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Rebekah’s (New) Pandemic Diary, Entry #3: Who’s in Charge Here?

11 Aug
Photo by LED Supermarket on Pexels.com

I keep thinking back to this conversation I had one morning back in 2007 in the now defunct Has Beans coffee on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. I was talking to my friend Ben Curry – may he be arguing for eternity with his intellectual equals – about lightbulbs, of all things. I had just updated all of mine to be energy efficient. He laughed at me, telling me that individual action was pointless in the face of corporate and governmental failure. I was appalled. I cited the hundreds of cups I forewent by religiously bringing my own reusable thermos day after day; the energy saved by riding my bike or taking public transit into Manhattan for work; the plastic bags that didn’t end up in the ocean and stuck in trees because I toted around canvas. I simply couldn’t compute that being schooled in the importance of the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – could have all been a sham. I dug my heels in. He smirked at me and shot back the quick stats he always seemed to have effortless access to. I shrugged my shoulders in a “let’s agree to disagree” kind of way – he was always hard pressed to let something go – and we continued on to discuss, and argue about, other topics. Of all the conversations we had over the years this particular one stuck with me. I find myself thinking about it more and more as we bumble through this pandemic and race towards a complete environmental collapse. And I keep asking myself, who is in charge here?

We have spent our entire lives, all of us, being indoctrinated with this ideal of individual freedom and responsibility. I know I’ve talk about this a bunch over the years – about the lies of the American Dream, the limits of individualism. I recognize that it’s a dangerous narrative, one that hides the realities of structural inequalities and tells us that if we work hard enough then we too can ride a giant phallus into space. What I didn’t do was think about the true depths of this narrative. We isolate our “heroes” and our “failures.” We talk about how people get themselves trapped in poverty and how others earn themselves millions. The fact of the matter is that none of this is done alone, none of it happens in a vacuum. There are always other people helping us or holding us back.

Bear with me for a second because I’m going to take a sharp turn.

I was recently thinking about this movie, Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Bill Pullman (I’ve loved him since Newsies!), among others. The premise, based on a true story, is that a tenacious lawyer (Ruffalo, obviously) takes on DuPont for poisoning an entire town in West Virginia. I liked this movie, actually. I’m a sucker for over the top, based-on-a-true-story legal dramas where the good guys win and the evil corporate empire is forced to pay tons of money to the powerless people they have victimized for decades (even though, relatively speaking, what they pay out is pocket change). But the more I think about it the more it occurs to me: we celebrate this lawyer, Ruffalo’s Robert Bilott, for fighting this battle for over 20 years, but we celebrate him as if he did it alone. The reality is, though, that he couldn’t have done this without support, without help and without the willingness of the community – a community who had been victimized for decades – to fight with him. It might seem like these people, dying of cancer and whatever else they got from DuPont, had nothing to lose but the reality is that almost no one has nothing to lose, no matter how sick they are.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this because I think our habit of individualizing everything – be it a success or a failure – is what mires us in our current situation and makes us incapable of addressing the environment or ending this pandemic or any other manner of totally doable things that we simply cannot seem to accomplish (gun reform, anyone?). The Earth is dying not because you bought a bikini from Shein, took a long shower or (god forbid!) used a plastic bag at the store. The Earth is dying because while people are pointing their fingers at the role individuals play corporations have a free pass to do whatever the fuck they want if it keeps prices low and stock holders happy. We can’t get out of this pandemic not because of a bunch of assholes who refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks (although that certainly is not helping), but because of a complete governmental failure from the day this arrived on our shores until now, 17 months later.

Remember when states were bidding against each other for PPE and then the federal government swooped in and took it all? Remember when we were told this was “just the flu?” Individual actions my ass. I recognize, of course, that there are some individuals who wield more power than others, but their power comes with a force of many. They do not act alone. No one acting alone is this powerful.

Sorry to come back to this space all pissed off after a 7 month long hiatus. It’s good to be here. It’s good to think again. Good to get this loop out of my head and onto the page. But I guess if you made it this far, I’d like to just quickly boil this whole tirade down to one thing:

Ben was right, my eco bulbs won’t stop the world from burning. And, in an argument I’m sure he would make while fully vaccinated and wearing a mask, those actions, although ethically correct, won’t save everyone. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still do them, but we should be honest about where the real power lies. Until we stop blaming (or lauding) individuals, we’re fucked.

