I'm having a wonderful time ...

but I'd rather be whistling in the dark!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Boy do I know how to digress or what?


The aftermath: Returning to MTV, P orn emails and other digressions

It was more than simply a challenge to get back into life after such a tremendous amount of excitement followed by my own tumultuous reaction to the lack of news coverage. It’s enough to make a girl want to completely give up on what she believes in. But I am no girl. I am a woman. I have made a commitment to this movement, to myself and to the other women of the world to try and make this better for all of us. Even w/ the media’s slap in the face after our event I feel more strongly than ever that I must never tire in my efforts.

Yes…I must never tire! Never! Really -I must never tire when I return to work to find my email box littered w/ spam titled “Sexually Explicit –p 0rn for you!” And “teenage farm girl virgins fuck horses –watch it live.” I will never rest, even when I turn on the TV and flip through the channels, stopping at MTV only to find Beyonce’ gyrating in next to nothing on a man’s lap, who is wearing exactly opposite of next to nothing; a 3 piece suit plus an overcoat and hat. But it just keeps getting worse. I must constantly remind myself…to…just…keep…going.

The television holds so much analyze when it comes to representations and messages about women and men. Returning to my domicile, my sanctuary I ached for the comfort and familiarity of home. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually pooped out. So what did I do? I did what so many Americans of my generation do when there is nothing else to do. I watched the idiot box to behold the litany of reality shows that have sprung up. And because I must keep going I explore in my mind the deeper messages they send beyond the usual “this is really reality” concept.

What I discovered was something other than interesting. It was simultaneously boring and trite while something like a car accident in that I just couldn’t look away. ARGH! A class of programming has emerged which covertly says to all who watch….you need to be more, do more, have more and look better while you’re at it. This specific breed includes shows like the Swan geared directly towards changing ugly women into beautiful ones (they did not do this to any men). The premise is undoubtedly insulting: if you are a woman who was ever an “ugly duckling” or made fun of EVER for the way look. The show offers to help get back at those fuckers who teased you with a total plastic surgery makeover. I watched, awestruck as they took perfectly pretty noses and change them around because somebody in the past once made so much fun of it that it absolutely positively MUST be fixed. Fixed is the operative word, because obviously there is something terribly wrong!

A second show called Average Joe attacks things from a slightly different angle but is interesting nonetheless. In this case, a gorgeous, white, single, large breasted, tall woman with legs ‘til Tuesday gets to meet with/get to know and otherwise date something like 15 average looking, white, beer-bellied, non-athletic, low self esteem guys and pick the one she wants. The premise is NEVER turned around –i.e. a gorgeous man w/ homely, round women. The woman is never unattractive, average or even a little overweight. One could conclude then that it’s okay for men to be average in body size and looks but certainly NOT for women.

The idea being marketed by these programs and broadcast media is that if you are not white, great looking, in some cases just average looking and super thin that you are definitely NOT good enough. Further, the only way anyone can truly be happy is if they actually become pretty and skinny –otherwise your life is total shit. These are healthy messages aren’t’ they? It’s as though the advertisers, marketing firms, diet supplement/program peddlers, pharmaceutical companies, plastic surgeons, health clubs and cosmetic conglomerates have decided to conspire to make every last one of us women feel we are not good enough as we are so we will invest in their products/ideas (Margaret Cho references the “turn around cream that never turns anything around”) and make the white men at the top rich mother fuckers. Hmmm…was that articulate? No –especially the mother fucker part, huh? But I meant what I said and I said what I meant, a lumpy girl’s truthful one hundred percent!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

What makes it news?
I got to thinking more and more about what makes news; what news really is, how it’s defined and who decides what is reportable and what gets quashed. To test a hypothesis I decided to pay closer attention to the statistical content of the news I heard on my local NPR station. I listened for the remainder of that week, mentally taking notes on what aspects were ever-present in the stories: what were the common threads. In particular I paid special attention announcements made at the top of the hour. Once I paid attention the “players” if you will …the common threads became utterly apparent.

Before reading my interpretation I ask you to consider the following. I do not purport to be an expert in content analysis…though I did do it for a class or two during my college years. I am, by no means a pro. For those of you who are sticklers for the scientific method or double blind studies you can forget that I attempted to analyze news content at all. For those of you who are easily amused by the random observations of a feminist blogger like me -you may care to read on.

