Help not Hashtags

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Here in Canada, it’s a day for the promotion of mental health issues centred around a large corporation. For every social media hashtag mention that includes the corporation’s name, they donate 5 cents to mental health facilities. This is a battle of sorts with social media users every year: the argument that “hey, every cent helps, doesn’t matter how it gets there” vs those that say “nope, we don’t have to promote companies and help them maintain an image as being only for the good of consumers.” Kinda makes it hard to turn around and sign petitions to get them to back down from some of their price increases for the very internet that will drive that social media. And for those of us who have pointed out the fallacy of the pink ribbon campaigns and the amount of money that companies make using the imagery, it’s particularly discouraging to see yet another version.
 
It *is* hard to talk about mental health issues. It is hard to access mental health care. Even those of us who are very aware of the issues can find it overwhelming. Even in a country with universal healthcare, it can be difficult and it can still cost money. It can cost a lot of money. But the joy and stress of social media is that one can ask a question of one’s audience without specifying that it’s for you. You can ask if anyone knows of an issue, if anyone knows of resources. You can look for a community where you can be welcomed and feel safe to discuss those issues.
 
I have talked a lot about issues I have, issues that my kids have… I’ve had a lot of admonishment from some who are convinced that this will all backfire and ruin me for life in some way (all those after-school specials about the dangers of social media!). I have also received a lot of private messages from people who say, “Thank you. I have the same issues and I can’t talk about them in public but it helps to read the conversations that happen when you mention something. It’s good to know I”m not alone.”
 
Wanna use social media for your mental health issues? Facebook is full of secret groups that discuss mental health or medical issues, or support groups for those dealing with difficult stages of life, or more… There may be people on your friends’ list or people reading your Twitter who can direct you to services in your area.
 
One of my kids spent years living with discomfort and misery because she didn’t understand what she felt was wrong with her and didn’t know how to even articulate that to her family. Through the internet, she found a blog about someone else’s realization that they are trans and my daughter identified with everything she read. From that she was able to find an online community of support and advice while she got the emotional strength to come out to her friends and family. Through social media I was able to find online groups to discuss issues, to find resources and to find a real-life support group. All without a hashtag.
 
At the very least: social media is social. For all those who love to trumpet that “the online world is not the real world!!”, social media is peopled with real live human beings. For many with social anxiety, with issues that make face-to-face interactions difficult, with fear of personal conversations, social media can be a literal life-saver. It is possible to find a community of people who discuss the things you’re interested in talking about. It is possible to find people who have been through the issues you are experiencing and can tell you of their own path.
 
You can start with something as small as simply posting a photo of a dog and asking, “Isn’t he cute?” Enjoying the smallest of human interaction, even through the interface of social media, is not wrong, is not a failure, is not a cop-out. It’s a start. It’s a digital footprint out into the world.
 
Reach out. Talk to someone. Hashtag or don’t hashtag. Put yourself first.

A woman you never understood, still not behaving as you demand

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And so… it continues.

It’s January 20, 2017. Time for Americans (and some Canadians) to do what they do best: put all their anger where it clearly belongs…on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

For the last week or so, I have watched as various commenters have done their best to work up a head of steam. News reports leaked that the Clintons would be attending the Inauguration as is traditional for former Presidents and their spouses. And so began the flood of responses urging Rodham Clinton to make a statement and refuse to go.

We have all noted the sizeable list of Democrats who have announced that they will not be at the Inauguration, some hidden under excuses, other with clearly stated reasons and an explanation of where they will be instead. This is not, in fact, an unusual thing to have happen; many a Republican announced that they were out of town during Obama’s Inauguration. But it is part of the formality, pomp and circumstance and the handing over of power to have former Presidents in the crowd to welcome in the new member of the group.

Those urging Rodham Clinton to stay away believe that they have the best of reasons: she should do so as a protest against Trump. They are, of course, prevaricating. They know full well that few will see it as such, and most will simply attribute her behaviour to being a bad loser, or worse: being a coward. And Hillary Rodham Clinton is not a coward.