Fuck You, Donald.

6 Oct

I have found myself dealing with a fair amount of anger over these past few years. An anger that has grown stronger, in equal parts productive and self-defeating. I have felt anger for and at myself, yes, but for and at others as well. I have felt at times ready for the battle that wages on in every corner and at others wanting to hide inside my apartment, coloring, reading, drinking wine, literally anything to distract me from reality. And then I find myself angry that there is no way to actually distract, there is no reset button, no unplugging, no avoidance. And then, very, very early Friday morning a small reprieve. Finally, some comeuppance: Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. I felt a small surge of glee, that finally, finally, this man who has led us maskless into the fire got burned by a pandemic he himself claimed was no big deal, a deadly pandemic that “affects virtually nobody.” And then the old anger seeped back in. Anger that this man, this absolute piece of shit, had the power to make me rejoice in the pain and suffering of another human being. That has never been who I am, but now? I am hoping the change isn’t permanent.

I am not someone who particularly believes in karma. I don’t think that doing good things means that good things will automatically happen to you just as I don’t think that doing bad things mean that bad things will automatically happen to you. Case in point: our stupid fucking President who has been a terrible human being for his entire life and has mostly gotten his way. I try to do good things not for what it might give back to me down the line, not for the ways in which I might be repaid later, but because doing good things, regardless of how you do or do not benefit from them, is just part of being a member of a community. It is what adds to the overall well-being of yourself and those around you. And one of the good things that we can do is to wear a mask during a goddamn pandemic. At the very least, wearing a mask shows that you have respect for the health and well-being of those around you. At the most, it could save lives.


Let me rewind for a second. Back in February of 2016 I was sitting on the ground in a park in Austin, Texas with a friend of mine, watching her dog run around when an alert came in on my phone. Antonin Scalia had died. A modicum of hope for the future of our society crept in. Surely Obama would be able to appoint a new justice and every single Supreme Court decision wouldn’t feel like we were teetering on the edge of some group or another losing a good portion of their basic rights. (Oh, what a fool I was!) I remember that feeling of relief being immediately followed by a feeling of guilt: how could I be happy about the death of another human being, regardless of how I reviled his damaging interpretation of the Constitution and the law? As I thought deeper into it, it wasn’t his death that I was happy about. It was his leaving the Supreme Court and the huge opportunities for advancement that presented for all kinds of marginalized people. To think one man could so use his power to disenfranchise millions and convince himself that he, somehow, was upholding some sort of Constitutional, if not moral, right? To think that people are so unimaginative that they would whole-heartedly believe that the rights we were granted (or not granted, depending) upon the establishment of our nation would be largely unchanged over the course of hundreds of years? That the words of men long since deceased should be upheld and largely unchallenged? It’s maddening. Antonin Scalia was a terrible justice and maybe a terrible man. I don’t know, I never met him. But his death was a loss to his friends and family and it felt wrong to me to celebrate the pain they were undoubtedly experiencing. I felt sad for their loss and even though I saw his death as a potential gain for the court and, subsequently, our rights, I did not see his death as good. He could have left the court due to health reasons and still been alive. His simply living didn’t strike me as a threat. Death is a horribly permanent thing.


Now let us travel back to current day. To this President, this man. When he was diagnosed with coronavirus, I felt a certain amount of relief and happiness. Like now maybe, just maybe, he would take this thing that has killed 209,000+ Americans seriously. Maybe his base would start to realize the err of their ways; that if their great leader could catch this virus then anyone can. (And again, what a fool I was!) And then he went to the hospital and I felt a whole mess of emotions. Fear for our political future; questions of the accuracy of the information we were getting; curiosity about the information we undoubtedly weren’t getting; worry about the steps of governance should he be incapacitated in some way; concern about the stunts he and his Administration might play to stay in power. I never hoped he would die.

Well, until now.

