Category Archives: up the ladies!

yes, i have a gender preference

i’m over nine weeks pregnant at this point. i wonder if i will, at some point during this pregnancy, give it a rest on including gestational age in the first paragraph of every blog post i write. time will tell. but it’s actually relevant to what i want to write about in this case because i am feeling kind of insecure about the fact that i don’t really look pregnant at all. i mean, i can tell that my body looks different, but i’m the only one. to someone who knows me well, i maybe look a little fatter than usual, like maybe i’ve been gorging on krispy kreme. to someone who doesn’t know me, i probably just look like your average run of the mill kind of fat girl.

i did a google image search for “nine weeks pregnant,” theorizing that maybe people who were already on the larger side of things when they got pregnant just don’t show right away. but it seems like there’s not really any formula at all for who will pop right out of the gate & who won’t. there are skinny girls posting their nine-week belly photos & they don’t even have a whisper of a bump. there are fat girls posting nine-week pics that are undeniable pregnancy shots. i guess that, as with so many things related to pregnancy & female bodies in general, there’s a whole range of normal.

i also did some research on that new over-the-counter baby gender test, intelligender. it advertises results of up to 80% accuracy. jared & i have planned from the start to wait to learn the baby’s sex once it’s born. it just doesn’t really matter to us. we wouldn’t buy different baby gear or really do anything different if we knew we were having one sex or the other. we’re just going to buy what’s cute & functional, & who cares if it’s pink or blue? but how many times in my life am i going to be pregnant? i’m just experiencing some idle curiosity over whether the intelligender test would accurately predict my baby’s sex.

&…honestly…i do have a gender preference. i very much want a girl, & the only reason i am nervous about waiting until the baby is born to learn its sex is that i’m afraid i might need some time to pull myself together if it’s a boy, & of course i will feel like a prize asshole if that happens. in my casual surveying of parents, it’s pretty common to have a gender preference, but most people say that once their baby was born, they fell in love with that particular baby, parts be damned. i know i’ll feel that way too (or at least i hope i will), but if i could get a little forewarning that it’s a boy so i could come to grips with it before someone is handing him to me & expecting me to weep with joy, i feel like i’d be a lot more comfortable. unfortunately, it’s not like i can have a sonogram done & be like, “only tell me the sex if it’s a boy.”

i have asked myself a million times WHY i have a gender preference & i just don’t know. it might boil down to the fact that i’m just kind of a misandrist. i don’t really like most dudes, i have way fewer dude friends compared to lady friends, i don’t feel as comfortable or connect as well with dudes, & the idea of raising a dude child stresses me out. it’s a lot of pressure to think about trying to raise a good dude who treats women respectfully & has a healthy relationship with his own masculinity (if a masculine gender ends up being what he wants to pursue) without predicating it on anything gross & fucked up. & also, even though i’ve had sexual relationships with cis dudes exclusively for the last twelve years, penises still weird me out. it’s hard for me to fathom the concept of having to take care of a baby penis. i know i’ll get over it–i have awesome, amazing mom friends who have sons & they’re doing such a great job with them & their kids are so smart & kind & thoughtful & interesting. & of course i’ll have jared parenting right alongside me & he honestly has no gender preference at all, although he does have 32 years of experience in penis ownership. & sometimes i think about some of my dude friends that have especially incredible relationships with their moms & i think, “that could be me & my kid someday,” & i feel good about the possibility of having a son.

my preferences for a girl are kind of dumb & predictable, in light of what i’ve just written about why a boy makes me feel freaked out. i feel like i’d connect with her better, & feel more comfortable around her, & i am familiar with how lady parts operate (no baby boners–yes, it happens!). i would relish the challenges involved in raising a girl to have healthy self-esteem. just your typical retread “i was a teenage feminist & i want my kid to be a feminist too!”. which is dumb. now that i am writing it out, it really just seems like a political person’s riff on those moms that want daughters so they can dress them up in cute frilly dresses & buy them cool dolls or whatever. & as if raising a boy to be a respectful, thoughtful, non-sexist dude wouldn’t be fulfilling that same political desire? & as if there’s even any guarantee that my kid will identify with its birth-assigned gender when it’s an adult?

okay, i may have talked myself out of having a gender preference. (& PS–i know a lot of people have a lot of genderfeels about people using the word “gender” when they mean “sex” when talking about fetuses & babies. i do know the difference between gender & sex, but it is sometimes difficult to use the word “sex” accurately when writing about these topics. i feel weird calling intelligender a “baby sex test” because…come on. that sounds really fucked up. i feel weird saying that i do or do not have a baby sex preference. yikes! okay, just throwing that out there.) but i am still curious about the accuracy of intelligender or if it’s just snake oil or what.

