Our new advice columnist urges an activist to call out the friends paying lip service to causes, and gives a frustrated mother permission to care for herself.
Living as a woman in today’s dystopian world requires a lot—from therapy to all the wine to learning to part with the expectation for common sense. The best reprieve from the chaos of the never-ending news cycle is a safe place to vent. This is that place. Comic, actor, and Twitter fire-starter Ashley Nicole Black is here for you—for all of us. In a new advice column for DAME, she will listen to your most intimate troubles and mundane annoyances, and offer support, guidance, commiseration, or a constructive reality check. And perhaps most importantly, she’s here to make you laugh. Write to Ashley at [email protected]
Lip-Service Feminists Need To Put Up Or Shut Up
How do I motivate the seemingly oblivious? I have a group of friends that I see at school events, at our kids’ baseball games, and on the occasional wine night out. I know from several conversations that they are progressively minded in their politics, but the outrage and the action just aren’t there. Yes, everyone isn’t made to be an activist, but man, it’s discouraging that these smart women go about their daily lives as if crazy shit wasn’t happening across our country. How do I motivate them to get engaged and involved without seeming sanctimonious or starting a big “your privilege is showing” knock-down drag-out fight?
Frustrated By Apathetic Feminists
Oh my God! Start the fight, woman! What do you have to lose?! These don’t seem like very good friends. The “friends you see at school events” are just like … people who live near you who happen to have children? So it’s not like we’re talking about your BFFs here. Unless Blue Ivy is on your kid’s baseball team, and you occasionally get wine with Beyoncé, these are probably friends you can afford to lose.
Worst-case scenario: You never see them again and you drink wine alone. Drinking wine alone is awesome. I do it every day. The much more likely scenario is that they’ll say something like, “I care but I just don’t know what to do” or, “I want to help but, I’m so busy” or, “I’m white and it doesn’t affect me enough for me to actually act, and I’m kind of garbage that way,” and then you get to have a good conversation that may bring you closer, or may make you realize you don’t want to spend as much time with them. Speak your mind! The stakes aren’t actually as high as you seem to think they are.
While the political situation right now affects different populations very differently, it can be terrifying and daunting for all of us. A lot of people just don’t even know how they can help. Especially since most of us got pretty darn complacent for the past couple of decades and don’t have much practice at challenging our government. Luckily, we have a lot of great examples to look to for inspiration as many communities of color have been engaged in this activism for years.
Not everyone can be an activist, but everyone can do something. Some have money to donate, some do not. Some people feel safe marching and protesting, others may not be. But it takes all kinds. Hopefully people can do more than just tweet… but even that is better than nothing.
Maybe you can help your friends get involved by translating the big scary political topics of the day into local action items. Obviously you and your girlfriends can’t take on ICE (although, that would be a great movie and I hope someone writes it), but can you lobby your town to become a sanctuary city? Can you ask your local schools to create a policy that protects undocumented students? You’re not going to make the president stop being an idiot, but can you and your family and your friends’ families start focusing on using more inclusive and progressive language? You’d be surprised how quickly a personal change like that can reverberate through a community. Does your school have trans inclusive policies in place? Does your state have a plan in place to keep your election safe from cyber attack? Do y’all have at least enough “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts to each wear one every day for a month? Can you register voters? There are plenty of things that need to be done that don’t require massive amounts of effort or special knowledge.
There are probably local political organizations, charities and churches doing good work in your community, and I doubt that if you asked your friends to come join you doing volunteer work at one of them one day that they’d go “FUCK YOU, I WILL NOT FEED THE HOMELESS! HOW DARE YOU?! WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE!” And just getting out to one protest, or volunteering once, can open people up to their own potential to make a difference. Introducing your friends to this magic would be a great gift for you to give them.
And I cannot stress enough: If they decide not to be friends with you anymore because you are asking them to try to make a positive difference, rosé is one of the best wines to drink alone.
If You’re Dreaming of Abandoning Your Kids, It’s Probably Time for some Self Care
I love my family, but oh, how I love to be alone. From the moment my children get up I am desperate to get them out the door. As soon as they get home from school I start counting the minutes until I can put them in bed. Am I a monster? Should I ditch them all and run to Mexico like I fantasize about? And worst of all, can they tell this is all I can think about when I see them?
