Wrath

This weekend marked one year. Women swarmed the streets again. We aren’t finished here.

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Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash

This year felt slightly different, in my book. The marches focused on increasing voter turnout and encouraging potential candidates to run for political office. Toxic feminism still reared its ugly head, excluding trans women and centering whiteness, in some instances. But some organizers intentionally welcomed non-cis marchers and centered stories from women of color. We can recognize good practices and confront where xenophobia still dictate who holds the microphone.

The county still feels more divided than ever. The government shut down illustrates how impossible and frankly, how oppressive “compromise” is. The people continue to organize. The artists keep creating. The musicians imagine lyrics. The scholars continue to interrogate, analyze and hopefully disseminate their findings in a way that reaches beyond the academy. We need work in all disciplines.

Today I found myself at an interfaith panel put on by the Islamic Networks Group, an organization whose main purpose is to educate the American public about Islam. The panel featured five women who shared some beautiful stories about women leaders of their faith traditions.They also acknowledged how scriptures and practices have held women back. In some instances, religious communities perpetrated violence or legitimized oppression. I appreciated the critical yet appreciative flavor to the conversation. It’s a flavor I’ve been trying to apply to my research.

One of the panelists was a bada** Buddhist feminist who reminded me that we must be endlessly compassionate while taking the firmest stand against bigotry, racism, and xenophobia. She told a story about losing it when one of her students wouldn’t read her work any longer because his friend convinced him that it wasn’t worthy. Or when she wasn’t allowed in the “monks only” lecture because of her gender. I fell in love with her honesty. In my practice, I often feel guilty about allowing anger or frustration to permeate my body and thoughts. But she is absolutely right- we can and should practice compassion by speaking up when possible (and safe- it is NOT the obligation of marginalized people to educate others about their oppression).

This past week I felt frustrated by a few incidents that demonstrated a clear prioritization of maleness where I study. It made me exhausted. Thankfully, I had a willing sounding board after a long week, and decided to inflict some wrathful compassion and speak up for myself. I don’t always feel safe doing this, but I’m willing to push my limits because I also live with several privileged identities.

Sitting in a room full of women who understand faith as complicated and helpful reminded me how sacred these spaces are. The first ever ordained woman Conservative rabbi extolled us to take this sacred with us, even in a world that feels unwelcoming. I held her words as I reflected on the weekend while driving home, at the same time comparing the ideas of Revolutionary Love to wrathful compassion. At the core of both is radical joy, the pursuit of happiness despite a plethora of suffering.

 

Womens’ March: How Art Will Save Us

On Thursday evening, my writing class got real. We talked about self-care through the arduous process. The craft of writing, especially memoir and personal non-fiction, is wrought with danger. We bring our most vulnerable pieces forward, public: here is my brokenness. Of course, we couldn’t help talking about what would happen the next day.

I’ve never considered myself an artist. My sister, yes- at age 10, people asked to buy her paintings. She has that unique ability to make animals (her favorite subject) look real on the canvas. The closest I’ve come to pursuing a career in fine art is my wearing wild clothing in many different colors. Regardless, my appreciation for art has never waned. I find art soothing, a reminder that there are myriad ways to express our pain, joy, and everything in between. Words are my “art,” and sometimes words fall short. Nevertheless, I find myself consumed in books much of the time, looking for inspiration in my own craft.

Running for me has also become an art. Yesterday I joined a marathon running group and headed to Riverside for an 11-mile run. We faced the notorious Newton Hills: miles 17-21 on the Boston Marathon course. The final uphill portion has earned the name “Heartbreak Hill”, on which runners have struggled since the beginning of time (ok, no. But since the beginning of the Boston Marathon, yes) after some intense downhill for the first half of the course. For the last year, I’ve run alone the majority of training, but this time I was transformed by the power of running with others.

Yesterday I learned that running is so personal, of course, but requires the art of community building. Thousands of people climbed the hills yesterday, and as I clomped by Boston College’s campus I marveled at the pleasantries exchanged between strangers, even though we all must have felt exhausted (my knees were screaming at me).

As I neared the end of the run at Fenway Park, I started to see the signs. I mean the actual signs people were carrying to the march. Some were bigger than me! And the sass, oh the sass. It dawned on me: In this time of great divide, Art will save us.

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Because the trains were packed, I decided walking another mile and a half wouldn’t kill me. There were more and more signs as the crowd neared Boston Common. Then I saw the buses.

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Buses and buses and BUSES. And beyond the buses, a sea of pink hats. The entire Boston Common, the same park I had run through only days before, was entirely covered in bodies. I had never seen anything like it.

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I admit to feeling a bit disappointed the previous day. Many of my students, colleagues, and friends had made the trek to our nation’s capitol to literally March on Washington. Why didn’t I get my act together to witness history? Looking before this very crowd, I knew this was where I was meant to be. Boston: the runner’s city, the home of some of the first abolitionists, the site of the first siege that began the Revolution. Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter my heart leaped again: my beloved Chicago, home for three years, the place I met my love, the city of incredible hospitality, had SHUT DOWN THEIR OWN MARCH BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE CAME OUT. BOOM. And THEN- my one and only home, the place my heart stays, the City of Angels, rocked the entirety of downtown with signs in multiple languages. My partner and I exchanged pictures of the best signs and posters around us. Sister marches around the world (yes, the world!) all the way to Antarctica popped up in my newsfeeds.

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Art will save us. Not the paper, the glitter, or the sass (though the humor really enlivened us) but the creativity. You cannot regulate art, you cannot control the visions of the innovative. And in these days, I believe that the creativity we witnessed this past week gives us fire to keep finding alternative ways of action. I’m claiming myself an artist. I will strive to be creative and think big. I’m so thrilled by the showing up for each other yesterday- it’s one day, and we’ve got quite a few more. Blessings to the artists, you are leading us.

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