Dear Gloria Steinem: Stop Saying Young Women Support Bernie Sanders Because We’re Interested In Boys

Dear Gloria Steinem,

I doubt you’ll ever read this, and I really wish I didn’t have to write this, but I’m mad and I needed to get it off my chest, and I always articulate my thoughts best when I write.

When asked on Friday why so many young women support Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton you said, and I quote, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.'” What is it that the youth say these days? Do they say that they can’t even? Well, I can’t even with that statement of yours.

I actually double-checked the news source to make sure I wasn’t reading The Onion, because I didn’t know why you would say that. It sounds like something a right-wing politician would say.

To begin with, I don’t see how reducing women to their interest in and involvement with men is feminist. At all. Silly, boy-crazy girls! They don’t care about politics! They haven’t educated themselves about how the government works! They’re just obsessed with sex, and are easily mislead by handsome men who will slowly but surely lure them ever deeper into a bottomless pit of democratic socialism.

I think part of the problem is that so many people of your generation view people of my generation as foolish, ignorant, and somehow lesser. Your generation complains that young people don’t care about politics, and then you complain some more when we develop political beliefs contrary to (or just different from) your own.

And judging from statements such as the one you made last week, you don’t seem to think young women are capable of maintaining an interest in politics or activism unless there’s a hot piece of MAN CANDY attached to it. (Ever since I came across that ridiculous term I’ve been looking for a suitable context in which to use it. I’m quite pleased with myself now.)

You don’t seem to think that we’re smart enough to read about the candidates’ policies and past political history, to use logic and reason to decide who we agree with the most. Young women support Bernie? That must be due to the men! It can’t be due to his political beliefs, or all the pieces of legislation he’s fought for throughout the years!

Young women support Bernie Sanders with a passion that often rivals that of his young male supporters. I should know. I’ve seen it firsthand. Last fall, I spent many afternoons canvassing for Bernie. Most of my fellow volunteers were also young women.

I attended two of his Iowa City rallies, one in October and one in January, and both times the girls I went with were much more excited than the boys. The girls were the ones telling everyone and their mother about the rally – when it was to be held and why they should go.

I spent the afternoon before the caucus trying to convince my friends to vote, and I wasn’t the only girl on my floor who did that, either.

And – surprise, surprise! – we did none of that for boys. We did it because we want Bernie to be president. Because we agree with his policies. Because we were incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to hear our preferred presidential candidate speak, and we knew it.

And it really, really gets on my nerves when people try to reduce our interest to boy craziness with statements like, “You’re just doing it to impress guys.” Um. No. And what makes you so sure that we’re not doing this for ourselves? Like, I’m sorry, but fighting for the freedom of choice > boys. Reforming the broken criminal justice system > boys. Closing the wage gap > boys.

And all this talk of boys make think of something else you don’t seem to understand: Namely, queer women. Do you even know the demographics of the people who support Bernie?

Queer women overwhelmingly support Bernie and not Hillary because, well, she doesn’t really support us. She actively supported the Defense of Marriage Act, and only showed her support as late as 2013 – and let’s be honest, I don’t have much faith in her support. Bernie Sanders supported LGBTQ+ people back in the seventies and eighties, long before allyship became trendy.

Hillary, on the other hand? She flip-flopped around, finally declaring her support only when it became politically favorable to do so. Many queer women, myself included, don’t sense much conviction behind her words, and this is just one of many factors that drive us to support Bernie.

In short, there are some very good reasons for LGBTQ+ women to choose Bernie over Hillary, and I don’t understand why you want to push us towards a candidate who doesn’t give a crap about us.

And I haven’t even mentioned how incredibly heteronormative your statement is. Knowing how many queer women support Bernie, is it really a good idea to say we’re just in it for the boys? Queer women are told day in and day out that we don’t know our own minds, that we don’t know what’s best for us – that what we really need is a good man to settle down and have 2.5 kids with, a man who’ll make us straight.

Stop forgetting that queer women exist. Stop erasing our sexual orientations and saying that we’re only interested in a candidate who is a well-known ally because deep down inside us, we really want a boyfriend.

I wish I could say I was surprised by all this, but I’m actually not: This is the sort of nonsense second-wave feminists pull all the time. I don’t want to completely discredit the movement, because they definitely made some important progress, but second-wave feminism is also known for being, well, not very intersectional. (This is, instead, something that characterizes the third wave.) They tend to ignore queer women… and women of color, and poor women, and disabled women.

Bernie Sanders may be an old white guy, but somehow he’s one of the better intersectional feminists from your generation. He supports women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, and economic equality. I don’t support Bernie because I’m looking for a husband; I support him because I get the feeling that he cares about all women. Hillary’s brand of feminism is geared towards rich white heterosexual women… and I want to expand the definition of feminism, not narrow it.

Another really weird second-wave feminist idea is that we have to support women, all women, at any cost. You made statements to that effect on Friday, and on Saturday, Madeleine Albright introduced Hillary at a rally in New Hampshire by saying, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

I’m sorry, what? I don’t have a duty to support Hillary just because I’m a woman and so is she. I don’t agree with her policies, and that doesn’t make me any less of a feminist. Disagreeing with another woman is not the same thing as tearing down another woman. We desperately need more women in politics, and I hope to see a female president within my lifetime, but I would prefer it to not be Hillary.