There is a part of me that wants him to live so that he can face justice for all that he has done. I want people to bring murder charges against him for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones. I want civil suits to make up for loss of income, loss of business, loss of home. I want criminal cases for…well, everything. But a big part of me knows he will never pay for his crimes, regardless of what cases the Southern District of New York tries to bring, because you know it’ll be them. He will ride it all out with his pal Bill Barr by his side, either from the White House or, hopefully, from outside of it. But in the past few days something in me has shifted. I have realized something that many others realized far earlier. But, what? What is different? What has changed? Over the past few months I have watched as Trump has overseen the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of them attributable to his intentionally shitty handling of the pandemic. He has enacted policies and made countless statements that are in clear opposition to public health advice and I believe that thousands upon thousands of sick or dead Americans can be directly linked back to those lies. Not that “false information,” mind you, the fucking lies. Even then I felt ugly in my soul for hoping for his demise. (I did not at any point, however, begrudge anyone else wishing for his death because I totally get it. He’s very clearly a monster.) At this point, this mother fucker, this viral time-bomb, has left Walter Reed Hospital and, maskfree (!), entered the White House and the orbits of hundreds of people and their families. And I am not even talking about aides and government officials, although of course them too. I mean the cooks, the janitorial staff, the Secret Service agents. All of the people who are simply doing their jobs and whose lives the President has decided he can threaten. Because he is doing exactly that – he is threatening people’s lives with a deadly infectious disease because he doesn’t want to appear weak to his base. He is not causing death by incorrect action, or inaction, he is causing death by breathing on or around people. It feels to me that the only way we will truly be safe from his carnage is if he is dead and gone. Let his family and his closest allies and advisors pay for the crimes he committed, crimes they enabled him to carry out. That’s okay with me. This man is a menace and a murderer. He must be stopped.

I never thought I would say such a thing but I would not only not be sad if he died, I would be actively happy. I would raise a drink and toast whomever was near. I would hope that he was alone and afraid, that his loved ones, if he actually has any, could say goodbye to him via Zoom. As an American citizen, as someone who cares about her community, this is the very least I can do.

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Eat The Rich and Steal Their Houses

29 Jul

Just two small pieces of housekeeping before we get started:

  1. Thank you to my very good friend Carrie for helping me come up with my new mantra, “Eat The Rich and Steal Their Houses.” I am currently accepting t-shirts with this slogan.
  2. I have a Ko-Fi account where you can buy me coffee AKA give me some money for writing this blog so I can go out and buy coffee or get beans from the store to make coffee myself because it is more cost effective. If you want, and if you have the ablity, the link is here.

And now without further ado, the latest meandering post.


As many of us are very aware, the extra pandemic aid, which has been a lifeline for a lot of people these past few months is about to end. That means a lot of folks who have been kept afloat since March are about to be shoved off the end of a fucking cliff. (I would like to take this moment to say that I hope Mitch McConnell develops a never ending itch somewhere deep in his anus from which he can never achieve relief.) For his part, Steve Mnuchin, the US Secretary of the Treasury and also a colossal dirtbag, when asked about whether or not there would be a continuation of the unemployment extension said, “it wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home.” So, just before I get into the other things I want to write about I would like to direct a few questions to Mnuchin, if I may.

Steve. You are aware that people receiving unemployment payments are themselves taxpayers? And that those same people pay taxes on the money they receive from the government? And that those people use the money they have received to buy other things which often are taxed? And that an economy cannot function if people don’t have money to spend so by giving people money you are staving off a much deeper and more painful economic downturn?

Yes? No? Maybe?

Listen, I’m not an economist. I was never all that good with things that involve numbers. But what I do know is that in March my job disappeared for 4 entire months. Because of the nature of my job, I don’t receive the maximum amount allowed in NY State ($504). If it weren’t for the additional funding, I would not have brought in enough money over the course of one month to pay my half the rent on our reasonably affordable (by NY standards) one-bedroom apartment. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pay rent and also feed myself. As far as I am concerned, the length of this shutdown lies squarely on the shoulders of our elected officials and they owe it to the American public to continue helping us pay our bills until they can remove their heads from their asses and stop the spread. I do place the vast majority of the blame on the federal government, but the states have done their fair share of botching things up as well. Before everyone twists themselves into pretzels to tell me what a great job Cuomo and(?) de Blasio have done consider this. In an article in ProPublica, it was asserted that the 6-day time lapse between when San Francisco shut down and when New York City shut down goes a long way in explaining why NYC was ravaged in a way no other area has been (so far). And I know, I am saying this and basing it on articles that were written with the benefit of hindsight. We know now what we didn’t know then. But, government officials knew more than us. And while I do believe that Cuomo did a better job than basically any other state leader in terms of hitting the gas on a shutdown and communicating with the residents of this state, I also believe that if he and de Blasio weren’t so engaged in their damn pissing contest we would have had a far better outcome. But, I digress.

