Do You, Boo: A Pro-Woman Rallying Cry


I have a confession to make. I love hanging out with dudes way more than women. I’d rather drink beer than wine or mimosas and I’ll never be caught dead in Chanel. I hate shopping. All of these things are things my favorite girlfriends love to do. As the resident shithead in the bunch, I’m pro-freedom, which just means I’m a horrible enabler, but I’d like to make a case for why we should all be enablers for our fellow sisters so that I can finally hang out with my girls more often. I’m selfish like that.

Repeat after me: “do you, boo!”

Now say it hundreds of times a day to the rest of the women.

Thinking about critiquing another woman’s outfit?

“Do you, boo!”

About to issue some unsolicited feminism rant to your stay at home mom friend?

“Do you, boo!” And then maybe offer to babysit.

Wanna repeat some advice you read in Cosmo about how to get a man by changing everything about yourself.


Then say, “do you, boo!”

If you are a woman, and you were socialized to be female, you’ve probably sat around and had other women tell you all the ways you are inadequate for not being them.

“Well, I did this form of therapy, and you really should try it because you’re not really trying to heal if you don’t!”

Nope. When I tell you I’m gonna make art and hang out at church instead of going to therapy, the only response you should have is “do you, boo!”

“No man is gonna love you dressed like that!”

They have no idea what clothes we are wearing, you guys. They don’t care and we shouldn’t let them dictate that anyway. The new best response to outfit decision making is just, “do you, boo!”

“I heard that if you don’t eat vegan you get fat! You should eat like me!”

The only appropriate response to food choices is now, “do you, boo!”

“Time-outs are oppression, you really should do what I do with your kid.”

Stop projecting your bad advice on to others unless you are willing to learn in exchange. And seriously, you have no idea what you are doing because literally none of us knows what we are doing.

This is the core of the Mommy Wars. It’s the core of women’s magazines and if I had a nickel for every time one of my fellow sisters tried to tell me I shouldn’t stand in my truth, I’d have already invested it and become filthy rich so I could write.

It’s probably the worst part about being socialized female and it’s even worse, if god forbid, you don’t fit a stereotypically feminine mold. I’ve been talking about doing stand up for weeks now only to get more push-back from other women than from the men, which I think is both hilarious and deeply disturbing. I look like a girl but I’m more comfortable in a dive bar playing pool. This doesn’t mean I don’t love my sisters in the wine bar.

I don’t want to turn this into a rant because we all suffer under this regime, so instead, I’d like to remind you that when a friend is doing something differently from you, it in no way invalidates you.

You can just say, “do you boo!”

And be cool with it.

For instance, instead of telling other women what will or won’t get them a man, you could say: “do you boo and if he don’t love you the way you are, fuck that noise.”

This is how my male friends are. They don’t change for anybody. They give no fucks about what other people think. I once had a pair of 17 year old boys tell me that if a woman really loved them, they’d be cool with them sleeping in 2 hour shifts and would have to “just deal with it.” This is why I love hanging out with men so much, they remind me to not give any fucks. We could easily do the same, if we all started reinforcing each other.

So. Do you, boo.

I’m starting to think most of our anxiety can be tied back to the ways we are socialized to gaslight each other and the only people that benefit are the men because we are too busy hating ourselves to organize and get together. Except that most of the men aren’t trying to oppress us either and they suffer from our low self esteem as well. Every time a man mentions his girl’s anxiety problem, I’m just like, “how the hell do you think she got that way. ” This is why women need compliments so much and it’s also why one of the ways I demonstrate my affection is to compliment them constantly, because otherwise we sit around in our heads and listen to every bad voice that has heard us without a counter plot. So join the real feminist conspiracy by being good to each other.

Tearing each other’s self esteem down is the root of so much marginalization. If you are too busy hating yourself to get anything done, you can’t get anything done. It’s been a highly successful tactic and it is a colossal waste of my mental energy and yours. I’m starting to clear out those nasty little voices, by simply saying, “do you, boo.” We need to love each other more than we do. And if the men really loved us, they’d say the same. So tell your man to say, “do you, boo” too.

We’ve gotta stop shitting on each other.

So the next time you are thinking about critiquing your friend, ask yourself, “is this in any way harmful to me or am I just uncomfortable because it is making me question my choices?”

If it’s not harming anyone, hush and then say, “do you boo.”


Community, Community, Community is Going to be my new Mantra


I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we approach community, and each other. This generation feels isolated, disconnected.

Are we really alone in this struggle?

The enormity of the struggle seems real, even my rich friends with good jobs can’t afford rent.

We judge our friends who struggle and whose lives aren’t picture perfect on Facebook. We forget that Facebook is all just an elaborate series of lies.

In college, I tried to look out for everyone. Pass out on the couch? That’s what I keep an extra blanket for. Too drunk to consent, guess who is getting some snacks and a walk home. Need to be put to bed after a rough night? Only after a glass of water.

This is a deeply embedded part of my ethos. WE look after each other to survive, that’s what community is supposed to be and what worries me is that we’ve attempted to replace this with underpaid workers. Love isn’t replaceable. There is no price you can pay that replace the love of someone holding your hair back.

My generation is so starved for actual love, I’m tempted to go around the country taking care of the same people I’ve been taking care of the whole time.

That’s a joke, obviously, but the community I grew up in and built is full of misfits, orphans and some of the brightest and most beautiful minds you’ll ever meet.

And we are drowning.

Sometimes I feel like I’m slipping under water while rocks get thrown at me. Usually I’m trying to also carry others to the shore but lately I’ve just been threading water trying to survive. I wish I had the answers this time but I don’t.

But here’s how I’m coping: I’m trying to spread as much love as I can. And this is the small acts of kindness. It feels good to remind myself that I have the power to do for others but it’s also about building the communities we’ve destroyed. Those communities take work and they take more than one person to build but what comforts me as I talk to others is knowing that everyone else wants this too.

So how?

Just start talking.

Leave the house.

Help where and when you can.

Talk about everything but politics for a while. The trolls can have it out while the rest of us have snacks.

Literally all of us needs to sleep more and eat better. And we need to remember that food used to be a social occasion.

Do frontline service work, on a local level (this means you actually serve people).

Join a civic organization, preferably one with older people involved, so you get reminded that life is long and there are things much bigger than you in the world.

Our generation isn’t so much selfish and narcissistic as we are completely confused as to how to build communities. A bunch of latch-key kids obsessed with performance and success, each of us are running on a hamster wheel going nowhere.

We could get off the wheel, band together and figure out how to escape the cage.

But that means talking to each other and that also means we stop pretending everything is ok.

I tell lies on social media. So do you. And social media can’t replace real community.

How I’m Learning to Fall Back in Love with my Scars


I heard the click of the bic lighter, a sound I would later come to pretend to love and then I saw the flames.

It’s one of those cute stories I used to tell. That time I put a fire in a diaper out. At first I forgot about the lighter. I blamed it on a faulty furnace. I forgot where the burn scars came from, scars that only some of my more observant lovers would notice. They are actually all over my body and I remember now how I treated them myself. A cold shower flushed the plastic down the drain, but the scars remained.

