Tag Archives: Feminism

Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse for some.

19 Jun

WARNING: SPOILERS. For real if you haven’t watched the whole series and don’t want things ruined just move along.

As the final episode of Season 1 of the Handmaid’s Tale ended, as the ironic use of Tom Petty’s American Girl, started up my husband turned to me and said, so how do you feel?

How did I feel? I had laughed and sobbed my way through this series. I immediately wanted to start it over again now that it was finished. At the same time I never want to stomach watching what happens to those women again.

In the end I only had one term: Vindicated.


I felt vindicated. I felt heard. I felt recognized. I felt believed. I know I’m always blathering on about the importance of representation. The importance of words. I felt in a very real way that this story talked a lot about what it is to be a woman. Now. Not in the future. But right now in America.

These women are treated as objects. They are denied agency over their own bodies. There are men in congress RIGHT NOW working directly towards those goals.

One of the things that I loved so much was how much the show was filled with microaggressions – the kind that women face every single day. The way the Handmaids are treated like children or pets, both to be scolded and beaten. The way they lose their names and are instead renamed by the men who systematically rape them as other women look on. The way women betray each other, are pitted against each other in the patriarchy so that we’re constantly fighting for whatever little scrap we can find even at the expense of sisterhood. The tone policing. The gaslighting  In a flashback scene the baristas calls June and Moira sluts and they laugh it off. What woman hasn’t laughed it off. Because to fight against every microaggression is to die by a thousand cuts. You have to keep moving.

What the show and the book does so well is bring these every day microaggressions out into the open, to show them what it would look like if that treatment were not just canonized but made to rule.

Margaret Atwood didn’t imagine these things. She used history. She used what all women know.

“I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist. I did not wish to be accused of dark, twisted inventions, or of misrepresenting the human potential for deplorable behaviour. The group-activated hangings, the tearing apart of human beings, the clothing specific to castes and classes, the forced childbearing and the appropriation of the results, the children stolen by regimes and placed for upbringing with high-ranking officials, the forbidding of literacy, the denial of property rights: all had precedents, and many were to be found not in other cultures and religions, but within western society.”

-Margaret Atwood

The slut shaming. The victim blaming. When one Handmaid is made to recount a gang rape she survived, Aunt Lydia asks whose fault it was. The Handmaids then all start chanting “her fault.”

There are so many instances, Cosby, Brock Turner, all these high profile cases built up on the notion that these women did something to deserve what happened. And we believe this. We claim we don’t but we do. We ask what they were wearing. We ask if they had been drinking. We ask if they were alone. It’s the reason we police our daughters, shame them for what they wear. We do not teach our boys not to rape. We teach our daughters not to get raped. We teach them that boys and men cannot be stopped. That they will take whatever they want, including your body, so you must be vigilant. If you are not, you’re the only one to blame.

A hand comes out and strikes the offending Handmaid. That hand belonged to Margaret Atwood.


The Salvaging, a scene depicting the Handmaids attacking a convicted rapist, was one of the most powerful moments in the series for me. It was beautifully shot and perfectly executed. I think that no one watching that could possible miss the irony of Aunt Lydia presenting a rapist to the girls a look of indignation on her face. It is not rape that she finds problematic as she is profiting off a system that encourages state-sanctioned rape. The issue is not that he raped a Handmaid.

The issue is that he touched the Commander’s property.

And the Handmaidens attack with a ferocity not seen before. All the rage and fury that they have finally has an outlet. After having to spend so much time accepting abuse they get to inflict it. And in doing so they become tools of the system they are trying to fight. They are like animals. They are not like humans. They lose their humanity.

All of these things – the way women are manipulated, abused, stripped of their humanity, stripped of their bodily rights, constantly on the receiving end of toxic masculinity’s obsession with power – were so perfectly executed in this series, in both large and small ways.

You see the Handmaid’s Tale isn’t a show about what could be.

It isn’t even a show about now.

It’s a show about ALWAYS.


“They should have never given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army.”


So how did I feel finishing the Handmaiden’s Tale?


Horribly, painfully, sadly, vindicated.


Chins Up, Claws Out,



The Future Is Female: The Women’s March on Washington

24 Jan
  • carrie

It is indeed. The trip to Washington was incredible and life changing and also unsettling and just the beginning of the conversation.