opting in…by co-opting the original research & writings of other feminists

well, this book could not possibly have been more disappointing. the subtitle is “having a child without losing yourself,” & based on that & the back cover blurb, i guess i was expecting a book about balancing motherhood with one’s feminist principles, & trying to create a society that values the contributions of mothers as people as well. amy richards is one of the co-authors of manifesta, a popular third-wave feminist book that i found aggravatingly simplistic, elementary, & watered down. i had hoped that she would get a little more specific in writing about motherhood. i had hoped that she might have learned from some of the critiques of manifesta & succeed in writing a book that speaks to more than just the experiences of her specific cohort: white heterosexually partnered women in their early 30s living in new york city & enjoying the relative financial privileges of making a living in a creative industry. alas, if this does not describe you, you are unlikely to get much out of opting in.

the book was written in response to a piece in the “new york times magazine,” called “the opt-out revolution”. it was a very widely-debated piece about the phenomenon of a certain type of mother (well-educated, reasonably class-privileged) choosing to eschew career for a life of stay-at-home motherhood. when i say it was “widely-debated,” i mean that a lot of people threw around a lot of opinions about it without having actually read the article. i read it. i thought it was very well-written & interesting, & far from being the first cannon fire in the new round of early oughts mommy wars or a screed about women shortchanging their kids by going back to work, or wasting their promise wiping noses all day, it seemed to examine the flawed underpinnings of the mommy wars & conclude that success & satisfaction can be defined by the individual.

add richards to the pile of folks who did not seem to actually read the article. she seems to have skimmed it with a lot of pre-conceived notions about its content & then taken umbrage with the conclusions she assumes the author was making. so, from the start, the book is based on a faulty premise. adding to the shaky foundation is richards’ conception of herself as a voice for the modern-day feminist–& she is a classic third-wave “i choose my choice/everything i do is a woman’s movement” feminist. she had a baby, so suddenly being a mom is an area of feminist inquiry. i do think that being a mom can be an area of feminist inquiry–it just bothers me when people don’t realize that until they themselves are moms. especially when they have made a career out of watering feminism down to become basically just an amusing phase for single freewheeling college girls.

even if the book had been less about how to “be a mother without losing yourself” & more a memoir about richards’ own experience balancing motherhood & feminist activism (such as her work is activism–does it still count as activism when it’s basically your career?), it would have been better than what we actually got. the book is really just an incredibly boring, tedious rehash of the research on achieving work-life balance. allow me to say that the phrase “work-life balance” is essentially code for “reasonably class-privileged women feel guilty about everything & manifest that guilt as endless judgments against one another & complaining about how difficult it is to be true to yourself in between the latest board meeting & little madison’s ballet recital”. i’ve pretty much never heard a poor working mom get all fluttery about work-life balance. it speaks to the privileged bubble that richards lives in that this is where she took her book.

she essentially wrote nothing but an annotated bibliography. the text is a tapestry woven of other writers’ research & ideas, & at no point does richards offer anything new & original. she liberally employs barbara ehrenreich’s writing about the medicalization of childbirth & misogyny in medicine in the chapter on birth options. she synopsizes judith warner’s obnoxious perfect madness when she writes about parenting strategies. it’s as if she just camped out in the new york public library like a diligent undergraduate, read her way through a shelf on motherhood, & then regurgitated it all into a manuscript. & because she is a professional feminist, it got published. she includes only the most cursory acknowledgment that there are mothers in the world that are not white &/or class-privileged–clearly hoping to avoid falling into the trap she set for second-wave feminists in exorciating them for snubbing poor women & women of color. but her efforts here are almost painfully tokenizing, & of course, her conception of feminist history is inherently self-serving. richards herself has done rather a lot to help erase the legacy of women of color in second wave feminism by parroting back the viewpoint that they didn’t exist or were shunted to the sidelines & it’s up to the good white feminists of the third wave to welcome women of color into the movement.

richards also has an obnoxious habit of seeming to celebrate her own ignorance. again & again, she writes about how she didn’t realize how serious such & such an issue was until she got pregnant or became a mother. while i appreciate her attempts to not portray herself as an omniscient feminist overlord, some of the shit she never considered until it was directly affecting her is just embarrassing. i personally would be embarrassed to admit that i’ve been a full-time feminist for fifteen years but had never really thought before about the complications of finding good, affordable child care. i’ve written before about richards’ essay on undergoing a selective reduction when she found herself pregnant with triplets, & how she wrote about being completely unfamiliar with the concept of selective reduction until she needed one herself. really? REALLY? it’s like she’s admitting to fashioning a completely solipsistic activist career & everyone is applauding her for it!