I issued excuses, and then covered those up. It’s all a series of elaborate lies. I could lie so easily, my intelligence and respectability, my pale skin acting as a kind of alibi only I would ever have to live with.

Now it’s all of you who will need the alibis.

Only once did they ever ask questions, my body seems to know how to hide. My body knows how dangerous the truth can be, maybe that’s why I’d fall in love with the truth later as an adult. Maybe that’s why I went looking for it.

And so here I am today, thinking about how best to cover up defensive wounds on my wrist from that Christmas they tried to kill me. I remember how they got there now and I used to be grateful only those with the right background could see they weren’t self inflicted. Pretty clear defensive wounds, kids. I wasn’t kidding about some of my skill sets. I got them from the father in died in prison for selling the same drugs you are now all entrepreneurs for selling.

I lied because I had no choice and you can call that convenient but I know my brain is magic because the truth only came when it started to be safe. All right, I lied again. It came a little sooner than I would have liked but that’s the way my brain handles things. I’m not in control of it and that has turned out to be the greatest miracle of all.

Or so I thought.

Then I got reminded how much pain my scars could cause.

I could lie but the truth should be obvious now. I can play CSI on myself. I change the subject and pretend to be normal. Do the scars or the Stanford degrees come first?

No one seems able to process both.

So from now on you’ll have to listen to those stories about each scar because each and every single one of them is proof that I belonged at Stanford in the first place.

You did extracurriculars. I survived murder attempts and rape.

I’m not going to apologize for that. I won’t be backing down or lying anymore. I’m here because my own brilliance saved me from multuple attempts on my life.

My ability to get back up and laugh after rapes can be called madness all you like but it’s also why I’m an unstoppable force. I refuse to apologize for that either.

I’m going to stop apologizing for my pain. I’m going to start falling back in love with my scars. I know who I am and I’m not going to be told what to hide anymore. Choose to deal with it or don’t. I can’t help you there.

But if you want to know how to survive, how to thrive even, when everyone around you is mad enough to light babies on fire, I’m your girl.

The answer to the question of how I’ve survived seems to be jokes, music and love. Little acts of kindness made by people who didn’t have the power, fallen soldiers in a war we lost before I was even born. I got conscripted before I even had a choice, like my ancestors before never, going further back than I even know. We come by our stubbornness honestly, because what other choice is there? They said give me liberty or give me death, and too many people weren’t given the choice at all. I’ve always been more of a lover but that’s a weapon too when the whole world wants war and the struggle is against anger, pain and hate. They called me stubborn, and I call that still being alive. That stubbornness was all passed down from ancestors who survived long enough to keep me alive.

My body is all the more beautiful because it has been marked by monsters that fell long before they could take me with them and I’m going to fall back in love with it even when no one else can handle it.

It’s not my concern anymore whether or not it hurts you because maybe you need to know discomfort. There is beauty in this kind of madness. I wonder sometimes how much beauty the rest miss out on because they are so afraid of being anything other than normal.

But I can’t make you see what is patently obvious to me.

This is centuries of the human condition. I wasn’t the first fire. I won’t be the last one sold. This isn’t an unfamiliar story, it’s just one that never gets told.

I’m almost bored by it these days. It makes you forget your social graces.

“Oh shit, was it just inappropriate to mention the murders I witnessed. My bad.”

That’s my mundane.

And I’m not sorry about it.

And the reason I’m not sorry is because despite this, I’m still standing, and laughing my ass off at this whole charade.

That’s a choice.

It’s always a choice you have.

So make that choice like your life and the lives of everyone depends on it.

Those scars, they aren’t going anywhere but if they remind you to love they are beautiful, and you should demand love for them.

The Best Gift my Pain Gives me


A bunch of people died so I’ve been quietly mourning. I decided I didn’t want to be a burden. That’s how I roll. It’s failing miserably.

I could tell you about my mourning but I won’t. My body count is mounting and it’s been growing for years and I’m tired in a way I can’t explain.

If I went to every funeral, I’d never have time to do anything else. And my jokes are so morbid now that no one hears them as jokes anymore but me.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

Sometimes I lose hope.

But I can’t. It’s not allowed. Because most of the time that hope is the only thing standing in the way of destruction.

Sometimes I dream about running off into the forest and just reading Rousseau style so I don’t have to cope with humanity anymore.

I straight don’t have the balls to pull it off.

So, I’m trying to rebuild the things we destroyed and I don’t know how they got ruined. I’m running around listening to the pain and isolation all of us are experiencing.

We’ve forgotten how to be friends in our efforts to be perfect.

We put on the brave face and fill social media and our conversations with bullshit. We lie and pretend to be normal.

Our generation’s real claim to fame might be how absolutely full of shit we all are. We’ve all become PR pros. It is destroying all of us.

We’ve ruined communities in favor of pretending we can be completely independent. None of us know how to listen because we are so terrified of how what we say will look.

We’ve made dating a ridiculous charade where none of us knows how to love anymore, where apps have replaced any sense of real love. Swipe left, fuck badly and pretend it’s fun. Cry and repeat.

We’ve replaced friendships with drive-by conversations we put on each other’s walls as if it is the same as the salons of the past. As if it is the same as showing up and laughing in person.

We’ve destroyed whole relationships in the name of what? You know the ideological game is nonsense? RIGHT?!

I can’t care anymore. It’s all so absurd. We are past satire and I know what that means historically and the only good news I have is that we have the power, only collectively, to change it.

I was hoping I wasn’t going to be part of a generation where absurdism won the day but maybe it’s right because my life is so damn absurd. And it’s absurdity that makes me laugh the most.

These aren’t good signs.

And before you ask, this has nothing to do with the presidency or the Republicans. This has been our trajectory for some time and our cultural problems have been there for a while. The conservatives just caught on to the game faster than the left did. I’m pleading with everyone to wake up.

“Progress” is not inevitable and nothing is coming to save us. I hope that empowers you because we actually have the power to control the culture around us.

All of this: institutions, culture, community are nothing more than a group of people. So stop acting as though these forces are outside of you. Indeed, they are all of us. In every moment, in every way.

Neither side is right. There are so many sides. None of this matters as much as sharing food with one another.

Please tell me someone knows this fighting with the people we love about ideas that shouldn’t divide us is bullshit because I can’t keep pretending?

We have to stop the circus.

We have to stop the charade.

Because I can’t keep watching the best of us destroy ourselves any longer.

And I have a solution….

No I don’t.

I have suggestions I hope you will all think about.

I can’t carry this alone. I can’t do this alone anymore and neither can any of you.

So here’s what I’m proposing.

I’m proposing that the best solution to my problems and yours is to love each other like our lives depend on it.

Because lord knows they do.

And the rest of it, is meaningless. We work to survive and to occupy our our time. We work to feel useful.

But maybe it’s time we start living for each other instead.

Because I think we could have saved some of us. I think we could have done it through love.

I think our ideologies could succeed better through love.

War has been tried. Anger has been done. Hate is so boring to me now I can’t take it anymore.

I don’t know how to be mean anymore.

