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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.

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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)

We are wizards, and our hearts are filled with hope!

15 Jul

“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend” – Stephen King

I realize that I could have gone with a direct quote from the books for both the title (from a Harry and the Potters song) and the quote above (which I totally stole from my friend’s status), but I feel like this choice kind of sums up how I’ve been feeling as this day has been approaching. I already know the way it’s going to end, but I still don’t want it to. Today is a day to be sentimental, and I’ve seen it coming for months.

I can’t remember a time when Harry Potter wasn’t in my life. I didn’t start reading the books when they first came out in 1997, but by the time I was in middle school (around 1999) I was hooked. I remember the agony of waiting for each book to come out, the rush to put my name on the list for books the day they came out at the local Borders, and a state of feverish, urgent ecstasy as I tore through each one. I also felt an awareness, especially as the books started to get darker, that each book was one closer to the end.

Harry Potter wasn’t just a book to me. Most of the fans out there probably feel the same. When I was younger I had a terrible time falling asleep. I couldn’t stop my mind from going places I didn’t want it to go, and falling asleep was a very anxious time for me. Then, my parents bought me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on tape. I fell asleep every night listening to Harry’s adventure. I can quote many of the scenes from that book line for line. When we went on vacations, Harry came with me in my walkman. I kept it by my bed all the time. I eventually branched out to the second and third books. I didn’t just use them to fall asleep anymore. I would listen to Harry defeat the basilisk and save Sirius Black doing household chores or just sitting around in my room.

I was headed to Girl Scout Camp when the fourth book came out. I wasn’t the only camper distracted by the Triwizard Tournament when I was supposed to be learning the sign language to “Eternal Flame.” I have a very vivid memory of reading Dumbledore’s speech at the end of The Goblet of Fire. I can see the words on the page, and I remember tearing up about what seemed so unfair. I was so happy in the fifth book, because I though Harry would finally be able to live with Sirius and have a real family. When Sirius died, I was devastated for Harry Potter. I was impressed with Ginny’s advances as a kickass witch and Quidditch player, and I was ready for Ron and Hermione to JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY.

The first time J.K. Rowling broke my heart was when she killed Dumbledore. I was seventeen when The Half Blood Prince came out. My mother was sitting downstairs and I was upstairs in my room, like the teenager I was, tearing through the agonizing scene with Harry and Dumbledore as they tried to retrieve the Horcrux. When Dumbledore’s spell on Harry was broken, and I realized that Dumbledore was dead, I was in total shock. I turned the pages back, thinking I had to have missed something, because there was no way that Dumbledore could ever die. I could not even find solace in the great Headmaster’s words from the first book (“To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure”). I ran down the stairs and stood in front of my mom as the tears rolled down my face. “What is it?” she asked, afraid that something had happened. “Dumbledore,” I sobbed, “died!” After she realized that I was in no physical pain or danger, she let me sit on her tiny, petite, 5’1″ lap and cry.

Do you remember all of the discussions that took place between the sixth book and the release of The Deathly Hallows? Everyone had a theory. Would Harry die, or would he live? What would happen to Neville, the other possibility for the prophecy? Was Harry a Horcrux? Why was he being such an ass to Ginny, didn’t he realize she could take care of her own damn self? (OK, maybe that last one was just me. Did I mention that I’m currently dressed in my Ginny Weasley costume and waiting for my friend to get home so we can leave for the movie already?)

Well, I thought I had it all figured out. In my slightly tragic version of The Deathly Hallows, Ron, Harry, and Hermione find the first six horcruxes and realize that Harry is the seventh. Harry goes out with his friends to the final battle and knows that he has to die so that the others can finally kill Voldemort. Voldemort kills Harry, and then Neville takes his place as the other Chosen One and vanquishes Voldemort for good. Everyone is sad, but Ron and Hermione lead the rebuilding of the wizarding world, with the help of all of our other wizarding friends. Also, in my version, Malfoy has a change of heart and joins Dumbledore’s Army in the end.

Obviously, J.K. and I had different visions.

If you’ve read the books, you know how it ends. And, if you haven’t, STOP READING THIS AND GET THEE TO A LIBRARY! You could also go to my mom’s house. My Harry Potter books are there until I find a more permanent home. Anywho, stop reading, now, because Harry Potter is a zillion times better than this. That’s right, I said a zillion.

