broken walls and narratives

A not so revolutionary blog about feminism, socialism, activism, travel, nature, life, etc.

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

Guerrilla Girls Review

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(Image from Feminist Art Project at Rutgers University)

Today I went to check out the Guerrilla Girls at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Founded in 1985, the group consists of anonymous feminists who wear guerilla masks while trying to raise awareness about racial, gender, class, sexuality, etc. inequalities within art. The members of the group are named after dead female artists and have chosen to wear masks so the audience can focus on their message, rather than their individual identities. The group has promoted awareness of inequalities in art (and the media) through posters, stickers, lectures, interviews, and artwork. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the event. I am all for trying to be creative and using costumes to make protest more interesting and vibrant. After all, at one time I wanted to start up radical cheerleading and clowning groups. Really, I had a fun time for the short while I did radical cheerleading. However, I was cautious that perhaps the event would be more artsy, silly, and performative than factual and substantive. I also know very little about art, so I was uncertain if the event would speak to me or my experiences. Finally, because the group was founded upon post-structural ideas, I thought that there might be aspects of the event that I didn’t agree with. My misgivings were entirely unfounded and I found the event to be excellent.

 

The event consisted of a slideshow and lecture about inequalities and art. The presentation was conducted by two women in gorilla masks. As silly as this sounds, it was engaging, and the masks were not at all distracting after the first slide or two. The masks and dark colored clothes indeed helped me to focus on the content rather than the speakers. I did not take notes during the event, but to summarize some of the main ideas the speakers were upset with the treatment of gender (and race) in art. Most artists featured in museums around the world (above 90% in all museums surveyed) are male. The museums themselves are named after men. And, among the human bodies depicted in modern art, 85% are female. Furthermore, the pay gap between male and female artists is many times that of the regular pay gap. For instance, the highest selling piece of art by a female was sold for 12% of the price of the highest male artists. The lecture also had information about race and class. I was impressed that the Guerrilla Girls made mention of how enslaved guest workers were being used to build the new Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi. The exploited labor used in the construction of a museum seems like something that could easily be missed by an art historian.  Class was also mentioned in their discussion of wealthy art collectors, auction house owners, and museum directors, who help to shape the prices and unequal value assigned to art. In terms of race, the presentation mentioned how the Minneapolis Institute of Art only features one piece of work by a Hmong artist and Somali artist, even though Minneapolis has the largest Hmong and Somali population in the U.S. Overall, the lecture was focused more on gender than race and class, though the intersectionality between them was mentioned. A plethora of other statistics were presented during the lecture, but the general idea was that within our already sexist society, there is a particularly strong gender bias in art. While I had some awareness of this, I had really never stopped to consider it nor did I realize just how big this problem was.

 

Beyond discussing the history of women in art and various inequalities therein, the larger media was also explored. The Guerrilla Girls also discussed their own history and gave us a sneak peek at their newest installation at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. They said that they wrestled with their new-found acceptance by the art community and invitation to show their work around the world. They have decided to use these opportunities as a platform for spreading their message and critiquing the very museums they are shown in. The Guerilla Girls also discussed some of the main ideas from a book they wrote on the history of hysteria. In all, the presentation lasted about an hour, but was engaging the entire time. The use of images, costume, humor, questions to the audience, singing, etc. made the lecture lively and engaging. I think that young audiences, people with ADHD, and people who dislike lectures would benefit from this kind of educational event, since it is attention grabbing and stimulating. In this sense, I feel that their ability to present history, sociology, art history, activism, and politics appealed to many learning styles. I feel that I personally learned from the presentation. The presenters certainly met the educational mission of the Fabian motto, “educate, agitate, organize!”

 

Just as the Guerrilla Girls educated the audience, they also met the slogan’s mission of agitation. This agitation was in the form of their subversive art, poster and sticker campaigns, research, and critique of artistic institutions and norms. The art often consisted of appropriating famous works of art, replacing the head with a gorilla, and pairing this was a statistics. Another interesting piece of art was a movie poster from La Dolce Vita, used to critique putting women’s art in the basement of an Italian museum. Beyond this, their research interested me. For example, they went to museums to conduct a weenie count, counting how many male and female nudes were on display. They also counted the number of female artists compared to male artists. I appreciated this do-it-yourself research. I felt that if I visited a museum, I would want to conduct a count. So, I imagined myself revisiting art museums, such as the ones I visited in Ukraine and Belarus, to do a count. I like the idea of using research in non-conventional ways or the idea that anyone can do research.

