Don’t Mess With Texas Women: Citizens’ Filibuster Edition

22 Jun

On Wednesday I came out of my vacation from politics fog to a barrage of emails from my feminist Texan friends. I had been, admittedly, trying to ignore the news out of the Texas legislature. These were my two weeks – my ONLY two weeks – off from politics, and I was really enjoying myself.

I felt like there was really nothing I could do to halt these horrific attempts to further restrict abortion access in Texas, especially from my mother’s couch in Houston. But then I found out that women from across the state were being asked to come out and speak to the House Committee on State Affairs. The plan was two fold: First, our perspectives and our stories should NOT be discounted in this special session, so we needed to make sure the committee heard from us. Second, even though there are not many rules in a special session, it could be possible to try a citizens’ filibuster by packing the witness list and continuing to speak until it was too late for them to get the bill to the House floor.

I was sitting on my porch with my dad, trying to decide if I was should drive back to Austin in the middle of my vacation, and he said, “You know, if they can’t get enough people without you always having to be the one to show up, maybe the people trying to pass this bill are right.”

I tried to wrap my head around this thought. Could my dad possibly be right? Were Representative Laubenberg and Senator Hegar speaking for the true voice of the women of Texas? Should I really go just to add my little three minutes?

Then I started to get the messages.

“Genevieve, please go up there and protect my rights!”

“I wish I could be there – Hold it down for all of us in Houston.”

“Please let them know that for every one of you there, there is someone else at home you are speaking for.”

Yes, I am always at the pro-choice rallies, but it isn’t because I’m the only one who cares: It’s because I am one of the people who can. I walked up to my dad and said, “Because I can, Dad. When so many people can’t, I can.”

So I hopped in my car and drove to Austin. I had no idea what I was getting into. By some reports, over 700 people had registered to testify on House Bills 60 and 16 before the committee. We started around 5 PM and still had over 200 witnesses remaining on the first bill at 1:00 AM.

Some of the witnesses spoke about their own experiences with abortion. Some of them cited evidence and statistics to break down the arguments in these bills piece by piece. Some of them spoke out about life before Roe and what they feared these restrictions would do. There were lawyers, CPS workers, OBGYNS, doctors, teachers, students, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, brothers, seasoned political activists and first timers. Some people were shaky and nervous when it was their turn to speak, and many tears were shed at the microphone and in the audience.

There were so many people there for the hearing that they had to open two overflow rooms so everyone could have a place to sit. We all stayed. We spoke, we listened, and we shared what was happening with the world through social media.

At 12:30 AM, with over 200 people left to testify, the Chairman of the committee announced that we had become “repetitive” and that he was going to shut down the testimony.From outside the hearing room, it sounded like all hell had broken loose.

There were shouts and chants, culminating in a rush into the main hearing room and a chorus of, “Let her speak! Let her speak!’ DPS officers brought in and everyone was feeling a little tense. “I am willing to go to jail for this,” a woman said, in passing. Activists were discreetly filming, because the official audio live stream had been turned off. As the committee members gathered in the back room, we tried to figure out what we were going to do. We decided to keep sharing our stories with each other.

Four or five witnesses read their testimony aloud. Then, State Representative Jessica Farrar came out to give us the verdict: they would let us testify, but only for 25 more minutes. We could choose which witnesses were heard. We had to be “respectful.” We had no other options.

In fact, testimony on House Bill 60 (and then House Bill 16) went on before the committee until 3:30 AM. With five people left in line, the chair decided he had heard enough. He tried to adjourn the hearing. After enough outrage and demands that these women have fifteen more minutes to finish sharing their stories, he said he would hear just two more.

True to his word, he gavelled out over the protest of those still present, and he and the author of the bill left the room. There was a moment of uneasy tension as the three remaining witnesses and the other committee members and representatives tried to decide what would happen next.

In the end, the three young women took the podium, even without a working microphone. Seven representatives stayed in their seats to hear the last three witnesses share their testimony.

They planned to vote the bills out of committee last night. Instead, the chair left them pending. This morning, in a hurried vote in a small room, the committee voted them out. But we had made sure that they had to listen to us, first.

I cannot adequately describe what being a part of this citizens’ filibuster felt like. I was moved and inspired by friends and strangers alike. Speaking of the kindness of strangers, supporters from across the state and the country came together to order pizza, cookies, and coffee in solidarity with our struggle. #HB60 was trending worldwide on twitter. And the messages of support from those who stayed up all night at home, watching the livefeed and refreshing their social media feeds, meant as much to me as those who were with me at the capitol.

We may not have stopped these restrictive bills in their tracks with our citizens filibuster, but we did slow them down. And we showed them what happens when you mess with Texas women. We show up. .We drive in from across the state. We speak out. We are not afraid. We are not backing down. AND WE VOTE.

As one witness said, we will be here every time they try to take our rights away. And if you do not stand with us, you will see us standing next to your opponents.

The Cupcake on Fire/The Katnisscake

10 Apr

As some of you may recall, I like making up literary themed recipes for cupcakes and baked goods and filing them away for the eventual opening of my (now brewery/) bakery where all of the baked goods are based on literary characters.

I was inspired by a pumpkin spice caramel ghirardelli square to make the most recent addition a reality: The Cupcake on Fire (AKA The Katnisscake)

I used the Pumpkin Cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery as a base, ditto for their Cream Cheese icing recipe, but I made a few changes.

Cupcakes (makes 12):

1 c flour

1/2 c cocoa powder (I want to find a chipotle cocoa powder and try that in this recipe in the future)

1 t baking powder

1 1/2 t cinnamon (you can put in more if you like a really spicy taste, like I do)

pinch of salt

3 T unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 c milk

2 eggs

pumpkin puree: the recipe calls for 6.5 oz, but most pumpkin puree comes in a 12 oz can (or larger). I generally eyeball half a can when I make this recipe and it works for me, but when making The Katnisscake, I add a couple extra tablespoons of pumpkin puree to make up for the added 1/2 c of dry ingredients (because of the cocoa).

