Category: Feminism

“Feminism” (A piece that was censored during C.E. out of my manuscript) written in May 2017

FEMINISM

 

On the way to Target the other day I was listening to the news, the recent news of Trump and the woman he “Octopus armed” on the airplane. It reminded me of my Greyhound Bus trip  to Wyoming when I was seventeen years old. A guy sat next to me, (which always happened on the Greyhound). We talked during the day, he’s from Detroit, he tells me about the Car manufacturing business, how it’s all getting shut down. I listen in earnest, something I’ve always done. I like listening to what people have to say, hearing their stories. Sometimes men misunderstood this and thought I like them in a sexual way. I got tired of listening at some point, the conversation got boring. As the day turned into night I pretended I was asleep. The guy put a blanket over both of us, slid his hand under the blanket and up my t-shirt and started feeling my boobs. At first, I continued to pretend I was sleeping, I figured he would lay off. I figured I could just let him get a feel and he’d leave me alone. He didn’t let up, he got more into it, he tried to kiss me, he had bad breath. That’s when I finally said “leave me alone”. He was mad, I couldn’t wait till he got off the bus. As a kid growing up I had several encounters like this, which would be classified more as molestation I guess, since they were grown men and I was a child. One time I was in the back of my dad’s pick-up truck, my dad’s friend was laying next to me.  We were laying down with a blanket over us because it was illegal for us to be riding in the back like that. The man reached his hand under my shirt and started feeling my under-developed ten-year-old boobs. I never told anyone.  Another time when I was twelve my mom left me with one of her friends while she went to her class at Grossmont College. He was teaching me racquetball. He stood behind me, spread my legs and stuck his hand up my little green terry cloth shorts my mom brought me back from Acapulco. I was paralyzed. Thank god, my mom came back soon. I went to the bathroom and found a Band-Aid stuck to my butt, it fell off his finger when he was molesting me. I never told anyone.

My mom was a strong woman. She was a feminist. She didn’t raise me in princess outfits or to think I needed a man or that men had any power over me. But I lived like men were above me, like they had power over me. Like the things they did were just natural, a natural human drive. I never thought they crossed a boundary. I thought it was my fault. I erased these incidents out of my mind.

This week I am seeing things in a different light. I am seeing that sexism is so engrained in our society. I wonder how we are raising our girls, the media, the toys they make for girls. The focus on being pretty for little girls, being sexy for women. It’s everywhere, it makes women powerless, even when our mothers are feminists. We need to change our collective consciousness as women, as mothers. As I turned 45 this year I felt a deep change come over me. I don’t know if it is because of all the shit I’ve been through, the soul searching and craziness I went through with infertility. I don’t know if it’s the experience of being a mother, but I finally don’t give a shit what people think of me. More specifically I don’t feel like I need to wear lipstick all the time or a bra. I don’t care if people think I’m old or ugly or un-feminine. I only wish I could have had this confidence when I was a young girl, when I was a woman in her twenties. I can only hope now to instill this self-confidence and self-esteem in Fiona and to raise Jack to be a feminist.

 

Women, Are We Our Own Worst Enemies?

Why would a woman tell another woman she shouldn’t have kids because it will ruin her life, ruin her art career, ruin her body, take away all her freedoms? It happened to me, good friends told me I shouldn’t have kids because it would ruin my art career. On Facebook this weekend a thread was started with a question, kids? Or no kids? Versus Art? I can’t remember the exact phrasing. It brought a slew of responses, most of them kid positive, all of them acknowledging women’s “place” in the art world, being less than satisfactory. Men still have the lion share of Museum and Gallery representation and sell their art at a much higher price. But would this have been different if men were the ones giving birth? I wonder. Many women on the thread also made comments about privileged women with children vs. non-privileged women with children, those who married well vs. those who didn’t fair too well on the significant other and single moms. Categorizing women artists with children in a hierarchy according to wealth and circumstance to determine who has the best chance of “Making it” as an artist, which means competing in a male dominated art world. But is that it? So simply defined? Having the ability, time, money, right circumstances to be an artist is only half of it. A person must have confidence, determination, a vision, and work ethic.