Are we not allowed to be discerning when it comes to choosing who we support? Why do you want us to blindly follow woman simply because they’re one of us?

This reminds me of some of the kids I knew back in middle school and high school – the teenage Republicans who thought they understood feminism would demand to know why I didn’t want Sarah Palin as vice president or Carly Fiorina as president. And my answer was simple: I don’t agree with their policies, and I don’t think they’re qualified.

If I’m being completely honest, I think Hillary is more qualified than those two. But I still don’t agree with her politics. And I really disagree with those who attempt to guilt me into voting for a woman just because I’m a woman too. It doesn’t work like that.

It also reminds me of a quote from a well-reasoned article I read this afternoon on the Huffington Post about this very issue:

“When you are able to assess the candidates on issues, character and authenticity, Bernie wins our hearts and minds hands down. Of course, we would not be where we are today without fierce and strong female trailblazers who have been paving the way for decades but women in politics is not one-size-fits-all and we are willing to wait for Ms. Right not Ms. Right Now. Will we have a woman president one day? Absolutely.”

Ms. Right vs. Ms. Right Now? I couldn’t have put it better.

Now, I know you apologized for Friday’s statement, and… well, I guess it’s better than nothing, but that wasn’t much of an apology. If you’d said that whole boy thing and then later apologized with a statement like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t really think that through,” then I wouldn’t still be upset about this. But you basically gave a non-apology instead.

You said you “apologize for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.” All right, but the definition of “imply” is “to strongly suggest,” and you did nothing of the sort. You didn’t just hint that young women’s interest in politics is due to boys – you flat-out said that it was, and now you’re mad that people objected to that.

Aaaand I’m really, really done with people who make others feel bad in their apologies. You implied – see, I’m using that word correctly here – that young women are too stupid to understand what you really meant, when in fact you literally said we’re only interested in politics for the boys.

There was nothing to misinterpret here, unless there’s some hidden meaning behind the words “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie” and we were supposed to understand that you meant exactly the opposite. You didn’t know what you were talking about, and now you just tried to make it look as though we don’t know what we’re talking about, but that’s not gonna work. You just undermined that whole apology by using language that obfuscates the problems here.

Look, I don’t think you’re a horrible, hateful person. But did I expect more from you? Well, yes. You’ve been involved in activism for pretty much your entire life, and I guess that made me think you’d be more aware of what it’s like to be a young woman who isn’t taken seriously because of her gender, who has people attempt to regulate her behavior solely because of her gender. 

It would seem as if you don’t have actual reasons to support Hillary Clinton, but upon realizing that she doesn’t perform that well in polls conducted about young voters – she received only 14% of the vote from those ages 17-29 in the Iowa Caucus- you panick, grasp at straws, and insult the intelligence of her opponent and his supporters. And that’s not very feminist of you. 

#FeelTheBern #nothereforboys

Sincerely,

nevillegirl @ Musings From Neville’s Navel

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Beautiful People | February 2016 | Valentine’s Day Edition

beautiful peopleToday I’m participating in Beautiful People, a monthly linkup about WRITING hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In! One of my goals for 2016 is to slowly but surely become more comfortable sharing and talking about my writing with others, and one of the ways I intend to do that is by participating in this linkup every month!

February’s theme is, of course, Valentine’s Day! HOORAY FOR SHIPPING. I’m going to answer the following questions with Gwen & Morgan, the couple from my zombie short story, in mind. You can find out more about that story here, if you’re interested.

And no, I don’t plan to talk about them every month – they’ve just been on my mind a lot lately because I recently finished editing and revising that story so I can include it with the rest of my application for the Irish Writing Program. (I hope to study abroad in Dublin this summer!) Next time, I’ll talk about a different story… I hope to find time to write something new, actually, but if not then I’ll just pick one of my other projects.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on for long enough. Here are my answers, and I hope you enjoy learning more about my characters!

How did they first meet?

Morgan got lost on campus while looking for the dining hall on the first day of her freshman year of college and Gwen, who noticed that she seemed confused, offered to show her around and they ended up eating lunch together.

What were their first impressions of each other?

Gwen thought Morgan was a nerd and kind of dorky, but endearingly so. Morgan was super intimidated by Gwen because she was pretty and much, much better at this whole adulting thing – she has her whole life planned out.

I may or may not have based my characters’ reactions to each other on how I think of my crushes and how they (probably) think of me. I’m a total dork and I hide from my crushes because I can’t deal with my feelings.

How long have they been a couple?

They met in August, but they didn’t start dating until Halloween. My story takes place in March, so they’ve been together for about five months. (I had to count the months off on my fingers because I am really, really bad at mental math.)

How committed/loyal are they to each other? Would they break up over a secret or a disagreement? Could stress drive them apart? Would they die for each other?

The short answer: Very, no, no, and yes.

The long answer: They both had to grow up very fast due to the apocalypse, so they’ve been through a lot together and had to figure out what was important to them. So yeah, they’re young, but they’re both pretty sure the other person is “the one.” They’re very loyal to each other, and always have each other’s backs in a fight.