I don’t have the capacity to hate anymore.

The only thing I have left is my capacity to love.

And they call me crazy for it.

They call me weak.

They claim I don’t understand the nature of oppression. The nature of oppression is hate.

It’s my pain that makes me like this. You see enough dead bodies and you start to value life. Take enough beatings and you can’t watch other people take them either. Be surrounded by enough hate and you learn to love to survive.

I’m beginning to think that maybe that pain is a blessing. That maybe the energy I no longer have to hate is gone for a good reason.

I keep getting told that my love is why they hurt me but they hurt me when I hated too. And if they will hurt me anyway, I’d rather go down for love.

I know who I am. The thing I am always proudest of is that they did everything they could to take my capacity to love from me and they couldn’t.

I’m going to the grave with a love that I hope that everyone understands, because it has been so much more powerful than my hate and anger.

And you can quote whatever study you want to me, but I didn’t need a study to know that love is what has kept me alive despite my PTSD.

I know what has been keeping alive.

And it isn’t my anger. It is my love.

It is the joy I feel helping others and feeling like I’m a small, meaningless, insignificant person in a vast universe where nothing matters except how hard I tried to love in this vast absurdity. It is all meaningless but it is all still so goddamn beautiful. This existence is the most ridiculous and loveliest miracle of all time and it has been for all time.

And the worst thing our generation has done is we tried to shed that love in the name of the self. We shed it for rationality. We laughed at it and patted ourselves on the back for our inability to feel. We are proud of the communities we destroyed.

I don’t have all the solutions but I know something for a fact.

We need each other.

We need love.

We are not going to thrive or survive on our own.

We aren’t good feminists for leaving half our community out and not taking care of each other. Feminism wasn’t about independence, it was about acknowledging that our world needs us to provide leadership that emphasizes love and community. It’s a heavy responsibility but all of us are responsible for this world we are in.

Our men might be happy at work but each and every single one of them needs warmth. And we need them to lead. We need them to remember their strength because they need it too. We need them to remember their responsibilities to their communities. The burden is easier when we carry it together.

I’ve never been so scared for us.

And there is no technology that can save us from this.

And I don’t know how else to ask for this:

But I’m begging each and every single one of you to set aside your ideologies and PR and rebuild the communities we need.

Not ideologically.

Not tribally.

Not for work reasons.

But because the best thing I learned from being poor is that the only way to get the cup of sugar you need is to love the person you are asking it from.

And now two Stanford degrees later I don’t know how to teach everyone of us to ask for sugar.

It seems like we can replace these things with professionals, but there is no replacement for love.

I’m telling you, I’m being honest now. I’ll be the one to say it, if I have to: none of us are ok right now.

There is only one cure.

It’s love.

An unconditional love that follows you through the moments you don’t post on Facebook. It’s the kind of love you have when staring down the face the of monsters. This is going to be carried in on the backs of warriors for love. And we need each and every single one of us to carry some of the load.

It’s the kind of love that doesn’t ask us for anything but our truth. Our truth is dark and painful sometimes but it is gorgeous too and I’d rather hear it than watch a sea of glossy lies while I watch the best people I know forget who they are and who they were meant to be.

I’m not watching the best of us destroy ourselves.

I won’t.

I can’t.

If the best thing I contribute in this lifetime is my love, I’ll be happy.

Because there’s no point in saving the body when the soul is gone.

I’m going to find that soul again because I refuse to believe we are are the sheep and robots they tried to turn us into.

And maybe the real rebellion is to be as human as we can be.

I’m human.

So are you.

And it is so fucking beautiful, and I just wanted to be the one to tell you that.

Because there is still time for us.

And in case you didn’t know

I’ll love you no matter what

Because I don’t know how to do anything else.

And that is the greatest gift my pain has given me.

I Hate Most of You, But I Still Wouldn’t Let Trump Kill You


Let me explain something to you, to all of you on the left. I hate the vast majority of you. I think your ideologies are stupid and that half the time you are acting as the oppressor. Every single leftist connected group and organization has does something actively horrible and oppressive, personally, to me over the last 28 years. But if Trump tries to oppress you, I still consider it my responsibility to try to stop it the best I can, because that’s what a real leader does.

I ain’t Mexican but if Trump comes for Mexican people I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him come for the Mexican people I love, and if you don’t have anyone who fits that demographic that you love, maybe you are the problem.

I ain’t queer but if Trump comes for queer people, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him come for the queer people that I love and if  you don’t feel that way about people you claim to love, maybe you are part of the problem.

I ain’t black but if Trump comes for black people, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him do that shit on my watch without any opposition. You don’t come for people I love without my fighting like hell for you.

I have people I love in every marginalized group in the leftist coalition and I have since I was a kid and we fucking look out for each other. He comes for one of us, he comes for all of us.

But even if I didn’t have people that I loved in these categories, even if I hadn’t experienced poverty and gender violence and oppression firsthand, I would still fight anyone who would seek to hurt other human beings because that is the right thing to do. It is just the right thing to do. Everything I have ever done in social justice has been for someone else. I did not benefit in any tangible way from starting FLIP. I alienated myself socially, professionally, and personally defending the marginalized. I have a list of actual physical beatings I have taken for other people and injuries I’ve endured defending the defenseless. I did this stuff while I was homeless, while I was sick, while I was myself being tortured and abused. I don’t do any of this shit for me or what I can get out of it and I sure as fuck don’t do it for my mental health. This is service, if you aren’t willing to do it, that’s fine. This isn’t for everyone and I respect that, but if you call yourself a leader then the first thing you need to learn is that it isn’t about you. If your work costs you nothing, I doubt it is as subversive as you think it is.


I don’t stand in solidarity with specific groups or ideologies. I don’t have particularly strong affinities for any of your parties or for the work that most of the left does. I’ve never had a home on the left, and the left has done almost as much to oppress me as the conservatives. I do my work in solidarity with the people and the children. If you can’t handle doing that, it’s not something I would brag about and it certainly isn’t a legitimate policy position for a movement to have.


And before you lecture me about self care, I don’t want to hear it. I’ve been going through a hell that none of you can even imagine over the last month and I have still managed to be strategic and thoughtful in my organizing. Let me tell you about some memories that I’ve been battling over the last month and half since Trump has been elected and you guys have been whining about the mourning you still have to while giving a fascist advanced warning of terrorist acts that you half-assedly planned. I’ll name just three, but there are more. 1) It turns out that my family has tried to kill me on four separate occasions all occurring before the age of 13, two of which happened when I was an infant. 2) When I was 9, I was so violently raped by my father as punishment for resisting his advances that I needed 6 stitches in my vagina. My own mother helped him cover it up. 3) I was trafficked as a child more than once , at least as early as 8.

I’ve been spending the last month and half processing all of that while listening you guys whine and complain and give privilege lectures, and you guys can’t even be bothered to properly plan things so that you don’t screw over the working class with your bullshit. So look, if you don’t want to stand in solidarity with all childhood trafficking victims, and everyone who has gone hungry and anyone who might be the target of state repression, then fine. Now you are corroborating with the oppression of others. And if you are doing that, frankly, I’m not terribly interested in your help or your opinion about anything.

