Songs for the Struggling Artist


A Bereft, Heartbroken, Furious, Hopeless, Bad Mood

 

The morning after Super Tuesday, I woke up with a song in my head. It’s a song I put on my feminist playlist a while ago and every time it comes around I think, “What is this? And what is it doing on this playlist?” Then the line about the glass ceiling comes along and I understand why it’s there but then I have to see who it is. Many times I have said, “Miley Cyrus? Really?!”

But now, I know “Bad Mood” so well, I will never forget again. I’ve been listening to it on solid repeat and I’ve been crying. I feel ridiculous about it but I am in a bad mood and feeling very discouraged about the possibility of any glass ceilings ever breaking. Miley Cyrus is, weirdly, helping me through it.

I know I shouldn’t take Warren’s losses to heart but I just can’t help it. I was invested in her and her candidacy and I hoped she would win. The good news is that I apparently haven’t lost the capacity for hope in this current climate. The bad news is that feeling hope can lead to a big let down. I’m accustomed to hope hangovers but this one is a doozy.

In this case, the hope led directly to a feeling of hopelessness. To see a candidate, as qualified and capable and clear and prepared as Warren, be rejected by so many American voters, and specifically Democratic, liberal voters, is just devastating. I think if it were just the rejecting, I’d be alright. But it’s not as simple as American voters rejecting my candidate. I’m here listening to “Bad Mood” on repeat, crying and trying to piece together why.

Sometimes, it’s little things – like some dumb Tweets before Super Tuesday suggesting Warren would make a good Secretary of Education or Secretary of the Treasury and should therefore have dropped out of the race. Those jobs may technically be prestigious but mostly it seemed like a way to suggest that a lady shouldn’t be in charge. Why can’t she just be a secretary like the other ladies? Why does she want to be President? She could serve the president instead. Maybe bring him his coffee.

There’s also the Methinks-They-Do-Protest-Too-Much-ers who say “Why do you have to bring gender into it? I’m not sexist, I just didn’t like this one.” If you think gender isn’t playing a role in your choice to choose man after man, you are fooling yourself about that “something” you happen to like over and over in men. (It’s unconscious bias and Rebecca Solnit wrote a great piece about it last year.) What you see as “leadership qualities” are actually gendered. You’re just missing it. I know there are plenty of people who chose the white man they did for very important reasons but a lot of people chose the white man they chose because they thought other people would choose him. This is called pluralistic ignorance and it’s basically everyone assuming everyone else is going to make the less sensible choice so they all make a choice they didn’t want together.

“Would you vote for someone just because they were a woman?” People love this one. And obviously the answer is no. I would not vote for Tulsi Gabbard or Marianne Williamson. I did not vote for Sarah Palin. But when a highly qualified woman shows up who could do the job better than I can even imagine, you bet your ass I’m going to vote for her. Millions of people DIDN’T vote for her because she’s a woman. Not because they’re sexist, no, but because they’re sure their neighbors are. In other words, while feminists get hell for voting for women, people are, en masse, choosing candidates because they are men. So, yes. Warren’s womanhood was a big factor in my enthusiasm to vote for her.

But guess what? I can’t. I couldn’t. Because our voting system is so ridiculous and disenfranchising, I didn’t get to cast a vote in the presidential primary and my choice was eliminated. And I feel absolutely cheated. (My sense of disenfranchisement is, by the way, nothing compared to people who lost their polling places and had to wait eight hours to vote. We have a lot to fix. Help Stacey Abrams defend voting rights here.)

When I started writing this post, it wasn’t yet clear what the Warren campaign was going to do. But, even before the nail was in the coffin of her candidacy, I knew a lot of people were going to be jerks about it. They were jerks about it immediately. Many of them are still being jerks. Almost every woman I know is grieving, deeply, and the internet is not helping the situation one bit. I started snoozing people on Facebook when someone implied that if we weren’t tough enough to take some abuse on the internet, then maybe our candidate shouldn’t be president. Oh, don’t get me started on the ways women are targeted on the internet. I don’t have the strength to break down how attacks on a female candidate can feel like surrogate attacks on her supporters. Suffice it to say that this shit is personal. Sometimes women can be afraid to say who they are supporting for fear of these much publicized attacks. It happened in 2016 and it happened just now, too. I’m struggling with how much misogyny there is to go around.

