Nurse Logs

There’s a trail at the Girl Scout camp where I went as a kid and worked as a counselor in college called the Roslyn Bay Trail, and it’s where I first learned about how a forest renews itself when trees die. What happens is, when a tree falls down, the nutrients in it feed new plants–first small plants like mosses, then bigger plants like ferns, and eventually new trees grow out of the remains of the tree that fell. We call these downed trees nurse logs, because they nurture new life even through their death.

Trees have been a metaphor for my experience with metastatic cancer almost from the beginning. The trees down here at the base of this cliff are the people I’ve met in the world of cancer–my metastatic sisters and brothers. I did a video for Living Beyond Breast Cancer during their 2015 mets conference, the one where I met Jennie Grimes and we held the first die-in, and in it I talked about how the women in the video with me are the lovely trees in this horrible swamp of disease we live in. And whenever the four of us would message each other or post on each others’ Facebook timelines, we’d use the tree and heart emojis, to send tree love to each other.

One of those four trees is gone now, our beautiful Adrian, and now only three of us are left. She’s not the only tree I’ve lost recently–of that original Hear My Voice training program in 2015, 6 of us have died, and another is in hospice. And it’s killing me. It’s slowly killing my spirit just as surely as cancer is slowly killing my body. When Jennie enters hospice, when Jennie dies, I don’t know how I’ll keep going on. And I know she feels the same way about me.

The only thing that brings me any sense of meaning to me these days is to think of these fallen trees as nurse logs. Their memories, their lives, their children, their passions, their faces, their senses of humor, their wisdom, their spirits, their beautiful beautiful beautiful spirits are nurturing us, feeding us, giving us strength to go on, to demand change, to bring research to our friends, to fight against death death death so much death. Their falling leaves a hole in the forest canopy, but their souls are bringing new life to our movement and nutrients to keep us growing. 

And someday this forest will cover the world.

An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg 

December 20, 2015

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I’m writing to you to discuss the suspension the Facebook account of a member of our organization, Beth Fairchild. Beth’s account was recently suspended because she posted a picture of an areola tattoo that she performed on a woman who has been through a mastectomy with reconstruction. Beth is an important member of our organization, MET UP, whose mission is to change the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action.

Like many of our members, myself included, Beth has metastatic breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, and is incurable. Everyone with metastatic breast cancer will die of or with their disease, including Beth. And yet, despite this devastating diagnosis, Beth has decided to spend the time she has left being a fierce advocate for women who have breast cancer, including using her amazing skills as a tattoo artist to help women who have been through breast reconstruction.

Many people don’t realize that breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is nothing like breast augmentation done on women without cancer. In a mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, including the nipple. In order to rebuild the breast, doctors can build a nipple with tissue, although it will never feel like the removed nipple because it no longer has any nerves in it. And after a surgeon builds a nipple, it has no areola. In order to have the nipple look like the one that was removed, a tattoo artist like Beth must tattoo an areola on/around the rebuilt nipple. In addition, some women can’t or don’t have the nipple rebuilt, and instead have a 3-D areola tattoo, like the one Beth created and shared in the photo.

Facebook has standards for determining when nipples can be shown in photos shared on your site. Your community standard states, “We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.” The photo that Beth shared clearly shows a mastectomy scar at the top of the breast. And yet, your staff have suspended Beth’s account because she has been accused of violating the community standards–standards that explicitly allow this photo to be shared. The photo that Beth shared is at the bottom of this letter.

Those of us in the breast cancer community have found ourselves repeatedly targeted by people reporting post-mastectomy photos. This is consistent with the ongoing sexualization of our disease–a disease that will take Beth’s life, and mine. That our cancer involves our breast does not make pictures of our scars and our reconstruction pornography, any more than photos of people with other amputations is pornographic. It has become exhausting having to repeatedly defend the posting of such photos, and to be blunt, your staff seems to have a difficult time following your standard that such photos will “always” be allowed. Indeed, Beth is not the first woman to share such a photo whose account has been suspended. 

