Stop telling women to leave.

Honestly, I understand where people are coming from when they publicly beg women to leave abusive partners. SO, so, so many celebrity tweets and posts saying things like, “Do whatever you have to do, call a hotline, go to church, go to a center, but get out of there for you and the kids. Do it for the children.” This actually makes me boil with rage, because we always, ALWAYS assume that it’s a woman’s job to leave. If she doesn’t, she wants it. Or deserved it. Or is sticking around for the money (the power structures in abusive relationships, particularly surrounding money and self-hood, are a separate conversation). It’s like we assume the aggressor is unchangeable or non-human and therefore not responsible. Here’s my message:

If you abuse your partner, leave. Get out. Do whatever you have to do. Call a hotline, go to church, go to a center, but get the fuck out. Get out of here, for the kids. Do it for the children. If you abuse your partner, your neighbors, friends, and family members will not abandon that person. We won’t stand silently and accept your abuse.

I wish people would stop saying things like, “If he ever lays a hand on you, just leave.” News flash: if he ever lays a hand on you, that means you’ve probably been pretty well groomed by him over the past few weeks/months/years. What I WISH we were telling our girls and friends:

If he ever belittles you in public, just leave.
If he ever tries to control the way you look, the things you eat, or they way you feel comfort in your body, just leave.
If he ever tries to control your money, just leave.
If he ever tries to convince you that you don’t need contact with your family, just leave.
If he ever tries to tell you who is and isn’t allowed to be your friend, just leave.
If he spies on you, just leave.

These are all signs of an abusive relationship, before the physical abuse starts. Don’t ignore them. If you observe abusive emotional behavior in a friend’s relationship, let them know you love them and you’re here.

A lot of people don’t understand the power structures behind an abusive relationship that are built sometimes years before physical abuse enters the picture.

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Armed to the Teeth: A Comical Catalog of “Rape-Preventive” Devices

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Four undergrads at North Carolina University were faced with a serious problem. Ankesh Madan, Stephen Grey, Tasso Von Windheim and Tyler Confrey-Maloney realized that date rape is a horrifically common experience on campus. “All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience [of date rape],” Madan told Higher Education Works, “and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime.” Their innovative solution to this problem was to create Undercover Colors, a nail polish that changes color when it comes into contact with a wide range of date-rape drugs, from Xanax to GHB. “With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong.”

Now, total nerd that I am, I think this is super neato. I might buy and wear this nail polish simply because it’s cool. I can defend my rude ice-chewing habit by smiling sardonically when I dig for ice chips and saying, “Just discreetly ensuring my safety, hang on!” However, I don’t actually feel empowered by this product at all (because who really feels empowered by yet another reminder that you live in a world that is constantly dangerous to you?). Honestly, most of the women I know are drawn to this idea for its pure gimmicky-ness, and not actually as a rape-prevention tool. This lead me down a wild, winding internet road of anti-rape devices, from the crude and cruel to the downright goofy or completely fake. Care to join me?  Continue reading

Us People, Them People: Howard Street and the $15 Sandwich

“It’s just such a relief that people of quality are coming to the neighborhood,” a woman sighed to me at my coffee shop. “I never thought I’d see a BMW parking on Howard. My property value must be going up!”

This woman, who I will call Kim, is a neighbor of mine. One of the few actual property owners in my neighborhood, Rogers Park/South Evanston, she owns a condo on the lake at Juneway Terrace, a posh residential development on a block that used to be sneeringly referred to as “The Jungle” by people farther up the North Shore. She is speaking, of course, about two new restaurants on the Evanston side of Howard, Ward 8 and Peckish Pig. Both of these restaurants are a couple blocks from my house. They both advertise “New American” menus with farm-to-table ingredients, cocktails that are barely 6 oz, craft beers, etc. Since they have opened, many people immediately ask me what I think about these restaurants and “how nice it is to finally have some place to go around there.” Many of the comments people make about Howard street these days sound a lot like Kim’s; it’s hard to put a finger on why it makes your stomach wrench. Is it offensive? Kinda racist? Classist? Am I supposed to be agreeing that this is a good thing? Should I print t-shirts that say Saving Howard, One $18 Cheese Plate at a Time?

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A $12 beverage at Ward 8, primarily consisting of a gigantic fucking piece of ice. Photo via wardeight.com

Initially I didn’t know how to respond to her comment. My face flushed and I pressed my lips together and all I could think to say was, “Well, I live around here. And I grew up here, so…”

Instead of reading that I was offended, Kim took this as an open door. “Oh, so then you must know what I mean,” she breathed confidentially, leaning in as if to commiserate with a fellow Reasonable White Person in Rogers Park. Not really, I murmured, and winced a smile as I handed her a cappuccino.

