Ellements of Film: Jojo Rabbit

Warning, this will have spoilers for Jojo Rabbit. Not too many actually, but still. Spoilers. You have been warned.

I have been unspeakably excited to see Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit since I first heard about it nearly a year ago. I’ve been loving Waititi’s work, and I dearly wanted to see two things: one, Waititi (a Polynesian Jew) playing Adolf Hitler, and two, modern proof to shove down the throat of any anti-PC crusader who whines, “You couldn’t make a Mel Brooks movie today.” I was not disappointed.

Almost everything that I could say about my hatred of the argument, “You couldn’t make a Mel Brooks movie today” is covered better than I ever could by this Lindsay Ellis video, which I strongly encourage everyone to watch. The tl;dr version is that satire is a fine line to walk—it has to be obvious as satire, it has to be unavailable for appropriation by the subject of its satire, and it has to represent harmful ideas in order to skewer them without simply replicating them. I want to talk about those points, and how I think Waititi meets them in this work.

First, that it has to be obvious as satire. Ellis talks about how things that are meant to be satire wind up coming across as straight if the target of the satire or the audience doesn’t understand the satire, or just looks at it and thinks, “Yeah, that’s cool.” When you’re talking about Nazis, you can accidentally make them too lovable and identifiable (Aw, Nazis. They’re Just Like Us), you can accidentally make them too ridiculous (Why would anyone take these “Nazis” seriously? They’re obviously such buffoons) or you can make them too monstrous (Why would anyone become a Nazi? They’re so evil.)

And indeed, some critics have said that Waititi made the Nazis in his film fall into these traps—there are some very fun characters and tons of anachronisms, there are a lot of moments where the Nazis are idiotic or the subjects of slapstick accidents, and there’s at least one cartoonishly evil Nazi who took a quick break from asking Indiana Jones where he left the artifact in order to rifle through someone’s home. But I don’t think that Jojo Rabbit is ever caught completely in any of these traps. In a way that (in my opinion) exceeds even Mel Brooks’ The Producers, Waititi shows that the Nazis are, in fact, human and mockable. And some of them could be occasionally nice, or funny, or silly. The film showcases the buffoonery of the Third Reich and how their beliefs are often hollow. But, importantly, it shows that this does not make the Nazis any less dangerous. And this is the vital point that I think a lot of the negative reviewers of the movie are overlooking. Normally, I would agree with the detractors that “actually there were some nice Nazis, too” is the kind of terrible, “good people on both sides” messaging that we don’t really need right now. But this film acknowledges that “nice Nazis” can exist, but then emphasizes, “But Nazis will still fucking murder you.” And not just the cartoonishly evil Nazi—all the Nazis. Even the “nice” Nazis. Even the old lady neighbor Nazis. Even the children. They are silly and buffoonish and human and relatable and evil and dangerous.

I also want to look at the idea of how a proper critique should be unavailable for appropriation by the subject of satire. Ellis talks about the way that some drama films that have directly represented the evils of Nazism have wound up being appropriated by neo-Nazis because they think that the depiction makes them look cool (like American History X). And I promise you, no alt-right edgelord is going to look at Jojo Rabbit and think, “That movie makes me look cool.” Waititi deliberately refused to learn literally anything about how Hitler spoke or acted. This is whatever the opposite of Method Acting is. Waititi’s totally out there Hitler is an aspect of the film that some people have found bad, but I think is the most hilarious thing in the world. And fitting, because this isn’t Real Hitler. It is a ten-year-old-boy’s imagined best friend version of Hitler. And at no point does Waititi’s Hitler, or any of the Nazis in the film, do anything that makes Nazis look cool. Even the one moment that could fall into that, Captain K’s glam rock “invasion uniform” moment is still purposefully deflated by having his subordinate carrying a goddamn gramophone around behind him (and by being defeated basically seconds later).

And finally, the last and hardest point—depicting an oppressor without replicating the oppression. When people claim, “You couldn’t make a Mel Brooks movie today,” what they are really saying is that they cannot imagine a film that passes that last element—they cannot imagine a satire that tackles something like the Nazis without breaking taboos about appropriate depictions of marginalized groups. And that’s what I think Waititi did very well. You can talk about marginalized people without making the marginalized people the butt of the joke. You can punch up, rather than down, even about one of the darkest periods in history. And the majority of this film is punching up.

However, it does have some moments where it punches down, or at least could be seen to punch down. And honestly, I feel like I don’t have a lot of room to speak about those moments. The film does go out of its way to come up with literally dehumanizing concepts of Jews, ranging from “they have horns” to “A Jewish man once lay with a fish and that’s why Jewish people have scales” to “there is a literal Satan who is sitting in a Jewish person’s head and controlling them.” I’d like to think that these depictions are so outlandish and so disconnected from some of the actual, historical stereotypes of Jewish people, but… I also don’t have a lot of faith in humanity at the moment. So it’s entirely possible that these depictions will not come off as ridiculous satire of racist ideology, and will instead just be hurtful anti-Semitism. And if anyone feels hurt by this, they have the right to feel so. I can’t tell anyone how to feel about this stuff, and “Well the director is Jewish” works about as much as “Well my one black friend says I can tell that joke” when defending something against claims of being offensive.

This potential anti-Semitism is really the only critique I’ve seen that I think has full merit, whereas other critiques seem (to me) to be missing the point of the film. Some of the criticism of Jojo Rabbit points towards the fact that the film doesn’t engage much with the actual tenets of Nazi ideology. And it’s true, the film really doesn’t. The only thing that really gets any play is “Jews are bad, Hitler is good” which are obviously part of being a Nazi, but certainly not a deep take. But I think that’s not necessarily because Waititi’s film is “cowardly” or is afraid to push certain buttons—it’s because I think that the film is not so much about Nazis, as it is about how someone becomes a Nazi. As well as how someone, hopefully, ceases being a Nazi. It is a film about radicalization and de-radicalization on the small scale rather than the large.

Jojo is the 1945 version of a normie who is being radicalized. He fits a lot of the classic signs of our modern day alt-right—he’s lonely, he considers himself unattractive, he’s adrift after experiencing a loss, he feels like he’s lacking male support, he’s looking outward to find someone or something to blame for his problems, and looking outward for validation.  When Jojo speaks with Elsa, she tells him that he’s not a Nazi, he’s just a little boy that likes to dress up in costumes and wants to join a club. And… yeah. He’s spouting racist rhetoric but he doesn’t fully understand it, he just understands that almost everyone around him is part of it. (Not that this is not to let him off for trying to be a Nazi, or to say that it isn’t still very bad to try and be a Nazi.) In a scene of book burning, you see Jojo’s enthusiasm for the activity fade until he sees how happy and active everyone else is as they burn the books, and this gets Jojo back into things. This desire for an identity and sense of belonging is where I think Waititi’s performance as imaginary Hitler really shines. “Imaginary best friend Hitler” is the perfect personification of what a modern alt-right person or a young would-be Nazi is looking for when they join that type of movement. Waititi’s Hitler tells Jojo that he’s cool, that he’s handsome, that he’s sneaky and sly instead of cowardly, that he’s awesome, that he’s got this. Hitler gets Jojo pumped up, he consoles him when he’s sad, and he’s there for him when he’s lonely. Jojo sees being a Nazi as the path to being accepted—he dreams about being in Hitler’s main guard. He still is absorbing Nazi ideology, but the ideology is attractive partly because it comes with a group identity.