 

I think that the only area where the Guerrilla Girls failed was the organize aspect. They critiqued art, drew attention to their findings, and were excellent educators. However, they had no message how others might organize. Their organizational tactic seemed focused on their own group and activities. However, they did not say that anyone could start up a Guerrilla Girl group or that they welcomed new members. In fact, they skirted a direct answer about hierarchy within their group and their group’s organization. Based upon Wikipedia information, the group is by invitation and there has been lawsuits against unauthorized use of their image when the group split in 2003. And while they promoted feminist ideas, they did not provide suggestions of how to build a mass feminist movement or their relationship to mass movements. In fact, they said that their group is really about critique rather than answers. I feel that this is a bit of a cop out. It is the kind of things that teachers may say to their students to uphold some ideal of neutrality or avoid indoctrination. However, this answer can make people feel rather directionless or that there are no solutions, only questions and critiques.  There are certainly ways that artists could organize, beyond donning masks. Although the art economy is not as stereotypically wage oriented as other sectors of the economy, artists might benefit by joining or creating unions. Other demands could be more public funding for underrepresented artists, expansion of art programs in public schools (to create jobs and show a value of art), free tuition for art school as part of a demand for universal education, worker/artist control over museums, etc. Thus, this is my main critique of the presentation. Otherwise, I found it educational, important, and entertaining.

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Christmas In Hawaii

The holidays are over, which gives me more time to reflect.  As such, I thought about my favorite Christmas ever… which was the Christmas I spent in Hawaii with my brother.  In 2014, back when I was doing Americorps service at the Boys and Girls Club as the learning center coordinator (i.e. I was living in extreme poverty), my brother kindly paid for my mother and I to visit him in Oahu.  So, these are some highlights of that memory.

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Cheap Flight:  We flew Spirit Air, which was an adventure in itself.  We had to pay more to have a checked bag, so my mother and I pinched pennies by stuffing our clothes and everything else into small carry on bags.  Even their carry on requirements were pretty strict.  Everything on the flight required money and there was an eight hour layover in Los Vegas.  Nevertheless, it was memorable if only for the challenge of packing less and not becoming too grouchy during the layover and long flight.

 

Polynesian Center:  My brother and I went to the pricey Polynesian Center, which was pretty fascinating.  It was fascinating because it was run by Mormons and many of the performers and workers were recruited from various islands by missionaries and are students at Brigham Young University.  The Mormon influence was subtle, but includes more modest dress and a free shuttle to the LDS church.  The center consisted of various villages representing an array of Pacific islands.  At these villages were performances, displays, and lessons.  I tried a Polynesian dance lesson, watched a coconut uses demonstration, listened to a lecture about Polynesian navigation, and observed several dance/musical performances.  One highlight was a floating parade of boats featuring dancers from each island.  My mother opted to go to the beach that day.
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Bishop Museum:  No one seemed enthused to go to the Bishop Museum, as it seemed a little spendy and we had already done quite a lot.  But, I love museums.  The Bishop museum was excellent, with a giant Nene to sit on, magnificent cloaks made of red, black, and yellow feathers, a Planetarium, scientific and cultural artifacts, and lectures.  We went to a presentation on volcanoes and another on Polynesian ethnobotany.