I came here to write about unemployment. I came here to write about how there needs to be long-lasting aid to those of us who work in industries that have to entirely reimagine themselves to stay above water. What we have now in New York City – outside tables only, no drinks if you’re not seated, limited hours – is a huge strain on business owners and employees. However necessary it is to keep us here in NYC at a point in this pandemic that we worked very hard to arrive at, it is an unsustainable business model for those who work in the hospitality industry and those who own those businesses. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that if I feel safe at work – which I do at my place of employment because my boss is going above and beyond to make sure that is the case for us and our customers – I would rather earn my income than receive government assistance. The reality of the situation, however, is that there simply are not enough shifts. Beyond that, the loss of our indoor space and a lot of our outdoor capacity results in a loss of business that cannot be easily replaced. Our incomes rely on asses in seats, but we have less seats now and, therefore, far less asses.

Please do not confuse this with me saying that I think precautions are unnecessary. None of us want to go back to where we were in April. That was, quite honestly, the closest to hell on earth I ever want to experience.* However, it is clear to my through learning about the measures being put in place that the governor has not spoken to enough (if any) people in the hospitality industry in order to ascertain how to keep our covid spread low while also helping to keep businesses afloat. And I know, he is a busy man. But nothing exists in a vacuum. Like I said earlier, if people have money, they will spend it. But if you have an entire industry of people who are struggling to afford rent, food and bills you’ve got a problem. That’s less money spent in other areas of the economy and in my mind that shit runs down stream. Just like the mortgage crisis rippled across the economy, so will this. And don’t get me wrong, the bar/restaurant industry is not the only one in this pickle, it’s just the one I understand best. I truly believe that if nothing substantial is done we are in for a world of hurt and many people in our government simply don’t give a shit.

Here’s what I think. I think we live in a country that not only equates wealth with success, but one which equates wealth with moral purity. That somehow those who have acquired, or, let’s face it, inherited wealth are deserving of it and above any serious reproach. That is simply untrue. What is true is that because of this idea that rich people are morally superior to the rest of us, and because they can afford to pay someone to protect them legally or otherwise, they are not governed by the same laws as the rest of us. It is this line of thinking that tells us that regardless of whatever structural and institutional barriers that we know to exist, that needing government assistance is due to a moral failing of the individual, rather than a structural failing of our economic system, and for that reason that individual is not to be trusted. Because that individual is morally unsound, they will take advantage of the kindness of the state and those in power – those who have received tax breaks, benefitted from ill-gotten government contracts, taken advantage of insider information to play the stock market, paid extra or used nepotism to get their children into elite universities and land them cushy and important jobs – must keep them in check.

Moral superiority my ass. And this disgust that so many (Republican) lawmakers have with the fact that people are earning more on unemployment than they did at their jobs is shameful. We should be disgusted that people are earning more on unemployment than in their jobs. But rather than say they are undeserving of the level of security they currently have, we should figure out how to make sure people are paid a living wage when they are working. It is offensive to me, and should be to everyone else, that we have people, hard-working, good people, struggling to pay rent and feed their families while a few selfish nincompoops hoard mountains of cash. We have a show all about hoarders, and not one episode (that I know of) has focused on people who hoard money. There is this thing in economics called the law of diminishing marginal utility. Basically what it says is that the first unit of consumption of a good or service yields more general utility than subsequent units of consumption. At a certain point, people have so much money that more money simply does not impact quality of life. More money to the super wealthy is absolutely meaningless outside of bragging rights. It’s grotesque. But to people with less, to people living on the edge, a little bit more money means a lot. It means food, it means rent payments, school uniforms, menstrual products, transportation, a fucking social life. This extra $600 is E V E R Y T H I N G.

I guess I’ve kind of gone off the rails here. Super shocking, I know. There is just a lot to think about and it’s hard for me to distill this all down to something narrow and concrete. I know these problems have existed for a long time, way before this pandemic struck. And I know people have been struggling with our economic and political systems since forever. The demonization of the poor is not new. Poverty is not the fault of the impoverished. And success is almost never self-made.

In summation, it is my belief that the only way forward at this point is to eat the rich, (distribute their net worth) and then steal their houses.

*Despite how poorly some other states – and some residents as a response to their local or our federal government – are handling their own outbreaks, I truly, truly hope they do not endure the degree of fear and loss that we did here. I would never wish this on anyone. Except maybe McConnell. Okay, and Jim Jordan. Bill Barr too, actually. OMG I have to stop.