The common threads:
1. Bad/negative news
2. Conflict
3. Violence
4. Sensationalism/scandal
5. Celebrity
6. Sex/Nudity
7. Men

Holding the march up to these standards….we essentially had no story.

1. Bad/negative news: Yes…why we were there was bad news –really bad news. As I’ve explained we hear bad news about women’s issues regularly. But really it’s only about women, it’s not like it matters, right? Plus, the fact that we had so far exceeded the expected numbers actually made it good news. So no coverage!

2. Conflict: We were pro-choice marchers and yes there were pro lifers (or those who have come to be known as anti-choice protesters) there as well. Again, as I pointed out they were 200 to our 1.15 million. They had their bullhorns and signs but there was no direct conflict between us. We passed them several times and as we did we chanted something that I can’t seem to remember verbatim. All I recall is the last bit that was something like “right to life still stays alive.” I felt good about chanting that instead of being more confrontational --we AVOIDED conflict, therefore…no coverage!

3. Violence: There simply was none. None of us wanted it. I for one took to heart what the woman had said about being a peace keeper. We simply did not engage them –even when we were told thru bullhorns to “submit back to the kitchen.” It’s laughable. And …no coverage!

4. Sensationalism/Scandal: There was nothing sensational or scandalizing happening in our nation’s capital other than the fact that we were being ignored by our president and by many in the press/media. It was sensational that all those people showed up.--but nothing to really blow out of proportion. You guessed it…no coverage!

5. Sex/nudity: As far as we could see there was no sex happening –though it may have. No coverage!

6. Celebrity: Now, this we actually did have. We had politicians like Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright. And then there were the stars…Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, Janeane Garofalo, Cybil Shepard and Julianne Moore. Of course none of them were engaging in scandalous activity that we know of. No nipple or breast exposure due to wardrobe malfunctions. Consequently…no coverage!

7. Men: I prefer to refer to this category as “the penis factor.” There were, by my estimation, about 25-30% men in attendance. I/we were really genuinely happy to see each and every one of them. It gave me hope. Amongst ourselves we had decided that because of their presence and willingness to march with and/or for us, each and every man that participated was by definition a sexy man. Still that didn’t make it a large enough number (or high enough penis factor) of men to make our march newsworthy. So…last time…NO COVERAGE!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

So much for in-depth news and unintelligent talk
All the non-coverage outraged me. For many years now I have gotten my news from NPR and felt that I was getting the promised in-depth news and intelligent talk, fair and balanced coverage of all the issues. But upon returning I searched and searched. I got nothing from my NPR station. So I picked up my pencil and wrote the following to be critical of the entire National Public Radio station:

So much for in-depth news and intelligent talk:
I attended the Rally for Women’s lives on Sunday, April 25, 2004 with over one million, one hundred fifty thousand other people.
Having left DC immediately following the rally we returned to STL 10 a.m. Monday the 26th. After hurriedly gathering our things we rushed to the car radio in anticipation of the “in-depth” coverage NPR is known for.

We had missed Morning Edition and Andrea Seabrook’s story but expected to hear, at the very least, a blurb at the top of the next hour. Much to our dismay and outrage…by the time our radios were tuned in -11 am the day AFTER the Rally, the Rally For Women’s Lives was old news. Throughout the rest of the day I listened anxiously…surely All Things Considered would go in depth. I waited w/ baited breath…and got nothing.

All the headlines read at the top of the hour had to do w/ Iraq or Afghanistan or some other war-torn country. I know these are important issues. I sympathize and want to know about them. I know they are relevant and that many Americans have loved ones there fighting for the people of those countries. But these reports are daily and on-going. We get the body counts and reports of yet more bombings almost in real time. But NPR please…what about the women who inhabit these United States? What about the women, men, children, students, mothers, fathers, daughters who traveled all that way to our nation’s capital to speak out against the travesties of justice in women’s health and welfare? Why only one story? Why not go in-depth every day as you do for so many other stories –if even for just this week? Legislation threatening to limit women’s health screenings and availability of information, education and access are up for debate in many states across the country. Why are we not hearing about this from you NPR?

Talk to me...talk to my friends, the million plus in attendance on Sunday, the politicians and celebrities that traveled across the heartland, through time zones and in some cases from one coast to the other to fight for precious rights that are threatened so severely so many would come together to protect them.