Back to the seventh book. I was staying with a friend for a week in Plano, TX when The Deathly Hallows came out. We’d been invited to a super cool eighties themed party, complete with booze, on the same night as the midnight book release. So, of course, we went to the party. And then we left at 11:30.

There we were, some of the oldest people at the midnight release, dressed in eighties clothes and slightly tipsy. Everyone in the entire store was counting down to midnight. I felt my pulse starting to race as it got closer, and as the countdown started the excitement took total control. Anastasia and I screamed with all the children and preteens when they started handing out the books, and we really didn’t stop screaming until we got to the family mini-van. We did not want anyone coming by and ruining the book for us, like happened with The Half Blood Prince. Do you remember that? It was like the big thing was, if you weren’t a Harry Potter fan and were, therefore, pissed because you weren’t in on the biggest and best secret ever, you would run around telling everyone SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE.

Isn’t it strange to think that someone telling the ending of a book to a line of young people would cause international outrage? Young people getting angry because someone spoiled the ending… of a book.

That’s Harry Potter though, isn’t it? When the seventh book came out, I couldn’t imagine what life would be like when there was no more Harry Potter to look forward to. The hypothesizing, the rereading, the yearning, it was part and parcel of my life (and that of every other Potter fan). I have a feeling that’s why the first part of the seventh movie didn’t do as well as people expected. The other movies happened in time with the book craze, and everyone was used to waiting for Harry Potter. I think some people stopped waiting. But, a lot of us never did. Like the seventh book, the seventh movie was for us. Who can put it better than J.K. herself? “…and to you, if you have stuck with Harry to the very end.”

After my friend and I ran, screaming, to the car, we attempted to start the book on the way home as I read the first page aloud from the passenger seat. This wasn’t nearly magical enough for either of us, so we waited until we got home. Harry Potter was serious business. Three people in the house were reading The Deathly Hallows at the same time, so we had to set some ground rules. I remember one was, “No reading after 2 AM.” We figured we should at least try to sleep. We sat in the living room, the three of us, and read in silence for hours. Every so often, someone would start crying, so we had multiple boxes of kleenex on hand. A friend was having a party in Austin, I don’t remember what for, but we went. I sat in the backseat of the van and read all the way. I had taken off my seatbelt (completely unsafe never ever do this) in order to get into the optimal position for reading, when we hit traffic and I flew, The Deathly Hallows in hand, onto the floor of the van. When we finally got to the party it was business as usual, except that one room in the apartment had been designated the Harry Potter Reading Room. Stepping in was like entering another apartment all together. On one side of the door, there was loud music, alcohol, and dancing. On the other, young college sophomores occupying every available surface and reading together in silence.

[Note: Between paragraph above and the paragraph below, my friend got home and we went to the movie. Carrying on…]

Harry Potter is really important to me. As you can see, it’s played a formative role in my life. It’s played an important role for my entire generation. Sometimes, I feel like we have our own international version of “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”: “What did you do when Dumbledore died?”

Everyone has a story, most people have many. I am a rather sentimental person in general, and when it comes to Harry Potter, I am especially so. I wanted the last two movies to be some kind of perfect. So much of myself is all tangled up with Harry Potter. I needed the last two movies to be epic, because I wanted them, somehow, to mean something. I went to see the first part of The Deathly Hallows with someone who had never read the books and had only seen three of the movies. I spent half of the time preparing myself for Dobby’s death and the other half of the time distracted by my date’s obvious disinterest. I felt like some kind of bubble had popped. Harry Potter was supposed to be special. Why wasn’t it special?

I approached the movie tonight with a mixture of emotions all bubbling up inside of me and trying to get out and express themselves. When the movie started, I could feel my pulse starting to race. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get into the story, but I shouldn’t have ever worried. Seeing Harry Potter at midnight is like seeing a movie with one hundred friends. You know that no one will be stupid and ruin the movie, because everyone is just as much of a Potter fan as you. I got completely carried away by the movie tonight. Everything was perfect.

Of course, it wasn’t the book. The movies never are. But, it was Harry Potter. It was Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, and Ginny. It was also Fred, Tonks, and Lupin. It was “not my daughter, you bitch!” It was McGonagal kicking all kinds of ass, and it was Snape. I cried, of course, but not because anything was ending. As I left the theater, I heard someone say, “I don’t want to leave! Then, it will be over!” That is how I expected to feel, too. Instead, I just felt so satisfied. Harry Potter is bigger than one stinkin movie. Plus, I fully intend to see it again, and then to shelve my boxed set next to my old, ragged, dogeared books. If I have children, and one of them asks for a bedtime story, I will tell them about a little boy who lived in a broom closet under the stairs and teach them, too, that just because something happens in your head doesn’t make it any less real.