Don’t you think it works to Trump’s interest if we are constantly doing this to each other? They are planning for us to do this and you are playing right into their hands. Divide and conquer is a very old strategy indeed. But you guys aren’t actually interested in doing anything to stop him are you? Because you live in a magical land where the consequences never affect you and where the working class will take all of the bullets for you anyway. You’ve lived there for so long that you can’t even properly plan basic safety tips for a protest during a Republican administration. We don’t need more “leaders” who put their own needs first. We don’t need more “leaders” who expect other people to act as their cannon fodder or pawns. That is not good leadership, that is childish. This is service. You are here to serve. If you are not here to serve then WE DON’T NEED YOU. You are no good to us until you get the ability to make decisions that will put other people’s needs first. Social justice is not a brand. It is not a t-shirt you put on or something you wear when it is convenient. Social justice is about liberating the actual people who aren’t free yet, and if you have the luxury to say, “I won’t be disciplined and thoughtful enough to do what is needed to free the most people that I can” or “I won’t be adult enough to put aside my own feelings for the good of others in the name of liberation” then I don’t know what form of imprisonment you’ve experienced but it was very different from the one I experienced.

When you are hungry, there is no room for error.

When they can and do torture you, there is no room for error.

When the consequence is death, there is no room for error.

When rape is a form of punishment, there is no room for error.

You sure as fuck don’t make mistakes because you are too lazy to plan if it means someone is going to kill you, what is even more monstrous is to make these mistakes on someone else’s behalf when the consequences don’t affect you. Do you know what it is like to be threatened with someone else’s pain and to offer to take the beating instead? I do.

My bottom line is this:  all this theoretical bullshit was fine when it was on your college campuses and no one was getting hurt. But if you become a reason that people might get hurt, even if it’s because you are incompetent instead of just straight evil, then you are right that we aren’t in solidarity with each other. Because I consider you part of the problem and you can either get your shit together or else you can find out just how fiercely I fight on behalf of the oppressed.

Here’s something I know about all of you, you hit like a bitch.


Some Coping Mechanisms in the Dark

I’m seeing a lot of posts that make me…. a bit worried about everyone’s ability to cope with what lies in front of us.
If Hilary Clinton had been elected, we still would have had LOTS of work to do. The process of fighting oppression is a lifelong struggle you can’t expect will end. We need to be playing the long game and we need to be able to cope and function under more severe repression and oppression. Because none of these systems are going away in our lifetime. Oppression is much older than us and it will be here long after we’ve turned to dust.
I KNOW everyone is tired. I am too, I’ve never NOT been tired in my life. And its legitimate, I really wish and will put my own life on the line to give people the kind of world where we don’t have to do this stuff, but we don’t live in that world and we never have and now things are about to get much worse.
I’ve endured horrifying conditions in my life. I was starved, beaten and raped as a child and abused throughout my life. I was silenced, beaten down and unsupported after my childhood by the elites. I have had to sustain some coping mechanisms to come out of that functional. I’m not telling you how to feel but I hope I can help make this easier to cope with. Here are some tools I used to cope in the face of evil.
1) I try to find joy in the darkness, so I look for beauty in human beings and art and comedy. I try to laugh constantly.
2) I do the things I CAN do to fight what I can. I don’t expect to win every time, but the fact that I am moving towards a tangible goal makes it easier and over time is how the world gets better.
3) I remember that I come from a long line of sufferers who have continued to pass on beauty despite suffering. We all stand here on the backs of people who endured despite the odds. Existence is an insane and beautiful miracle. I often turn to science, nature and good humans to be reminded of that.
4) I try to turn my emotions into actions. Anger is useful and good, if it propels us to challenge the system, but only if we address that anger effectively and constructively.
5) I continuously try to create; for agency, so that I can make beauty when its hard to see it, and so that I feel I am contributing.
6) I reach out to my community and try to build bridges so that there are support networks.
7) I study history so I can understand the long game and my role in it
8) I accept responsibility for changing the world, even in small ways through my actions.
9) I approach this work with a an ethos of love. Now, we have a misunderstanding about the ethos of love. Real love isn’t about being comfortable or not being challenged, real love is about relentlessly believing in the good of others even when they can’t see it for themselves, it also means working towards continual growth.
10) I am constantly trying to draw strength from the amazingness of those around me and when I can, I try to lift others up.

PSA: Hook Up Culture, Not Actually Mandatory


Ah hook up culture, the bane of my millennial existence. I’m still friends with a number of my former students, because some genius thought it was a good idea for me to be teaching kids 5 years younger than me. It was, because I’ve gotten the immediate satisfaction of watching them become incredibly cool adults. Most of them are more adult-y than I am, but I’m pretty sure that this is just my personality and we’ll be continuing to use that excuse until I’m 80 and we start using senility as an excuse for what has been a very consistent pattern of behavior. In any case, I have the pleasure of being near enough to their age to get what they are dealing with but far enough to have made and seen enough mistakes to warn them. Not a single discussion has gone by this year that wasn’t about how much they hate hook up culture and how much they wish they didn’t have to participate in it.


I never managed to successfully hook up with people when I was single, it all inadvertently became a relationship, so I actually told my friends I was no longer hooking up with people to avoid relationships, which is a level of commitment phobia that made even my most player-y male friends disturbed. So I can approach this from their perspective and I still get to say that it sucks. The thing is, as a commitment-phobe and sexual abuse survivor, hook up culture made it possible for me to be very casual about two things that none of us are actually successfully casual about. I realized, very, very recently, that I had engaged in most of my consensual sexual activities while disassociating because it was the way I brought myself to being able to let people I didn’t particularly trust or like touch me. That and lots and lots of alcohol. So you say sexual abuse survivor and you expect that, but this is a lot more common than we think it is. I have lots of friends with very happy childhoods who report the same experience. So I decided the healthier thing was not to do it anymore, the hook up thing, I mean. So I stopped.


When I was coming of age, this behavior was supposed to be both enlightening and liberating. Finally, women could fuck people they didn’t know or like too! HOORAY FEMINISM! Or something. I’m not really sure, I just know that it was very much part of the cultural expectations. And it’s not because dudes are assholes, because ultimately they’ll try to get away with having sex with the lowest level of commitment possible if they can. The reason for this is many, but one of the big ones that tends to get overlooked is that we get married much, much later than we used to. We have about a decade or more (pending on when you started having sex) where getting into a serious relationship IS A VERY BAD IDEA but we are still human and want to get laid. Most dudes don’t want to do the hook up thing forever, just until they reach an age where they are comfortable with a relationship that might lead to marriage. For college-educated folks, this age generally starts around 26, 27. Which means that in the interim, we all have to find a way to satisfy basic cuddling needs without accidently getting serious with anyone before the socially sensible time. It also means, that a lot of us don’t date the people we could see as a marriage material until we are at this age. Which has led to a lot of confusion for a lot of really wonderful people that I know. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, these are sensible, thoughtful decisions so long as the hook up thing doesn’t bother you, but if you have feelings and don’t drink, my guess is that it’s hard to be intimate with strangers you don’t like. I mean, I just don’t have that level of self-control.


