Minority Report: An Evening of Being the White Chick

We had been dating well over a year when my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go to an informal gathering of his college friends.

“Uh huh, sure.  Can I finish this chapter?”

“It’s later this month.”

“Yeah. OK.”

It wasn’t until he asked me for the fourth time if I was absolutely sure I wanted to go because he could just give the whole thing a skip that I realized I would be the only white person there.

Now, I had noticed  my boyfriend was black and knew he had gone to one of the well respected Historically Black Colleges in Mississippi, but usually we hung out with groups of mostly white people, or mixed groups, and I just didn’t think it through.  I had never actually met his family, but of course I was up for a college reunion.  The fact that I was at first unprepared just speaks to the comfort level of our relationship, right?  Or because sometimes, as he liked to say, I’m just really really white.  I am pretty sure this was a nice way of saying “oblivious.”

“Of course I’ll go,” I tell him.  “What would it say about our relationship if I wouldn’t do this for you? Really, I’m insulted.  Of course I can do this.”

“I don’t think I can do this,” I say to myself standing in front of the restaurant with my boyfriend and a classmate. Due to some massive misunderstanding, the three of us were half an hour early.  We’d already been standing there for 20 really awkward minutes.  She wouldn’t look me in the eye, and despite my boyfriend’s best efforts to include me in conversations, she managed to pretend I wasn’t there. The hostility burned the air and made it stink of ozone. This is what microaggressions are, I think.  She is punishing me for hundreds of years of white supremacy.  Should I tell her my people were sharecroppers? No, maybe not.  This is what she feels like all the time.  Ignored, looked over.  She’s making me pay for the sins of my ancestors.  Well, this is going to be a long night.

 Finally, she mercifully excused herself to go to the restroom.  It’s too bad, I think, that we didn’t hit it off. She has great taste in clothes.  I would totally wear that.  If we were besties, we could share a whole wardrobe.  We’re not just the same size, we actually have the same exact body which is odd–heyyyyy

“Heyyyyyy,” I said to my boyfriend, whacking him in the arm and hissing in his ear.

“Did you sleep with her?”

“Oh my God, how did you know?  I’m sorry. I should have told you. Shit.  How did you know?”

“Oh, it’s ok,” I said relieved.

“You’re mad?  It was right before we started dating, and….”

“I’m just glad she doesn’t hate me because I’m white.”

Fortunately, college friends my boyfriend had not slept with started to arrive, and the evening improved drastically.  His best friend from college turned out to be this 90 pound (not his type) drop dead gorgeous lawyer who worked in DC.  She ordered the chicken and waffles.

If you have never had chicken and waffles, you must.  If you are a vegetarian, you should try it with fake chicken and let me know how that works out or real chicken and I will never tell.  Fried chicken served on top of a waffle is a synergistic gastronomic experience of orgasmic proportions. It glows from some magic source created by the combination itself with golden light you can smell. And then you put syrup on it.  After grilling the waiter on the proper techniques of creating such a masterpiece, she looked at him very seriously and asked, “Does that come with fries?

Then she turned to me and laughed.

“I am so black,” she says.  

I love her.

I ditch my fish tacos and go with the chicken and waffles.  No fries.  I know my limitations.

We had a great time.  We went to her Dad’s place and watched TV. There was beer.  No one else treated me like I’d slept with her man.  Or like I was a white person.

 

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Naked Selfie

I know selfie culture gets a lot of flak.  If you are one of those people who take selfies next to beached dolphins or on the edge of cliffs, you might need to rethink your priorities.  Please rethink your priorities.  Despite the legions of 14 year-old girls who are trying their best to master the duck face, for most of us who do not look like models, posting a selfie on social media is an act of bravery.  A reminder to everyone that this is what real people look like.  On bad hair days and bloated days and 2 hours of sleep days. And I feel even more brave if I post a naked selfie, that is with  no makeup.

Not wearing makeup-especially for a white woman in the South- is practically an act of defiance, and posting evidence of this decision makes it clear that it wasn’t because you woke up with a migraine or you left your Red Diva lipstick in the bathroom at Target, but because you actually look like this.  On purpose.

Let’s not pretend that makeup is anything more than a marketing scheme that sells you on the idea that painting your face makes you more attractive to the opposite sex.  Makeup is designed not just to make you look younger and blemish-free, but to mimic what you look like when aroused– eye makeup to make your eyes look bigger, blush to make you look flushed, lip stick to accentuate your mouth.

