Pssst…Millennials–Gen X Here. Can We Have a Word?

10e0ca10f66a0b8442b7f31e3a68ebc7Dear Millennials,

I keep reading about your disillusionment with the political process, about your lack of enthusiasm for the candidates you have to choose from.

I get it.

Try, if you will, to cast you mind back to the 80s. We were a generation that came of age at the height of the AIDS/HIV crisis. We were living under a thinly veiled threat of nuclear fallout. The Berlin Wall was still standing. Nancy Regan was consulting her astrologist and pleading with us to “JUST SAY NO!”

1988 was the first year I was eligible to vote. My choices for president? George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. I can already hear you asking, Michael Who-what-is?? Yeah, I wasn’t very excited either. Neither was the rest of the country. Bush won handily.

I thought the whole country was going to hell during the first Bush administration. I worried the draft would be reinstated, I worried my male friends would be shipped off to the Middle East to fight a war none of us believed in. I was convinced of a lot of things.

Many of us were disgusted with the government. We protested the war. We marched on Washington for reproductive rights. We marched in NYC to take back the night.

It didn’t do any good. No one was listening. And so we started to distrust the system. The same way the flower children started to distrust the system during Vietnam. The same way some of you do now.

I get it.

For all our quaint John Hughes movies and bad hairstyles, all our James Spader rich boy sneering, we were you once upon thirty years ago. Faced with political choices that fell flat. Trust me. It was really hard get excited about Dukakis.


Gen X wasn’t all Duran Duran and parachute pants. There was a momentum. There were movements. LGBTQ rights were on the horizon, women in shoulder pads were, if not busting into boardrooms, then knocking at the door. There was fire and crackle and sizzle. Rage at the fuddy-duddy process. Demands for faster progress.

So what happened? In the most boring predictable of clichés, we grew up. The economy boomed. We fell in love. Got jobs. September 11 came along and upended the way we viewed the world. Kids were born, parents died. We got divorced, remarried. Lost jobs. Battled cancer. You know, life.

Life happened. And on that spectrum of life you realize things aren’t always as cut and dry as they seem.

I read about the fire in your belly paired with a sense of  helplessness, the feeling no one is listening to your (mostly spot-on, legitimate) demands. Here’s the thing: That feeling’s not new. I think the folks who write these articles forget what it’s like to be in that 18-25 year-old age bracket. Or perhaps they just haven’t left the bracket yet themselves.

But, damn you guys! You have ushered in an era where it is not only easier for LGBTQ youth to come out, but one which supports them, both socially and legally. Don’t think that’s big deal? Go check out those John Hughes movies Generation X are so fond of. There aren’t any gay characters in them. That is a seismic cultural shift. You showed the country there was room in The Breakfast Club for the “gay one” as well.

You did that.

You live in a world where you don’t understand why it’s such a big deal that a woman is on the top of the Presidential ticket. The year some of you were born I sat in stunned silence as Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. And then watched as Congress approved him for the Supreme Court of the United States anyway. Yeah, we’ve still got a long way to go on that one, but we need your help.

Your detractors call you lazy, entitled, apathetic. I think you haven’t had time to live yet.

Life is experience and experience is nuance. You get older and you live longer and you realize, quite clearly, there are terrible things out there in the world. As a young adult there is love. There is war. There is right. There is wrong. There are clear lines in the sand. And that is as it should be. You need that clarity, that focus. If at eighteen you realized how many different ways you could be truly fucked, you’d never get out of bed. We’d lose an entire generation.

You may look at us, slightly pudgy and graying, comfortable shoes reminiscing about our youth and think the fire’s gone out. But the thing about fire is that if you can’t control it, it burns the whole place down, the good with the bad. The trick is learning how to tame the flames enough to make them useful.

