Cultural Survival

Y’all, I am having Kavanaugh flashbacks it’s not OK. If you know the FH origin story, you know this podcast was born of the despair I and many of you felt during and after those hearings last fall. Kay Ivey signing the Alabama abortion bill into law on the tail of so many other hyper-restrictive anti-choice pieces of shit legislation passing has got me down in a SERIOUS way.

I’m also remembering why I started using the term cultural survival. (If someone else coined this phrase please tell me and I will credit you! I started using it organically, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have a predecessor.) No, I am not sick or starving or being beaten or denied sunlight. I am physically surviving just fine right now (knock on wood), and I will be for the foreseeable future (unless the bill is enacted and I have a miscarriage or need an abortion, in which case I might literally die or go to jail, and if I go to jail all those things will absolutely happen to me—they are happening to millions of people right now. Oh, by the way, why aren’t you smiling? You look so much prettier when you SMILE!). But inside, I am having a really fucking hard time swallowing what our country is dishing up. 

Cultural survival is the term I use to capture what qualities/activities/mojo I need in my life to avoid disintegrating into bitterness or paralysis. How can I resist the urge to engage in posturing and infighting on social media? How can I stop the anger storming around in my head that robs me of my joy and, more importantly, the energy I need to be creative about my own resistance and my ability to be there for my friends and for people who are worse off than me?

The answer for me has been community, connection, affirmation (giving and seeking) and putting my energy into this platform and this community. So that’s what I am doing even though I am mad as hell and all I want to do is scroll through Twitter retweeting the angry/snarky/clever comments other people are making. (I have also rewatched the entire first season of Pose and then the pilot again for the third time, which did help.) I let myself do that for a while, but I know that will not sustain me. 

I made this podcast for you, for all of us, to get us through these times. I am sad and sorry and disgusted this is happening. My heart aches for abuse survivors who are having to hear and see the words “rape” and “incest” over and over again every day this remains in the news. But the march toward liberation is unsteady and it continues and it needs you. Let’s continue to lift each other up. And never feel bad about looking for some good news glimmering from between the steaming piles of bad. Remember, they want us tired and divided and not thinking clearly—but that’s not what’s going to happen because we’ve got each other and generations of badasses behind us cheering us on!

I love you.

OMG WTF 😑

I am so grateful for the Feminist Hotdog community this week.

As I’m sure you already know, Alabama passed a near-total abortion ban on Tuesday that “Governor” Kay Ivey immediately signed into law. (She’s governor in title only—trust me.) Those of us who keep an eye on the Alabama Legislature knew this was coming, but it didn’t make it any easier.

There was a part of me that wondered if Ivey might surprise us and veto the bill. She’s unlikely to run again, and maybe common sense and humanity would prevail, right?

Turns out, no. But a girl can dream. And when she wakes up, she’d better be ready to fight—and podcast!

While our state lawmakers were busy confirming their hatred of womb-having people, I just happened to be editing next week’s episode in which my guest Mawiyah Patten (formerly of URGE) and I discuss reproductive justice and abortion access. Hearing her speak reminded me that this is a long game and that there are passionate and knowledgeable leaders at the wheel, driving intersectional movements that I know will ultimately prevail. It didn’t exactly make my heart sing, but it gave me hope.

One thing that did make my feminist heart sing this week (although it was hard to hear over the tooth-gnashing) was seeing the powerful photographs of the Alabama Handmaids splashed all over the landing pages of every news site on Wednesday. What a brilliant stroke of activist/artistic genius. You make us proud, Handmaids. Y’all follow them on Instagram.

I’m sure you’ve seen the calls for how you can support reproductive justice in Alabama, but if not here are a few:

The Yellowhammer Fund provides funding for anyone seeking care at one of Alabama's three abortion clinics and will help with other barriers to access.

The P.O.W.E.R. House provides clinic escorts and space for patients, companions, and kids before, during, and after accessing the Montgomery Reproductive Health Services.

URGE engages young people in creating and leading the way to sexual and reproductive justice for all by providing training, field mobilization, and national leadership for a youth-driven agenda.

I don’t have too much more to say this week other than 1) thank you, 2) please don’t boycott the South, and 3) please interrupt people when they start talking about how backward people are here. The more we isolate and distance ourselves from the places where oppression festers, the stronger it will grow and the faster it will spread.

Love yourself. Love your buns. (They are YOURS!)

Feminist Hotdog

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What Kind of Feminist Am I?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what exactly I mean when I say I am a feminist. 