a quote from the book that kind of sums things up: “i had read susan faludi’s backlash & considered myself well-versed in how the media systematically works to undermine women.” really? you read one of the most well-known feminist texts in the history of the english language, which is all about how the media works to undermine women, & now you’re “well-versed” in the subject? i love how she consumes the research & writing of other women & then spits it back out again, completely unadorned with her own original analysis, & claims that it’s knowledge she now possesses. if you want to read 250 pages of this kind of bargain basement “i read a book! now come to my class at the learning annex!” bullshit, this is the book for you. but if you, like me, prefer to spend your time reading books by people who can not just consume & repeat, but can also think, philosophize, & WRITE (seriously, richards is not a great writer–half the time, she employs overwrought sentence structure peppered with words that i don’t think mean what she thinks they mean, & the rest of the time, she falls into the jessica valenti camp of hyperbolizing everything until she’s not even coherent anymore), give this one a wide berth.

enter the blunderdome: HSG edition

well, i took jared to the airport on thursday morning so that he could fly off to massachusetts & present his research on historical responses to flooding in the connecticut river valley at a conference called “riverscaping”. his flight left at 7:30am, which means he had to be at the airport at 6:30am, which means we had to leave lawrence at 5:30am, which means we had to get up at 5am. jared is pretty brilliant in a lot of ways, but he has definitely has a blind spot when it comes to timing travel arrangements in a way that enables people to sleep. i was so desperate to get back home & go to bed that i was actually pushing the car up to 90 miles an hour on occasion. i’m not proud of that. it’s bad for the car & pretty dangerous for me as a driver. but i made the entire drive from the kansas city airport to lawrence in seriously about 35 minutes. that’s gotta be a record.

on friday i went in for the HSG. what a fucking experience. i was completely panicked about this test, which is an indication that i thought i had a pretty good handle on what to expect. i knew that it was all basically set up like a pelvic exam, except that the doctor would push a catheter through my cervix & use it to inject contrast dye into my reproductive system & watch the whole thing on some kind of monitor to make sure the dye was able to push through my fallopian tubes, ensuring that they are open & ready for the business of baby-making. that all sounded pretty horrible, but i had decided that i was willing to do whatever it takes, within financial reason, to get this baby thing on the road.

first i had to register at radiology. the person checking me in asked how to pronounce my last name & i explained (rhymes with my first name–see-air-uh zee-air-uh). she said, “i’ve seen that name on paperwork floating around the hospital & always wondered how it’s pronounced.”

um…what? i am literally the only person in the world with this last name. it’s not like i’m unaware that my name is going to be on various forms & papers if i go into the hospital every two weeks to have some random test done, but is it really necessary for some random registration woman to basically tell me that my personal medical info is just floating around for various hospital administrators to peruse? it reminded me of the time i went to vote, & i checked in with the registration ladies, who were like, “CIARA XYERRA! we saw that name on the list & we just couldn’t wait to meet the person with the unusual name!” uh, that’s great but maybe zip it because all this voting shit is supposed to be anonymous. i know i did it to myself by giving myself such a stupid, conspicuous name, but i really wish people would chill the fuck out about it.

anyway, after i registered, i was passed off to a nurse who walked me through the procedure, discharge instructions, consent paperwork, etc. she must have been a kindergarten teacher in a former life because she actually read every piece of paperwork out loud to me, pointing at the words like she wanted me to sound them out with her, & stopping to extrapolate on some of the more difficult concepts, like the meaning of the word “speculum”. (hint: i have one tattooed on my left arm, i think i understand the definition.) she told me the name of the doctor doing the procedure & then whispered, “you’ll really like him. he’s one of our cutest doctors!”

um…great? seriously, in what world do i give two fucks about the relative foxiness of the person that is about to jam a catheter through my cervix? is being pantsless in front of him supposed to be easier if he’s attractive? because i really don’t have a lot of feelings about being pantsless in front of people providing me with medical care, particularly gynecologic care, full stop. it’s not a big deal. & at the risk of sounding overly precious, a person is going to have to be dumbfoundingly jaw-droppingly attractive for me to notice, considering that i am dating jared, who is pretty much the cutest dude to ever walk the planet. maybe i’m just a one-dog woman, but i really don’t take note of the relative physical merits of other men. sorry, dudes.

the nurse took my vitals & sent me off to put on a hospital gown & robe. i thought about running for it–just fleeing back to my car & not getting the procedure done. but i was already checked in & i was worried that the hospital would bill my insurance anyway since i had already signed all the forms, so i followed through.

i don’t know what i was expecting. i guess i thought the whole procedure would be more like a pap smear, atmosphere-wise. paps are just done in offices, & you lay on an examining tables with stirrups & it’s all pretty chill. it’s the same room where they weigh you & take your blood pressure & stuff. it’s medical, because it’s a doctor’s office, but it’s not all hospital-y, if you know what i mean. (maybe i have just been to too many doctor offices–they don’t bother me.)