I mean, the guy most people voted for is a guy who has a LOUSY track record with women. And you might roll your eyes and say, “Oh, that touching thing? He’s just a touchy feely guy. Big deal. MeToo has gone too far!” But it’s more than him not respecting the bodily autonomy of women and children. He has, in his many positions in government made women’s lives harder. He threw Anita Hill under the bus and thereby threw women experiencing sexual harassment around the country under the bus and got a serial harasser on the Supreme Court – the repercussions of which we are still dealing with today. He sold out women’s reproductive rights in so many ways. Aside from his vigorous support of the Hyde and Hatch Amendments, he named an amendment after himself that would have limited foreign aid to biomedical aid that might connect to abortions. He liked that bill so much he named it after himself!

I mean, of course I’ll vote for him if he’s the nominee, of course I will, relax, ok? But for all the talk of women making progress (women getting elected to Congress, Women’s Marches, etc) – this is one area there’s been not even a hint of progress. For all the talk of #MeToo “going too far” – only a handful of people have experienced any real consequences. There’s just as much sexual harassment to go around, it’s just that now it includes the extra “joke” of a “I hope I don’t get #MeToo-ed!”

I’m just so mad. I’m mad, again, about the voters who said “I’m not sexist but I think other people will be.” Which is just…You’re right. They were. But you just voted for sexism. You were like, “Sexism, I see you and rather than fight you, I will encourage you by voting for you.” Thanks a fucking lot.

People are out here voting like it’s a horse race and they’re worried about the money they have on the winner. Actually that’s what IS happening for the democratic donor class – but if you don’t have actual money riding on these people, you can just vote for who you want! That’s ideally how it should go. But, no. Hordes of my fellow democrats felt that they needed to bet on a winner and now I’m not going to be able to vote for my choice in April. Thanks. Thanks a lot. You strategized my vote out from under me. And now I’m not just mad about Warren. I would love to have had a chance to wonder if I should vote for Julian Castro or Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand. But this system chewed them up, too.

I’m taking this all very personally. It feels like the world keeps inventing new ways to tell American women that we don’t matter. The 2016 election was the first major blow, the Kavanaugh hearings were the second and now this loss feels like the patriarchy held up the football for us and told us to kick it, go ahead, and then knocked us down like Charlie Brown.

Go ahead girls, you can do anything! You’re strong, you’re smart, you can achieve anything you set your minds to! Go for it! Except we’re going to put every possible obstacle in your way and when you fail we will make a long list of all the ways you failed. Girl Power! #GirlBoss #WomenOnTop

In addition to the Miley Cyrus song, I’ve found myself listening to Taylor Swift’s “The Man: as well. (Maybe because of this video of it featuring Warren. Don’t watch it if you don’t want to get sad.) I’ve been thinking about how odd it is that two of the major female pop stars of the last decade are expressing feminist ideas. It’s not that I thought that they didn’t experience sexism – more that I thought their success within the system would make them unlikely to challenge it. But age and experience makes feminists of even the strangest beneficiaries of the patriarchy. The rest of us might look at Swift and Cyrus and say they’re at the top of the pile but they know all the ways they have been held back and they’re old enough now to be brave and sing about them. What I’m trying to say is that even the world’s best #GirlBoss is still being held back by the patriarchy and she knows it. Taylor Swift may already be The Man by some standards but she knows how much more The Man she could be. I don’t think these are the ladies who will provide the anthem songs when American women finally reach absolute capacity for sexism and start a bloody revolution (Is it now? It’s not now, is it? I didn’t buy a machete yet!) but for this moment, when we’re looking at these large scale losses, they’re doing some #GirlConsoling.

Anyway – I read this article that came out this week that demonstrates that 9 out of 10 people are biased against women. So that’s nice. There are only 5 countries that have equitable sensibilities. America is, no surprise, not one of those countries. Not even close.

I don’t know what to do with this information. We are losing ground. Even the countries that experience equity are losing ground. It feels like there’s not much to hope for now. We can hope one of these white guys defeats the horrible white guy in the president’s chair and thereby maybe regain some of the footholds we had before – and we will, of course, work to do that. But –


Personally – and this is, really, all very personal…all I can do is write through it. This is long and messy and that is surely how my healing and mourning will go. I have less hope now than I did but it’s good to know I CAN hope after the blows we’ve experienced.

