The Big Short

While doing homework today, I had the film The Big Short, playing in the background.  It reminded me a lot of my father. I’d like to reflect back to my childhood in this post.
I think I was about 12 years-old, but am not completely sure.  Our suburb in central Ohio had a weekly newspaper, usually not very interesting, there was a “police beat section” that dripped with the mundane of the suburbs, the self-congratulatory student honor rolls, marriage announcements, house purchases etc.
In this particular memory of my father, the newspaper had published data on the average education and income of an adult in the suburb, and household income. My father sat reading the article and let out a laugh, like a laugh I’d never heard, in my mind like one of an evil villain cartoon character. Smugly, he explained that he was earning more than the average household income and that they had two incomes and unlike him had college degrees. It was as if he had won against them, I saw insecurity and hubris.
The other laugh I remember distinctly was a few years later sometime in my mid-teens while I watched my father in a business suit put on his tie, he was on his way to court being charged with multiple counts of securities exchange fraud. I asked my father, vice president of the firm, if his boss ‘Red’ was going to go to prison.  My father laughed, quite a similar laugh to the one from a few years before and said “No, Elena, he is a very smart man.  No one is going to prison.”  He was right and just like the people in the film The Big Short , a bunch of white men thought themselves very smart, were fraudulent with the banking system, and never went to prison.  Just like those men even after being found out, my father continued on with the same and opened two more firms, until my father was finally shut down—unlike those men he was a comparatively very small fish.
I wonder what it is going to take for this system to finally stop and have a final crash…In 2007 it crashed and we the taxpayers bailed out the banks.  We have to have an educated society who stands up against fiduciary irresponsibility and I don’t see us there.  I don’t hear our collective, I only hear my fathers laughter, and that “No, Elena, he is a very smart man. No one is going to prison.”

I am not upset about the election results

As I watch people upset about the election results I keep asking myself why are they upset?
The main two candidates were overt racists…one was just called out for it less.
We’ve had W & Cheney before…those dudes were evil and we survived that.
People of color have been surviving shit (colonialism, overt oppression, systemic oppression, institutionalized oppression) for hundreds of years.

However, I am upset with white people who are blaming those who decided not to vote for a racist candidate, and searched elsewhere for representation.
I am upset that I am too emotionally scared to go to class today and have white people especially women tell me I should be more sad about Hillary…a woman who hates my people.
I am upset with white people who are asking why Trump won.  We, people of color, have been telling you we live in a racist country…and you only get shocked when it gets overt?

I am going to need white people to do more. To be more active, to know more, to reach other white people.  That is how white people can be an ally.  They can STFU about why did one racist over another get elected and instead work at understanding the historical contexts and the realities of racism.  Racism isn’t and usually won’t be this overt and easy  to grasp.  So, white people, you’ve got lots of work to do.

To my fam, to la raza, we have to know our history.  We have to be loud. We have to be active and keep on keepin’ on.  We got this.  “We gonna be alright!”

woman time

Image

I first met Adlet on the soccer field.  In the beginning, he was the only one, on our college campus, in China, who would pass me the ball and would treat me as a real teammate. I was excited to finally have a male friend that viewed me as an equal—so I thought.   His English, especially at the beginning of our friendship was limited but still better than my ability to speak to him in one of his other three languages (Kazakh, Russian and Mandarin).

Aldet and Elenamary

Aldet & Elenamary

I tried to explain to him one day before going out to play soccer in the city that I was cramping and had my period.  I tried the words “period”, “menstruation”, “menses”, “monthly cycle” but nothing seemed to click and so I simplified and said “I have blood coming from my vagina.  Blood between my legs.”  He was horrified and told me I was dirty and that I should stay away from him for one week.  This of course upset me and I very directly let him know I was angry, and not dirty and that I didn’t want to talk to him.  Aldet, not understanding, why I was so angry or how he should respond, consulted with some Nordic European male friends of mine about if and how he should interact with me when menstruating.  Being products of their culture, my dudes told him that he didn’t need to do anything, just be nice as always and see if he could do anything for me.  A month later while again on my period Adlet asked me “Do you have woman time?”  I answered that, why yes, I in fact did.  He smiled and responded “I be nice to you! What you want?”
I had a lot of respect for how much he had changed but we of course were still learning lots from each other.  Months later we went to the beach with our mutual friend, a French woman, Claire and because there were three of us, we took two motorbikes. Adlet drove his with Claire on the the back and I drove mine.

