Upcoming PBS Series on Women, War & Peace

It looks good. SWINTON! will be one of the narrators, and I’m relieved to see more than one quick news-story or 15 minute segment on how things suck. Instead it is a multi-episode series that looks like it asks some big questions. Definitely part of the posse, not the problem. Set your DVRs or what have you for October.

I can’t embed the PBS promo, but here’s one for Pray the Devil Back to Hell.  It’s an inspiring start to the conversation that hopefully takes over our Tuesdays in October. It will also make you feel like everything is possible, and that if you are on your couch watching a documentary, you are not doing enough.





Pictures of Walk For Choice Los Angeles

Starting up at Pershing Square

LA Showing Off

Truer Words.

We got lots of honks, especially from Priuses!

Joining Up with the Labor Rally. Lots of people, lots of cheering, lots of chanting "Pro-Union, Pro-Choice"

This sign made me pause. It was the right idea, but still felt...grabby?

The All-American Jumpsuit, in case you haven't seen one before.

How I Became a Doula, pt. 2

Part 2: I say sexism is my mother’s problem

Next preface: I’m a little groggy when it comes to feminism.  Until I was 24, I was of the “I’m not a feminist, but…” variation.  In general, I thought the term was overblown, and no longer necessary.  Gender equality seemed present enough.  I enjoyed challenging ideas of femininity, but it didn’t seem political.  I was pro-choice, but didn’t really think about it.  I was pro-woman, but didn’t really think about it.  I assumed that sexism was part of my mother’s generation, and that the world was a fair place for a lady.  I thought feminists were interesting, but over-involved, and generally a distant clan akin to vegans and the dreadheaded students at my college that skateboarded and wore Birkenstocks–not exactly uncool, but an enclave of their own.  I never took a women’s studies course, and imagined the classes to be a room full of women making complaints.  I had an English professor that mentioned that hysterectomies were over-prescribed, and I was shocked by it, and mostly shocked that she was lecturing about something that had nothing to do with Jane Austen.  She also told us she had her baby at home. I made her a role model because she was so smart, strong, and she had a couch in her office, and played classical music, and was something I had never quite considered before.

The next year, I interviewed her midwife for a writing class project where we had to research a profession.  I looked through the midwife’s  photo books in her waiting room, picture after picture of naked women, tired and happy people, t-shirts, blood, placentas, babies and vaginas. The calmness of that office, it warm wood floors, the smell of lavender, didn’t do much to keep me from flashing back to high school biology class, watching a two minute video of a baby being born.  My reaction was the same to the photo-book: I am not freaked out and; this is all very disturbing.

Life after prefaces: I leave college.  I drink a lot, and hang out with a group of boys where every time I mention the word misogyny they ask me if I just learned the word in Women’s Studies 101.  We get in arguments about Toni Morrison and the expansion of the cannon.  My brain kind of goes numb for a few years, fully interested in the details of a physical life that it was sharpened to ignore while in college.  And, I adapt to the great letdown of adulthood: nobody is watching.

For a review of my failed activism, see Part  1

Onwards, to Part 3!

Becoming a Doula, Finding the F-Word the Long Way

Dear M,

I have been trying to write for a while on my experience as a doula. It was through my doula work that I realized feminism matters, and that activism comes in all shapes and sizes.  I’m going to cut up my thoughts into a few parts for the ease of reading, and hope they remain readable and interesting.  Doula-ing and even writing about doulawork is absolutely navel-gazing, but with real navels.  Think of the next set of posts as a kind of mini-series, with sprawling plots, melodrama, and declarations of love.



For starters, here are some prefaces.

Part 1: I have so many prefaces

I am not pregnant, or interested in becoming pregnant.  I don’t get on very well with babies, but do feel lucky when they make intense eye contact with me.  I also love seeing happy parents and happy children, but motherhood often looks like a giant con to me–one where you plunk down all your capital and find out that you paid to get a huge demotion that comes with a lot more grunt work.  The majority of my fears are either about catastrophe (sharks, bent metal) or palimpsests of mediocre living.  But this is not about that.

The next preface: I am a shoddy activist.  My history in making a difference can be broken down into half-assed moments heavily informed by television:

  • Watching the episode of The Wonder Years where Fred Savage rips paper out of his notebook in rebellion, inciting his entire class to do the same.  It made me want to start a revolution.
  • Putting a pin that said “Homophobia is a social disease” on my bag in seventh grade, admiring the compression of the statement.  I didn’t realize that this meant I had inadvertently outed myself until about 15 years later.  This might explain why I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was in my twenties. That pin got thrown out the bus window by a dickwad 7th grader.  It was one of the first times that somebody had done something directly mean to me or my property.  Even my friends laughed.  Fucking middle school.
  • Bob Saget hosted a TV special about saving the rainforests, and recycling.  There were a lot of kids involved, and it seemed representative, as if we were having a teleconference.
  • But, then there was the episode of Family Ties where Tina Yothers freaks out because she can’t do enough to save the environment–I think she starts crying about a shampoo bottle.  This always seemed like a cautionary tale against activism, because it will just make you unhappy.
  • My freshman year in college I was part of a program that had lots of hotshot students coming up with sexy projects.  My friend and I found out that our professor was good friends with Dave Matthews.  We decided that our way of saving the world (and more so, making a name for ourselves) would be to get ten kids from all different backgrounds and fund them for college as long as they gathered once every year.  We didn’t know about the 7 Up series, but it was along those lines with the incentive of free college.  We thought we would break down some serious shit.  We wanted Dave Matthews to fund it.  I remember my face flushing violently as we proposed our idea to our professor.  He told us he almost mentioned it on the phone to Dave, but didn’t.  I also wrote about the project in my hated composition class, and got a B on the paper because the idea seemed “under-developed.” Our other ideas included getting everybody on campus to give us one dollar each so that we could go to Paris.