 

Botanical Gardens:  I feel that we went to three botanical gardens while visiting my brother.  Some people like going to beaches and relaxing with drinks.  I like learning.  ALL THE TIME.  But, what a wonderful opportunity!  Because of its isolation, Hawaii has many unique plants and birds.  Of course, the endemic plants and animals have been challenged by the many exotic, introduced species that continue to bombard the islands.  The botanical gardens showcased non-native plants, such as those used for commercial use and interesting plants from throughout the Pacific.  We visited the Lyon Arboretum, where we saw a small waterfall and went on a hike…only to get rained on. We also visited the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, where we fed some ducks and geese at a small pond.  Another garden was Koko Head’s Crater, which was massive, dry, and featured a large collection of African plants and cacti.  I feel that we probably visited another garden as well, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.  The best thing about the botanical gardens was that they were actually very empty.  We were among the few people to visit them- perhaps because other tourists aren’t as in to plants?
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(Note: I don’t think this particular hibiscus is native to Hawaii)

Pearl Harbor:  I don’t have a patriotic bone in my body.  I am somewhat indifferent to both the victory and defeat of imperialist Japan against imperialist U.S.   How can I defend the US?  During World War II, we imprisoned socialists…in my own state of Minnesota, no less…and sent Japanese citizens to concentration camps.  We bombed civilians with ATOMIC WEAPONS.  Of course, I don’t want 2000 people of any nationality to die, but the death of Americans is never uniquely tragic to me (as compared to the deaths of any other nation).  But, Pearl Harbor is a place where tourists go.  So we ritualistically lined up early in the morning, waited, and visited Pearl Harbor.  The visit was memorable in that it was a good study of sociological phenomenon such as “feeling rules” and presentation of self.  The American tourists at the site behaved in sober, quiet, reflective, ways…as these are the feeling rules of visiting such a place.  Like church, children were expected to behave, not climb on things, not shout, and “be good.”  Some Asian tourists broke the unspoken feeling rules by smiling, laughing, and taking fun photos.  This is no offense to Asians, but perhaps the don’t feel as compelled to follow the rules.  However, once the Americans were back in the parking lot, everyone was loud, rowdy, and energetic again.  They had left the public space and were backstage, to use Goffman’s metaphor.  It was interesting to watch the performance of reflective patriotism give way to more everyday expressions of self.  I also saw the USS Arizona burp oil into the ocean.  Is that good for the environment?

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Byodo-in:  My brother lived right across the street from a Buddhist temple.  We visited the temple on Christmas Day, which was not only enormously fun and beautiful…it was vaguely sacrilegious.  The temple had a bell, a few nice trails, bamboo patches of forest, koi ponds, and a Buddha statue.  My mother was awkward about the Buddha statue, which I suppose seemed like idolatry to her.  I was also a little awkward about the Buddha statue since I never know the right etiquette and it is a bit of a hassle to take off my shoes.  Still, it was a lovely place and a great way to walk off Christmas dinner.
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Christmas Hike:  Christmas morning, my brother and I went on a hike on a nearby hill/mountain.  The trail was impossibly muddy, making the journey dangerously slippery and messy. It was fun to spend my time doing something active with my brother.  Christmas should be for hiking and enjoying nature…not sitting around, eating, and watching TV.
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Taro Pies and Sushi:  My brother lived walking distance from a McDonalds and a sushi place.  So, several days involved visits to the sushi restaurant for really cheap sushi.  The sushi in Duluth tends to be a little expensive.  On Oahu, it was as cheap as fast food (at least it seemed this way to me).  I also ate taro pies from McDonalds.  I enjoyed the novelty of eating a pie filled with a gelatinous, sweet, purple tuber.
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(Taro, before Ronald McDonald turns it into a pie.)

Diamond head State Park:  My mother, Tiffany, and I hiked up the Diamond head crater for a lovely view of Honolulu.  I am proud of my mother for making it all the way up the almost two mile trail (which included a tunnel and a lot of steps).  It was pretty hot that day too.  My mother was pretty good sport and went on a couple hikes.

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(My mother and Tiffany, not enjoying the hike)

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Whale Watching:  We all went on a whale watching boat excursion and had a few sightings of humpback whales.  Layton, who was probably only about 2 then, searched the water for whales (looking over the side of the boat).  It was a whale of a good time.

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(My mother and the sunset)

Crabby Brother:  My brother was memorably crabby during the trip.  I suppose he did pay for the trip and the activities, as well as drove us around.  This is pretty stressful and underlines the lack of public transportation/traffic nightmare that is Oahu.  I had enough fun for four people, so too bad I couldn’t redistribute my good mood to the less fortunate.

