Folk Thursday: Tupac

October 9, 2014

For Devin, Joey and Tevin. Good luck in St. Louis this weekend, guys. I love you, and I am ridiculously proud of you for taking a stand. The root of the problems you’re trying to solve predates all of us, but I’ve known since the minute I set foot in Room 204 that if anybody can get this world moving in the right direction, my kids can.

Go save the world. <3

(And the rest of you: Say a prayer, light a candle, or just hold a good thought for my kids this weekend. They're planning to travel 400 miles to participate in a very large protest on a very controversial issue, and things could get … tense.)

Love,
Ms. Priddy

P.S.: I realize Tupac isn't folk, but his lyrics are at least as powerful as anything Bob Dylan or Joan Baez ever had to say. I'm just sorry they're still relevant. I'd hoped they'd be obsolete by this point, but we still have a long way to go.


For Mary and Sharon

October 6, 2014

Two of our former colleagues are getting married!

I’m still pretty hacked off about the Hobby Lobby decision and its aftermath, but every now and then, the Supremes get one right. They most definitely got it right today.

Constitution, 1; bigotry, 0.

Enjoy your day, ladies. You know we’d be there if we could. As it is, I’ll just sit here in Missouri with Vienna Teng’s voice running through my head and joy in my heart as two fine journalists and dedicated wildlife rehabilitators add “changed the world for the better” to their resumes.

Emily


The politics of beauty

June 4, 2014

Recently on Facebook, an old friend reflected on the fact that people frequently tell her she has arms like a man’s. She’s a competitive bodybuilder and has worked hard for those arms, so she takes the observation as a compliment. But she’s not stupid. She knows it frequently isn’t intended as a compliment, and she mentioned that in her post.

Her theory is that people are jealous. I suspect that’s part of it, but I think it goes much deeper. I see two primary things going on here:

1. People don’t know how to respond to beauty that doesn’t fit Madison Avenue’s rubric. I’ve riffed on this before, but it bears repeating: When someone strays too far from society’s artificial (bigoted) standards of beauty, we don’t know what to do with her, so we either attack her or ignore her. That’s because …

2. Madison Avenue’s rubric is based on every hangup you can think of. It’s sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ageist and ableist.

I suspect most of the comments about my friend’s physique are — like most attempts at body-shaming — motivated by pure misogyny. A man in her sport will reap nothing but compliments, but female fitness competitors frequently are derided because they refuse to accept the notion that women should be small, soft and weak.

If you’ve got the gumption to spend umpteen hours a day in a weight room and then walk out onto a stage for the express purpose of having other people critique your appearance in microscopic detail, you are clearly not the kind of girl who can be controlled through conventional means, and you are most definitely not following society’s unwritten rules, which state that as a woman, you have exactly two options: Be invisible or be a target.

Think about it.

An overweight woman who keeps her mouth shut and hides her body under baggy clothing generally will be ignored. An overweight woman who wears stylish or revealing clothes will be fat-shamed for daring to be confident. And an overweight woman who goes to the gym, works her arse off and becomes a highly competitive athlete will have her femininity called into question at every turn.

Meanwhile, the same rules apply to underweight women. I was a skinny kid, which meant I could either hide my body under oversized clothes or be ridiculed for my flat chest and “flamingo legs.” But of course, once I grew up and found myself hauling around a set of triple-Ds on an otherwise average frame, I discovered that my choices remained the same: I could dress for invisibility, or I could wear something flattering and be slut-shamed.

The insults change, but the demand remains the same: Disappear or pay the consequences.

It’s not about our bodies. It’s about other people feeling they have the right to police our bodies. It’s about other people projecting their hangups onto us. It’s about other people trying to control us. It’s about silencing us and rendering us invisible.

It’s crap.

And it’s about damn time it stopped.

Emily


What would Jesus do?

April 2, 2014

This is an open letter to self-proclaimed Christian men who think oral contraceptives are somehow immoral.

Gentlemen:

Imagine you have a medical condition that causes you to bleed heavily while experiencing a physical sensation similar to being kicked in the lower abdomen five or six times a day, for two or three consecutive days (or more), with these flare-ups occurring every two to four weeks, depending on the severity of your condition.

Accompanying this sensation may be nausea, gastrointestinal distress, migraine headaches, depression and some degree of anemia.