1. Preheat the oven to 325.

2. Put all of your dry ingredients in a big bowl with the butter and beat with an electric mixer. Beat until it looks a bit like damp sand.

3. Pour in the milk a little at a time, beating constantly, until everything is combined.

4. Add both eggs, and beat until just combined.

5. Now spoon in the pumpkin puree, and stir by hand until just combined.

6. Taste check! Because some of the bits of this are my little tweaks, do a taste test to make sure the batter is significantly cinnamony and chocolatey for your tastes. If it tastes a lot like pumpkin (because there’s pumpkin puree in the batter) don’t be fooled: the flavor of the pumpkin puree fades with the baking.

Spoon into cupcake papers and bake for 20 minutes. They will look very full if you use all of the batter, but don’t worry, they will be fine!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing:

6 oz cream cheese

3 T unsalted butter at room temperature

2 c powdered sugar

cinnamon to taste

1. Starting with 4 oz of cream cheese, begin by beating cream cheese, butter, and 1 c powdered sugar together with an electric mixer. Stop after about 30 seconds to taste. Note: I like my cream cheese icing to taste like slightly sweet cream cheese, so I use a very high ratio of cream cheese to powdered sugar. Start from this ratio and then add cream cheese or powdered sugar, depending on which way you’d like your icing to go.

2. Add cinnamon to taste.

3. Beat for at least three minutes on high once you have the right taste for your icing. This way it will be whipped and fluffy and delicious.

DO NOT ICE YOUR CUPCAKES UNTIL THEY ARE COOL. Your icing is too yummy to waste by applying it to cupcakes that are still hot!

Optional extra steps:

1. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of the icing for a little extra spice.

2. Before icing, cut a small cone out of the top of each cupcake with a small, sharp knife. Carefully spoon caramel sauce into the hole. Now you have caramel filling! If you do this, be very careful when icing or the caramel will come out and ooze everywhere. Consider yourself warned!

If you aren’t going to eat these immediately, I suggest storing them in the fridge and then letting them thaw for about 30 minutes before eating. Otherwise, the cream cheese icing gets a little wonky.

Enjoy!

When you are a Nice Guy, “No” does not apply

9 Apr

So, a guy I met online became facebook friends with me months ago. He seemed normal and interesting so I thought it was fine and said I’d like to get pie with him sometime. Then he turned out to be a philosophical troll who commented on my activist statuses nonstop with questions about the structure of my arguments etc, etc, and I finally told him off. I told him I was not interested in making my activist statements fit his masculinist ideas of legitimate logical arguments and that I’d prefer it if he would stop.

So he started messaging me on facebook, telling me how I was wrong about him and his arguments and I was misinterpreting what he was trying to do (while at the same time proving everything I had said about his being concerned with the argument structure and whether it was “logical” theoretically instead of what the actual issue was). I ignored him for a while and then, when it became clear that he would keep messaging me whether I responded or not, told him in very explicit terms that I was not interested in talking to him or hearing his opinion and he could stay facebook friends with me if he wanted to but I was not interested in talking to him, thank you very much.

He stopped messaging me, but went back to commenting on my statuses, links my friends would share, and news articles/activist stories that I posted on my timeline. Then, he texted me (because my number is visible to my friends on facebook. Something that has since been changed). I did not respond. Finally I got completely tired of seeing his commentary and deleted him as a friend.

Then, the texting ramped up:

“What gives? You’ve gone from ignoring me to deleting me? Because I respect you enough to ask your opinions? How is that fair? I’d like you to show me the respect I’ve been trying to show you all along, even if you feel I have failed.”

This is when I said, “Please stop contacting me. Just stop.”

“Why did you agree to hang out then? You had planned to do so. Also, I responded to your portrayal of me. A lot of the interpretations you’ve had of me have been mistaken and unfair. I’m not out to upset you, I want to understand you.”

I told him his interest in my opinion did not entitle him to my wanting to know anything about him, and again said, “Stop contacting me.”

“I didn’t say I was entitled, but I’ve extended several olive branches. What can I do to convince you I’m worth your time, which was your initial judgment?”

And when I did not respond,

“We have a lot in common. I don’t get why you’re freaking out on me. I’m not trying to date you or anything sketchy.”

My friends then advised me to ignore him, and that maybe then he would stop. This was last Tuesday. And then on Sunday,

“Happy resurrection of Jesus day, Ms. C ;)”

And at that point, I had completely had it. I had told him on multiple occasions, explicitly, that I did not want to talk to him or engage with him. I explicitly asked him to stop contacting me twice using the phrase, “Please stop contacting me,” when he started texting me. And ignoring him was not helping. I was angry because he was completely ignoring every instance of me telling him to stop trying to communicate with me, and it scared me that he did not respect my autonomy in choosing whether to communicate with him or not.

Despite what he said, he did feel entitled to my attention. Before I knew him at all, I said “yes” to going to get pie sometime. Once it became obvious that he was one of those philosophy doctoral students whose obsession with logic drives me up the wall, I knew friending him on facebook had been a mistake and knew without a doubt that I had no interest in meeting him.

But he did not accept that. Instead, he took my initial interest in meeting him to mean that I would always be interested, despite multiple occasions where I made it very obvious that I was no longer interested in communication.

He said he didn’t understand why I was “freaking out on him” because he wasn’t trying to “date me” or do anything “sketchy,” but he completely failed to see how continuing to contact me after being explicitly asked (and told) to stop was incredibly inappropriate and absolutely “sketchy.”