What is even worse is that this is somehow translated into a “professional look.”  Which profession are we talking about here exactly?  And it’s not just Women’s magazines (God, I hate  Women’s magazines).  Business Insider advises that “makeup helps you look more polished and professional.”  It even goes so far as to recommend brands as well as brush techniques.

Mint.com reports that the average woman (do they mean the average American woman?) spends $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime.  They also note that she spends 20 minutes a day applying makeup.  I assume it still counts if you do this in your car at stoplights.  (Do not judge if you are not a commuter.)   Women spend close to $2000 in their lifetime on lipstick alone.  What suckers!

I am such a sucker.  I carry makeup with me at all times.  About $120 worth of the good stuff-certified as not tested on animals, so if I lose my purse I won’t be crying about the cash in my wallet but about the Urban Decay Roach eyeshadow which I have 3 of in case they ever stop making it.   I haven’t been wearing it every day, though.  If I had a new job or some kind of important interview or was trying to impress a date, I’d put some on.  I am a minimalist when it comes to makeup, but I’m also a Florida girl and you need some serious foundation to cover up 45 years’ worth of sun damage.  The fact that I mostly don’t bother tells you what about me exactly?  That I’m a feminist, a rebel?  That I’m a slob, a frump?  That I really am 45 years old?

The truth is, I look better with makeup on.  So do you.  I don’t care who you are.  You do. And we all want to look better and feel better about ourselves.  There have been days when Extend a Lash mascara was the only thing that gave me enough confidence to face an entire incoming class of first year college students.  You might argue that we should all strive to look our best and that doing so makes us feel more confident and more productive.  But who decided women at their best means looking like we’re 19 and about to jump Hugh Jackman?

I suppose it is not a coincidence that the men I have dated don’t really care for makeup.  I’m really somewhat perplexed by men who like it and the women who love them.  If you can’t let your man see you until you spend 20 minutes primping in the bathroom, how are things going to go the first time you have the stomach flu? You need to prepare men for this kind of eventuality.  Even if it isn’t pretty. I have however, had a boss who called in a consultant to remind us that putting on makeup in the car on the way to work was not enough, and that we needed to touch it up during the day.  Then there was a Mary Kay party.

I’d like to not wear makeup without it being this grand political anti-capitalist statement.  Except on days when I want to make a grand political anti-capitalist statement. I’d like to not wear makeup just because I am feeling ok about myself today, and I just don’t feel like it, and maybe I will feel differently about it tomorrow, and I will want to pout with plum perfection. Today was not a plum perfection kind of day, though, and I took this selfie.  This is what I look like today.  Yes, that’s really me. I don’t look like a model, and I assure you Hugh Jackman is not in the next room.  My goal in this moment is not to be beautiful, it’s just to be me. And it’s ok if you see me like this.

 

 

 

White Baby Lust and Surrogacy Gone Wrong

I was 26 the first time I got pregnant.  I am glad to report that this kid is now a National Merit Finalist despite the fact that I threw back a few before I found out he was on his way.  I had not been trying.  In fact, I was using a diaphragm.  Here the word “using” actually means “I owned one.”  So infertility is not something I have ever faced personally, but even at 26 it was something I feared.

The possibility that I could not have children of my own lurked in the back of my mind although I had no medical conditions that might have predicted any such problems.  Watching friends go through infertility is especially heartbreaking as I am fully aware it could have been me.  The thought of any  child in the world growing up without a family is also heart breaking.  You’d think it would be simple to match these groups of people together, but the adoption process is far from easy.  If you are single, for example, or a gay couple, there are places where it is almost impossible.

Instead of focusing on the intricacies of adoption, however, we as a society have chosen to turn to technology to produce biological children that carry familial DNA  in cases where the back seat of a car (or the front seat if it’s a Buick) just isn’t going to cut it.  I am not going to chastise people who choose this option over adoption because I honestly don’t know how I would have felt about it if I were faced with the choices given to them by the asshole God of Infertility.  I think it is only after I became a mother and had my own biological children that I came to understand I love them because they are my children, not because my DNA is in them, but in spite of that.  I love them for all the crazy things they do and for the things they are good at and for the things they are not so good at and because they are kind and when they are not as kind as I’d like them to be.  Sure it’s cute that my younger one has my dimples, but it’s not why I love him. I love them for who they are, and they are not me.  They are not even half me.  They are 100% them.  It is only because I understand this now that I know that I could love a child that is not related to me.  I don’t think I knew this in my 20’s.  And I’m not proud of it.