I guess what I am saying is don’t give up. You have the elasticity to bounce back. We may be living life with our slightly less radical and slightly more centrist ideas, with our boring policy talk, doing things the only way we know how. But you? You have the opportunity to live the lives never offered us. Use that gift to tame the flames in a way to make them work for you.

act-up-phila-on-broad-stI know you won’t listen. I know because I wouldn’t have when I was eighteen, nineteen. I would have looked at the middle-aged person trying to give me advice as a relic of the past. A pudgy fossil on their way to Shady Pines.

I’ll say it anyway. Don’t throw a bucket of cold water on your fire because it’s not burning in the direction you hoped.

You can’t fake experience. You have to live it. So sure, we may seem stodgy and middle-aged now. It may look like we sold out, became complacent, gave up. But really we’re just getting ready to pass the baton.

It’s up to you to run with it. Don’t sit down on the track before you even start.

Generation X

Hunting and Gathering in America

kalina_hunter_gatherer-2Over the past few days I’ve watched several Trump surrogates attempt to deflect questions from women, young girls, and reporters about the recent allegations against Donald Trump.

Mike Pence, when given a question asked by an eleven year-old girl who felt disheartened by Trump’s language, switched to a conversation about foreign policy.

Ben Carson, when pressed by a female reporter to answer whether or not he believed the allegations against Trump, started talking about the economy–and then asked if they could switch the reporter’s mic off so he could keep talking…about the economy.

There’s a reason why women keep ‘harping’ on about this stuff, you dimwits.

This is the stuff that matters to women.

This matters. Our needs and our bodies and the right to exist without stumpy fingers inserting themselves somewhere—-literally or metaphorically. That shit is important. This stuff matters.

That’s why we’re grabbing you by the (metaphorical) balls on this one and not letting it go. Despite the deflections and the denials and the redirection, it’s not going to go away. (Note: don’t try redirection on mothers who have survived multiple Target toy aisle meltdowns. We’re the masters of redirection.)

Look, obviously the economy is important. Foreign policy is important. And national security and a hundred other things. They are what I call ‘Big Game’ stuff. They are the Hunter Policies: How do we protect jobs? How do we secure our borders? Trade deals. Chest thump. Meat roasting over an open fire.

But in our insistence upon focusing solely on the Big Game stuff, we often ignore the policies which affect day-to-day  living, working, and raising kids, saying alive and unmolested: The Gatherer Policies.

How am I going to get to work when my kid is sick? Can I afford to take time off work because the American maternity leave hasn’t progressed past the stone age? What am I going to do if my birth control fails because we can’t afford another kid? How do I protect my child if he/she is gay or transgender? Do I feel safe going out for a run? How am I going to be caretaker to both my children and my parents? Is that guy at work who is brushing up against me and commenting about my breasts going to block my promotion?

Our ancestors knew that protein was critical to survival. But they also knew their newly formed tribes and communities would not survive without the day-to-day sustenance that gathering provided. Not to mention the small task of securing the survival of the species by caring for the next generation.

Yet those damn hunters. They get all the credit.

Grabbing women without consent? It’s important. But it is also a metaphor for this election. When it becomes clear that you can’t even understand WHY women are pissed about this, it becomes crystal clear that lots of men have NOT BEEN LISTENING AT ALL.

For many women, those ‘social issues’? It’s the shit that keeps us up at night. Because they seem less significant than things like foreign policy, they often get subsumed. They get buried under all the Big Game stuff. Men often don’t worry about things like bodily autonomy because it is not an issue for them. Reproductive rights are abstract rights for men. Family leave affects them, but in a financial sense. They are not the ones who are limping back to work with stitches from an episiotomy still in place.

This is the stuff that matters to many women. And for centuries our needs and wants and political desires have been largely ignored. The berries get overlooked in praise of the meat.

In recent times, sex and gender roles have blurred. More women are bringing home the big game bacon and more men are doing their share of metaphorical berry-gathering. But that doesn’t mean the Gathering policies are any less important. On the contrary.

hoodie-womens-rights-are-human-rights-d001006467062The fact that forcing yourself on someone is wrong and indicative of a larger issue should be pretty damn easy to understand. It really doesn’t get more basic than that. Thou shalt not grab pu**y. Most women just assume it is a basic guarantee, filed away under life, liberty and the pursuit of unmolested happiness.