One of my former students felt so much pressure that she asked me if it was ok for her not to have one-night stands. That’s right, folks, I had a beautiful, intelligent, well educated, professional young woman ask me if it was ok if she didn’t do something that felt right for her body because the culture is so pervasive and powerful that is not socially acceptable for her not to. So I just wanted to be the adult in the room that said this: No, you don’t have to do anything that doesn’t nourish you. And any guy that isn’t willing to wait to have sex with you until you are comfortable and trust him doesn’t deserve to be having sex with you at all. If hooking up with people makes you empowered and happy, I say go for it! That’s awesome! I support you! YAY SEX! But what is empowering to one person isn’t empowering for others.


Millennials are very confused about relationships. We grew up in the aftermath of divorce becoming commonplace and the in the shadow of the sexual revolution. We now have to negotiate a world that has fewer and more nebulous rules. But there is one rule we can all agree to, no one gets to tell you what to do with your body and sexuality. If it makes you feel more empowered and comfortable telling dudes you aren’t sleeping with them until they make feel safe, however long that is, then do that.


I’d apologize to my still single male friends for spreading the word around, but they’ll have to admit first that they’ve complained about this culture to me too and that at the end of the day, they want the girls they are sleeping with to be happy and comfortable too. I’m not sure what to do about the “still need to get laid” problem, but I think we can start by being honest with each other and ourselves.

The Things that Set Us Free: Reflections on Opposition to my Cross-Class Relationship


When I was 22, in the careless days of my mostly drunken youth, I was coming out of relationship with someone, who for a variety of reasons, wasn’t terribly cool about my class background. Which had grown to be pretty standard operating procedure; I had grown to expect my best-case scenario to not be treated like nuclear waste. The words “damaged goods” had been used more than onceThings had gotten so bad that I was mostly just grateful when they managed to make it through a half an hour without saying anything terribly offensive. And if they laughed? I was so starved for the way love is expressed through laugher that I fell in love with just about anyone who laughed before they expressed horror. This experience and four years of frustrating battles with my peers and staff at Stanford had turned me into a cynical, angry, radical pain in the ass. After ending a relationship with one of the most stereotypical privileged white male social justice dudes (hereafter known as PWD) you’ve ever met, after having him spit venom at my sister and refuse to come with me to funerals when I needed him, and of him crying about how hard his life was, while I was just trying to keep my students and myself alive, I said something stupid which now has come back to get its karmic retribution. I said I wasn’t going to date privileged men anymore. At first I was joking, then I started saying it out of spite so that I could horrify my female peers, then I became deadly serious. Those of you who have followed my blog the last several years will remember this as the relationship I had to flee from last year.


There were a lot of reasons why PWD didn’t work out when I was younger, and one of them was that our class backgrounds were so vastly different and he was deeply disturbed by mine. This is probably normal; hanging out with me is like having to deal with cognitive dissonance whiplash all day. I’m sure it was stressful and frustrating and because this person lacked empathy and context and I recognize that it was trying. I also recognize after almost two years of a relationship that made me hate myself that my banning of his “kind” was probably justified as a reaction to the fact that actually he had been incredibly causal and self-righteous about being emotionally abusive. The problem with that reaction is that it lumped a whole group of men together, that shouldn’t have been lumped together and that I, of all people, should have known better.


The relationship I fled from, didn’t work for a variety of reasons. We have very different approaches and attitudes towards life. It turns out that I reserve my kindness and patience for my students and seem to have a much harder time accepting and making excuses for dudes when they don’t perform like me. He didn’t want the kind of intellectual life I wanted and admittedly, it probably is pretty draining to hang out with me ALL DAY and listen to the insane variety of thoughts and reading I do and have to try to keep me intellectually entertained, especially because in my case, boredom leads to depression. Which is to say, that part of the reason our relationship didn’t work was the also the difference in our class backgrounds. We had grown up in the same neighborhood, but I was too far into being a Stanford alum for us to work. There was no way to go back once I left and I never fully belonged in the first place.


So I left that and I moved down to LA. I started hanging out with Ross, as friends for a long time. We had a lot conversations about what words meant because it turned out that words meant different things to us because our backgrounds were so different. But the point was that he had the conversation. We also had conversations about what words meant because we both have the intellectual habit of needing to pick apart words. My past isn’t exactly easy for me to hide (I may be white but no one believes my ass didn’t grow up poor, even when I’m trying to pass it takes the average rich person about 5 minutes to figure out I am not one of them, less if they are exceptionally smart or wise or if I’m not trying really hard to code switch) and Ross had read a lot of my writing for a long time. He read my memoir in its initial draft and I kept sort of expecting him to have the kind of breakdown guys used to have. I mean, I’m used to making dudes cry because of my childhood. So used to it in fact that I stopped talking about it, not because its triggering or unpleasant for me but mostly because it is unpleasant for everyone else. The breakdown I was expecting him to have never occurred, and I could tell you its partially because he’s technically a deviant among the rich and has always hung out with working class people or because he’s an incredibly imaginative writer but both of those don’t get at the root of it, which is that he’s just incredibly empathetic and sees people as people. And if I were still the same 22 year old shithead I once was, I probably would have seen none of it.


Since I had only strayed far from my own class background and only seriously once when I was much younger and no one believed there was any danger of me settling down with anyone, I sort of didn’t expect any backlash from my friends about this. I mean, for inter-racial stuff, sure. I expected that. We don’t talk about these cross-class relationships often, sometimes we talk about mixed-race relationships but given that Ross is Jewish and I’m mostly just trailor trash with some native thrown in and therefore incredibly pale, we didn’t really have the cross-race issues. Although Ross was raised Jewish and I was raised by “recovering Catholics” our actual religious and political views are very neatly aligned. Although we still have conversations about culture and I will never understand the way Ross experiences the world as a Jewish person, this rarely poses much conflict for us. But the class difference is vast, tangible and present. So when my friends started expressing their concerns about his background, they didn’t really have a choice but to frame it in terms of class.


Some of my friends thought Ross was doing the intellectual equivalent of “slumming it”, meaning that while he found me fascinating in an exotic way he’d eventually wisen up and end up with his own “kind” because of my inherent inferiority in his mind. In other words, they assumed that he is so classist that despite my two degrees from Stanford, he would always look upon me as inferior to the girls who were raised rich. Besides being super personally offensive to Ross, this argument, understandable though it was, eventually came to really hurt me. Because it denied the half of myself that actually shares the fact that Ross and I are both also elite graduates from the same institution. My community never lets me forget that I’m not all the way from the hood anymore. But it also hurt, because even supposing that Ross should see my class background as inferior it meant that my friends saw few redeeming qualities that another sane and not blind human being should see. Like I dunno, the fact that I’m a good cook and I give massages. Or that I’m incredibly compassionate. Or that I’m entertaining and funny. You know, the other traits that define me besides my pain and struggle. The things that have allowed me to thrive despite struggle, all those cool, wonderful things that my community claims to see are in fact visible to other people who are not from my class background.