instead i was ushered into a really scary room with huge machines everywhere & half a dozen people wearing radiation vests. i laid down on a table that was free of stirrups. i just had to prop my feet up on a ledge & do my best to hold my legs steady. nurses were swarming all over me with warm blankets & cold compresses, trying to distract me from the procedure with questions about where i’m from, what i do, how i like living in kansas, whether or not i already have kids. the HSG itself hurt a bit, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as i expected it to be. it definitely wasn’t something i ever want to do again, but after hearing so many women describe it as “the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to me,” i was prepared for much worse. i had to tip my pelvis from side to side, which was really weird, & then i got a fresh blanket from the warmer & the doctor showed me the photos he’d taken. everything looked absolutely perfect. the nurses took my blood pressure again to make sure i wasn’t about to have a vaso vagal episode, & then i was free to put my pants back on & leave.

jared had told me to remember that i have his love & support, but all i could think during the procedure was that he wasn’t there, or even in the state, & i was being subjected to this huge scary machine & all these nosy hospital personnel on my own. not that he could have done anything about it…i just wanted him to be there. i went home & spent the rest of the day cuddled up with charlotte in bed, reading harry potter & the goblet of fire for the 50th time.

a caveat: of course i feel weird about posting my personal medical info all over the internet, but fertility problems are really common & it seems like people are reluctant to speak about them openly. i understand, because people really do say the stupidest things. just the other day, a friend of mine recommended that i check out taking charge of your fertility & start charting my cycle to make sure i’m timing sex at the right time for getting pregnant. *sigh* i guess people who haven’t struggled to get pregnant don’t get this, but trust me–the first thing a person does when she realizes that she’s not getting pregnant quickly is start charting to make sure she’s timing things properly. the overwhelming majority of women start charting before they ever start making doctor appointments & filling prescriptions for fertility drugs & subjecting themselves to catheters in the cervix. i’ve been charting for twelve years. that’s how i knew i had a progesterone issue. basically, i just hope that sharing my experiences with this crap can serve as an apocryphal, anecdote-based resource for other ladies that are dealing with similar problems.

& i beseech my readers who are not trying to conceive to PLEASE be mindful of what you say to those of us that are. think of infertility as any other medical situation. would you presume to tell someone with cystic fibrosis to look into percussion therapy (one of the most basic cystic fibrosis treatments)? would you suggest that a friend with a sprained ankle try the radical new therapy of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories? probably not, because you recognize that such suggestions would be presumptuous & condescending. so PLEASE don’t tell a woman with fertility issues to relax, or look into charting, or take a cruise, or get her hormone levels checked out. we either already know that shit, or know that your suggestions are useless. i know people just want to say something encouraging, but basic sympathy goes so much futher than elementary fertility 101 advice.

can a cat be a friend?

photo challenge day #4: a picture of you & your best friend.

seeing as i am 32 & not twelve, i don’t really have a best friend. but i have some tights bros.

me (with the pink hair) & jessika rae disaster.

jessika rae is the person who convinced me to start going to NCOR (national conference on organized resistance). i went for two or three years. i don’t know if it’s still being organized. if it is, i don’t think it’s happening at american university anymore. but this is jessika rae & i in washington d.c. over NCOR weekend in 2005 (i think). i’m pretty sure that was the year that an unofficial meeting of women that are in reproductive health groups took place. i was in a small reproductive health group in boston. we did things like teach workshops on fertility awareness, sell d.i.y. self-exam kits, & learn about menstrual extraction. jessika rae was going to midwifery school in maine at the time. the meeting was in the basement of a collective house & all us ladies were all sprawled out, shooting the shit about vaginas & abortions. suddenly brian crimethinc & his 90 pounds of dreadlocks appared in the doorway. we all stopped talking immediately.

“hi,” he said.

“hi,” we said. an awkward silence filled the basement.

“oh,” he said. “um…is this…like…a private meeting?”