I could start falling into the conspiracy theorist’s tunnel here, if I let myself. You know the theory? It’s the one that recognizes how incredibly terrified of a Warren presidency so many special interest groups were. Warren’s plan to cancel student loan debt on the first day of her presidency was simple, clear and lays out exactly what would happen. When I saw the headline on her website, I thought, “Wow. That’s a big promise. How could she possibly do that?” Turns out, she’s spotted the way to use executive power to do it and she explains it step by step. It’s so clear, any president who doesn’t do it now is going to look like a real jerk. If the potential to have student debt canceled didn’t make the loan companies quake in their predatory boots, I’m not sure what would. The same is also true for a multitude of immoral businesses – like health insurers and Wall Street brokers. Many of whom are political donors. My conspiracy theory brain leads me to suspect that a lot of these places made sure that Warren’s campaign didn’t get coverage in a lot of media outlets.  So much so that they just left her out of their graphics of primary results. (What, is she the Gen X of Presidential campaigns?)

Or it could just be sexism. Just regular old boring sexism. Just everyday, every minute, every second sexism. Others have documented the many ways sexism tanked this campaign but for me, the bits that are most painful are the ways Warren’s language was so willfully misunderstood by the sexism machine. It feels like an attempt to gaslight voters – to tell them: “No, no, you’re NOT listening to a reasonable clear speech suggesting how we might change the world for the better, you’re listening to a shrill harpy with boundless craven ambition.” I think you’d need an Orwellian level of denial to see her that way but we are maybe moving ever closer to the 1984 style of denying your own eyes and ears so I guess that a little of that messaging actually fucking worked? And I suppose, one of the things that shakes me most is how it makes clear that this funhouse mirror is happening to all of us – even the ones who aren’t running for president. That is, even at my most reasonable and clear, I will be seen as bitchy and shrill. No matter what is actually happening. I used to think I could sweet talk my way out of gender bias. But now I understand that a lot of people have a filter that hears women’s voices as duplicitous, annoying and overly ambitious no matter who is speaking or what we are saying.

The bulk of the terrible media coverage was mostly just erasure and not the old school “but her emails” sort of thing. Leaving her out of highlight reels and lists and things was seemingly the most effective strategy. Maybe that’s because we’re not actually at peak “deny your eyes and ears” levels yet. So maybe that’s the good news?

There’s been a lot of great articles and a lot of press now that it’s safe to talk about Warren without risking actually having her give us health care. Here are some of my favorites from Lauren Duca, Megan Garber, and Elie Mystal. Warren is the most popular she’s ever been, now that she’s lost. Apparently this is a thing we do. In the closing of her book about the 2008 election, Rebecca Traister points out that women only win when they’re losing. Clinton’s popularity soars when she’s lost something. Gloria Steinem explained it to Traister this way. “It’s always been okay for women to sing the blues, just not so good for us to win. We all know deep in our hearts if we want to be loved we have to lose.”

Rachel Maddow managed to make me feel a little better when she asked Warren about all the women who are just “bereft” at this development – because that’s me, that’s so many women I know. Maddow included us in a national conversation – which felt sort of monumental in a moment wherein I feel as though I’m being reminded (again) of how little I matter. Warren’s loss made me feel as though I don’t matter as a woman and it made my actual vote not matter because I live in New York. I know I do matter and that my vote in April WILL matter to the man I choose to give it to – but wow, do I feel tossed aside! And learning that so many other women I know were also bereft, also paralyzed, also weeping, also raging, also just done, done, done…well, it helps.

I get it. I got it. The GOP have basically taken the country hostage by saddling us with this administration and blocking witnesses for the impeachment and refusing to vote on vital legislation. With this many guns to our heads, Democrats are not inclined to take risks. Rather than thinking about who would be the best at planning and negotiating our escape from our captors, American voters are just trying not to get shot. We’re all huddled together and Elizabeth Warren says, “I have a plan to get us out of here.” And a lot of people say, “Shhhhh. Why do you have to be so shrill?” and Joe Biden says, “I think I know these guys. I can talk to them.” And a lot of people seem to have made the calculus that the captors would like the candidate most like the captors themselves. And I don’t know. At the moment, I’m not thrilled about our odds of getting out of this hostage situation. Nor do I have any hope that I would ever be listened to with my lady “school marm” voice.

