To the Thirteen White Male Senators Deciding the Fate of My Health Care

We have no interest in playing the games of identity politics. To reduce this to gender, race or geography misses the more important point of the diverse segments of the conference the group represents on policy — from members who support Medicaid expansion, to those opposed to it, to those who have called for long-term full repeal.”

Dear Senators,

All due respect, but I believe it’s you who are missing the important point. You cannot reduce to gender or race–but you can expand to them.

You presume, you thirteen white men, to make decisions and policies which will affect all of us, from sea to shining sea. You assume we will trust you, because until recently, we’ve had no choice but to trust you. But I don’t. I don’t trust you. You don’t represent me. I don’t mean party politics, Republican or Democrat. I mean you have never experienced the need for female driven policy, or policy that focuses on race, or centers issues unique to the LGBTQ community. Because you are none of those things.

Female driven policy is different. Race driven policy is different. LGBTQ driven policy is different. And that is a good thing. It brings diversity to the table. It’s Thai on Monday and sushi on Thursday instead of meatloaf every, single night. It means the needs of others, needs that are different from your own, are brought to the forefront. It is taking and shaping the experiences of those identities and using them, smartly, to craft broader policy.

Senator McConnell, have you ever found yourself unexpectedly pregnant, halfway through high school, unable to afford to raise a child? Have you, Senator Hatch ever been the victim of a rape? How about you, Senator Cruz? Have you ever been refused medication because a nurse perceived you to be exaggerating your pain levels simply because you’re black?

No?

Senator Alexander, have you ever had to use a breast pump at work?  Have you ever needed to limp into work with stitches holding your cervix together, Senator Thune? Senator Lee, have you left your six-week old infant at daycare while your breasts leaked with milk, because you were afraid to lose your job? How about you, Senator Enzi? Ever walk into work, bleeding due to a miscarriage, unable to take time off from work?

No?

Senator Cotton, have you ever looked at the maternal death rates for black women and worried, will that me? Senator Cornyn, have you read the infant mortality rates for black infants and worried if the child you were carrying inside you would die?

No?

How can you, thirteen white men, craft a comprehensive health care plan which must include women and people of color and LGBTQ without including them in your debate and decision-making process?

It is presumptuous and condescending and dangerous. And yet it is par for the course.

There is no identity politics. There is America. There is diversity. There is us. We are those identities, and those identities define our politics in the sense that they must be given a voice in any policy that is going to last.

You ask us to trust you, yet you routinely and rather spectacularly at times fail to earn that trust. You fail not necessarily because you are trying to punish or withhold, though certainly that is sometimes true, but often because you just don’t know any better. Why would family leave and maternity coverage and reproductive rights be at the top of your list? Why would funding to find out why black mothers die at a higher rate, and black babies die more frequently be important to you? After all, those policies, those politics, aren’t part of your identity.

But they’re part of ours.

Anyone who doesn’t fit into the narrow confine of those that will sit around your table has the word identity attached to them. Card-carrying members. Race, gender, sex. When we try to point out the ludicrousness of trying to craft policy without the representation of those groups, we are accused of playing a card. As if we were cheating at poker instead of trying to save our own lives.

We’re demanding a seat at the table. Because, to paraphrase Cecile Richards, if we do not have a seat at the table, we are on the menu.

When your surrogates claim women are using Medicaid funds for abortions to ‘travel’, or that women who want abortions can go to the zoo, you fail. You fail when you admit you don’t know why women seek abortions. You fail when you don’t demand mandatory maternity coverage. You fail when you don’t craft humane family leave policy. You fail when you don’t ensure that victims of domestic and sexual abuse will be given health care. You fail when you don’t take into account the way Americans of color and Americans in rural areas are underserved by hospitals and doctors. You fail and you fail.

But your biggest failure is insisting that you have the ability and experience to make decisions for all of us, without our input.

You fail because you are thirteen white heterosexual men…only. And you always have been. The number has changed, but the homogeny has not.

Imagine if this committee was made up of thirteen black women. Or thirteen gay men. Imagine if it were made up of thirteen members that did not include a white, hetero, cisgendered, Christian male. Would you feel like your needs were being met? The issues important to you given consideration? Yet that is what you continually ask us all to do, time and time again. To trust you to represent us.

So no, I do not expect you to come up with a bill that will do right by women, or by Americans of color. Or by the poor, or anyone else who must carry with them the tag of ‘identity’ with them wherever they go. Because anytime you have a group that is without diversity of thought and experience, you’re bound to fail.

You have failed us enough. Why should this time be any different?

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.