But for a lot of people, it would seem that it is not so evident. They keep deflecting and changing the subject and trying to convince us that we’re stubbornly missing the ‘important stuff’.

Damn guys, if you can’t even understand that for women, the basic idea of existing as a human being means that no one is entitled to snatch the snatch is the important stuff?

We’ve got a long way to go.


Thank You, Donald

trump-6If you’d told me back in September that I would see, hear, say, or write the word pussy as many times as I have in the last week, I’d have spit-laughed my coffee in your face. But the times, they are a strange-in’.

Here’s something else I didn’t think I would ever say:

Thanks, Donald.

We’re still a month out from the election, when, whatever the outcome, the nightmare nonstop media coverage will at the very least, switch focus. Regardless of who wins however, I still need to thank Donald Trump.

Like I said, strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mamas.

You see, for twenty-some odd years I’ve been studying women’s rights, sexism, feminism, women’s studies. Theoretical, linguistic, cultural, sociological. But even more, for forty-some odd years, I’ve been living it. My Steinem senses have had long periods of dormancy in the decades which have passed, but they started tingling in full flare up as soon as Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for President of the United States.

And let me tell you, there have been times in the last eighteen months when I have legitimately doubted my sanity. When I wondered if what was so clear to me yet so unclear to others meant that I had finally managed to permanently fry my brain cells with too much wine and too many unnaturally colored cheese doodles.

But then a funny think happened on the way to November: PussyGate.

To be fair, it started about a month before the now infamous tape when I started to notice more articles which delved into the underlying sexism of this election cycle. When I started noticing people finally expressing support for Hillary Clinton the candidate and not Hillary Clinton Who Is Not Donald Trump. When I started to see articles not only about her legitimate flaws, but about her legitimate strengths.

But this is not about Hillary Clinton. This is about women. And Hillary Clinton is only one.

This election was always going to be about women. First woman atop a major ticket was always going to be a big–nay, massive–part of it. Women make up a majority of the American electorate, they were always going to be a major voting block. The fact that one party courted them mercilessly while the other took them for granted should not be overlooked.

2016 is the year that women aren’t simply relegated to the electoral chorus. We’re headlining.

Throw in a former Miss Universe, Bill Clinton’s mistresses, his accusers¹, and now with PussyGate, there’s been a collective female awakening.²

So Donald, thanks for getting it out there on the national stage. Granted, I like to grab ’em by the pussy is a pretty extreme ice-breaker, but it certainly got the job done.

Thanks too for vindicating what I and other women have been shouting about for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand years.

The stories of abuse and assault, of degradation that have been coming out since the leak of Donald’s tape have been staggering, not in their numbers, but because people are finally paying attention.

The party of family values, the one nostalgic for dated gender roles, one which built its recent foundation on the idea of white man as protector and earner. Who exactly are you protecting us from if not the guy you just nominated for president?

So thank you, Donald for exposing the hypocrisy of the current Republican party.

Thanks too, Donald for shoring up a sisterhood. We don’t need, or want your protection. Today’s women don’t want a white knight on a trusty steed. They want someone who’s going to help fold the laundry and take the kids to school. They want someone who is their equal, not their protector. Today’s women want social change and laws that protect them, not fathers or husbands who feign offense at the words that come out of their candidate’s mouth. Hell, half the time those fathers and husbands are the ones beating the shit out of us.

So thank you, Donald for firing up the political base that folks have ignored for so long: Women.

You were right, telling it like it is has its advantages. Thanks for making plain the undercurrent of power-hungry, degradation we’ve been talking about. No, you’re no Boy Scout, but by standing by your banter you’ve actually succeeded in opening up a national dialogue.

And this time, I hope American women aren’t going to stand for being interrupted or mansplained.