Next up: ignoring feminism, adulthood, and professors with nice offices…Part 2

The Commitments

Dear Millicent,

A few days ago, I was at my desk and couldn’t muster what needed mustering, so instead I scavenged the internet and listened to archived radio shows.  One highlight was from this episode of This American Life on “Turncoats.” One act is about the story of Brandon Darby, a dedicated activist/revolutionary who has a moment of truth while in Venezuela.  He is asked to meet with the FARC (a guerilla group in Colombia, that, from my brief reading on Wikipedia, is the real deal in a way that I thought only existed in decades past,  A-team episodes, and Bel Canto (jungle locales, kidnappings, military organization, communist ideals, child soldiers).  Darby identifies as a revolutionary, and is being offered the chance to meet acting revolutionaries.  But he also knows that there is a good chance that he will be kidnapped, as the FARC has kept hostages for decades and as an American he  is a potential catch.  His commitment to the cause is on the line, and he realizes that he is, in fact, not a revolutionary.  He doesn’t take the offer, goes home, and changes his talk and his walk.  The radio piece is great; it documents how he comes to work for the FBI as an informant, while also highlighting the successes, failures, and complications of activist work.

Also, as I was perusing the internet, I started reading about nuns.  I found this under “Discernment” on the Sisters of St. Joseph, Los Angeles Province webpage in a discussion on vocation:

Signs pointing to a particular ministry or vocation may be evident when you reflect on the following questions:


  • What is most life-giving for me right now?
  • Where is my deepest desire?
  • What are my gifts, personal qualities? Where am I best suited to serve?
  • What are my commitments?
  • What do I hear God saying?
  • If I were on my deathbed, which choice would I wish I’d have made?
  • What motives are driving me to choose one ministry over another?

I thought about Darby’s moment of truth in Venezuela when I heard the news about the murder of Dr. George Tiller yesterday: the OB/GYN who was a late term abortion provider, and famous for decades of attacks against him, and for his dedication to his patients.  I didn’t know until recently that there are only a handful of late-term abortion providers in the country (I think the number is as low as 5 or 6), or that the majority of women who seek a late term abortion are dealing with the tragedy of a health crisis with their wanted pregnancy.  Tiller was famous for the counseling and care that his clinic offered, and he helped several women through immensely devastating times in their lives.   His work is hard to think of– –it brings the question of abortion forward in a way that most of us don’t want to ever have to really look at– –but he was willing to engage with the hardest situations and help women in extreme need.    For it, he was constantly under attack.   As listed in several articles, he was shot in both arms, his clinic was burned down, his car windows were smashed, he dealt with court cases, the gutters on the clinic roof were blocked to create thousands of dollars of water damage, he had death threats for decades.

Tiller was the real deal.  Metaphorically, he would meet the FARC. As I write this, I worry about nasty comments we might get from people who disagreed with Tiller’s work: not only would I not go meet the FARC, I’m even afraid of what a few comments will be.   Tiller must have made peace with his risk years ago, and I’m guessing his family must have, also.  If you’ve been shot at once, and you keep going, then you have made some decisions.  And while I find it horrific that he was killed in church while his wife was singing in the choir, it also seems fitting that he was in a place of personal belief where he openly went in peace.

I bring this up because activism, in its truest form, seems to me a miserable and terrifying sacrifice.  You have to be solid on a level I haven’t even seen in myself yet– –a great reckoning with the very ions that make up your matter. As an undergraduate, I had a Haitian professor who once came to class in tears, announcing that a friend had just been assassinated in Haiti because of a radio show he produced.  Until that moment, I didn’t really think things like that happened anymore.  And to be killed for such a small work (a radio show), seemed surreal, or at the most, the stuff of a melodramatic movie where Don Cheadle would show how important radio was.  But it was not fiction, and instead showed me that small steps bring on gigantic risks.  And so, small steps are incredibly important, complex, toilsome, and hard to start.

The solace that my professor gave us that day was sublime in the sense that it was gutswingingly demanding, equally beautiful and off-putting.  It was two fold: one, the wake up call that the world is not healed and post-activist no matter what our very comfortable lives and mini-series about past struggle made us think, and two,  James Baldwin’s answer to what the price of freedom was: “The price of the ticket is… everything.”