Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

31 December 2010

In Memory of Robin Rothrock

I wouldn't be the feminist I am today if it weren't for the internet. 

I said this while on Digital Sisterhood Radio earlier this month and I've been meaning to expand on that statement for weeks. The death of Robin Rothrock brings me back to that thought.

I 'met' Robin on a listserv around 1995-1996. I was a know it all college student and she was amazing. This was my first evidence of the power of the internet. Somehow, I still don't know how, I was invited to join a new women's organization that was online. It sent out an e-newsletter and with your paid dues could join a listserv. After a trial period, I had no problem sending a $10 check to this group to maintain my membership for access to the listserv. That list connected me to feminist activists around the country, many of whom had reputations older than I was at the time. They weren't old, they were experienced and for the most part eager to share their knowledge with a pretty young feminist.

Reminder, this was happening during the Clinton administration and just after the GOP took over Congress. There was a lot to celebrate and worry about. I remember us discussing current events, pending bills and the history behind most of those two things. Why would someone as feminist as Hillary Clinton support welfare reform? What is behind the GOP push to pass a bill outlawing something called "Partial Birth Abortion" and what the hell is that procedure anyway?

I learned so much on that listserv. And I learned a lot from Robin.

When I joined the list, I was certainly pro-choice, but all I knew of reproductive health issues were things I had read about in the paper and going to the Planned Parenthood clinic each month for my pack of pills. Robin was the owner of a women's health clinic and shared her experiences with the group.

One such experience was the case of Michelle Lee, then 26, who had two children, a weak heart and an unplanned pregnancy. Due to the laws of Louisiana, Lee was unable to find a doctor to perform an abortion for her. "[LSU has] taken care of me for five years," she said during an interview inside her cluttered cinder-block shack. "They told me I couldn't get pregnant because it'd kill me, and now they're turning their back on me." And of course Lee found her way to Robin. And Robin worked day and night to find Lee a doctor who would do their job and save her life.

This case and Robin's insights helped propel me from a pro-choice feminist to the activist I am today.

Robin shared with us a lot of the fights she took on for the women of her area. They were the same fights that many activists took up in the USA. The same fights Robin and other providers have been fighting for years. She had just won a case  in the fall against the state of Louisiana to keep her clinic open. The fighting won't stop with her death, especially as the same fights are being fought across the ocean.

Our listserv isn't as active as it was back in the late-1990s, but a lot of us still keep in touch. Thus when I heard that she died earlier this week my heart broke.

The reproductive justice and feminist communities lost a hero this week. A hard working hero who wanted something so very simple, for women to be able to make the best decision for themselves and their families.

All I can do is say thank you to Robin. For everything.

Her son posted on Robin's Facebook page a request for people to donate to the Center for Reproductive Rights in lieu of flowers. Robin and CRR worked closely over the years.

28 December 2010

It's my birthday!

In lieu of cake, please donate to:
For the curious I'm 36 today and not feeling old at all. At least not because of any number.Rather today is an odd birthday. I've now spent half of my life as an adult. Whoa...I lived with my parents for 18 1/2 years and in July will finally be more Chicagoan than suburban (at least in terms of numbers). I'm still very suburban in many ways.

I was busy in the fall that this past week I've tried to enjoy my 2 weeks of vacation by hanging with the kid. That means no big birthday or New Year resolutions/goals to tell you all about. Last year my big goal was treating myself to a manicure or massage once a  month. I did pretty good until September/October. I've decided to try to take two classes this spring, so my goal for this year is to survive, mentally and physically, as well as maintain the love of my husband, daughter and friends. There will be a lot of work to do and I am going to do my best to remember to be a great wife, mother and friend.

That's it. Here's to 36!

    21 December 2010

    End of Year Book Reviews aka Last Minute Gift Ideas

    For all you last-minute gift buyers, I present a few end of the year book reviews:



    And I also highly recommend the following books that I have read in 2010:

    Of course Reality Bites Back takes top billing! Not only did one of my best friend's write it, but I'm also in a footnote. But in all seriousness folks, it's a damn good book.