Is confidence more the defining factor? Have our women counterparts told us negative things about ourselves, pitted us against each other, making us less confident? Has that stifled our determination to be professional artists and compete in a man’s world?  Has our vision been clouded because of all the comments from other women? A man has NEVER told me if I have kids I can’t be a successful artist, it’s only been women. Has our work ethic when it comes to our own work been side stepped to make more time for cooking and cleaning and wiping butts? We are our own worst enemies. Until ALL women come together and support each other in the art world regardless if we have kids or not, money or not, husbands or not, we will NEVER be able to make headway.

Yesterday I went for a hike with my family. I brought my sketchbook and pens, I brought the same for my almost four-year-old daughter, my son likes climbing on trees, so I didn’t bring one for him. Fiona and I sketched shadows and leaves and cat tails. I jotted down notes on things I want to write about, things I want to paint about. We hiked the whole way around the lake on foot, the first time with no stroller, no back-pack carriers. It was a beautiful fall day, crisp, trees all turning oranges and reds and yellows. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, a family or no family. No one ever told a man not to have a family because it will ruin his life or career. Why are women told they can’t enjoy having a family life? I have a sink FULL of dirty dishes looking at me, the house is a mess, laundry piled up. I have two kids I need to get ready for pre-school, make lunches. I don’t care, things will get done. If I need to write or go to my studio while they are in school and do the dishes later that’s fine. No one, no circumstance can take away a woman’s need to be creative. It’s unfortunate that other women would try to dampen our dreams and desires of being artists because we chose to have children. Remember, Men do not do this to each other. Are we keeping ourselves down by not uniting?  

Serious Artist

“Don’t have kids” I was told. “You can’t be a serious artist and have kids”. My legs got weak. My friend said the teacher of the art class and she were talking about me, that I shouldn’t get pregnant, I shouldn’t have kids. That I was a good artist, if I had kids I wouldn’t have time? Be taken seriously? This was right at the beginning of me trying to get pregnant.  Years later, right before Jack and Fiona were born, I was turned on to a fabulous artist by one of my teachers. She lent me his catalogue. I took it and read it. He did wonderful paintings and studies. He did travel diaries which he worked on abroad for a year. I read he had kids and I became obsessed about who took care of the kids. It was the wife. She stayed home and took care of the kids while he went on a yearlong painting residency in a tropical rainforest. Is that why I was told women artists who are also mothers can’t become serious artists because it would be difficult to pick up and leave the children when they are young for a year to do a serious yearlong art residency? Or that we can’t just work in the studio all day long. We have responsibilities in home. Why can a woman have a full-time job and be a mother, but not be a serious artist? Why did my friend and my teacher tell me this? I looked through a book last night, a survey of contemporary painters. There are several women in the book, and it’s filled with top notch paintings. I read through the writings about the different artists. I noticed no one mentioned children, having children, how domesticity has influenced their work. There are a lot of fiber arts that deal with subjects of domesticity, but it’s mostly a direct connection with a material used in domestic products; fabrics, yarn, embroidery, wool, using these materials in new and interesting ways. My work uses traditional picture making materials, paint, paper, glue, charcoal, pastels, canvas, wood, the printing press, even my Nap Time Notebooks are in traditional sketchbooks. But my identity as an artist has been very influenced by my childhood, my relationship with my mom and her death, parenthood, wifehood, domesticity. It’s filled with memories through color and line. Raising children is emotional, my work is emotional. Was their critique of me having children saying I didn’t have it in me to do both? I wouldn’t work hard enough, or I didn’t want it bad enough? I remember my mom telling me I would never be able to be a serious artist because I would never be able to spend hours alone in my studio. After my declaration of becoming an artist she found out that she was wrong, that I did have it in me to spend countless hours working in my studio. Thank God for the women in my life who said, “Go for it”! Have kids and be an artist. Thank you, Ladies! It wasn’t easy, making time for my studio after Jack and Fiona were born. But I did it and I wrote a book about it too.