If it was not for the Diane Rehm show on Tuesday there would have been nothing more than the one report. I have been an ardent and enthusiastic supporter of NPR and my local NPR station for years. I have grown to respect and look up to the kind of reporting I hear daily. But this time I feel as though the efforts of so many has fallen on deaf ears. Like our president, you have down played, even minimized the importance of what we came together for on Sunday. It’s a shame. I thought you would have done more. I thought you would do our rally justice. I thought you, of all organizations, would be fair. I was wrong and am sorely disappointed.

Me
Stl

As it turned out I attempted 3 times to record this on the NPR listener comment line. Interestingly enough, you had to choose a show to comment on. There was no way to comment on the station as a whole. So after much editing and pacing this is what I ended up recording on the listener comment line:

So much for in-depth news and intelligent talk:
I attended the Rally for Women’s lives Sunday, April 25th w/ over one million others. Upon returning to STL I had missed Andrea Seabrook’s report on Morning Edition but expected to hear, at the very least, a blurb at the top of the next hour. Much to my dismay and outrage…by the time my radio was tuned in -11 am one day AFTER the history making Rally, the Rally For Women’s Lives was old news.

Body counts and more bombings in the Middle East are reported in almost real time on NPR. But Morning Edition please…what about the women who inhabit these United States? What about all the people, who traveled to our nation’s capital to speak out against the travesties of justice in women’s health and welfare? Legislation threatening to limit women’s health screenings, availability of information, education and access are up for debate in many states. Talk to me …and the people who were there fighting for precious rights that are so vulnerable a million plus would come together to protect them.

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of NPR and Morning Edition for years. I have grown to respect its reporting. But I feel as though the efforts of so many have fallen on deaf ears. Like our president, you have down played, even minimized the importance of what we came together for on Sunday. I thought you would do our rally justice. I thought you, of all programs, would be fair. I was wrong.

Me
STL

I was proud of myself for doing something-anything. In my heart I sincerely thought I would get a call from NPR verifying my information so they could air my comments the following week. Once again, I was wrong (I got used to it after a while). I couldn’t help but review in my mind the other 2 major marches of the last 10 years; the Million Man March (which only drew 800,000) and the Promise Keepers. Both were reported on many times leading up to and following the events. When I told people about my march both before and after...people stared blankly and didn’t know what I was talking about.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Searching for the headlines in print and audio or They can’t ignore over a million people...can they?

Daylight, the cold or the aches in my body eventually woke me up unreasonably early Monday morning. I had no idea where we were in this fine country of ours. What I do know is that we had spotted our first headline. In USA Today…known NOT for its journalistic integrity but for its continual and horribly inaccurate reporting. The headlines read “Women Rally on Mall for Abortion Rights.” They totally low-balled us estimating our group at a mere 200,000. HA! Who are they kidding?

The next papers are more encouraging and the details become more and more accurate. First we spot a Chicago Tribune w/ its headline reading “Abortion-Rights March targets Bush” and estimating the crowd size at 800,000. Finally, a New York Times front page article reading “Abortion Rights Marchers Vow to Fight Another Bush Term” most accurately counted us at over a million. Thanks NYT. I knew we could count on you for accurate reporting.

Strangely enough, the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s story titled “Bush Policies Endanger Rights, Protesters Say” was a more accurate depiction of the real reason most of us were marching. It’s not just about abortion rights. It’s not simply a matter of keeping that legal –it’s a matter of quite literally saving women’s lives; hence the march was called The March for Women’s Lives. Beth put it best when she said, and I quote (from her blog) "...the March was for so much more than abortion rights...women in this country are being denied basic health care and prescription drugs? Or that women in other parts of the world are dying because husbands and other male family members were killed in wars the U.S. started and the women are not allowed to see doctors without a male chaperone.”

When we did finally arrive in St. Louis we never did actually obtain a copy of the Washington Post. Before heading home the three of us de-bussed and bounded quickly from newsstand to newsstand, bookstore to bookstore anxiously looking for the Tribune and the Washington Post so we could each have a copy of the news that was, the news we were a part of. As it turned out, the Washington Post article was found on line –not as desirable an outcome but certainly suitable. “Women’s Rally Draws Vast Crowd” was our headline in the Post Dispatch. They gave us full credit for the 1.15 million people that attended. They wrote “…the dominant themes of the day were two. Again and again, march participants vowed that abortion was here to stay. And that Bush had to go.”