One of the reasons I find Warren’s loss in the primaries so distressing is because I hoped her competency, her passion and skill would shine through the sexist ocean we swim in and the country would follow her light out of the murk. I take this personally because I also have competencies, passions and skills that get obscured in the sexist ocean and if Elizabeth Warren can’t shine through, what the hell hopes have I? I’m not running for president but trying to survive in the arts has pretty low odds as well. After so many years of struggling and the patriarchal set backs of this hostage situation, I’ve lost a lot of my fight. I felt like I was just starting to get it back watching Elizabeth Warren take on the bad guys. I know she wants us all to keep fighting and of course, we will – but I don’t feel very up to the task right now. Which is why I need “Bad Mood,” I guess. The lyrics aren’t particularly deep but they do the job. Here are some of them.

And you know I’m never giving up
I ain’t stopping till I know I’m free

Oooh, I wake up in a bad mood
Oooh, I wake up in a bad mood
The glass ceiling’s gotta break
All together, want to hear you say
I don’t know how much more I can take

You know it’s gone on way too long
And you know it’s wrong
But I know I’m strong
I don’t give up
And when it gets rough
I get tough
I’ve had enough


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It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

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Something About Warren

About a month ago, I saw a tweet that made me sob for much longer than I expected a tweet could. The tweet featured a photo of a little plastic action figure nestled into a child’s bed. It reads, in part:

I found my 5yo daughter’s Elizabeth Warren action figure in her bed when I was making it this morning. When I asked her why, she said “I was scared and she makes me feel brave”.

Because the thing of it is, Elizabeth Warren makes me feel brave, too. I am in solid agreement with this small child. I haven’t felt brave in such a long time but something about Warren gives me hope and strength and a sense that safety could come again.

I know not everyone feels this way about her. It’s clear from how the primaries have been going so far that a lot of people feel safer with other candidates. That’s their choice, of course, but I feel as though I’m watching the possibility of a braver safer world slip through our fingers. I know 95% of us haven’t voted yet and there’s still hope but I’m scared. I need an Elizabeth Warren action figure to make me brave again.

I’m continually surprised at the misogyny and sexism that continues to bubble up on the regular. I’d thought we’d sort of hit the apex of virulent misogyny after the last presidential election but there’s still so much to go around. If you’ve somehow missed the multitude of articles pointing at the bizarre erasure of Warren in media polls, news, etc – take a stroll down google lane and you will find many a think piece that has been largely ignored by more mainstream media.

The latest bit of nonsense that is really getting under my skin was a hashtag that was trending suggesting that Warren should drop out. I’ve seen a lot of tweets that suggested that if Warren were really progressive she would drop out and support Bernie. This makes my blood boil so hard. Because I’ve been reading Rebecca Traister’s book about the 2008 election season, and, let me tell you, we have been to this exact same rodeo before. Back then, very early on, people went on and on about how Hillary should drop out and support Obama – which, of course, she did do, eventually, once the votes were in. But the sense of it is profoundly sexist. No one was shouting at Buttigieg to drop out and support Biden. (They apparently just had a nice manly chat about it yesterday and it was done.) When Warren was ahead, no one was shouting at Sanders to drop out and support her. It is clear that, still, in 2020, women are expected to support men, to sacrifice themselves for the good of a powerful man.

I should not be surprised at all the misogyny bubbling up  – the erasure, the sexist language, the dismissive comments. I knew it would happen. I knew it would happen in 2016. I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primary, in part, because I knew that there would be a tidal wave of misogyny if Clinton was the nominee and I didn’t think I could handle it. (BTW – Gloria Steinem had similar reservations at first in 2008.)

And I was right. I couldn’t handle it. I don’t think I’ve recovered yet. It feels like 2016’s election season was like watching an enormous boil of toxic patriarchal misogyny get larger and larger and then finally burst all over us in November. And I guess maybe I thought that since the boil had burst, we were maybe on a healing path, where a woman could run for president without wading through a pool of toxicity. But the pool is alive and thriving.

