February 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
I’m obviously talking to Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker who wants to force teachers and other public sector employees to work at gunpoint. But I’m also talking about Tea Party asswipes, Fox News, Glenn Beck, five members of the Supreme Court and their decision to put the last stamp on the corporate state with Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. And if you don’t think that it’s unlimited corporate monies behind the astro-turf teabaggers and the election of Scott Walker, well, I’ve got a bridge and all that.
Most broadly, however, I’m talking about the 40-years-old assault on the working class and the poor. I’m talking about a labor movement, divided by racism, and totally uninterested in the liberation of women that rolled over and let this assault happen. I’m talking about a Democratic Party that can’t stand up for the LGBT community when the freaking Military (not known for being progressive) can, a Democratic Party that has shifted to the right of Richard Nixon.
This is about corruption. This is about selfishness. This is about a mindset that says “once I got mine I don’t care if you ever get yours.”
I’ve spent days, hell I’ve spent years, asking myself how come people don’t understand that pensions are not a gift and that working conditions matter. How come people don’t see that no one goes into the trenches of the public sector to get rich? Why don’t they understand that if one sector of society has good working conditions, that strengthens the workers of all other sectors? And you know what? I don’t care why anymore.
I care about stopping this unrelenting beatdown of everything I hold dear. I care about building something better.
As people in the public sector, our whole work is the building and maintaining of a civil society. We do this through education, through public service. We do this for everyone, not just for ourselves because every single human life has value and meaning. Individual freedoms and liberties happen when a society has structures in place that support all people.
The Scott Walkers of this world hate the very idea of a civil society, but the Scott Walkers of the world are selfish and morally bankrupt.
I need, we need, to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin and their magnificent resistance to Walker’s assault. We need to call our representatives and tell them we won’t allow that sort of thing where we live. Call (608-266-1212) or email (email@example.com) Scott Walker’s office and tell him that he’s made a serious mistake. That the world is watching his every shameful move. That he needs to stop, check himself, and learn some humility. That despite what he may think, there are many more of us than there are of him.
February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
“I read your blog, Jen, but not every day. It’s a little heavy.”
I cracked up. “That’s how I feel too.”
February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
Reprising my post on a social network:
How bout we sponsor a bill legalizing the killing of any lawmaker who moves to restrict reproductive rights. On the basis that they’re killing women (this last bit is true).
Oh wait, that would be MURDER. MURDER is WRONG. Except for when it’s us I guess.
In case it’s not clear, even though I’m very pissed about this, I don’t support murder.
February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
February 9, 2011 § 2 Comments
I met my husband in the third-and-final year of my MFA program. We were friends for a year before we started dating. I was 31.
A few months later I had coffee with one of my favorite former professors and told him I was dating Marc. Professor got very excited and said “you know Jen…he’s kind of an Art Star!!!”
“Really?” I said. I didn’t much care at that point because I was super-excited about finally finding someone I loved and trusted and fit with. Someone funny and smart. Someone who didn’t give a crap about my penchant for excessive punctuation. Someone awesome.
“Really!” said my professor. “He’s really well-known.”
“Oh” I said. What else was there to say? That was my first inkling there might be trouble ahead, and not just for me. Marc’s entire body of work stands in opposition to the very idea of an Art Star.
I’ve never been especially good at putting myself forward, having been trained all my life to keep my very strong personality very strongly in check. But when I did make myself known I was usually well-received. Because I am smart. And creative. And a good writer (I am totally in control of these sentence fragments my friends – never doubt this).
And every once in a while I’d do something totally wild – like submit a poem for publication, or work to a show, or get a chapbook published. Radical stuff.
Meanwhile a friend called me for the first time in 18 months to ask for my husband’s phone number. Meanwhile one of the vendors in our wedding would send emails only to Marc no matter how many polite reminders he got that all emails needed to go to both of us. Meanwhile friends would ask me where Marc was if I showed up unaccompanied. Meanwhile people in my family are still pissed I didn’t take his name.
Recently, Marc and I were invited to participate in a public art project. Marc replied that he wouldn’t be able to do this but that I might still be interested. I was interested. I would do it.
Since that invitation, Marc has reiterated two or three times that he won’t be participating. I’ve sent two or three emails to the curator. We both talked to the curator in person last week, both of us saying out loud that I’d be doing this.
