Change it.

February 2, 2014

Dear NFL:

Cut the crap and change the mascot. For the love of everything that’s holy, this is the 21st century, not the 19th. No one should have to be told, in 2014, that it’s not OK to use a racial slur as a team name. There is no legitimate argument in favor of keeping the name. NONE. Change it and move on.

And fans: If you’re more attached to the name than the players wearing it, I really have to question how serious you are about your love of either the team or the sport it plays.

While we’re on the subject, I’d like to have a word with Bud Selig about a couple of MLB teams. Chief Wahoo and the Tomahawk Chop need to go. If baseball fans in Cleveland and Atlanta are afraid games won’t be as much fun without offensive caricatures and obnoxious hand gestures that misrepresent people who have already endured way more than their fair share of bullshit for the last five or six centuries, perhaps they need to take a few field trips to find out how other fans manage to enjoy a ballgame without the help of condescending cultural appropriation. I’d recommend an evening screaming your head off at Coca-Cola Park with Noise Nation, an afternoon tossing back opponents’ home-run balls with the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley, and a few innings letting Cardinal Nation educate you on the finer points of the game at Busch Stadium.

Speaking of baseball: To hell with the groundhog. Spring training starts in 10 days.

Emily


Live simply

November 5, 2013

I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that said, “Live simply, that others may simply live.”

I was thinking about taking a road trip this weekend, because I have three days off instead of the usual two, but the more I thought about it, the less appealing it sounded. Tucumcari is a little out of range for a three-day weekend, and there’s nowhere else I really want to go.

I need to work on my novel, finish the coupon books I’m making my niece and nephews for Christmas, go for a couple of training runs, and repaint the hood of my car, which is woefully faded … and if I finish all that, I think I’d like to spend some time sitting around in my Birkenstocks with my guitar on my lap, playing Dylan and Cohen and Guthrie and singing quietly to myself.

While I was thinking about that, I saw this article one of my colleagues wrote, and the picture made me sad.

I bet I could fill at least one of those bare shelves for the price of two nights in a motel and a couple of tanks of gas to go somewhere I don’t particularly want to be at the moment. And really, I think I’d just like to be off by myself somewhere under the sky, singing folk songs and daydreaming. I’m sure I can find a big lichen-covered rock at Giant City or Trail of Tears or Little Grand Canyon that would be suitable for that sort of thing.

Emily


Debunking the Beauty Myth

May 9, 2013

I’m sure by now you’re aware of the latest and most egregious attack on teenage girls’ already fragile self-esteem, but just in case you’re not, click here to find out why you’ll be boycotting Abercrombie & Fitch and its affiliates from now until the Cubs win the Series.

As much as I’d love to believe that the inevitable demise of Mike Jeffries’ career will solve the problem, the sad fact is that it probably won’t; all this hypocritical P.R.-nightmare-in-flip-flops has done for us is put a comically clueless face on a much larger issue.

Jeffries’ tone-deaf misogyny harmonizes perfectly with the other sour notes I’ve heard lately: Disney’s gratuitous attempt to sexualize Merida from Brave; InTouch’s apparent ignorance of biology; the frequent attacks on Hillary Clinton’s appearance; and the ridicule a young friend of mine endures on a daily basis because she is albino and thus has a porcelain complexion, green eyes, and gorgeous golden-red dreadlocks to go with her African-American features.

Jeffries may have articulated it the most brazenly, but his message is no different than the others’: If you are female, your value depends entirely on the extent to which your physical appearance adheres to a narrow set of standards engineered by ad executives for the specific purpose of making the largest possible number of women feel insecure enough about their appearance to want to spend money to change it.

This kind of manipulative marketing is detrimental to women because it seeks to profit at the expense of our self-worth. It’s detrimental to all of us — men and women alike — because it seeks to remove variables such as individual taste and force us to evaluate beauty exclusively on Madison Avenue’s flawed, self-serving rubric.

I remember a comment someone once made about my favorite singer: “Judy Collins isn’t pretty, but she’s striking.”