When Jojo starts becoming better friends with Elsa, Imaginary Hitler starts acting more like actual Hitler—spouting rhetoric, starting to glower and snarl. He also becomes possessive of Jojo and Jojo’s time. This can serve two purposes—first, showing Jojo seeing his “idol” in a clearer light, and also, showing how hollow and conditional the love and acceptance of a radicalized group can be. Whereas an actual friend would likely be happy for Jojo to be happier, Imaginary Hitler/the Nazis/any right-wing group needs their followers to be unhappy, to be isolated, and to be upset. Jojo becoming stable and content without the influence of any Nazi groups is dangerous to the continuance of the Nazi ideology. When he is a step removed, he can begin to see flaws in the organization, and begin to see the way his life can work outside of that group. We don’t really get to see him get to come to a full reckoning with his past actions (probably at least partly because he is ten) but we do watch him start to come to terms with what Nazi ideology leads to—largely, a lot of a death.

One of the questions the film asks is, what do you do if your own child is being radicalized? Especially if that radicalization fits the mainstream culture better than your own beliefs? In one of the most poignant moments of the film, Jojo’s mother Rosie is speaking to Elsa, the Jewish girl that she is hiding in her home. She is warning her to be more careful and quiet because she is worried that her own 10-year-old son, Jojo, would turn Elsa in if he found out about her. Tears shining in her eyes, she talks about how she thinks the “real” Jojo is still in there somewhere, behind the fanaticism. She does her best to counter-program him (as much as she can in a fascist police state where her own pre-teen could and potentially would turn her in for traitorous statements) emphasizing the values of love and bravery. Some people see this as a shallow, hippy-dippy moral of the movie, “All you need is love, man.” I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as the only weapon that Jojo’s mother had against the overwhelming messages of the Nazi party and German culture at the time. What can you do for someone who is radicalized besides try to remind them of what they are missing? What can you do when the person you are afraid of is your own child? What can you do when society is contradicting your role as a parent?  The answer that Jojo Rabbit seems to give is, keep loving them, but don’t let them get away with terrible things. Confront their beliefs. Point out holes. Emphasize the superiority of positivity rather than negativity. Do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. That seems like pretty sound advice to me.

Perhaps more importantly, it gives a blueprint for someone who is in the process of being radicalized to de-program themselves. The big things? Connect with someone outside of your echo chamber. Question the fundamental beliefs of the group you are a part of. Take stock of who is being hurt by what you, and they, are doing. If a 10-year-old can de-Nazi himself, so can you!

Signed: Feminist Fury


Featured image is of the main characters of Jojo Rabbit jumping through the air with the words “Ellements of Film” superimposed.

Stop Getting Mad At The Wrong People

Look what you’ve done. I should be editing my novel. I should be making another trip to the hardware store. I should be plastering a wall. Making dinner. Reading Ibram X. Kendi’s brilliant How to be an Antiracist. But here I am writing a post, because you—maybe not you specifically, but generally you—keep getting mad at the wrong people.

Imagine, for a moment, that you had to suffer through something awful. Let’s say you spent ten years “digging up” to get out of student debt.

Say you finally managed to get to a place of financial solvency. Great. Congratulations. You overcame a massive hurdle and a frustrating ordeal against the odds and at great personal sacrifice, and you should be proud of yourself.

Then someone comes along and says “let’s cancel everyone’s student debt.”

You, a hard-working success story, have two ways to respond, and the reason I’m writing this is because you keep responding the wrong way.

The right way is to say “Fantastic, now nobody will have to go through this unnecessary hardship ever again! The world is becoming a better place, and I am glad of it.”

The other way is to say “Hey! I had to go through this awful experience, you should too!” This is, to put it bluntly, asinine.

No, it isn’t fair that you had to struggle so hard for education, for something that should be a human right. But the reason it’s unfair isn’t that someone else is not going to have to struggle like you did. The reason it’s unfair is because you had to do so in the first place. Nobody should. If you’re going to be mad, be mad that it didn’t get fixed in time for you to take advantage of it. Be mad that you had to struggle. But don’t be mad that others won’t have to in the future.

Education debt isn’t the only place I’m seeing this asinine reaction. I’ve legitimately had to tell people this about healthcare in the past couple of weeks. Healthcare. Someone genuinely said to me that they worked hard so their family could have good health care, and if other people don’t have it, then they should just work hard too. Readers, many curse words were ungraciously sputtered in sheer disbelief. This genuine, bona fide asshole honestly thought that the roughly thirty million people in America who don’t have healthcare just don’t work hard enough to merit it. As though healthcare weren’t something you merit by the simple virtue of being human.

And before you start in on boomers, this mindset isn’t just limited to boomers shouting “back in my day” without realizing that in their day you could afford a house in the suburbs with a two car garage and two cars to put in it on the minimum wage. That would be one thing. But this is Gen X’ers and even older Millennials (such as my 36-year-old self, yes: we’re getting older now) who have legitimate grievances. Yes, we went through hard things. No, we shouldn’t have. NO, this does not mean you can blame the recipients of a better world for the fact that you didn’t live in that world.

I didn’t get Polio as a kid. I didn’t get Polio because I was vaccinated against Polio. It was a nice privilege I inherited because of the hard work of others. They not only invented a vaccine, but pushed for it to be given out for free. At no point would it have made sense for someone who managed to survive Polio to say “I got Polio and overcame it, why shouldn’t you have to?” Why? Because that’s bafflingly unreasonable, that’s why.

Your endurance and survival of negative things does not mean others should have to endure and survive them, too. You’re mad at the wrong people. And if you’re not going to help make the world a better place regardless of its benefit to you? Well at least do us all a favour and get the hell out of the way.

Signed: The Remixologist.


Featured image is the meme image known as “Side Eyeing Chloe.”

I Don’t Have a New Article, but I’m Thinking About Some

So I haven’t been writing posts very steadily lately. Yeah… sorry about that. I thought the summer would mean that I finally had the mental and emotional energy to do more, and that… well that kind of didn’t happen. But not writing doesn’t mean not thinking, and I have a whole lot of ideas running around on articles I’d like to write. So this week’s post is a reminder to myself of the things I have ideas for. And who knows—if you all like some of these ideas and peer pressure me, I might actually write one of them. (I mean it worked for “Old Town Road.”)