claire and elenamary

claire and elenamary

When we stopped for dinner at the end of our beach day Adlet told Claire he was not used to having to drive carefully because he had a woman with him, that he only ever drove me around and that I was “strong like man”.  I questioned him, what did he mean that “I was strong long man” he explained he meant it as a compliment that he was a feminist (I’d recently taught him the ‘f’ word).  Again, I shared my viewpoint and that it was different than his and that I understood he meant well. He now says things like “Elena, is strong like woman!”  I’ve also overheard him say that before he met me, he had been raised to think that you always trust what a man says over a woman, you listen to the woman but if it contradicts what any man says, the man is right.   I was shocked because I never knew that he’d ever thought that way.  Thing is though, I learn just as much if not more from Adlet.  He grew up in rural Kazakhstan, a firm follower of Islam, and is like all of us a product of our environment. Adlet, is intelligent and non-judgmental, a tool and a virtue that make him very open to change.  I am giving all of this back story because something amazing happened recently and Adlet surprised me once again.
This week, I found out that a health clinic that provides abortions had been vandalized with red paint.  I contacted my friend who was working at the clinic as soon as I saw the news and asked her if I could take her for drinks at the end of her shift.  She said no that she was exhausted and more than anything wanted to go home but that if I wanted to help, I could come help paint/clean the building.  I headed out and invited friends to join me as well. Pictures of us cleaning and a group photo post-clean up was on facebook and Adlet “liked it”.

clean-up crew

clean-up crew

I figured he hadn’t understood what were doing or what he was “liking” and so I had a discussion with him, sharing what had been done, and what we did to address the situation.  Turns out he fully understood and he responded  “Yes i understand, good job !
And it’s good idea put photo on Facebook, it mean u guys together never give up))
I mean u a together more strong”.  I have infinite respect for this man, who can change his views based on logic compassion, I need to do more of that myself.

 

 

Christmas Shopping

If you are going to shop for gifts might as well get them from some lefty feminist awesome people who sell really cool stuff and so I give you two cool options, that are independently owned by people I can vouch are super good to the core.

1. Microcosm Publishing–an independent publisher of a lot of radical cool books, zines, stickers, shirts.  I will be purchasing multiple copies of Bikenomics on the economics of bicycles (impact and cost/benefit to society) to give as a gift.  The cool thing about Microcosm is they also have “Super Packs” between$15-$90 (most run about $20) you can get a goody bag full of media tailored to your interests, each bag has multiple books and/or films, and stickers.  For example Super Pack Comix includes multiple comic books and stickers for $20; Super Pack Gardening, includes 3 books and 3 zines for $20; Super Pack: A life of Adventure , four books on the adventures of wanderlusts also $20.  This is what is so wonderful, you just pick a theme related to the person you are shopping for or email them and they can help you tailor a them and wham bam an original and recipient tailored gift.

2.  Amorphia Apparel (or as I like to refer to it ‘Nerd Clothing’) .  I’ve given a lot of Amorphia Apparel shirts and magnets as gifts.  It is science-y, political, artful and sweet.  There are a lot of play on words and just awesomeness in the designs.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou’s

Phenomenal Woman

Many women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Columbus World Naked Bike Ride

Four years ago I rode in Columbus’ first World Naked Bike Ride.  We started at the bike co-op.  Unlike later years Pedal Instead wasn’t there to valet our bikes, we didn’t have a real planned path, or too much planned anything. Having not felt comfortable being nude on High Street, I wore a bathing suit bottom and sports bra, and had body paint around my abdomen and back that was supposed to look like animal print.   It rained while we rode and was invigorating. I came home high on adrenaline.

This year, I’ve struggled with whether to go or not.  I talked to my friend and journalist Aaron Cynic who covered the Chicago World Naked Bike Ride last weekend.   I sought advice from him as he enjoyed the ride and kept a journalistic arms length distance.  I love the World Naked Bike Rides but here in Columbus they have become associated with a group  that I fear has encouraged gentrification with all the negative connotations.  A group that participates in both institutionalized and overt class warfare.

Here in Columbus the ride is starting and ending at the same site that held the paint yourself as an Indian with small pox and drink whiskey at a “thanksgiving” party a few years ago.  My objections to the party never gained apologies I was only ostracized as the dick who takes things too seriously.  These same people throw up their arms in protest in “a hey can’t we just have fun” argument?  Hells yeah we can have fun, but can we not do it at the cost of ousting a community or at least maybe have a discussion about it?  Trust me I want to ride in the streets in my swimsuit and enjoy the carnival attitude of it all, but I can’t do it when it is hosted by a group of people who are racists.  By racists I mean people who have done racist things, been called out on it, and continue to do it.

After much deliberation, I’ll reluctantly be bowing out from this year’s ride.  Maybe you all need a talk with Andrew Ti.

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