Yes, you would not go. Yes, you would have so many valid reasons not to go. That’s why you are not Hillary Rodham Clinton and why she truly never really was just one of us… Hillary Rodham Clinton possesses a level of resolute stubborn bravery many of us will never have reason to know. When she attended Yale Law School, she was one of 27 women out of a class of 235. Given the examples of sexism and misogyny many of us experienced in more recent times, we can imagine what it was like for those women in 1974. Or what it was like when Rodham Clinton began to practice law. We know what it was like for her as First Lady of Arkansas: regarded with suspicion and distrust because her lack of concern with her looks suggested that she thought she was ‘above’ being the citizenry. When her husband lost his re-election campaign, pundits placed all the blame at the feet of the wife who maintained her maiden name, who didn’t worry about makeup or styling her hair or wearing skirts. With a few simple cosmetic changes, Bill Clinton found himself back as Governor and Rodham Clinton learned a valuable lesson: it’s not enough as a feminist to simply be tough and keep going despite opposition. In order to succeed, in order to achieve the political power one needs in order to change society, one needs to learn to play the game and to appease the ‘audience’.

Rodham Clinton’s entire life has been about working in a society and work world that does not want her in it the way she has wanted to be. Her entire life has been about standing out, never blending in: first graduating student picked to do a valedictorian speech at Wellesley College, giving a speech so eloquent, so moving that Life Magazine did a feature on her.

So many of you complaining are those who spent the entire campaign complaining, “there’s just something about her…no one trusts her.” Now, you are insisting that she stand in for you, that she be your living avatar. In a world where all the new President has ignored all your nasty tweets and Facebook comments no matter how many of your friends retweet you, you are telling her that she has to be your visible presence. She has to do what you can’t do: a visible action that will show everyone your disapproval.

Clinton is not you, she is not us. She has always been a leader, she has always been a woman who has known that she would never truly be welcomed or accepted because of her ambitions. That has not swayed her. She has not sought that welcome. She has looked for understanding: an understanding that she has wanted to lead the country in many different ways and fight for social justice and progress for women, children, minority groups. She has done it in the face of everyone’s alleged much-vaunted distrust; she has done it with sky-high approval ratings. She has done it when voted Most Admired Woman in America, year after year after year.

And she did her best to do it over the course of the last year. She smiled grimly through the onslaught of negative press. She worked hard despite those, like you, who continually parroted, “There’s just something about her…she’s not like us. She doesn’t get us like Bernie does. She’s an elite, not an ordinary person like Bernie is.”

No. Because Rodham Clinton is not an ordinary person. She is not like you and me. She is a woman who has worked through the decades of inequality and misogyny of American life, and has done her best to change it. And as a woman working through those decades, she has learned to paste on the smile, to murmur the right platitutdes, to accept that, at every turn, someone is waiting to knock her down.

She will not be childish or churlish today. She will not give in to base emotions to indulge herself. She will be professional. She will be political. By attending today’s Inauguration, Rodham Clinton is not letting anyone down: she is showing all of you what you lost.

She will be Presidential.

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C’mon:  we all knew it was gonna be a white pantsuit.

 

They, Them and You

Once upon a time, there were those who snidely called women “Miss” no matter how often they were asked to use “Ms.”. The validation was that Ms. was madeup, wasn’t proper English and explanations ad nauseum. One of the more popular explanations was that Ms. would confuse people: was the woman married or was she not? Where men didn’t need to denote their marital status, women had to clarify it at all times. After all, how would we know if that woman was allowed to even be in public without a man or a respectable woman as escort?
 
Once upon a time, there were those who called women by their husband’s surname no matter how often the woman explained that she had kept her ‘own’. There was no reason for women to keep their own names they were told; think of how confusing it will be for the children! Are they yours? Are they not? Whose name will they use? Will you give them yours and then people will think they’re (hushed whisper) *illegitimate*? Why were women trying to convince people they weren’t married? Were they trying to attract other men?
 