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Stray cats and chickens:  My brother and I went out to feed stray cats and chickens on the day after Christmas.  We fed them the remains of the Christmas ham.  Oddly, the cats were at the bottom of the pecking order…cowering from the fierce flock of feral chickens.  I think we might have seen another botanical garden after this, but I don’t remember.
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This was a truly magical Christmas.  It was the way Christmas should be.  Christmas often stresses me out with its social obligations, financial burden, cold, and oppressive presence through trees, songs, sales, traffic, consumerism, religious battles, etc. But that Christmas seemed like a nice escape from it all.  Instead of cold, it was tropical.  Instead of tons of gifts, it was a few things we could fit in our carry-on.  There was a Christmas dinner, but this was a minor event compared to the Christmas hike and Christmas temple visit.  There was family time, but instead of the familiar setting of Minnesota and home, it was far away and exotic. And, it was far less stressful as it was only a few immediate family members. There was learning, botany, volcanoes, hikes, stray cats, Mormons, taro pies, whales, and sushi.  The trip sparked an interest in Polynesian history.  Of course, my wonderful Christmas was only possible because of crushing U.S. imperialism which put Hawaii under its yoke and a tourist industry that commodities Hawaiian nature and culture while at the same time destroying both.  But, politics aside, it was enjoyable.

 

I will probably never have a Christmas as fun as the one spent in Hawaii in 2014.  But, life is long!

Sexuality and Socialism: Book Review

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Sexuality and Socialism by Sherry Wolf was candy.  I devoured the book in less than 24 hours.  I didn’t expect the book to be as good as it was.  Judging by the title, I thought that it would be a little dry.  Instead, it was engaging, accessible, and humorous.  The book was good in that it was a fast read that approached sexuality from a Marxist perspective.  Grounding sexuality with materialism is something that I don’t often encounter as the dominant discourses around sexuality tend towards matters of biology and identity.   The book offers a fascinating history with a critique of popular paradigms of sexuality.

One highlight of the book is a chapter on the Russian revolution and Marxist thought regarding sexuality.  I was previously unaware that following the Russian revolution, there are some medical records of rather primitive attempts at sex changes as well as instances of same sex marriages.  This is quite astonishing how a relatively backwards, peasant based, monarchy could in the advent of revolution come to frame sexuality as a matter of public health, privacy, and scientific inquiry, rather than morality and crime.  So, Wolf’s chapter “The Myth of Marxist Homophobia” was refreshing.  Wolf very clearly elucidated the idea that Marxists do not view sexuality as secondary to social class, but rather that solidarity between workers hinges upon ending sexual oppression as well.  In this perspective, homophobia is not vastly separated from class oppression, but a means by which workers are divided.  It is itself an outcome of the material conditions of capitalism which require a nuclear family and rigid gender roles for the reproduction of workers, division of laborers, gender based unpaid labor, and privatized responsibility for children.  This materialist perspective shows the connection between oppressions.  The same chapter is also useful as it speaks about the specific failures of various communist countries and movements.  For example, while Cuba has moved towards more just treatment of sexual minorities, it has a dark history of putting homosexuals into work camps and denying LGBT activists entry into the country.   I visited Cuba in 2008 and was impressed that the country offered sex changes for free and was very pleased with my visit to the CENESEX (the national center for sex education).  In fact, the year I visited was the first year that sex changes were offered for free and the first year that there was a Pride Festival.  I was not aware that the Pride Festival was shut down due to the participants asking for an acknowledgement of past wrongs.  Nevertheless, the book is a bit hard on Cuba, as Fidel Castro has called this history a terrible injustice and most people supportive of LGBT rights would view Cuba’s reforms over the last decade or so encouraging (even if there is debate or cynicism regarding the purpose of these reforms.)  Yet, it is important to acknowledge an entire history rather than some hopeful reforms.