I keep thinking about this thing I read in the Hollywood Reporter by a member of the Academy who said,

“When I fill out my ballot, I’m asking, “What movie did I like the best?” I believe all of our members do that. I’m not asking, ‘Is it a woman? Is it a person from a diverse background?’ I’m very proud of the Academy for nominating the movies we did this year.”

And guess who just happened to be under-represented at the Oscars this year?

It’s clear that this guy has never heard of unconscious bias in his life. He’s thinking, “I just vote for who I like! And if I happen to almost exclusively like stuff by white guys, that’s just because that’s what’s good.” It never occurs to him that his response to the people he just doesn’t connect to is probably due to his unconscious bias. It also would never occur to him that it might actually make sense to ask yourself such questions. It does make a difference when someone is a less represented person.

And I think that same principle is happening for some people with Warren. There’s a lot of “There’s just something about her I don’t like” and I’m sorry to tell you but that something is probably an unconscious bias and a world that privileges some folks over others. We all have unconscious bias. All of us. Check your bookshelves. Who do you read? Even women have unconscious biases against other women. We’ve all of us been marinating in patriarchy for a long time – so it is hard for a lot people to get behind women leaders. I know this is true but it is still incredibly difficult to watch the one candidate who gives me hope and makes me feel brave when I’m scared be sidelined and told to drop out.

There are so many reasons I am excited to vote for Warren. She’s my dream candidate, as Rebecca Solnit put it. I admire the way she has reached out to so many communities directly and personally and then come up with plans for each and every one of them to address their concerns. I admire the way she acknowledges mistakes she’s made and continues to work to redress them. I admire her ability to adapt and learn. I admire how fierce an advocate she can be. I love that she’s a progressive who came to it later in her life. Her progressiveness is practical and hard-earned. Ever since she got kicked out of the senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, for reading Coretta Scott King’s letter and then read it to a camera right outside, I have admired her fighting spirit. Many people remember the line that emerged from this event – “Nevertheless she persisted.” But there’s more of it. Mitch McConnell said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Many people continue to give her explanations and warnings and nevertheless, she persists. That sort of commitment makes me feel less scared. It makes me feel brave.

The kind of person who can take on an entire banking system, who will speak truth to power over and over again even when no one will give her the floor, that kind of person makes me feel safe. And I know that she is working hard to help others who may have never felt safe in this country to one day experience some safety. She embodies everything I look for in a leader. I cannot understand how people are not lining up to vote for her.

But I know not everyone is like me and the little girl who keeps her action figure close by for safety. There are those who don’t need to feel brave because they’re not scared. There are those who just want a return to the old familiar status quo. I understand the impulse. Warren’s vision of America involves change and change isn’t everyone’s thing. Her vision involves bending some things to make the country work for more people than it is. It involves health care for all and universal child care. It even includes artists (sign an artist endorsement here). It is really scary for billionaires and scary for a lot of Republicans. That’s not safe for them. But it would be for me, it would be for me.

Image by @DirtyDucko via Twitter

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Anger Is My Superpower
January 16, 2019, 1:54 am
Filed under: feminism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Up until my mid 20s, I would have sworn to you that I did not feel anger. And I didn’t. I didn’t experience what I felt as anger. Mostly I cried. There were tears, lots and lots of tears and since I thought tears meant sadness, what I felt was sad, not mad. Anger was so foreign to me during my prime acting years that I worried about playing parts that required me to be angry. I could play anything but anger. My, how times have changed. Now, anger is my super power.

All my life, I’d been trying to avoid it. I’d pushed aside any hint of it, suppressed it, repressed it. Then – through this very blog, I began to express some of the things I was “frustrated” by, injuries that made me “upset.” And then I reached a breaking point and I wrote a very angry blog post. That anger led to the most views I have ever gotten.

Again and again, I find that when I let loose my anger, the world responds positively. Some folks appreciate the quiet, considered, intellectual type analysis of things – but the angry posts are the hits. The angry posts have fire in them.

Anger fueled my return to the theatre after a year’s absence. Anger writes me songs. Anger gets me moving. In their recent books on anger, Rebecca Traister and Soraya Chemaly both discuss the stigma against anger – how everyone has always said that anger is bad for you – when it is, in fact, the reverse. Anger can be very very good. Soraya Chemaly talks about her search for anger management for women and how all those classes are really for men. The anger classes women need are how to access our anger, how to feel it, how to direct it, how to use it.