So let’s start at the beginning. On Saturday morning we hit the Shady Grove DC Metro stop and found this:


A very very large crowd trying to get into the train station. We were here for hours. Rumors went through the crowd that if you didn’t have a DC metro card you couldn’t get one anymore.

We did not have a DC metro card. The face I was making at this time was not a happy one.

Finally when we got up to the gate – which they had to close to stop people from coming in – the guards said that wasn’t true. We slowly slowly slowly inched our way through the tunnel, to the machines, up the stairs and finally onto a train which spit us out at the National Mall around noon. By this time, Independence Avenue, the location of the rally and start of the march was inapproachable. And when I say inapproachable I means the crowds were wall to wall filling every possible space at every cross street to Independence.

Like this:

View this post on Instagram

YOU did this. KEEP SHOWING UP. (Repost: @averyjo_)

A post shared by Women's March (@womensmarch) on

And that’s ONLY Independence Avenue.

We were LEGION.

At that point we were chanting and hanging out waiting for this thing to happen. By 2:30 when it wasn’t, we started chanting “Let’s March Now”

And then we did. The original route went up Independence but for those of us not there there was no way we could reach it so we headed up the Mall. And when I say up the Mall, I mean pulled down fences, headed up the Mall.


There were some really amazing chants.

My favorite was “You’re boring, you’re gross, you didn’t win the popular vote.” With runners up being:

“Hands too small, can’t build a wall”

“Welcome to your first day, we will never go away”

And it was refreshing to hear how strong “Black Lives Matters” chants were because, my march seemed to be predominately white and considering 53% of white women voted for him, I’m glad we’re the ones doing the work now. We need to fix this. This is on us.

Neatly summed up in this incredible image:


White feminism is a dangerous and destructive thing and it is on white people to constantly work towards intersectionality and inclusiveness. And I’m hearing a lot of crappy whining from white feminism about how their “good time” is being ruined and to them I say this:

Stop talking. Listen. Really listen. Bite down on the knee jerk reaction to say “But not me” when people of color are talking about racism. You know how we hate #NotAllMen when we’re being #YesAllWomen. Same deal. Shut up and listen to these arguments because we cannot move forward unless we are walking the same path and we cannot do that unless we are together. Conversation – icky awkward it-makes-me-uncomfortable conversation has to happen. People of color live under white supremacy and face racism every day. The least we can do it is listen to them and manage that small bit of discomfort.

Also there was a lot of chatter about how peaceful the march was. And it was. Don’t get me wrong. I saw people taking such good care of each other – lifting each other’s children up, helping the elderly – it was beautiful. But the police let us march all over the Mall because we were predominately white. BLM rallies and marches have snipers, riot gear, pepper spray.


We did not make this peace. Our whiteness did. And now it’s important for us to show up for BLM and NoDAPL and pro-immigration and anti-Islamophobia rallies and marches and to truly stand with our sisters.

There was also a lot of really positive body image stuff at the march which I LOVED. I mean, come on? This is anatomically correct!


And this beautiful woman dressed up!


And seriously, all the men (and some women) complaining about the Women’s March being obsessed with pussy can just stop right there. Just remember that every day women navigate the constant miserable tightrope that is knowing that our vaginas that you straight men love and covet and need and chase after and use to feel powerful and want so fucking badly (you’ll just take them if you have to) are the same ones you mock and demean for their shape and taste and texture and smell. Don’t think that we didn’t grow up being told they were shameful and embarrassing unless they were loved by straight men. We live with that every fucking day. So if the next generation of girls grows up to think there is nothing wrong with their vaginas because at the march people wore pussy hats and had anatomically correct drawings and hell, dressed up like them and instead they think their vaginas are beautiful and natural and wonderful and powerful then this march accomplished something goddamn groundbreaking.


Even the earth made an appearance!





In case you can’t read that top one it says, “Alt-righters: Call your Dad, You’re in a cult!”



And one of my favorite quotes ever…..


We are the storm.

It was a really good day. Easily the best I have felt since the election and it mattered so much to see this groundswell of women, all over the world. Including ANTARCTICA!


Look at us! We did this!

