who-sucked-w_n_5205288.html

[iii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11914757/Racism-and-the-suffragettes-the-uncomfortable-truth.html

[iv] https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/rightsforwomen/AfricanAmericanwomen.html

[v] http://www.sbs.com.au/movies/article/2015/10/07/time-out-london-defends-its-controversial-suffragette-photoshoot

[vi] The Women’s Movements in the United States and Britain from the 1790s to the 1920s

[vii] http://www.upworthy.com/what-white-feminism-is-and-why-calling-it-out-isnt-the-end-of-the-world

White Feminism™ BINGO

White Feminism™ (well defined by Catherine Young) is feminism for white people, not necessarily by white people.  It ignores intersecting systems of oppression (like racism) and centers its feminism around the ideals, struggles, and lens of white women who are typically heterosexual, able-bodied, and middle-class or wealthy. You don’t have to be white or a woman to be a White Feminist™ and not all white women are White Feminists™.

The level of White Feminism™ in popular culture is outrageously high. I’ve noted the recurring themes in the below Bingo Card.  You’re welcome to “play along” and stay tuned for the Snowflake Awards, where I grade the White Feminists™ oblivious to intersectionality in popular culture!

White Feminism BINGO Final

Black Teenage Girl Assaulted by White School Cop

assault at spring valley high

Yesterday in South Carolina a sixteen year old black girl was assaulted by a white school police officer. Her crime? She had refused her teacher’s request to put away her phone. Her punishment? As seen in the above video, the sherriff’s deputy, Ben Fields, grabbed her by the neck, violently flipped her over her high school chair, threw her to the ground, and dragged her across the room like a rag doll. The rest of the class and the teacher appear frozen and no one moved to help her. The victim, known only as “Shakara”, and her friend, Niya Kenny, who videotaped the event, were charged with “disturbing schools,” a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $1000 fine. Officer Fields has not been charged for his excessive force. He was not even fired, but placed on disciplinary leave with pay.

assault at spring valley highWhy is the punishment is an egregious over-reaction to the crime? Because the victim is black. Excessive police brutality is a symptom of the festering wound of institutional racism that refuses to heal at the core of America. At its heart lies the belief that black and brown people mean less, or else why would they be so devalued? This is where the School-To-Prison-Pipeline begins, when black students are charged with minor offenses that, while white students land them in the principal’s office. Black girls are suspended at “a rate six times higher than their Caucasian female counterparts.”[1] Black girls make up only 14% of the American population, but they comprise 33% of the juvenile justice population.”[2] Overall black students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students.[3] Black and Brown kids are being sent to juvenile courts and prison for everything from truancy to scuffles at school.

Officer Ben Fields apparently has a history of attacking and intimidating other students and citizens based on racial profiling and bias[4]. In fact he is currently facing a lawsuit from a student who says he unfairly targets Black students with allegations of gang activity. He has been sued twice before for “recklessly targeting black students.”[5] He has a nickname around Spring Valley High School: Officer Slam.[6] His boss, Sheriff Leon Lott, stated at a press conference that this could not be racially driven incident. Lott said Fields has a black girlfriend so he can’t possibly be racist.[7] {Eye Roll} Unfortunately this defense is not new. Many white people defend racist action by saying “but I have black friends.” It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.

Spring ValleyThe other element that is “not new” is the media’s character assassination of “Shakara” and hero worship of Officer Fields. CNN’s Harry Houck commented that “she had it coming, and if she’d only respected the officer, she would not have been viciously attacked.”  “What did she do?” ask the supremacists. “We need to learn the whole story” whisper the apologists, after classmates in the room say she was quietly looking at her phone. “How do we place blame on her and thus avoid looking in the mirror at our own compliance with a broken white supremacist society” is the real unspoken question. The truth is we’ve seen with alarming regularity that black people are not safe in white spaces, including pools, churches, and schools.

threatWhite people have what is called “implicit bias,” whereby they see and treat black children as adults. This was demonstrated in the murder of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy who was shot dead in Cleveland seconds after the police saw him playing in a park with what turned out to be a toy gun. Researchers have documented that police are much quicker to kill unarmed black people than they are members of other groups.[8] Just four months ago, cellphone video captured a 15 year old girl, Dajerria Becton, grabbed by her braids and thrown to the ground by a white cop for swimming in a public pool in Texas.

Black men and women receive heinous treatment at the hands of the police, those sworn to protect and serve. Equal treatment under the law regardless of skin color is a fantasy, not the lived reality of black people constantly under the watchful eye of a racist society and viewed as threats by its peace-keepers.

There is no place in this country where I would be subjected to the same horrific assaults as a black woman, especially by police. So I may not be surprised, but am still horrified, by the disparate treatment. Those who protest the reality of white privilege need only do a cross comparison to open their eyes.

