Entries Tagged as 'Feminism & Gender Roles'

On Joe Biden

November 19, 2017

This week, I took my “repeal the patriarchy and white supremacy” show on the road! Since Joe Biden’s answer to a question I asked him made the news (also here), I wanted to share a bit more of the context.

Last Monday, I attended Glamour’s first-ever Women of the Year Summit. I attended the Women of the Year Awards in 2015 and it was an incredibly powerful and moving experience — truly, one of the highlights of my year. The WOTY Awards is held in a big theater in front of a large audience, but this year, they added a new event, the summit, which was smaller (about 300-400 people). It was a series of panels and talks featuring truly remarkable women and I was so, so thrilled to be in attendance.

The program said that the last panel of the morning before lunch would be Glamour EIC Cindi Leive in conversation with “surprise guests.” As it got closer, I thought that perhaps it would be HRC, especially because we kicked off the day with Chelsea. (Also, the security that morning had been surprisingly intense, which I didn’t think much of it until later.) Dallas guessed Michelle Obama. It turned out to be the Bidens. Which…fine! Cool!

I probably wouldn’t have felt so compelled to say something if Joe hadn’t spent so much time talking up his record on women. Look, he has done good, important things for women, and I’m all for tooting your own horn (OBVIOUSLY), but there was something about a white man coming into a room full of women and just sort of accomplishment-dropping (“When I wrote that legislation…”) to provide evidence of his wokeness that really rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I found him smug and just…pandering. I’m sorry, but saying things like “There’s not a single thing a man can do that a woman can’t” (to applause, of course) and openly adoring and supporting his career-woman wife is…pretty basic-ass shit. You know? Like, it’s easy to forget that in the year 2017, when there’s an unabashed misogynist and racist leading the country and we live in hell. But, sorry…Joe Biden ain’t special. (Even Dr. Biden says at one point, “We already knew that, Joe.”) Like, great job being a PERSON, Joe Biden. You don’t get a cookie for BEING A PERSON.

Anyway, the thing that really made me say “OK, but also…no,” is when the topic of Harvey Weinstein came up and Cindi said something to the effect of “What do you think of the argument that these men came from a different time, that they are old dinosaurs?” and Biden got out his soapbox and called bullshit on that. Which: great! It is bullshit! But as he went on to say that he’s from that same time, and his dad (also from a different time) raised him to know better, I just thought, But that’s probably the exact same defense he’d use if ever called to answer for his own behavior. And between that and him talking about how brave all the women who have come forward are and how “we have to change the culture,” all I could think about was Anita Hill.

And I couldn’t think about anything else.

I was texting my friend Sally with updates from the Summit throughout the day, and as I was having these thoughts, she texted me something like, “Ok but also….Anita Hill” and I was like, “Right???? THANK YOU.” So I was like, Ok, if they do a Q&A for this panel — which seemed HIGHLY UNLIKELY — I’ll try to get the mic and ask him about her. A few minutes later, I was looking down, taking notes, when Cindi said that she’d take a few questions at the end, and my head JERKED up. (I’m pretty sure everyone around me noticed.) Still, though, I knew that getting a mic was a long shot.

Aside from worrying about whether or not I’d be able to bring up Anita Hill, I was also debating whether or not it would really be appropriate for me to say something. After all, the Bidens were basically the guests of honor, and Cindi wasn’t interviewing them like a reporter. (Which: fine!) So I was sitting there asking myself whether or not the question I wanted to ask would be, essentially, rude. But then I thought, Well, the “rude” question would actually be “So hey, are you going to stop being kiiiiinda awfully handsy with women during photo ops?” so everyone should be happy I’m sticking to something a little easier. I also just kept thinking about two things women have said recently: “You can’t get away with this shit anymore.” And, “But what’s the alternative? To approve? I do not approve.”

I. DO NOT. APPROVE.

And as I weighed my options, I thought back to all of the panels from the morning, and I was kind of like, If anyone thinks this is inappropriate, I can quote back several amazing women who told us to be brave and fearless and to get in formation. To ask a serious question felt like it would be acting in the spirit of the summit. And as I considered the possibility of things going badly, I thought, Well, if there’s a hill worth dying on, Anita Hill is it.