I know some happy families that have come together through IVF.  The United States was once so threatened by this technology that the research was banned.  Now it’s a multi-million-dollar industry.  Despite the regular destruction of embryos, the pro-lifers generally leave you alone if you are producing pretty white middle class babies.   I think those of us who insist we want a baby who looks like us have to face the grim reality of the racism implied in this desire.  It’s also white baby lust that is largely driving the surrogacy industry, and I think that’s enough to  make me uncomfortable.

I’m having some trouble wrapping my brain around surrogacy.  I heard this great podcast on NPR recently about a gay Israeli couple who purchased eggs from the Ukraine (this is where you get cheap white eggs) that were then fertilized by their sperm and implanted into Indian women who due to legal stuff had to live in Pakistan for the duration of their pregnancies.  These men were not able to legally adopt or hire a surrogate in their own country due to their sexuality. This story is more successful than most because it resulted in three babies.  Three!  One surrogate delivered twins and the other a singleton. But despite the great deal of money the men spent on this process, they were distraught to find out later that the women who were paid by the agency did not receive as much cold hard cash as they had been led to believe.  It was still a good bit of money to these women, however.  Life-changing money.  Enough to raise the standard of living of the children they already had.

I think a woman should have the right to provide a greatly needed service for a price. But it’s tricky.  There should probably be lawyers involved.  Better lawyers than this Californian woman had.  She is 47 years old and is pregnant with triplets.  Three! And she is convinced the man whose sperm was used to fertilize Ukrainian (cheap white) eggs and then rent her womb is a completely unfit father.

If the fact that this single man who lives in his parents’ basement ordered himself a white male (the embryos were selected for sex before implantation) baby does not give you pause, perhaps the fact that he is having trouble coughing up the money needed to cover a high-risk-woman-over-forty-having-triplets-what-could-go-wrong type pregnancy probably should.  If that’s not bad enough, since he never ordered THREE babies, he asked the surrogate to selectively abort one.  It turns out this woman already has triplets of her own, so the fact that this might happen again when she was implanted with THREE! embryos even though many doctors refuse to implant more than one at a time might have occurred to her.  It did not occur to the sperm donor, however, even though he assured the surrogate in an email that he would be happy to take care of as many babies as she produced, and there was a $6000 bonus in the contract for multiples.  But he didn’t mean THREE or a high-risk pregnancy or any of the other things that can unexpectedly happen when you are a parent.

It turns out that the contract also stated he had the right to request multiple fetuses were selectively reduced, but the surrogate refused, saying she was against abortion.  She even offered to keep the third baby, but the donor refused, asking her instead to put him up for adoption. All three babies will certainly be preemies and are likely to have health problems.

Now he’s threatening to sue for breach of contract, and she isn’t sure she’s willing to hand any of them over to him.  This is a man who after all, asked if she could maybe not visit the doctor so often as it was costing him too much money.  Meanwhile, she has developed gestational diabetes and can no longer work.   The babies are yet to be born, a selective reduction is no longer possible (the surrogate has passed the time period at which abortion is legal), and the lawyers are hashing it out.

This mess may have been avoidable if the surrogate had understood her contract and the medical risks involved, if a doctor had thought through implanting 3 embryos into a woman who was already at high risk for complications due to her age, if the sperm donor had been screened more thoroughly (he was subjected only to a criminal background check), if it had been more important to him to give a child a home than to create a clone….

Maybe our legal system just needs to catch up to the technology that creates on-demand babies.  Or maybe we as a global community just need to love the children we have.  Even the ones that don’t look Ukrainian.

How Much does Clumsiness Cost?

I wish I had a really great story for how I twisted my ankle last week.  Like I was partying with Mick Jagger or saving a baby from impending death or even I tripped over the cat, but no.  The only reason I twisted my ankle on the stairs is because I am a klutz.

Am I the only one who immediately thinks of this kind of injury in financial terms?  I didn’t hear a snap so it’s probably not broken so at least I won’t need a cast.  Xrays?  Will I need Xrays?  How much is my deductible on Xrays? How many follow up appointments?  How much for painkillers?  Do I really need painkillers? How much time off work?

After looking around to see who had witnessed my graceful decent and finding only Mr. Fluffernutter laughing at me, I took a deep breath.  Hey!  I can walk on it.  Maybe I don’t need to take off work and go to the doctor and get Xrays and crutches and spend the next 6 months trying to pay off this stupid little accident.