A bra is part of a costume

A bra is part of a costume. I see it now so clear. Mama, mama, mama. I understand now. We use it for our armor. We use it on our bodies. Protecting us. Protecting them. We use it all the time. It’s so tight and suffocating. Suffocating. Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama. What do you want this time? I’m telling you the answers, no I’m shouting. Oh, babies, babies, babies Can you hear me? You say mama mama, mama, mama, mama. To ask me something. But I have a question for you. Do you think that your body is your own? Do you think you need to hide it from the world? Do I tell you that’s just the rules? Don’t show your vagina in public. Don’t show your penis. And when you get breasts, don’t show those either. That’s just the rules here. Obey and fall in line.

 

 I tell this rule and that rule. The rule the world before them told me. The world I sift through, sometimes on quick sand, sometimes on ice, sometimes on green grass. I look around my studio. Drawings and marks, paint. The real world. My best world. No questions being asked of me, no roles to play or armor to wear. Or is my armor my paint? My paint brush armed with green, yellow, dark blue, palette knife white. Scraping and staining, forming a protective mesh between me and the outside world? It doesn’t matter. I just do it. I work and experiment and ruin. I have time. Time to layer and scrape. Time to mash and spread. All the time in the world. Just as the moments pass away they come just as quickly, one day running out. There’s still the same amount of moments each day until that last day. We have all the time in our world to make a mess, make a masterpiece, make a statement, make nothing, make everything.

The doorway to nowhere but the big blue ocean. That always open doorway. The crevices I crawl in and out of. Again, I crawl into the crevice that says women must cover their breasts while in public. Why? I think it’s an outdated law. If men are allowed women are allowed.

A Monday in June

“Peppa and George are fast asleep”, I hear from the kitchen T.V. 7:29 AM Monday morning mid-June. Fiona is on break this week, no school. Jack has a stuffy nose today, I keep him home from school too. Last week I receive an e-mail from Yoga Works, it’s an invitation to a “10 Day Yoga Challenge”. I’m excited, I set up my free online membership, I can do videos on-line Tuesday and Thursday morning at home. I imagine myself in the studio Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then I realize that Fiona doesn’t have school until the following week. I wonder if I could get away with bringing Fiona to class with me. It would be so inappropriate, everyone goes to the studio to get away from domestic responsibilities. Fiona is good at Yoga though, I think. Maybe she’s the one kid and I’m the one mom who could get away with it? No, not a good plan. Now, I sit in my living room Monday morning, Jack and Fiona watch Peppa Pig, then a Phonics video. I feed them juice boxes, crackers, fruit roll ups, blue berries, raisin bagels left untouched.  I decide in my mind, in my heart of hearts to do the online classes here with Jack and Fiona, or at least Fiona, Jack can play in the sandbox.  I’ll make it an activity we do as a family. Just need to have the will power. It’s a gorgeous morning, rays of sun shines through the blinds. Something Alan said as we were driving yesterday pops in my mind, “It’s been a crappy summer so far hasn’t it?” he says. I ask, what do you mean?  He explains the weather has been cold and windy. I feel like it’s always windy here in the summer, I say “No, I think it’s been a good summer so far.” But my glass is always half full. I hover on a plane of half full glasses ready to catch me when I fall, when I start drowning in the other half. I always have something pulling me back.

Part of today, I feel or think, is a free roaming, anything possible, (except if it requires leaving the house) kind of day. It’s just me and the babies until at least afternoon. I can make my own reality, as a mom. Yesterday, after our morning and lunch out, when we got home, Fiona wanted to take a nap and Jack wanted to play in the sand box. Alan took Jack and Fiona in the Jacuzzi, Fiona took a shower with Daddy. When she got out I put on her jammies, gave her the new book we got at TJ Max. I laugh because I’ve trained my kids to love going to TJ Max looking for cool discounted toys. It’s been a fun activity for us through the years! Consumerism, pleasure center. I let Alan know one person needs to read a book to Fiona and tuck her in, one person needs to bring Jack his clothes to the sand box and hang out. I go to the sandbox. It’s a beautiful afternoon. The sky is blue with a slight breeze that rustles the fig leaves. It’s quiet for a while. I can hear the birds singing, then the breeze comes. When the leaves of the fig trees trap air, I can hear what the airs looks like between the leaves. It vibrates through my body.  When it stops, contrast in the silence it leaves in its wake. “Jack did you hear that?” He acts like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. When the symphony starts again I ask him, “can you hear that?” he evades the question, he starts playing with an excavator, pushing an old battery.  I relish in this moment; the birds sing, the quiet play I am invited to with Jack. I feel I am in his private world.