To be clear, I do not expect a long life in public service to be without mistakes or growth, nor am I asking for purity from Democrats (though anyone who thinks reproductive justice is negotiable or that “identity politics” is real/a problem can kiss black ass). But I have zero patience for people who are incapable of a genuine apology, or who refuse to have a real, non-defensive reckoning with their own failings. And the more Biden talked, the angrier I felt.

So once the production people with mics sort of dispersed and the first audience member was asking her question, I, like, looked around until I spotted another production person holding a mic and basically communicated “I’mma need that mic” and she nodded at me and moved into position at the end of my row with it. (That was actually the scariest part for me — like, aggressively claiming a mic outside of the designated “now is when we raise our hands and ask to be called on” time. It felt impolite.)

So I got the mic and I stood up and said to Joe Biden, “My name’s Rachel Miller and my question is for the former vice president. In the context of changing the culture and women being brave enough to come forward [which he’d also said], I’m wondering if there’s anything that you would do differently with regards to Anita Hill if given the opportunity.”

And he said, “No.”

No.

And then he said, “Let’s get something straight here.”

Which — sure, is a thing an old white man can say to a black woman asking him a question at a women’s event about the shameful treatment of a black woman on a national stage. He is certainly allowed to say that, if he wants to. 

………..

Biden then went on to say a lot more words, but what he was really saying was, “I’m a good guy, I’m a good guy, I’m a good guy.” (The entire event was live streamed, and you can see the Bidens’ panel here; my question is at 25:53.) And here’s the thing: I have had eerily similar versions of this exact conversation several times over the past six weeks, and I am sick to goddamn death of men who have demonstrably not always been good guys immediately jumping in to defend themselves and tell me that I’m wrong — that they ARE, in fact, good (GREAT, even!!!), and I just don’t get it. They get emotional, they get belligerent, they get nasty as they try to get me to listen to the story of that one thing they did for a woman, like, three years ago. And they do this instead of, I don’t know, being introspective for one fucking second, and considering that maybe they are wrong. Maybe they aren’t great. Maybe they aren’t good. Maybe they aren’t that brave, maybe they didn’t always do everything they could have done, maybe they ignored certain things because they were ignorant or cowards or lazy or, hell, because “it was a different time.” But instead of pausing and thinking about how he could have done more, Biden, like so many other men, looked me dead in the eye and just said, “No.” No, I couldn’t have done more. No, I will not consider that I’m anything other than a good guy. I’m the hero of this story. Has no one told you that I’m the hero?

He ended his response with, “What I do feel badly about is the bad taste that got left in the mouth of some of the people around Anita Hill.”

Again: OK, but also…NO. 

After he finished speaking, I fully expected Cindi to accept his answer and pivot back to softball questions. (Which: fine! I know how this works.) But that’s not what happened. And this was actually kind of the best part for me. Cindi didn’t just let his narrative stand. She said, “If I can just follow up on that for one second…Professor Hill has said herself that she expected a fair process and did not feel that she had one. Do you, given your leadership on these kinds of issues, have any kind of message to her now?”

And Biden said, “Well, my message, which I’ve delivered before [translation: Why are you wasting my time with this?] is that I am so sorry if she believed that.”

I am so sorry if she believed that.

I am so sorry IF she believed that.

And then he followed it up with, “I feel really badly she didn’t feel like the process worked.”

I’m sorry if. I feel badly that she felt.

And then, for good measure, he finished it up with a little bit more about how he was the hero. He talked about “the shouting matches I had with those witnesses who were attacking her” and then finished with, “I said something at the time that proved to be right. I said this is going to be the start of a fundamental change of what constitutes harassment in the workplace, and people are gonna begin to change.”

I said something at the time that proved to be right.

I just…what a gross thing to say here. “I said something at the time that proved to be right.” It’s not really surprising, but that smug-ass delivery was still enraging. 

I DO NOT APPROVE!!!