There is a profound release in expressing anger – whether it be on the page or in person. Simply acknowledging its existence is powerful. For a lot of women, the simple act of declaring our anger is profound. Traister pointed out that almost every woman she talked to for her book would at some point declare that her anger had passed – that she WAS angry (past tense) and then she channeled it into action and she wasn’t angry any more.

I will tell you right now that this is not true for me. I am angry. I was angry. I am still angry. My anger moves in waves and some days I am angrier than others but this is all current. And I am not about to push my anger down again. It is fuel for me. It makes things happen.

Sure – it may make me seem like a stereotype of a feminist – the kind we have all been declaring we’re not like, the kind so many women would like not to be. But I really don’t give a damn. Those bad-ass angry ladies were (and are!) fierce warriors and they were fighting for rights that I have benefitted from. I should be so lucky to be seen in their ranks.

I may still look nice and approachable and accommodating to the outside eye. I still smile broadly. I still look friendly. But I tell you what, I don’t mind walking down dark streets anymore. Part of me is waiting for some asshole to try me – just so I can unleash all my fury on him. I learned a nice trick involving a key to the eye recently and my fingers itch to use it.

I mean – not really – of course. I don’t really want to be attacked. But anger is getting me through my days (and nights!) unmolested. It is getting me out of bed in the morning instead of sinking into hopeless despair. It’s getting me fans on the internet. I wouldn’t go back to my earlier life “without” anger for anything. Life with anger is immensely more powerful and rich than life without.

Is this possible for everyone? Nope. Getting to feel and express anger is a privilege. Both Chemaly and Traister point out how this kind of expression is not possible for the vast majority of women. Women of color especially are prevented from expressing their anger from multiple sides.

So…since it is my privilege to be angry, I feel it is my obligation to use my righteous anger on others’ behalf and to express it every way I can to at least be a vicarious channel for others who are not permitted the space to be angry. For those who don’t feel like they can be angry? I can be angry for them. I am angry for all of us.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Books About Anger and The Safety Tax
November 29, 2018, 9:44 pm
Filed under: art, feminism, theatre | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I can’t tell if reading all these books about women’s anger is helping or making things worse. On one hand, it is tremendously affirming to read about my current experience and all the reasons I have to feel the way I feel. On the other hand, I’m newly angry about things I thought I’d already worked through my fury about. Despite my lifetime awareness of the ways sexism has tied my hands, at the moment, each reminder of an old fact or a fresh perspective makes me newly furious.

For example, Soraya Chemaly’s framing of the safety tax on women is at the forefront of my new awareness. She points out that the threat of rape and sexual assault is so ever present that women have to take extra security measures, pay extra money to be safe. (i.e = take taxis, live in safer (in other words, more expensive) neighborhoods, park closer to their destinations.) Now, personally, I’ve always been a little reckless in this fashion. I have been known to take a subway by myself at 2 am. I have generally just refused to pay the usual tax I guess. And I’ve been relatively lucky.

But the other night, after a show, when no subways came for over an hour, I started to get angry about this aspect of things all over again. I got home around 1 am – over two hours after leaving the show. And because the trains were a disaster – I ended up having to take the subway that drops me off ten blocks from my apartment rather than the one that drops me two blocks away. I realized that the MTA basically just made my journey, not just delayed, but exponentially more dangerous. Arriving home at 11pm is a very different situation than arriving home at 1 am. Arriving ten blocks away instead of two means my trip home is many times more dangerous.

Now – the MTA is a disaster for everyone right now. Our governor has tanked the whole system and everyone is having a miserable time. However – a series of decisions around it have also made things incredibly more risky for women. For example – trains used to shift to their late night schedules around 12. If you made it on a train before 12, you should be okay. Then the late night schedule shifted to eleven. Not great but still do-able – still time enough to see a show and grab a quick drink after. But now the “late night schedule” begins at 9:45 pm. For women who are better at safeguarding themselves than me, this means that seeing a show means taking a taxi home. Every show women see just became much much more expensive.