“yeah,” we said.

he stood there for one more long awkward minute & then said, “sorry,” & went upstairs. jessika rae & i decided that it will live on forever as “that time that brian crimethinc totally tried to crash the secret reproductive health meeting.” i mean, that’s just bad security culture, you know?

this photo was taken in the back of one of the ladies’ trucks on our way to the meeting. it was all very cloak & dagger, getting directions in a parking garage & such forth. all because we were going to be talking about menstrual extraction. like it’s a federal crime or something. (it’s not.) if there’s one thing i never liked & don’t miss about hardcore anarchist organizing, it’s that whole obnoxious “what we’re doing is a super big deal & we gotta really keep our heads down because we’re so revolutionary” thing. i always thought it was embarrassingly self-aggrandizing & kind of isolating & exclusionary.

me & jared.
charlotte & i napping, late 2001

i really don’t have that many photos of myself & my friends in the same shot.

extortion is so punk rock

still taking a blogging break, but making a little time for an important issue. i know a lot of people who read this thing mainly know me through zine stuff, & people who know me that way are probably aware that i have been working on bringing to light joe biel’s (of microcosm publishing) history of misogynist abuse & manipulation for many years.

about a month ago, one of my closest friends here in lawrence, kansas agreed to organize an event called “dinner & bikes”. it was presented to her as an evening of vegan dinner & short films about bicycles & radical activism with some traveling presenters. she is not terribly involved with the zine community & didn’t know who the presenters were. a friend of hers (who DID know who joe was & WAS aware of his abuse history) had asked for a local volunteer to organize the event & jaimie offered.

when jaimie finally got the facebook event listing up, she invited me & i checked out the listing. that was the first time i knew that joe biel had anything to do with the event. the three traveling presenters were in fact joe (who has failed several accountability processes that have attempted to help him come to terms with his abusive, manipulative tendencies), his partner elly (who has viciously victim-blamed abuse survivors in her extremely vocal support of joe & equally vocal condemnations of any attempts to hold him accountable for his behavior), & a friend of theirs named josh, that i don’t know anything about.

i immediately called jaimie to fill her in on exactly what she’d been roped into doing. neither one of us knew what the best course of action was. cancel the event? but we knew they probably wouldn’t have too much trouble finding someone else to book them into another venue, either in lawrence or in nearby kansas city. allow the event to happen & disrupt it? but that would be really stressful for us, & there was no guarantee of being able to achieve a productive moment with lawrence community members who just wanted to watch some short films about bikes. eventually jaimie decided that canceling the event was the best course of action. she asked me to draft up an explanation of this decision that she could send out to invitees. i did so, & she passed it on to people. unfortunately, she didn’t remove elly as an administrator of the event before sending out the message, & elly immediately swooped in to delete the event from facebook, eliminating the event context for the messages. a few people were confused because they’d forgotten about the event or never intended to come in the first place, but…the event was canceled & that’s what mattered.

within a matter of days, the bikes & dinner tour succeeded in re-booking their event at a venue in kansas city for the evening they would have been in lawrence. done & done…right?

not quite. a few days later, jaimie received a message from elly, demanding immediate payment not only of the $150 guarantee the bikes & dinner people were initially requesting (for an event that never trasnpired, mind you), but an additional $150 because the event was canceled in “bad faith”. elly also requested a “retraction” of the cancellation message that had characterized joe’s abuse history as problematic & not something jaimie wanted to support in bringing into the lawrence community. never mind that elly had canceled the event on facebook, thereby eliminating jaimie’s access to the original invitation list…it’s not like jaimie was seriously going to retract anything to begin with.

jaimie has decided to make all of her correspondence with elly in organizing & canceling this event public. i’m re-posting it here because i think that anyone who is still financially supporting microcosm publishing or may find themselves in the position of supporting joe or elly in other ways, like organizing events for them, should be aware of what they are getting into. bear in mind that at least one of the women joe has been abusive to has actually requested that people boycott microcosm in order to stand with abuse survivors. if you still choose to support these people with your time, money, friendship, resources, et al, that is your choice, but consider this a gesture toward informed consent:

Aug 10th:
Hi my name is Jaimie Oller and I got your email address from Cait Giddings in a post from Ailecia Ruskin about wanting to bring your bike show through Lawrence, KS in Sept. I’d love to help set this up and was just looking for more information and the exact dates you were coming through town.

thanks so much!

In Good Health,
Jamie Oller, NCBTMB, CPMT, CIMT
Devoted to creating a world where every child has the chance to meet their full potential. Liddlekidz.org

**********
Hey Jamie,
Thanks for writing! We’d love to do a Dinner & Bikes event in Lawrence, if possible. We’d be there on September 22nd, and would want to do the event from 7-9. Basically, our chef serves up a fancy vegan meal for the number of people we expect, then I give a presentation about bikes and the economy, Joe shows a bunch of super short (3 minute) movies about bike culture, and that’s that.

What we need to make it happen: A darkenable-ish place with a screen or wall to project movies on (we have a projector — and a sheet we can hang up if necessary. A place for the chef to cook — doesn’t have to be a fancy kitchen, either someone’s house works or a sink & table & place to plug in his hot plate; and a guarantee to cover food, gas, etc in case only like 4 people show up and three of them forgot their wallet (it’s happened). We usually ask for $150, and organizers usually find a sponsor (local bike shop, the library, the city) to cover it if they’re worried about attendance.