  • Marianne Williamson. There is just… a lot going on there. A lot.
  • My Complicated Feelings on the Disney/Sony fight over Spider-Man
  • Songs that seem to sexualize a girl or woman’s low self-confidence and the fact that she’s not aware of her own value. (“She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” “Treasure,” “Little Things,” etc.)
  • A frequent companion to those types of songs I call the Nice Guy Song, about how a guy (or occasionally a girl) would TOTALLY be a better partner than the person the object of their affections is currently with. (“Girl All the Bad Guys Want,” “Flavor of the Weak,” “You Belong With Me,” etc.)
  • The harmful effects of “Chosen One” rhetoric in media.
  • Holy Shit, Literally All of My Favorite Things Growing Up Involved Child Soldiers.
  • The Spider-Man game for the PS4 (This one is actually likely to happen, I made Richard make me An Art for it and everything)
  • A renewed take on my gun control post
  • Ellements of Film posts on Avengers: Endgame or Amazon’s The Boys

I can’t promise returns on any of these (except maybe the Spider-Man game one, I opened a file and everything). But I promise I haven’t forgotten my beloved Feminist Fridays, and I hope you all haven’t either.

Signed: Feminist Fury


Featured image depicts a fencepost with the text “Technically this is a post.” The original photograph is titled “The fading fencepost,” was taken by DeckerEgo, and is licensed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

How to Get Away With Sexual Assault Without Really Trying: A Counting “Game”

It’s like Candyland, but terrible.

While reading the recent article about garbage human Max Landis and his long (and well-documented) history of domestic abuse and sexual assault, I was struck by this sentence:

“A representative for the producers of Shadow in the Cloud told The Daily Beast that they were not aware of any allegations prior to optioning the script…”

Shadow in the Cloud is a project that was meant to be Landis’s “comeback,” (and by “comeback” I mean “reacceptance into the Hollywood fold after a few allegations surfaced and after Bright was super not good”). Given the discourse around the project, I realized, “The producers are either absolute idiots or they’re deliberately obtuse.” The rumors about Landis have been an open secret for years—a cursory Google search would have brought up dozens of articles. So the producers either did exactly zero background research on their meal ticket with a strong family name (possible) or they heard some of the rumors and didn’t care because they didn’t seem substantial enough to cause problems (probable). After pondering this for a while, I had yet another realization: There is no amount of sexual assault survivors that will be “enough.” There is no number of women that will be enough to be taken seriously when it is their word against a powerful man. Five women came forward against Louis C.K. Eight women have come forward against Max Landis. Nine women came forward against Roy Moore. Twenty-three women came forward against Trump. Sixty women came forward against Bill Cosby. More than ninety women came forward against Harvey Weinstein.

In each case, the women were doubted, scorned, and gaslit along the way. And in pretty much every case, their accusations came to almost nothing. Louis C.K. lost some cred and some projects but is back on the comedy circuit, mocking Parkland survivors and the #MeToo movement. Max Landis was temporarily shunned but kept getting handed plum projects even after the first few accusations, and is only now facing any sort of serious pushback (which I promise you is gonna fade in like, five months). Roy Moore barely lost his election, and is already talking about running again. Trump is… well he’s the goddamn president, isn’t he. Bill Cosby finally faced consequences after literal decades of accusations, and he’s still out here tweeting about how he’s “America’s Dad.” Which is both “no,” and “….yeah, that’s probably sadly fitting.” Weinstein is coming to some settlements that will in no way make up for what he did, and he has a closet full of Oscars to sell on E-Bay to help him make ends meet.

There is basically no “safe” number of women who can come forward with an accusation and have it actually mean anything. For all the bellyaching about how false sexual assault accusations ruin men’s lives… well it looks like true sexual assault accusations don’t even ruin men’s lives.

So based on my years of research, I have come up with this number game/guide for how to get away with sexual assault without really trying. And I mean the last part—if all goes “well,” if you rape someone, the rest of society will make these excuses for you, and you won’t have to lift a finger, let alone address your behavior in any way.*

*Note please, please, please do not use this as an actual guide to get away with sexual assault. This is a little thing known as satire. If you have sexually assaulted anyone, please for the love of all that is holy, confess to your behavior and repair the harm you have done however possible.

  • 1 survivor steps forward: “It’s just he said/she said. How are we supposed to know what is true?”
  • 2 survivors step forward: “The second one is just a copycat, trying to get some attention after the first person came forward.”
  • 3-5 survivors step forward: “If this happened to them, why are they staying anonymous? Why won’t they stand behind what they said?”
  • 5-10 survivors step forward: “How long are we supposed to ruin his life for, when he just committed a few indiscretions?”
  • 10-20 survivors step forward: “Why are they only coming forward now? This is clearly just an attempt to cash in/ruin his reputation.”
  • 20-40 survivors step forward: “This happened so long ago, he’s a changed person/they can’t possibly be remembering correctly.”
  • 40+ survivors step forward: “Bitches be crazy.”

….that about sums it up, and I’m really depressed now. So. Cool. Thanks for that, Max Landis and terrible culture.

Signed: Feminist Fury


Featured image depicts a close-up of the board game Candyland. It was taken by Flickr user Dave Parker and is used under a Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0 License.

It’s Not Okay To Say “It’s Okay To Be White”

Because apparently it needs to be said.

Note: I’m turning this twitter thread into a post because apparently it needs to be done. So this is mostly that, with other thoughts interspersed. You’ve been warned.


“It’s okay to be white.” It’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard someone say or seen on a sticker or a poster or online somewhere. It’s one of those things that sounds really innocuous at first, until you realize it’s actually a white supremacist slogan. Here’s why you shouldn’t say it.

“It’s okay to be white,” as a saying, is based on the idea that white people are in some way an oppressed group. It’s like saying “all lives matter,” in that it’s not so much wrong, as deliberately missing the goddamn point. Yes, all lives matter. Sure they do. But they’re not all treated like they matter right now, which is precisely why we have to say out loud, right now, that Black lives really do matter.

“It’s okay to be white” implies that society is somehow biased against white people, that society is somehow making it not okay to be white, when in fact today, in America, in 2019, whiteness is a status marker that carries privilege and power. Yes, even if you are white and think you don’t have any power. You have the privilege of your skin colour in a country that implicitly gives whiteness the benefit of the doubt in many ways that People of Colour aren’t given.

Right now, the only thing attacking whiteness is antiracism, which is (per the name) trying to undo the systemic forces that have led to white people having massively more wealth as a group than non-white people, having more opportunities for advancement, more of the playing field automatically tipped in our favour.

The idea that antiracism oppresses white people is fantastically racist.

So, is it okay to be white? I don’t know. I don’t much care, either. I don’t think it’s a very specific question, for starters. What does “okay” even mean? Allowable? Of course it’s allowable to be white. But does being white come without responsibilities? Is that what “okay” means? Okay to live in white skin without effort?