And so, I’m writing with two requests: that Beth’s account be reinstated, since she clearly has not violated Facebook’s community standards; and that you train your staff to recognize a post-mastectomy photo, so that this harassment from your users of women recovering from a mastectomy will finally end. I await your response to my requests.


Beth Caldwell

Co-Founder, MET UP


Don’t you worry your pretty little head

I’m not gonna lie, I just drank some bourbon and I’m already wound up with the onslaught of pink when it isn’t even goddamn Labor Day (I am so sorry, childhood and gynecological cancer peeps, it sucks that Pinktober is eating your awareness month). So maybe this will be even more rangy than my usual feminist breast cancer rant, but I’m not even remotely sorry about that.

I am so fucking sick of the pink awareness machine convincing everyone, especially early stagers, that breast cancer is cured when treatment for early stage disease ends. We don’t know how many people who have early stage disease will later develop metastatic disease, but it may be as many as 36% within 12 years of ending treatment. However many it is, it’s TOO FUCKING MANY. And too many women who have early stage disease think they’re cured, when they are still at risk of developing metastatic disease. 

Why does this happen? I personally think it’s partly a gender issue, and partly a marketing issue. Let’s delve into the gender issue first.

It’s been a thing since time immemorial to treat women like they’re too fragile or stupid or incompetent or whatever to be handle the truth. We’re delicate flowers, you know, so if you tell us that something scary might happen, we’ll probably have some hysterical (did you know that word has the same root as hysterectomy? Because doctors thought our uteruses made us cray-cray) reaction and never recover. So the solution was, just don’t tell women what’s happening to them. 

What. The. Fuck. I mean, WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK, amiright? Except we still do that now. We don’t tell early stagers that their cancer might metastasize because we don’t want to scare them. Why don’t we want to scare them? Is it because we worry their poor little female brains can’t handle it and they’ll start running through the streets screaming and pulling out our hair? For the love of pete, could you all please just stop infantalizing us for five minutes? Women have a right to know what can happen to their bodies. We are not pussies. We’re strong and powerful and we handle horrible shit all the fucking time.

Then there’s the’s the marketing thing. Take a look at practically any marketing for any cancer center, cancer charity, or cancer anything, and you’ll see it’s about selling hope. Hope for life, hope for a cure, hope for never having cancer come back. How can you convince people to hire a doctor or donate money if there’s no hope that they’ll be cured? I mean, if the marketing said “We’ll do our best but 1 in 4 of you will develop terminal breast cancer anyway” they’d never convince anybody to part with their hard-earned dollars, now would they? The truth can be mighty inconvenient, so it’s easier to just focus on hope.

The thing is, though, if women don’t know that their cancer could recur, they don’t know what signs to look out for. They don’t know that unexplained bone pain is something they should mention to their doctors, because it might be bone mets. They don’t know that that headache they just can’t shake should result in an MRI. They don’t know that the tamoxifen they’re on is really fucking important and if they stop taking it, they may be risking their lives. Because nobody told them the risks, because nobody wants them to worry their pretty little heads.

This shit is fucked up. Patients have a right to know that their cancer could come back, that it could become life-threatening. We should respect them enough to trust that they can manage their fears in the face of the facts. We should treat them as adults and tell them the truth. 

Why I hate pink ribbon culture

Did you notice it was some kind of dog-related holiday this week? Susan G. Komen For The Cure did. This is from their Twitter feed.

Know what I was doing on that dog day? This.

Here’s another one from the Komen twitter feed earlier this year.

Round about that time I was looking something like this, on my way to a blood transfusion.

Check it, I still I had eyebrows then! Ah, memories.

Here’s the thing, y’all: breast cancer is not some sorority where the treatment is the hazing and once it’s done, it’s all a party with giant bras and fake boobs on dogs. Cancer is a shitshow that leaves lasting scars. One of my closest friends had stage I breast cancer, and she’d be the first to tell you that although chemo and radiation are over, she’s not done with cancer. She lives with the scars and the pills and the emotional damage every day. And for those of us who are stage IV, the hazing of treatment only ends when we die. We never get to join the sorority.

