While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented job loss and deaths across the country, the violence against Black and Brown bodies in America is unfortunately not unprecedented. It is our nation's history. And while I've been vocal on my social media accounts and donating when and where I can, I have wrestled with whether my posts, my outrage, do any good. Last night I had a discussion with a white person I went to high school with about the discomfort of seeing these posts, of being called on and asked to use our voices as white people when a lot of people feel that they don't have the words, or the right words, to be helpful. They were asking how to be a useful part of this revolution. Being vocal is the beginning of change.
And white people, make no mistake: we are the ones that need to do the work. We need to confront our biases and help other white people do the same. I do not have all the answers--I too am on this journey. What I have are starting points.
Start with self-reflection: Are you uncomfortable? Good. Ask yourself what is making you uncomfortable, why is it making you uncomfortable, where did you learn this discomfort? These questions need to be answered in order to breakdown our own prejudice and biases. Trevor Noah just released a video that addresses some of these questions and might provoke new ones. It's 18 minutes but I encourage you to watch it if you haven't already.
Start by listening: hear what Black and POC communities are asking for be that time, money, or skills and contribute those things within our means. Here are some of the organizations I've been donating to. Please consider doing the same. Every little bit helps.
Start with research: It's hard to fix something if we don't know and understand how it's broken. Racism is woven into every piece of infrastructure in the US. It's time to tear down and rebuild. There are a few different resource hubs that I recommend checking out and using:
It is not enough to be "not racist." We need to be anti-racists. This means actively talking to other white folks and supporting Black and POC communities. In some ways, this fight is both a sprint and a marathon. We need to help Black and POC communities RIGHT NOW. They need our money and our voices. But this is a long-term journey. Things cannot change overnight. We need to continue doing this work long after George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor's names are no longer mentioned in the media. We need to do this work when there aren't horrific videos filling up everyone's news feeds. We need to do this work every damn day. When Black Lives Matter, then all lives will matter.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to continue this discussion or have questions.
This week's episode of Last Week Tonight couldn't have been more poignant for me. It was about bias in medicine and how women and people of color are often not believed about their symptoms or trusted with proper methods of treatment.
And before I go further I'll just acknowledge my privilege right here. For starters, I'm white. I grew up with insurance and access to healthcare, currently have insurance via my partner's company provided healthcare, and live near high end medical institutions. My experience is by no means as bad as it gets. Which should be fucking alarming because it can be, and is for many, so much worse. Serena Williams's story is a perfect and horrific example of this and how socio-economic status is only a fraction of the problem.
I'm not going to list out all of the appalling details from the episode, but please watch it. It's 20 minutes long and eye opening. John Oliver has an abundant list of outrageous statistics and real life experiences of bias in medicine that has or could've resulted in someone's death. And as he points out, these biases increase medical risk the further you are away from white and male.
(Oh and before you read further--I know not all doctors are like this and that white men can have bad experiences too. Keep the bigger problem in mind.)
Since I was a kid, I've had a slew of ridiculous doctor's experiences. Let's go down the list.*
When I asked if I was able to get pre-measured doses to administer myself, at home, I received a quick and forceful no. We trust patients with blood clots to take home two weeks worth of Warfarin and diabetics to take insulin (both injected medications with potential catastrophic side effects) but don't trust women to administer their birth control. I pointed this fact out and both the doctor and the nurse did not argue with my point but said they could not send me home with the shot.
I'm hoping that I'll feel more like myself in the coming weeks and the pain will subside, but in the meantime--it's 2019. Doctors should be required to take bias training. We should believe women and people of color about their pain and symptoms. Women are perfectly fucking capable of making decisions about their bodies.
Please listen to your bodies and talk to your doctors about what you're experiencing. If they're not listening, and you have the option, find a new doctor. And if all else fails, listen to Wanda Sykes and bring a white man to your appointments.
*None of this is medical advice, just my journey of advocating for myself.
I originally wrote this post in 2015. When I was deciding what content I wanted to keep and update, I was annoyed that this post is still so relevant. Not because my feelings about the subject have changed - I stand by every word I wrote - but despite the work being done through amazing organizations like Time's Up, The Women's March, and Emily's List, there is still so much work to be done.
So one more time for the people in the back:
A while back, I read an article written by a mother asking parents of her son's girlfriends not to threaten her son just because he's a hormonal, teenage boy.
I don't disagree with her plea. The idea that someone's father or mother might openly threaten a teenager that's dating their daughter is pretty antiquated. What I disagree with is the fact that she leaves a lot of responsibility to the girl and her parents when it comes to educating people how to behave in a relationship. She only hints at the boy's responsibility in a single, vague sentence.
