Archive for April, 2010

YES, Oklahoma Legislature Fucked Up, BUT That Is No Excuse For Ableism

April 30, 2010

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard about the two laws that were passed in Oklahoma by overturning the governor’s vetoes. The first requires that before having an abortion, a woman be required to view and listen to a description of the fetus’ organs and limbs, even for survivors of rape or incest. From what I understand, that means for very early pregnancies which cannot be viewed with an external ultrasound, those women will have to submit to the vaginal penetration required for internal ultrasound; while terrible for all women, that could be especially traumatizing for rape survivors.  The intended result is to guilt women by making them realize “Oh hey, I didn’t know a fetus has limbs and if it has limbs that makes it MURDER” as if women didn’t understand what pregnancy is or what ending a pregnancy means. The law is paternalistic, invasive, and yet another ridiculous barrier to women’s agency in pregnancy.

The second law is much, much worse. It protects doctors from being sued by their patients if they decide to lie or mislead (either outright or by omission) pregnant women about the health of their fetuses if they think that this information may cause the woman to choose to abort. In essence, doctors are now allowed to lie to women about their pregnancies, keeping them from being able to make an informed decision regarding those pregnancies. Not only will these women [those with dishonest doctors] no longer have the option to abort, they will also no longer have the option and ability to prepare financially, emotionally, and mentally for the outcome of their pregnancies, whether that be for caring for a child with disabilities or for the birth of a child whose life may be exceptionally painful or short. This benefits neither woman nor child.

Now, this IS enraging. This IS terrible. What this is NOT is an excuse to exercise all of your able-bodied privilege to devalue the lives and worth of people with disabilities, lives which are devalued every day (many times for “laughs”) in our society. Some of the comments that I’ve been reading in reaction to this law pretty much boil down to “This law is disgusting because more ‘defective’ people will be born and we don’t want that!”

That is unacceptable. That is wrong. When you devalue the lives of people with disabilities, you are also devaluing the lives of women with disabilities – and if you do this as a supposed pro-choicer and supporter of women, well…I don’t know what else to say except that you’re fucking up.

Keep in mind that many of the people fighting to protect the right to abortion are themselves disabled. We are all in this together, so check your privilege. Defending the right to choose means defending ALL women – not just the temporarily abled.

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Day Two!

April 30, 2010

Today is the second day of our vacation, and so far things have been going wonderfully. Eve was pretty patient with us for the six-hour drive on Wednesday (it helped that she was asleep for 80% of the ride), and upon arriving we were received warmly by my husband’s parents, grandparents, aunt, and sister. We’re staying with my sister-in-law, who is 7 months pregnant with her first child; she has a cough that doesn’t want to go away, reminding me of how I used to catch every single bug and ailment that came my way during my pregnancy with Eve. While I do miss pregnancy sometimes, I certainly don’t miss that.

Right now Marcus is downstairs with his grandparents, attempting to barter the baby for a little breakfast. I’m trying to decide whether I should comb out my afro (I washed out the twists yesterday) or attempt and likely fail – again – to cornrow my own hair. I know how to braid (or at the very least, I know the mechanics of it), but I think I’m mostly having trouble because my hair, while certainly of cornrow-able length, is still pretty short. Perhaps I’ll have better luck once I’ve got another inch.

All right, I’m going to bring this totally exciting update to a close. It’s time to check on my husband and see if he was able to successfully trade our firstborn for some bacon and grits. Whatever you’re up to this weekend, friends, I hope you enjoy it.

Raising a Woman of Color, Part I

April 29, 2010

While I was pregnant with Eve, one of the questions I received on a regular basis was, “Do you want a girl or a boy?” It was a question that I rarely answered honestly because the honest answer was too long and involved for casual inquiries. The question for me was not whether I wanted a boy or girl. It was whether I would prefer the responsibility of nurturing a child that would grow to become a black man or a black woman (of course, she may turn out to be neither or both, but that’s a whole other topic of discussion that I’ll save for another day. For the purposes of this entry I will assume that she is a cisgendered little girl until she is able to indicate to us otherwise) in a society that devalues black women and fears black men.