All this pink shit, the bras and the feather boas? They trivialize a deadly disease. They make sport of our deaths. Actually, what they do is erase our deaths. Because if those dogs are what breast cancer is about, where do I fit into the picture, with my one breast? I’m being tortured so I can buy a little extra time with my kids before I leave them motherless. And I WILL leave them motherless, no matter how many dogs get put into bras. No amount of awareness will save my life.

The next time you see one of these things, I’d like you to register your dislike with the organization sharing it. And while you’re at it, demand that they spend more money on research, which is the only thing that will save my life and the lives of the other 150,000 Americans living with metastatic breast cancer.

No, I will not pee in your cup

It’s Mets Monday again, and I want to talk about something that impacts young metsters in particular: pregnancy tests. For me, it’s one of the most dehumanizing parts of mester life. Here’s how it played out for me last week.

I developed a cold last week, which doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but when you’re having chemo, spiking a fever means a hospital admission. Ain’t nobody want that, so my oncologist said “No chemo this week, we’ll start the cycle next week instead. How about a PET scan while we wait?” I was like, “Perfect, let’s do it.” We were going to do one after this cycle, but, given the opportunity and a good insurance plan that covers regular scans, bumping it up a month makes sense. My oncologist put in the referral for the scan, and they scheduled it for Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, I got a call from the radiology clinic where the scan would take place, and the scheduler on the phone confirmed the appointment, and asked if I needed her to go over the instructions for prepping for the scan. I told her I’d had several already so I knew what to do–nothing to eat after midnight, last meal low in carbs. She said that’s right, and then said, “And because you’re under 50, we need you to do a pregnancy test up at the hospital before you come for your appointment.”

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to have a pregnancy test before a PET scan. PET scans involve radioactive isotopes and that shit is bad for a fetus. But, since I’ve been in menopause for over a year now from the treatments for my terminal cancer, the last scan they’d said I didn’t need a pregnancy test. Because they used logic. So, I told the scheduler this, and she said, “Well, it’s protocol, but I’ll ask the radiologist if it’s necessary and call you back.” Which she did, with the news that I would have to take the pregnancy test.

I get it, modern medicine: you worry about me suing you if it turns out I was pregnant and the baby has a birth defect. On behalf of the legal profession, I apologize that we’ve driven you to behave in ways that are not even remotely about taking care of your patients, and are solely about covering your butts. Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you ask a woman who has lost her fertility to cancer treatments to submit to a pregnancy test. That’s not about protecting her, because it’s actually causing her emotional harm.

I didn’t want any additional kids by the time I found out I had cancer–two was my limit, and The Hubs got snipped like five minutes after The Girl was born. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still traumatizing to be menopausal at age 38 from the cancer treatments that are only going to extend, but not save, my life. To then be required to not only be reminded of what cancer has taken from me, but to submit to testing to prove that cancer has indeed taken it from me, in order to get the testing I need to stay alive? That’s incredibly insensitive. Actually, the word I want to use is cruel. It’s cruel to do this to women.

On top of that, there’s the obvious paternalism involved in forcing women to take unnecessary medical tests “for their own protection.” What’s happening in my situation is that this radiology protocol says that I, a woman who hasn’t had a period in 14 months, whose husband has had a vasectomy, and who is actively undergoing chemotherapy, am unable to be trusted when I say “No, there is no chance I’m pregnant.” They know better than us dumb women about our bodies. Just trust us, ladies, we’re only trying to protect you.

Well, fuck you. No, I won’t pee in your cup. I refuse.

I emailed my oncologist and the clinic manager for his office explaining what was going on, and how upset I was about it. I told them that I knew this wasn’t their fault, as the radiology practice isn’t part of the cancer center, but that I hoped they’d pass on my concerns to the radiology practice. He and the clinic manager both wrote back and promised to try to help me out.