In college, I took a course called Leadership in a Diverse Society. A portion of the class covered how leadership was impacted by gender and assumed gender roles. One day we had an activity where we examined experiences that were directly impacted by gender. The whole class sat in a circle so that we could immediately have an understanding of the different experiences in the room.
The conversation turned towards leaders in relationships and I will never forget the question that baffled every boy in the room: How many of you have ever felt intimidated or endangered on a date, not because the person is known to be act violently, but due to their size and gender?
Every single girl in the class raised their hand.
I recall several of the boys visibly disturbed by this statistic. They had no idea, let alone understanding, of what it must feel like to sit across from someone at dinner and wonder if they were capable of physically hurting you.
"It has never once crossed my mind on any date I've been on," one of the boys said.
The average height of men in the US is about 5' 10" while women are average about 5' 4". That's a significant size different, especially when you factor in weight. It makes sense why men might have never thought about the potential of physical abuse when they go on a date.
I agree with Kasey Ferris that we should not be threatening teenage boys when they start dating. But I wonder Ms. Ferris, did you ever consider what the girl across the table might be thinking about your son? It has nothing to do with the young man as a person; it just comes down to physicality.
What we NEED to do is educate both boys and girls appropriate ways to interact in relationships:
The world feels really chaotic right now. Whether you look at politics, religion, climate change, job markets, or anything else, everything seems in flux. The unfortunate part, from my perspective, is that a lot of it could be fixed with education.
The problem is, education is not readily available to the majority of the global population.
Currently 260 million children, globally, are not enrolled in school. That's over half of the entire US population. Women around the world face tremendous hurdles when it comes to receiving education. It's estimated that 131 million girls are not enrolled in school. Furthermore, even in developed nations, access to higher education disproportionally impacts women, people of color, and cis-gendered individuals.
And while I think education should be a fundamental right to everyone provided by the government (EX: all public universities in Scotland are funded by the government to enable young people to obtain a bachelor's degree), that is a hard concept for many people to grasp and support. However I think the US, for instance, could begin to tackle this problem from a different angle.
Universities, public and private, need to change the way they use funds. Full stop.
I'll use my alma mater as an example.
At the start of my first year, Iowa State University was completing a fundraising campaign with a goal of raising over $800 million to support university. As of October 1, 2010 they raised over $804 million. Nearly all of the donations were restricted, meaning the donors had earmarked their donations to fund a particular initiative that may or may not benefit the needs of the Iowa State community.
Universities all across the country, and I assume globally, run funding campaigns similar to this one. They release mission statements that pull on the nostalgic heartstrings of its alumni but how those goals and initiatives actually manifest can have some unintended consequences.
While I attended ISU, a myriad of new buildings went up. Many were for the STEM and architecture programs, as they are the money makers of the university. During that same time, several of my classes were held in older, under-utilized STEM buildings. It was fairly surprising to me to see new buildings being constructed when older buildings that were still in good shape, several recently updated, were not being utilized to their capacity. While universities have to be forward thinking and plan for growth, this did not seem like an economic use of resources. The growth of campus buildings compared to student population seemed disproportionate.
As I mentioned, most of the donated funds are restricted and many departments go underfunded and are downright neglected. In contrast to all of the new construction happening around campus, the English department was saddled with a number of concerning, though not unique, problems.
First, the English department was forced to decide whether they should continue funding graduate students that also doubled as teaching assistants or keep phones in department offices. There was no question - they chose the graduate students. They could not lose resources that were teaching required courses. In turn, many professors lost privacy as they handed out their personal cell phone numbers so their students would be able to get in touch with them. While it's an unrealistic expectation to think that liberal arts departments will suddenly receive a massive influx of funding, choosing between graduate students and office phones is an unnecessary decision for any department to make.
In addition, the English department did not have enough professors to ensure that students, both declared English majors and those seeking general education credits, could take required courses at the appropriate time to graduate in four years. I remember signing up for my second semester courses when I was told the class I needed to take in order to continue my major the following year was full. There were no plan in place for mitigating the lack of professors and influx of students. The administration office shrugged their shoulders until I brought it up to the dean of the college. For those that know me, I have no problem hiking things up the flag pole, but students shouldn't have to do that in order to take required courses. If institutions are impeding a student's ability to graduate in four years, that only piles on debt at the national level.