Some of my male friends from working class backgrounds had more specific concerns related to a lifetime of having to compete with men like Ross. Some of them sort of viewed him as your stereotypical villain from the movies. This happened for good reasons; I have countless well educated working class male friends that have actually had girls break up with them because they had less money. This struggle is very real and I have very much fed into the perception that owed it to the community to stay away from privileged dudes. I had become a symbol in their minds, and because I had been so loudly against marrying people for money (I am still am because its immoral and a shitty way to treat people), they kind of assumed that I’d be one of the “good girls” and stay within my community. It took nearly four weeks before I realized how much I believed in my responsibility to the community and to the men I grew up with but it couldn’t change the basic fact that I fell in love. I struggled with my guilt for months, worried most of all about what message it would send to my male friends. For his part, Ross felt he couldn’t really challenge this, he said he understood how they felt because he’d feel that way too. But at the end of the day, my affection and loyalty to Ross won out. He had to fight hard for that, because for me the fact that he came from money was more of a barrier than an enticement and because I didn’t trust him. To avoid making this thing too long I’ll skip the listing of hoops he had to jump through, but suffice it to say he jumped through them, probably getting a few burns in the process because he saw enough in me to overlook how difficult this was going to be. And just so we are clear, both Ross and I understand and understood these concerns. Ross anticipated them far better than I did and sometimes had to explain them to me. These concerns are borne out of oppression and anger and a lifetime of bad experiences. They were concerns that not long ago, I too would have held. However, none of this makes it any less stupid.


The reason I call it stupid is because it reduces two very complex people down to a single identifying marker. It makes us our demographics and ignores the fact that although the both of us are probably compatible with literally no other person on the planet, we somehow work well for each other. We like to refer to this a “complementarily cray.” It isn’t enough that our intellects are well matched, I have lots of very smart friends, it is also that through some weird magic we happen to have very similar ways of looking at things while simultaneously making each other better people. I can feel the physical difference of his pressance, I am in less pain now than I have ever been in my life. He manages to keep my anxiety in check. We finish sentences and somehow really like living with each other when we’d be terrible roommates to anyone else (as always, a continuous apology to anyone who has ever had to live with me). And we’ve both been on the planet long enough to know how rare that is, how hard it is to find fellow mutants whose mutations happen to work in complementary and not destructive ways.


I can’t tell you how many times in the last year someone close to me told me that if I held a high intellect as one of the central standards in my dating life that I would die alone forever or that it was going to be really hard to find someone who would tolerate my intelligence because apparently really smart women are lepers. But again, this was understandable. This was not untrue. It was just shitty on an individual level. It had been suggested that I make more of an effort to appear stupid to attract men or that I let go of my long standing Bonnie and Clyde fantasy in the name of stability. This idea has been with me for as long as I can remember, which is to say that for as long as I have been old enough to date I have had the perception of myself as somehow untouchable because of my brain. So when an actual genius tells you that he loves that you are smarter than him and that he tells his friends you are smarter than him and demonstrates that he really means it by the respect he gives your intellect, you certainly aren’t going to just take that lightly. But I was not prepared for that actually happening in real life so sometimes I settled and sometimes I settled on being alone. I’ve been lucky because my parents have a really good marriage going back almost a decade and a half under absolutely insane conditions. The lesson I learned from my parents is that marriage is only worth it if you find someone as compatible with you as my parents are with each other. So this was a precondition for me and because everyone kept telling me this was impossible, I started making lots of jokes about ending up alone with cats. Then this dude had to come along and ruin all my fantasies about solitude.


The funny thing about this is that our even matched intelligence meant even matched neurosis. You know all those annoying traits I had when I was younger? The detachment? The commitment-phobia? The intentional attempts to push everyone away from me before they can hurt me? Yeah. I was SUPER FUN to date. Suddenly gives you a new perspective on it when you have to watch your own behavior reflected in someone you really love. Might mellow you out. Might make you less of a hypocrite. Might also make you more understanding and compassionate. It might also make both of you a giant pain in the others’ ass for several months. But what it’ll definitely do is grow your ass the fuck up.


So I’m typing this from Los Angeles because we both did some growing as people in directions that were not part of either of our plans. I’ve learned that Maya Angelou was right, love costs all that you are and ever will be and yet it is only love which will set you free.

I Know How We Lose Good People



During my senior year, I had three deaths in the family in two months. We had two suicide attempts among my close friends. I directed and performed the precursor to Class Confessions, wrote FLIP’s constitution, participated and spoke at rallies and programs, and advocated for mental health care services for the poor on campus, all while finishing my classes with very minimal assistance from anyone. I managed to graduate on time, a feat I only accomplished because my mom begged me to do so for the benefit of the family. I was a very potent symbol, I entered Stanford and they wouldn’t even use the term low income, by the time I left FLIP (First Generation, Low Income Partnership) had changed its name from NextGen and low income was becoming part of the lexicon. I didn’t do this alone but I was very often in the position where people thanked me for speaking because they didn’t have to. This was definitely my baby in college. And it was a baby I bled for, by the time my senior year had ended my headaches were so severe I had to get weekly shots of Toradol to remain functional and I was going through an absurd amount of vicodin. I gained a great deal of weight. I did real damage to my jaw and neck. By the time the year was over, I was exhausted. I spent a summer trying to rest, only to have my community make jokes about how lazy I was. My favorite ones were bathed in sexism, instead of simply allowing me a break, they referred to me as my boyfriend’s housewife, as if a simple three months off somehow negated my work. I have many rich friends who have taken time off without this kind of pressure, and when I told them I was going to need to take last year off, they didn’t understand why it was so distressing for me. Instead of getting a year off, I had the worst year of my adult life. It was marred by homelessness, a trip in the ambulance, recovering from being wheel-chair bound, leaving an abusive relationship and applying to grad school with minimal basic resources, like the internet, while all of this was going on. In the fall after my senior year, still suffering from daily migraines, I signed back up for a martyrdom I had come to expect in my life. I’ve repeated this process over and over again since graduating.


The most common response to my breakdown last year was, “we had no idea, and we assumed you were ok, you are so strong.” This came from really kind, well-meaning people that I love. People pushed me back into the classroom after a traumatic injury. When I did it again, people still pushed me back. And this was well intentioned, I’ve been given a set of cognitive gifts that I didn’t earn and it makes me especially talented at certain tasks. It is awesome that people are inspired by my work and strength and I get the strong desire to have me continuing to do the work. I also was raised with the belief that my gifts are meaningless if they contribute nothing to others.



At the end of my senior year, after 4 years of activism, one of the deans asked me where I was from as if I was some sort of alien. She had heard me speak for four years but for some reason didn’t ask this question until then and obviously had failed to listen since I was forced to be incredibly open about my background or else I faced the negation of my entire existence and awkward questions about my behavior. It also would have meant less access to the already limited resources on campus since my oppression was not visible to those who don’t understand that poverty that affects white people is still systematic and brutal. She wanted to know what my “deal” was. On average, I get challenged on my origins about 3 times a week, unless I refuse to leave the house, which might be why no one ever sees me outside of my house. This part of my burden I have accepted without complaint for the last decade because I figured it was the price I paid for having the skin color we identify with privilege. I suppose it would be less exhausting to explain my origins so often if people didn’t challenge what I said to them.