The other day I participated in my first Feminist Hotdog-related interview where I was the subject, not the one asking the questions. Predictably, the interviewer asked me what feminism means to me. (I say “predictably,” but was I prepared to answer it? Of course not.) My answer was fine, I guess: The belief that people of all genders are equal and deserve equal access to resources and opportunities (or something like that). I followed this up by saying that this belief did not seem particularly radical to me but noted that some women distance themselves from the word feminism, not because they don’t believe in equality, but often because they don’t identify with what their stereotype of what a feminist is, does, or looks like. 

I wish I’d said more, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. There are a couple of things about that answer that I want to expand on.

One, some women who believe in equality and emancipation have very good reasons for not wanting to identify as feminists, and that his because the version of feminism that dominated the women’s movement for many years was neither inclusive nor intersectional. As my guest Lecia pointed out in Episode 5 of Season 1, beginning in the 70s many black women chose to refer to themselves as womanists because white feminism, in many ways, reproduced patterns of oppression and harm toward women of color. I hope that by guarding against white feminism and striving to be intersectional, Feminist Hotdog can support a version of feminism that is genuinely inclusive; but I also recognize that I have blind spots and limitations, and I actively welcome feedback on how to improve in this area. 

Two, often when I get into conversations with people about the term feminism and why people do or don’t embrace it, the phrases “radical lesbians,” “femi-Nazis,” or "man-haters" will come up (i.e., these are stereotypes about feminists that cause women to distance themselves from feminism). I don’t think I have to explain why “femi-Nazi” should be left out of any rational conversation on this topic, but I want to address "man-haters" and "radical lesbians.” 

Being critical of patriarchy and harmful male behavior does not make someone a man hater. I firmly believe that feminism is a good thing for men and people of all genders because it strives to break down rigid gender roles that prevent people from forming the kinds of social and emotional connections human beings need to be healthy. Because women demanding equal rights or being critical of male behavior falls outside those gender norms, it is often perceived as aggressive or entitled or even hateful toward men. But I would argue that, in the vast majority of cases, “man-hater” is a weaponized term used in attempts to discredit women or to silence their positions. 

There are (small) factions of feminists who want to live separately from men and believe that men are beyond redemption. This belief is intellectually grounded in some cases; in others, it is born of trauma so horrific that the desire for distance is hardly a mystery. (You know how reverse racism isn’t a thing? Not wanting to hang around with your oppressor, also not sexist.) I don’t believe that lesbianism or queerness automatically equate to radicalism or vice versa, nor does my version of feminism rely on distancing myself from radicals or lesbians (that’s just old-fashioned homophobia, IMO) or radical lesbians or radical feminists or anyone who sincerely believes in the emancipation of women. I may feel curious about or even critical of some of the more radical positions out there, but I am never ever ever going to support a version of feminism that relies on throwing other feminists under the bus or saying, “I’m not like those feminists.” (See also: “I’m not like other girls.”)

When I started this show, I felt it was important to point out that I am not a scholar of feminism. I know a lot about certain figures and key debates, but I would be hard pressed to explain the different waves with much accuracy—and I think that’s OK. Feminist Hotdog was never intended to be a primer. It’s an emotional experience; therapeutic for me and, I hope, for the listeners. At the center of the show is an unwavering belief in the healing power of connection between people of all genders who experience sexism as we find our way through this fucked up time (recognizing that things have always been fucked up for a lot of us). So, while I’m never going to claim that the show is about feminism per se, but I’m also never going stop striving to learn more about what feminism means to other people and to be better at talking about it in inclusive and intersectional ways. Otherwise, there would be no point. 

I meant for this to be a short little post and it turned into a rant; if you’re still with me, thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts/comments. I love you.

Fuck Vision Boards

After trying and failing to keep up with blogging about each episode, I decided to switch gears a little focus instead on posting musings from the mind of Feminist Hotdog. I think this will be a lot more fun for you and for me, and make it a lot more likely that I’ll actually post! Hooray!

Today, I thought I’d tell you about something I just reread in my journal from last fall, right before I decided to start a podcast. I had been feeling low and decided to read a book about “taking control of your life” in which the author instructed me to write down my outlandish, ambitious, over-the-top dream as the first step toward reaching it. 

And…I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t think of ANYTHING. So, instead I just wrote:

“WHAT IS MY DREAM???”

Please imagine the “despair face” emoji here, because that is exactly how I remember feeling when I wrote that.

Talk about self-help gone wrong. In a world where you can’t live your damn life without some coffee mug or Instagram post DEMANDING that you follow your dream, not having one is pretty discouraging. No dream? What a loser!