On one hand, I’m glad to have a little girl, because I feel like I will be able to relate to her life experiences. After all, I’m a black woman too. On the other hand, there are so many things that are so common to the black female experience that I wish I could protect her from, and it breaks my heart to know that she will probably experience them as I have.

I identify as a lot of things, but if I could only pick one identifier to go with, it would not be cis, or middle class, or able-bodied, or queer, or female. I would identify as black. It could be my privilege that allows me to consider my other identifications as secondary, especially since not all of my identifications are marginalized, but considering the amount of people of color that are frustrated with their continued exclusion from the mainstream movements of marginalized bodies (and the very reason I eventually ditched feminism for womanism), well…maybe not. My skin color makes me a visible minority. While I am sometimes mistaken for a guy, or for someone with a college degree, or whatever, I am NEVER identified by others as anything but a person of color.

This is not to say that racism trumps any other oppression. I just want to make it clear that for me, personally, when I interact with various peoples, my race is the one thing above all others that makes me feel consistently othered. I can hide my attraction to women, especially because of my marriage to my husband. I can hide the fact that I’m female just by changing the way I dress, because my face is neither particularly masculine nor feminine. But when face to face with other people, I cannot hide my skin color. Ever.

One of the shitty things about being a member of an oppressed group is the lack of fair and accurate representation. After a lifetime of not seeing people that are like you in movies, books, history class, news stations, and positions of power, you can become convinced that people like you must not exist. And when you’re surrounded by a majority that insists upon this same falsehood, it gets especially convincing.

I read a lot growing up. I DEVOURED books, reading at least 4-5 books every week in middle school, not counting my schoolwork. In the VAST majority of books that were at my disposal, there were no people of color. The ones that did have people of color usually only had one or two (at most), unless they were about poverty or slavery or some other POC-related hardship. The mysteries I read were not about black people. The thrillers were not about black people. The only narratives about black people were the ones in which they were depicted as poor victims. There were no stories about black people that did not focus, somehow, on their blackness…unlike the unlimited treasure of stories about white people that did not focus on their whiteness, but on numerous other themes and character details. Black people were never depicted as everyday, average people.

When I started writing my own stories as a child, I focused on horror. I had a variety of characters, ranging from werewolves to average kids to ghosts, and they all had one thing in common: they were very, very WHITE.

I did have the occasional POC as a friend to the white protagonist, to add some variety. But my stories focused on what I had internalized and understood to be “normal” people: white people. I remember specifically, as a teenager, thinking about writing a story in which the characters were black like me. But I didn’t, because I thought that if I added black characters, I would have to change their dialogue to broken English, and I didn’t want to have those kinds of characters. Because despite the fact that I was a LIVING BREATHING EXAMPLE of a person of color that speaks standard English, I was still convinced that my writing could not include POCs that spoke standard English or else it would be UNREALISTIC.

What. The. Fuck. RIGHT????

This worldview was not created in a vacuum. It was based on my observations of the world around me and the media that I consumed. No one that ever read my stories thought it odd that my casting was completely white. It was never noticed or commented upon. I doubt very seriously that it would have gone unnoticed, especially by my white peers and teachers, if all of my characters had been POCs with the occasional white supporting character thrown in for “balance.”

I know that I am not alone in this experience. A couple of years ago, I asked my husband why almost all of the women he drew were white. It’s something that we talked about, and he has since made some efforts to correct this in his artistic expression.

It is because of this that I will be going particularly out of my way to limit the amount of white-dominated media that Eve consumes at home, and offering more diverse media in its place. I have no intention or expectation for Eve to NEVER see or read all-white entertainment; I only intend to do what I can at home to supplement what she sees and deliver a bit of balance. I will probably not buy DVDs of many children’s shows featuring all-white casts (I’ll be focusing on Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Little Bill, etc), but I’m positive that she’ll see plenty of all-white shows at her friends’ houses; I will probably not offer to buy many books for her featuring all-white characters, but I know she’ll read plenty of those at school (IF we choose to put her in a school, but that’s a blog for another day), will find recommendations for them in “Best ____ Books” lists (which almost always exclude books from and about POCs, unless the list explicitly focuses on POCs), and will have access to the hundreds of white-dominated books that I already own. I’m sure at Christmas, she will receive plenty of white baby dolls and other such toys from our friends, both POCs and whites alike. While she learns about white history (usually called just “history” but almost exclusively featuring the lives and actions of white people – except in February) at school, I’ll be requiring her to do some extra work at home learning about what people of color were up to during the same time period.

