Activism, Life Rants

A Few Words About Choice

My intention with this post is not to sway any opinions, but to express my admiration for women who unabashedly support the causes they believe in.

I care about politics more than I’d like to, but I haven’t been one for political rallies up to this point.  They hurt, even when peaceful.  I attended a pro-choice rally a couple of weekends ago organized as a counterpoint to a demonstration at a clinic that provides abortions.  Basically, the people who work for the clinic get harassed for doing their job, and it was especially obnoxious during Lent.

It’s so self-congratulatory.  They wouldn’t do this alleged praying privately because no one would be watching.  Perhaps not a surprise when the current likely GOP nominee is just the one who equates being right with yelling loudest.

Keep in mind these were pastors, religious leaders, who said they were there because they love us and want to save us…despite the fact that we are murderers who will burn in hell.  And that we are Satanist communist pagans, which I really don’t see the problem with.  I admit I got a bit of a giggle when a few pro-choice women started chanting Hail Satan and the pro-lifers believed it to be a literal moment of devil worship.  This is why liberals can be funny but it’s so incredibly painful when conservatives try to use humor—everything has to be literal.

One of the pastors argued that you can’t speak Gaelic and be pro-choice…with a member of our group who then proceeded to speak Gaelic.  That he doesn’t care if anyone gets raped, there are alternatives to abortion.  That all of the Christians there would adopt a child—but have they?  And have they supported a single mother who has no job, maternity leave, or healthcare?

It got really ugly when a pastor told a veteran who has served 3 tours of duty to get back in the kitchen.  And called Obama a Muslin f–, one of only a handful of words I won’t use on this blog.  (Hint:  not the “fuck” f word.)  So many homophobic slurs and the reiteration that sodomy is a sin (but it’s fun).  And abortion is racist because it’s mostly black and Irish babies (I have no idea where the Irish part comes from or why they still think Irish is a race; perhaps it surprises no one that they aren’t interested in talking about Latinas when discussing stats).   It was the only time I’ve heard women un-ironically called “jezebel” and “witch” outside of The Crucible.

I don’t mean to assign blame to religion because I know these groups don’t represent a majority of the faithful.  This isn’t meant as an attack on religion, but on a certain approach to religion.  The mentality that there’s a correct religion to follow, so it’s okay to have a morality complex and talk down to everyone who disagrees with you.  I can’t stand the idea that there’s no room for a viewpoint that isn’t yours (a statement that I acknowledge contains a certain degree of irony).

Some of the cars driving by were encouraging, while others were pretty douchy.  Guess how many of those driving by flipping us the bird were women?  Zero.  And guess how many middle fingers we got from men?  Don’t tell me this issue is about religion or morality or politics.  It’s about men controlling women.

Besides the torrent of verbal abuse, it was sort of the ideal social gathering for me as it required no small talk whatsoever.  Lots of chanting “What do we want?”  “Choice!” and honking and screaming when people supported us.  I truly admire the activists who attend rallies every month and even every week and manage to hear insults hurled at them without taking them to heart.  It was extremely difficult for me to switch gears and go to work later that day without the words popping into my head.

As a librarian it really hurts that people don’t bother to find credible sources of information, which they could at the library.  FOR FREE.  These people STILL believe Planned Parenthood sells baby parts even though the alleged proof was fake, and Planned Parenthood has done more to prevent abortions than Right to Life.  The words you use and the “truth” you spread can kill, so please be careful with them.

You can still feel morally superior and pray for me.

*Image via Unsplash

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Feminist February: The Punk Singer

This week’s feature in Feminist February takes us into documentary territory.  Christa’s pick, which may not surprise you when I tell you it’s the Kathleen Hanna documentary.

The Film:

The Punk Singer

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Documentary following Kathleen Hanna, the Riot Grrrl movement, and her decision to quit the scene in 2005.

The Uncondensed Version:

Editor’s note:  I knew very few concrete facts about Kathleen Hanna prior to this film.  What can I say—Christa is the cool punk riot grrrl of our relationship.

Our film opens with Kathleen performing angry, intense slam poetry.  Her performance captures the focus of this documentary and her career—it’s all about message over form, and being empowered to have a voice.

One of the sticking points for Kathleen is how her childhood gets twisted in the media.  Admittedly her father was a bit of a jerk and was sexually inappropriate to Kathleen (in her own words).  Meanwhile, her mother did things like play the trust game and let her fall!  This is literally what happened in Wetlands, and the mother in that was awful!

A woman sits outside in a chair, wearing a sailor hat.
Not sure this image is relevant, but Kathleen Hanna in a sailor hat.

Kathleen gets involved with feminism and its expression via art while a college student.  After her best friend is assaulted in their house, Kathleen’s feminist rage is awakened, and everything she creates puts voice to that rage.

When she’s asked to form a band, she recognizes the opportunity to spread her message.  This is Bikini Kill.  As in We Are the Best, lack of musical experience is not an obstacle.

So Kathleen does several (actually way more than several) incredible things while part of Bikini Kill.  She starts the “girls to the front” thing, which encourages women to find safe spaces at her concerts.  Oh, and basically comes up with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” while wasted with Kurt Cobain.  And begins Riot Grrrl meetings, writing a manifesto, and encouraging other women to write their own Riot Grrrl manifestos.

An image from a feminist 'zine that reads "No we are not paranoid. No we are not manhaters. No we are not worrying too much. No we are not taking it too seriously."

However, her relationship with the press is dismally bad, she has little money despite rising fame, and Bikini Kill is not getting along well as a whole.  She also gets death threats and a punch in the face from Courtney Love (for no apparent reason).

Kathleen is able to find some happiness by recording a solo album, Julie Ruin, which deliberately sounds like it was made in a girl’s bedroom.  I love the way she describes girl’s rooms as creative spaces, and this album is a way to reach out and connect those space.  She also pursues a relationship with a Beastie Boy.

All good things come to an end, which is most decidedly true for Bikini Kill.  Kathleen then starts Le Tigre, which she describes as a band creating politically radical content that you can dance to.  I can’t even count the number of times “Deceptacon” has gotten stuck on repeat in my head.

Members of the band Bikini Kill pose -- 2 young women and one young man, all wearing black and white.
Who took the bomp, indeed.

Le Tigre is doing really well and off on world tours when Kathleen abruptly quits.  As it turns out, she had been getting sick on tour really frequently.  She is eventually diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease, which became much worse as it went untreated.  Her doctor tells us that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, and it’s quite heartbreaking to see the toll it takes on Kathleen.  After having fought so hard for control of her life, she is in a lot of pain and has little control of it at times.

However, we do end strong with Kathleen’s words:  “People don’t have to believe in feminism, but they shouldn’t get in my fucking way.”

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Watching this documentary made me really wish I were the kind of person who gets interviewed as a premier expert on punk.

A woman stands outside on the open balcony of a building, gesturing emphatically.
This lady was my fave for how many times she used the word “fuck.”

And also made me want to watch We Are the Best, but literally every film we watch right now makes me want to watch We Are the Best again.

I have so much respect for Kathleen Hanna battling both rampant sexism and Lyme disease; both are horrific.  I got super emotional at the end because I can’t deal with people crying at this point and I had no clue how awful Lyme disease can be.  This is an incredibly empowering documentary, whether you’re into punk or not.  You may have to remind yourself that it’s not okay to break your keyboard on a man’s skull, though.  At least if you get caught.

Did Christa embrace the feminist rage or will our difference of opinion break up the band (why is this even a question)?  Find out in her review here!