Lots more at our website: http://ramblingroadshow.com

Thanks!
Elly
503 810 9443

**********

Elly,
Sounds awesome! I think that $150 is totally possible in Lawrence and I know a space that has a kitchen and a screen! let’s go ahead and set this up! and I’ll make the space reservations tomorrow. if there’s anything that needs to change, feel free to email me or FB me (Jaimie Oller). I’ll touch base again in Sept just to make sure everything is a go!

thanks so much! this sounds awesome!

In Good Health,
Jamie Oller, NCBTMB, CPMT, CIMT

**********

Jamie,
Perfect! Wow. Thanks a ton. Let me know venue details and I’ll put them up on the website and on the fb page I just made. If you want to rsvp there, I’ll make you an admin and you can switch up whatever you like: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=242560475778628

Likewise, if you need anything let me know.

Thanks again! I’m excited to go to Lawrence!
Elly

Also, what’s your address? I’ll send posters.

**********

Sept 12th:
Elle,
I wanted to let you know that after I agreed to organize this event I was made aware of Joe’s history and his failed attempts at community accountability. I really don’t feel comfortable bringing someone with his history into my community to discuss feminism or any other radical projects while ignoring his lack of accountability, and therefore I must cancel this event.
— In Good Health,
Jamie Oller, NCBTMB, CPMT, CIMT
Devoted to creating a world where every child has the chance to meet their full potential. Liddlekidz.org

**********

Sept. 13th:

Jamie,
I’m floored. And stunned. That about sums it up.
It sounds like you’ve made up your mind. So I’ve crossed that one off and we’ll work out something else for that day.
Best wishes to you.
Elly

**********

(this is the cancellation message, written by me, ciara xyerra, at jaimie’s request, that was sent to invitees of the lawrence bikes & dinner event, approximately september 13th.)

after doing the groundwork to get this event going, it came to my attention that one of the touring members, joe biel, has a long history of behaving in abusive & manipulative ways with women. he has failed mediation & three community accountability processes. i do not feel comfortable inviting such a person into our community to discuss feminism or other elements of radical activism. it’s my belief that such behaviors, particularly when coupled with a lack of accountability, help to create a culture in which survivors of abuse & misogyny are expected to take a backseat–that these issues are considered ‘personal’ & therefore irrelevant. the fact that joe’s tourmates would choose to overlook this history & bring him into communities across the country without being transparent about joe’s actions & lack of accountability calls their judgment into question as well. i don’t want to live in a community that looks the other way when it comes to abuse & misogyny, & i hope that you don’t either, so i have decided to cancel this event.

if you are interested in learning more about joe’s long history of abuse & failed accountability, here are some links:

http://alexwrekk.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/so-whats-the-deal-with-you-and-microcosm/

http://alexwrekk.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/hello-blog-hit-spike-thy-name-is-microcosmjoe-bielabusealex-wrekkboycott-or-any-combination-of-them/

http://sassyfrasscircus.tumblr.com/post/300364252/on-microcosm-publishing

for more information on radical community responses to abuse & misogyny, here are some links:

http://www.phillyspissed.net/

http://www.defenestrator.org/node/1796

http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=114

**********

Sept. 25th:
Jamie,
Please consider this email a formal request for a retraction of your defamatory statements about Joe Biel, Microcosm Publishing, and the Dinner & Bikes Tour.
Also attached is an invoice. We had agreed to a $150 guarantee for our event in Lawrence. But because for such an event we would expect to make at bare minimum $300, and because the cancellation was not in good faith, I am attaching an invoice for the larger amount. Payment is due immediately.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I hope that we do not have to take this to the next level.
Elly

**********

Sept. 28th:
Elly,
I want to let you know that you have no right to send such an email to me. I in no way agreed to pay you and you, yourself cancelled the public invite to the event and then replaced that night with another event in Kansas City. Legally speaking, you have no legs to stand on and I suggest that you act more carefully in the future before threatening legal action towards strangers.
In regards to Joe, Microcosm and your Tour: I will not be taking my statements back and if anything, will be making this threatening email public to allow others to see the bullying tactics you also use. Nothing I stated is unfounded and all of it can be proven. My suggestion is if you want folks to stop pointing out how fucked up Joe’s behavior has been in the past, maybe you should encourage him to work towards fixing it.
I will be disregarding your letter and demand for payment, as well as letting all other radical organizers in Lawrence and surrounding areas to no longer support Microcosm or any other projects that Joe or yourself may be involved in.