After all, Harry Potter and all of the other wonderful characters J.K. Rowling brought to life won’t ever leave us. To end, I’ll paraphrase Neville Longbottom, unsung badass hero. They are in our hearts. Always.

“When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row.”

5 Jul

Hello! Happy 4th of July! I’m sure many of you are celebrating with friends, family, and food. Possibly also fireworks. (Fourth of July alliteration, you dig?) My celebration started last night, when MFS and I baked what we planned to be red, white, and blue kolaches. Then, we decided they would be much more delicious if we cooked the strawberries and blueberries and mixed them with cream cheese filling. We now have pink, white, and purple kolaches instead. I am not complaining. They are still delicious! To begin our independence day, we ate the kolaches along with some freshly battered and fried cheese curds and sweet onions. Then, we took it downstairs to the basement TV room to watch a couple of our favorite movies about America n stuff.

First up, 1776, the 1972 movie version with Mr. Feeny as John Adams. I have so many wonderful memories of this movie starting back in fifth grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Barbee, showed it in class. From then on out, whenever my good behavior resulted in getting to eat lunch in the classroom instead of the cafeteria, I would also ask to watch 1776 while hanging out with my other goody two shoes nerdy friends. There are countless awesome moments in the film, and I actually love all of the music, but the song that always strikes me the most is the one that is sung by the army messenger after he brings yet another dreary dispatch from George Washington. It’s called “Mama, Look Sharp.” For some reason wordpress is refusing to put it into this post, so if you want to see it, just click this link.

I especially enjoyed the multiple references to New Jersey and the specific references to New Brunswick, like this one:

John Adams: Wake up, Franklin, you’re going to New Brunswick!

Benjamin Franklin: Like hell I am, what for?

I don’t want to get all nationalistic or anything, but there is something really excellent about a musical that is solely dedicated to the process of declaring independence in the Constitutional Congress.

Then, we moved from watching a movie about a white dudes’ revolution, where slavery is a divisive issue but women’s rights aren’t even mentioned, much less addressed, to the fantastic Iron Jawed Angels. I remember the first time I watched this film. I didn’t see it until I was in college. I happened upon it by accident while browsing at Vulcan Video, and I just remember sobbing uncontrollably through almost the entire film. One excellent scene is their interpretation of an actual march for women’s suffrage that took place in 1913. Check it out.

I bring this up, because I know what the fourth of July can be like. We like to talk in terms of American exceptionalism and to celebrate our founding fathers. We like to have parties and watch fireworks, and to celebrate our country. I understand that desire. After watching 1776, I was feeling pretty damn patriotic. But, here’s the thing. In both my research for my thesis and in the news about the upcoming election cycle, I am noticing a frightening trend of attributing some sort of demi-god status to our founding fathers and to the documents they created. As a friend pointed out in his facebook status today, we’re celebrating that “a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic white men didn’t want to pay their taxes.” Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Not all of the delegates to the Constitutional Congress had slaves, though they were all white, propertied men. Taxation without representation was an issue, but it wasn’t the only one. Also, the deal wasn’t exactly that they didn’t want to pay their taxes, but that they did not want to pay unjust taxes to a tyrannical crown that refused the colonists their rights. I have a lot of issues with the growing chorus of founding fathers idolization, like, as my friend pointed out in his status, the complete refusal to acknowledge the privilege and prejudices of those delegates. But, mainly, I do not like the idea that somehow, those people knew better what to do for our country than we do now. Doing this is similar to what a pastor at a Baptist church here in Madison did last Sunday in his sermon about the importance of rest. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people say that it is O.K. to take naps. I love naps! The part of the message I had an issue with was when the pastor implied that the world is “finished,” as he did when he quoted the final words of Jesus (“It is finished.”). This pastor was trying to say that we shouldn’t be so stressed out about everything, because Jesus and God have totally got this. Do you see the similarities between that guy’s message and the message of politicians who constantly try to go to the intentions of the founding fathers for the basis of their conservative political arguments? The two time periods sure do have a lot in common: slavery, the oppression of women, etc, etc. I completely disagree with these interpretations. There is a lot to do, and we are the only ones who are going to do it.

If Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and all of the other countless suffragettes had believed this rhetoric of the infallibility of the founding fathers and the founding documents, women would not have the right to vote in this country. If the abolitionists, many of whom were also in the suffrage movement, had granted the founding fathers demi-god status, the mere argument that some of them owned slaves would have stopped the movement in its tracks. Governments, as well as political movements, are created by people, and people are fallible. Without an open mind to change, equality will always be a pipe dream.

So, this fourth of July, I’m thinking about the revolutionary and rebellious character of many American heroes. I’m also thinking about the way certain stories are silenced, and many heroes are kept from history textbooks to preserve a nationalist, exceptionalist American narrative. I am thinking about the danger of idolizing our predecessors, whether they are old white dudes in the 1770’s or young suffragettes in the 1920’s. Consider the courage it takes to recognize an injustice and then do something about it. The Declaration of Independence, with all of the issues of race, class, gender, and privilege surrounding it, is still a document that declares that people have the right to push back against tyrannical and unjust government. The nineteenth amendment is about the belief in equality for all people, a belief that is outlined in that very Declaration we celebrate today.

Today, I am thinking about how I’ve felt since January. I am thinking about feeling as if I am caught in the undertow of a political movement that does not represent me, and that I don’t understand. I am thinking about the sense of a loss of control, a growing awareness of corporate influence in legislation, and a sense of complete and utter horror at the seemingly insurmountable attack on women’s reproductive rights in this country. And then, I am reminded that democracy is hard won and it is not always easy. So, this fourth of July, I hope that you consider your involvement in the ongoing project that is America. I hope you remember how many rebellious people stood up to fight against inequality, and I hope you realized that, as the quote goes, citizenship is not a spectator sport. There are very large and very powerful political forces in this country, but I do honestly believe in the possibility of change. So, today, I celebrate our revolutionary history as a nation, and I raise my celebratory alcoholic beverage in a toast to the hope of what could still be.

Happy fourth from Wisconsin!

Father’s Day n Stuff

19 Jun

It is father’s day! I am spending it in Wisconsin with my friend and her father, and I’m pretty sure that plan involves waffles. Sweet!

I think that days like Father’s Day are cool, but exclusive. I know quite a few people who are playing/have played really important roles in children’s lives. I’m sure Father’s Day was invented to sell cards, or something like that, but in my head it’s always been about celebrating those people in your life who, whatever gender they feel and whether or not they donated a sperm to your existence, played an important, loving, and supportive role in your life. I think there should just be two Parents’ Days. I think it could work. You’d have to buy twice as many cards, and no one would get left out based on socially assigned concepts of gender. Everybody wins!

But, if we’re going about this the traditional way, then I have to take this second to talk about the sheer levels of awesome my life sometimes hits. Not only did the guy whose sperm made half of my little fetus self turn out to be an awesome, supportive, loving father, but I also lucked out and got a stepfather who totally loves me and all of my progressive feminist ways, even though he doesn’t technically have to. His oldest child, Carrie, is about ten years older than me, so he saved me from a lot of punishment as a teenager by telling my mom that I really wasn’t that bad, in his experience.

Not only do I have two awesome fathers, I grew up with three grandfathers: Granddad, Papaw, and Grandpa Donaho. My papaw is rather brilliant, though he’s been retired for as long as I can remember. He’s the silent type, except when it comes to gases leaving the body. My Grandpa Donaho is my biological grandfather, my dad’s father, but we didn’t see much of each other while I was growing up, because sometimes fatherly relations are complicated. He also lives in that scary part of East Texas where people you’re related to say really sexist/misogynist/racist things when you’re least prepared for it, so we don’t see him much. My Grandad is my dad’s adopted father, and he is the reason I have such a bomb ass name. I didn’t know him all too well, and he died about a week before I graduated. His memorial service was on the same day as my high school graduation. It was weird, I’ve learned so much more about him since he died than I ever did when he was alive, and it seems like he was pretty cool, too.

Not everyone will agree with me, but I think that parenthood is really just about love and support, because if you give a kid enough of those things, you’ll already be leading by example. Everybody has issues. (For example, I sent my dad a copy of When Atheism Becomes Religion for Father’s Day. It’s a really subtle message, I know.) That’s because, unlike the way they appear when you are a small developing child person, your parents aren’t actually superhuman. They’re just people, who decided to adopt/foster/birth/love you, and gave it the best go they could. I think I turned out all right, if a tad morally self-righteous, and so I raise a glass of milk (it is the morning) to all the fathers out there. Happy father’s day!

 

-Me