In between these flare-ups, your condition causes pain in one testicle, lasting for several days and ranging in severity and character from a dull, annoying ache to a stabbing pain that takes your breath away.

That’s half of the bad news.

The good news: A drug exists that will alleviate your symptoms almost immediately and eliminate them entirely within a few months, with minimal side effects that generally dissipate within a few weeks of beginning treatment.

The other half of the bad news: Despite its therapeutic value, your employer believes this drug is immoral, so the company health insurance doesn’t cover it. If you can’t afford to pay for it out of pocket, you’ll just have to suffer. Sucks to be you.

Sound reasonable? Is it fair for your boss to use his personal beliefs as an excuse to block your access to medicine you need in order to live without frequent bouts of excruciating pain?

If your answer is “no,” then you need to stop supporting policies that seek to restrict women’s access to oral contraceptives.

Yes, some of the women taking the Pill are doing so to prevent pregnancy. But the majority (58 percent) take it at least partly for medical reasons, many of which are very, very similar to the scenario I outlined above — and 14 percent (including yours truly) take it solely for medical reasons.

Substitute the word “ovary” for “testicle” in that hypothetical situation above, and you have the biblical woman with the issue of blood.

When that woman reached out for help, Christ healed her.

Today, when she reaches out for help, the so-called “Christian” response is something like, “Suck it up, Princess; we’re not paying for your slut pills.”

If that’s your response, you probably need to spend some time studying the difference between Christians and Pharisees, because you’ve clearly mislabeled yourself.

Emily


Kick in a few bucks, please.

January 13, 2014

The Woody Guthrie Festival is pretty much the greatest thing ever. I’ve gone twice — in 2008 and 2012 — and would have gone again last summer if I’d had vacation time and gas money at that point. Joel Rafael plays there every year. So do Jimmy LaFave, Don Conoscenti and the Red Dirt Rangers. Trout Fishing in America showed up last year. Tom Paxton was there in ’98, Pete Seeger in 2000 and 2003, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in 2003, Steve Earle in 2004, and Judy Collins in 2008 and 2012.

According to the website, the festival — which is free except for the $10 parking pass — is still in the hole from last year, and they need about another $2,500 to get this year’s show off the ground. I sent ‘em the price of a couple of Judy Collins tickets tonight. I figured I owed ‘em at least that much.

If you’ve got a buck or two lying around, consider sending it to the folks in Okemah. They’re doing a great thing out there, keeping people aware of Woody Guthrie’s influence and giving folkies a place to feed their hippie souls every summer, and they could use some support to keep the party going.

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


Bullying: Prologue

November 4, 2013

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the effect of bullying on kids. I don’t know whether it’s gotten any worse since I was a kid. I do know its consequences have become more apparent, forcing adults to pay more attention to it and make a better effort to intervene when they see it happening. The issue has come up again on my Facebook timeline because a 15-year-old boy in my dad’s hometown committed suicide last month, citing bullying as the reason.

Beginning when I was 7, and continuing for the better end of a decade, I endured near-constant ridicule by my peers.

I don’t think it occurred to me at the time that I was being bullied. In the ’80s and early ’90s, a bully was someone who shoved you down or beat you up. People who called you names weren’t bullies; they were just a pain in the ass. (As a society, we took a while to figure out that sometimes a pain in the ass is a serious injury.)

Admittedly, my ugly-duckling phase was spectacular by any metric, and asking a bunch of immature brats to overlook it would have been a wholly unrealistic request — but regardless of the relative accuracy of their comments, my peers’ tactless behavior left scars, some of which I’m just discovering 20 or 30 years later.

For instance:

I am desperately uncomfortable in social settings that involve large groups.

I rarely trust people when they compliment my appearance — and if I do believe them, my first instinct is to deflect the praise.

I have an extremely self-deprecating sense of humor.

I don’t dance.

I cuss like a sonofabitch.

I would rather chew off my own leg than let anybody see my tears.

That last bit is why I am not particularly looking forward to the project I’m about to do.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take a closer look at each of these battle scars — partly to satisfy my own curiosity about the shapes they took, but mostly because I’m sick of hearing about kids closing the book before they get to the good parts, and if the story of how I survived a decade of verbal attacks and grew up to have the world by the tail can keep even one kid from killing himself over somebody else’s bullsh*t, then I need to suck it up and tell that story, even if it means giving up some secrets I’d rather keep.

Stay tuned. We’re finna kill some dragons.

Emily


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