     


     

    Book Review: Do it Anyway by Courtney E. Martin

    Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists by Courtney E. Martin profiles eight amazing activists whose stories will touch you. But part of Martin's mission for this book was to show the world that her generation (she's Generation Y, I'm GenX) does care about the world and doing things to make it better.

    In order to show that GenY isn't just a bunch of me-me-me individuals, but rather full of people creating positive changes in their community, Martin profiles eight people who are doing some amazing things. The shortcoming is is that Martin stuck to the coasts to find her people. Thankfully she acknowledges this right away. As a Midwesterner, I'm obviously miffed at that shortcoming. Sadly Martin even misses her home state of Colorado.

    But the people she does profile will engage and suck you in. She opens the book with a profile of Rachel Corrie which is brilliant as Rachel is such a lightening rod for activists. I learned more about Rachel from this profile than my years of reading bits here and there in news pieces. On one hand, Rachel seemed too idealistic. On the other she seemed like a privileged white kid who got in too deep.

    Martin's profiles are rich and will require some tissues here and there. Luckily she wrote in a way that keeps you turning the pages at the same time you stop to shake your head at some of the people's lives (Diaz and Guzman).

    Her most troubling profile was of Tyrone Boucher, described as a radical philanthropist. A very rich kid rebels against his privilege and upon learning that he will gain access to $400,000 at the age of 21 decides he's going to give it all away. To this working class kid it made my stomach turn. Martin does try to get him to address this contradiction of life. Of a kid with access to the best schools scoffing at his educational opportunities when so many of us would cherish that access. But what really got my goat was that it wasn't clear where Boucher ends up giving his money away to. He takes the radical stance of being against foundations (disclaimer: my husband works for one & I support the Chicago Foundation for Women), but still ends up working with a foundation in New Orleans. Boucher is still working out all the issues of having a lot of money, not liking the weight of it and how to do the best one can with that kind of power. Martin does a brilliant job at showing us that struggle.

    Ironically Martin & I seemed to have come full circle from when I read her first book. She now sees her generation as full of change agents and I think Do It Anyway could have used some stats sprinkled in between the stories or even within to give a larger context of how much good stuff her generation is doing. Because while the stories are moving and awesome, they are still just eight people. That said, this would be a great book for a twenty-something who is struggling with what to do with their lives that will make a difference.

    Get yourself or a rabblerouser in your life a copy from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers.

    * Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog.

    Book Review: The Daring Spectacle by Mark Morford

    The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism by Mark Morford is a collection of Morford's "best" essays over the past decade. It's not a book that you need to sit down and read all at once. Rather this is one of those books you keep handy when you think you are the only rational person left on earth. Not that Morford exhibits rationality, but his ability to skewer those who leave you with a WTF look on your face will make you laugh and shake your head.

    I just picked up the book to find my favorite essay, alas how can one pick a favorite when Morford tackles subjects from George W. Bush, the Duggers to designer vaginas? You just can't. And that's the beauty of this book. Just when you think you have Morford figured out, he goes on a topic and leaves your head spinning...and you'll also be shaking your head in agreement. Of course you won't always agree with Morford, but if you did, it wouldn't be that fun, now would it?

    This makes a fab last minute gift for the rabblerouser in your life! Get them a copy from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

    Disclaimer: I received this book from Mark himself. He found my blog and thought I'd enjoy reading his book. He was right.

    * Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog. 

    Book Review: When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls by Erin Munroe

    A quick reminder....My daughter is 7 1/2 and in the second grade. This book couldn't have hit me harder in so many ways. Big Issues Happen to Little Girls: How to Prepare, React, and Manage Your Emotions So You Can Best Support Your Daughter by Erin Munroe is a must read for every mother and father of a girl.

    Munroe gives the world a great handbook on how to handle challenges and issues of raising a girl in today's world. From puberty to using drugs, Monroe walks us through case studies that exhibit how and how NOT to react to things that happen to our girls.