Then there's a different spending issue, one that puts the pressure directly onto students. Another building that was being renovated was State Gym. When it was done it had a leisure pool, a hot tub, and a giant projection screen so that you can watch the big game without ever leaving. The remodel of the old State Gym cost $52.8 million dollars, almost $10 million over budget, which was foisted onto students for the next 23 years after the grand opening in 2012. Each year, students pay an additional $214 to cover the cost of that particular renovation. While that cost is included in tuition, which can cost over $12,000 per semester, that doesn't include housing, books, food, and any cost associated with some semblance of a social life.
And while that awesome rec center seems like a lot of fun, the percentage of people using this service is much lower than the percentage of people paying for it. According to the tuition fee summary, everyone who attends the university pays into the renovation cost of State Gym, even if you're only attending for 1 credit hour.
Both of these scenarios illuminate the problem with funding and spending in education - we are paying for things that students, faculty, and staff are not using, and we are underfunding or cutting necessary programs. I think we could make higher education far more accessible by changing the way universities raise and spend money.
If I really wanted to get controversial I would say universities should slash their sports budgets (no coach needs to make $2 million a year) but America loves football almost as much as it loves guns so one step at a time.
Globally, around 420 million people would be lifted out of poverty with a secondary education, which would drastically change the government spending that so many people often complain about. There's no good reason not to address education access and inequality. But too often greed gets in the way of the conversation. We need to change this.
In reality, I can't accurately project how my suggestions would play out. I don't have access to university P&L's. But based on my experience, I think they'd be a step in the right direction. I'd love to hear what you think or hear about your own university experience.
Over the last week, there have been a plethora of stories written by the press and shared by citizens regarding the ACA - the Affordable Care Act - ObamaCare. The ACA has afforded many people to get cancer treatments, cancer screenings, coverage for chronic conditions, coverage for preexisting conditions, free birth control, and so much more. Is the system perfect? Absolutely not. But the conversation has become so polarized. Since its inception, the GOP has been hellbent on repealing it but I've heard no talk about amending it.
20 million people who were previously uninsured now have insurance. Based on that number alone, its hard for me to imagine that our Representatives and our Senators want to pull the rug out from under 20 million people. On that I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
But the conversation has turning into one of all or nothing it seems, with no talk of compromise. And this type of rhetoric has trickled down to the citizens of our country. There was a particular story that stuck with me this week where it seems to be most evident.
This week, a MLB player named Matt Garza responded to a tweet regarding birth control, stating that "abstinence is…the best contraception." While his statement is factual - it is very, very difficult to get pregnant if you abstain from sex - his statement is also incredibly dense. Yes, the ACA guarantees the coverage of essential health benefits and contraception. And while contraceptives do prevent pregnancies, they also do so much more.
I've been on long-term birth control for almost a decade now. I started with Depo-Provera when I was sixteen and switched over to Mirena when I was twenty-three. When I started taking Depo-Provera it was not to prevent pregnancy - it was to regulate my hormones. After puberty my hormone levels were imbalanced causing me to miss, on average, two days of school every month due to harsh PMS which caused migraines, vomiting, and cramping.
Ahhh - to be a woman.
As a married woman in my twenties, my birth control is now dual purposed in that it still regulates my hormones and prevents pregnancy. My husband and I love each other but we are not ready for kids right now. In Matt Garza's tweet, I'm going to guess that he was (poorly) trying to talk sex before marriage, as he has six children himself. He and his wife are probably using some form of family planning or he's only had sex six times. But those are assumptions.
So my question to him and people like him: What about me? Do I not deserve to be able to plan my family dynamics in a way that works for us? In a way that is both personally and societally responsible? Will you write a note to my company every month when I'm out sick for two days?
We need to change the way we think about healthcare in this country. When I called Speaker Paul Ryan's office (because I stand with Planned Parenthood), his message said that they are focused on creating "patient-centered healthcare." That's all fine and well. People aren't going to disagree with that rhetoric. But the rhetoric and the facts are contradictory. How can you have patient-centered healthcare when you're not guaranteeing necessary healthcare for 50% of all patients? A more accurate term might be "hetero-male centered healthcare."
I mean, would you remove coverage of a medicine that treats pulmonary arterial hypertension? Probably not, but I bet you there are plenty of people that might have complaints over that medication because that medication is called Viagra.
Contraceptive medicines do so much more than just prevent pregnancies. These medications have a drastic impact on quality of living and family planning. And whether you believe in using these medicines or not, every individual and family has the right to find the best solution for them.