Later that night, at the WOTY Awards, there were a lot of surprise appearances, including when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohy — the journalists who broke the Weinstein story — dropped in and talked about #MeToo, and then said that four survivors of sexual harassment who told their stories in the name of justice would be joining them on stage. And then the name “Anita Hill” appeared in huge letters on the screen and I blurted out, “Oh, holy shit,” and then started crying for like the dozenth time that day. (Watch the video here.) It was really incredible, seeing her there and listening to her speak. (Especially right after seeing Zendaya give Maxine Waters a Lifetime Achievement Award.)

“I saw that we had a chance to shift this narrative,” Hill said on stage. And to that in particular, I hope we can all look back someday and say, “Me too.”

Re: why I don’t carry a knife for self-defense

January 15, 2016

PROLOGUE

A few weeks ago, I had the kind of subway ride that I’m sure most people who live in cities with mass transit are familiar with: the kind where you’re like, “Huh, is this angry passenger actually gonna kill me or nah??” Later that day, I told a male friend of mine about it in an ongoing email thread we had going about Making a Murderer; the day before I had been saying that I wasn’t sure if I was going to watch it because true crime shows stress me out. This is the email I sent him after the subway ride:

“Speaking of being afraid of murdered, this morning on the train I had a VERY unsettling encounter. I sat down and this man was across the aisle from me, facing me directly, while my left side was to him. He was older, gray hair/beard, shouting unintelligible things REALLY loudly (just like…angry noises), and swinging his arms around sort of wildly, and every 20 seconds or so he’d SLAM his open palm on the seat next to him. At one point he spat, loudly and angrily, on the floor of the train. He was shouting in my general direction, and as the ride went on, it seemed like he was maybe shouting AT me but I couldn’t tell for sure, and then there’s that thing women do where you’re like ‘Surely he’s not shouting at me!’ and try to talk yourself out of the fact that you’re feeling uneasy/afraid. There were no other women very near to him, and the two dudes closest to him — one was about the same distance away from him as I was, the other was a little further away — were keeping an eye on him but were also looking back at me, which made me think he was definitely shouting at me…which made me super stressed out and uncomfortable and I was just like GET ME OFF THIS TRAIN. I was on an express train that was in one of its longest stretches without a stop, and it felt like it was going extra slow. I started calculating the best exit route so that he couldn’t like, stand up at the same time I did and be within grabbing/lunging distance. When the train finally got to the next stop, I got the FUCK out of there and moved to another car. There are plenty of crazy people in NYC, but every so often you get the ones where you’re just like, ‘Huh, is this the one that’s actually going to stab me though??’ Ugggggggh.”

My friend, who, I want to be clear, is a very good friend/person who I have known for eight years and who considers himself to be a responsible gun owner — which I’m inclined, based on what I know about him, to believe — responded with (among other things) this: “Do you carry mace or a small knife on the subway?? I know you’re not a fan of my weapon suggestions, but good lord, with situations like that, what if that creepy guy ended up approaching you closer or following you? Might not be a bad idea to have a ‘break in case of emergency’ device or something in your purse if you’re ever in a bad situation.”

This response was completely predictable (and I mean that with a lot of love) (like “I know you’re not a fan of my weapon suggestions” lol) and he and I exchanged a few more quick emails laughing about just how predictable a reaction it was before I responded that I was at a photo shoot, and that I would respond to the mace/knife question later. That night, I sat down and wrote him a 2500-word email and took a bunch of photos to illustrate my points. Because I spent so much time writing the damn thing, I decided to put a (lightly edited) version of it here — so that other women can reference it in those conversations about violence against women when a smart, well-meaning, and genuinely-trying-to-be-woke white guy suggests we should carry weapons to protect ourselves. Now women will be able to respond to that with “Hahahahahaha… A knife! Oh, you’re cute!” and then send the link to this post.

Enjoy.