    One criticism I had with the book was that it presents itself as something for parents, yet I felt that it was written for moms. There are subtle things about how she presents suggestions for parents that she's talking to moms.

    This book will challenge you. It will challenge you to revisit how you see issues (recreational drug use, teenage sex, the drive for success) not just by what you hope your daughter will do, but also how you did it and your fears for how she might go through it. Munroe uses not just parenting fails, but also parenting fails that were done with the best intentions. Case in point a couple who didn't want to tell their 8-year-old that they were considering a divorce. She totally picked up on the body cues, the fact that Dad was sleeping on the couch and a world of other things her parents thought were going over her head.

    And that's the biggest take home message. Our girls are not dumb. They see things in our world that we hope they don't. They hear us mock our bodies. They see us come home buzzed and drop the car keys on the table. They feel our pushes to be perfect at school and on the playing field. They see how we view other women in the world. They know that we expect them to be good, respectful in the face of frenemies.

    Our girls are growing up in a different world than we did. Not better. Not worse. Different.

    I say, "We're in the second grade," because it is a family effort. One to two hours of homework, monthly class projects that require more parental involvement than I think it appropriate and a pressure to score high enough on standardized tests to ensure a good school rating, teacher bonus and entrance into a prep high school...Yup, that's a team effort alright. Second grade is vastly different than my experience where my biggest issue was choosing between Chad and Corey, keeping my desk clean and beating the-other-Chad to end of our math workbook. Oh yeah...way different.

    Parents should get a copy from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from a book PR firm. One that ironically is still trying to get me to say, "Yes, I'd like a copy of this book." *sigh*

    * Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog. 

    17 December 2010

    One Feminist's Take on the No Labels Launch: Part 2

    Or rather day two.

    I knew instantly that I would have a difficult time summing up this gathering and doing a decent analysis. And given the amount of instant commentary on the event, it's even more difficult. But let me take a shot.

    First my White House Project roomie & I knew which building to enter by the number of satellite news trucks parked outside of Columbia University's Lerner Hall. I believe the tone was set with David Brooks' question/statement of "How can you say you love this country and yet hate half of it?" I'd like to think he was talking to both sides of the political spectrum. As for me, I love this country and while I disagree vehemently with a good chunk of my fellow citizens, I'd be hard pressed to say I hate them. I hate how they want to limit the freedoms of those who don't follow their beliefs.

    Congressman Bob Inglis threw out another theme for the day - the media. He mostly focused on what we would call news media. The hyper-partisanship of the day. At one point, I can't recall exactly when, an image of Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann was shown as if to say Exhibit A in this war of words. I believe this was also a theme at Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert's rally. 

    And No Labels seems to want to pick up, but in a serious and methodical way, where Jon & Stephen left off. They say they want to recapture reason and civility in political discourse. Now, what's not to love about that? 

    But as other commentators have pointed out, can you sustain a movement as civil discourse as your center?  

    No Labels likes to consider itself a grass roots movement, but I didn't see any grass stains at the launch. Rather I saw a lot of DC insiders who frankly aren't as inside anymore. They have been pushed out by Tea Partiers and perhaps MoveOn folks. Both those groups were the unofficial pinatas (another animal for their logo?). What they truly aim to do is energize that mushy middle of the political spectrum. The folks who aren't up in arms over "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in either direction. They are the folks who couldn't give a rat's ass if half the Navy was gay. They just want the Navy to do it's job. They aren't escorting women into health clinics because damn it, it's your choice, not mine. Thus they don't have a fire under their ass and sometimes vote, sometimes don't. It was made very clear that this mushy middle of citizens are clearly not voting in primaries, thus giving both Dems and the GOP radical candidates in general elections and then that turns off the middle ground again. Vicious cycle played over and over across the country.