I can pray in a church. I can swim in a pool. I can laugh on a train. I can change lanes. Because of their skin color, black girls and women have been assaulted, arrested, and murdered for these same offenses, which aren’t even crimes.

mary janeWhen it comes to real crime, there is still injustice. Let’s look at marijuana specifically. Many states have decriminalized or legalized medical marijuana and public support for its use is on the rise. In New York City, you can even smoke pot on the street -if you’re white.[9]

I’m a middle-aged white woman. I was pulled over in Rhode Island for sitting too long at a red light. The white male cop did not handcuff me or place me in his police car. I apologized. He gave a verbal warning. I did not get a ticket. He did not search my car or find any evidence of the marijuana that was in my system. He let me go.

charnesia-crowleyTwo months ago, a young black woman named Charnesia Corley was pulled over in Texas for allegedly running a stop sign. The white male cop handcuffed her and had her wait in his police car while he searched her car for pot for over an hour. Female deputies were called to assist; they forcibly restrained her, pulled her legs apart and searched her vagina and her anus for pot, on the concrete ground of the gas station where she’d been stopped.[10] They didn’t find anything.

Why was Charnesia viewed as a threat, subjected to a gross violation of her privacy, and treated like an animal while I was offered respect? There is no answer other than White Privilege and Systemic Racism. The cop saw her blackness as an assumption of guilt, while my whiteness offered me an assumption of innocence. Her dignity and humanity were disregarded when she was strip-searched in public. I was advised to have a nice day.

Black people across the nation are four times more likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession, despite data suggesting they use the drug at the same rate.[11] Once arrested, black offenders receive sentences ten percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes.[12] This is egregiously unjust.

Police brutality is a feminist issue, and one of the most important. Black girls and women are literally attacked and brutalized because of racialized sexism, labeled ‘misogynoir’ by Moya Bailey. If you are a feminist, sisterhood requires your attention, allyship, and action. But police brutality is just one aspect of our country’s deeply embedded racism.

Recently Amy Poehler’s Hulu sitcom ‘Difficult People’ made a ‘joke’ with the line “I can’t wait for Blue Ivy to be old enough so R. Kelly can piss on her.[13] Blue Ivy, Beyonce’s 3 year old child, is a toddler, and the idea of her being pissed on by a known pedophile charged with child pornography is not funny, it’s outrageously offensive. This type of ridicule should always be challenged. Behind the curtain of the ‘joke’ lies violent misogynoir, prejudice, discrimination, and racism. A ‘joke’ about pissing on a 3 year old white girl would never make it to air without tremendous backlash. Lest we forget, Blue Ivy is a girl, in addition to being black. Why does the world only see her blackness and not her girl-ness? Have we not learned, in the 164 years since Sojourner Truth asked ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’, that a black woman is both? Micro aggressions are the bedrock of our subtle, oppressive, white supremacist culture. Ridiculing is a suppression technique that diminishes and belittles its victims. We must speak up when we hear jokes in poor taste, or we will never rise above our stereotypes masked as satire. Here again, a black girl is dehumanized, and treated like an animal. We have an obligation to call this out at every opportunity.

cannot be partSome white women I know say they are “colorblind” and “can’t see color”. They are trying to be non-racist but ironically, this is the most racist thing to say. White women, if we cannot see color, we cannot dismantle white supremacy. We cannot afford to be or act “blind” anymore because black women are being disproportionately attacked and murdered by the very institutions designed to protect them. Are they not women too? Do you not hear your sisters calling for your help?

CLJA8LxUsAAufO4Racism is systemic and embedded in every power structure. As white women, we have an obligation to take action because we have privilege, and that affords us access to spaces and platforms black women don’t have. We have an responsibility to call out misogynoir because, as Desmond Tutu so brilliantly put it, if an elephant were standing on a mouse’s tail, the mouse would not appreciate your neutrality, and staying neutral in times of oppression is the same thing as taking the side of the oppressor.

Why are white feminists like Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Emma Watson, and Amy Schumer only able to address an issue if they feel personally affected? Is that not the central tenet of selfishness? I may not be black, but I am personally affected. Like Sandra Bland, who had epilepsy, I am disabled. Like Natasha McKenna, who was mentally ill, I am bipolar. But I know in my heart I would never be assaulted and killed like they were, because I’m white and they were not. I can only hope this grave injustice eats away at you, like it does me, for how else will we be motivated to change?

How Can You Help?

  1. Sign this petition to fire and prosecute Officer Ben Fields. http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/fire-officer-ben-fields/
  2. Contact the following Richland County officials to demand Officer Ben Fields be fired and prosecuted:

Sheriff Leon Lott
Twitter: @RCSD
Email: sheriff@rcsd.net

Superintendent Dr. Debbie Hamm
Twitter: @RichlandTwo
Email:  dhamm@richland2.org

3. Help spread awareness about this issue on social media using the hashtag
#AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh

UPDATE: Our voices were heard! Over 90,000 people signed the petition listed above and Officer Ben Fields has been fired! Unfortunately he is still not facing any criminal charges. The only people facing criminal charges are the two black teenage girls who were charged with “disturbing schools.” Sign this petition to #DropTheCharges for Shakara and Niya Kenny and prosecute Ben Fields. http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/prosecute_fields/

Sources

[1] Nia-Malika Henderson, Study: Black Girls Suspended At Higher Rates Than Most Boys, The Washington Post (Mar. 21, 2014) http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/ 03/21/study-black-girls-suspended-athigher-rates-than-most-boys/.