“I have a multiethnic family and I grew up poor.”

“But you are white.”


“I care about police brutality because people in my family and community have been victims of it.”
“But you are white.”


“I spoke a nonstandard dialect of English when I entered Stanford”

“But you are white.”


I have many more examples, but you get the point. Insert this conversation for every aspect of my identity, multiply it by nearly every person who encounters me now and you have some inkling of what a normal class period or activist meeting is for me. I understand that I have white privilege, that despite my poverty, disability, history of vile oppression at the hands of authority figures and men, my white skin still matters. As a result of this understanding, I also took the responsibility for educating other people myself so my nonwhite friends didn’t have to. I know my whiteness matters. My family was the target of eugenics, and it still matters. I am so happy to do this, I’ve been fighting my whole life for other people and it feels natural to me and I’m good at it. But at some point, a nuanced discussion about the intersectionality of privilege went from the understanding that my whiteness brought privilege but that I still suffered from class oppression and gender oppression to the absolute assumption that my whiteness negates my class oppression. That, in fact, my whiteness precludes me from participating in the discussion at all. My whiteness matters, I’ve always been aware of it. But I’m not sure it matters enough to dismiss the oppression I’ve experienced. I’m not sure my white skin shielded me enough from hunger, pain, and violence that anyone has any business telling me whether or not I’m doing enough or that I don’t need liberating too.


A lot of things happened in Seattle. My financial aid didn’t go through like it was supposed to because of a change in funding. My disability made it nearly impossible to work, and I had very limited networks and resources. I found myself justifying my existence every day, constantly being re-triggered in a to fight for something that is deeply personal to me. If you knew me a few years ago, you’ll remember what absolute snot I was about my responsibility to the community and what I expected from others. We talk about how important it is to go back, for our most marginalized members to fight the fight continuously, and most of them accept this responsibility because we know what privilege it is for us to be in the position we are in. You know, the representatives of the marginalized among the elite. But we never talk about the cost for people who have already suffered tremendous trauma. It is a struggle I know well, but it was always part of the deal. What wasn’t part of the deal constantly had to have arguments with my fellow soldiers about whether or not that trauma happened. In the fall, I volunteered to be part of a sit-in to talk about school segregation in the west and got politely told that my whiteness made me ineligible for such a task. I got painfully bored in class, talking about things that I have long talked about. Hearing things like, “well, you’re poor so why don’t you tell us why poor people are like this.” Being a token is part of the package. But it was different when I could actually get things done and when I felt like I had a place to contribute to the overall mission.


I get where this anger comes from, of course. Too often in this country, programs that should have helped the poor excluded people by race. I’m often on the receiving end of co-option attempts because I fit the image and narrative that would allow people to say, “hey she did it” and I carry the guilt of that knowledge with me. Too often, pointing out the suffering of poor white people has been used as a distraction from talking about the very real problems that nonwhite people face under a system that is both classist and a result of centuries of white supremacy. Marginalized people are pitted against each other in a zero sum game and instead of coming together, hunger, violence, trauma, and anger leads to hate. So I understand that sometimes people have very legitimate concerns and responses about the way my narrative is used but I can’t change the basic facts of my existence to fit a narrative. Believe me, if I could I would.


The irony of all of this is the people that have given me the most support are outside of this community. In November one of them came to see me in Seattle, and if I told you his demographic information your immediate presumption would be Privileged White Male. We had spent a lot of time being close friends in LA together during my interim period between schools while I was recovering. He’s stepped in on several occasions when my family couldn’t and when I moved we realized we missed each other and sometime in the process fell in love. My friends hated him because he comes from an incredibly rich family. As they hated him, he spent a good portion of his time listening to me be miserable at graduate school, coaching me through my frustration and anger for several hours a day even when my anger was technically directed at the very people he was born into. I was so bored, I got depressed, my work starting deteriorating and for the first time I lost the motivation to fight. In November, Ross came to visit me and one of my other close friends was hired by an organization in which he would be called to represent a category he wasn’t demographically part of but had worked extensively with. To say this friend was qualified for this particular job would be an understatement. Although he was queer male of color, the organization was specifically focused on women’s issues, which is actually a topic he has researched at a graduate level. He called me to make sure taking the job was ethical.


After the phone call, I told Ross about it and he simply said, “You know they are going to treat him like shit, right? Like they are going to give him so much shit.”


Without much thought, I responded, “Yeah, of course, we know that. We don’t expect to not be treated like shit, you just hope to find a place where the shit is manageable.”
It took about three weeks for me to realize how deeply disturbing that thought was. Is liberation martyrdom? I was always ok with the martyrdom bit, but I wonder sometimes if Joan of Arc might have been less willing to burn if she had spent time having her own people tearing her down the way I’ve watched myself and some of my friends be torn down by the very community that claims to represent us. On the last day of classes, I found out the government doesn’t actually consider what I do research. That combined with the fact that my research focused on class meant an uphill and brutal battle, and it was a battle I was prepared to fight until it became clear to me that it was a battle I was going to feel like I was fighting in isolation.


So I guess what I’m telling you is that I burned out. I’ve been burned out for a very long time and it took a rich white dude literally rescuing me to finally get some rest. I’m hoping and praying that my motivation to fight is going to come back. I deeply wanted to run into a forest and never speak to anyone again but it’s not really an option with the Internet. Maybe someday someone will show up to my cabin and tell me I’m needed and I’ll stop baking shit long enough to hear them out. When? Roughly the same time I stop viscerally understanding why other activists kill themselves.


In the meantime, I’m in LA. I’m happy, I’m writing, I’m working on the design of future school projects; I’m helping former students. I’m making cinnamon rolls from scratch and sleeping for the first time in about 28 years. My headaches have drastically declined and I live with a fellow mutant who seems to be uniquely good at figuring out when I need help. So good that he flew up to Seattle, packed my things and brought me home all without anyone knowing about it except my mom.