THE EMAIL

First, you should know that in general, I try to carry as little as possible every day. My purse holds a wallet, phone, pens, keys, and a couple other small things, but it’s pretty tiny. (Like, 7 inches tall by 7 inches wide, and the opening, as you can see below, is not very big. )

Here’s my purse with my wallet in it:

And without my wallet in it:

Most days, I carry the small purse to work inside a bigger tote bag that holds my laptop and anything else I need on a daily basis, which is usually VERY little. Here’s the regular setup:

It’s a pretty deep/spacious bag but I try to keep it mostly empty because I’m really conscious about women carrying heavy bags (why is why I did a project about this last year and why I am here for the fanny pack). However, because of the photo shoot today, I really wasn’t traveling light at all; I had a coffee mug and a can of Diet Dr. Pepper and a computer mouse and assorted other sundries in my tote. So it actually looked like this:

Along with the purse and the tote bag, I also had the new (SLASH AMAZING!!) bag that I got for all of my nice craft supplies/tools — both for home storage and also to carry that stuff with me to photo shoots. Including this so you can get a sense of like…how full my hands were today.

OK, still with me?

OK, so today it was cold and raining so I was wearing my winter coat; it’s pretty thick and has a big hood and relatively deep outer pockets, no inner pockets. It’s thick enough that wearing anything over it (including my regular tote bag) is kind of bulky…which is why I started downsizing my bags in the first place when I moved to the city.

So when I got on the train, the tote with the laptop, purse, etc. in it was on my left shoulder, and then the tool bag was in my right hand because the straps are on the shorter side and it would have been hard to put it on my shoulder with my bulky coat. Under the coat, I was wearing a sweater and leggings. If it had been summer, I would have likely been wearing jeans with small pockets (it’s well-documented that women’s pockets are fucking tiny) OR wearing a lightweight cotton dress with small pockets OR shorts with small pockets OR an outfit with no pockets at all.

So here’s what today’s setup looked like:

​OK, SO. Let’s say I carried a knife with me and that I had it on me when this happened. (I’m going to go with a knife in this scenario because pepper spray is not legal everywhere — it’s legal in NYC in general, though whether or not it’s allowed on the subway is not totally clear to me — but mostly because people often caution against pepper spray because it’s too easy to spray yourself in the face during a struggle. Technically a knife is 100% NOT ALLOWED on the subway, which is actually a better answer to your question but whatever — I’m in too deep now with this other explanation, so let’s just proceed as though a knife is legal, OR we can accept that it’s illegal but pretend as though I carry one anyway with the hope that I’m light-skinned enough to not get searched by one of the cops I regularly walk by in subway, because then I could be charged with “intent to injure.” Here’s more on what happens when you’re black and carrying a knife and the NYPD stops you. Again, I, personally, may not need to worry about this as much as I would if I hard darker skin or braids in my hair, but a lot of women don’t have that privilege and it’s also NOT THE KIND OF THING I WANT TO RISK.)

So let’s say that I’m in the train car and the guy starts coming at me and it’s clear at that point that he might actually try to hurt me. Where, in the setup I just described, would my knife be, and how would I easily get it out and use it to…what? Tell the guy to back the fuck off or I’ll stab him? Actually stab another human being?? I don’t even know, but that’s beside the point here. First we need to figure out where the knife is in this scene.

  • Is the knife in my coat pocket? This means I have to like…carry a KNIFE IN MY COAT POCKET (sorry iPhone, gloves, HANDS, etc.)…and then I either take it out of my pocket constantly so I don’t have to carry it around with me when I just step outside to take the dogs out or to get lunch (though in this world, why wouldn’t I just take it in case I need to stab someone while walking the dog or running errands?), or I just keep it in there all the time and lose a ton of the functionality in my pockets. But even when I have my gloves or phone in my pockets, I find myself worrying I’ll accidentally drop them as I take my hands in and out of my pocket. Basically, I’ve learned in this year that while my coat pockets are a very tempting place for me to store things, it’s not really that practical in everyday life. Also, this option isn’t even available to me for more than half the year. ALSO it’s very hard to get into the pockets when I’m sitting down, which I was this morning when all this went down on the train.
  • Is the knife in my purse? This seems reasonable, because even when I don’t have the laptop bag, I have the purse (like if I’m out to dinner or something) so it would minimize needing to move the knife from bag to bag…BUT remember that the purse is tiny and also that it’s at the bottom of my bag. Even when I just need my keys from the purse that’s in the bag, it often takes me a sec to find them, and if the bag is on my left shoulder, I’d have to use my right hand to look for them. And remember, my right hand is holding the tote bag. Also remember that I’m trying not to draw any attention to myself because this dude is stressing me the fuck out and I want to be invisible.
  • Is the knife in my tote bag? This also seems reasonable…though it raises the question of where exactly the knife is in the tote bag if all I have in in the bag is my laptop and my tiny purse. Is it just rolling around at the bottom of the bigger bag? Is that something I want to have happen? And, again, if it’s at the bottom of the bag, it’s still going to take me a second to reach it.