[2] Kali Nicole Gross, Drop The Charges Against The Students In Spring Valley High School, The Huffington Post: The Blog (Oct. 29, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kali-nicole-gross/dee-barnes-straightoutta_b_8023016.html, citing Saada Saar, et al., supra.

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/us/school-data-finds-pattern-of-inequality-along-racial-lines.html?_r=0

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/28/us/spring-valley-high-school-sc-officer-arrest.html?_r=0

[5] http://chicagodefender.com/2015/10/26/assaultatspringvalleyhigh-deputy-ben-fields-sued-twice-in-federal-court/

[6] http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/what-niya-kenny-saw

[7] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/spring-valley-high-school-officer-tackled-teen-phone-article-1.2412665

[8] http://www.salon.com/2015/10/27/white_america_will_ignore_this_video_the_hideous_predictable_violence_of_our_schools_our_legal_system_our_society/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

[9] http://www.vice.com/read/weed-is-basically-legal-in-new-york-city-now-but-only-if-youre-white-1023

[10] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2015/08/13/in-texas-police-stick-hand-up-womans-vagina-to-search-for-marijuana/

[11] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/03/racial-disparity-in-marijuana-arrests_n_3381725.html

[12] http://www.southerncoalition.org/mass-incarceration-people-color/

[13] http://www.vibe.com/2015/08/amy-poehler-blue-ivy-joke-difficult-people/

A White Feminist’s Manifesto to End WhiteFeminism™

What is WhiteFeminism™?images

Click here to watch this video from Huffington Post sum it up quite well.  Basically WhiteFeminists™ ignore intersectionality, or intersecting systems of oppression.  Thus, they are oblivious to the needs of anyone but themselves.  It has become a pejorative slur toward a self-involved feminist (who tends to be white) that ignores the needs of People of Color.  Some extend the definition to include ignoring the needs of the LGBTQ community also.

When first called a WhiteFeminist™, I did what most White Women do. I:

  • took it personally
  • felt offended
  • felt angry, defensive
  • cried reverse racism
  • derailed the conversation and made it all about me and my fragile feelings

THEN I WOKE UP

Turns out the slur was actually helpful to me racism definitionbecause it was a catalyst for my growth.  How often is a White Feminist the object of a racialized slur?  First reaction is “that’s racist.”  That leads to “what is racism?”  When I realized racism is NOT just prejudice, it’s prejudice + institutional and systematic power, I GOT IT that reverse racism does NOT exist (it just can’t).  So People of Color can be prejudiced but not racist.

WhiteFeminists™ tend to focus on issues exclusively applicable to them.  For example, you may have heard Patricia Arquette’s classic Oscar acceptance speech about women’s right to equal pay and the wage gap making 78 cents for every $1 a man makes.

Actually when you look at diverse groups, wage gapthe facts look different.  The 78 cents is a national average.  Compared to a white man, a Black Woman makes 64 cents and a Latina woman makes 54 cents.  Given that ALL FEMINISTS are not EQUAL, it seems obvious to me that we all need to gather in solidarity together to start working on the feminists at the BOTTOM of the misogyny heap – those hit hardest by sexism PLUS racism, transphobia, and homophobia.

This is not to say white feminists don’t have issues or problems of their own.  But we have an OBLIGATION to use our WHITE PRIVILEGE to speak up for those being marginalized and oppressed.  White women and the defense of their honor and fragility have for far too long been the reason and justification used for violence against People of Color.  We have to stand up and shout STOP!  I will not, not for ONE MORE MINUTE, be part of this.

I will use my voice to speak up for the most oppressed and marginalized among us because THEY NEED OUR HELP.  Black women like #SandraBland are DEAD because of racism and police brutality.  Six Black Transgender women have been murdered this year. Can we focus our attention on women being murdered and deal with #FreeTheNipple later?  Pick something you feel passionate about and focus on that.  Just use common sense and prioritize. Focus on genital mutilation or forced marriage.  Focus on what’s near you, so you can grow where you are planted.  Use your voice.

If you are a White Feminist, PLEASE do what you can to END WhiteFeminism™.  A few suggestions:

1. Talk about this. Call out your White friends when their feminism is not intersectional or oblivious to other people’s needs.

2. Take the pledge and spread it around, get other people to take it. PledgeI created this because I will NO LONGER participate in WhiteFeminism in any shape or form. I would rather apologize humbly and learn gracefully than be a typical narcissist. I am a servant of the Divine and recognize the humanity inherent in every person.

3. Become active in whatever way you can. I’m disabled but I do what I can and twitter activism IS activism. Police brutality against People of Color has placed our country in a state of emergency. We NEED every White Feminist to talk to every other White Feminist and WAKE THIS WORLD UP. Join http://justicetogether.org/ and tweet about police brutality. Do something.

Another great article listing 6 things White Feminists can do about Police Brutality toward People of Color can be found by clicking here.

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