First let me say that I have nothing against new businesses opening along Howard. In fact, I welcome them and patronize many of the stores. I know the owners of these two restaurants personally. I went to elementary school with one of their daughters. I make them shots of espresso multiple times a day. I sincerely want them to succeed, because they are good people and I have known them to be solid, ethical business owners. So, why is it that every time I pass their storefront, I feel irritated…almost angry? It wasn’t until Kim said this to me that I realized the reason these establishments make me uncomfortable is because, as an actual member of this neighborhood, I feel completely unwelcome in these restaurants because they weren’t made for me, or for anyone else who actually lives here.

Imagine my dismay when I took my boyfriend to try out Ward 8 for our monthly dinner date and opened the menu to see a fifteen dollar sandwich. Working an hourly wage, my general rule is if a sandwich costs more than an hour on my feet dealing with other people’s shit, then that sandwich is too damn expensive. A fifteen dollar sandwich sends a message in this neighborhood, and that message is we don’t want you here. Peckish Pig is slightly more affordable…slightly.  All entree dishes and cocktails are over $10. Although I’ve got to hand it to them, they seem to be taking the temperature of the community and responding. Recently they have started featuring more affordable specials, and have begun hosting community events on Mondays. Ward 8 could definitely take a tip from them.

However, at Ward 8 you don’t have to wait until you open the menu to feel unwelcome. Right next to the door of Ward 8, there is a sign that reads: “NO SHOUTING. NO FIGHTING. PLEASE REMOVE ALL BASEBALL CAPS.”

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Today I posted a photo of this sign on my Facebook and said, “Dear Ward 8, this is racist as hell.” The response I got, from people who live in the neighborhood and from people who don’t, was varied.

Sorry, I don’t see any intentional racism here. I understand how this could be construed as a racist message though.

Wearing baseball caps in a restaurant is pretty much a sign of having no class regardless of race and has traditionally been frowned upon by fancy establishments.

In that neighborhood…you gotta be cautious. How is this racist?

I understand you, but I don’t think it is. Its only racist if ALL black people (assuming that you mean racist against black people) shouted, fought, and wore baseball caps. Its more classist, but we know those overlap too. I get it though, pretty much could be seen as implying that much.

In order to understand why this sign is problematic, you need a little lesson on Howard Street, Rogers Park, Evanston, and the literal racial divide on Howard. You also need to know that these restaurants were heavily subsidized by the City of Evanston.

Wait, what? That’s right. My taxes are paying for bars that I and other members of this neighborhood can’t even afford to patronize. Read on.

Continue reading

The Great A**hole Campaign of 2014: Why I’m Done Playing Nice

“Well, I respect your view, but…”

“You are entitled to your opinion, however…”

“Well, maybe we can agree to disagree, but if I may make a point…”

Nope. Uh-uh. Done. I am taking these phrases out of my vocabulary. The gloves are coming off. I’m tired of half-cajoling, half-apologizing for the discomfort that my liberal political views inflict upon misogynist, racist, homophobic and classist people. I’m done being polite. You know why?

Because it’s time for these people to face and accept the fact that they are just fucking assholes.

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Recent events have really brought out the massive, gaping assholery of people. While I’m busy coping with the rage I experience that these events are even happening, what’s harder for me to grapple with is how everyone has decided they’re an expert, everyone has decided that they are right, and everyone is being a total asshole. 

For years, I’ve considered myself an internet activist. “Hashtag Activism” gets a lot of hate, but one of the reasons I love social media activism is that, in many ways, it’s the perfect example of what grassroots activism is at it’s core: folks having conversations with each other. I have had “come-to-Jesus” conversations with people where they have realized, “You know what? I’m microaggressive, and I sound like an asshole,” and they’ve decided to change the language they use and change their world view to be a little broader. But, more often than not, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. My sincere hatred of conflict almost always wins, especially with people I care about. I decide we should “agree to disagree,” to “move on,” harboring serious disappointment both in myself and the other person.

It’s time to stand up and stop the violence. And sometimes, the only way to stop racism, or misogyny, or classism, or homophobia, or many of the other hateful isms we all experience in everyday life, is to straight up express that it is completely unacceptable. I’m done explaining to people why. I’m just done. But I’m not done standing up. I’m not going to stop saying, “That’s racist,” or “that’s classist.” But seriously? I have just about had it with coddling people. My frustration has reached the ultimate level: the level of name-calling. But I prefer to see it as calling-out. And you might say, how shocking! How juvenile! How is this helping? How does this change anything? Because when someone dribbles this garbage out of their mouths, they are perpetuating a system of oppression. They are holding all of us back. The beliefs they express and the words that come out of their mouths are violent, and I’m tired of apologizing for being upset. They need a shock. They need to be told it’s not okay. No, I don’t respect your opinion. No, I don’t agree to disagree. And honestly, if you are filling my ears with your hatred of others, I actually don’t think you are entitled to your shitty, racist opinion. It’s time to call out the assholes.

So, allow me to provide you with a rubric, if I may. With gifs. If you find yourself saying these things, I will have no problem outing you as an asshole.  Continue reading