So for the sake of this conversation, let’s say the knife is either in the tote or the purse and I want to access it. To get it out, I’d put the tote that’s in my right hand onto my right wrist/forearm (not comfortable for most of the time, but fine for a second), reach across my body and into the purse or the tote, and locate the knife. Now the knife is in my right hand, but still in the tote — the tote which is hanging on my left shoulder. So now this is my setup:

EXCEPT I’m sitting down, so it actually looks more like this:

BUT in that photo I’m not actually touching the bottom of the bag, where the imaginary knife is. To reach the bottom of the bag, I’d have to twist my upper body considerably, so it would look more like this:

Note: in that photo, my hand is touching the bottom of the bag but it’s still on the right side of the bag. If the knife were any further toward the left side of the bag, it would require even more shifting around and not-at-all-subtle digging to actually find it.

At that point, I’m pretty immobile because of the bulky shoulder bag and then the tote full of stuff that’s now on my right forearm. (Actually, when I was sitting on the train planning my exit, one of the things I was super conscious of was the tote bag on my left shoulder…because I felt like even if I had the room to sidestep him as I exited the train, he might still be able to reach out and grab the bag.) Anyway, I can’t discreetly move a KNIFE from the bag to my pocket. (Which I…guess is where I’d want to put it temporarily? Not that I can easily put something into my pocket while sitting down but whatever.) I don’t have enough room to draw it up into my coat sleeve. So I have to stay in this awkward position, which I GUESS is a fine way to stay if my life depends on it but is also like…kind of at odds with my “don’t call attention to yourself” plan.

OK so let’s say I’m sitting like that, and then the guy comes at me and so I want to pull out the knife with my right hand, but I’m sitting down and I still have the tote bag on my right forearm/elbow area, which makes it kind of hard to actually make a stabbing motion. Sure, I could stand up, drop my right arm and hope the tote slides down my arm/coat and over the knife, and that I still have time to stab him but, like…that…seems unlikely to happen smoothly in a crisis scenario? And to even consider that is to assume a bunch of things:

1. That he doesn’t have a knife.
2. That he doesn’t have a gun.
3. That I have the time to realize that he is, in fact, coming toward me to hurt me, and that I do, in fact, need to use my knife. (He was about four feet away from me when all this started. I’m likely not going to realize he’s actually trying to attack me until he’s inches away, at which point it’s too late to drop the bags and such. I might not even have time to stand up. And, like, how easy would it be to stab someone if you were SITTING DOWN with an armful of grocery bags? Probably…not that easy?)
4. That he doesn’t walk over and just slash me in the face before I realize what the fuck is even happening.
5. That he doesn’t grab me by my hood, bags, etc. while he’s still a little further away put me in a position where I can’t even use the knife (like, say, standing behind me with the knife at my throat/face). What exactly am I going to do with a knife in my right hand and all these bags and this big fucking coat in that position? (Going back to your other suggestion, what am I going to do with pepper spray in that position? Also: pepper spray on a train with other people seems like a bad idea.)
6. That he’ll back off if I threaten him with a knife.
7. That if he doesn’t back off, I’ll be able to stab him in a meaningful way.

Also, one woman I know who was sexually assaulted on the subway was pinned down and her arms were not free to grab any sort of weapon. She was also frozen with SHOCK, which is often a thing that happens to victims.

ALSO, women get called crazy so goddamn much for being afraid of dudes that doubting ourselves becomes a habit — there’s a deeply ingrained need to be absolutely, 100% sure that yes, this man is actually trying to hurt me and there is incontrovertible proof before we do anything defensive or in our own self-interest. I’m now at a point in my life where I no longer debate these things as much (the book The Gift of Fear helped a LOT with that) which is why I got off the train immediately at the next stop…but the entire time I was on the train, I was going between figuring out an exit strategy and trying to decide if I was actually even right to even be worried in the first place. The reality is that sometimes you don’t see it coming, or you talk yourself out of it…but even if you DO see it coming, there often just isn’t time or an actual practical way to protect yourself.