And then, to have the gall to text me about Easter in a very clearly personal (and not mass) text message after I had ignored his last texts and explicitly told him to stop contacting me, it just sent me over the edge. Obviously ignoring him was not going to work, and I felt frightened.

This is what I really want to talk about. He did not (and does not) have my address or any other contact information for me (especially now that he is blocked on facebook). All he has is my phone number. With just that information (assuming it would never escalate beyond his using my number to text me) he cannot actually physically find me or hurt me, as my friends and my mother pointed out when I brought this up with them.

But by absolutely refusing to respect my right to choose who I do or do not interact with, and by ignoring all of my efforts to communicate the fact that I wanted him to stop contacting me, he was undermining my ability to control who I let into my life. He was completely denying me the right to refuse my attention to him, and he was not listening when I said, “no.” Because my statements did not reflect what he understood the situation to be, that I was misunderstanding him and thus making these statements from a position of misinformation and therefore could not actually mean them, he chose to completely disregard my feelings on whether he could or should continue to contact me. My desires had nothing to do with his desire to “know me,” or “understand me.”

This was not about “respecting me enough to ask my opinions,” if he actually respected me he would listen when I told him I did not want to talk to him. Instead, it was about his own feelings, that he is a Nice Guy and not a “sketchy” guy, that I just don’t understand him, that if I just give him a chance I will understand why we should be friends. But that is not nice in the slightest.

Perhaps I should have followed my friends’ advice in continuing to ignore him and blocking his number in silence, but I was angry. I was angry that he felt entitled to my attention, I was angry that he got to walk around thinking that he was a Nice Guy while putting me in a state of anxious panic every time he texted me and again ignored my wanting him to stop. I was angry that he didn’t understand how what he was doing was having an impact on me that was negative, and I was angry that he felt so fucking Nice that he couldn’t be refused by someone. That I did not have the right to say, “I do not want to talk to you, leave me alone.” I did not want to just ignore him and hope that it stopped. I wanted to yell and scream and say, “WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR GODDAMN PROBLEM?! WHY DON’T YOU SEE THAT WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS WRONG? You are not a nice guy, you are a Nice Guy, and you need to STOP.”

Instead, I just said, “You do not seem to understand what ‘Please do not contact me’ means, so I am blocking your number. Do not try to use another means to communicate.”And then I went online and (I thought) blocked him from communicating with me.

When my phone lit up with two texts from him, I got so anxious that I started to shake. I called my mother and started to say, “It didn’t work, I don’t know why, it didn’t work, we have to try through [my stepdad]’s account number, because it didn’t work” and suddenly I was starting to cry. I felt ridiculous responding in that way, because I knew that he couldn’t actually physically find me, but it was so upsetting to have my autonomy refused and underminded and to have someone completely ignore me telling them to stop that I was shaking and crying on the phone with my mother. She reminded me that he couldn’t actually hurt me, and told me to call a number she had to try to get him blocked from contacting me. But I was so shaken I didn’t even want to look at his texts. And I felt like a fool for allowing his texts messages to make me feel so scared.

Finally, I read them. And I think I finally got through to him with “I am blocking your number” where “Please stop contacting me” failed:

“OK, I’ll stop, but you really are a whiny baby who can’t defend her beliefs for shit. Makes sense that your last name is Cato and not Everdeen. Have a nice life, jerk.”

Partly I am sharing this story because I am still pissed as hell that there are entitled jerk faces walking around thinking they are Nice Guys and refusing to listen when women say, “No.” Because they are so Nice, we must be mistaken when we say “no,” so they feel free to ignore it or call us “whiny babies” and “jerks” and “bitches.”

Well you know what, Nice Guy? FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. I do not owe my opinions or my interest or my conversation or my friendship to anyone, no matter how interested in me they are. I have the right to change my mind. If I say I want to get some goddamn pie, and then I decide that I no longer do, that is my right! I am allowed to decide that I no longer want to be friends with people and expect that those decisions be respected whether or not you understand them. And you DON’T respect me, and you AREN’T interested in my opinions, because I have shared them with you TIME AND TIME AGAIN and instead of accepting them, you refuse to recognize them and ignore them because they don’t fit your understanding of how I should respond because you’re such a Nice Guy.

YOU AREN’T NICE. YOU ARE A FUCKING ASSHAT DOUCHEBAG WHO WAS BORDERING ON STALKERISH TENDENCIES. YOU MADE ME FEEL ANXIOUS, UPSET, UNCOMFORTABLE, AND SCARED BECAUSE YOU REFUSED TO LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SAID “NO.”

tl;dr:

You have every right to determine who you do or do not want to interact with, from social encounters to sex. And you have every right to change your mind after you’ve already said yes, whether it is to pie or hooking up. And if anyone, EVER, does not immediately respect your right to choose what you do with your time and your space and your body in relation to them, they are not a Nice Guy. And they can go fuck themselves.

Seven hours at Occupy Philly

15 Oct

As many of you know, I went to Occupy Wall Street last weekend for two days (Friday and Saturday). I was amazed by the level of  organization in the tiny (we’re talking maybe a little bigger than your high school basketball court) park. However, since it had become so visible (finally) in the media due to arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge the weekend before, it was totally packed. It was almost impossible to get involved in any real way, because there were so many people already there and set in their functions. Perhaps if I could go on a weekday during work hours I would encounter a different space. I felt more like an observer than a part of the protest, which is probably valid, since I really was. I did enjoy the break out student session where I met many other New Jersey college students who were also in town for the weekend.

On Saturday I observed a General Assembly at Washington Square Park. There were so many people, the People’s Mic had to echo in waves to the back so everyone could understand what was going on.

All in all, Occupy Wall Street was an excellent experience. I got to see how the movement works, which is through organized direct democracy. I also got to hang out with the Raging Grannies, which made the whole trip worth it.