Now Fiona watches the Wiggles in the kitchen and Jack watches Blippi on the i-pad. Clouds cover half the sky and a cold air comes in the house. I make a second cup of hot coffee I drink it now. The table is covered with everything, empty juice boxes, books, playdough, pens, games, I have two kids with only shirts on. I have two “screens” on, the words and music merge to create one constant background noise. The sun peers onto the deck, I want to go outside. Now Calliou is on, I have Jack and Fiona both in the kitchen. This will be the last show, I promise. When I was sick the other day I watched T.V. all day. I woke up Saturday morning, well I didn’t sleep very well. I had a severe allergy attack Friday night and bad cramps, then Saturday I woke up wiped. I missed my friend’s birthday brunch. Alan wasn’t too happy I was out of commission, I’m guessing. I’m inferring really, just by mood. He took Jack and Fiona to the bouncy house and a pancake and bacon breakfast. I did a twenty minute on the bike, showered, put on comfy clothes, ate a piece of pot chocolate (for the cramps), vacuum the living room, set up the couch with clean sheets and pillows, turn on the circulation fan, close all the blinds and windows and doors, turn on a sci fi movie and rest. I sat on that couch and watched the movie, then Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States.” Yesterday morning I took Billy on a walk up the trail, I feel well rested, It’s  so good to be up here. Billie’s leg is better. I have a euphoric moment, I think I found the Golden Ticket, resting! And not feeling guilty about it. To listen to my body and take care of it, not let outside influences affect my needs, not affect the way I care and love myself. These are goals.

Last sip of second cup of coffee. Still in Pajamas, Jack and Fiona are watching Blippi again on the i-pad. I start to feel guilty. I’m a bad mom. But I’m such a good mom. The past day I begin to teach Jack and Fiona to say, “No, don’t touch me, I don’t like that.” I teach them that they own their bodies. That their bodies are in their private space. I ask them every time I give them one of my automatic heard rubs or hugs or any automatic touch adults do to children to show affection, I ask them “is that ok?” I find out Jack only likes his back rubbed at night when he’s going to sleep, but my head hug is sometimes welcomed, especially if he can wipe his snotty nose on my shirt. So far Fiona says she does not like any of the automatic touches I give her on her arm. I am uncomfortable with most random touching too. I don’t like when people touch me or get too close to my face. I want Jack and Fiona to know they have the right not to be hugged or kissed or grabbed or held when they do not want it. The powerlessness small children must feel when a parent grabs them and holds them when they don’t want it must be freighting. Sometimes it’s necessary, to be strong held by an adult, of course, but maybe if they have the words to say, “I don’t like that”, even when it has to be that way, they will feel more powerful and confident, not helpless.

It’s soon time to start playdough, painting, playing outside, baths, lunch, and naps. Jack needs a nap today with his cold, to get better quicker. I hope I have time in my studio today. I hope I follow through with my Yoga plan. That’s all. Those are my only hopes for this Monday in June. It’s my reality. I can grow my day as I see fit under the circumstances. I take a nice breath, I feel relaxed and the bit of anxiety I felt about letting Jack and Fiona watch three hours of T.V. and eat junk this morning has dissipated. I  will join Jack and Fiona on their road of growth today, watch the sun shine through the clouds and fog, find small adventures to have in the garden together, enjoy our day together.