Me and you and you and you.

We did this.

And we need to keep doing this. Every day. We need to stay vigilant and protest. We need to support BLM and NoDAPL and Immigrants and the Disabled and Diseased. We need to call our reps. We need to support real news. He is coming for all of us. Never forget that.


This is what feminism looks like:

So in honor of this and this historic march and our giant Pussy Fight, I’m changing my sign off slogan. I used to always say “Peace, love and starbursts” and while I still love all those things, times like this call for a little bit more.


Resist, my friends. Always.


Chins up, Claws Out,


Boys Don’t Cry: Sexism and Gender Representation in Publishing

15 Aug

I love reading to my niece. It’s one of my favorite things to do and last time I was at her house she picked a new book.


It is the story of Duncan’s crayons who previously quit due to what they saw as unfair practices by Duncan. In this the crayon’s are all returning with tales of their adventures. We had a blast reading it until we got towards the end and I cringed. All the crayons in this book are clearly boys or otherwise ungendered. There is one exception.

Wait for it……




The unused pink crayon. OF COURSE.


In the pink crayon’s letter to Duncan she calls herself a “girl’s color” and laments the fact that Duncan has only used her once. Then she congratulates Duncan’s little sister for doing a good job of staying in the lines. Cause, you know, that’s what good little girls do.

They behave.

This is all highlighted in a really amazing article about children’s books on the Washington Post the other day. The whole thing is worth a read but the gist of it is that there a significant lack of girl representation in picture books, and that when there is, they are incredible sexist. The fact that publishing, on the whole, has a significant gender problem.

That J.K. Rowling has no middle initial but they gave her one so they could use just initials because how else were they going to sell a book to boys written by – *gasp* –  a woman!

I thought back to some of my favorite stories growing up and sure, I had Meg in Wrinkle in Time but her utter lack of self-confidence made her more of a pawn in her own story than anything else. In fact it is only through Calvin’s constant affirmations that she overcomes her insecurity. The boy tells her she can do it. So she believes it.

When I first decided to write a story about the last living descendant of Shakespeare, my main character was a boy.

I remember standing in the kitchen talking to my husband as he made dinner about my idea about this boy and his muse named Jonathan and how I wanted to incorporate Shakespare and Greek mythology when he looked at me and said, “Honey, why would you make your main character a boy? Why wouldn’t you make it a girl?”

It took someone else pointing it out before I realized that I had internalized that idea that the Hero is a Boy. So even as  a girl reader who grew up into a woman writer, I still initially went with a boy.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with this:


and not this:


But if my neice grows up to be a writer it will be different for her. I certainly hope so.  All the same, feminism fail, Ally.

But I didn’t forget that when I started my next book, This Is Sarah. The story started out as a ghost story – a boy haunted by his dead girlfriend and then warped into something very different – a boy broken by his girlfriend’s disappearance.

To Colin, I gave distinctly  “non-masculine” if not “feminine” traits:

  • He’s was very into his relationship with Sarah, to the point that he alienated friends.
  • She’s basically all he cares about.
  • He cries. A lot. Sobs really
  • He needs to see a therapist because he’s falling apart
  • He gets hysterical
  • And he fails the Bechdel test every single time.

He is raw and tender….traits that are steroetypically female but in actuality, as Wendi pointed out, typically human.

And as Jennie Yabroff said in her Washington Post piece:

As Monfried says, “When we read our children picture books, we’re saying, ‘There’s a world here that will give and give and give for the rest of your life.’ We should want to show our children that anybody can do anything.”

To which I’d add, we should want to show our kids that girls can be anything — and anything can be a girl.

Anything can be a girl. Because ultimately we all laugh and cry and mourn and love in similar ways. Far more similar than they are different.

Peace, love and starbursts,


Mid-Month Round Up

13 Mar

How is it already the middle of March? What just happened? Where am I?

Okay so mid-month round-up, here we go:

1. Many thanks to Camel Saloon for publishing Humiliation Heap as a part of the International Women’s Day issue. There are tons and tons of good writers in here so please, take a minute to have your mind blown. Unlike some other poems this one is VERBATIM from a conversation I had during radiation. #FuckCancer

2. And many many many thanks to Clockwise Cat for putting together this MASSIVE incredible FemmeWise. Femmewise is the feminist rag to end all feminist rags. The fine kittens at Clockwise not only took a few How To Be An American poems, but they also accepted a little ranty thing I wrote about why Beat Women are largely cut out of modern day interpretations. I thought we were past the lobotomizing, kids (I’m looking at you, Hollywood).