I have every intention of preventing my daughter from normalizing whiteness, because one cannot normalize one kind of body without simultaneously rejecting all other bodies as abnormal. I want her to recognize that interesting characters come in all manner of shapes and colors and expressions. If she chooses some day to write stories or draw pictures, I don’t want her to exclude and erase from her imagination people who are like her, because for her to do so is a rejection of her own self.

Finally, A Break

April 28, 2010

For the first time since the Snowpocalypse, I’ve got a couple of days scheduled off from work. We’re hitting the highway after I leave work to visit my husband’s family for the weekend (a six-hour drive away…ouch) and to celebrate my husband’s grandmother at her 80th birthday bash. The rest of his family will finally get to meet Eve (so far, only his parents have had the pleasure) and I will get to sleep in for 4 whole days in a row (well, as much as Eve will let me anyhow).

I’m not sure what the Internet situation is up there so I don’t know if I’ll be back before Monday. In the meantime I’ve scheduled a post for Thursday so I won’t be entirely gone. 🙂

Enjoy your weekend, friends. I certainly do intend to enjoy mine.

Recipe of the Week: Soft Pretzels

April 27, 2010

On Saturday we spent some time at my parents’ house with my ten-year-old niece and nephew (they’re step-siblings, not twins). About a month ago I started trying at least one new cooking recipe every weekend, and with the kids over we decided to choose a group recipe and make soft pretzels from scratch.  

I made the dough, but the kids got to shape their pretzels and pick whatever seasonings/dip they wanted (Noodle chose cinnamon and sugar for his, while D decided on salt and peanut butter for hers). My brother also came over to join in the fun and he learned a little bit more about baking (which, trust me, he sorely needs). The pics aren’t very good, but I’ll share anyway.  

D puts the finishing touches on her pretzel sticks

 

My brother shapes his dough

 

This poor pretzel stick didn't make it

 

Noodle decided to make one giant ugly meta pretzel. It fell apart when it was time for the baking soda bath so I had to reassemble it somewhat while still maintaining its former hideous glory.

 

The finished goods, while not the prettiest pretzels (although the twists that my husband made came out very well), were pretty yummy!

 

[A series of five images. The first is of a kitchen counter with several sticks of dough in the foreground and one pretzel shape in the background. A child’s hand fingers one of the sticks. The second image is of a pair of hands rolling a long bit of dough between them. The third image is of the kitchen floor, a piece of dough lying between a bare right foot (my niece) and a booted left foot (my brother). The fourth image shows dough formed into a large misshapen pretzel on the counter. The fifth image is of cooked golden brown pretzels of various shapes and sizes spread out on three cookie sheets.]  

It was my first time ever working with yeast, and my first successful baking job using dough (the buttermilk biscuits I attempted a couple of weeks ago were pretty much failures due to adding too much flour), so I feel pretty good about the job that we did.  

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Edited to add a link to the recipe for soft pretzels. Note that I didn’t use nearly as much flour as the original called for; I started with the wet ingredients and just added flour until the dough was ready. I also substituted the veggie oil with melted butter. And don’t skip the baking soda bath; that’s what gives the pretzels their deep brown color and gives them that “pretzel” flavor instead of just tasting like bread. This recipe was quick, easy, and yummy!

Twist and Fro

April 26, 2010

I am almost 27 years old, and I don’t know how to do my own hair.

Growing up, my mom relaxed my hair on a regular basis, and all I ever learned how to do with it was comb/brush it, wrap it (although I kinda sucked at that and the scarf always slipped off during the night), and pull it back in a ponytail. I slathered Luster’s Pink lotion on it on a regular basis for moisturizing, and that was about it.

Around age 19 or so I decided to go natural, and in all that time since then, I still have not learned how to do my hair. Besides a couple of failed attempts at locking my hair, a mohawk (which my husband did for me), and one completely bald stint (also courtesy of my husband), I’ve usually kept it shorter than two inches and maintenance free. I’ve done the wash-n-go for YEARS, and for the most part never even touched a brush let alone run a comb through it.