All of this is to really say that I don’t carry a knife because it would not make me feel safer. I know the reality of how I travel each day and know that in most of the scenarios I can envision, a weapon just wouldn’t be a practical solution. MAYBE if it were legal, MAYBE I’d carry a taser because it requires less motion overall, but, again, the likelihood that it would actually help just seems…silly. So it’s not that I’m against carrying a (legal) weapon, it’s just more like…why even bother? It just seems like having false hope. After 30 years on earth as a woman, I know that my best bet is to be as aware as possible of my surroundings, to always trust my gut when I feel uneasy (even if that means some people might think I’m “overreacting” or “paranoid”), and to do everything I can to be in situations where there are a lot of people around because that seems like your best bet these days — bystanders to discourage, distract, tackle, call for help, etc.

A friend of mine was in a similar situation last year, where a dude just went ape shit on her on a bus in D.C., screaming at her for no reason; she calmly got off the bus at the next stop…and he fucking FOLLOWED HER OFF, still screaming at her…so she went into a Starbucks and he FOLLOWED HER IN THERE TOO. Luckily, he didn’t stay in the Starbucks for too long and when he exited, a barista locked the door behind him. But then he stood outside the door still screaming at my friend until the cops came. So, again, OTHER PEOPLE are often what I’m looking for more than a switchblade, you know?

Also, while we’re on the topic of women and self-defense, I’ll go ahead and mention this: the reason women don’t all carry weapons to protect themselves from rape — which PLENTY of lawmakers and also the gun industry think is a great idea — is not only because of everything I listed above…it’s also the fact that, statistically, we’re more likely to be raped by dudes we know, not strangers in the bushes. So, again…why even bother?

Mmmmkay, now that I’ve explained all of this to you, I expect you to send back an equally long and detailed email explaining:

1. Why, exactly, we as a culture still can’t figure out how to teach men that they are’t entitled to any woman’s attention and
2. Why mental health services in his country are such a goddamn mess.

xx
Rachel

A tribute to Bonnie Bucqueroux

October 14, 2015

No one has had a bigger influence on my career — and, so, my life — than Bonnie Bucqueroux has. When I found out that she’d died this morning, I felt so sad that the world no longer has her and that future students won’t be able to learn from her, and just so grateful that she was a part of my life. I’ll update this post with more photos and memories as they come to me/I have a chance to dig through old computer files for photos.

Bonnie Bucqueroux

In the fall of 2005, after I found out that the rest of my JRN 200 class had gotten job interviews with the State News and I hadn’t, I tearfully sat in my dorm and read an email from my JRN 108 professor Bonnie Bucqueroux. The email reminded us that she was still looking for bloggers and reporters to join in her new project: creating MSU’s first online news outlet. Through tears, I wrote back that I would love to be a part of it and that I would like to start a blog for it called “The Spartanette.” I didn’t even know what the hell a blog was at that point; all I knew is I needed an outlet for my writing and figured she’d be more open to me writing a funny column about sleeping around than the State News was.

I became the Managing Editor for SpartanEdge.com a few weeks after I responded to that email, and when other, older journalists criticized it — and The Spartanette specifically — shortly after the debut, Bonnie had my back 100%, as she did many other times for controversial choices we made for SpartanEdge. Throughout my time at MSU, the J School leadership was pretty resistant to her efforts to teach us to be Web-first writers and journalists, but she knew where news was heading and she quietly taught us what we needed to know (or told us where to look for info) because she knew no one else was going to. My senior year, I learned to edit video in iMovie in one of her classes; it’s a skill that I actually still use at BuzzFeed. It feels sort of silly to consider that an asset but it’s toootally an asset because I’ve realized not every writer can do it and it really just comes in handy. She also taught the Victims in the Media seminar, something I think about often (basically every time another white woman goes missing and everyone flips the fuck out, or whenever Nancy Grace is Nancy Gracing).

