your ink

From time to time, we put your comments into posts. Here’s one I couldn’t pass up, from Girls Education and Mentoring Services’ (GEMS) Patti Binder, who blogs at What’s Good for Girls. Patti’s resilience story inspires me right back. –Deborah

Hey Deborah!

I have been thinking of you– your honesty about what’s happening and your ability to write about it on a day to day basis are really amazing and inspiring. No doubt you and Marco are resilient and will have what it takes to get through this on the other side, perhaps even in a better position. If I can do anything– let me know! I’d be happy to!

The recession sucks– and it amplifies everyone’s fears. In the non profit world, where I live, the loss of state contracts in the wake of Paterson’s proposed budget, the increased competition for foundation dollars as their endowments take hits, or close all together in the case of Picower and Jeht– (all of their money was tied up in Madoff) we are now all “bunkering down” in your words, running numbers, strategizing, crying, hoping, praying, and as always, working, working, working, and remembering the reason we do the work– the girls we serve.

Sometimes I feel my mind running all of the terrible what if scenarios..and I feel like its what people used to say about terrorism, you know, if you are afraid to go outside then “they’ve won already.” I wasn’t one to be wrapped up in fear and paranoia around the terrorism thing, but I do feel that its good to stop obsessing and worrying (but thinking and strategizing) or “they will have won already.” I refuse to let the Madoffs and the Bushes and the Cheneys win in my personal world–

ramble, ramble…at any rate, thinking of you!


Thank you to those who responded to my question about what helps you stay on track with long writing projects the other day! The collective wisdom out there always humbles me. Writing can be so isolating, but I think it helps hugely when we share our difficulties and, importantly, our strategies for keeping it going. So in that spirit, here’s what some of you said:

Sez Dawn, of This Woman’s Work:
“Sanity comes from accepting that my life doesn’t have a neat, predictable schedule and not fighting that too hard. Writing around kids and clients (and currently without childcare) means missed opportunities and making myself crazy about that just makes me crazy — it doesn’t help. So acceptance. (sigh) Which is hard.”

Sez Anniegirl:
“Setting word counts and periodic deadlines for myself is helpful but sometimes taking a day or two away from the project lets me recharge or think or mentally reboot myself when I am wondering who the hell will I ever sell this to. I recall a writer who recommended physical activity as a way to literally run or walk yourself past the low spots or over the humps. I find I do my best writing while thinking during a workout. All I need is about 4 miles under my feet to get back on track.”

Sez Alison Piepmeier, of Baxter Sez:
“A little more than three years ago, I was at the beginning of writing my book on zines by girls and women….I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say, and I got to the point of realizing that my writing days were done. Unbeknownst to me, I had already written the last intelligent thing I was ever going to write. The semester was about to start, I hadn’t finished a chapter, and I was sliding into a pit of despair.
Fortunately, I encountered Conseula at a campus meeting on a day that I was trying not to cry, and she, too, was feeling pretty despairing about her own writing project. So we decided to start a writing group. Claire, Conseula, and I have been a writing group ever since. It’s fantastic. The group buoys us emotionally, keeping us from staying long in those places where we feel like we have nothing to say, and it helps us to be productive: all three of us have finished book manuscripts in the time we’ve been together.”

Alison posts guidelines for starting such a group right here. Really great guidelines. I second them all!

Got more suggestions, wisdom to share? Keep it coming, GWPenners! I learn from you.

This afternoon, a guest post from Amanda Marie Gengler, Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Behavioral Sciences at Barton College in Wilson, NC. Here’s Amanda! -Deborah

While the election is over (hooray!) and we are at least temporarily saved, as Judith Warner wrote, from the “specter of Sarah Palin” as VP (or worse), her meteoric rise over the past 2 months is a stark reminder that we have a long way to go in gender and politics. Tuesday morning Palin appeared on the Today Show; back home, back in her kitchen, deftly navigating between the fridge, dishwasher, and countertop as she chatted with Matt Lauer and mashed food for the baby.

Some had suggested that the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate represented a strange milestone for women: the one where mediocre women can achieve the same success as mediocre men. For years unexceptional men have easily attained exceptional positions, while exceptional women have struggled to do so. So why doesn’t Sarah Palin mark this feminist “victory”?

Because Palin is exceptional in the area a woman must most be: her femininity. While Hillary Clinton was derided for her pantsuits and her age, Palin’s background as a beauty queen, a mother of five, and her lavish wardrobe of fitted skirts and stylish heels (eagerly subsidized by the RNC) remind us that whatever other assets a woman may possess, her proper gender performance trumps them all. A quintessential femininity is the highest card in the deck. While McCain’s motivations were likely complex, it would be difficult to argue that if the photos and biographies that accompany Sarah Palin and Kay Bailey Hutchison were reversed, his choice would have been the same. He rightly guessed that her smile, figure, and photogenic family would resonate with an American public still deeply invested in traditional and essentialist views of gender.