A few hours later, after 5PM, I got a phone call from the radiology clinic, this time from a different scheduler. She asked if I’d gotten instructions for tomorrow’s appointment, and I said yes, and she said, “And you know you need a pregnancy test first, right?” This is when I had had enough. Hearing I had to have a pregnancy test for the third time that day was more than I could take. So, I said that I didn’t think I should have to take one given that I’m in menopause and receiving chemotherapy, and my husband has had a vasectomy. She trotted out the “It’s protocol” line and that’s when I snapped. I started crying, and I told her that I think it’s incredibly insensitive to tell a terminally ill woman whose fertility has been taken from her by cancer treatments that she has to take a pregnancy test in order to get the medical tests that guide those treatments.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone and she apologized, and said they certainly didn’t mean to come off as insensitive. She explained that her supervisor wasn’t there, and she was worried if I didn’t get the test done, that they’d refuse to do my scan when I got there the next day. I explained that the last time I’d been there for a scan, they hadn’t required a pregnancy test, given that I’m in menopause from treatment. And she said, “OK, then, don’t worry about taking the test, I’ll put a note on the file.”

The next day when I got there for the PET scan, nobody at the front desk mentioned the pregnancy test. And in fact, when the nurse brought me back to get me prepped for the scan, she apologized for the whole debacle and said they have some new schedulers who don’t fully understand the rules, and they’ll be doing some training for them. I told her I appreciated that.

Thing is, it shouldn’t take a patient bursting into tears on the phone to make this kind of change happen. And I’m not the only young woman with cancer this has happened to, nor is my story the most horrifying one I’ve ever heard.  One friend told me that after having spent the previous 10 days on the hospital and having several pregnancy tests during the time she was there, she had port surgery. After they started anasthesia for the port surgery, they decided to test her for pregnancy AGAIN. She had to pee in a pan while prone on a bed, half-conscious and in pain from a spine surgery she’d had six days earlier. What in the actual fuck.

I urge doctors to trust their cancer patients, especially those that are terminally ill, to know whether they’re pregnant or not. Making them take a pregnancy to prove it is cruel. Please, stop doing this harm to us.

An Open Letter to Young Survival Coalition

UPDATE July 10 AM: YSC has taken down the Facebook post about this campaign, but Spencer Gifts is still listed as a sponsor on the YSC website. I haven’t received a response from them to this post yet.

UPDATE #2, July 10 PM: And now comes the official response from YSC CEO Jennifer Merschdorf. Per her request, below is what she said, followed by my thoughts.

Beth, I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful blog, and personally apologize to you and everyone who is upset that YSC has partnered with Spencer’s. We are all too aware that breast cancer is not pretty and pink. It is a serious disease that kills 40,000 women each year.

 Since 2008, Spencer’s has partnered with YSC on a bi-annual awareness bracelet campaign, donating 100% of proceeds from sales to YSC and other nonprofit cancer organizations. These donations have gone directly to providing scholarships for young survivors to attend our annual conference, along with funding our national support services.

 I TOTALLY GET IT … the name of Spencer’s Foundation “Boobies Make Me Smile” – is offensive and upsetting. As a young woman who also has lost both my breasts from breast cancer I have always been troubled with their name. 

 We are truly sorry that the partnership has offended breast cancer survivors. Please know that we hear you and are taking this feedback to heart. You can be assured that the offensiveness of the campaign’s name will be shared with Spencer’s.

 My email is below, and I am open to any other constructive comments.

 Jennifer Merschdorf

CEO, Young Survival Coalition

OK. So, let me get this straight. The CEO of YSC acknowledges that the name of Spencer’s foundation is indeed offensive, and that she has “always been troubled by it,” and yet she let her organization continue to partner with them anyway? Are you kidding me? 

You’ll also notice that she doesn’t say that YSC would terminate this relationship with an organization whose very name she finds offensive. No, she’s just going to share our concerns with Spencer. I’m sure that will teach them a lesson. 