Here’s what I can tell you: being the recipient of white privilege in 2019 carries with it the ethical burden of trying to use that privilege to deconstruct racism and the oppression it entails.

“Is it okay to be white?” as a question, in America in 2019, is like asking “is it okay to have undeserved power?” It’s a problem that that power has been given over in the first place, but since that’s how things are, the question then becomes “well, how are you using it?”

Here’s what I can tell you: it is NOT okay to be white and to simply accept the status quo of the privilege that whiteness carries. And I can tell you that even aside from the racist dogwhistle of it all, it is NOT okay to proudly say “it’s okay to be white” as though that were an unproblematic statement.

Live and learn, white folks. If we don’t, a whole lot of people are going to continue to get hurt.

Signed: The Remixologist.


Featured image is an abstract white textured background, called “White Texture 004″ by Craig Leontowicz, released under a CC-BY-2.0 license.

Four Ibuprofen

Some advice for when “take four ibuprofen” is the standard of care.

So last week I talked about the recent rush for abortion bills, and since then, things have gotten worse. Like, way worse. But I think that I don’t have very much new to say on that front, besides “Fuuuuuuck.” I could talk about Alyssa Milano’s ill-advised call for a sex strike, but it honestly just makes me tired. So instead I’m going to expand on something that I briefly mentioned in my last post—IUDs. More specifically, the way that medical professionals and common discourse seem to ignore the pain and complications around IUDs.

I know that anecdotes are not evidence, but I’m egotistical enough to think that my own experience serves as a good foreground to this topic. Content warning for graphic depictions of pain and blood. Skip to the paragraph that starts with “This story is” if you don’t want to be squicked.

When I got my IUD, I had no chance of getting pregnant (unless I happened to be sexually assaulted, the fear of which was admittedly a component in my decision). I wasn’t sexually active, and “terrifying stories you hear in high school” aside, it’s not super probable to get pregnant from a toilet seat. What I did have was debilitating periods that caused extreme blood loss and a sudden, instinctive fear that at some point my access to the birth control pills that kept them somewhat at bay would be taken away—you see, I got my IUD at the end of November, 2016. I had called to make an appointment within days of the election.

I did my research—I looked up the differences between copper and hormonal implants, I looked at different brands, and I talked to many friends who’d already had an IUD put in. As with almost any medical procedure, I got a range of opinions, because my friends had a range of experiences. Some of them had terrible reactions to the IUD and got them removed. Some had a remarkably easy insertion process and raved about it. The majority of opinions, however, followed a consistent narrative: it’s going to hurt like hell, but you’re going to be glad you did it.

I was really worried about that pain. For some (possibly TMI) background, I’ve basically never had a non-traumatic OBGYN experience. My yearly exams are always painful, and I seriously considered having an endometrial ablation when I was 22 because I knew I didn’t want children and it would decrease the number of reasons I’d need an exam. (The doctor refused to perform the procedure at that point because “I might change my mind,” and that is a rant for another day.) So the stories of painful insertion procedures made me very nervous. But friends told me that there were a lot of options available to help mitigate that—things like cervical softeners and higher intensity pain medication for before or after the procedure.

So when I called to make the appointment, I asked about the pain, and the pain mitigating options, multiple times. Over and over, I was told that the best thing to do would be to take four ibuprofen before the procedure. I expressed doubt that this would be enough—for scale, four ibuprofen is what I take for a headache. My body doesn’t respond to low-dose medication in basically any form. I asked about the cervical softeners, I asked about the higher intensity pain medication—four ibuprofen. Four ibuprofen. Four ibuprofen.

I took the four ibuprofen as suggested, but I asked about other options again at the appointment itself. The nurse asked if I’d taken the four ibuprofen, and I said I had. The nurse told me I’d be fine. When the doctor came in,  I asked him about it as well. Four ibuprofen. He suggested that I should take my phone out and read an article or play a game, as a lot of his patients found that a good distraction from the minor pain of the insertion.

What followed was some of the worst pain of my life. For scale, again, I’ve slammed my thumb in a 2-inch thick door, burst an eardrum, and had spinal surgery. When I talk about pain, I have a pretty big scale. And this was at the high end of the scale.

My hands were clenched, white-knuckled, around my phone. Tears were blurring my eyes. My legs were trembling as I fought the urge to clench and make things worse. The doctor seemed surprised that we were having such trouble. “When was the last time you were sexually active?” he asked. I thought back to my chart, the one he supposedly read, where I put a big zero next to the question about how many sexual partners I’d had. “I’ve never been sexually active.” I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing I’ve ever said in a voice that could be legitimately called a “growl.”

Eventually it was done. He sat back with a cheery smile. “Whew! For a while there I thought we were going to maybe have to do this surgically.” I thought about all of the interim steps between “incredible pain” and “surgery,” steps that I had specifically asked about and been denied, and said nothing. The nurse showed me where there was a supply of pads, talked about the cramping and spotting I’d likely have for the next few days, and they left. When I stood up, I found out that they had left behind the large paper pad that had been resting underneath my groin and upper thighs for the procedure. It was soaked with blood. I carefully folded it and threw it in the biohazard bin, then got dressed, put on the pad, and went to call my friend for a ride home.

I got off pretty lightly in terms of after-procedure effects, with a day spent on the couch with my dog while I watched Netflix and felt achy with cramps before feeling fine the next day.

This story is not meant to scare anyone away from getting an IUD. In fact, as I wrote last week, I still strongly consider that anyone who can get pregnant consider getting an IUD. But I think it is important for anyone who is considering doing so to go in with eyes wide open, and to know one important thing: the doctor is probably going to be dismissive of your pain. Casey Johnston wrote a piece about the disconnect between the amount of pain IUD insertion can cause and the amount of pain relief patients are offered. (Note, I don’t totally agree with the titling of the piece, which is “If Men Had to Get IUDs, They’d Get Epidurals and a Hospital Stay,” because there are plenty of trans men who get IUDs and are also likely to get their pain discounted, but the main theme of the piece, that women and women’s pain are discounted, is spot on.) It’s honestly a bit beyond belief that a procedure with such a high propensity to cause blinding pain is not automatically performed with the option of higher dose pain medication and a local anesthetic. And this isn’t even taking into account the very serious and painful possibly side effects.

Johnston muses that one of the reasons doctors may downplay both the pain and the effects of the insertion procedure is that they don’t want to scare someone away from getting one, and I think this is likely correct to a certain extent. When the procedure is advertised as a “quick,” mostly painless event where you might just feel a “pinch,” more people are likely to look into it and sign up for it. But I honestly think that explanation covers less ground than, “medical professionals discount women’s pain.” There have been studies that show that menstrual cramps can be as painful as a heart attack, and generations of women were told to take a couple ibuprofen, put on a heating pad, and get back to work when they complained about menstrual pain. In my case, I repeatedly expressed concern over the pain to nurses and to the doctor, and was repeatedly dismissed. And in the midst of the procedure the doctor had apparently had the thought, “This is fairly difficult, should we do this surgically? Ah well, no way out but through! Tally ho!” (He may not have actually thought the words “tally ho,” but it seems an appropriate addition.)