So please, talk to your representatives, call Speaker Ryan and ask them not to remove funding for Planned Parenthood and ask them not to repeal ACA until they have a replacement that is truly patient-centered solution for all patients.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I understand that it's history is messy and wrong, however I hope that it is, if nothing else, a forcing function for people to be kind to one another and reflect about the year. I am so grateful for my wonderful husband, Reese, our dogs, Nala and Islay, our families, our friends, our home. I also shamelessly love the food.
However, this year I've been especially reflective. There's a lot that's up in the air right now in American politics and the state of the world. And we can't afford to leave it up to people that don't care about the citizens that create our great nation.
So this year I'm particularly grateful that my husband and I have jobs that afford us the ability to give back to those that have been or will be directly impacted by the political ecosystem that has been created. And if you can afford it, I urge you to do the same. No amount is too small. People around this country are fighting for their rights and need our help.
Here are the great organizations that we donated to:
More than ever, it's important to vote with your dollar. Support the people and organizations you care so they can keep doing great things.
Your participation can make change possible.
This morning brought a whole host of different emotions. But one thing is absolutely for certain: our fight did not end last night. It has only begun.
Mr. Trump, if you thought you were dealing with nasty women before, prepare yourself. We've been fighting this fight and dealing with open and subtle misogyny since the day we were born. We won't be passive. We won't be quiet. We won't smile about it. We won't be happy that we're fighting the same fight our grandmothers fought. But damn it, we will fight.
You think you know this country, but you are so wrong. While, unfortunately, a good portion of our citizens voted for you, love will always trump hate.
This election will set our country back. The eight years of progress we've had will most likely be dismantled by those trying to secure the privilege they have been clinging to. But you're forgetting one thing. Minorities, be they different genders, people of color, different sexual orientations, those of different religions, know what it means to have certain freedoms. To vote. To marry. To practice their faith. To have a credit card in their own name. To manage their healthcare. Take these things away and you will meet the true America.
Unfortunately, the people that voted for you don't realize what they're elected. Many of them now have health insurance, better medi-care coverage, education, protection against domestic violence. How do you think they'll react when they actually realize you plan to take that from them so you can better support the top 1%?
I won't keep dragging on. You have a whole, four years to read about the strong, resilient, passionate people of this country that you will soon represent. But hear this: you are not the better choice for this country. You will not be able to solve our nation's problems, and certainly not on your own. And in four years, we will all be here to say we told you so.
With the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, I feel even more compelled to write this post. It might be considered an open letter, but letters are supposed to be read. For all I know, this will go out to the interwebs and get passed up by everyone that needs to read it most.
Let's get started.
As you know there is an election happening this year. There are some things that I believe are getting lost in the ever growing divide between our nation. The passing of Justice Scalia is now adding to this increasing tension, though Justice Ginsburg is the perfect example of how we should all be acting.
UPHOLD YOUR OATH. It's upsetting to see the majority of Congress ignoring the oath they took in the name of petty grudges against the other party. To be clear, I'm not just picking on the Republicans here. I have full confidence that the Democrats would do the same thing if they were the majority in Congress. But they're not, so Republicans listen up. You swore to the American people that you would uphold our constitution and fulfill the responsibilities of the Senate or the House. So get it together and work with your Democratic counterparts.
COMPROMISE. I'm looking at you, Obama Administration. You're not going to get everything you want out of this SCOTUS nomination. Prioritize what's important and go from there.
KEEP AMERICANS IN MIND. The Rolling Stones say that "you can't always get what you want, but sometimes, you might find, you get what you need." My mother used to sing this to me as a child and it infuriated me, but now I'm passing this wisdom to you Congress. You need to give the American people what they need an put your own issues aside.
Voters - you have your own responsibilities to the American people.
VOTE. Previous generations gave blood, sweat, and tears to earn this right (unless they were white males) so please don't let this opportunity go to waste. If you choose not to vote, that's your choice. But then please don't complain when things didn't go the way you wanted them to. You had your chance.
EDUCATE YOURSELVES. Whether it's doing research on the internet or engaging in civil discussions and debates, learn about the different candidates and vote for what YOU believe in.
VOTE ON MORE THAN ONE ISSUE. I know, this is a big ask for many people. But there are too many important things going on in our nation right now that need attention and we, as a nation need to prioritize. People in Flint, Michigan do not have clean drinking water. In America. People all over are being deterred from voting. In America. People are not getting the education that our tax dollars supposedly pay for. In America.
Bridges are falling. Schools are underfunded. Drinking water is tainted. Medical services are not being provided to those who need it. Homelessness is rising. None of this is going to get solved if we keep placing blame and pointing fingers.