See, this is the problem with cause marketing in general. Charities desperately need funds to do the important work they do. And so they get in bed with corporate partners who have little interest in understanding what the charity is trying to accomplish, corporations whose actions even actively undercut the charity’s mission. YSC is certainly not the only charity to do this, but because they’re a group whose work I respected, I’m particularly disappointed that they have fallen into this trap.

A friend of mine pointed out that when faced with similarly dirty money that they desperately needed, Girl Scouts of Western Washington made the opposite choice: they gave back a donation of $100,000 to a donor because the string s/he attached to it conflicted with Girl Scouts’ values. They publicized their decision and ran an Indiegogo fundraiser that raised them the $100,000 in a single day and, to date, has raised them over $332,000. The moral of this story? Organizations like YSC don’t have to take money that undercuts their mission. In fact, when they do the right thing, they can make out better financially.

I continue to urge YSC to do that right thing: end their relationship with Spencer and its offensive foundation. If they do, I will support them with all of my energy and encourage my readers to do the same. If they don’t, well, I guess we know that Spencer’s money is worth more to them than their mission.


Dear YSC:

I’m an under-40 woman living with metastatic breast cancer. I’m your demographic, the one your programs are designed to help. And you HAVE helped me–I even go to a support group for young metsters organized by a YSC volunteer. Which is why I think I’m the most disappointed in you, even more so than Stupid Cancer or F*ck Cancer, for being involved in this.

See what it says at the top of this? That’s right, it says “Boobies make me smile.” And of course it says it twice, because we all have two boobies. I see what you did there! Hahaha, how clever! 

Oh wait, no it’s not. It’s actually horribly offensive. 
I don’t have two boobies. I only have one. They cut off the other one because it had an enormous tumor in it. And the most horrible part of that is, I’m STILL going to die of metastatic breast cancer.

There have been plenty of studies done about how the sexualization of breast cancer hurts breast cancer patients. First off, supposedly funny and edgy slogans like “save the tatas” and “boobies make me smile” trivialize a disease that kills 522,000 women and men worldwide every single year. The death toll in the US has been 40,000 per year for decades. How is the thing that kills those women supposed to be funny? How are those of us who will die of this disease supposed to feel about this joke?

Secondly, focusing on our disease originating in our breasts, rather than seeing us as whole people, dehumanizes us. And it makes women feel that if they have a mastectomy, they’re no longer worthwhile, or feminine, or real women. When I lost my breast, it almost broke me emotionally. Almost. This sort of campaign brings me right back to that feeling, and it does the same for many other women who have had their breasts amputated in a desperate attempt to save our lives–because our lives are what matter, not our breasts. 

Campaigns like this do real damage to breast cancer patients. And I know that you know this, because right next to where this image appears on the YSC Facebook page, you’ve got a video about how breast cancer surgery impacts women’s feelings of self-worth. 

I expect this kind of insensitivity from a porn industry executive trying to get some cheap publicity. But not from you, YSC. I expect you not to make women who have had a body part amputated feel worse about themselves. I expect you to know that this type of campaign is absolutely the worst kind of cause marketing. And yet, there is your logo at the bottom of the poster, and there’s this image proudly displayed on your Facebook page.

Speaking of your Facebook page, several of us pointed all of this out to you in comments on that photo there. Let me quote your complete non-apology here:

“We apologize if this post was offensive. We would like to clarify that the “Boobies Make Me Smile” slogan is not a YSC slogan, it is the name of Spencer’s Foundation. Our bracelet is called “Survivor Strength.” We partner with Spencer’s to promote breast health education among their young consumers and over the last 8 years have reached countless young women to empower them to be their own best health advocate. It is always our goal to inform and empower young women with breast cancer, and we’re sincerely sorry if this post was insensitive.”