So my advice from last week still stands—look into long-term birth control options. (Ideally, if you’re like me and you’re certain you don’t want kids, you might want to look into sterilization procedures, but you’re likely to face some of the same obstacles I did, so that one isn’t as practical of a piece of advice.) But I want to amend last week’s advice with some further advice. Sadly, this advice kind of amounts to “add obstacles to your own care in the hope that the end result will be better,” and I know that not everyone has the spoons for that. But I am deeply invested in this being as non-traumatic as possible.

1. Do your research.

There are a lot of long-term birth control options out there, including IUDs and subdermal implants. I was most interested in the former, because even more than avoiding pregnancy I wanted to avoid debilitating periods, and the subdermal implants aren’t very useful for that. While hormonal birth control in pill and ring form are also available and are viable options, the current trend towards removing contraception coverage and even trying to outlaw contraception makes me lean towards birth control options that are There To Stay for at least a few years. Find out what your different options are, find out what experiences others have had, and do your best to figure out what will be best for you.

2. Talk to the doctor personally prior to the insertion, preferably at a separate appointment.

I had never met the doctor who performed my procedure before having the procedure. This was mostly due to my brain frantically blaring at me, “DO THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE,” so I just signed up for the first available appointment with the first available doctor. In retrospect, this was a mistake—even though I should be able to trust any random doctor to have my best interests in mind…. Well, I can’t. If I had met the doctor prior to the insertion appointment, I either would have had the chance to discuss pertinent information and been sure that he understood it (I could find a lot of different languages in which to say “I have never had sex” until he understood) or, if I still didn’t feel confident that he was taking me or my concerns seriously, I could have asked for a different doctor. Once we were at the appointment and Doing The Thing, the mix between my own sense of urgency and my fear of “wasting people’s time” meant that I felt stuck.

3. Don’t be afraid to waste people’s time.

In the back of my mind, I had been hoping that there was a disconnect between what I had been told over the phone and what was going to happen at the appointment. I was hoping that when I was face-to-face with a nurse or with the doctor, that they would decide to take me seriously, take my concerns into account, and offer more pain mitigation options. That didn’t happen. And when that didn’t happen, I should have politely thanked everyone for their time and left. Given the reasons that I was getting an IUD, there was no reason that I had to continue the appointment once I was certain that my pain and my concerns were being discounted. It would have taken a leap of social awkwardness that I’m usually reluctant to pursue, but I should have left at that point.

4. Bring someone else that can help advocate for you if you need it.

Not everyone is good at interpersonal conflict, and I get that. So if you have a friend or loved one that feels comfortable doing so, let them know what your concerns are and bring them with you to the appointment. When they see you getting uncomfortable or not getting what you need from the doctor, they can help you navigate either leaving the appointment or advocating for you.

5. Don’t gaslight yourself.

You know your body. You know what “normal” and “abnormal” types of pain are for you. I was lying on that bed, crying from the pain, and still my brain was telling me, “it is supposed to hurt this badly.” In the modern age, nothing is supposed to hurt that badly, especially not a routine procedure. The world, and especially the medical establishment, is going to try to discount and minimize your pain. Don’t do their work for them, and don’t gaslight yourself.

So that’s my advice for navigating the medical system in search of long-term birth control. Now if all of this systematic disenfranchisement has given you a headache, take four ibuprofen—because that is what it is good for.

Signed: Feminist Fury.


Featured image is of a bottle of ibuprofen on its side with four pills in front.

On Not Feeling Slapped in the Face

Hey there! I am not, in fact, dead. As far as I know…. I kinda can’t believe that it’s been almost two months since I last wrote. So much has happened in that time! And so, SO much of it has made me incandescently angry! I was going to list them, but then I realized that would make me even angrier. So I’m going to pretend that the last couple of months didn’t actually exist, and start afresh with the new-ish things that are making me mad. Exhibit A—the way people are reacting to Elizabeth Warren’s plan to forgive student debt.

In case you missed it, Warren is proposing a plan that cancels debt for 95% of Americans with student loan debts, and completely wipes out the debt for 75% of Americans with student loan debts. The plan is to fund it with a mix of a tax increase on the wealthy and the increase in GDP that freeing so many people from debt would likely have. This proposal is paired with an idea for zero tuition and fees for two-year and four-year public colleges, additional Pell grants, a removal of federal support to for-profit colleges, a fund for HBCUs, and an assessment of enrollment and graduation for lower-income students, students of color, non-citizen students, and students with a criminal history. Which… wow. *goes to donate some money to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign*

And like clockwork, the Bad Takes emerged, most of them some variation of “how will she pay for it?” (she explained how she’ll pay for it) “This will never work!” (this has totally worked in other instances) and most insidiously, “This is a slap in the face to people who paid off their loans!” …We’re going to talk about that one a bit more.

The argument, “Well I had to pay off MY student loans!” comes from the same place as “Well I was hazed/bullied in school and I turned out fine!” “Well I had to pay for my own education!” and “Well no one gave ME a handout.” This argument is based on the idea that because the speaker suffered, other people should have to suffer as well. Otherwise the speaker’s suffering didn’t “mean” enough, and they are jealous and angry of someone else “getting away with” not suffering like they did.

And to be fair, there is a certain level of Alanis Morissette-style irony for people who have already paid off their loans—“It’s a free ride/when you’ve already paid” and all that. And there is no logistically sound proposal that can give the people who have paid off their loans their money or time back—it is gone forever, and that genuinely does suck. They likely went through a lot of hardship to get to the point they are at, and they likely had to sacrifice a lot to get there.

But here’s the thing; I’m one of “those people.” Not one of the people complaining about this plan, mind you, but one of those people that would ostensibly feel “slapped in the face” by the loans of other people being paid. And…. I don’t. I don’t feel mad. At all. I am freaking enthused about this idea.

Because as anyone who has gone through any type of trauma knows, the better, empathetic response to seeing someone else be spared that trauma is, “I’m glad other people don’t have to experience what I did.” As someone who had student loans and finally paid them off, my feelings are “I know how terrible it was to struggle under student loans. I’m so glad other people won’t have to. I had a lot of opportunities to be financially stable at an early age taken away from me. I’m glad that they’ll get chances I didn’t.”

As I’ve mentioned (many times) before, I’m a millennial. I’m a millennial who went to graduate school. I’m a millennial who went to graduate school for English. Which, thanks to our current system, means that I know a loooooooot of brilliant, fantastic people with under-paying jobs, no financial stability, and tons of student loans. Few of them have cars, fewer of them have houses, and the phrase “Do you have a retirement account?” can result in a bark of disbelieving laughter similar to the reaction you’d get if you asked “Do you have the Tom Hiddleston’s phone number?” For a lot of us, our retirement plan, only half joking, is “Hopefully die young.” Ask when someone thinks they’ll pay off their loans and their answer is, “Maybe sometime before I die young.”