This weekend I headed to Philly. I had no plan aside from the schedule posted to Occupy Philly’s facebook page. When I started walking over, it started to rain. The rain was not the issue. It was really the huge gusts of wind that were my problem. I had about a twenty minute walk to City Hall, where the Occupy camp is set up. Not entirely sure if anyone would even be there after the downpour, I carried on down Market to City Hall.

It stopped raining by the time I arrived (but not before my jeans got totally soaked) and there were, in fact, many people walking around. Market street goes out from either side of City Hall. I came up to the back and was met by this visual: police guarding the same metal bike-rack looking barricades used to prevent occupiers from getting onto Wall Street. These barriers stretched around half of the building, with an opening in the back for city employees to enter. The only part of City Hall without barricades is the front, where Occupy Philly is set up. There are closed gates separating the inside of City Hall from the Occupy encampment. There may be a myriad of reasons for this, including recent vandalism that Occupy Philly does not claim and does not support. Anyway, this certainly put me on my guard as I continued on to find the camp.

I wandered around for a bit and oriented myself. I took pictures of wet signs. I got compliments on my “I want my tax dollars to support abortion access!” shirt. There is a septa stop that lets off right in the middle of Occupy Philly (super convenient!). The stairway coming up from the middle has a large circular opening (you can probably see it in some of the pictures from the protests here). Around this circle, there are many tents facing out. The library is here (there’s a library here and in New York too!), the message tent, the jobs with justice tent, and many others. I saw a group that looked approachable and walked over to them.

They were wonderful. I met J, a father, whose kids span in age from college age to elementary school. He is recently unemployed and his wife just graduated from a professional program for nursing. Their kids in college are both on scholarships, but they also have to take out loans and are accruing college debt every semester. We talked about the wars in Afghanistan, college loans and student debt, fracking and the cost of this natural gas obsession for communities whose water becomes toxic and undrinkable.

I also met B, who is a part of the local Workers World organization (it’s socialist. I bet you guessed that.) She also informed me about fracking. Her husband is a retired postal worker, and her son is in prison for a drug offense. She believes in a future where human good is the motivator for governance. We also talked about her experiences in Cuba and her views on the USSR (which are certainly different from mine).

I then headed over to the Messages tent, which had a big sign:

"What's the message? You tell us!"

I met the person running the tent (whose name escapes me) and he explained the process. The messaging working group is taking on the task of coming up with a sound bite that encompasses the complexity of Occupy Philly’s diverse demands through the use of a survey. It is an open survey, so no one has to choose from provided answers about what they think the movement is about. It has questions about the movement in general, and about the local and community concerns that Occupy Philly seeks to address. After they collected them yesterday, they’re going to take all of the answers and do two things: the first is determine, through the prevalence of similar answers, what Occupy Philly is “about.” I think this reflects the direct democracy process that undergirds the entire movement: the messaging working group could be creating this message themselves based on what they observe at General Assemblies, but instead they are using methods that allow the protesters’ words to define what the message is. The second part, that I will unfortunately not be around to see, is the creation of a word cloud from all of the answers. Once the word cloud is done, they’re going to project it onto the side of City Hall so everyone can see what the occupiers think the movement is about. The guy working the Message tent is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Penn, so we also had a nice long conversation about the difference between anthropology and sociology, and he explained some nuances of anthropology to me. This was super helpful, because I’m seriously considering anthropology as a discipline if I decide to go for a PhD. We also talked about the way that this movement is growing, and how the direct democracy governance works. He identifies as an anarchist, and I admitted that I’m a progressive liberal, but we had a really constructive conversation about Ron Paul-like ideas and the assumption that the state is the appropriate level for governance.

Next, I visited the library, or as it is called here at Occupy Philly “The Book Exchange.” According to the woman who was hanging out with the books, people just started bringing them to donate to the camp and that is how the book exchange began.

There was a march I hadn’t intended on participating in (because of the ankle I sprained on my way to Occupy Wall Street last week) but I ended up doing it anyway. It was awesome. First, they told us the number to call in case we were arrested and did a quick review of statements to remember if you are. Not gonna lie, that made me nervous, but I saved the number in my phone and took a position among the marchers. When we left, we were about half as large in numbers as when we got back to camp. People were constantly coming in off the sidewalk and joining in with the march. People of all ages, ethnicities, and apparent socio-economic backgrounds gave us signs of encouragement as we marched around the city. At one point, an elderly woman on her balcony gave us two or three thumbs down. I caught her eyes as I was chanting “We! Are! The 99 Percent! (And so are you!)” and gave her a peace sign and a smile. It was a really great feeling, because I finally felt a part of the movement. I really identify with what this movement is saying, as most of you who have talked to me/followed my tumblr posts/seen my facebook link spam would know. We stopped in front of the Apple store and did a people’s mic call out about the exploitation of the people who make Apple products (ending with a statement that we hope that we can have those products without that exploitative labor). We also stopped in front of Urban Outfitters to talk about their tax loopholes (they don’t pay local, state, or federal taxes). It was a really great public education direct action moment. People were taking pictures and video, and there were so many people giving us support through thumbs up, peace signs, solidarity fists, and applause. A lot of people working in the businesses we passed showed their support from the restaurants and shops where they were working. It was fantastic. Some people expressed concern at smaller numbers than last week, but others made the valid point that it was really wet and gross outside. It started raining on us at the very end of the march, but we kept going down Market to City Hall and never stopped chanting.

