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16 April 2015

Review: Hillary Clinton Coloring Book

In what will be just the start of Hillary products I get pitched comes a fun peek at the girl who would be President. Hillary: The Coloring Book gives you over 60 pages of coloring including a page dedicated to when she was dancing up a storm in South Africa.

Since coloring books for adults are all the rage, why not grab one where you get to color in a zillion pant suits? My favorite pages are of hippie Hillary. And thanks to the publisher, I can offer you a head start on creating your own Hillary campaign poster. Just download the PDF file and grab your crayons.

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through Indiebound.

15 April 2015

Review: Bitch Planet #1, #2 & #3

If you were to judge "Bitch Planet" by its back cover, you would expect a barrel of feminist camp awaiting you. The back cover of the first two issues are a play off 1950s comic book ads for x-ray glasses and hypnotizing tools, this time the glasses see through men's intentions and you hypnotize women away from being perfect...to allow you to take the top slot! I do want to conceal $3.00 in an envelope for a new signature.

But once inside, the world of "Bitch Planet" will take your breath away. The premise is that in the near future humans have found a planet to exile problematic women at an auxiliary compliance outpost, aka Bitch Planet. It is clearly run by a cadre of men who take joy in seeing non-compliant women punished into submission. But with a tip of the hat to Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," the women are greeted and interrogated by virtual women who look like Faye Dunaway in a Xena costume and even some women in riot gear.

The first issue showcases how easy it can be for men to call the compliance police on bitchy wives and how easily mistakes can be made. Without spoiling this issue, we do see the classic middle-aged, middle-class white woman in peril. We also encounter the Foxy Brown Black woman who is not going gentle into that good night. By the second issue we also are knee-deep in the well-worn framing of a penal colony that is so remote that human rights no longer exist and riots are such a common occurrence that they happen at the peripheral of the comic's frames. Every third issue of the series will be a special guest artist issue and will dive into one character. We find out what led to Penny Rolle being sent to Bitch Planet. Her whole mystery is not revealed, but enough that it is another punch in the gut. Her name makes me wonder and hope that it is a tip of the hat to Penny and Ester Rolle from "Good Times." Because I LOVED THAT SHOW as a kid.


Here is where I admit that I completely missed the chatter that built up this comic series. And if you did too, you might get to the end of the first issue thinking, "Why the hell did I buy the second issue? What kind of blaxpotation is this? Is this good? Um, what happens next?" After that dizzying moment you look at the next page and realize that Danielle Henderson, the genius behind "Feminist Ryan Gosling," was instrumental in the development of "Bitch Planet." WHEW!

OK, so yes, there is a chance that an amazing Black feminist theorist can have a hand in a problematic project. BUT...Danielle's past work gave me the faith to keep reading to the second issue. But that's not all. The first issue includes a call to arms from Danielle in which she asks us if we are compliant. It addresses many of the challenges feminist movements are facing at a time when we have women leaders and role models, but patriarchy is just under the surface of our lives. Or so disguised that it seems under the surface. Danielle asks if we are scratching that surface and challenges us to keep it up. So I'm gonna keep reading. And you should start.

Like now. Really.

13 April 2015

Book Review: It Runs in the Family by Frida Berrigan

Half way through Frida Berrigan’s contribution to mom lit, It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing Into Rebellious Motherhood, I thought this was the best book ever. I even said in my Goodreads update that it was so good that I could put my aspirations of writing a book on motherhood to bed. Now that I am done with her part-mothering book, part-memoir, I can say that I still might give mine a go, but this is certainly one the best books about raising children I have ever read.

Berrigan is the daughter of acclaimed peace activist Philip Berrigan. Some of us might know his name from the Dar Williams song, I Had No Right, which depicts Phillip and his brother Daniel’s trial for burning draft cards. Frida was raised in strict accordance to her parents’ dedication to the peace movement which included a commitment to living as simply as possible and shunning good ole’ fashioned American consumerism. As a former priest and nun, Frida’s parents also raised them to live by Jesus’ example. This meant working for social justice on behalf of the poor and oppressed, not condoning homosexuality and women’s rights. As I have heard many a Catholic say, they lived according to Jesus’ actions not the Church’s teachings.

As someone who has tried very hard to raise my daughter from a feminist perspective, I admire how well Frida and her husband have maintained their commitment to living according to their beliefs. They maintain a family on one salary in order to stay just below an income level that relieves them from paying any income taxes to the government. Thus they are not supporting the war efforts through this mechanism. This vow of sustainable living means that Frida can mention her ancient flip-phone and the fact her children have little technology in their lives. “What does that look like in practice? Potluck dinners, composting, knowing our neighbors, belong to the community garden and the food cop-op…” and her list goes on to mention every hippie parent stereotype.