Millenials keep getting accused of “killing” industries, from Applebees to paper napkins. But if we’re “killing” them we’re not actively murdering them out of spite—we’re starving them. When you live in a major city, make $12 an hour even with an advanced degree, have 60k in student loans with 6% interest where you can only afford to make minimum payments that only go towards the interest and not the principal, and $800 per month rent for one bedroom in a four bedroom house—well you’re not going to be paying $12 to Applebees to reheat mac and cheese for you when you could be buying a $1 pack of ramen. We are starving these industries because we have nothing to give to them.

When I was able to pay off my student loans, it was one of the greatest senses of relief I ever felt. A weight I didn’t entirely know that I had been carrying with me was lifted. I got to start looking at the world in a new way. I suddenly had hundreds of dollars a month in income that weren’t spoken for. I could open a retirement account, or pay for my friend’s lunch, or move into a better apartment. It was freeing, literally and figuratively.

I want all of my friends and loved ones to feel that. If I had the means, I would personally pay off my friends’ loans so they could feel that. I never want someone I love to be making the choice between getting marginally ahead on their student loans and getting health insurance, or reliable transportation, or a retirement account. I never want anyone to make that choice. I got incredibly lucky, and was able to pay off my loans. It doesn’t diminish my luck, or my hard work, or anything about my own experiences if someone else is spared some of the pain I went through.

The only questions I still have about Warren’s plans are about the larger structures—what are we going to do about the interest rate for student loans? How are we going to keep the next few years of students out of the pain of student debt while we figure things out? How will we prevent universities and lending agencies from simply keeping the same ridiculous prices and rates while now getting paid off by the government instead of broke graduates? How are we going to address the general inequality between the cost of education and the wages of jobs outside of education?

All of these questions are important, and need to be answered in order to truly rehabilitate the system. But the fact that we don’t have answers for these questions doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do what we can to address the people that are suffering now. If you have a patient with internal bleeding you need to address the cause of the bleeding, but you also need to do some blood transfusions in the meantime so that the patient stays alive. You’re not “wasting” your energy or time by doing those blood transfusions—you’re giving yourself time to address the root cause.

So speaking on behalf of (hopefully) most of the people who have paid off their student loans: please, please forgive the student loans of those that still have them. Please make it possible for an entire generation to actually engage with the economy, and the world around them.

Please make the cycle of suffering stop.

Signed: Feminist Fury


Featured image is a “Batman slapping Robin” meme, where Robin is saying “Paying off other people’s debts is a slap—” and Batman is interrupting, saying “No THIS is a slap!”

Elle’s Guide to Surviving the Election Season (and Hopefully Electing a Democrat)

As of writing this, 12 Democrats, or Independents-running-as-Democrats, have filed to run for president or at least formed exploratory committees. More are expected to do so *cough* Joe Biden is expected to run *cough*. Bill Weld is exploring the possibility of taking part in a primary against Trump (I will pay money and buy popcorn to see this happen) and that Starbucks guy is… doing whatever that Starbucks guy is doing that will probably manage to hurt the Democratic party.

The election is over a year away. The election is almost two years away. And I am already very, very tired.

My Facebook feed is wild, and Twitter is basically on fire. Posts for and against candidates are everywhere, and pretty much all of my friends have already taken different corners. My two most liberal friends have nearly opposite opinions on Bernie Sanders. Posts for and against a candidate can be next to each other on my feed. Litmus tests are being established. Think pieces are being written.

I am thiiiiis close to trying to use cryogenics, or at least a good snow storm, to freeze myself and wake up in January, 2021. (Depending on what the world looks like when I wake up, I may decide to go back under.)

So for the sake of my sanity, and for (hopefully) an election that avoids some of the pitfalls of the last election, I put together this handy dandy guide/plea for my fellow leftists. Enjoy.

Don’t Do the Republicans’ Work for Them/Focus on Constructive Criticism

I remember a fair few elections, and I don’t remember any Democratic primary as vicious as the last one. This is a situation where there really were good and bad people on both sides, and both sides did their fair share of harm. Hillary and the DNC screwed the pooch by pretending the situation was set up fairly when it clearly wasn’t, Bernie made it clear he was only pretending to be a Democrat for the sake of the election, and neither side did a good job of reining in their followers or their attacks. I’ve never had to unfollow fellow Democrats before, but 2016 was weird. The Republicans barely had to do anything to tear us apart because we were already doing it to ourselves. Some things that the left gets criticism for, and that I think we are guilty of to an extent, are purity tests, call-out culture, and gatekeeping. If a candidate doesn’t check all of our boxes, we hate them. We’re going to decry anyone who doesn’t meet our standards. And woe betide the person who tries to join in that doesn’t fit the bill, because we’ll happily excommunicate anyone who we think has failed.

This isn’t all of us. I don’t even know if it is most of us. But I know it’s enough of us that we have serious trouble with candidate in-fighting, while any opponent with an R next to their name gets the Republican vote. We have the right to be idealistic, but we should also think about being pragmatic, and going for inclusion instead of exclusion.

That isn’t to say that we can’t, or shouldn’t, critique candidates. The purpose of a primary is to try and winnow things down to the best possible candidate, and that means taking a serious look at each candidate. But we need to critique politicians the same way a teacher critiques an essay—with the intention of improvement, rather than destruction. What could this candidate do to improve? What can we do to improve the candidate? What concerns do you have, and how can they be assuaged? What are our absolute lines in the sand, and how realistic are they?

Whenever we critique a candidate, we have to keep in the back of our mind, “This person could wind up being the candidate.” What would happen if we spent all of our time tearing a candidate down, and then they were the candidate going against Trump? How damaged will they already be from the primary? What portion of the electorate will abandon ship instead of voting for them, like that weird cross‑section of Bernie supporters who voted for The Orange One? Or the usually-Democrats who decided they hated Hillary more than they worried about the fact that Gary Johnson couldn’t name any foreign countries? We want the candidate that we wind up with to be the best of the best, not the last, shell-shocked survivor of the Hunger Games.

Try to Support the Candidate We End Up With/Remember the Stakes

Look, I know that it isn’t fair that we repeatedly get asked to pick the lesser of two evils. I’m aware. And there are certainly some lines in the sand that I would probably not be able to cross for a candidate. But life is not fair the vast majority of the time, and I’m doing my best to deal with that. And we have to ask ourselves how much holding tight to every single one of our principles will keep us warm when Hell is actually freezing over.