There are endless examples I could give. When African-Americans decided that Black was a name that they preferred to use for their identity than Coloured. How many white people sneered and insisted that there was no reason for the change? Over and over, every version involves someone wanting their identity to be respected, to have that respect shown by being addressed by the label, name or pronoun that is theirs. And over and over, there are those who show their assumption of superior standing by refusing to grant that grace. Telling someone that you have decided for them that calling them by the incorrect pronoun does not hurt them or affect them. Because the need to control others, to feel power over them, is more important than acknowledging them as your equal.
Slowly, through time, through sheer stubbornness, various identity groups have worn people and social conventions down (in parts of the world). We live in a society where personal identity is all; where people have unique names, change their names to better reflect their sense of self, where people choose the surnames they and their partner will use for a family. And however much anyone might criticize those naming choices, we understand that no one else gets to decide. No one gets to call those people by a different name just because they don’t like the one chosen.
 
Someday, those of you who feel that being asked to use someone’s pronouns-of-choice will understand that you are being ridiculous and controlling. That you are insisting that what you want and what you are comfortable with is the only thing that matters. That the way you demonstrate your imagined superiority is by denying others the right to choose the names and pronouns for their identity. Think of that the next time you introduce yourself to someone…  think of the name you use and why it is you think you are entitled to have someone use it to address you.

Suiting up for the fight

It’s been a long couple of weeks here, there…pretty much everywhere. Everywhere I look I see people who look exhausted or shellshocked or wary. They’re beaten by the US election results and unable to look ahead. They’re exhausted thinking of the fight ahead.

Some of us have taken self-imposed breaks from social media. In a world where we all use our social media platforms for different reasons to different audiences–some simply for community interaction, some for self-promotion, some for work–many of us have hit a wall. We can’t deal with any more speculation on what went wrong or what is ahead of us. We can’t deal with assignments of blame. We can’t deal with the rightwing supporters lurking amongst our own family and friends who now feel safe to come out into the light and to glory in the Bully’s win.

But we’re trying to find our way back… we’re trying to find the strength. We’re trying to gear up for the fight ahead. And in so doing, we’re seeing that others on social media are proclaiming, with a slight edge of hysteria, that it’s so important to keep the fight up at all times, from the beginning, every day for the next four years. They urge everyone to understand that they cannot stop the fight or take breaks from it at all.

And they’re probably utterly confused by my anger.

They’re right:  it’s going to be hard keeping up this energy and fighting for four long years. But many of us are very familiar with that very dilemma. For the former, the fight is how to keep the media and public focus on the President-Elect. Their concern is to reduce his affect on the country, to prevent re-election. For me, for too many others, the fight has always been there…it’s just more visible now. Misogyny, sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, right-wing bigotry:  these are not new. They have always been there, and we’ve always been fighting them.

Don’t tell me how important your fight is. The fight has always been important. The change is that now you can see what we’ve been saying all along. All those years, all the decades we’ve spent saying:  this is a problem. Racism was a problem before the recent Presidential election:  it will be a problem after the next one. All the isms, all the bigotries:  they are not new. They will not disappear no matter how vigilant you are. If a different President or a different party is elected in four years time, they will still not disappear. We will still need to be aware, to be vigilant, to fight. You are willing to see one person or his followers or his supporters as the problem:  you haven’t yet figured out that the problems are as insidious, as much a part of the culture as we have always said. We’re not paranoid, we’re not professional victims, we haven’t been imagining problems that don’t exist. The President-elect is not the problem:  he is a part of the problem, a living walking example of the problem.

Don’t ask me to join your fight:  understand that you have joined ours. We’ve been here a long time.

Today’s Helpful Lesson from Social Media: how we’re allowed to react

I need to take a break from social media. I thought I would have nothing to say today but, golly, suddenly got inspired. So I will shout one thing then leave.

Don’t: just DON’T.

Don’t tell us not to be upset. Don’t give us the “Don’t complain; do something!” speeches. Don’t tell us that anger doesn’t accomplish anything. Don’t explain how you’re so able to be rational and calm and so you can tell us how to react when we’re clearly just being emotional.

If you can do all that? Congrats on you man, clearly that’s important to you. But if we want to grieve, if we want to mourn, if our hearts are fucking breaking for what this means for acceptance and equality then we get to be as loud and messy and as emotional as we want.