If that seems judgmental, I concur. There were plenty of places where I felt Frida is lecturing us smart phone-social media addicted parents into living simpler lives. I don’t disagree with her assessment either. Most of my friends with kids know we too often open up our phones when we should be enjoying family time. It can be difficult to then ask one’s child to then be “polite” with their smart phone when they grew up watching you on yours. Ahem…In fact Frida’s book may be the thing that keeps you from looking at your phone 10 times during soccer practice and only a few times.

I have been asked many times over my tenure as a mom how one is a feminist mom. What Frida does with her book is to outline how one is not just a feminist mom, but one that centers daily living around peace and justice. She connects many of our daily actions (gadget lust) to its place in the overall system that continues to keep poor people in poverty, but also has destroyed the middle class. Instead of dismissing the book as a piece of judgmental crap, I find it quite aspirational. What are we doing to ourselves, our family, and our community when we strive for the bigger paycheck, latest phone, and private lessons for our children?

Frida not only reflects on her upbringing the sacrifices her family made in their quest for social justice, but also the state of our society. As a child, Frida’s parents were often the front lines of many peace demonstrations and committing acts of nonviolent disobedience. Her parents were often arrested and spent time in prison. Her recollection of the one time they were both in prison at the same time and left in the care of friends is heartbreaking. After that mistake, her parents made sure to never be incarcerated at the same time again. While some might question ever being arrested while raising children, Frida makes a point to defend her parents political strategies as part of their parenting style. When one becomes a parent, the rest of our self does not die. We may be more careful, but we cannot stop being who we are just because we brought a life into the world. It is a delicate balance that Frida describes well.

And that is the flip of Frida’s judgmental look at parenting. She spends a good amount of time reliving us from modern parenting guilt. Her take on the insanity that is children’s birthday parties is spot on. The state of having to have an equally opulent party from the last kid is only teaching our children to buy bigger and better toys than their classmate. One that parents will wish we hadn’t taught then when the toys start to cost hundreds of dollars.

As militant as you may start to think Frida is with her dedication to a social justice parenting style, her admission as to rebellious ways is heartwarming. As a child the family did not allow a lot of TV time, yet she admits to sneaking TV at friends’ homes and lying about it. Yes, instead of becoming right-wingers, Frida and her brother watch TV. But within this admission, Frida asks us to acknowledge that “children are little insurrectionists” and to stop and learn from their rebellions instead of clamping down on the situation. Again, another lesson to keep in mind as my husband and I begin our journey of parenting a teenager

But this lesson is also a moment where Frida asks us to look at our beliefs and actions. Is it more important for us to have our children use the correct terminology or to act in a socially just and feminism manner? What good is it for us to teach our children the “political correct” way to refer to people if they never interact with people outside their homogenous social circle?

I like to say that I am a feminist who constantly tries to connect the dots, that my commitment to reproductive justice is more than just abortion rights. The way that Frida tackles issues is very similar. As she begins to wax on about the state of women's health in relation to birthing in the USA, she quickly whips it back to the so-called "right to life" community and their lack of action on behalf of children's rights.

Best of all, Frida is forthright about how children turn our lives upside down, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Ok, sure we would want a better child care system, paid maternity leave and all that, but the whole juggle is tough, but can be pretty awesome too. "It Runs in the Family" is a refreshing take on parenting while pursuing social justice in the world.

Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from a publicist. 

06 April 2015

Review: Zazzle Custom Fabric

This is part one of the review as I have yet to do anything but squeal over my Zazzle custom fabric.

As you can see it is very light purple, has the Viva la Feminista logo and my motto "Peace, Love & Feminism" printed on the fabric. I am not a pro with fabric. I know how to sew and once I get my sewing machine all set, I will be turning this fabric (I have 2 yards) into a skirt. Yup, if you see me at a blogger and/or feminist event, you might catch me in it. #NERD. But since my BFF, Cinnamon, is a fabric pro I asked her for thoughts on the fabric itself.

The printing is well done. The ink did not bleed. Apparently Cinnamon has seen custom fabric where the ink did bleed. She also gave the thumbs up to making a skirt with the fabric, which is the Pima cotton. I am super excited to make my skirt and see if I can make something else from it.So stick around to see how my projects turn out! And new fabric designs I'll doodle up.

Disclaimer

This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces


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