I still owe my dad a nickel, because after Trump won the primary I thought that we had won, and I bet my dad a nickel that Trump wouldn’t be elected. I was certain that Trump was too awful for anyone to actually elect. I thought that if even Ted Cruz didn’t like him, no one else in the Republican party would. But a lot of the Republicans held their noses (and probably their breath) and voted for someone they hated, because he was the Republican candidate. (And a lot of them were honestly just totally fine with a racist, ableist, misogynist sexual abuser. I mean, it takes all kinds.)

We have been through two years of hell. But now we have at least two sexual abusers on the Supreme Court, and poor RBG can’t hold out forever. Roe v. Wade teeters on the brink of being overturned. LGBTQ protections are being rolled back. Diseases that we thought we had eradicated are coming back. We can’t seem to go a month without a mass shooting. Our education system is under-funded, unbelievably segregated, and not actually really working. A good portion of US citizens couldn’t overcome a sudden emergency that requires a few hundred dollars. Disability rights activists are dying because their insurance won’t pay for certain medicines. We’re facing an opioid crisis that was brought about by the very same pharmaceutical industry that has immense lobbying power and keeps jacking up prices on life-saving medications. We are keeping children in cages, and sexually abusing them when we’re not letting them die of dehydration. We’re building a stupid fucking wall that is going to disrupt crucial animal habitats and drain funding from other parts of the government while simultaneously Not Doing the Thing it is Supposed to Do. We spend a small fortune on military equipment we don’t need. We’re rolling out the red carpet for Russia to overtake us as superpower. We’re alienating basically all of our allies. Wealth is being increasingly amassed by the 1%, and we’re forming super-monopolies. The internet is becoming more and more pay-to-play, and we’re censoring female sexuality and LGBTQ activism instead of, you know, the Nazis. Oh yeah, we have actual fucking Nazis. And that’s all bad enough, without the looming threat of irreversible climate change. We are literally and metaphorically on fire.

I will be honest—I would vote for a turnip before staying home from the polls or voting third party if it means defeating Trump. As it stands now, there are no Democratic candidates who are so violently against my principles that I couldn’t manage to vote for them. There are some I like better than others, and some whose policies I don’t entirely approve of, but all of them have this very fantastic quality of Not Being Goddamn Trump. I don’t expect everyone to be me, so again. I’m not going to tell you to do something that is absolutely against your conscience. But do give some serious thought to the stakes.

Do Your Part/Seriously Did You See the Part Where We’re On Fire?

I know you’re tired. I’m tired. We’re all tired. But you know who aren’t as tired? The Republicans who have been riding the Bigotry Carousel for the last two years. They just can’t wait to take a ride on the Oligarchy Express between 2020 and 2024. Guess how tired we’ll be by 2024? So to the best of our abilities, we have to do what we can to make this happen.

Donate to campaigns. Volunteer for campaigns. Hold fundraisers. Write letters. Make phone calls. Write articles. Harass your friends and loved ones. Knock on doors. Make petitions. Help your neighbors register to vote.

Get engaged in local politics. The presidential race makes everything a lot more intense and gets most of the attention, but your local city council, county commissioner, House, and Senate all need good people in them, too. It’s really important to have a Democrat in the White House, but it’s also really important to have a Democrat on the school board so that we don’t bring abstinence-only education back. Think about running yourself—you can do it! We are the grownups now. I know, right? It’s fucking wild.

So… that’s my guide. Or my begging, whichever way you want to think about it. Most of all, what I’m going to beg you all to do is just this: be good to each other. We are all hanging on by a very fragile thread. We need to stay a community, and we need to keep looking out for each other. Because on top of all the upcoming election craziness, Trump is going to still be president. Think about how bad 2016 was, and then add “Trump actually being president” on top of that. Because he is going to be president during this. We have to stop praying for an impeachment, or a smoking gun, or anything else that is going to save us. We should have stopped doing any of that after the whole “the electoral college may rebel!” thing died a pathetic death. But we’re overly optimistic sometimes. Really, I think if we’ve learned nothing else from the Cohen hearing, we’ve learned that the currently-sitting Republicans are craven cowards who would rather stay in power than actually have a democracy. Diane Feinstein is negging children (and yes I saw the uncut video). Black Representatives are taking time out of hearings to reassure white racist Representatives that the white racists aren’t white racists. We can’t expect that anything resembling “doing the right thing” is going to come from most of the government right now. Not everyone can be AOC or Stacy Abrams. We have to buckle down, and we have to be there for each other. Please.

In the words of Spike Lee: let’s do the right thing.

Signed: Feminist Fury


Featured image is an 80s “laser text” meme reading “2020”.

Millenials, Minimalism, and Stuff

Why the current fad for minimalism does not “bring me joy.”

NOTE: Before I get started, I want to be upfront with the fact that I have not watched Marie Kondo’s show, or read her book. And I think a lot of the criticism that is directed her way has some weird racist and sexist overtones, and I really don’t want to add to that. And from what I understand, she’s not really a minimalist, minimalists just really dig her. My beef is not with Kondo, who I think seems to genuinely want to help people, but with the entire dialogue around minimalism. Also I’m gonna make some pretty sweeping generalizations in the following work, and I am aware of that. So please don’t @ me with “Not all of the 80s!” and “Not all millennials.” I’m aware. Chill.

Let’s tell a story together. Let’s say that we’re millennials (which at this point is an infantilizing term that means that we were born in the early 80s to the mid-90s, which means that we’re in our early 20s to late 30s at this point.) We were born into… interesting… times. The 80s weaponized conspicuous consumption, and valorized greed. A loosening of broadcast legislation meant that television for children could basically be a 25-minute ad, interspersed with smaller, 30-second ads. We were encouraged to identify with glorified commercials, because that would mean we wanted more Stuff. The watchword was “more.” More TV stations, more stores in the mall, more Stuff.  He Who Had the Most Stuff was the Best Person. Trickle down economics was totally going to work, and didn’t we want to take regulations off so that “job creators” could fix things? That was (after all) the best way to get us more Stuff.

If you were a kid in the 90s, you grew up in a world that seemed to be endlessly expanding, endlessly consuming, and endlessly competing. We got “participation trophies,” not because we wanted them (we knew that they were “thanks for entering, but you sucked” prizes. We weren’t oblivious.) but because our parents couldn’t stand to think that their progeny wasn’t special. That their own parenting wasn’t reflected in an object that could be held and taken home, that could be placed on a mantel and shown to others. How could our parents know that we were good children if we didn’t have Stuff to show for it?

We lived through, and participated in, multiple crazes that focused around two things: gathering lots of Stuff and keeping it forever. We were told that Beanie Babies, Furbies, Pokémon cards, and variant comic book covers were things that We Had to Have. We had to be the person with the most, and the best. And we should hold onto these things for years and years, because they would only grow in value over time.

We were pushed in carts around giant shrines to Stuff—bulk-buying stores were trumpeted as the smartest choice in shopping. Why buy a jar of mayonnaise when you could buy a quart? Why buy a pack of toilet paper when you could buy a crate of it? It would be cheaper, overall, to buy more of the Stuff at once, and again, keep it for a long time.