Well, it’s six months later and guess what? STILL NO DREAM. At least not the “holy grail that drives my every breath/step/heartbeat” kind. And guess what? I’M COMPLETELY FUCKING FINE. I’m better than fine because I stopped trying to force myself into some bestselling prescription for happiness and just focused on the stuff that I already knew made me happy—like talking to my friends and meeting cool women who make the world better. Getting to share it with other people is really the relish on the hotdog. 

Is that an Instagram-approved dream? Does my 7-year-old niece go bed each night asking Jesus to make her the host of an indie podcast? Probably not. But who cares? 

So, yeah. Don’t have a dream? Just focus on the things that make you happy. No vision board required. (Not that there’s anything wrong with vision boards—unless they stress you out. Then fuck vision boards.) Let the little things fill you up; then, if a big dream does come along, you’ll be ready to hop on that unicorn and ride.  

I’ll be dreaming of YOU as I record Season 2 (coming in April!). Until next time!

Love yourself. Love your buns.
Feminist Hotdog

Dude, What's the Point?

If you’ve never been to the Gulf Coast, believe me when I tell you it’s magical, even in November. This episode was recorded steps from the crystal clear water and white sand beaches, on day two of a three-day women’s retreat. I’m pretty sure you can hear the “aaaaah” in our voices.

My guest, Lecia, is one of my all-time favorite people and role models. She wins best laugh in any room, and she’s one of the only people I know who can call you on your shit while simultaneously making you feel lucky that she even bothered with you. We had a blast talking about the results of midterm elections and the ONE HUNDRED women who got elected to Congress! Woo hoo! I also got to regale Lecia with tales of my roller derby days and my love for the sport and for the WFTDA Championship tournament that was going on that weekend. Our feminist hearts were singing along with the surf.

Next, we tackled the question, “What does it all mean?” Lecia dropped some knowledge that I’d have been foolish to try to embellish on, so we moved on to the HHOF. I inducted lingerie blogger Cora Harrington, whose badass blog The Lingerie Addict has opened my eyes to the beautiful complexity and feminist possibilities of underwear. Lecia told me about Tanya Acker, a feminist she’s known since the 70s who is now a judge on the reality court show Hot Bench. Tanya recently came to Alabama to help Get Out the Vote, and seeks justice for all on and off the bench.

We laughed, we learned and we listened to the waves. It was a great day.

"Is That Santa's Husband?"

I try not to “do” regret, but I admit to having one regret about episode 4.

My guest was my dear friend Lauryn, who is a brilliant educator, social justice warrior, proud Latina, badass single mom and a doctoral student to boot. (She’s obviously not the regret; she’s Wonder Woman.) While we were recording and chatting about Cuban artists and anti-nuclear war protests, her sweet little son came into the room to check on her and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too, baby!” she told him. Then she helped settle him in the other room and returned to our conversation.

I’m always amazed when I spend time with parents by how easily they are able to switch between adult and child conversations, how seamlessly they multitask. Lauryn, was clearly used to constant interruptions. This was one of several we edited out. But I wish I hadn’t edited out her son’s spontaneous declaration of love. It was such a pure, beautiful expression of connection between a mother and son, and one that clearly happens between them multiple times a day. It warmed my icy cold heart and made me so proud of my friend and the sweet, nurturing son she is raising.

But enough about the parts of this episode you can’t hear—the parts you can are pretty great too. We had a good squee over the latest on Parker Curry, the little girl who first stole America’s heart when she was photographed staring at the painting of Michelle Obama in the National Portrait Gallery. Parker’s mom helped her dress as Michelle for Halloween, complete with a custom-made dress that looked just like the one in the portrait, and Michelle herself gave Parker a shout out on Twitter. Adorable and empowering!

We pivoted to jolly ol’ England and a decades-old story about a collective of activist women who camped out at a military base to protest nuclear weapons—for 20 YEARS. You read that right. The story of the Greenham Common Peace Camp is amazing, and you have to listen/read about it for yourself. It will blow your mind.

This week’s Dear Feminist Hotdog question came from a women who works in IT and is sick of having her job explained to her by men. (We had LOTS to say on that topic—surprise!) We then inducted two new women—both artists—into the HHOF: Mona Haydar and Carmen Herrera. Mona is a Syrian-American rapper, poet and activist who is challenging the way the world perceives Muslim women with her intersectional art. Carmen is an accomplished Cuban-born painter who, at age 100, finally got the gallery show she deserved after putting up with decades of sexism in the art world. “Inspiring” doesn’t even come close to describing these women.

Caw Like a Crow

Artist, mother and bike adventurer Valerie Downes joined me for this episode and regaled listeners with tales of her recent two-wheeled cross-country adventure (based on the TransAmerica route from Adventure Cycling). We got to hear how people reacted to meeting a woman traveling alone by bike, her patented method for dealing with dogs hell-bent on tire destruction, and her perceptions of what the hell is happening in our nation. (Spoiler alert: Maybe things aren’t as permanently fucked as we think?)

