Category Archives: Activism

“You’re ugly.”

NOTE: I started writing this a couple of months ago but never got around to finishing it and posting it. It dovetails nicely with yesterday’s post on ageism, so I’m sharing it now.

I was involved in a Twitter conversation a while back in which a misogynist attempted to debate an online friend of mine, got his arse handed to him, and then — when I tweeted my friend a reaction GIF — responded by informing me, “You’re ugly” and then blocking me before I had time to reply.

I find it interesting that the average misogynist’s first line of defense, whenever he feels threatened by a woman, is to attack her looks, as if his opinion of her physical appearance ever has had or ever will have any effect on her life.

Why bother?

Because nothing makes an insecure man feel better than attacking a woman — particularly a woman he views as being strong, confident or intelligent. Because women are conditioned from birth to believe our value depends on our attractiveness to the cishet-white-male gaze, a cheap shot at a woman’s looks is often the easiest way to rattle her confidence and call her value into question.

This weak attempt at psychological warfare works only if we let it.

I don’t consider myself ugly, but I’m fully aware some people do. That’s fine, and I want my nieces to know that’s fine. Everybody has different aesthetic preferences, and that’s OK. But I also want the girls to know this:

Being told I’m ugly has never stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do.

I'm not everybody's cup of tea. That fact has never kept me from enjoying a glorious afternoon in the Mojave.
I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. Neither is the Mojave Desert. If she doesn’t mind, why should I? Being appreciated is nice, but our existence doesn’t depend on it.

It didn’t cost me any scholarships. It didn’t hurt my grades. It didn’t adversely affect my career. It didn’t discourage Ron from marrying me. It didn’t keep me from crossing two marathon finish lines, adopting a houseful of pets, or publishing a novel.

I’ve done exactly as I pleased for most of my life, and I’ve done it with an oversized Celtic snout and a mop of messy curls that don’t quite meet some people’s standards for feminine beauty.

I want my nieces to know that, because they are going to encounter hateful people who don’t like the way they look, and they need to know those people’s opinions don’t matter. They need to know they can go after their dreams, and no amount of lip service from ignorant misogynists can stop them.

They need to know. And I’d be a lousy aunt if I didn’t teach them.

Emily

A hippie’s adventures in patriotism

I spent Fourth of July weekend in Tucumcari. I’ll have some details about my adventures in New Mexico for you later, but as awesome as my weekend was, it was an incident in the Missouri Ozarks about two hours from home that gave me the opportunity to celebrate my freedom by exercising it in a very tangible way. I live-tweeted part of it and then followed up with details and analysis when I got home. I’m pretty sleep-deprived now, so instead of writing a whole post, I decided it made more sense to Storify my epic Twitter rant. Contains a civics lesson, observations on white privilege and respectability politics, and several excellent reaction GIFs involving Peter Capaldi dropping f-bombs and Alex Kingston looking smug.

I tried to embed it, but Storify’s embed code apparently does not play well with WordPress, so you’ll just have to click here to read the saga.

Emily

Folk Thursday: Tupac

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.❤

(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.

All is right in my world.

I spent today helping with a Friends of the Mother Road project at Henry’s Ra66it Ranch on Route 66 in Staunton, Ill. I forgot to take pictures, but we spent most of the afternoon pulling and chopping weeds from around the historic signs and vehicles — including Bob Waldmire‘s old VW Type 3 Squareback — and then met at Weezy’s in Hamel for an early dinner and a discussion about possible future projects.

I came home sunburned, sore and scratched-up, with bug bites on my arms, cockleburs in my hair, and an alarming quantity of goldenrod pollen in my sinuses.

If you know me very well, you know this means I feel better tonight than I have in ages.

I’m not myself when I’m not in the middle of planning, funding or executing a preservation project. This one wasn’t terribly flashy or fancy, but I had a good time getting tired and sweaty and dirty with old friends, which I hadn’t done since our sign-painting project at the Boots Motel over Labor Day weekend in 2012.

I should know better than to go so long between Route 66 preservation projects. I’m happiest when I’m helping the road I love, and I get out of sorts when I go too long without that satisfaction.

I worked on my road today. All is right in my world.

Emily

Change it.

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

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

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