I disagree with the first half of that assessment, but I think it illustrates the difficulty we have in wrapping our heads around the sort of beauty that doesn’t fit the rubric. If a woman is not conventionally pretty, we don’t know what to do with her. We can’t resist looking at her, but why?

You probably don’t fit the rubric, either. And you’re in awesome company, because you know who else doesn’t fit the rubric? Adele. Queen Latifah. Emmylou Harris. Bonnie Raitt. Jamie Lee Curtis. Helen Mirren. Tina Turner. My albino friend with the stunning African-American features and Irish coloring. Me. Not one of us fits the rubric. We’re all either too old, too heavy, too unconventional, or too all of the above to meet the standards A&F is promoting.

To hell with the rubric. I’d sooner die than swap my tangled curls, gray streak, hips, boobs, laugh lines, bifocals, or self-respect for some manipulative retailer’s approval.

To quote Bette Midler (who doesn’t fit the rubric, either): “Cherish forever what makes you unique, ’cause you’re really a yawn if it goes.”

Emily


On misogyny

February 27, 2013

I participated in a Facebook conversation today about Hillary Clinton and the possibility that she might run for president in 2016.

Some people loved the idea. Some hated it.

Some of Clinton’s detractors voiced legitimate concerns; a few offered bizarre conspiracy theories; and a couple revealed themselves to be practitioners of a particularly noxious species of misogyny that seems to be all the rage in some circles.

Criticizing Clinton’s performance in Benghazi or her voting record on the Iraq War is legitimate. Criticizing her for her husband’s behavior is questionable but possibly legitimate, depending on the behavior under discussion. (“I didn’t like the administration’s position on X or Y and am afraid she would bring that back” is legitimate; “She couldn’t control her husband” is sexist nonsense.)

Criticizing Clinton because you consider her physically unattractive is — pardon my blunt language — inexcusable, misogynistic bullshit. We are not talking about whether she is qualified to be a Hooters waitress. We are talking about whether she is qualified to be the leader of the free world.

When you take cheap shots at a powerful, accomplished woman based on your opinion of her appearance, what you are really saying is that you are an immature, small-minded buffoon who views all women as sex objects, and if you do not regard a woman as a potential sex partner, she has no value to you — regardless of her talent, intelligence, education, experience or professional skills.

That doesn’t tell me anything about Clinton, but it tells me everything I could ever need or want to know about you.

Emily


How to reduce your stress levels

January 26, 2013

The other day, I found myself entangled in yet another Facebook conversation with a low-information voter who gets all his ideas from talk radio and direct-mail propaganda and thinks that changing the subject is a valid debate strategy.

You know the type: He starts a debate over something like whether ordinary civilians should have military-style assault rifles with high-capacity clips, and as soon as you start asking questions he can’t answer, he starts citing statistics about handgun bans. Nobody was talking about banning handguns, but he thinks he’s the second coming of Stephen Douglas because he’s managed to prove a point, and never mind that the point has absolutely nothing to do with the subject actually being debated.

Talking to one of these people is like trying to have an intelligent conversation with the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It gets tiresome after a while, and if you unfriend him, you only reinforce his bad behavior by making him think he scared you away with his Mad Debate Skillz.™ (“Come back here, you pansy! I’ll bite your legs off!”)

I solved the problem by announcing that from here on in, every time I saw a conservative blathering about guns, gays, abortion, President Obama, or Hillary Clinton on Facebook, I was going to donate a dollar to Hillary’s presidential campaign. (If she doesn’t run, the money goes to the Democrat of my choosing.)

My Facebook acquaintances now have three options:

1. Shut up.
2. Help pour money into the enemy’s war chest.
3. Unfriend me.

I don’t particularly care which option they choose. If they choose 1 or 3, I don’t have to listen to them. If they choose 2 … well, after watching her destroy a mansplainer the other day, I’m willing to make some sacrifices for mah-girl. I put two bucks in her jar this afternoon, and I’ve never been happier to see obnoxious political spam crawling across my feed.