**********

Sept. 29th:
Jamie,
I absolutely encourage you to publish our correspondence. Sunlight is an excellent disinfectant.
Best,
Elly

**********

there you have it, folks! spread the word as you see fit!

friend appreciation month

one of my primary objectives for spinster summer was to shore up my relationships with people other than my boyfriend, & i think it’s been quite a success. i have never wanted to be one of those people who retreats into a romantic relationship. i have also never been a person who is really concerned with having a huge circle of friends. i am happy having a handful of people that i can really count on. so it’s kind of a balancing act for me to do what i have to do to keep my main partner relationship happy & healthy, & also do the emotional work of building & maintaining important friendships. it’s no secret that i have no relationship whatsoever with my mom, & once a person cuts their own mom out of their life, it gets that much easier to just bail on everyone else when the going gets tough. i do that a lot. i know people that still have good friends from high school, or even elementary school. that’s not me. i cycle through friends like other people cycle through underpants. i subconsciously put people through their paces before i let a friendship happen. it’s never a surprise to me when people say, “when i first met you, i thought you were really intimidating & stand-offish.” it’s not intentional…it’s just what i do. letting people into my life is hard for me.

wah wah wah, right? spinster summer has been a very mixed bag, but it’s made me have a newfound appreciation for the other people in my life. so i decided august will be my own personal friend appreciation month, in which i reach out to new friends & old friends alike & let them know why they are important to me & what i value about them.

let’s start with miss jessika rae disaster, my sister from another mother. i met jessika rae in the summer of 2003. she was 20, straight edge, vegan, & wicked fucking posi. i was 24, going through a divorce, & was hobbling around in a walking cast with the assistance of a cane thanks to an arthritis-related injury. i was getting divorced because my partner was finishing up his undergrad degree & talking about wanting to enter grad school, get a doctorate, & maybe become a professor. i was just not seeing myself as the long-term partner of an academic & a professor. i know, right? fast forward eight years & that’s exactly where i am. but in 2003, i had other goals. i wanted to travel & live in punk houses & organize anarchist conferences & go to basement shows. i wanted to make zines & get d.i.y. tattoos. the dynamics at play in that relationship made our plans seem like very divergent paths. i felt like i had to choose between doing what was expected & doing what i wanted. so i chose to do what i wanted.

amazing lady friend.

for the record, i still feel this weird push & pull sometimes. especially lately, looking at starting down the road of being a mom & not being able to predict how that’s going to change my life. i definitely feel like i am leaving my idealistic youth behind, which is sometimes a huge relief & sometimes a bummer. i also acknowledge that it’s probably a false dichotomy. there’s no law saying that having a kid means i can never get a tattoo or go to a show. i just know that it’s not going to be the same, & i have mixed feelings about that.

anyway, i was a mess the first time i met jessika rae. she had organized a zine fair in detroit & i was tabling my zine distro for the first time. but this was the weekend of the epic black-out that took out all the power in the eastern half of the united states for a couple of days. detroit is something of a post-apocalyptic hellscape on the best of days. this weekend was like something out of a sci-fi novel. no streetlights, no stoplights. the very few people milling around on the sidewalks were either setting off fireworks & shooting off guns. the zine fair was in the warehouse space behind trumbullplex, & it was lit with weird electric lanterns attached to generators & candles. everyone was riding bikes & playing spin the bottle & eating dumpstered snacks. i felt like i was a thousand years old with my cane. i cried a lot. jessika rae set me up in an empty room belonging to a traveling kid at trumbull. i went to bed at 8pm with a flashlight & read myself to sleep.

somehow, from this very questionable beginning, we forged a friendship. when i got home to boston, i wrote jessika rae a letter, apologizing for what a weepy, crabby mess i had been. she was totally unfazed. she wasn’t freaked out or put off at all, & we started exchanging lots of letters about feminism & mental health & bands & fucked up disappointing political shit & relationship issues. i went traveling the next summer & spent a week in detroit. i don’t remember much except for going to a soap-making workshop & thinking, “punks in the midwest wear overalls a lot. that would NEVER happen in boston.” i also remember sitting at the trumbullplex’s huge dining room table (used for collective meetings) by myself, listening to mischief brew & working on a zine based around “born to run” by bruce springsteen. then i played “stand by me” on the piano for like an hour. a few weeks later, i took a bus to bloomington for the first plan-it-x fest & jessika rae met me at the bus station & i just remember thinking, “yes. something about this moment is how i want my life to be.” i couldn’t even say exactly what it was. we spent a few scary minutes during which jessika rae couldn’t find the fest tickets for our little group of like ten weirdos, & i called her messika rae & she said, “i don’t like that.”