They don’t keep secrets from each other, so that’s not an issue. They don’t really argue, either – instead, they’re more likely to snap at one another due to stress, and that’s how their fights start. Someone will take something the wrong way or roll their eyes or whatever, and then naturally the other person is upset.

And yes, they would definitely die for each other, but they won’t in this story because, as I said, we desperately need more happy F/F. This may be a zombie story, but it’s a zombie story with a hopeful ending. Theoretically, they would totally die protecting each other, but it’s not gonna happen BECAUSE REASONS.

List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)

Five food quirks Gwen knows about Morgan:

  1. She’s hungry, like, all the time
  2. She gets cranky when she needs a snack
  3. She is willing to do anything to get that snack, including killing zombies that happen to be lurking too close to the gas station convenience store
  4. SHE LOVES CHOCOLATE
  5. She would marry pasta if she could because she loves it that much

Five food quirks Morgan knows about Gwen:

  1. She’s a much better cook than Morgan
  2. Breakfast is her favorite meal of the day
  3. One of the reasons she’s very good at adulting is that she actually remembers to eat things like fruits and vegetables
  4. SHE LOVES COFFEE
  5. One of the things she misses most from before the zombie apocalypse is restaurants, because there aren’t very many open (or even still standing) anymore

Does anyone disapprove of their relationship?

Maybe? I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about this. There are almost certainly people who judge them for being gay, but I haven’t actually explored that in my story or anything because I was trying to write a happy F/F story. (Because there aren’t enough of those and that makes me sad…)

I do think there is a place for homophobia in stories as long as you’re not condoning it, because it’s a daily reality for so many people and to gloss over it would be unrealistic. It’s just not something I included in this particular story, though.

Omgggg, now I want to write a scene where they kick some frat boy’s ass after he harasses him, but A) that’s not really relevant to the rest of my story and B) I’ve kind of already established that Gwen and Morgan, while decent fighters, are by no means outstanding. They can defend themselves from zombies, but that’s not too difficult unless lots and lots of them come at you all at once, because the undead are slow and rotting and not too bright.

(…this is only tangentially relevant, but I based their fighting style on that of Peggy Carter. They’re not nearly as good as her, but the three of them use the same “hit people repeatedly over the head with the nearest heavy object you can find until they collapse” method. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I would probably fight that way. I own a lot of heavy books… my textbook for Intro to the Short Story is an 1800-page anthology, so I could probably do some damage with that. Or I could swing my backpack full of books at someone and knock them off balance. But I digress.)

What would be an ideal date?

Honestly? Probably anything where they just get to sit for a while and relax and eat a little something and not feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. They’re both only nineteen years old, and their parents are dead and/or missing, and they’ve been on the run without enough food or sleep for the past few months, so I don’t think they’d be picky about dates.

…I think mostly they just need a very long nap. Purely coincidentally, this is also my idea of a perfect date. To all interested parties: Please bring the fluffiest blankets you can find, and I’ll hog all the blankets and make cranky noises if you talk/attempt to cuddle/wake me up. College is exhausting.

What are their personality dynamics? Similar? Contrasting? Do they fight a lot or mesh perfectly?

Contrasting, definitely, but they mesh well. Morgan is a little quieter and more reserved, whereas Gwen is more likely to go up to someone who she doesn’t know well or has never even met before and talk to them. (…before the zombie apocalypse, that is.) They don’t usually fight unless they’re exceptionally tired or stressed out, but even then they both feel guilty about it and make up almost immediately after it happens.

What have been their best and worst moments together as a couple?

Their best moment was seeing each other a lot during winter break, because they live just a few towns apart. They introduced each other to their families and made lots of cookies and ate lots of chocolate and enjoyed the vacation from school.

Their worst moment was when Gwen’s younger brother was killed by zombie and became one himself – they saw him get attacked, but they were too far away to get there in time to save him. I wanted to subvert the trope of fridging female characters, so I killed him off and that’s the main source of their angst. I AM A TINY QUEER FEMINIST WRITER WHO HAS NO TIME FOR YOUR SAD, STEREOTYPICAL F/F WHERE ALL THE WOMEN DIE IN ORDER FOR THE WRITER TO CAUSE MEN EMOTIONAL PAIN.

Where do they see themselves and their relationship in the next few years?

Alive and happy, hopefully. They have no idea what the future will bring – mostly because, let’s face it, have no idea what the future will bring for them because my story takes place over just a few months. I haven’t thought that far ahead since the far future isn’t a part of my story.

I think it would be nice, though, if the remaining people on this planet eventually made heavily guarded communities that were safe and walled off from the outside world. Maybe Gwen and Morgan would end up there, and not have to worry about zombies for a while.

(And at that point they might want to become parents, so they could adopt one of the many young orphans… oh my god, that’s such a cute idea and now I want to write a sequel! I think I will, actually. I’m so glad I stuck with my goal of doing this linkup every month, because I never would have had that idea were it not for this post.)

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What have YOU written and/or revised lately? (Tell me all about your favorite couple from one of your stories!) And feel free to leave a link to your Beautiful People post in the comments section below so I can read it!

P.S. Stay tuned for some BIG WRITING NEWS from me sometime within the next few weeks!

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5 Historical Settings & 5 Futuristic Societies I’d Love To Read About

Today I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for their weekly feature, Top Ten Tuesday! There are a few different options for this week’s prompt: “top ten historical settings I love/would love to read about,” or “top ten futuristic societies I love/would love to read about.”