Emily


Folk Thursday: Odetta sings Dylan

December 20, 2012

I considered writing a post about the shootings in Connecticut, but Dylan pretty much covers everything I have to say on the subject, and he does it far more eloquently than I could. Odetta’s voice just reinforces the message.

Emily


Good morning.

November 7, 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaI5IRuS2aE

Play nice, and I’ll try not to gloat too much today.

If you like the outcome of last night’s election, go do something positive to celebrate today.

If you don’t like the outcome of last night’s election, go do something positive to offset what you’re perceiving as a negative.

If you don’t care about the outcome of last night’s election, you’re probably what’s wrong with this country — so go do something positive to offset your tendency toward self-absorption.

Emily


A plea for help

October 10, 2012

OK, so here’s the deal: The Oklahoma Route 66 Association is pretty much flat broke, so I need y’all to do me a favor, if you can afford it:

Send us money.

We do a lot of good work for the road — promoting businesses, helping tourists find their way down 66, publishing our free annual Trip Guide, doing hands-on historic preservation projects, etc., etc., etc. — but we can’t do it without private donations. We don’t get state money. We don’t get funding from bigger organizations. We don’t get much of anything. We operate on a shoestring, but that shoestring has gotten increasingly frayed, and I’m afraid it’s going to snap one of these days.

Every little bit helps. Clean out your couch cushions. Look under the floormats in your car. Dump out the nickels that have been breeding in the bottom of your purse. Swap your $5 venti mocha Frappuccino for a cup of coffee from the break room at the office and send us the difference. Whatever. We’re not picky. We run on a very tight budget, so any amount you can send will make an impact.

Please send your donations to:

Oklahoma Route 66 Association
P.O. Box 446
Chandler, OK 74834

To learn more about the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, visit www.oklahomaroute66.com or call (405) 258-0008.

Oh, and please pass the word to anybody you know who might be interested in helping. Post this link on your Facebook, Tweet it, Pin it, e-mail it, whatever — just get the word out. We need all the help we can get.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Emily


Activism 101

August 6, 2012

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I used to do an activism unit with my sophomore English classes. To kick off the unit, I presented a lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, which you can read here.

In recent weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of would-be activists undermining their own efforts with ineffective and/or counterproductive tactics, and it occurs to me that this might be a good time to share that lesson with my readers.

Here, then, are what my students and I referred to as “Dr. King’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Activists”:

Habit 1: Stay positive. Don’t tell me why the other side is wrong. Tell me why you’re right. Negativity is a waste of time, and it turns people off. If your cause is truly worthwhile, it will stand on its own merits.

Habit 2: Stay together. There’s strength in numbers, and infighting will destroy a movement faster than anything else in the world.

Habit 3: Sacrifice. Activism isn’t always easy. If you can’t deal with that, you’re not going to accomplish much.

Habit 4: Stay on message. Don’t let your tactics overshadow your issue. Don’t write obscenities on your protest signs. Don’t get naked for animal rights. Don’t make out with your same-sex partner in the middle of a Chick-fil-A. Don’t stand in front of a restaurant, holding pictures of bloody fetuses, to protest the fact that the owner moonlights as a receptionist for an abortion clinic in the next county. Don’t get violent. Don’t violate your opponent’s civil liberties. You want the media to report on your issue, not your asinine behavior.

Habit 5: Don’t give up.

Habit 6: Hit ‘em in the pocketbook. Economic pressure is a powerful motivator — which is why a boycott is one of the most effective weapons in an activist’s arsenal. Control the bottom line, and in most cases, you control the company’s behavior.

Habit 7: Help each other. If your group is sympathetic to another group’s cause, work out a sort of mutual-aid agreement in which you show up for each other’s rallies, participate in each other’s letter-writing campaigns, and honor each other’s boycotts. Again: There’s strength in numbers.

These tactics work. They worked for Dr. King. They’ve worked for me. And they will work for you. All I would really add to his list is this: Know what you’re talking about, and be able to back up your opinions with verifiable facts gleaned from credible sources.

If you can pull that off, you can win a lot of battles.

Emily


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