Let's stop acting like kids on a playground and get our shit together, America.
A disgruntled American
It appears that the world needs to be reminded what feminism means on a regular basis. So what is it? Feminism is an effort to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women.
Unfortunately, this week, it appears some of the biggest attacks against feminism came from self-proclaimed feminists. Madeline Albright, Gloria Steinem, and Hillary Clinton all stepped on more than a few toes this weekend when it came to discussing female voters.
To catch everyone up, this is what was said:
If you're wondering what this has to do with feminism, it's simple: feminism gives women the ability and right to choose when and how they would like to do something. If they'd like to be a working mom or stay-at-home mom. If they want to use birth control or not. If they'd like to vote for a man or a woman. The point of feminism is women get to choose, just like men. How dare these women try to shame other women for deciding to put their vote elsewhere.
If Clinton wants the young, female vote, she's got to earn it. She should be asking herself what she's doing wrong instead of telling these young women that they're wrong for wanting to vote for someone else. If she wants the young, female vote she shouldn't associate herself with people that are calling young females dumb and uninformed.
Furthermore, there's a special place in hell for people who follow blindly, Madeline Albright. You cannot lead if you have no followers. We should be encouraging voters to be informed voters. Without informed voters, you have no one to help you achieve your mission. Let's not encourage people to participate in an election based on one, non-political reason.
As for Steinem, she knows better, or at least she should. This is not her first rodeo and she would be naïve to think that women are voting solely on who their male friends are supporting. Steinem later apologized for misspeaking saying that she knows that "women are mad as hell" at what's happening and that she wants feminists to be vocal and active regardless of who they're supporting.
Steinem is right about one thing today, women are pissed. I won't speak for all the ladies, but I will speak for myself.
Pissed or not, we need to show up to the polls, ladies. Educate yourselves and vote. Don't stand for the bullshit that is Washington's political playground. Don't let people put you down and say you don't know what you're talking about. Speak with your vote. It counts more than ever.
A couple weeks ago I was getting a tattoo and the shop manager came back to talk to some of the artists about shop happenings. She was a bit annoyed, to say the least, that several times that day people had called referencing great Yelp reviews but they weren't sure what artist they should see and wanted a recommendation. The client, however, had not gone to the shop website to look at different artists' work or looked up what style of tattoo they wanted to get.
As a consumer at the shop, I know that they in fact have rave reviews on Yelp. But as a tattoo collector I know that's not how you do research. Personally, I always have an idea of what I want to get done and then look for the best person to do the job. Budget often is also a factor. You may know the saying that "cheap tattoos aren't good and good tattoos aren't cheap." So if you're not willing to wait until you have the money to get a solid tattoo done, don't expect the Sistine Chapel to be the outcome (this rule applies to SO MANY things).
Far too often, I meet fellow consumers that just don't do their research and then get mad at everyone else except themselves. It's not just consumers of tattoos that are having these problems. Restaurants, clothing, travel, technology. You name it, plenty of people haven't done their research.
In attempts to not be lumped into the naïve consumer stereotype, I've listed some standard questions and examples that can help guide your decision making process before you waste other people's time:
What style are you looking for?
Business owners, especially small business owners, work extremely hard. Many have perfected a craft over many years and produce quality work for others to enjoy. Please respect their time and expertise and do your research.
Recently, the Donald got a strategic endorsement from none other than Sarah Palin, who closed her speech by saying "Let's make America great again!"
Let me start by saying that I have several problems with that statement. But the one I want to address today is, do we the American people really think that Donald Trump is the man to do that?
No. I truly believe that there is only one right answer to that question.
As a nation that boasts about being the best, the greatest, the smartest, the freest, we should probably talk the talk AND walk the walk. Trump will not keep us in the lead.
This man's words (so far) have prompted British Parliament to consider banning him from the UK, Muslim children are living in fear of being kicked out of the country they call home, people in Mexico are making pinata's that look like him, and now he's being compared to Lord Voldemort, and even J.K. Rowling thinks Voldemort is a better guy.
If the US wants to be at the forefront of technology, innovation, education, etcetera, then we cannot ignore, neglect, chastise, and outcast half of our population. The world will not stand for it and the American people should not stand for it.
The US cannot have a leader that other nations cannot and will not follow. We cannot elect a leader that is more business man than he is historian. Should that happen, history will repeat itself.
With that, I would like to implore people to truly understand the people they're voting for. I am not telling people what side to pick, but simply asking them to educate themselves on the candidate they're backing. Do some research and cast your vote.