After Eve was born, I started to let my hair grow out a little. It’s now several inches long (maybe 4 or 5?) and on Friday night I washed it, combed it out, picked it out into an afro, and then pushed it back with a headband. It was super cute! I rocked it again the next day and even my mom, who has lamented my short hair and natural look ever since I first cut it almost a decade ago, loved it! My husband simply adored it.

Saturday night I spent an hour and a half doing two-strand twists, which I have never done before in my life, and they ended up looking pretty sloppy the next morning. I realized where I went wrong after doing a bit of Googling (I went to bed with my hair still wet, and I didn’t use anything to keep the twists in place while they dried), picked up some clips from the closest beauty supply shop, and spent 30 minutes retwisting and clipping. I let my hair air dry (I don’t own a blow dryer and don’t want one either), took out the clips, and voila! They looked awesome!

Naturally, I didn’t think to get a picture while they were still fresh, and today they look pretty fuzzy since I’ve slept on them, but I’m still feeling pretty great about the fact that I’m learning more about my own hair. After all, I’m going to have to learn how to do hair at some point once Eve has enough on her head to warrant her own ‘do. I look forward to more experimentation in the future!

Pumping FAIL

April 23, 2010

I had to leave work 30 minutes early yesterday because I ran out of milk bags, so I had no place to store my milk after my second pumping session of the day. I went home, pumped, and enjoyed the rest of the evening with my family. Naturally, when I went back to work the next day (today), I forgot one teensy little thing: MILK BAGS. Again

So at 10:30 this morning I found myself with about 7.5 ounces of milk sitting on the desk in front of me and no place to store it. I considered making a run to Target to buy some bags, but that would mean leaving my milk unprotected from dust motes and bugs while I was gone since I didn’t have lids for the bottles I’d pumped into.  And there was always the chance that, no matter where I put them, they might get knocked over and spill the milk of my labor everywhere (a thought that no breastfeeding mother likes to entertain). 

So this is the elegant solution that I came up with: 

A Dasani bottle filled partially with breastmilk

I did what I had to do.

 

[The image shows a Dasani water bottle filled partially with breastmilk.]* 

We may not give Eve this milk anyway since the bottle, though fresh out of the vending machine, was not exactly sterilized. But I might use it to make crepes or something this weekend so that at least it doesn’t go to waste. 

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*I’ll be adding descriptions for the images that I post on my blog for folks that are visually impaired and/or rely on screen readers to browse the web.

Uppity

April 22, 2010

Hey, ya’ll. Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is August, and I’m uppity. I didn’t always used to be uppity; in fact, I used to be entirely too shy to even stand quietly in the same room as Uppity. Fortunately, that all began to change some years ago, and as time passes and I learn more and do more and trust myself more, I’ve found myself growing more and more agitated with the world as I know it and less fearful of my peers and authorities.

I’m angrier. I’m meaner. I’m more awake and aware than I’ve ever been in my life. And so I became uppity, although not nearly as uppity as I would like to be someday. I’m a work in progress.

The birth of my child is the catalyst for this blog. She is the reason that I aspire to be uppity, to be loud, and to be a thorn in the sides of those who would rather not hear her, hear us. Her voice is small and her hands are tiny. Fortunately, mine aren’t. So I aspire to do the work that her hands can’t grasp and make the sounds that her mouth can’t articulate.

My old blog, How To Be A Pregnant Lady, is dead* and gone. I censored myself a lot over there, because not rocking the boat used to matter quite a bit to me, even cloaked as I was in semi-anonymity. But the birth of my little one means that I have to change that. I have to force myself to say those things that may make others uncomfortable; I do this in the hopes that she will not have to do the same.

This blog isn’t going to be all heavy stuff like anti-racism and such. I’m also going to use it to talk about life, about cooking, about gardening (if I ever get around to it this year), about whatever comes to mind. And of course, about Eve. Because she is the reason I decided to start writing again in the first place.

Hopefully this is the start of something beautiful.

*It still lives at howtobeapregnantlady.blogspot.com. I used to have a direct domain (howtobeapregnantlady dot com) but I let it expire, and a porn site took it over just a week or two later. No, seriously. If you leave the “.blogspot” out of the address, you are going to see some hardcore pregnant porn. Just a warning!