While still at the beginning of my two hour journey home, I saw a woman hit the door of a trash train that was slowly passing. She was so furious. All she could say was, “I’m so angry.” I thought maybe the driver had said something to her but when I asked, she explained that due to the lateness of the trains and the misinformation on the train countdown clocks, she was going to miss the last train back to her neighborhood in Brooklyn. It was not yet 11. And I understood completely why she was at her rope’s end.

When I started this blog, it all ended there. But then I went to rehearsal in a space that I have rehearsed in dozens of times before. I arrived in the neighborhood not long after six in the evening but it was already dark. The neighborhood is not well lit and there was no one around. It’s not as if I didn’t know the place was the way it was. I have been there before. But this time, I realized that I was asking almost a dozen women to come there. This time, I realized that the building is dark. This time, I realized that it was a little foreboding. This time, I realized that the handy magnetic door entrance that only the renter has the keycard for is not safe for anyone who might be stuck outside with no way to buzz in. On the way out, several of our actors waited in the lobby for car services. It was 10pm. It was dark. The walk to the subway may have been short but it was deserted. A car service was a good idea. And car services aren’t cheap. And you know what? That’s a freakin’ safety tax that women are paying all the time. Already under paid or unpaid, women in the arts are either taking giant risks to tough it out in out-of-the-way arts venues or are spending money on cars. I never noticed it before, I think, because I was in a headspace of “being a cool art chick who’s super down to be anywhere, even dark deserted urban areas, man.” Anyway, this is one cool art chick who is now trying to raise some extra cash to compensate those ladies for their safety tax. (Fundraiser still open, contribute if you like!)

So, after all that, I have to say that reading these books about anger and rage is, in fact, helping. I may be angrier in the short term but in the long term, it’s helping me make space to talk about something we never talk about in the arts. I have been working in theatre for over twenty years, I have literally never heard anyone discuss women’s safety in this way.  It’s about time. Now I can do something about it in my own little pocket of this universe. I recommend reading and I recommend doing.

I got to see both these badass ladies speak in the same week.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me pay my safety tax?

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Why, Yes, I am Unhinged. Thank you for Noticing!

Over the last couple of decades, in my sessions with my Rubenfeld Synergist, I have found myself returning to a theme of “keeping it together.” Why do I think I have to clutch my thigh, immobilize my shoulder, turtle my neck? Because I must “keep it together.” Because I don’t want to “lose it.” Everything might “fall apart.”
I experienced my body as all buckled in, strapped together, contained by the proper restraint.
Over and over, I have learned to allow myself to let go and over and over I have returned to discover that I have contained myself again.

My synergist will often ask something like, “What would happen if you fell apart? What does losing it look like?” And I had no idea.
I have some idea now. And, truthfully, it looks great. It looks like freedom.

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On a long walk after listening to Soraya Chemaly talk about her book, Rage Becomes Her, my friend and I talked about the power of imagination, of art, of dragons and how witchcraft made a man leave us alone just from a small hand movement and a funny whooshing noise. My friend said, with obvious appreciation, “You’re unhinged. In the best possible sense of that word.”
And I am. I am. I absolutely am. Completely unhinged.

And it feels like freedom. Unhinged is one of the many words we use to call people crazy but it is most often applied to women. It has a soupcon of benevolent sexism in it – as if the person using it is minutes away from calling the funny farm. It also tends to be deployed to dismiss a woman expressing an opinion. The Republican Senators call Kamala Harris unhinged when she calls them on their bullshit. Elizabeth Warren gets called unhinged for telling truths on the regular. Maxine Waters’ incredibly calm “reclaiming my time” moment also earned her an unhinged label, despite the logical, measured way that moment evolved. There’s something about “unhinged” that suggests that if the person would just fall in line, just climb back into the slots of a door hinge, all would be well. “Just calm down, little lady, you catch more flies with honey. Why don’t you smile more? We’ll just line up these hinges for you and you’ll be back in your place in no time.”

I keep thinking of something that Rebecca Traister pointed out in Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger – and that is the language overlap of madness. That is – to be mad can mean being angry or crazy. And, really, it’s both. Because if a woman is angry, she is seen as crazy. Madness (that is, anger) in women is seen as madness (that is, craziness.) Men’s anger is seen as cathartic – the cleansing wind that gives us noble revolutions. Women’s anger is seen as madness no matter how righteous the cause.