To escape the rain, I hopped back under the Workers World tent and ended up in a class on socialism and capitalism. Though I am more of a progressive than a socialist (and I think we need a new theory of economics outside of the capitalist/socialist binary), I really enjoyed the class. The organizer, Rob, was very good at facilitating discussion while allowing everyone to have a chance to speak their minds. The people in the meeting spanned unemployed, 40-something black adults struggling for their families, a college-aged young white man with Krohn’s disease and concerns about health care coverage, a white woman in her mid-thirties employed at a company focused on “increased productivity,” which is code for more work with less pay, and a young black man who self-identified as “working class,” saying that capitalism has been impacting him his entire life. There were also two female social workers, a family with three young daughters, and a Vietnam war vet and a Vietnam draft dodger. Many others came in and out of the discussion as it went on. It ended up taking two hours instead of the one hour assigned (which meant I missed dinner. I ended up eating an entire box of Trader Joe’s chicken noodle when I got back at 9:30) and I arrived at the General Assembly a few minutes late. Everyone’s knowledge was treated as worth hearing. The one issue I had was that the same (male) people felt comfortable controlling the conversation while I had to work twice as hard to to be heard. At one point, I tried to start a sentence three or four times with older men talking over me until the facilitator interrupted them and said it was my turn to speak. I also had this experience later when the General Assembly broke out into small discussion groups to talk about a proposal that had been brought by the legal working group. Usually, it took a white male recognizing my struggle to speak for my voice to be heard. In the sixties, women in the civil rights and church movements found that their ideas and voices were not respected. I would not say that this was my experience, because when I did speak my ideas were taken seriously and respected as valid knowledge. My difficulties lay in getting the opportunity to speak, which is not to lessen the importance of addressing these kind of gendered disparities in the movement.

When I finally got to the General Assembly, they were halfway through announcements from the working groups. At both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Philly, the occupiers use the People’s Mic to communicate ideas without microphones. Whenever the person speaking says something (which should be 1-4 words long), the people who can hear them repeat it to the people behind them. It works really well when people remember to project to the back.

I got to observe a decision making process while I was there. I didn’t see it through to the end, because I was hungry and cold and was not going to vote (since I am not a permanent member of Occupy Philly and may not be able to make it back this semester), but I was fascinated by the process of direct democracy.

First, the proposal was presented to the General Assembly through the People’s Mic. Then, the person facilitating the GA opens the “stacks.” This is a way for everyone who has something to say to get the chance to do so. The entire process is highly organized. First, the stacks are opened for “clarifying questions.” Everyone at the GA had one minute to get to the “stack-takers,” two people designated to record the names for the stacks and eventually count votes in the straw poll and final votes, so their name would be on the stacks. Once the stacks are closed, the stack takers go down the list and those on the stacks ask their questions to the person/working group presenting the proposal. The People’s Mic operates at every level of this process to make sure everyone hears what is going on. After the clarifying questions are asked, the stacks were opened for two minutes to concerns. Everyone on the stacks airs their concerns. After all of the concerns have been heard, there is a straw poll to determine whether the proposal should be rejected or whether the process should continue to “friendly amendments.” If there is not a clear majority rejecting the amendment, which happened with the first proposal put to the GA by the tech working group, the GA continues to “friendly amendments.” Amendments follow the same stacks procedure, giving everyone the opportunity to put their name on the stacks and offer an amendment. The amendments are heard one by one, and each amendment has its own clarifying questions and concerns process. Then, there is a final vote on each amendment offered. In the straw polls and the final votes, stack takers go into the crowd and physically touch every person with their hand raised to insure that all who vote are counted. After friendly amendments, any amendments passed are added to the proposal, and the proposal comes to a straw poll and a final vote. If the straw poll doesn’t show a clear majority, the General Assembly breaks up into small groups of people coming from all sides of the issue to discuss their views and talk about the proposal. Once five minutes of discussion has passed, everyone reassembles and new concerns coming out of those group discussions are shared through the stack process. I left at this point, because it was after 9 and I was seriously hungry and tired. I don’t know if it passed, but I was really impressed by how organized the process was and the commitment to real direct democracy that the occupiers show. There is an understanding that this process means that any decision making takes time, but there is a real commitment to the process.

I did notice some tensions at the meeting, though, which I’d like to discuss here very briefly (because this is already the longest blog post ever). A few questions were raised because of the nature of the proposal. The first was around the contention that occupations are inherently adversarial. Part of the proposal was about dealing with the city, and it made me wonder how you handle communications between a radical direct democracy and the structures that govern the city. If it is inherently adversarial, what does this mean for that relationship? The city has the power to evict the occupiers through force (though I have to mention that this occupation is happening about ten blocks from a large stone with the text of the first amendment, which includes the right of the people to peaceably assemble), as we have seen at other cities like Boston, and so it is in the interest of a continued occupation that they work with the city. For other occupiers, it is in the interest of a radical paradigm shift that Occupy Philly not follow tradition communication patterns with the city. This tension is just one piece of the complicated process that is direct democracy.

Another tension in direct democracy was the response of some who had helped craft the proposal to the concerns and demands of those in the General Assembly responding to it. It was obvious from their body language as they whispered in the background that they assumed they knew what was right for the proposal and the rest of the GA simply did not understand, or were not being realistic. In a direct democracy, one of the assumptions I have based on all of the processes is that everyone’s knowledge is valued. But, does direct democracy actually mean that everyone’s input is respected, or is it simply that everyone gets to have input? Is there space in this movement to break down our prejudices about where legitimate knowledge comes from and who can have it? I, for one, really hope so. Those on the working team behind the proposal did not seem to share this feeling. However, it can’t be easy to try to bridge the gap I mentioned before between the city and the self-identifying radical protesters.

Direct democracy is messy. This movement is complicated. It moves slowly because of the value placed on every person’s voice and vote having the capability to be heard. None of those who keep demanding a “clear message” or “specific demands” understand the nature of this process. There are more radical anarchist protesters alongside liberal protesters and socialists, but all of them have the opportunity to communicate their ideas and teach people about their perspectives. Occupy Philly has really helped me understand the movement at the level of the nitty gritty, the every day. I’m excited to go back in a few minutes (now that I’ve finished a delicious bagel at Old City Coffee on Church street) for the marches and rallies planned for today. I also volunteered to watch the tent for a while with the World Workers so some of the long-time volunteers can have a break. I want to make a sign, but I’m not sure what my sign would say.