SELF/portrait

Layers of skin and organs and blood and pain. Layers of joy and pleasure and softness. Layers of hardness and calluses and sun spots and crusty toe nails. Layers of stress and relaxation. Of noticing, of ignoring. Of panicking, of accepting. I hate myself. I love myself. I hate him, her, them, us, our world. I love him. I love her. I love our world. I love my dog. I hate my dog. I love my chair. I hate my chair. Fuck, I hit the corner of my toe again on this chair. Fuck I hit my shin again on this stroller. Yesterday, I’m watching a couple, drinking forty ounces of Miller high life outside the Big Rock Deli. I pull up, think Yum, wish that was me. I’m with Jack, ready to pick up Fiona.  Just gotta pick up some lunch. The couple looks at his phone. All of the sudden they jump up in a hurry, get in the SUV with forties half gone in their laps and take off. What are they doing? Where are they going? I feel cool with only one kid right now, but he starts pushing, he starts climbing, he starts trying on sunglasses, touching everything. I feel helpless. I follow him saying no. I follow my children saying no. I have best intentions. I am open and happy. The more I give the more they take. “You’re never satisfied” I say. It’s always something. They take and take. I give and give. I make time to love myself. I make time to take hot baths and put on facial masks and take care of my feet and take yoga classes and do spin workouts and eat right. My stomach still always hurts. My best intentions can’t remove my frailty. My age. My premenopausal symptoms. My disconnection with my body. My painful, swollen, annoying body. I love you body. Thank you body. You are a good body. But I hate you. But I love you. I’m trying. I lay down now. I leave the dishes, I leave the picking up to lay down. I put a pillow under my knees. I rest. I feel guilty. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t say shouldn’t. I paint. I draw. I feel. I get excited, then exhausted. I get honked at as I’m driving and Jacks saying “I want to go home over and over again” and Fiona’s saying “I want tiny” over and over again. I’m sorry other driver. I’m sorry, maybe I cut you off on accident. I’m sorry. He drives behind me and when I make my left had turn he honks at me one last time to make sure I know how mad I made him. “It’s always the woman drivers” I hear my husband saying in my mind. We try. We try our best. We try to see you. We try to be good drivers with screaming kids in the car. O-Well. I take comfort in the fact that I never honk at people. I give them the benefit of the doubt. I am kind.

Erasing Us

Everything is quiet now, except the sound of an airplane, a few construction projects in the neighborhood, trucks fixing a mudslide up the hill, the clank of bottles being dumped into the recycling truck. My dog sleeps peacefully on the floor, dosed with a Tramadol so her leg will heal faster. My babies are at the park with the babysitter, but they’ll be home soon. The sky is bright blue, spring is almost here. It’s been difficult to write lately, partly because I’ve been in a reading FRENZY! Partly because my head is spinning from listening to the news and realizing that my worst nightmares I’ve had about Trump and Pence winning the election are coming true. Today the vice president, Mike Pence spoke at the “March for Life” rally in Washington DC, he is the FIRST vice president to do so. That is significant. The power has shifted in America, and not for the better. The extreme of the extreme are running the country now. It’s frightening. Funding is proposed to be cut from Libraries, the arts, public schools, women’s health, and so many vital programs. We can’t let the west coast topple! I wonder when They’ll come after my right to medical cannabis? We need to topple them but it seems we are losing the fight, losing freedoms fought for, the new government is trying to erase us, erase the arts and erase freedom of speech. If this administration gets into our public education system and does anything to alter the curriculum we are in big trouble.

Went and sat outside, in the sun, drinking my green tea. It’s a spectacular day. I hope my babies take an early nap so I can get to the studio and paint. I have some ideas, the warm sun and bright green plants just inspired me. I need to go in the sun again. Babysitter just brought Jack and Fiona home but they sound quiet, I think they will take an early nap!! They haven’t taken a nap all week, I’ve been putting on Peppa Pig for an hour and going to my studio to paint. It’s worked well. I think the babies are really asleep! Time for my studio! How lucky am I? The first thing I do in my studio is turn the page on all my notebooks, I paint over a whole painting with white, pour wine on my notebooks, add collage onto several surfaces, scratch into the white painting, then I stop myself. Everything’s too wet to work on anymore. It’s been an hour, so I go in to check on Jack and Fiona. I smell something, I go to the crack of the bedroom door, someone’s got a poop.  I go in, both babies have poops! I clean the poops and put on Peppa Pig Christmas, now I have another hour. I open a Scrimshaw, eat cheese, chicken, grapes, and nuts. I’m liking it all. I’m lucky. I really am lucky.