Well, I’m going to combine a little bit of each of them all into one post! Science fiction is one of my all-time favorite genres, and I read a ton of historical fiction in elementary and middle school, so this week’s prompt allows me to combine those two passions!

This time, my top ten list is really just two top five lists smushed together. I decided to talk about the historical settings and futuristic societies I would love to read about (or write about!), and then at the end of this post I listed books like this that have actually been published.

Enjoy!

Five Historical Settings I Would Love To Read About

1. The European Theater of World War II with LGBTQ+ characters

So… I just really really want Marvel to confirm Captain America & Bucky Barnes & Peggy Carter & Howard Stark as bisexual. I WANT THIS SO BADLY. I NEEEEEED IT. And if it doesn’t happen, someone should write a prose novel with a similar concept, because WWII is a period of history that has always fascinated me, and I love learning what life was like for queer people in the past.

2. Wild West with outlaw girlfriends

Kind of like Billy the Kid or Jesse James, but two women! OH MY GODDD I JUST HAD THE BEST THOUGHT: WHAT IF IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE SAME HILARIOUS STYLE AS THE SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT WILD WEST SHORT STORY?! I need lots and lots of flirting and wisecracking and gunfights. I don’t even know why… I’m the most rule-abiding person ever. My idea of being lawless and wild is, like, sneaking cookies and fruit out of the dining hall even though we’re not supposed to, and even then I feel bad.

3. Nineteenth-century Austria & BEETHOVEN

He’s one of my favorite composers! I would love to read a story about someone who meets Beethoven – maybe they work for him in some way? And they’re also a musician, but just starting out? I think this would work well as either a YA or adult novel.

4. Chicago during the Great Depression

My hometown is about an hour away from Chicago, so I’ve been there a bunch of times… but I haven’t read very many books about it! And the Depression is an interesting period of time to study, so I’d like the book to be set then. Aaaand getting even more specific now… I want to read something about the breadwinner of the family! Mother or father, I don’t care – I realized like just now that although I’ve read a LOT of stories about the Great Depression, most of them were about how children were affected by it.

5. Sixteenth-century Latin America & the conquistadors

I want to read a loooooong novel (or series of novels) about this! The conquistadors were horrible, bloodthirsty explorers who were almost obsessive in their search for gold and other riches… so I think they would be REALLY compelling antiheroes.

Five Futuristic Societies I Would Love To Read About

1. PIRATES! In SPACE!

ALL OF THE SPACE PIRATES. Like Han Solo and Carswell Thorne? YEAHHHH BRING IT ON. Space pirates and smuggling and sarcasm and groups of pirates fighting both each other and the government that’s trying to capture them. AHHHH SOMEONE WRITE THIS ASAP PLEASE.

2. Flooded NYC

With global warming, the polar ice caps are melting and the sea level is rising… and while this is all extremely distressing to think about, wouldn’t it be cool to read or write about?! Imagine people paddling about the city in boats, as they do in Venice, or maybe snorkelers who explore abandoned buildings even though they’re officially off-limits due to being full of potential hazards.

3. Deep sea colony

I just think stories about the ocean are really cool, OK?! It would be amazing if someday we have the technology and equipment to allow us to not only explore the the deepest reaches of the ocean, but to also build colonies down there so that scientists can continue their exploration and research. Aaaand since there are so many super creepy fish in the deep deep sea, this novel could be a cross between sci fi and horror!

4. The United States after a massive decrease in population

Like, what if there was a story about a futuristic US where only a tiny amount of the population remains?! (For whatever reason – war, disease, alien abduction, et cetera. I’m not really picky about this part of the plot.) We’d have to find food and fend off wild animals and adjust to not having electricity and indoor plumbing anymore.

5. Martians visiting Earth for the first time

And by “Martians,” I DON’T mean little green men. I mean, like… kids who were born in colonies on Mars who have to visit the US as teenagers for some reason! It would be soooo much fun to read about life on Mars, as well as the culture shock that I’m sure those teens would experience!

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Here are some historical and futuristic books that I’ve either read and enjoyed or plan to read sometime soon!

  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. All of her books, honestly – this author has written a ton of books about queer women living at the turn of the nineteenth century. Basically, this sounds like perfection and I need to read alllllll of the books.
  • All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen. This is a steampunk retelling of Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest set in London during the 1880s!
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Achilles & Patroclus! Yay! I actually wrote an essay about them for Superheroes Unleashed last semester, so I really need to read this.
  • 1984 by George Orwell. My Wonder Woman professor said that it is impossible to understand the modern-day superhero without reading 1984, and I’ve been meaning to read it since forever anyway, so I should get my hands on a copy of it this spring!
  • A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Based on the War of the Roses! Which I honestly need to learn more about so I can predict who will live and who will die in the story…
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. I love how the plot of this story, set in 1895, moves around from country to country. The protagonist is from India, but moves to England. She’s white, but the story combines elements of both cultures, which is really good – we definitely need more diversity in historical fiction.
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Eizabeth George Speare. This was one of my favorite books EVER when I was a little kid, but I haven’t read it in a long time – maybe I should!
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’ve never finished a video game in my entire life, but this science fiction novel sounds really unique!
  • Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This is about three girls who find themselves caught in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire… I loved it sooo much and it made me cry!
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. A YA novel about the civil rights movement in the US… with bisexual female protagonists! YESSSS.