Today the curator sends an email addressed to both of us: “hey you two. Is coming by around 1pm ok for saturday”?
Sometimes sexism is the big things, the seeming insurmountables – rape culture, the epidemic of domestic violence, low pay, the (conscious or unconscious) training of girl-children into silence. This culture of fear.
But often it’s the small shit, the microagressions, little hints of disrespect that wear away at a person the way weather does stone. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and I’m dead certain it won’t be the last.
Meanwhile the thing inside me that is girl, nice girl, good girl is whispering or shouting in my head over and over “be nice be polite you know it’s not that bad he didn’t mean it that way he meant nothing by it BE POLITE BE POLITE BE GOOD.”
I’m sure though, that being polite is not the thing that brings about changes, especially not structural changes. And this is interpersonal, but it is also structural. Even if no harm is meant, I still have to go through all of this thinking about how to deal with this in the best possible way. Which takes so much energy from me. But not just me; this puts Marc into an awkward and painful position as well because these kinds of things matter to him.
I don’t want to be rude or hurtful, especially not when I know someone is well-intentioned. Not being actively hurtful, however, is not the same thing as going out of my way to be polite. I don’t know a polite way to do this anymore. I am 35 damn years old.
Dude. I am not an extension of my husband.
January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
A while back, on a social forum I belong to, we were talking about blogs – having them, updating them, what they’re for, audience, etc. Over the course of a long and derailing thread I mentioned that I had started blogging under my own name. Someone in that thread suggested that I was brave for doing so. After all, feminist women who blog under their own names, and indeed any women who receive enough public attention start getting attacked. People threaten to rape them or kill them or kill their families. A note: most of these links are to or about cis white women. The women of color that I know have received threats, their blogs are down. I have no doubt that it is much worse for women of color and trans women.
Now I have maybe 20 readers on a good day. A banner day and I’m still under 100. Becoming a target is still a risk, however slight. A bigger risk is that someone finds out about my depression or something (hi there future employer!) and decides I’m unemployable.
I blog because I’m a writer, and writers write. I blog because I have things to say in public. I blog because I don’t need anyone’s permission to do so. But blogging under my own name is not particularly brave. Even if I was pseudo-anonymous, a determined hater could figure out who I am. This way, I at least get credit for my work. And this way no one can find me out and confront me with things I’m trying to keep secret. (OMG! I’m political!)
There is so much violence out there. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to say about the Giffords shooting. But writing under my own name isn’t particularly brave. Writing in public is simply part of being fully alive.
January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
I am writing poems again, or poem-like things anyway, on nanotechnology. Tonight I went back and read my chapbook, published here, which is basically a sifting out of poems from the ten years prior to publication. This is to say that though the chapbook is, um, uneven, there are still poems I’m happy to read.
Writing about nanotechnology is one of the methods I’m using to talk about our ever-expanding surveillance state. State as in nation and as in state of being. I’m surprised to see (though I shouldn’t be) that surveillance is a theme in my work going back at least 12 years. I was always writing about being watched and judged and misjudged. Well, about that and plants.
Here I have to post a disclaimer and an explanation. I have a family that is much healthier now than it was when I was young. Over the course of many years we went from dysfunctional and abusive to functional and loving. My family now is a source of great joy to me. I wouldn’t bring up the awfulness of my childhood, except that it shaped me. Being hit shaped me. Being judged, distrusted, and disregarded as unreliable then has a part in how I think now.
A surveillance state turned against its people, making us into the watched, judged, data-mined, seeing its own people as not a gift but a danger – this is abusive. Infantilizing. This is a great sadness as it turns us against ourselves. These tight, closed, secret narratives of what we are (and who we do, probably), they become the record, the history.
We live in an anti-intellectual climate. It’s not just the watchers. Many ordinary people also view the arts with profound suspicion. The arts are both ridiculed as unserious and at the same time seen as destabilizing. And we are reduced to credit scores and snapshots, networks and habits.
I come again and again to the same thought. In the face of such a reductive, intrusive, infantilizing system, it is more urgent than ever that we tell our own stories. Our own open, unfixed narratives. Our truths in all their complicated richness.