Yet we are to believe that the highest aims of feminism have been realized when a VP candidate can be deemed “hot” by Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, and lusted after by male voters across the nation. We are again reminded, in 2008, that if we are not properly plucked, pinned, coiffed, rouged, and of course, lip-sticked, we may risk our very professional lives. It seems after all, that those exceptional “true” women–the ones who manage to be maternal enough, to smile enough, to stay slim enough, and to keep all the obligatory feminine balls in the air (never missing a deadline, a diaper change, or a bikini wax)–set the bar today’s girls are to strive for.

Funny how “progress” can look so much like the past.

–Amanda Marie Gengler is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Behavioral Sciences at Barton College in Wilson, NC.

Happy Election Day, Girl with Penners! On this potentially HISTORIC day, we invite you to share your voting stories with us in comments.

How’d it go? Long lines? Exuberance? Fear? What’s it like to vote this vote in your part of the country? Tell us, tell us! We will collate into a post.

Me, I’m off to vote right now, feelin that audacity to hope….

(Photo is Inez Milholland, at a Suffrage Parade in 1910, ten years before white women got the right to vote)

I’m so pleased to share this post today from Bob Lamm, in honor of Write to Marry Day, and in protest of Prop 8. Bob is a freelance writer and teacher in New York City whose articles and personal esays have appeared in more than 40 periodicals, including the New York Times, the Village Voice, and Ms. magazine.  Among many other things, Bob is the author of the essay, “Learning from Women,” which was recently reprinted in Shira Tarrant’s anthology Men Speak Out.  Here’s Bob! -Deborah

Mildred Loving, who became famous for battling the ban in the United States on mixed-race marriage, died on May 2, 2008. Late in her life, she spoke out against banning same-sex marriages.

In 1958, Mildred Loving and her husband Richard Loving were in bed in their home in Virginia when police arrested them. The Lovings had married in Washington, D.C., five weeks earlier. Since Richard was White while Mildred was African American, their marriage was invalid in Virginia, one of 16 states which barred interracial marriages. (The Virginia statute applied not only to marriages actually performed in that state but also to marriages performed elsewhere.)

Both the Lovings were briefly jailed by the authorities. Under a plea bargain, they left Virginia and agreed not to return together for 25 years. A judge told them that if God had meant for Blacks and Whites to mix he would not have placed them on separate continents. But, years later, because they decided they wanted to return to live in Virginia, the Lovings launched a legal battle with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union. Eventually, in the 1967 case of Loving vs. Virginia, a unanimous United States Supreme Court ruled that miscegenation laws violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. This ruling effectively ended all bans on laws against racial intermarriage in the United States.

In 2007, in a statement prepared for the 40th anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia ruling, Mildred Loving wrote:

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

“I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

-Bob Lamm

This here’s an open call for reviews of the following, to be published here on GWP:

Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block

My Little Red Book, edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff (Feb 2009) – an anthology about first periods! Read more on the author’s website,

Interested? See our “Submit Your Ink” page for more.

Image cred

I’m pleased to offer you a little Domestic Violence Awareness Month Madness from previous GWP guest poster Madeline Wheeler. Madeline is a newly single mother of two and writer of the social action theater piece Revealing Frankie, a memoir of childhood abuse. She is currently the Coordinator for the Palmer, MA Domestic Violence Task Force. Madeline earned a BA from Harvard and credits the positive changes in her life to the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership (yay Woodhull!) –Deborah

Wife Beating, Speaking Out, and Army Wives
It’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This fact is getting lost amongst the bailout and the fabulous SNL skits about Sarah Palin. It is not an issue that the candidates address with the passion it deserves; quips and VAWA sound bites don’t cut it.  It seems Becky Lee’s polite suggestion for a debate question “Freedom from Domestic Violence: Right or Responsibility?” on the Huffington Post went unheard by Bob Schieffer.

I admit, I love the SNL skits, and recently have been distracted by the accusation that my willingness to speak out as a survivor of abuse is a form of Munchausen–but what has really caught my eye last week?

1) The new Sunny Side of Truth ad revealing evils of the tobacco industry.  Blow up figures of women resembling Weebles sway in the background as young women sing a ditty about smoking preventing men from beating their wives. “If you smoke it may take your life, but if you don’t you might beat your wife.” The ad claims that in 1998, according to the New York Times a tobacco executive said, “Nobody knows what you’d turn to if you didn’t smoke.  Maybe you’d beat your wife”.