in the eight years since, jessika rae & i have never lived in the same town, or even the same state. but we write letters & call each other on the phone all the time. when i was in boston & she was living in maine, we visited a lot. i haven’t seen her in over three years at this point. but her presence in my life definitely helps keep me grounded. she’s gotten a lot less vegan, a lot less straight edge, & FAR less posi since we have known each other–all of which i appreciate very much. but she inspires the shit out of me & usually when i start feeling all fucked up about the choices i have made in life & getting consumed with crazy regrets, i think about jessika rae or i call her up & it makes me feel like, “yes. this is what i want my life to be.”

i encourage anyone reading this to make time to appreciate your friends. there are a million ways to let your friends know how you feel: call them up, write them postcards, sing them a song, go for a walk together. maybe your friendship has been plagued by drama & recriminations–it happens. put your shoulder into it & see what happens when you get to the other side. see if this is what you want your life to be & how your friends are showing you the way.

my history with the “allied media conference”, part two

this is part two of a multi-part history. part one is here.

jason & i started meeting once a week to hash out plans for what we decided to call the bowling green zine conference. we definitely tried to come up with a more clever name, but could never settle on anything. i publicized the event to my girl zine contacts, & he publicized to his punk zine friends. if we had a website for it, i have no recollection. back in 1999, the internet existed, of course, but it wasn’t the obvious publicity tool that it is now. i remember we made postcards for the event & sent them to everyone we could think of. if people requested more info, we mailed them a packet with out mission statement & registration form. we solicited workshops from people–stuff like “racism in the zine community,” “advertising your zine,” “how to start a zine distro,” etc.

we had naturally decided to have the event on the BGSU campus. i remember feeling weird when we made an appointment to talk to jim, the guy in charge of people requesting university buildings for events. jason asked to be in charge of making the appointment, & i guess he told jim that it would just be him at the meeting. when i asked for details of where & when the meeting was going to be, jason said he didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be there. i asked why & he explained, “well, you’re a woman. & you’re 19. i’m just worried that jim won’t take you seriously. i’m older & i have male privilege, so maybe it’s better for me to handle this on my own.” i thought that was weird because it’s not like i was intimidated by men in positions of authority. i wanted to meet with jim & be a part of all the conference-planning. in fact, it was condition of my independent study credits that i be part of it. we worked out a compromise is which jason would go to the meeting alone, & i would wait outside to hear how it went. with twelve years’ hindsight, i recognize that this was a pretty shitty compromise, but i was still really hung up on the idea that jason was older than me & knew what he was doing better than i did. this probably had a lot to do with him being my mom’s best friend. it was like i saw him as more a real grown-up than i did myself, you know?

the meeting did not go well. jim was a real asshole & steamrolled right over jason. it is also worth noting that my mom is an incredibly forceful, over-the-top personality who prefers to be friends with people she can boss around pretty easily. if jason & i had a contest over who can hold their own better against asshole authority figures on power trips, it’s a contest i would easily win. jason came out of the meeting & told me he wasn’t sure jim would let us have any university space for the conference. he suggested that we give up & have it at this weird super-liberal church space across the street. but i insisted on calling another meeting & being present for it.

at the next meeting, i guess jim tried to do the same shit he’d done in the previous meeting, lording his power over us, condescending to us, etc. jason was really quiet & kind of meek & wouldn’t make eye contact with jim. i stood up for the conference & showed him all the paperwork we had filled out & asked him to explain exactly what was wrong with our request. he backed down & when the meeting was over, i’d gotten us free all-access to the campus english building for an entire weekend, plus a bunch of forms to send to people who needed weekend housing in the dorms. i’d even talked jim into coming down on the dorm costs. i can’t exactly remember the details but he wanted to charge people something like $20 a night & i talked him down to $5. jason didn’t say anything during this meeting. he did high five me after & congratulate me on not being scared of jim. i remember being flattered at the time, but now that statement strikes me as ridiculously condescending & paternalistic.

during the organizing process, jason was becoming closer & closer with jen, the woman with whom he would go on to launch “clamor” magazine. jen didn’t live in bowling green at that time & wasn’t present for any of our conference-organizing meetings, with each other, with university officials related to spaces, or with our american studies adviser. i don’t doubt that jason & jen probably had private conversations about the conference & how it should be organized, but if jason presented any of jen’s ideas at meetings, he acted like they were his own.

he also learned from jen that another zine conference-ish thing was happening in kansas city, a few weeks before the bowling green zine conference was scheduled to happen. it was called the midwest underground media symposium. jen had been invited as some kind of special presenter or something & was being flown out free of charge. she invited jason to go as well. jason invited me & then backed out of driving at the last second in order to fly with jen. i drove to the conference with my friend nicole wolfersberger instead.

it is also worth noting that i decided during the organizing process that the spring semester of 1999 would be my last semester in college. i made plans to leave school (which included turning down a writing scholarship) & move to portland, oregon a month after our conference was over.