Another highlight of the book was a chapter on how the Democratic Party has been an enemy at worst and fair weather friend at best, when it comes to LGBT rights.  High lights, or low lights, of this history include Clinton’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, Howard Dean promoting civil unions over marriage, Obama being pro-state rights on the question of same sex marriage, Dukakis advocating against a gay caucus within the democratic party, and other instances in a long history of betrayals.  These tidbits appealed to me out due to my deep and terrible disdain for democrats that comes from watching flames of social movements or the sparks of social movements burn out in the stifling, airless environment that is electoral politics.  Another interesting part of this chapter was about the marketization of gay identity, or how the media portrays the LGBT community as wealthy, leisurely, and white.  This creates an identity based upon consumerism (for people to aspire towards through buying), but also ignores the experiences of LGBT individuals who are working class or people of color.

The working class is something that the book pays special attention to.  Despite media myths, gay men actually have a lower annual income than straight men (though lesbians make more than straight females-perhaps because they may not leave the labor market to raise children).  The book also mentioned that some early LGBT rights activists were also involved in the labor movement, such as Harry Hay, the founder of the Mattachine Society and IWW organizer.  The connections between labor and LGBT history is important in building solidarity but also viewing sexuality based oppression as built into our economic system.  There is perhaps a stereotype that the average blue collar worker is a homophobic white man. Many workers may very well be homophobic.  Yet, the stereotype that workers are particularly homophobic blames workers for sexual oppression rather than grounding it in capitalism and ideologies that benefit the ruling class.  The liberation of working people hinges upon their ability to unite.  I liked reading about examples wherein workers saw the connection between oppressions, such as the book’s example of Teamster’s uniting with San Francisco’s LGBT community in a boycott against Coors. In a similar vein, African Americans are often stereotyped as being more homophobic than white people.  I appreciate that the book addresses this as a racist myth that ignores that most conservatives are white and that the majority of African Americans have voted in favor of same sex marriage and expanding rights to LGBT people.  Finally, I enjoyed the insight about same sex marriage.  Many leftist activists pointed out that same sex marriage was not really an accomplishment to celebrate, as it reinforces monogamy and marriage, which are cornerstones of capitalist patriarchy.  Another critique is that there is a conservativism in the demand to marry, as it is an attempt to be just like normal, heterosexual people.  However, a person can be against monogamy and marriage and still for the extension of rights to oppressed groups.  There is nothing to lose by extending these rights as it challenges discrimination and can be a springboard to more radical demands.  In this same way, a person should support voting rights for women even if a person doesn’t necessarily believe in the electoral system or the right to serve in the military for LGBT people even if they don’t believe in imperialist war.   A person can remain principled against monogamy, marriage, war, the two party system, etc. but also believe in extending basic democratic rights to oppressed groups.

The book spends some time picking apart Queer Theory, identity politics, and Postmodernism.  I feel that the attention given to this critique was a little bit overzealous.  While postmodernism can certainly be critiqued for its lack of solutions, academic jargon, pessimism, and over emphasis on language, I think it is also useful to see what can be salvaged from some of the insights offered by postmodernist thinkers.  Since social movements do use language to frame arguments and slogans, language should be viewed tactically and anything postmodernism offers on this front, a possible weapon for social change.  Likewise, discourse is distilled reality, so I find nothing wrong with trying to determine how to most powerfully express material conditions. But, language can be a tar pit.  Focusing too much on it or over emphasizing its power just leaves a movement stuck in the muck…left to slow, fossilization.  As for Queer Theory and identity politics, I think that these theories are meaningful to LGBT people and that it is wise to tread lightly when critiquing ideas that oppressed groups find valuable, meaningful, or important.  Identity is a pretty important part of the lives of people, even if identity is shaped by consumerism and capitalism.  But, the book’s critique is not so much about focusing on identity as it is the tactics of certain groups (which shunned mass movements).  Honestly, a group should have the autonomy to chose its own tactics.  While some tactics may not be traditionally as effective, they might be coupled with mass movements or used creatively to attract people to more massive actions.  As for queer theory, I cannot weigh in on the book’s criticisms as I am simply not knowledgeable enough.  I had a positive view of queer theory as an attempt to unite at LGBTQIAH…people under an umbrella of queerness and for trying to dismantle false dichotomies between gay and straight or queer and not queer.  Although the theory is not a class based analysis, in my limited understanding, I appreciate attempts to deconstruct what is taken for granted as truth about sexuality.