If?!?! If this post was insensitive? If this post was offensive? It’s your goal to empower young women with breast cancer, while you trivialize their disease and marginalize those of us who have lost a body part to it? Really? And how is the fact that Spencer’s foundation is called “Boobies Make Me Smile” a reason not to be offended? You’re telling me that you actually decided to partner with an organization called “Boobies Make Me Smile?” Are you kidding me? 

I know you need money to support the important programs you run. We all understand that. But you undercut the power of those programs and the support you give to young women with breast cancer when you turn around and partner with an organization whose very name is offensive. How can we take you seriously after this? How can we believe that you really have our backs, when you turn around and throw us under the bus to make a quick buck?

I beg you, before further damage is done, to withdraw from your partnership with Spencer Gifts and give them their dirty money back. If you don’t, I know an awful lot of young women who will no longer be able to support you in good conscience, myself included.


Beth Caldwell


I’m part of several mom groups, because finding support from other moms is seriously helpful. Not all mom groups are a good fit for everyone, but when you find one where the other women share your values, it’s pretty empowering.

I hadn’t talked about my cancer in one of those groups until recently. I find that when I disclose that I have cancer, and that it’s terminal, people react in predictable ways. There is a lot of “oh, I’m so sorry, how can I help, I wish I could hug you” kind of stuff, because most people are incredibly kind. Just, seriously, amazingly, beautifully kind. I suppose if I was in a group and they didn’t react that way, I’d know I was in the wrong group and I should run away from them.

After the initial outpouring of kindness, the secondary reaction is usually “You put my silly problems in perspective, I feel bad complaining about my challenges because they seem so minor in comparison.” And that’s when I wish I had kept on passing as a regular mom, one who doesn’t have a terminal illness. Because, I don’t want them to feel like they can’t talk about their struggles in front of me.

Folks who are different in a way that makes them “the other” often pass in our society, especially if their difference is one that will lead to oppression. It’s why gay folks sometimes live in the closet, and light skinned black folks sometimes hid their African ancestry in the era of slavery and Jim Crow. If lynching is something that could happen to a group you’re a member of, hiding that identity from the world makes a hell of a lot of sense. But there is danger in passing, too. If one is found out, the lynching can be even swifter.

Obviously being someone with cancer is nothing like that. Nobody lynches people for having cancer, or for pretending they don’t have it. Instead, my cancer merely makes people look at me differently than they did before they knew I had it. I feel like once they know, they don’t see me anymore; they just see the cancer. It’s written all over their faces. It’s incredibly isolating, actually, and sometimes I just don’t want to be “that mom,” the one the other moms pity, the one who makes their problems seem petty in comparison. I just want to be part of the gang.

I used to feel the same about The Boy’s prematurity. When people would ask me how old he was, and I knew the actual answer would mean I’d have to explain that he was born 3 months early, I’d sometimes just tell them his corrected age (that’s how old he’d be if he’d been born on his due date) instead of his actual age. Sometimes I wasn’t up for having that conversation, telling that story; it was just easier to pass as a regular mom, and hide my preemie mom identity. It was a relief when he was caught up developmentally and growth-wise with his actual age peers and the “how old is he” question didn’t lead to uncomfortable questions anymore.

I wish we lived in a world where being different wasn’t so isolating, where our differences didn’t separate us. I also wish I could win the lottery and buy a bungalow in French Polynesia, but I’m not gonna hold my breath that either will happen. So, I’ve learned that coming out as someone with a terminal illness, rather than passing as a regular mom, means that I need to know how to re-establish the sense of community that my difference can destroy.

I do that by reminding the other moms of what we have in common: a mutual hatred of doing the laundry; children whose tantrums make us want to pull our hair out; sleep deprivation. And I also specifically say, every time, that it’s OK for them to bitch about what’s bothering them. Parenting is fucking hard, for everyone, and everyone should have a space to complain about it when they’re struggling, a space where they can ask for support, even if others in the group are struggling in different ways than I am. If my illness helps them feel like their lives aren’t so hard, I mean, that’s fine too. But I sure as shit don’t want to add “I feel guilty for complaining” to their list of stressors, and I don’t want to feel like The Other.