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What about you?! Tell me all about your ideas for historical fiction and/or books about futuristic societies! AND THEN WE MUST CONVINCE AUTHOR PEOPLES TO WRITE THEM FOR US.

P.S. I’m so glad I finally found some time to write this post! Now that it’s the third week of school, I’m getting slammed with homework… lots of books to read and essays to write. In a recent post, I wrote that I love the first week of school because it’s all of the routine with none of the work. And… yeah, I so wish I could rewind time and go a few weeks back to when my head wasn’t spinning with all the studying I have to do.

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The Iowa Caucuses | #FeelTheBern

I just got back from caucusing, and I AM EXHAUSTED. Wow. I never thought voting could be so intense! I’ve voted a few times before, but back home in Indiana we don’t have a caucus, so all you have to do is fill out a paper ballot. Tonight was very different – lots of people talking animatedly, and lots and lots of headcounts.

I’m super tired right now, but I’m so so glad I went! It was pretty amazing to be among the first group of people in the nation to vote in the primary election, which narrows the field of candidates and helps to determine who each party will eventually nominate to run in the general election in November.

If you’ve read some of my recent blog posts and/or follow me on social media, you’ll know that I support Bernie Sanders! One of the perks of living in Iowa for school is that we vote first in the primary election, and as a result the candidates spend a lot of time campaigning here. I’ve been to not one but two of his Iowa City rallies, and I’m very grateful for those opportunities. I was thrilled to finally caucus for him today, and even more excited to find out that he won in my precinct!

Iowans don’t vote directly for their preferred candidate – instead, we elect delegates to vote for us. Delegates are allocated in proportion to the number of caucus-goers who are in favor of that particular candidate. In my precinct, 519 out of 636 voters supported Bernie, and the rest of the votes went to Hillary. (Martin O’Malley got none, but… TBH, that’s what I expected.) So in the end, Bernie received five delegates and Hillary received one.

The results of the Republican caucuses are in – Ted Cruz won, which is terrifying because Ted Cruz is The WorstTM – but so far only 93% of the Democrat caucuses have reported their results, and the election is too close to call anyway. As of this very moment (10:50 PM CT), Hillary Clinton has 49.8% of the vote, and Bernie Sanders has 49.6%.

AHHHHH I’M SO EXCITED. His popularity really increased during the last few months, and he’s proved to be not just a viable but a formidable opponent to Hillary – who seems, I think, to have sort of assumed that it would be an easy race?

Anyway. I’m very pleased with the results so far, and eager/anxious to see the final results tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I’d like to tell you why I support Bernie! I don’t talk about politics very often on this blog, mostly because I have so many other things on my mind most of the time, but I think it’s important to discuss it every one in a while, and I feel very passionately about this election. If this is a subject you don’t want to read about, then by all means you are free to stop reading here, but I really really want to talk about it tonight, so I’m going to.

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I’m not exactly sure how to transition into this part of the part – which issue do I discuss first? – but I’ll do my best. The following items are not listed in any particular order of important, BTW.

He’s pro-choice, which is hugely important to me. If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one, but don’t tell me what to do – my body is my own. I never ever EVER want to have children or even give birth, and it makes me super uncomfortable to hear other candidates talking about how they think abortion should be banned in most or even all situations.

I agree with Sanders’ stance on maternity leave and equal pay for equal work, as well.

LGBTQ+ rights – OK, this is a HUGE one. The Republican candidates strive to limit or even take away my rights, and Hillary… gah, Hillary. She supported the Defense of Marriage Act, and only declared her support for marriage equality in 2013. Maybe she sincerely believes that queer people are just as deserving of rights as straight people, but it honestly doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels like she’s just saying that to get votes – she’s the sort of ally who only becomes an ally when it’s favorable or even trendy to do so, and I abhor those allies.

That’s why I agree with and admire Bernie’s stance on various social issues: He’s incredibly sincere. He has a long record as a women’s rights supporter, and an equally long one when it comes to racial issues. He joined MLK’s 1968 March on Washington, for instance – clearly, his concern about racial divides isn’t a matter of jumping on the bandwagon in an attempt to be popular.

And LGBTQ+ rights? He’s supported us since the seventies and eighties. He was one of the few US Representatives to vote against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA. There’s an excellent video floating around the Internet of Bernie Sanders speaking out against the bans on LGBTQ+ people in the military in 1995, before I was even born.

Being an ally certainly wasn’t popular back then, so it’s not as if he was being one in an attempt to grab votes – he did it because he cared. I’m not aware of anyone else who has professed their allyship for such a long period of time… and if I’m being completely honest, I don’t know many allies who even care that much.

So that’s what a lot of my support for Bernie boils down to – he’s very sincere. Implementing all his plans and policies will certainly be a battle, especially if we elect a Republican majority in the House and Senate, but he means what he says and I just don’t get the feeling that the other Democratic candidates do.