Bonnie was my mentor while I was at MSU and has been ever since. In the fall of 2009, after I’d moved home from NYC, I met with her in East Lansing and we talked about how I should be doing more video on my then-newish health and fitness blog; a few days later, I received a brand new Flip Cam (!!) from her in the mail, and a couple of days after that, I used it to create a video about how I think about dudes I’ve banged while training for a marathon. (Sadly, this video is not nearly as funny now that it’s been muted by YouTube for my use of Sublime’s “Caress Me Down.”) Many more videos followed — most of which I need to set to public again now that I have a job that doesn’t care that I talk about sex — including the one about sex and McBreakfasts, one of my all-time favorites.

Bonnie, like most amazing, badass women, had so many amazing, inspiring, and terrifying stories that she’d just casually reference from time to time, leaving those of us around her asking, “Wait — what did she just say?” How she’d left her first husband, who’d beat her. How she’d just selected the last name “Bucqueroux” for herself after her divorce because it sounded cool. How her male boss (back in the day, not at MSU) had criticized her for not wearing a girdle, which she thought was bullshit. How she’d worn a black dress on her wedding day. How she’d run for office on the Green Party ticket. Every time I was around her, I was treated to little snippets of a rich life I was lucky enough to get to be a part of for a few years.

In the past couple of years, Bonnie’s radical views, which I saw on Facebook daily (along with adorable animal photos), have been on my mind more and more. She’s the kind of woman who fights the patriarchy by fighting capitalism, demanding racial justice, and pushing for all of us to take action against climate change. She loved many of the lifestyle things I do — cooking, crafting, dogs, holidays — but she pushed me to look at them through the lens of radical feminism, building community, and truly being independent. And just…a good person.

After I accepted the job at BuzzFeed last fall, I wasn’t totally sure what Bonnie would think, but she messaged me with this: “BuzzFeed is brilliant. You belong there. I am so glad to see this happening for you.” And then: “What an opportunity. You belong with a cutting-edge place like that. It will be thrilling to watch you make your way over the years. I cannot wait to see all the amazing things you will do.” It was so good to see that she got BuzzFeed but…of course she did. I’m doing literally everything she taught me to do, that she showed me I could do, and I truly couldn’t have done it without her.

Bonnie was a hell of a woman who lived the shit out of her life. I owe so much of my success to her, and I will really, really miss her.

###

You can read a great tribute that my friend Diane wrote here; I’m so glad she found the email from Bonnie that she included in her post — I remember that email so well.

Here’s Bonnie in her own words: 50 may be the new 40, but 70 is still 70.

BuzzFeed: Catalyst Is A New Wedding Magazine For Feminists

June 29, 2015

Metro Pictures Corporation via Tumblr

Read about it here!

BuzzFeed: 23 Bridesmen & Groomswomen Who Prove Variety Is The Spice Of Life

May 26, 2015

A toast to bridesmen and groomswomen everywhere!

A photo posted by Jennifer Thao (@jenniferthao) on

See more on BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed: 21 Mother’s Day Gift Ideas That Aren’t Flowers

April 29, 2015

Because not all moms want stereotypical “lady” gifts.

gifts

See the list on BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed: Here’s What Happened When We Weighed Women’s Purses

April 2, 2015

weighing bags

Photo: Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed Life

See them all here.

BuzzFeed: This Dad Is Photographing His Daughter Dressed As Inspiring Black Women

March 11, 2015

This is SO CUTE.

Photo: Marc Bushelle

See all the pics here.

BuzzFeed: Hell Yeah, I Wear A Fanny Pack

February 25, 2015

“I am constantly negotiating the things I will and will not do in my ongoing quest to be both accepted by society and also have a soul and fight the good feminist fight. And I’ve realized that while I will (or at least have) let a stranger pour hot wax on my vulva, I draw the line at carrying a big-ass shoulder bag.”

fanny pack

Photo: Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed Life

Read the essay here.

BuzzFeed: These Women Re-Created Iconic Photos From Black History

February 13, 2015

The #WeAreBlackHistory series celebrates legendary black women.

black history

Photo: Jerome A. Shaw

See them all here.

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