    And this is where I see their true power. Their strategy is to organize in every Congressional district and hold that Congressperson and related Senators to task. No more of this "Nothing passes until we get X" bullshit. No Labels folks want to see the Congress earn its paychecks, pass bills that stimulate our economy, fix our schools, settle immigration and get this country back on track. As I mentioned a few times in my live blog of the event, the moderates in this country want the radicals to back off. If No Labels can truly organize people to hold their elected officials accountable for their tantrums we could get some work done. But when is it a tantrum and when is it standing up for ones convictions?


    I really wish that PunditMom, Jill Zimon and a few other of the Feminist Mama Crew had been invited. Luckily, Jill was able to tweet along with me most of the day. She brought some fab perspective to the events. At the local level, labels aren't helpful. The issues most local officials are dealing with are basic city services. As a councilwoman herself, Jill knows what she's talking about. But No Labels wants to focus on the federal level where the shit is hitting the fan every day. So back to issues.

    Outside of getting rid of the Tea Party and MoveOn folks, I have no real idea of what solid outcomes No Labels wants to accomplish. The lack of women on the stage speaking was shameful. If women truly are the best people to find common ground, then that stage should have had far more women on it. Instead we got Joe Scarborough who lashed out at bloggers in their PJs eating Cheetos in their basement. Um, isn't that a label Joe? Is he really the face of a mature and civil DC? My friend Robin pointed out that it was also absurd to be listening to Mayor Bloomberg talk about fair redistricting and voters rights when he pushed the NY City Council to let him stay on for a third term. So he of the purple tie isn't quite the face No Labels should have either.

    Yes, I'm tired of political tantrums, but there's also a place for Senator Bernie Sanders' filibuster. Quite honestly I got the sense that No Labels was shaming the far right more than the far left. I can't recall anyone on the left saying that they won't vote on anything at all until they get X. Because if anything, the past two years have been full of compromise that pulled legislation to the right.

    I do hope that No Labels will be able to invigorate the middle part of this country, to get them to come out and vote in the primaries. If not, I fear for what we will be faced with in 2012, especially in terms of the Presidency.

    I'm so happy that I went to the No Labels launch. I learned that my labels aren't so much labels and lines I draw in the sand, but rather the issues that I hold near and dear to my heart, that I will fight for until the day I die. My issues are about making this country a more fair and just place to live. I don't see how No Labels can help move forward a feminist agenda. From what I saw on Monday, No Labels has its heart in the right place and again, I truly hope they are able to engage people who haven't been voting in primaries or have been turned off by politics. We need everyone to vote, to have a voice. But for now, I'll use mine to advocate for this country to move forward on a road map full of labels.

    Thank you! (Update on Chicago Abortion Fund fundraiser)

    Thank you to the 25 fabulous people who supported my virtual house party to benefit the Chicago Abortion Fund. We raised $580.67. That's an average of less than $25 a person. That's not a lot of money, but as you can see, together it will make a big difference.

    I've been swamped with travel and getting back into the swing of things at work this week, so  apologies for this tardy thank you. But I know that CAF has already sent out thank you notes to you all! I like to keep them busy.

    In April I raised $700 for CAF through Bowling for Abortions and with this fundraiser my 2010 total is $1,280.67. That is about four grants worth of donations. Four more women in Chicago will be helped. Four more women will know that people care about her. There is one woman in the CAF leadership group who has told her story at public events. In her story she talks about feeling alone until she called the CAF hotline.

    THANK YOU!!!!




    16 December 2010

    Digital Sisterhood Radio 12/16 Show - Feminism Online

    TONIGHT!