It terrifies me to hear other candidates discuss their immigration policies, because they’re sooooo ignorant. We’re a nation of immigrants! I don’t understand how anyone can seriously talk about building a wall to keep people out, because the ancestors of the people saying that kind of nonsense certainly weren’t the first to get here. Do people just forget that the Native Americans were already here, or what?

I LOVE his stance on the environment, renewable energy, et cetera. I worry about our planet a lot, and how so many people from generations before mine don’t seem to care one bit about the fact that their children and grandchildren need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.

Moving on to economics, Sanders is in favor of raising the minimum wage (to make it a “living wage”) and making college more affordable. In terms of the former, I can tell you without hesitation that most of my coworkers at my old restaurant job were not teenagers – most of them were adults who worked more than one job in order to pay off their college debt. (So I guess this sentence ended up being about both of his economic policies, in a way? Cool.)

It’s ridiculous that my generation is told we have to go to college in order to “get good jobs,” only to find that there are not enough job openings, and that most of them don’t pay well enough enough to let us pay off our debt, while the interest on our student loans keeps adding up. It’s ridiculous that not everyone who wants to go to college is able to. I have a lot of friends who did end up going to college, but not at the school they wanted to attend. They were accepted to their dream school, but couldn’t afford it.

It’s getting late and I need to go to bed, so I’ll just talk about one more stance that I really care about, because… honestly, I agree with him on practically every issue, but I do have some that are more important to me than others.

Big Money, for instance. We don’t live in a democracy anymore; we live in an oligarchy. Money influences elections far too much. Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a super PAC – his money comes from small donations made by individuals, unions, et cetera – and this is another reason why I admire his sincerity. LOTS of candidates talk about “getting Big Money out of politics,” and then they accept huge sums from corporations. I’m glad that we still have a few politicians left who refuse to play that game.

….aaaaaaand it’s long past my bedtime, so I’m going to end this post here. I didn’t even get around to discussing foreign policy or a hundred other issues, but that’s OK. I’m going to get some sleep now, and then I’ll be sure to check the election results first thing tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to learn of the results of the rest of the primary, as well as the general election this fall!

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February Commenting Challenge

Jessica @ Bookish Serendipity is hosting a blog challenge next month, and I thought I’d join in! The challenge will run for the entirety of February, and it’s all about commenting on other blogs!

This is something I really struggle with… I love blogging, and I’m REALLY REALLY GOOD at frequently updating my blog with new posts every other day or so, but I suck at leaving comments on other people’s blog and responding to comments on my own!

Also, I feel like January and February are just such blahhhhh months? I never feel very motivated at that time of year, and as a result I’m really behind on commenting.

So, yeah. I hope that participating in this challenge will motivate me to be a better blogger in terms of commenting. I’ve set some specific commenting goals for myself, and I’m posting the list here in the hope that it will help to keep me accountable:

1. Comment on at least one blog each and every day

As I just said, I don’t comment as often as I would like to… but I should have no trouble remembering to comment on just one blog post per day, right? I can do that in five minutes or less, while I’m waiting for the bus or taking a quick break from homework or whatever.

I currently have a bad habit of commenting in fits and starts – I leave a gazillion comments all in one day, and then don’t comment at all for weeks and weeks. I’d like to be more consistent! It would probably increase views on my own blog, too.

2. Find at least five new blogs and comment on them at least once

I love finding new blogs and making new friends! Recommend some of your favorite blogs i the comments and I’ll check them out! I’m especially fond of book blogs and blogs that discuss college, photography, LGBTQ+ topics, and diversity in media.

3. Comment on my favorite blogs more often

I’m not going to name any names here, because you know who you are! (Not to mention that it could get awkward really fast if I made a list of my favorites but forgot one or two of them and made people upset…) I read your blogs religiously and love all your posts, and I mean to comment, but then I forget.

AND I NEED TO STOP DOING THAT. I want to show my appreciation for what you write!

4. Respond to comments on my own blog in a timely manner

I used to be REALLY good at this… like really, really good. And then college happened? Now it takes much longer for me to get around to replying to comments here on Musings From Neville’s Navel, but there’s really no reason it should be that way. I can use a minute here or a minute there to have a conversation with my readers!

-~-

Jessica even made a linkup for the challenge, so why don’t you join us?! Let’s make February a productive month of blogging and commenting!

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Reading The Rainbow: Speaking OUT – Queer Youth In Focus

reading the rainbowReading The Rainbow is an original regular feature at Musings From Neville’s Navel. I’m a queer bookworm who loves to geek out about books and LGBTQ+ topics, so why not talk about both subjects at once?! Basically, I review books with queer characters and/or themes, discuss the pros and cons of each, and tell you which stories are worth your time!

speaking out queer youth in focusTitle: Speaking OUT – Queer Youth in Focus

Author: Rachelle Lee Smith

Genre: Nonfiction

Length: 128 pages

Published by: PM Press

Date of publication: 2014

Source: Library

A photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages 14–24, identifying as queer, Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus presents portraits without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print.

With more than 65 portraits photographed over a period of 10 years, the book provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth and gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced. The collaboration of image and first-person narrative serves to provide an outlet, show support, create dialogue, and help those who struggle.

Previous Reading The Rainbow posts may be found here.

I am a very visual person, so as soon as I pulled Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus off the shelf in my hometown library, I was intrigued. This photo essay is a book version of a photography exhibit about LGBTQ+ youth!