Thanks, Donald for validating what millions of women have been saying.

And thank you, for making me realize my sanity was never in question, not really.

trump-5I hope that on November 9th, I’ll be thanking you for helping to pave the way for the very first Madame President, but even if it doesn’t turn out that way, I’m woman enough to see that the Pandora’s box has been opened and there’s no forcing all this stuff back in.

Women aren’t going to be cowed back into submission. If you try to keep us down, we will rise, just like we have been doing for millennia.

Thank you for rallying the sisterhood.

I couldn’t have done it better myself.


  1. For clarification, if Bill Clinton were currently running for president, I would take just as much issue with the allegations leveled against him and his treatment of women.
  2. Thank you to the wonderful, late Mrs. Kilburn for introducing me to Kate Chopin’s The Awakening in AP English class. Obviously it made an impression.

Apology Not Accepted

trump-1Warning: Explicit language below

I woke this morning to the news of (yet another) Trump scandal. Despite the nastiness he’s been spewing about women on the record for the last 18 months, it took the nastiness he said off the record ten years ago to finally get Donny to apologize. Sort of. Not only him, but many members of his party.

The problem is, it’s not just too little too late, it’s a lot too little, a lot too late.

So sorry, Mr. Trump, your apology is not accepted. Sorry senators and chairpersons and those of you so utterly desperate to garner votes or toe the party line that you’ve sat by like a bunch of wimps and let this person walk all over your human-ness. Your apologies are not accepted either. 

Hey, Reince Priebus, guess what? Women have been telling you for two goddamn years that no woman should be referred to in this way, but your half-apology holds no water with me. This from the man who watched as Roger Ailes, a man accused of sexual harassment, multiple times, was hired to consult on a Presidential campaign.

Your limp, “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” apology sucks. As if you didn’t know how women are described? How the hell do you think men like Trump and others describe women? 

Yo, Paul Ryan! Asking Donald Trump not to attend your rally? Too little, too late. And screw you, women don’t need to be ‘championed and revered’. We need to be treated like fucking equals.

Even when you’re apologizing you still don’t get it.

Your apologies are not enough. Do you know why? Because they mean nothing. They mean nothing because none of you have a single plan in place to change this kind of systematic sexist bullshit backroom behavior from happening.

Instead of making boardrooms and Congress and life a more equitable place for women, your plans serve only to get women out of  the boardroom and Congress all together so you can back to your cigar-smoking, back-room dealing, grab-some-pussy ways.

Women have been screaming about this crap for years. The overt and covert harassment and systematic, excused sexism that runs rampant through industry, politics, life. We’ve been talking and screaming and trying to fix it and you just send us off with a pat on the head telling us that women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive or that we need to get our priorities straight. We’ve been documenting it, recording it, writing about it, singing about it for years and what do you do?

You go and hire the very people who have done us harm to run your campaigns. Or run for president.


All of that and you still have no plan to do anything to change the dynamic. You have no policy that is going to do anything at all to help women. NOT ONE. 

So that’s why your bullshit apologies don’t mean anything to me. You’re not sorry, you’re only sorry because Donald Trump got caught. You’re only sorry because it might influence your elections. If you were truly sorry, you would have distanced yourself from your crass, spray-tanned, clownish charlatan eighteen months ago. But no.

Perhaps it’s your deep-rooted fear of a pussy which is responsible for making us endure this buffoonish, disgusting, and yes, deplorable behavior from a PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Not only that, but his “spectacular role-model” behavior has given legitimacy to large chunks of Americans who feel free to spew their own crass bullshit at the other PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Not because she tries to ‘grab some pussy’, but because she is in possession of one.

cat-sorrySo take your half-assed apology and shove it up half your ass. My eight year old has better sense and manners than the lot of you

You don’t need to grow balls. You’ve got plenty of those between you and you still screw it up. What you need to do is grow a pussy.

This one knows who her vote will be cast for in a few weeks.