A more satisfying section on the book is about the dominance of biological determinism in the discussion of LGBT people.  This has been a personal pet peeve of my own.  Biological determinism has been useful to activists, since it legitimizes LGBT identities and experiences through the notion that people are born that way.  From my own experiences, I don’t feel that I was born bi, female, male, heterosexual, asexual, or any sexual/gender identity really.  I don’t view my life as a long narrative of unchanging desires or orientations.  In high school, I was uncertain about my sexual orientation and even at this moment, I am uncertain of my gender identity. To others, this might seem inauthentic.  Somehow biology makes something authentic, whereas choice does not.   The book emphasizes the social aspects of identity/desire/orientation and the interplay between biology and environment.  Even if some choice is involved in gender and sexuality and that the meaning of these things changes with changes in material conditions, this does not justify oppression.

As a whole, I enjoyed the book.  There are some things I didn’t agree with, but I largely enjoyed the book for its attempt to root LGBT issues and history within capitalism.  I can’t imagine a work on this topic, from a materialist perspective, that is more accessible and fascinating.  My review is far from comprehensive, but documents my impression of the book and some of the arguments therein.

A Very Good Year

2015 was a very good year. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Visiting four state parks: Tettegouche State Park for an informational hike about ferns (with bonus information about lichens), trip to Tower-Sudan Mine Park with Adam and Lucas, trip to Crosby (Cayuna Recreation Area) to learn about the mining disaster there, and a trip to Moose Lake State park during Agate Days. These visits were fun and informative, deepening my knowledge of ferns, mining, and agates.DSCF1072
  2. A trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden in August. The highlight of this trip was by far, my visit to Chernobyl. But, I enjoyed Estonia as well, especially the visit to the bog in Lahemaa National Park.DSCF1178
  3. Graduating from Mankato with my Master’s in Sociology. It took long enough, but I did it. And, as of this moment, my thesis has had 95 downloads. I feel self-conscious about it, as it was certainly imperfect. But, as I was told in my research methods class…the best thesis is a done thesis.  My GPA was not perfect either…at 3.91. I learned a lot and was challenged. My imperfect GPA was not for lack of effort.   Thesis: http://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/412/
  4. Student Teaching at Denfeld HS. Teaching sociology and world history to 11th and 12th graders was a wonderful experience. I loved doing creative projects, games, group work, food sampling, station work, and interdisciplinary activities in the classroom with the students. I loved teaching. I loved the opportunity to share my knowledge with the students. I was told by my cooperating teacher that I was her best student teacher and told by my supervisor from St. Scholastica that I was among the top 2% of student teachers (2% was awfully specific, but I will remember it as a great compliment). I suppose that turning in 20-40 page lesson plans helped my cause. Aside from the compliments, I enjoyed teaching week long lessons on the French and Russian revolutions to the 11th grade students. We did both as giant role playing games wherein students invented their own characters and were assessed based upon the memoirs of their characters at the end of the unit.
  5. Finishing up the GTLE program.   One reason I stalled in Mankato was that I embarked on a second Master’s program, which was an accelerated program that gains a person a teaching license. I finished up the licensure portion of the program and will have a Master’s in teaching this spring. Thus far, my GPA is 4.0. I am quite proud of this, as I have been working full time and because the program was…well, accelerated, with two sets of classes each semester. I don’t mind tooting my horn, as I worked hard.
  6. Working at Safe Haven. Working at a domestic violence shelter can be stressful, but I generally enjoy the work and think that my co-workers are excellent. I am glad to have a job that serves women and I am glad to have a job where it isn’t abnormal to be a feminist.
  7. Feminist activism. This year I participated in a feminist book club and a counter protest against the 40 Days for Life. I also did a Roe v. Wade protest and International Women’s Day Panel. It felt good to help organize these activities and to work with other feminists.DSCF2269