The book begins with a description of the photographic process – the type of camera used, how Smith found her subjects, et cetera. This was fun to read about since one of my hobbies is photography!

The rest of the book is devoted to her photography. The design is definitely eye-catching, and I thought the photographer did an excellent job of conveying the personality of each subject. (Of course, they did some of that on their own too!) It was fun to flip through this book, gazing at the pictures and doing only minimal reading.

(I love books like this. I love great big books with lots and lots of words, too, but sometimes it’s fun to read something in less than half an hour.)

I really appreciated the diversity of the participants. Speaking OUT represents a variety of sexual orientations, gender identities, races, and more. One of the subjects was in a wheelchair, and multiple subjects talked about their mental health struggles. I was really glad to see that because mental illness is a huge issue in our community, and often exacerbated by the stresses of being LGBTQ+.

Also, I LOVED seeing so much racial diversity, because the way we’re portrayed in books and movies and especially TV isn’t representative of who we really are: There are more queer people of color than queer white people, but you wouldn’t know this from looking at mainstream media.

Some of the participants wrote quotes or song lyrics on their portraits, while others wrote original stuff. Some were serious, and others were funny. (“Forget the saying, ‘What came first – the chicken or the egg?’ What I want to know is, if you’re a vegetarian, can you still eat animal crackers? Puzzling, isn’t it?”)

I didn’t necessarily agree with all of the viewpoints put forth by the participants, but then I suppose the goal of this book was to show the young LGBTQ+ community, warts and all. I mean, one of the gay guys wrote some pretty misogynistic stuff, and I was just like… why?

My favorite quotes from this book come from the same girl: “The boys used to pay us to kiss each other. A couple of years later, they beat us up for the same thing” and “People aren’t afraid of being caught staring at you when they feel superior.” YOU GO, GIRL. TELL IT LIKE IT IS.

Because this project was years in the making, several of the participants had their own Then/Now sections, where they reflected on who they used to be, what they would write on a portrait of themselves today, et cetera. Some said they hated what they’d written; others said that while they wouldn’t write the same thing now, what they wrote back then was an accurate reflection of who they used to be.

Aaaaand that nearly wraps up my review, but not quite. There were two things I disliked about this book, and now is the time to discuss them both.

First of all, a handful of participants had illegible handwriting. At times, this made Speaking OUT very frustrating to read. I do think that having each subject write on their own portrait gave the book a nice, personal touch, but… if I’d been in charge of the project, I would’ve A) reminded everyone to write legibly and B) probably made people redo their contribution if it was illegible.

Secondly, there were blurbs for the book INSIDE THE BOOK.

I would’ve liked to see quotes from participants about what it was like to work on this project with Rachelle Lee Smith, or maybe quotes about the exhibit from someone who visited it, but those weren’t to be found.

I can’t understand why there was praise for the book inside of the book – that stuff is meant to go on the outside. (Also, it’s not like it was even needed: If I’m already reading this book, then I don’t need someone to tell me why I should read it.) After a while, it grew irritating, and felt like the author was trying too hard to promote her book.

I would recommend this book to…

  • Photography enthusiasts
  • Anyone looking for a quick read
  • PEOPLE WHO NEED A BREAK FROM LGBTQ+ STORIES AND WANT SOME HONEST-TO-GOD LGBTQ+ NONFICTION

All in all, reading Speaking OUT was a good way to spend half an hour or so. Obviously, I had a few issues with it, and its length meant that it wasn’t SUPER memorable, but I still think this book is important: Queer youth who were unable to visit this exhibit, who are growing up in tiny homophobic towns, who don’t know any other LGBTQ+ people IRL or online, need this book. It would be something good to read whenever I’m having another Internalized Homophobia Crisis, and I’m feeling sad and alone.

…on a happier note, this makes me want to grab my camera and take pictures of all of my friends! YAY FOR CREATIVITY AND INSPIRATION AND PHOTOGRAPHY. Unfortunately, this activity isn’t feasible at the moment, because most of my LGBTQ+ friends are scattered across the United States… and the world. OH WELL. SOMEDAY. SOMEDAY, IT’LL HAPPEN. I’LL TAKE PICTURES OF ALL YOUR CUTE LIL FACES.

Rating: 3/5

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Thoughts On Politics & The Iowa Caucuses | I Promise This Post Is More Interesting Than It Sounds!

The idea for this post has been simmering on the back burner of my mind for some time now – since last fall, as a matter of fact. I decided to finally write it after having a conversation with my mom yesterday morning, and my desire to write this post grew even stronger after reading about something related to it last night.

Iowa plays a major role in the US presidential election process. Iowa and New Hampshire, actually. Our votes are given inordinate importance in the primary elections designed to narrow the field of presidential candidates in the spring before the general election. There is no logical reason for this – it would be much more fair if all the states held their primaries at the same time – but this is the current political situation.

New Hampshire holds the first primary in the nation. They actually have a law that states they must be first! Iowa cleverly bypasses this law by holding a caucus before New Hampshire’s primary. A caucus is… well, as I understand it, it’s basically an election, but not quite?

The main difference is that we don’t vote directly – instead, we select delegates to vote for our preferred candidates at the county conventions, then the district conventions, then the state convention. Eventually, some of the state delegates are chosen to help select candidates during the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention.