It was a stupid little accident, and I am insured.  But like many of us, I am single and I live paycheck to paycheck, and a stupid slightly bigger accident could set me so far back financially I might never recover.  So as I ice my foot and admire the rainbow of colors that make up my bruise, I consider myself lucky.  I take my over the counter medications and wonder what a broken ankle costs.  I realize I cannot just call my insurance company and say, There are doctors’ fees and radiologist fees and cpt codes and deductibles and plans and waiting rooms and pharmacies and paperwork and billing.  There is no comparison shopping for broken bones.  There is only hoping you got the best insurance you could afford and then waiting for the bills to come in and sorting through the paperwork hoping they didn’t overcharge you.

This is an exceptionally imbecilic way to run things.  Health care in the U.S. costs about twice as much per person as in the rest of the developed world: about $10,000 per person per year.  And let’s not even pretend we are getting better health care than everyone else.  Our life expectancy rates 50th among 221 nations.  (Monaco ranks first with a life expectancy of almost 90 years old.  That’s over 10 years longer than in the U.S.) We also rank poorly in measures such as low birth rate, infant mortality, STDs, obesity, heart disease, and COPD (lung disease). Does that sound right?

I am not shy about advocating for Universal Health Care so that everyone has access to health care providers when they need them, but I also expect costs for someone like me to be manageable. A minor accident should not have you running for your calculator, and a major one should not bankrupt you.  If you are unemployed or make too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to pay for ACA, you should not fear going to the doctor for minor problems that only become major when not treated.  Our hospitals should not be closing due to unpaid bills from patients who had no other access to medical care.  We really suck at health care as a country.  And I’m sick of it.  Also, I am voting.  Anyone who wants my vote needs to promise me that next time I fall down the stairs, my first thought won’t be how much it’s going to hurt my bank account.

 

 

 

Guess What Happens When you Defund Planned Parenthood!

In 2013, white male Texas lawmakers decided to ban Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid, falsely assuring the public that low income patients would be able to obtain family planning services elsewhere from new and existing programs. Dick move, Texas.
This shows a stunning lack of awareness of what actually happens when women do not have access to birth control. (Spoiler: women get pregnant.) But in case you are wondering, the results are in. The New England Journal of medicine just published a study called the “Effect of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program.”
Despite a nationwide trend towards use of long acting methods of birth control, researchers found a significant decrease in the number of women who used the IUD and the implant as well as those that used the 4 times a year shot, Depo Provera in Texas Counties that used to be served by federally funded Planned Parenthoods.  These are the most effective non-permanent types of birth control we have, so it should surprise no one that the limitation of access to these methods would cause an increase in birth rate.

The researchers note:
The introduction of additional barriers to access to LARC [long acting] methods by the exclusion of skilled, specialized family-planning providers was associated with a shift toward methods that have lower rates of efficacy and continuation and, in the case of women who used injectable contraceptives in the fourth quarter of 2012, an increase in the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid.
Women who had been covered by Medicaid visited their Planned Parenthoods to receive an injection of Depo Provera every 3 months free of charge. After the ban, however, those same patients needed to come up with $60 or more per shot. The number of women in counties served by Planned Parenthood who returned for additional shots decreased from 56.9% to only 37.7%. Just 18 months later, there is already an increase in the number of Medicaid covered childbirths. Surely that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Women who want to control their fertility are the future for fighting poverty. I can think of nothing more important to the health and prosperity of a family or of a woman than making a conscious decision to limit the number of babies that they bring into the world. We have the technology. We have the resources. You don’t need an economics degree to realize it is cheaper to prevent pregnancy than to raise a child.
So what possible excuse do we have for creating obstacles to reproductive health care? It’s immoral and inexcusable. Just how much is the current backlash against Planned Parenthood going to cost us? Do we as a society find it acceptable that the religious norms made up by old white men to control women cause poor women, and especially poor women of color, to suffer the most? Are you angry? I sure am. If you can, join me in making a small donation to Planned Parenthood today. It matters.

 

Tech, Again by Jessica Evans

Walking alone at night after a meeting with friends. Riding a subway to the office early in the morning. Going for a jog on a sunny afternoon. All of these are instances in which women can become victimized.

Aziz Ansari almost perfectly captures the very common experience of a woman walking alone at night in the episode Ladies and Gentlemen on his show Master of None. In the episode, a woman is followed and harassed after leaving a venue. It details a very real problem that women have come to expect – that a random man is going to follow and bother them at some point throughout the day. An outspoken feminist, Ansari attempts to capture a harrowing experience that the majority of women have and will continue to have. It’s startling that the episode rings so true.