Behind the scenes, economic changes were happening that we were unaware of. Globalization and trade meant that the market was flooded with more and cheaper Stuff. Sure, a lot of that Stuff was really shitty, but it was cheap, which meant we could get more of it. The economy forcibly moved away from ideas like “repair” and “reuse.” Why repair your vacuum, when it is cheaper to get a new one? And why build a vacuum that will work for many years, when you know that your customer is just going to buy a new one? Planned obsolescence was much better than quality for all of those “job creators.” People wouldn’t complain (too much) about their jeans wearing out after just a year when it was fairly cheap to buy new jeans.

The increased monopolization of various industries meant that what appeared to be different products really, really weren’t, and price was no longer a good indication of value. Those $200 boots were made in the same factory as those $20 boots, and fall apart about as fast. There was no good way to determine how much “bang” you were actually getting for your buck.

We were told that we absolutely had to go to college if we wanted to succeed at life. Coincidentally, Sallie Mae was privatized in the 1990s, encouraging students to take loans that they couldn’t afford, all in the name of profit. Kids who weren’t old enough to buy cigarettes or drink were encouraged to take on loans they couldn’t possibly pay off, and subsequent decades of lobbying ensured that these loans couldn’t be erased like other types of loan, or even dissolved in bankruptcy.

The minimum wage stayed stagnant, even as inflation ballooned. Gas prices rose. 9/11 happened, and the War on Terror seemed to hurt rather than help the economy. But we should still keep buying Stuff, we were told. Buying Stuff would help.

And we did what we were told. We took out loans, we bought Stuff, we went to college, and we waited for the Success to happen to us. The Success that happened to everyone before us. And then the economy tanked. And most millennials still haven’t recovered, and never will recover.

We were raised in a culture that idealized Stuff, and related consumption to success. We have been encouraged our entire lives to purchase and keep things. Our minimum wage is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it’s a better option for us to buy multiple cheap things than try to buy one more expensive thing, because we have no guarantee that the expensive thing will be better. We can’t repair things when they break, either because either it’s too expensive, there’s no one able to repair it, or some multi-billion corporation will void our warranty if we try to fix our own objects. We’re struggling to find jobs, crushed under loans, and doing our best to get by.

We have closets full of cheap clothing, because we know that it is going to wear out but we can’t afford to do laundry at the laundromat too often, and we don’t want to take the chance of spending a day’s paycheck on a single shirt that is still going to fall apart. We hold on to old shoes, computers, and furniture, because we don’t know if the current stuff we have is going to break worse than the old stuff we’re keeping around, and we might need the old thing to replace the new thing at any point. We have shelves full of college books because we weren’t going to get anything near what we paid for them if we tried to sell them back. We buy in bulk whenever we can, because we were taught to, and because it will hopefully ultimately be cheaper for us.

And into this enters minimalism. Getting rid of as much as you can, living “simply,” and de-cluttering your life.

Let me make something clear: there are two ways that you can live “minimally.” You can either (a) be too poor to buy enough things to have clutter (in which case your minimalism is probably not an active choice) or (b) you are rich enough that you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry about things like buying replacements when something breaks or wears out, or buying in bulk to save money. It means you have the time, energy, and money to find fewer objects of obvious quality instead of many cheap objects.

Minimalism is either a punishment or a privilege.

And it wouldn’t upset me so much, if it weren’t for the fact that minimalism is going the way of veganism, Paleo diets, natural birth, organic food, breastfeeding, and yoga—in that a lot of people are totally capable of doing the thing without making it a moral judgment about everyone around them, and a different lot of people Are Seriously Not Able to Do The Thing Without Being an Asshole. Minimalism is becoming a purity cult, where enacting minimalism is associated with personal goodness and moral virtue. Which is bullshit.

We were raised to worship Stuff. We entered an economy where we had no choice but to cling to Stuff. And then a lot of the same people who raised us that way, who messed up the economy that way, are now telling us that we’re not good people unless we can live in a minimalist lifestyle. Which is a lot like a bully telling their victim to stop hitting themselves.

This does not bring me joy.

Signed: Feminist Fury.


Featured image is of the aisle of a Dollar Store and is released under a CC-BY 2.0 license by Random Retail.

Why Didn’t They Report? Math. (And Lots of Other Reasons, Too)

This week we’re going to talk about math. Well, kinda. We’re going to talk about reporting sexual assault, which has to start with math.


This week we’re going to talk about math. Well, kinda. We’re going to talk about reporting sexual assault, which has to start with math.

Imagine that you have 1000 sexual assault survivors. Of that 1000, only 310 will ever report. And our president wants to know why! Why, if a sexual assault happened, would you not report? Well the first answer to that question involves more math. See, out of that original 310 survivors who report, only 57 of those reports will lead to an arrest. That’s… not good odds. Then of that 57 that lead to an arrest, only 11 will be referred to a prosecutor. Of that 11, only 7 will lead to a conviction. Of that 7, only 6 will see jail time. So doing some of that math, if you are sexually assaulted, there is a .006% percent chance that your perpetrator will go to jail. Most of us wouldn’t even carry an umbrella if there was only a .006% chance of rain, let alone put ourselves through the physical, mental, and emotional trauma of reporting a sexual assault for that low of a success rate.

But let’s say you take those odds, and you go to trial. What happens then?

Well if you’re the survivor of an attack by Alaskan man Justin Schneider, you see him get a plea deal that leads to no jail time, after he’s been accused of “kidnapping, choking, and sexually abusing” you.

If you’re Brock Turner’s victim, you get to see him get six months in jail, because he has such a bright future ahead of him.

If you’re Andrea Constand, you get to see every decision you’ve ever made get torn apart.

And there are so many who don’t even get to the trial stage before their lives are torn apart, or their words mean nothing to others. Almost two dozen women reported Trump sexually assaulting or harassing them, and that man still became president.

He became president, and THEN he decided to go on Twitter and demand to know why Christine Blasey Ford didn’t report sooner. Because sometimes people exist with actually negative levels of capacity for shame.

In response, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport started to trend. And I can’t do the original posts justice, but here is a short list of some of the reasons people didn’t report their sexual assault:

Because they feared that their family members would murder the perpetrator.

Because their perpetrator was in a position of power over them.

Because they told someone and got ignored.

Because it could ruin their career.

Because their perpetrator threatened them.

Because their perpetrator was a family friend.

Because their perpetrator was a family member.

Because they were in the middle of a combat zone, assaulted by peers and superior officers.

Because they were afraid they would be blamed.

Because the perpetrator was their partner.

There are a million and one reasons that these women chose not to report. And we have already failed a lot of these women. But we have to start making it up to them. We have to start believing them. And we have to start changing a lot of the cultural and systemic reasons that stopped them from reporting.

Signed: Feminist Fury.


Featured image of a piece of art reading a + b ≠ c by Alan Levine is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.