  8. Running: I’ve never been all that great at running. In other words, I am awful. Two years ago, I tried taking up jogging at was gasping like a fish out of water at a quarter mile. Suddenly, something just snapped. I didn’t try that hard. I didn’t run consistently. I just did it off and on. Now, this year, I was able to jog for an hour and a half (in September.) That is a long time of jogging! It feels amazing. I still run inconsistently, but I don’t fear it, don’t hate it, and don’t gasp like a fish. I love it. What a liberating feeling! There was no special effort or training…just a slow commitment to run from time to time and push myself to go longer.DSCF0943
  9. Learning about nature. This ties to going to state parks. I went to various lectures and hikes, mostly at Jay Cooke State Park and Hartley Nature Center. I also purchased a few guide books. The sum of this is that I grew in my ability to identify ferns, trees, butterflies, and wild flowers. I made a goal of learning 15 of each (though I have forgotten some of that knowledge for lack of consistent practice).
  10. Fun time with friends. I am glad that I was able to convince my friend, Adam, to pal around with me on various adventures (such as the state park adventures, a trip to the Oulu corn maze, outings to the planetarium, hikes, trips to the zoo, etc.). I also had fun when Lucas visited and during my brother’s visit. It was nice to reconnect with Jenny through feminism. I don’t have many friends. I am socially awkward and stand offish. So, I am certainly thankful for the few friends that I have.DSCF2335
  11. Good books. I read some good books during the year. Some were through the book club. I wish I could remember all of the books that I read. I guess I should have written them down. Highlights include King Leopold’s Ghost, The Sixth Extinction, Education and Capitalism, Belarus: Europe’s Last Dictatorship, Blood lands: Between Hitler and Stalin, I am Malala, a book about the history of travel, and others that I just can’t remember. Terrible! Maybe I should resolve to write down what I read. Anyway, I felt that I read some really interesting non-fiction this year on topics such as feminism, Congo, Eastern Europe, climate change, education, etc.
  12. Beach Outings: One of my favorite summer things to do was visit Wisconsin Point and walk along the beach, go for a hike in the woods, or read a book. These solo outings were a way to have some fun in the sun and enjoy the lake.DSCF0992
  13. Star Gazing: There were a few times that I went star gazing, enjoying constellations and meteor showers.
  14. Various opportunities to wear costumes. I like dressing up. As such, I relished my opportunities to dress up as a Brainy Scarecrow for Halloween and Che of the Dead for Day of the Dead.   Costumes are fun. There needs to be more dressing up in my life.DSCF2381
  15. Adding some acting to my life. I participated in the Douglas County History Society’s living history walk at the Greenwood Cemetery as a Jesse McArthur, a drowning victim from the early 1900s. It was pretty fun, as I hadn’t done any acting since high school.IMG_21528
  16. Generally good health. I had some minor digestive problems, perhaps due to stress from working at the shelter or stomach bugs. However, generally speaking I didn’t have any terrible health issues aside from some digestive things and various colds.
  17. Feeling okay about myself.  Sometimes I struggle with the nagging feeling that I am a failure, ugly, fat, terrible, incapable of friendship, and all of those other insecurities.  I never feel satisfied.  I feel that I must do more and be more.  I can’t say that I am sated with the accomplishments of the year, but I can say that I put enough effort into enough areas to sate the hungry demons of insecurity.
  18. Fun clothes.  On an entirely frivolous note, I found some cool clothes this year.  I really like my dinosaur x-mas shirt, apple hat, pumpkin hat, and a poncho I found at Savers (with built in headphones and an MP3 hook up).  It is hard to be depressed/spiral into an existential crisis when you are wearing a pumpkin on your head.  Orange is never the new black.   A fashion highlight was matching my clothes (apple hat, apple sweater, and apple socks) to some caramel apples I made for a work party.DSCF2334

In all, 2015 was a really good year. I was happy. I kept active. I had some accomplishments and few setbacks. I would say that 2015 was probably one of the best years in my adult life (though it is hard to measure such things. 2010 was pretty good too). 2016 has a lot to live up to.  My tip for 2016: wear more orange.

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