There are few things that a woman can do to shake off a stalker, particularly if she is alone, it’s night, and there’s no one around. Mace is ineffective. Carrying a firearm is bulky and might not be a good idea if one doesn’t know how to do it. Self defense classes and training only work well if the woman actively practices the moves.

Enter technology.

Students at the University of Michigan have designed an app called Companion which might offer women some level of peace when walking alone. While incredibly simple – the app hones in on the GPS tracking that’s already present in every phone, everywhere – it’s also quite effective. The developers hope to ensure that women feel a bit more safe when out and about, and offer options if something seems amiss. While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s at least a step in ensuring and helping women feel more comfortable.

Jessica Evans is a Cincinnati native who has earned an MFA in Fiction from Spalding University. She is a novelist and poet, and her most recent collection of work was published in December, 2015.

She believes that not all feminists are created equally, and strives to be a voice for the rational, the composed, the enraged, and the sane. You can reach her at sanefeminist@gmail.com and follow her on Instagram or Facebook. Visit her on Google Plus or check out her website.

It’s 2 am. Do you know where your Voter ID is?

I woke up at about 2:00 this morning after dosing off with all the lights on.  I grumpily surfaced to acknowledge that I had completely failed at adult bedtime.  I hadn’t brushed my teeth or taken my Omega 3s or set my alarm or locked the door, and OMG who won Iowa?

If the results of the Iowa caucus aren’t keeping you up at night, you’re not alone.  However, while I haven’t seen any official numbers yet,  it looks like voter turn-out  was better than expected.  With less than 1/3 of eligible voters expected to turn out to caucus, we’re looking at a pretty low bar.  Americans define ourselves by our democracy-our ability to elect our own leaders and be part of the decision making process on the issues that directly affect us.  So why don’t we vote?

The 2014 midterm elections showed the worst voter turnout since 1942 with only 36% of eligible voters casting ballots.  The more educated and more affluent are more likely to vote, and women under 65 are more likely to vote than men of the same age.  But what’s really happening here?  Are the registration process and voter ID laws to blame?

Roadblocks to voting are certainly a factor, but when the U.S. Census Bureau asked people why they did not vote, only 6% reported issues with registration, transportation, or polling locations.  The disenfranchised are notoriously underrepresented in polls like this, so I suspect the number is somewhat higher than that, and we need to do a better job at making sure everyone has the opportunity to cast a ballot.  Another 11% of respondents cited disability or illness, and this too must be addressed.

There are minor tweaks that could make voting more accessible to everyone including same day voter registration, mail in ballots, and creating a National Holiday for elections as proposed by Bernie Sanders.  These are crucial steps to creating a true participatory democracy. But they don’t address the primary reasons people do not vote.

A whopping 28% of those who didn’t vote stated it was because they didn’t have the time.  I call bullshit.  Making it to the polls during a 12 hour window is not always easy.  Shit happens.  The sitter cancels, meetings go late, there’s a pileup on the highway.  But 28%? Like the many things we don’t make time for in our lives, voting is just not that big of a priority.  The second leading cause according to the survey was “Not interested” at 16% with an additional 8% saying they didn’t like the candidates or the issues involved.  At least those people were honest.  That gives you over half of people not voting because they didn’t care enough to make the time.

Apathy is a difficult problem to tackle.  Convincing people that their vote matters may be an uphill battle.  The first step is to get rid of the Electoral College.  It’s long out dated and makes people like me who vote blue in a red state feel like their time would be better spent getting a latte, at least during presidential elections.  How can we expect our millennials to believe in populism if we don’t even have a popular vote?  Civic Engagement should be an important part of high school education.  Every Social Studies teacher in every high school should have a stack of registration forms to hand out to students as they turn 18.  Maybe we could spend a little less time on the War of 1812 and a little more on modern policy. Which might be actually interesting.  How about a class on how Flint managed to poison all its children with lead instead of 6 weeks of the Bolshevik Revolution?  Would that create a classroom full of people who believe it matters what our elected officials do?  Would it perhaps prevent a modern day Bolshevik Revolution?

It shouldn’t be that difficult to convince people that it matters whether Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders is president.  We need to create a culture where every citizen feels they have a role in making that choice.  Go vote.  Make the time. Take a friend.