I still felt that many news sources ...the few where I actually saw coverage, really missed the mark when it came to reporting on the march. They seemed to focus completely on the abortion issue and its protesters...who incidentally numbered only 200 to our 1.15 million. Yes I was there to protect abortion rights ...but there are ever larger issues at stake. Women’s health, healthcare education and access to care are at enormous risk. There is legislation in many states (particularly my own) that threatens to cut funding for mammograms, cancer screenings and other tests that would help identify life threatening issues in women’s health. All main stream media seems to see is right to life or no right to life. It’s a shame.

We had time of it finding coverage of any kind beyond the newspaper headlines. I frantically searched CSPAN, MSNBC cable stations, local TV news stations...nothing. My rage and pain compounded. Surely I could rely on my faithful NPR to give me what I was desperately looking for.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Check this out...

Global Volunteers

I must offer my most sincere appologies to any who are bothering to tune in for my thoughts and feelings on the march --Karl, Beth, Vanessa, Seth ...anyone else?. My intention was to use this as a space to talk about that experience, among others, but I wanted it to be a lot more "polished" before I post. I realize I am not the best writer --but certainly my first drafts should be left in the trashn. Hopefully, I will end up posting some of the other things I've written -things I've already worked on. But until then --I have a long weekend coming and no computer to post on.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Any way...here we go w/ the next section...the smelly girl returns!

Vanessa, Beth and I made our way back to the bess relatively unscathed. Our spirits were high from what we had accomplished….knowing we had easily exceeded the estimated number of people expected. We knew in our hearts we had overthrown a million in some way be it small or large. Plus we will never forget the walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

--Petty things are afoot: The smelly girl and her partner have decided that they are entitled to one row each of space on the bus. They have moved other people’s things and now smelly girl is across the aisle from me. God I hope she had a shower. Any way, she shifted, so we had to shift, others had to shift and others got moved from their seats because they were booted by earlier arrivers who shifted for their own seats upon returning.

It was a bit of a conflict. The women who took tall man and icing haired girl’s seats in front of us sort of got into it w/ tall man. He insisted “We HAVE to sit together.” The new women in front of us were pretty pc saying “well someone must have shifted seats since we left.” No one said anything. They danced around it. No one wanted to say that the fat girls needed more room because they are fat. They only paid for one ticket each but decided they deserve more space. I finally just blurted out….”look, she (motioning to smelly girl) was sitting w/ her but moved up one to have her own row. That’s shifted everyone around.” Smelly girl and companion were reading books and listening to walkmans to conveniently not know what was going on. I couldn’t even make eye contact or look in that general direction because I was so livid. Tall man apologized to the new women in his seat. And everyone ignored smelly girl and her friend. BTW –she did still smell only now it was just B. O. –perhaps she did get a shower. She was still smelly though.

It was an awkward incident that had taken the wind out of my sails or rather I had allowed it to. It had diverted my attention from what I felt I had just accomplished...that more than the seat changing pissed me off. By the tine we reached STL I was okay again...but I still hold residual anger.


After that bit of drama we departed promptly at 6:15 our first stop was Bob Evan for a little dinner. Ah...protein...vegetables...yum! We changed into our bess clothes...the ones that don’t bind for easier sleeping. And...oh thank god...washed...our...hands! YEAH BABY! YEAH! Soap is a beautiful thing!

We slept easily…yet somehow completely uncomfortably thru the night. My body was aching, even my hair hurt, and I couldn’t stay asleep owing to a very cold temperature on the bess, not having ALL my clothe on (which apparently was needed) and not being able to rest my head anywhere w/o causing a major pain. Beth had her own row as she had on the way up…out of sheer luck…so she could actually curl up, lay down... almost stretch out. Lucky Beth, I’m jealous of you.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Our voices unite
To repeat a theme…Vanessa, Beth and I kept saying “are we there yet?” We wanted to yell and scream our outrage and anger to the White House and the president we did not put there. But we didn’t want to waste our voices until we were sure we were actually MARCHING or rallying or whatever it is at this point.

We approached the beginning….squeezing through the sea of millions. Each organization had a tall banner of purple, white and golden fabric that displayed each group name whether Emily’s List, Southsiders for Choice or Planned Parenthood of St. Louis. Those beautiful banners swayed proudly in the wind similar in form to those used by the suffragists who fought for women’s right to vote so many years ago. A buzz came from just ahead. We could hear a man’s voice over a bullhorn announcing each group as it joined up w/ the other marchers. We heard “Southsider’s for Choice” So it begins!