It’s all very complicated and makes my head feel as if it’s about to explode, but the gist is this: The election results in Iowa and New Hampshire serve as early indications of which presidential candidate may receive the nomination from their political party. If my research is correct, this has only been the case for New Hampshire since the fifties, and for Iowa since the seventies, but despite the relative newness of these practices, they are incredibly important.

According to good old Wikipedia, “in recent decades the two states received about as much media attention as all other state contests combined.” The presidential candidates are obsessive about these two states; they spend a huge chunk of their time (and money!) campaigning there.

And, well, 2016 is an election year.

I knew about the political importance of Iowa long before I enrolled in school here – I’m a student at the University of Iowa – but somehow the implications of that hadn’t fully sunk in. I was just kind of like, “Oh, Iowa during an election year? Yeah. Cool.” And that was that.

Last fall, I moved to Iowa (from Indiana) to begin my freshman year, and… wow.

Every four years, I slowly but surely become more politically-minded. The first presidential election I can remember was in 2004. I was ridiculously excited when Barack Obama won in 2008, but I have to admit that most of my excitement was due to the fact that there would be kids in the White House again after so many years of not having any. Yeah, I wasn’t exactly the most politically literate person. (And I don’t claim to be so today – I know there’s plenty more for me to read and learn, but at least I know more than my twelve-year-old self did. YAY PROGRESS.)

2012 was the first election that really, really mattered to me. I was worried that Obama wouldn’t be reelected, because at that point I’d become a feminist and realized that I was queer, and I was terrified by the possibility of a Republican presidency, and the implications that would have for my country – and for a young queer woman like me.

I stayed up until two or three AM on election night, watching and waiting as election results came in, and I got a C on my Spanish test later that day because I was so exhausted. It was worth it, though. It was so worth it.

And now in 2016, I’m more interested in politics than I was in 2012. This is attributable to a number of factors: I’m older, I can finally vote, there is a viable candidate (Bernie Sanders!) whose political views are pretty much exactly the same as mine, which I never thought would happen because I’m super liberal. (Although I will vote for Hillary in the general election if I have to because, like I said, Republicans terrify me.)

And, yeah, there is that whole “currently residing in Iowa” thing. I have been exposed to SO MUCH that I simply would not have otherwise been exposed to, because Indiana doesn’t rank very highly as a campaign destination.

I saw a lot of signs advertising rallies for Martin O’Malley, Marco Rubio, and others this fall, and the candidates themselves were in attendance. I had to take a different route back to my dorm because the Secret Service had closed off the sidewalk I normally use – Hillary Clinton was in the building next door, so there was heightened security. I went to a Bernie Sanders rally last October and took a selfie with him. Hillary spoke at the student union just last week. And on and on it goes.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

Donald Trump visited yesterday, and before he arrived there was already talk of a protest. That’s what my mom and I were talking about – she wondered if I was going to go.

Well, I thought about it, but I really didn’t want to have to take a bus halfway across Iowa City and then walk further to my destination in the cold all for a guy I despise. I’d rather exert that kind of effort for someone I appreciate. Apparently it was a rally to remember, though? Some guy threw tomatoes at Trump and got arrested.

Anyway, that was what made me stop procrastinating on writing this post. As I said at the beginning, I’ve had this subject on my mind for a long time, but hearing about the upcoming rally and the protest that was planned made me go, “OK, I need to write this thing. NOW.”

…aaaaaand then last night, I finished my homework and started aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed. And I found this. A Bernie Sanders rally! In Iowa City! It’s a concert and there are even bands I like! (Vampire Weekend and Foster The People!) And it’s free! I texted some of my friends the news, and I already have like six or seven people who want to go with me. (One of whom I met at the Bernie rally this fall!)

My first reaction to finding out about this event was, “WAIT WHAT. OH MY GOD.” My second? “OHHHH MY GOD THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I NEED TO WRITE THAT POST TOMORROW.”

I am ridiculously happy that I chose to attend school here… for a lot of reasons. The writing instruction is excellent (as in, world-renowned), and I love the honors program. I’ve made a ton of friends here. It’s a very literary place, and while it may not be a small town, it definitely doesn’t make me feel the dreary, soul-crushing feeling that so many cities do.

And it’s given me a fantastic political education. As I said before, I’ve had experiences here that I would not have received anywhere else – except for New Hampshire, I suppose! Experience is a huge part of one’s education, and I think that it’s probably the most important part? You can read and study and read and study, but in the end I think what matters most is actually getting out there and experiencing it for yourself, when and if you are given that opportunity.

Because it makes all those facts that you’ve read about and studied seem so much more concrete. I think it inspires you to read and study more, as well. I didn’t know much about the Iowa caucuses – just that they existed – until coming here, and then I was motivated to learn more. (Shout-out to Brian from Hawkeyes For Bernie for so patiently explaining how this whole process works! I must have looked REALLY confused at first, but you stuck with it.)

I never expected to have this experience, mostly because in high school I swore I would not attend college in the Midwest. Well, you all know how that turned out… anyway, I look forward to seeing what the next few months will bring. And I can’t wait to caucus for the first (and probably only) time on February first!

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