Finally, I’d just like to address a couple general things about Occupy Together. First of all, whether you agree with the movement or not, I seriously recommend that you go out to the local events near you. There are events happening across the country and around the world. According to an article I read earlier, there are planned events in over 800 cities. Chances are there is one near you. If you think you’re familiar with the demands of the movement and you don’t think it represents you, go to the movement and represent yourself. The movement doesn’t identify itself with any political party or ideology, and those involved are incredibly diverse and united by anger about inequality in the United States and an understanding that the top 1% have been complicit in (if not entirely responsible for) these inequalities and the financial crisis in 2008. The movement is open to all ideas and all voices. This is a movement for you. This movement is ready to hear your voice. The 99% they are speaking to are obviously not all liberal, but the movement is concerned for all disenfranchised people. I’m not saying your ideas will not be met with discussion or argument, all ideas in a diverse direct democracy are up for debate. But, the movement won’t reflect you until you get into the movement. So get out there and do it!

Solidarity and love from Philly,

Me

(P.S. I published this using Occupy Philly’s free wifi)

Sometimes I Try To Bake And I Succeed!

7 Sep

Hello lovely readership! All five of you! :)

I recently read this fabulous post by my absolute favorite baking blogger, Darla. Then when I was ordering my groceries for delivery, due to my lack of wheels in my living in this godforsaken place called New Jersey, I decided to go for it and ordered all of the components for this easy and yummy meal that will last foooooreeeeeveeerrrr (For the right effect, read that in the voice of those little green aliens from Toy Story. These guys.). I mean, it makes about twelve servings because you bake it in a 9 by 13, so for a person only feeding herself, it will last a really long time. I plan to freeze half of it. In little servings. Little servings of yummy pizza pastaness.

OK! Back to business.

You can find the entire recipe and all of Darla’s helpful insights here on her blog Bakingdom. I will just give you the general overview of how it went in my kitchen which, for once, was swimmingly!

First, you cook your pasta! I chose whole wheat organic pasta because I’m cool like that, and I figured if I was going to be eating something with “pepperoni” and “pizza” in the name I ought to use the healthiest ingredients possible. Plus, I like being full and I hate being hungry. Whole wheat pasta keeps me full for longer, in my experience, than normal pasta. Now that I’ve plugged whole wheat pasta fo FREE, on we go!

if it looks slightly awkward, that's because I took this picture after it had been chillin out for a while.

The full recipe calls for a 13 oz box of pasta,which is a LOT of pasta friends. Darla suggests you cook only until it is al dente because it will then be baked, but for my personal tastes I will cook it for longer next time. Whole wheat pasta is awesome, but it is definitely tougher than non-whole wheat pasta in general. I’d like it to be softer in the final product next time.

Then, you make the sauce all on your own! It is ridiculously easy and SO yummy. It just takes a few ingredients that you probably have in your cabinet already (except for 30-32 oz of tomato sauce) and it is quite yummy.

look its so yummy!

If you follow Darla’s recipe, this is where you will brown your sausage and dice your pepperonis. Since this is a pizza pasta bake, it is my personal opinion that you should put the things you love on a pizza into the pasta, so I opted for turkey pepperoni and black olives instead. The next time I make this, I think I’m going to make a veggie supreme version  with sauteed onions, olives, peppers, and mushrooms. Yum!

A note on the sauce: I really enjoy the flavor of the sauce. My only complaint is that I like my pizza and my pasta to be extra saucey! Next time, I will go with two 15 oz cans of tomato sauce and an extra 8 oz can in order to increase the sauce content.

After your add-ins (toppings, if you will) are all prepared, combine them with the sauce that you have oh so expertly simmered.

look at those black olives and pepperoni bits in all that saucey goodness!

Next you add the pasta to the sauce. You can mix it in the bowl, like I did:

don't all the pieces look so happy together?

Or you can pour them both into your pan and mix together there. Either way, the result is the same! Then you cover your pizza pasta with mozzarella cheese. Darla calls for two cups, but I went for more like three cups on my first try. I like things to be cheesy! Well, I like food to be cheesy. Less so jokes and people.

look at all that CHEESE!

Then you pop it in your preheated oven (which is a nice and toasty 350 degrees) and let it hang out for about 25 minutes. When I checked on mine the top was not brown, so I let it go for another five minutes. When it still was not brown I was way too hungry to give a shit and pulled it out anyway.

I think it still looks good and melty despite an absence of brown on the top

This next step is the hardest part: wait for ten minutes so it will be cool and collected and, most importantly, will not burn off your tastebuds or make awkward things happen to the roof of your mouth. After the requisite ten minutes have passed, you can TOTALLY eat it!

Word to the wise, if you are indeed using super solid whole wheat extra healthy pasta, you won’t need nearly as much as you think to get full. I promise! I found out the hard way.

Suggested pairing: your new copy of bitch magazine.

a meal fit for a hungry feminist

A few concluding thoughts on this highly successful baking adventure: This meal can be as healthy as you want (or as delectably greasy! both are valid choices.) because you have so much control over what happens in the process. I chose turkey pepperoni, whole wheat pasta, and reduced fat mozzarella simply because I knew I’d be eating it every day for a while and that better fits my daily eating style. This dish can easily be made low sodium (only 1 teaspoon of extra salt goes into the sauce and you can use low sodium tomato sauce or some other tomato source if you prefer), vegetarian, or vegan (if you MUST skip the cheese). Did I mention it’s easy? Because it totally is.