People identify men as rational and women as emotional. It’s used as control: if women are emotional, they’re told that they’re automatically being irrational. Maybe if men were able to accept that emotions are not automatically negative, that emotions are not character flaws, that women are not just emotional creatures and emotions are not automatically irrational and hysterical, maybe just maybe the world wouldn’t be in this fucking mess.

Go enjoy your rational intellectual discussions and your thoughtful considered plans. Don’t tell me to be silent. Don’t tell me how to behave. This day of all days, don’t tell women how they should behave for your comfort.

Why is Donald Trump doing “so well” Part 2

In the last few years, we’ve watched as GOP controlled states have rolled back abortion access, defunded Planned Parenthood, brought in punitive measures for women who try to access abortion services, threatened healthcare providers for helping women, have brought in Bathroom Laws, have tried to protect the right to persecute people based on their sexual or gender identity… We’ve watched confused as the states have fought to protect gun possession laws no matter how many people are shot on a daily basis in the US. We’ve watched as dozens of schoolchildren were shot dead by assault weapons and yet, lawmakers insisted that the right to bear arms trumped all.
 
And yet, people keep bleating, “Why is Donald Trump doing so well? It must be because Clinton is such a terrible candidate!”
 
If Clinton were to promise to outlaw abortion, to promise to deport all illegal immigrants, to promise to ban Muslim refugees, to promise to crush the rights of women and LGBTQ people and other minority identity groups, I can guarantee you she would be doing very well with Donald Trump’s voter base. When she talked about half his supporters being “a basket of deplorables” what she meant was that they are deplorable human beings because they have deplorable beliefs. They’re bigots and very loud and proud to be so.
 
It’s not a mystery that Trump has 30% support in this election. What you’re actually asking is how someone whose exterior appearance, whose life is as messy and untidy and ugly as his interior beliefs is doing “well”. You’re asking why it isn’t Pence, or Bush, or Romney or any of the other Republicans whose exterior does not visibly demonstrate how ugly they truly are inside.
 
And thus, you perpetuate the problem. The solution is not to have ugliness disguised by an attractive, neat, discreet exterior appearance and life…the solution is to loudly advocate against all of it. Bigotry is bigotry. You really seem to be asking why you have to acknowledge the bigotry in this election because it’s impossible to avoid. Yet, it’s the same bigotry that was in play in the last two elections. It’s the same bigotry that has been known to all who are women or minority identity groups.
 
Don’t ask why Trump has the support he has. Don’t find excuses for those who support him. Understand that there are Americans who are very happy with their bigotry, whatever it’s subject. And when they look at their country, when they look at the laws being passed, when they look at what some of their political leaders are saying, they see no reason to change.

Why is Donald Trump doing “so well” Part One

I am sooooooooooooooooooooo tired of the rhetoric that Sanders’ voters were smarter than everyone else and picked him because they know how to research on the internet and they found out All the Things and so picked him. Clinton voters are just voting for her because she’s a woman or because she’s the Democrat. ButTrump voters? Oh, that’s because The System has given them no choice and he’s the only way to express their frustration with The System.

Yes, I’m sure the KKK are really frustrated with The System and he’s their only choice to express that. I’m sure all the homophobes are really frustrated with The System and he’s their only choice to express that. I’m sure all the misogynists, the sexists, the transphobes, the Islamophobes, all of those are so frustrated with The System that they have no choice but to vote for the man who tells them that he’s not part of The System. The System that is supposed to respect the Constitution, Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and more…

Here’s a radical thought: accept that people are supporting Trump because they agree with him. He is not a symbol of their lack of choice but a symbol of their complete and utter choice. In the past they’ve had to content themselves with a Republican Party that used such coded language that they weren’t always sure that the Party is as racist and sexist and misogynist and bigoted as they hoped…now, they know it for an absolute fact.

Many polls have suggested that Trump has the support of half of the Republican Party…and polls have shown that 43% of Republicans to this day believe that Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya. Stop giving these people an excuse, stop blaming everyone but the actual people voicing their support for Trump. They haven’t been fooled or conned or trapped by economic despair. They’re angry that being white and male is no longer a guarantee of privilege.