I still pass as non-disabled sometimes–at the grocery store, at parties with people I don’t know that well, that sort of thing. But where I am part of a community, I try to be as open about who I am as possible, and encourage the rest of the community to do the same. Coming together to celebrate our sameness, in spite of our differences, makes us all stronger, and makes all our lives richer.

In Defense of Imperfect Feminists

Poor Patricia Arquette. I bet when she wrote her award speech for the Oscars, she had no idea that the feminist movement would turn on her the way it did. “How dare she insinuate that the LGBT community and communities of color have already achieved equality. Here comes a rich white woman telling us we’re not doing enough for her. I’m rolling my eyes.”

When I heard people say this shit, I got mad. Really mad. REALLY FUCKING PISSED OFF. I wanted to throw my TV across the room. Instead, here I am, writing a blog post about it.

Look, I get it. Arquette is a person speaking from a place of privilege. She’s wealthy and white and straight and non-disabled. And when someone with privlege stands up and says “Hey. I see an unfairness happening to women, and I want it changed” it’s easy for those without privilege to get mad and say “ORLY? Your life is all cushy and you’re demanding more? Why didn’t you use your power to speak for a group that has it worse off than you? You don’t get my pain and you are blinded by your privilege.”

Here’s the thing. Nobody is perfect. NOBODY. I have met plenty of feminists whose ideology is beyond reproach, but whose actions do the exact opposite of what feminism is supposed to be about. They are not part of the sisterhood because they shit on their sisters. They’re NOT perfect. They’re assholes and they are making it impossible for the movement to achieve its goals.

Goals. What are our goals, as feminists? Are they to convince everyone to see the world as we do? To understand the complex intersections of race, sexuality, and gender? If so, is rolling our eyes at people who aren’t there yet a good way to reach that goal? In fact, IS that really our goal? Or is it to improve the lives of women? Why did we want the right to vote? Why did we want equal access to higher education? Was it merely because we wanted an ideology of fairness, or was it bigger than that? 

When I look around, I see women struggling. I see women who can’t leave their abusive partners, because their employers pay them less money than their male peers for the same job. I see women who must work 2 jobs just to make ends meet, because they make less money than their male peers. And I don’t see a feminist movement that has accomplished pay equity for them, depsite decades of fighting for it.

Part of the problem, in my mind, is that we, as feminists, have spent too much time shitting on women who aren’t perfect feminists. We have alienated women who should be our allies. We have taken our eyes off the prize–equal pay, changes in the legal system to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, paid maternity leave–and instead focused on defining the perfect feminist, the perfect feminism. And then when a woman like Arquette stands up and says “I want this thing for women” that feminists agree we need, we shit on her and we dismiss her, instead of saying “We want that too! Let’s do it together.”

As a feminist, I am opposed to anyone and anything that stops our movement from improving women’s lives. Including feminists who demand perfection instead of bringing allies into the movement. We have to stop demeaning women who want to help us, and come together to achieve our goals.

Shameless Bragging

Something awesome happened last week: I found out that an essay I wrote is going to be in a book. An honest to god real paper (or e-reader, if that’s your thing) book. Like, a book you can buy and I can sign and my kids can physically hold in their hands someday. It’s called I STILL Just Want To Pee Alone, and it’ll be available this spring. If you read the first I Just Want To Pee Alone, you know it was good stuff–funny and poignant and just overall rad. And this new one is going to be fucking amazing too. When it becomes available, you can bet I’ll be sharing info on how and where to get your hands on a copy, and where you can meet me and some of the other authors so we can sign your copy for you.

I am so fucking proud of this. And I plan to shout it to the rooftops. You know why? Because it’s something to be proud of.

I feel like a lot of us, women in particular, think it’s not OK to brag about their accomplishments. We’re supposed to be like “I’m so humble, I don’t mean to toot my own horn” and shit. Men too somewhat, but seriously women. I can’t tell you how many women I know who have some big success but don’t feel like they’re able to say how proud they are of it.