All right! My editing break is over. It’s back to the thesis grindstone for me, but at least I’m full of pizza pasta goodness!

Love, sisterhood, and lots of cheese,

me

 

How a love of life can equal hating women, or, my issues with “pro-life” rhetoric

24 Aug

I posted this status:

Anti-choice legislation doesn’t do anything for anyone. It creates a larger burden for women who already have the least amount of access to reproductive health options. It takes away options for family planning and then blames women for the consequences. It pretends to care about fetuses as it comes from the same people who are cutting funding for education and refuse to talk childcare. It is oppression and it is sexism and it is woman-hating. Plain and simple.

In response to reading this article:

Planned Parenthood vs. the States: The Legal Battles Rage

And someone commented with:

Explain to me how love of life equals to hate of women.

I thought that my argument was outlined pretty well in my status, but then I took another look and decided to try to tease all of my thoughts out. Ta-da! Short new blog post.

My issue is assuming that these bills come from a “love of life.” I don’t see how they express anything close to that. Yes, they seem to be deeply invested in a bag of cells developing to birth within every uterus ever, but I don’t call that a “love of life.” I think to claim you “love life,” you have to be honest about what kind of lives you love. The anti-choice movement values the “life” of the fetus (and I say “fetus” because they don’t push nearly as much legislation that would guarantee support for the fetus after birth, and as a matter of fact they demonize such laws as “entitlement programs” for the “takers” and “moochers” and are currently taking funding away from public schools like it is their job), and that is where it ends. They have no love for the life of the woman, and if they do, it is a very patronizing kind of love that assumes they know how that woman can have her best life. They also seem to be fine with the lives of poor women, rural women, and women of color being further marginalized through lack of access, because those are the groups of women that are most directly impacted by this legislation.

I don’t think that a “love of life,” in an honest definition of the phrase, would be equal to hate of women. But this is not actually love of life.

What it is is pushing a patriarchal set of beliefs drawn from right-wing Christianity onto an entire population of people who have the capacity to give birth. It is expecting that all people with uteri should conform to your idea of a life deserving of love, and those deserving lives do not include the vast majority of people. That “love of life” is conditional. You love the life of the person if they avoid having sex before they want to procreate so that they will only ever have children that are wanted. You love the life of the person who can provide for that child adequately so they don’t have to rely on welfare or adequate public schooling. You love the life of a woman who is defined only in reference to the full use of her reproductive capacity.

I don’t know about y’all, but I would not call that “love of life.” I would call that prejudice and marginalization through laws. And that is some sexist, misogynist, classist, and racist BULL. SHIT.

[Side note: I realize that I use the word “woman” here quite often, though I tried to also use phrases to include all gender-identifying people who have the capacity to give birth. Anti-choice legislation does not just affect those who identify as “women.” This legislation is oppressive to all people, and specifically to those uterus-having people who run the risk of getting pregnant in our society. I apologize for any cisgendered bias that ended up in this post.]

**UPDATE!**

So, after someone responding to the above blogginess as akin in rhetoric to Ann Coulter and Michelle Bachmann, I responded with this, which I though would be a good addition to round out this post as well:

I really have to disagree with you on associating “anti-choice” with “anti-life.” When I wrote the first part of this blog, I was absolutely in a state of feminist rage. The resulting explanation of my issues with the word “life” in association with any of the family-planning related legislation was certainly more of a “preaching to the choir” move than an attempt to appeal to people who do not see the world the way I do. That is certainly true. However, I stopped using the term “pro-life” a long time ago. To me, it represents the same kind of misleading rhetoric that the “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” do. “Pro-life” inherently demonizes everything else. As I pointed out in my rant on my blog, I find it difficult to accept “pro-life” as the name of a movement that only cares about the life of an unborn child. I say that because the policies reflect this: restrictive policies don’t actually increase the health of the mother nor does having an unwanted baby necessarily improve the life quality of the person giving birth. Further, these laws are never brought up at the same time as laws that would guarantee that every child born has adequate food, housing, education, and support. As a matter of fact, the party supporting this legislation consistently demonizes mothers on welfare and is currently stripping funding from education.

Of course, not all people who identify as personally “pro-life” support this legislation. I know plenty of people who identify as feminists but are “pro-life” when it comes to their own reproductive choices. I am talking about the political movement taking form in hundreds of bills pushing to restrict women’s access to reproductive health. For the reasons I’ve listed above, and for so many more reasons that I don’t have the space to share here (including the fact that if the “pro-life” goal were achieved and abortion was made illegal, we would go back to the time when women died of illegal and self-performed abortions) I will not support this rhetoric of misrepresentation that creates knowledge where women’s access to control of their reproductive lives is associated with being against “life.” I refuse to give any support to this discourse that is directly responsible for laws that restrict all people with the capacity to get pregnant.

In my work on analyzing discourse, I found an explanation of “common sense” and “taken-for-granteds” as tools that the powerful use to influence the powerless. Using “pro-life” to describe a movement that continually strips women’s abilities to control their own lives through legislative action is one of these “taken-for-granteds” that now fully permeates our culture. I refuse to accept these policies and this political agenda as having any real investment in life, and so, it is a political, critical, and feminist stance that I take when I call this movement “anti-choice.”

Ann Coulter makes statements that are racist, classist, sexist, ableist, and misogynist and full of shock value to defend patriarchal ideological beliefs. Michelle Bachmann consistently uses information that are, in fact, non-facts to support her arguments, which also fit under what I would call patriarchal legislation.