After all these years of being hinged, strapped in, appropriate, self-contained, I have released myself. I am unhinged. The straps with which I kept myself within the proper bounds have fallen away and I have let go of a wide range of behaviors and norms that I just don’t care about living up to anymore. I realize that all this makes me look unhinged and I find that rather than being worried about it, I am delighted by that perception. I suspect that the line between crazy and free is much more narrow than we like to think. Maybe crazy just means refusing to accept society’s unjust rules. I know that if I were living in the Victorian age, I’d have long ago been locked up for hysteria. (Whether it would be my novel reading, or my anger that would get me put away, I can’t be sure.)
If I were feeling the way I’m feeling now in the middle ages, I would have long ago been burnt at the stake.

Non-compliance is dangerous. To those who are attempting to re-invigorate the patriarchy, women who feel like me are nothing but trouble. I am un-hinged, non-compliant, unbought, unbossed, undone and free.

After all those years of keeping it together, I have been set free. To some, that freedom looks like madness. A free woman may well be unhinged but I think that’s a compliment. I take it as one. But I also no longer really care what anyone else thinks. I’m free. That’s it. You can’t strap me in, hinge me down and you can’t convince me to do it to myself anymore either.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me navigate the world with more freedom?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



Single Gender on a Train

On the Politically Reactive podcast, the guest, Michael Skolnik, described being on the train coming home from the Women’s March in DC. He said he’d never been on a train “where there’s such a disproportionate amount of one gender.” And I said, out loud, in response, “I’m sure that’s not true.” That is, I’m sure he’s been on the train with a single gender before, it just wasn’t women and so he didn’t notice.

Why do I feel so sure he’s been on a train or in public somewhere with only men? Because most public space is male space. Because I have been the only woman on a train more times than I can even begin to count. Any woman who spends time in public has had this experience – and when it happens to us – we get very alert, very quickly. Being the only woman on a train full of men is normal – especially after a game or late at night and most of us will do a fairly quick complex assessment of the danger levels of being in a car full of men. We know we’re surrounded in just the same way Skolnik felt very attuned to being surrounded by women. The thing is – that happens very rarely. And there are a lot of good (and by good, I mean legitimate and clear, not good) reasons for that.

First, it’s historical. There have been any number of diatribes against women ever showing their faces in public. In some places, if you were “public women” you were prostitutes. That is, any woman in public is suspect.

As soon as women start gathering, the wheels of patriarchy start really grinding. It’s how we get witch trials and hysteria epidemics and such. Oppressive movements almost always rely on the idea of women staying out of the public eye, being at home, where she “belongs.” From Rousseau to Phyllis Schlafly, the retiring, natural home-maker is encouraged to remain by the hearth, to never gather with other women in public places, to never venture forth without her husband or father. Soraya Chemaly’s talk on space illuminates the sense that the world is designed by and for men, even women’s restrooms.

And there is another factor, there’s the safety factor – that women in public face harassment, or worse, when they venture forth. Danielle Muscato recently asked women what they’d do if men had a 9 o’clock curfew and the answers revealed how unsafe many women feel in public and how much the world would change if men were safely home in bed by 9. It’s an interesting thought experiment.

For myself, my life wouldn’t change too dramatically if men had a curfew. A lot of the things woman said they’d do I do already. But – I live in a city and cities have always provided a safer haven for women, especially in public. (see Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies) I notice, when I travel, that I am a lot more unusual as a woman traveling on my own. In smaller cities and towns, when I go to coffee shops, I often find myself the only woman. That almost never happens in New York. I wonder if one of the major divides between urban and rural is actually how much space women can occupy in public. I wonder if some of the hatred of Hillary Clinton was related to folks coming from places where women are more rarely seen in public. For me, I feel a very stark contrast when I travel from cities, where I am completely inconspicuous as a woman in public, to places where I am suddenly required to have a heightened sense of my femininity. There are endless public spaces that are de facto male only.

So, yes, it is powerful to see only a single gender on a train – but it is a very different experience for a man to be on a train car full of women than it would be for a woman to be on a train in a car full of men. Part of the power of things like the Women’s March is that it brings women into public space and it makes it possible for the world to be re-imagined as a place where women really can do anything, like ride on a train without any fear at all.

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




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