Why didn’t I tell anyone? Because I knew what people would say when they found out. The few people this has leaked to haven’t disappointed on that count. Some friends have been incredibly supportive and for that, they have my eternal gratitude. My friends who have questions and concerns have legitimate questions and concerns and I feel an obligation, in my role as representative to explain my choices. So allow me to address those concerns. No, I am not going to change my mind. Yes, it is possible I will return to some PhD program, but maybe not. The following is a list of things I will do with my time: sleep, cook, clean, take care of my cat, take care of my body, finish this book, write other books, do research, make trips to the library, sit on the board of two schools, continue to support my former students, yoga, watch and make cartoons, be a good, focused supportive partner. You know, live my life like a normal person. No, this wasn’t terribly feminist of me, but frankly it says a lot about the system that it took a dude to take me out of poverty and I practice a version of feminism in which I don’t look down on women’s work as if it is beneath me while asking other women to do it for me so I can feel “empowered” at work. I’m as proud of my gender normative skill-set as I am of my other non-gender confirming skill sets. What I have a problem with is people who live and contribute nothing to their families or communities, but I have nothing but respect for the many women (we appalaud stay at home dads, while shaming mothers) in my life who have made their home their first priority . I’m pretty loose with how we define contributions because women have provided vital, unpaid work to humanity since existence. But I also find it deeply disturbing that after only about a month of not working, people automatically assumed that I would suddenly stop doing anything instead of letting me have the break I so badly need. It is a bizarre assumption, especially because I have so many privileged friends who have taken substantially more time without comment and also because I’m fairly certain that no one would assume, “I moved in with someone I love and am taking a break” means, “I’ve had a lobotomy” if I were male. I’ll address everyone’s weird response to my dating outside my class background in a separate post, but for the record, I think y’all are being quite silly about that considering I have two degrees from Stanford. If you are one of the many people that had questions or concerns but now feel happy for me because of my explanation, I appreciate you too. So now everyone has been informed, questions have been answered. If you have some other concern that I haven’t addressed, please think about asking someone other than me before you bring it to me. If for some reason that’s not an option, then keep reading the following sentence and think about whether or not your questions or concerns are actually vital to my well-being:
I am happy. I am healthy. I found a fellow mutant I fell in love with.

How I Learned to Talk to Anyone, Including Ann Coulter Loving Conservatives


My Grandma Amanda was the baddest bitch I’ve ever known. She crawled out of  a brutal depression poverty. She rode on a motorcycle through Prague when the Iron Curtain still divided Europe. She divorced her philandering husband when this was still a radical act for women in the 70s. She became a single mother and raised two incredibly unruly half white boys in the depths of poverty rather than endure the humiliation she had experienced under her husband. She had put that same husband through medical school while working at one of the most challenging residential programs for the mentally ill in the state. Her patients had killed people in fits of madness. My Grandma Amanda was a tireless advocate for the poor, women and the mentally ill. She stepped into my life at 15, when I was a very scared, very traumatized young woman on the cusp of making life ruining decisions in a place where the stakes were death and rape and sex trafficking. She took me under her wing, pushed me to imagine myself as so much more than I was and supported me through the rough years of Stanford as I tried to navigate a world of unimaginable privilege from a background where I was simply grateful for food. I would not be half the woman I am today without her.


She happened to be an O’Reilly loving conservative. She was so conservative that the first time I read Ann Coulter’s work was when she handed it to me at 16. By the end of high school I had gotten used to sitting at our kitchen table, her cigarette smoke surrounding me, as my parents, my grandma and I discussed the world’s problems and attempted to find common ground amongst our viewpoints. As I became radicalized in college, she pushed and validated me in a million ways over the holidays when I went home. Before I could make my points to my friends at Stanford, I had to make them with her. Very often, I won her over but more often she forced me to get better at my own argumentation.


As I went off to college, I had no idea how radical my upbringing had been. My parents were punk veterans from the 80s, my mom had refused to let me watch Pocahontas because she said it was racist. When I learned about Civil Right’s I learned about how important the Panthers were and I was raised in incredibly diverse neighborhoods. But for me, this was normal, and I was very used to having to make my perspective understandable to people because I had been trained to do so at my schools, and at my home. I walked into campus and found myself having discussions advocating, usually successfully, for resources for poor students on campus among some of the wealthiest people in my generation. You could find me at any frat party, drinking beer and slowly convincing people that activism for the poor and resources for the poor needed to exist.


I have my grandmother to thank for all of this, for her love taught me that most people are good and have good hearts. She taught me that I could be wrong, but also that I could be forcefully and respectfully right. She taught me to translate my words into things that anyone could understand and to find common ground. She implicitly taught me the rules and logic of argumentation, augmenting what was a natural skill-set from my working class roots where wit confers status and where “talking shit” is the highest art form.


As I entered the classroom, I thought of her often. I also thought of the boys I had left back home and encountered in the faces of my students. Those rebellious shitheads. I’ve always had a soft spot for them because I am one. They were right to push back against being told what to think. I wanted them to have that freedom, and I also wanted them to reach the right conclusions. I accomplished this goal by trusting them to be smart enough to reach it with the right information and with the training to think. After all, if my perspective was based in evidence, and it most certainly was, I should be able to make my case to just about anyone.


My time in the classroom proved these lessons correct, as by the end of the year I had watched otherwise racist students become more compassionate and enlightened classmates. I watched kids who had felt apart from each other come together. And I had watched them bloom into brilliant thinkers and writers that I was proud and fortunate to be part of sending out into the world.


Thought leads to action, so at a certain point, I accepted the responsibility of the intellectual. That as someone with the incredibly rare access to the levers that create thought, I have a deep responsibility to my community to use that position to change the way they are thought about. I’ve come to learn that argumentation is the best way to do that, because that is essentially the underlying driver of culture. Culture is defined by our belief systems, and argumentation is one way those beliefs are shaped. There are a lot ways to persuade people of something, but for a world view to be successful it needs to be argued on all fronts, from the courtroom to the stand up comic’s stage. There are of course other, more violent and destructive, ways to change thought. Forced conversions, purges, massacres and on and on have all been used in the name of ideology to win the war of ideas. But my goal remains to fight for an ideology where these means are unconscionable for those actions are the very root of oppression. My goal is for everyone to be free, and I’ve never felt that that goal was somehow mutually exclusive with justice for everyone or mutually exclusive of the care of each other. I am also unwilling to trade one system of oppression for another.


This journey led me to the ultimate conclusion that I had a responsibility to craft my messages carefully. I’ve failed in this task over and over again as any writer and thinker does, but it is a goal I strive for. Although it brings me immense personal joy to write, to continue winning at the art of “shit talking,” and to do research, the main reason I feel this strong pull towards that goal is because I know how much power ideas and words can have. I know that there are very few voices like mine, that I represent more people than just myself, and that I have a responsibility to others to utilize my gifts for the common good.


I’ll never be the one to tell you how to think, but I hope that I’ve convinced you to think more deeply about your role, and more deeply about the work you produce as an activist. If it isn’t the best that can be done for the people, it is not serving the people. We have everything in our argument, evidence, logic, and values that one needs to win an argument. We do not need to resort to other means to get our point across because our viewpoint is that strong. But we cannot succeed in this task alone, we all have to work together to get better and better as if our lives and the lives of the people we work on behalf of depends on it. In many cases, in many causes that is no overdramatization. But we must approach this work from an ethos of love as well, for love is what we hope will be the guiding ethos for the world we create and if we wish to create it, we must create it in both action and deed alike. It begins with empathy, compassion and listening. It begins in those kitchen table conversations with the people who loved you even when they disagreed with you. And the people who heard your viewpoint even when it was terrifying and new. And the deeply flawed human beings who get up everyday and are often struggling in a million visible and invisible ways but who also demonstrate kindness towards their communities. Where there is a decent heart, its center can be reached by other decent hearts. Most hearts, I assure you after all these years of evidence to the contrary, most hearts are decent and beautiful and open to learning. But they cannot learn until they’ve been loved.