I never get non-fiction published so I’m especially psyched about that.

3. Finally many, many, many, many thanks to Red Fez for accepting Purple Socks and Sonogram. You guys rock.

In other news, my sad little book, This Is Sarah got a shout-out from The Honest Book Club:

That hipster coffee shop: Give a book by an indie author a shoutout

Coffee - hipster coffee shop

Natalie: Not sure if this is indie, but more people should read it, and that’s ‘Lies We Tell Ourselves‘ by Robin Talley. I recommend that you try this book, it’s wonderfully written and has such a gripping story and heartbreaking moments that really happened in history.

Lexie: So, this isn’t strictly speaking an indie author, because the book was published through a traditional (albeit quite indie) publisher – BookFish Books – but it is nevertheless one that hasn’t gotten enough attention and deserves a shout-out. It is This Is Sarah by Ally Malinenko.

Thanks so much guys! Working with BookFish has been incredible, but man, with so many great books out there it’s hard to get a reader’s attention sometimes. Especially with Sarah being a quiet sad book and not a part of a trilogy or a massive sci-fi space opera/dystopic fantasy series. You know, the stuff they make all the movies out of.

Whenever I talk about it I try to be all casual like oh I’ve got this book and….


But it FEELS like I’m all:


So when people give shout-outs like that, well it just melts me wee little writer heart.

That’s about it.

Other than the novel revision that hasn’t finished yet.

I wonder how many times I’ve written that sentence.

Never mind, I don’t want to know.

Peace, Love, and Starbursts,


The Beat Goes On….Unless You’re In Hollywood

8 Nov

I got into the Beats in high school, probably like many people, by reading Kerouac (not On the Road but The Subterraneans). One book lead to another as they inevitably do, and I worked my way through all of the major players – minus Burroughs who I could never get into.

But the same question kept popping up over and over again. What happened to all the women?

Edie, Joan, Carolyn, Elise, Diane, and Joyce, to name a few.

They were there for the majority of the movement and yet, they go utterly unrecognized. Yes, it was the 50’s, a time when women belonged to their parents first and their husband second. When Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassidy broke the rules, they were punished. They were cast off by their families, disregarded by society, deemed dangerous and troublesome. There was much shaking of the head and tut-tuting over what was happening to these young men.

When women acted out – when women experimented with drugs or sex or art – they were institutionalized, fed electric shock therapy, lobotomized. They were locked indoors and forced to conform.

And since then many of the women of the Beat Movement have been re-fashioned as Muses, there to inspire the brilliant men they found themselves around. Their role was to be passive, attractive, to keep their mouth shut and their eyes open and maybe, just maybe they might learn something. And this role was not specific to the Beats. John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s first girlfriend’s, Cynthia and Dot respectively, were allowed to sit in when John and Paul talked music but they were advised “to keep quiet” though they of course had opinions on the music scene in Liverpool. How could they not? John and Paul wanted them in their miniskirts and blonde as Bardot as possible.

So that’s the way it was.

But that’s not the way it is anymore.

So here we are in 2014 and yet it feels like little has changed when it comes to The Beats. More and more films are coming out and yet the portrayal is exactly the same. You have two choices: Whore or (Long Suffering) Madonna.

Let’s talk about the last two big ones – Kill Your Darlings and One the Road.


kill your darlings

So Kill Your Darlings is predominately about the Lucian Carr/ David Kammerer murder. Basically Kammerer, infatuated with Carr, dogged him endlessly until Carr stabbed him, tied him up, weighed the body and dropped it into the Hudson River. Using the honor slaying defense, Carr did two years before he was released.

Kill Your Darlings includes a few scenes with Edie Parker, Kerouac’s girlfriend at the time.

Edie Parker

Edie Parker was a good friend of Joan Vollmer – who later married Burroughs. While Edie and Joan attended Barnard, they shared a place that “the boys” all went to hang out at and listen to jazz and get high and talk about art. One more time in case you  missed it. Who’s place was it that they all hung out? Yes. Her place.