    OMG look at the amazing line-up of feministas that I'll be sharing space with tonight:

    1) Shireen Mitchell "the original Digital Sista", Speaker, trainer, and thought igniter in media, tech, and politics - www.shireenmitchell.com and http://twitter.com/digitalsista;
    2) Stacey Milbern, Disability justice organizer, poet, and radical woman of color feminist blogger - http://blog.cripchick.com and http://twitter.com/cripchick;
    3)  Liz Henry, BlogHer web developer, geek feminist/sci-fi blogger, speaker, poet, and literary translator - http://twitter.com/lizhenry, http://geekfeminism.org, and and http://feministsf.org;
    4) Mimi Schippers, Tulane University professor, blogger, and author of Rockin' Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock - http://tulane.edu/liberal-arts/sociology/schipper-profile.cfm and http://www.marxindrag.com;
    5) Treva Lindsey, University of Missouri-Columbia professor and blogger, - http://twitter.com/divafeminist and http://www.thedivafeminist.blogspot.com;
    6) Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Feminist blogger - www.blackfeministmind.wordpress.com, www.blackfeminismlives.tumblr.com, and www.twitter.com/alexispauline; and
    7) Brandann Ouyang Dan, Native American blogger, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist, and contributing writer for DisabledFeminist.com - http://disabledfeminists.com.

    Listen to Digital Sisterhood Radio from 9:00 pm EST to 10:00 pm EST on Talkshoe.com

    15 December 2010

    One Feminist's Take on the No Labels Launch: Part 1

    One of my favorite scenes from "The West Wing" is from the episode "Angel Maintenance." In it Matt McCoy plays a moderate Republican Congressman who is working with Josh on a bill. He goes off on Josh and I believe Toby (no, I'm not digging out the DVDs on this one) about how offended he is that the Democrats are targeting him in the upcoming election. He outlines in a very Yoda way that by pushing him, a moderate, out of office only opens the door for a far more conservative candidate to replace him or for him to have to go hard right to keep his seat.

    It is a favorite because it was one of many moments that really stuck with me and made me consider how I view moderates. Not only that, but to consider the physics of politics. What happens those of us on the left push for others to be just as left? Some of them join us. Others run hard right.

    As friends & long time readers know, I'm not a good Democrat. I don't send money to the party, DCCC, DSCC or local Dem groups. As a feminist I am hugely disappointed in how often the party selects men to go up against women Dems in primaries. I am also hugely disappointed in the notion of Blue Dog Democrats who sit with the Dems, but often vote against issues, like choice, that are central to being a Democrat. I also live in Chicago and not all Democrats are "good" Democrats.

    Which brings me to our last election. I publicly supported the Democrat Forrest Claypool, who ran as an independent, for County Assessor. The Democratic candidate Joe Berrios won. What did Scott Cisek, Director of Cook County, tweet the next day?

    Yes, it was a fierce campaign and yes, I was disappointed the next day, but this tweet fits right into how I've felt the party has been run. "Good Democrats" tow the party line. "Bad Democrats" think and act on their own convictions.

    All that is why I attended the No Labels launch in New York on Monday.

    I received the invitation to attend through The White House Project. I've attended a training in 2007 and really enjoyed it. Not to mention that I didn't get to finish the training in 2007 due to horrible weather. So an invitation "from Marie Wilson" + event in NYC + a chance to finish a training + the event happened after the semester was over and BAM! I was in. Yup, it was like I was Luke headed back to Dagobah.

    So on Sunday I sat in a room with 100 other women who have run for office, want to run for office or want to help other women run for office talking about the dire situation that our country finds itself in. There was a huge theme of women as collaborators, willing to find common ground and great communicators. Yes, lots of gender essentialism.

    But it was a feeling that appeared to be agreed upon by all the women in the room. It was confirmed by mom after mom talking about how they have to find common ground between their kids. I shared the fact that Tony & I have to compromise on our parenting decisions. 90-95% of our parenting ideas are agreed upon, it's that last bit that requires compromise. A woman at my table said, "That's just like our country!"

    Lisa Borders, one of the trainers, told us that the day after she lost her bid to be mayor of Atlanta the only call she received from politicos was from a lone Republican. Lisa is a Democrat.

    Kiki McLean kept talking about wanting to make her party (the Dems) stronger by pushing them to reach across the aisle and backing up elected officials (of all parties) when they do work towards bipartisan solutions. She gives props on the No Labels blog to Tom Coburn for not taking the bait and calling President Obama names.