2) Last week I received an email from Lori Weinstein, Executive Director of Jewish Women’s International (JWI), informing me that in the past four months, the deaths of three Fort Bragg-based female soldiers have resulted in murder charges brought against the victim’s husband or lover.  I googled the murders and was shocked to find that in June and July 2002, four military wives at Fort Bragg were murdered by their spouse within a six week period.  Officials acknowledged that three of the men had recently served in Afghanistan but that there was “no common thread among the cases, and suggest[ed] it may simply be an “anomaly.”

I searched several websites before I found the Baltimore Sun article about the 2008 Fort Bragg murders.  Carol Darby, spokeswomen for the Army’s Special Operations Command, said the Army had no reason to be “overly concerned for [the] personal safety of female soldiers.”  Can this be considered an anomaly?  Where’s the smoking gun?

3) An article on Politico proffers that Michelle Obama’s new focus group is military families quoting her saying “The commander in chief doesn’t just need to know how to lead the military, he needs to understand what war does to military families.”  This isn’t just a political move—it’s a necessity.  An October 14th editorial in The Fayetteville Observer, a military newspaper for Fort Bragg, made the shocking comment, “In a way, it’s surprising that there aren’t more bodies piling up at military bases all over this nation.”

If this doesn’t catch your eye, maybe a polite stats reminder will. According to the National Committee Against Domestic Violence one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

I know objectors will say that women are violent too, but 85% of domestic violence victims are women.  I’ve taken a stand with JWI, which is still in the process of spearheading a petition to make domestic violence an important position for the candidates.  In addition, each day in October they feature a survivor’s story.

Barack Obama should take note, since the wife of his supporter and friend Massachusetts’s Governor Deval Patrick’s joined with Jane Doe, Inc. and made a public service announcement revealing that she was a victim of violence in her previous marriage.

Women’s voices are strong and powerful! A survivor’s voice is powerful and to be respected!  Though I have received recent backlash, I will continue to be an advocate and continue to speak as a survivor.  Survivors are not to blame and should not be shamed. As the Bay State’s First Lady, Diane Patrick exclaims, “Talk. It could save someone’s life.”

–Madeline Wheeler

inkwellYOUR INK is a feature of GWP that brings readers’ comments and guest posts to the front page.  This edition is brought to you by Kris De Welde, an assistant professor of sociology at Florida Gulf Coast University.  Let’s give it up and spread some link love for Kris, who is fulfilling GWP’s mission to bridge feminist research and popular reality. Here’s Kris! -Elizabeth

We are in the midst of an economic crisis, that much we know.  October is national Domestic Violence awareness month, something fewer Americans know.  And, we are poised to elect a new President who will address our social and economic needs.  Are these related?  Absolutely. 

Earlier this month, my local abuse shelter and resource center, Abuse, Counseling & Treatment (ACT), did something it has never done before.  The center’s director approached the local media, pleading for donations of food and other goods.  Their shelves had gone empty by the second week of the month.  My suspicion is that they are not the only community organization in this predicament.

As the economy continues to unravel, we can expect women and children to become even more vulnerable than they are right now.  Women are more likely to live in poverty, work minimum wage jobs, work part-time, and thus receive fewer benefits despite also shouldering childcare and eldercare responsibilities.  To boot, women overall earn less than men for the same work, and Black and Latina women earn even less (Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S.: 2007)…. 


Portnoy's ComplaintWe had an interesting inquiry from a reader about recommendations for female-friendly MFA programs. We were wondering what our readers thought–have any of you been in MFA programs that you would especially recommend?

Also–on a larger point, it’d be interesting to hear what our readers think constitutes a “female-friendly” program? The students, the teachers, the training itself?

I know my viewpoint: no Philip Roth. But maybe that’s just me. 🙂

What do women want from the candidates? GWPers ain’t holding back. Here’s what some of you are saying:

# Katka Says:
October 14th, 2008 at 1:06 pm e

I *definitely* spend more on daycare than food. I not only want affordable daycare, I want great daycare, with informed and well-compensated teachers, where kids are loved and taught respect of others and themselves, along with chances to explore art, music, and other languages. NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK!

# Virginia Says:
October 14th, 2008 at 4:12 pm e

This will be a great panel. Here’s what I’ve got on it: Where 3rd-wave, girlwithpenner style feminism leads us is down a path towards all kinds of equality, all kinds of social and economic justice. I want us not to destroy the planet; I want us not to do violence abroad; I want us to reduce economic inequality. These are women’s, men’s issues, family issues, too! I’m a little utopian at the moment, but if I’m leveraging identity (as a feminist) that’s what I’m thinking about when I think about our new Obama administration! (Here it comes! Here it comes!)

Keep it comin. Tell us what YOU want!