And I’m going to say something that is going to probably lose me some friends, but I don’t care: I think part of why this happens is other women’s reaction. All too often, we don’t celebrate each other’s victories. And I think the reason we do this is because women in particular feel like we’re competing with each other for resources. We make less money than men. Women writers are often pigeon-holed as “chick lit” when the same book with a male author would be seen as “real” literature. When the pie is so small, it’s easy to feel jealous when someone else gets a slice, and easy to say “She doesn’t deserve that.” This is how we, as women, fall into the trap that patriarchy has set for us.

How do we get out of that trap? Well, step 1 is realizing that celebrating other women’s successes does not diminish our own. When we see our fellow women writers having success, we should cheer for them. We should say “I am so proud of you, my friend.” That is some powerful shit right there. I’ve had a lot of women say that to me since I found out about The Book, and it helps me overcome the pressure from society to pretend like it’s not a big fucking deal to have this kind of success. And I do the same for my friends who have successes. When I read a blog post I love, I share it. When we support each other, we make our community of women writers stronger, not weaker.

The second thing is harder. We have to learn to tune out people who tell us not to celebrate our successes. It helps to have role models who do it. My favorite college professor, Bonnie Morris, always tells me about the cool work she’s doing, like being published over and over, and lecturing at international conferences, and being invited to the White House for bill-signings. She’s proud of her work, as she should be, and every time I hear her talk abut it, I think, “I can be proud of my work too. I don’t need to act like it’s wrong to be proud of my accomplishments.”

So, am I bragging about this? FUCK YEAH I AM. I’m proud of this, and of every other writer whose work will be in the book. We’re badasses, and there’s nothing wrong with saying so.

Birthday Parties and Feminism

When you think of the last kid’s birthday party you went to, who do you give credit to for it being a well-put-together or not-so-well-put-together party? A dad, or a mom? Be honest. Unless we’re talking about a gay couple or a single dad, you’re probably thinking a mom was responsible for the adorable gift bags and the too-cute-by-half perfectly frosted cake, right? Not the dad, the mom.

In my household, The Hubs and I plan the parties together. But I’m the one who obsesses over details of things like how the cupcakes are arranged and what the decorations look like. Because I know I’ll be the one judged by them.

I don’t find my joy in stuff like that. When I was younger, I did. I liked entertaining and trying to make the perfect Martha Stewart turkey for Thanksgiving and whatever, but now I just find it tedious. I don’t enjoy trying to impress people people anymore. But I often feel the pressure to do it, and kid birthdays are when I usually succumb to that pressure. Last year, I didn’t, though. Cancer was a simple excuse to escape from the goodie bags filled with junk no one wants, and the carefully planned activities, but the truth is, I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to do it anymore.

I don’t say all this because I think it’s wrong to throw cool parties for your kids. Some women I know really enjoy that stuff, and I think that’s awesome. What’s not awesome, though, is the pressure to do it if it’s not where you find your joy. And the pressure to throw a Pinterest-worthy party when you don’t like that stuff is a peculiarly mom thing. Most dads don’t seem to have this problem, and I think it’s because party-throwing is still perceived as a mom task. Dads do home improvement projects; moms throw parties.

Here’s the thing: anytime there is a task like that–like installing a shelf or cupcake decorating–and you hate doing it but you feel like you have to because of your gender, that’s a problem. That’s a big red flag. And when stuff like this comes up, you should ask yourself some questions. Like, am I doing this because it’s actually necessary or it’s important to me, or am I doing it because I worry other people will judge me? And, is this something that a parent of another gender would feel judged for? If not, then why am I doing it?

There is enough stress in parenthood without feeling trapped into doing stuff simply because it’s expected of your gender. If you love it, do it. If you don’t, and it’s not really necessary, then fuck it. And if anyone actually does judge you for it, fuck them. As The a Girl likes to say when someone upsets her, “You’re not invited to my birthday party!”