The woman holding our banner began shouting w/o a second thought. We quickly joined in “Hey, hey, ho, ho, George Bush has got to go!” over and over and over again. My voice was so loud inside my head. I almost couldn’t believe it. Were others chanting too? It was so deafening I couldn’t tell. I’d stop every few verses to make sure others were w/ me. It was almost like the fear I have when back in STL –thinking I must be the only feminist for miles. I continued to be mesmerized by the sound of my own voice, the power behind it…the sheer energy I felt rush through me as I spoke those words. I was exactly where I wanted to be; I was doing what was in my heart to do.

After walking a while my voice sounded off as if a switch had been flipped somewhere deep inside me. Our group had fallen silent for a moment and I was not satisfied w/ that. As Missourians we are from the Show Me state. What came out of my mouth in that too quiet time was what we had chanted earlier but that wasn’t gonna stop me now. I sang out “SHOW ME CHOICE! SHOW ME CHOICE! SHOW ME CHOICE! “ It only took one time of shouting it to get the group going. And I think I said it so loud I hurt myself, but I didn’t care. I just kept going. “SHOW ME CHOICE! SHOW ME CHOICE!” It felt so divine, powerful and unreal.

Pennsylvania Avenue the most powerful moment
Our chants and excitement waxed and waned and soon we lost our “Southsider’s for Choice” group; the sign had evaporated into the distance. It was just us: three women, 27, 29 and 35 side by side holding our signs and constantly moving around on the now 6 lane-wide road –Pennsylvania Avenue- trying to catch up w/ the rowdies. After all we were there to be among them.

I looked to my left and saw a large group of students (women and men) w/ bullhorns and flags and signs. They were all dressed in orange shirts w/ a star on the front to demark them as “students for choice.” So cool! They were chanting almost non-stop. “MY BODY, MY CHOICE! MY BODY, MY CHOICE! WHAT DO WE WANT? CHOICE! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? ALWAYS! SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” One after the other, on and on…it was fabulous. We joined in whenever we heard a new one or an old one…or anything really. My voice continued to resonate inside my body and mind. My sheer will moved my exhausted body, full bladder and empty stomach forward. I was NOT letting up now! We were in the home stretch. And even though I knew President Bush was spending his day at Camp David, I was clear in my purpose.

As we marched proudly down Pennsylvania Avenue we were, as I’ve established, on our own. We were situated “in the middle” of the actual march. As we came onto the six lane wide street, vast in itself, we could see the throngs of people in front of us and the masses still to follow. Vanessa, Beth and I walked 3 across, about 2 feet from one another. The nearest group ahead of us was at leas 20 feet away and those behind by not quite as much. There were stragglers here and there around us but for the most part it was just us 3 together and alone. Their voices raised, and so did ours. It did not matter that we were separated. Our voices sang!

This next part I can see in my minds eye w/ such clarity. I wish I had a picture of that. I am standing up straighter than I ever had in my life, in spite of the heavy load on my back, stuffed w/ my gay marriage sign. I had my cap on, donning sunglasses, no make up, my jeans and shirt littered w/ stickers and pins. As I had throughout the day, I unfurled my sign reading “I choose choice!” on one side and “Stand Up for Choice!” on the other. I hoisted it high above my head w/ arms outstretched. In a voice that came either from deep inside me or from far behind in years past of sisters fighting….I raised my voice and wept, feeling more powerful in that single moment than any time up until then. I was ecstatic, sad, tired, energized, overwhelmed, depleted and full of pride. I had done it. I had done something….something big…something real…something true.
Or had I?

At some point we ended up joining back up w/ the group from Kirksville, MO. Karl’s friend Bob was being as boisterous as any of the women. As we re-connected a group of students started shouting “hey Bush, you liar, your cowboy ass is fired!” I think that was my favorite chant of the day. We chanted and laughed together. I heard Bob say he'd have to remember that one for the ride home. In an instant I got a very clear picture of how different his bus experience had been compared to mine. I wish we had been a rowdy group. I wish we had chanted and helped get each other into the spirit of the march. Oh well..next time perhaps I'll get lucky.

PS –did I mention that among my two friends and myself (and occasionally other women throughout the day) we overwhelmingly decided every man present was a sexy man simply because they were willing to join us. Here’s to you Bob!

If you have missed it, I did go back and post the story of the smelly girl. It is among my first writings here in blog land.