Exaggerating, Of Course. I Think.
First of all, let’s just get on the same page by agreeing that children are annoying AF. They are short little sacks of endless need with sticky fingers. If you had a friend who contributed nothing to the conversation but questions about the most basic workings of the world, you would probably stop hanging out with that friend. But you’re not allowed to stop hanging out with your kids when they do that exact thing. It’s a real double standard.
I’m not a mom, but I think I know how you feel. Sometimes, I look at my dog, who is staring up at me with so much love, affection, and inability to care for herself and say, “Bitch, you’re always here. Don’t you have any other friends?” Luckily, my dog doesn’t speak English, so this doesn’t hurt her feelings. And at least she can’t help but rely on me because she doesn’t have opposable thumbs. Your children, I assume, do. There’s no reason to feel ashamed of your feelings of resentment for beings that have literally been vampiring nutrients out of your body since before they were born. But since your children are probably more perceptive than my dog, and given that if they ever suspected that you felt this way it would screw them up so much that they will still be living in your house, borrowing money for therapy in their 30s, we gotta fix this. My advice: You need to take better care of yourself, so you can take better care of them.
Exaggerating, there’s a huge hole in your letter. You tell me about your life before school, and after school, and up until the kid’s bedtime… And nothing about what you do the rest of the day. So, I assume you are a woman? Only because women have been socialized to believe that we only exist to serve other people: our partners, children, men that never grow up and are basically children… whoever crosses our path and is in need of mothering. And while of course, mothering is a fulfilling and amazing blessing, it’s not a whole life. It can’t be. And if you try to act like it is, you are only reinforcing for your children that mothering is all women are meant to do. You also may end up resenting your children for your feelings of not being fulfilled, when really you are the person who chose to focus on them at the expense of yourself (with a lot of help and pressure from society at large of course).
Do you have a partner? If so, is that partner a man? If so, why? Men are gross. Anyway, if you have a partner (or a village that helps you raise your children) you should share your feelings with them and ask that they help take on more of the childcare so you can have some alone time. It’s important to recharge your battery, and if you’re the kind of person who needs to be alone to do that, do it!
I don’t suggest that you focus on changing your feelings (blaming yourself), I suggest that you focus on building your life (taking care of yourself). Get a hobby. Take a night off a week to do Pilates or that dumb thing where you drink and paint shitty pottery. Go out with your girlfriends. You know that secret dream you have that no one knows about? Start quietly working towards it. Reserve at least an hour for yourself every day, and one big block of time every week, and make that time sacred. Don’t blow it off when your partner is too busy to take the kids to soccer. Make the kids Uber to soccer (or you know, have someone you actually know and trust take them, I don’t know how kids work). This is your time. It is okay to tell your kids, “Mom is going to need an hour to take a bath/ go for a walk/ sit quietly in a dark room contemplating the meaningless of existence. I will set a timer, as long as none of you are bleeding, please don’t talk to me until it goes off.” That’s actually not a mean thing to do to them, their future romantic partners will thank you for teaching them about boundaries, that loved ones don’t exist to entertain you 24 hours a day, and that sometimes you need to sit quietly and entertain yourself.
Once you balance taking care of your kids with taking care of yourself, when people ask your kids about you they’ll be able to say, “My mom is so cool! She does karate and paints shitty pottery! She wants to be a lounge singer! Then she comes home and tells us all about it and it’s so much fun! Now I know that women are allowed to take care of themselves! What a great life lesson for me!” Because that’s exactly how kids talk. And you’ll be able to say, “I like my kids better now that I’ve made time away from them to miss them.”
Good luck, Exaggerating.
There’s never been a more important time for quality journalism. You can help by supporting DAME’s reporting, commentary, and cultural criticism. Because it matters who covers the news. And it matters who covers women’s issues in the news. Become a supporter today.
AN INDEPENDENT FREE PRESS HAS
NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT.
Your financial support helps DAME continue to cover the critical policies, politics and social changes impacting woman and their allies.