At the time depicted in the film, Edie and Jack were dating but they later married, in a bizzare effort to  free up some of Edie’s money so she could bail Jack out after he was arrested as an accomplice to Kammerer’s murder.

In the film she’s played by Elizabeth Olsen.

The makers of Kill Your Darlings liberated poor Edie from that nasty trap of a) having her own place and b) actually being a part of the movement by giving her two scenes. In the first she bitches at Kerouac that she spent all day making stew which he tells her smell like crap before grabbing his coat and leaving with his buddies.

All day making stew? That’s the most they could give her? All day. Making stew.

The second was of Kerouac’s triumphant return to Edie, where she was found at the table with her grandmother eating sad cake (literally) and chastising Jack for being late/unhelpful/free-wheeling/having a life/which she clearly doesn’t.

Edie Parker is nothing more that a typical 50’s housewife: rejected, angry, unappreciated and utterly defined by her male partner.

The real Edie Parker was a part of the movment, a college educated independent woman. Not that Hollywood would know a damn thing about that.

Thanks god they didn’t include Joan. They would have crushed her.


Next up is On the Road:



Kristen Stewart plays Luanne Henderson.

Over at Beatdom, they’ve got some quotes about Luanne by Al Hinkle, someone who actually knew her:

Luanne! I fell in love with her the first time I met her. She was a beautiful, blonde 16 year old, outgoing and confident. She wasn’t forward with men, but she wasn’t shy, either. Luanne wasn’t a “quirky” girl; she was very down to earth and got along with everyone.


Neal had such complicated relationships. I remember us pulling in to the drive-in diner and being introduced to Neal’s beautiful little wife when she came out to take our order, then going to Pederson’s pool hall and meeting Jeanie, Neal’s girlfriend. It kinda shocked me.


I know Luanne was in love with Neal all her life. I could see that, even at 16, she felt that she was a married woman, not a child. She was the one that found the way to make all of Neal’s crazy plans work – she worked for money (or stole it), found rides, made sure she took care of her man. Even after he divorced her to marry Carolyn, Luanne made herself available to Neal whenever he asked, and I think she always felt that she was still his wife, even though they both remarried. When BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) first opened in the 70’s, I would take a ride from San Francisco to the last stop on the line – Daly City, and I would walk up this enormous hill to Luanne’s house and visit with her every week. I always had good feelings about her – she had earned her place in our gang and was fun to be with.  I know she had gotten into heavy drug use later, in her 40’s, but she went to rehab in Colorado and came back to California clean and sober.


So Hollywood took this interesting engaging character and did this instead:

Warning: Topless People doing sexy stuff.

According to the Guardian, “Kerouac made little effort to give his female friends depth and dignity on the page; the film attempts to remedy that oversight.”

Remedy? Really? By making Luann nothing more than the whore to Edie’s Madonna?

Is that the most you can do Hollywood? She was confident and down to earth. Apparently that translates to “Quick, get her nekkid in the car to pleasure those them smart literary type boys!”

“I love Marylou,” Kirsten says, “In the book she’s fun, she’s sexy, she’s vivid, she’s progressive for her time. She jumps off the page and smacks you in the face….. LuAnne never made herself a commodity. And she really is this amazing link between the two boys; it’s a grand statement to make, but that adventure might not have happened without her.”

Luanne Henderson traveled around with Jack Kerouac and Neil Cassidy ferchrissake and the most interesting thing they have her do in this film is a topless handjob scene.

Thanks, Hollywood. Keep up the good work of crapping all over the Beat Women.

It’s not bad enough they were stifled in their own time. In ours, when we have the change to liberate them, we instead shove them back into the same tired old box. Because let’s be honest, nothing has changed. These women are still be portrayed as secondary to the boy’s club, only now Holywood gave them the only weapon it’s ever known how to wield: Their sexuality.

Which is, without a doubt, the least interesting thing about any of them.

Grow up, Hollywood and give us our movie about what it was really like for creative women in the fifties who tired desperately, albeit fruitlessly, to break out of the patriarchal world they were tied to.

We deserve that much.




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