As a person who has a uterus, I am affected by the legislation that comes out of this movement. As someone who refuses to fit into patriarchal expectations of my sexuality and reproductive health, I am one of the demonized by this rhetoric of “life.” Comparing my choice to call this movement “anti-choice” in order to show the sexist and misleading nature of the term “pro-life” with the misogynist and utterly horrifying rhetoric of Michelle Bachmann and Ann Coulter is offensive and completely misses the point. Further, it erases the hierarchies of power and institutionalized oppression that separate me, a woman, from the powerful political movement that represses my reproductive rights and my access to equality through the erasure of those rights.It assumes all things are equal and somehow innocent of demonizing discourse in their existing state of “pro-life” “pro-choice,” when nothing could be further from the truth.

And that, as they say, is that! Good night all!

TARDish Cupcakes Or: Why You Should Always Follow Directions and Use a Cookie Cutter

24 Aug

I had every intention of writing an ERA-related blog this week, but honestly? I do not feel like researching anything that doesn’t have to do with my thesis right now, and that’s OK.

So, today my roomate and I decided it was a good day to bake. I thought it would be fun to finally try one of those recipes from Bake It In A Cake! since I’ve been tumblr stalking them for months. I thought, why don’t I combine my desire for baking with my passion for Doctor Who?

Enter: The Plan

The original plan was to use blue sprinkles, blue icing, and blue food dye to make a blue funfetti-style white cake with blue shapes inside (perhaps a “D” or a box like the TARDIS) and blue icing. Then I realized this cake was all white cake and no chocolate, so I scrapped that idea. If it’s a simple from-a-box deal, I usually stick to yellow cake and chocolate icing. I decided I would just dye half of the batter one color and half another, and then use those two colors to make my cut out for the inside and then to fill in the rest of the cupcake. (If you take a gander at Bake It In A Cake! you’ll understand what I mean.)

I got back and tried to do some math to determine how much half of the batter would be. I thought that I could also possibly cut it down so I’d only have twelve cupcakes to contend with here in this apartment while thesising alone. (That’s always the issue with baking, isn’t it? Things go stale quickly and so you need people to share them with/need to be ready for a sugar coma.)

I also decided to copy Darla at Bakingdom‘s decision to work with the concept of weeping angels in her Doctor Who-inspired baking adventures. Of course, I’d just be trying to do a really simple angle outline to stick inside of a cupcake. I thought this or perhaps a “D” would be achievable.

False.

Here’s what happened.

I decided that 1/4c batter goes into each cupcake tin, so there must be approximately six cups of batter. Three cups should be baked and then I’d have enough left to fill up twelve cupcakes with the outside color.

I also decided to make the outside color of the cupcake blue like the TARDIS. Here’s as close as I got to TARDIS blue with my food dye and yellow cake batter:

My life is colorful, just like this.

I baked a thin layer of the yellow cake batter in a glass 9 x 13 pan with the intention of cutting (like, freehanding with a knife, because I don’t believe in spending money on cookie cutters) the shapes out once it cooled. I baked it for about fifteen minutes, since it was so spread out. I immediately transferred it to the freezer to cool down.

Here’s what happened with that business. The top layer of the cake turned into this cold, gooey, fragile bit that kept getting stuck on the knife, my hands, everything it touched. I don’t really mind shoving my hands into ground beef to make hamburgers, but I really minded this gooey cold cake substance. Yuck. I was pretty positive I hadn’t cooked it all the way through because of the top layer and because it was SO HARD TO CUT.

Also, note to readers: If you ever intend to do this, two things: 1. Don’t follow these directions, find a real recipe. 2. Butter and flour the pan you bake the cake in for cut outs, because just greasing it doesn’t make it come off quite easily enough for delicate symbols. Like the letter D. Or an angel.

So, now that my hands were covered in yellow cake goo and my cutouts were falling apart, I decided to just cut out circles of yellow cake to put in the middle so it would be like a really simple TARDIS: blue on the outside, yellow(ish) on the inside.

This is when I started to realize that my original calculations were wrong, because there was not nearly enough blue batter to make twelve cupcakes no matter what I did. I also had way too much yellow goo cake.

This is not what the inside of the TARDIS looks like. The inside of the TARDIS is lovely. This is a hot mess. But cold.

I used a spatula to get every little bit of blue cake batter into the cupcakes and ended up with nine. Let me put this to you in a way that makes sense: the box says that the batter is supposed to make twenty-four cupcakes. And I had nine.

I decided just to go with it and see what happened. In the end, I had two with hearts in them (because that seemed like a simple pattern and I saw it on Bake It In A Cake!), one with this little thing that started out as a W but then I realized looked like a (very, very simple and cubist) dalek, so I used that. I used one of my angels, too. The other five were just circles of yellow cake with blue around them.

At least they looked blue at this point.

I figured I could at least count on them to be blue and cute looking, like cupcakes are, when they came out of the oven. False. They looked like alien cupcakes (which, I suppose, is appropriate).

Seriously, one of them has a face and the rest of them look like green polyjuice potion.

I then went for the only option I had left: chocolate icing. The proof is in the non-pudding: Icing can even make greenish slitheen polyjuice cupcakes look edible and delicious:

See? You would totally eat these, right?

For a while, I was too full from all of my baking process samples (read: dipping my finger into the batter) to even consider a cupcake. I was also slightly annoyed with them for being a total epic baking fail. But then, I’ve had those before, and they turned out OK after left in a plastic bag overnight and dipped in coffee. My family said they were super delicious.

Finally, while watching a re-run of Stephen Colbert (on which I found out that our current representative to the United Stations is Susan Rice, who is a woman of color. How did I not know this? Because that is awesome.) I decided to give in and have a teeny tiny one so that I could write this blog with the crowning glory, a picture of my TARDIS cupcake, blue on the outside and yellowish on the inside:

I call it: The TARDish

For this tiny little unrecognizable blob of yellow, I worked for an hour and covered my counter in blue batter and yellow cake goo. I’ll take it.

And that, ladies and gents, is how you make a TARDish.

Good night!

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