We had a great discussion about what made our feminist hearts sing this week, including a glimpse into Val’s 5-year-old daughter’s self-defense skills (don’t mess with her, y’all!) and a trip back in time to before Roe v. Wade when a covert group of women, all of whom called themselves Jane, organized to provide safe access to abortion for the women of Chicago. (It’s an amazing story; check out this video series about the Janes from The New York Times Retro Report.) Then we tackled a question from a listener who’s young and in love but yearning for adventure while her boo wants to stay put. (Another spoiler alert: No easy answers there.)

Val brought it back to biking with her choice for the Hotdog Hall of Fame: Ayesha McGowan. McGowan is on track to be the first African-American woman to become a professional road cyclist. Not only is she making history, she’s paving the way for young black girls who, previously, had no representation in the sport. Feminist Hotdog picked Leslie Hall, formerly of the girl group Leslie and the Lys. She’s a rapper, she’s a video and performance artist, she’s a collector (and namer!) of gem sweaters. If all that sounds like a lot, try doing it in gold lamé pants. Check out the Hall of Fame for more on these incredible inductees!

Necessity Is the Motherhood of Invention

Episode 2 was recorded in a Washington, DC, hotel room with two microphones propped up on a cardboard box. While not a technical triumph, it was an awesome chapter in the story of my five-year friendship with the lovely and talented writer Joanna Williams.

It had been a tough—and bizarre—week news-wise. The federal government doesn’t want to recognize the existence of transgender people? Oh, OK. Pipe bombs being delivered to Eric Holder and Robert De Niro? Cool. We had a lot to talk about.

If you’ve listened to the episode and want quick access to all the rad stuff we talked about, here’s a summary with links.

Joanna’s feminist heart sang this week when she discovered The Trans Ally Toolkit authored by Jay-Marie Hill and published by the ACLU of Missouri. I highlighted a more metaphysical approach to society’s current ills with a delightful story about a coven of witches in Brooklyn, New York, who cast a spell on Brett Kavanaugh. After following up on the Lyft story from Episode 1 and tackling a tough polyamory problem submitted by a listener known as “Non-Monogomous Slut,” we then turned to the Hotdog Hall of Fame. Joanna chose to honor the black girls and young women who helped desegregate America’s schools, while I inducted Aaron Philip, a black, trans model who uses a wheelchair.

Despite the makeshift mic stand—or perhaps because of it—we had a ton of fun making this episode. Joanna, I can’t wait to have you back!

FH

Congratulations...it's a Podcast!

If I’m being honest, the origin story of this project leaves something to be desired.

I’d like to say that my decision to record my female friends talking about women’s badassery was purely motivated by the desire to share their magic with the world. But the fact is that Feminist Hotdog’s ingredients include the toxic byproducts of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings—the abattoir, if you will, that rendered my naïve belief that a recklessly partisan, executive-power-granting, tantrum-throwing alleged rapist could never be confirmed to our country’s highest court.

During the confirmation hearings (when it became clear that the last ounce of integrity to be found in a Republican lawmaker had died with John McCain), I remember squinting contemptuously at Mitch McConnell’s weird droopy turtle face (I know it’s not OK to make fun of people’s appearances, but LOOK AT HIM) and thinking to myself, “This guy knows and cares nothing about me or my life or the lives of women in this country. I would rather take advice from a hotdog than Mitch McConnell…as long as it was a feminist hotdog.”

The concept of a feminist hotdog made me laugh and gave me temporary reprieve from my rage. But then the words got stuck in my head. They haunted me for a few days, tormenting me with the knowledge that there was something more there—an idea that was dancing just beyond the reach of the hamster that runs my brain.

What did it mean?

Then, it hit me: I AM FEMINIST HOTDOG! My friends and I and independent-minded women everywhere are the anti-Mitch McConnell. Almost every woman I knew was suffering in that moment. We needed a place to talk about and celebrate news that was actually good for women. And our country needed to hear from us.

A week later, the incomparable Kristina Turner of The Fan Squad joined me for the first episode. Our mics sucked and we didn’t know what we were doing, but we laughed and had a great time. We talked about the new female Doctor Who, the reboot of Charmed, Kristina’s first trip to New York Comic Con—and Feminist Hotdog was born.

Thank you for listening and for being part of the pack. It means the world to me. If you have a question you’d like us to answer or a nomination for the Hotdog Hall of Fame, drop me a line.

Love yourself. Love your buns. And don’t look at Mitch McConnell’s face for too long.

FH