    While one woman did ask how No Labels would handle issues like abortion and the death penalty, most of the day was focused on process.

    Process such as going into a room to find common ground, not enter a discussion over a bill or issue "hoping that the other side loses." Process such as stop calling each other names like "hijackers" and "socialists."

    I am a progressive pro-choice Latina mom. I like my labels. But this room of women made me question if I need to cling so tightly to them.

    I went to bed on Saturday, exhausted and eager to see what Monday would bring.

    13 December 2010

    No Labels Launch - December 13, 2010

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    06 December 2010

    National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada

    December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, this day marks the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. They died because they were women.

    As well as commemorating the 14 young women whose lives ended in an act of gender-based violence that shocked the nation, December 6 represents an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also an opportunity to consider the women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and to remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence. And finally, it is a day on which communities can consider concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

    Pretty much my whole career is about women in science & engineering. The murder of 14 young women who were studying to be engineers happened when I was still in high school, yet I still hear murmurs about women taking men's places in this or that. This act of terrorism was about privilege. The person who killed the women felt he was being overlooked because women were in the way. To think that some people still think that or make women feel like they are "in the way" or just there because they are women pisses me off like nothing else.

    I've been busy with wrapping up my first semester in "The Great PhD Race," to write much or ask you all to remember to donate whatever you can ($10 or $100) to support the Chicago Abortion Fund. But I do hope that as you consider your end of the year giving, you will put CAF on that list. Thanks.

    05 December 2010

    Patti McGee skates her way into the Skateboard Hall of Fame

    Patti McGee is the first woman to be inducted into the IASC Skateboard Hall of Fame! 
    Growing up in Southern California, Patti McGee was an avid surfer who begged her mom to take her to the beach to surf the waves. When skateboarding made the scene, McGee found a whole new freedom- able to travel as she liked to find that “no hill was too steep, no parking lot too tall, no pavement safe, we couldn't get enough.”

    As the first professional female skateboarder, McGee has had many great notable moments in her life. After becoming the “Women’s National Skateboard Champion” in 1964, McGee became the Demo Girl for Hobie Skateboards, where she travelled for nearly two years demonstrating the boards on a national level. From appearing on the cover of Life to going on The Johnny Carson Show, McGee has had no shortage of accomplishments.

    “The first Betty” of skateboarding, McGee is still involved in the sport. She is a member of Skateboardmoms.com and helps her daughter, Haily Villa make the skate-inspired screen printed clothing line, “First Betty”. 
    Considering that one of my best friends is a skateboard chick and I have a feeling she's going to pass that skill down to my daughter, getting this press release in my inbox was one of the best things I've read in the past month. Congrats Patti McGee! And here's to all the skater chicks, Bettys, grrls, whatever they call themselves.

    01 December 2010

    16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign: World AIDS Day

    World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1st. This day marks the beginning of an annual campaign designed to encourage public support for and development of programs to prevent the spread of HIV infection and provide education and promote awareness of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. It was first observed in 1988 after a summit of health ministers from around the world called for a spirit of social tolerance and a greater exchange of information on HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day serves to strengthen the global effort to face the challenges of the AIDS pandemic.

    For more information about World AIDS Day, contact UNAIDS Secretariat, 20 avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland, ph: (41-22)791 3666, fax: (41-22)791 4187, e-mail: unaids@unaids.org, website: http://www.unaids.org

    What does HIV/AIDS have to do with violence against women?

    Um, a hell of a lot!
    Violence against women constitutes a global human rights emergency that has devastating impacts on women’s health, including compromising women’s ability to protect themselves from infection and hampering access to information and services for the prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
    Read more from CWGL's 2006 report, "Strengthening Resistance: Confronting Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS."


    Oh and if you ever wondered how condoms are made tested, enjoy this lil video from Lifestyles:



    PS: To everyone who has helped me get a quarter of the way to my goal, THANK YOU! There's still plenty of time for you to help the Chicago Abortion Fund.