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: How are you? Because I am Not Good.

8 Jul

A few months back I got a message from a reader on my Ko-Fi page thanking me for sharing all my feelings and experiences throughout the pandemic. I feel that I owe that reader an apology – I have not written about or documented these past few months nearly enough. In part this comes from not wanting to burden others with my feelings. We are all having our own experiences of grief, loss, confusion, fear, anxiety and, for some, a bit (or a lot) of success and positivity mixed in among all the confusion. It feels as though taking up space – even if that space is my own little corner of the internet that people can choose to engage with or not – is an imposition. And also in part it comes from the specific way in which my particular creativity works. I am someone who has always written with a specific story in mind, or a strong reaction to an ongoing issue or big piece of news. In the years since Trump was elected, I have found myself writing less and less often. There is just so much. And to be completely honest, I have been really struggling to make sense of the world. I have been struggling to find my bearings in an environment and a society that I thought was one thing but is, in fact, something entirely different. It feels like walking up to a structure that I think is made of something sturdy but when I touch it it turns out that it was constructed out of sand and the entire thing just crumbles at my fingertips, blows away in the wind.

People have been saying this since the election, that the modus operandi of this president was to plough ahead with one inhumane statement and policy after another, to overwhelm us to a point that action feels impossible, fruitless. Well, consider it a success because I am overwhelmed. Does anyone even remember what life was like before Trump? I’m having a harder and harder time mentally getting there. It’s like when someone dies and in the months following you can still hear their laughter in your head, feel their touch on you skin. They visit you in your dreams and you get to remember what it was like to have them in your life. But then, over time, they visit less often, their voices fade further and further into the distance, you no longer remember how they smelled. I am having a harder and harder time remembering what pre-November 2016 felt like. I know that this country was still horrible, was an enemy in a lot of ways, but at least it was an enemy that I sort of understood, knew how to fight against. Right now I feel like we are all face-to-face with a shape shifter, a reality that makes no sense, follows no rules, changes the game to suit its ends halfway through the match. And then changes the game again, just for fun. And again and again and again after that.

Now of course there is the pandemic, which the administration has decided to wish into non-existence. Turns out, viruses don’t take orders from a wannabe authoritarian leader and his morally bankrupt enablers, those people riding his coattails towards the true American Dream: mountains of wealth brought upon through the only method a lot of the powerful know – depraved indifference. And what about the rest of us? Those of us who are not immune to the shockwaves that will run through our economy for years? What are we supposed to do? I put over a decade of my life into an industry that essentially no longer exists, that will never be how it was just a few months back. There is no longer a living to be made there. So, what now? What now for me and millions of other people. The unemployment extension and eviction moratoriums are about to end and people are going to be in free fall. What we have seen these past months has been incomprehensible and I think it’s going to get worse. I think this is only the beginning.

So, I don’t know. I feel pretty fucking sad. How are you?

Rebekah’s Pandemic Diary: Back to Work We Go!

3 Jul

Whelp, it’s official. This country is a fucking disaster. I guess no one told the Trump administration that the narrative of “American Exceptionalism” is a load of bullcrap and that even if it were true, which it most assuredly is not, that no amount of exceptionalism would have made us immune to the spread of this fucking virus. We have, what, 131,000 dead now? That is 131,000 lives lost; 131,000 communities that are now without a loved one; 131,000 families and friends forced to mourn from a distance. And that doesn’t account for whatever long term effects those who were severely stricken by the coronavirus might suffer from down the line. That number also doesn’t account for people who could not get the medical care they needed for other illnesses as a result of the strain this virus placed on our healthcare system, or for the people who were too scared to enter a hospital and put off lifesaving care. And of course, there is the mental health toll this has taken on the entire medical field – specifically those in the hardest hit areas like here in New York City.

For those of us who remained in New York through April, it feels like  we will never be the same. It was a goddamn horror show. Overrun hospitals, people standing in long lines desperate for care, refrigerated trucks parked outside to collect the bodies because there was no more room, funeral homes and cremation centers overutilized, daily coronavirus briefings from Cuomo who documented the seemingly never-ending surge in infections, hospitalizations and death. Going to the grocery store felt like walking into certain death. Leaving the house for things as routine as dog walks and bodega visits was fraught with anxiety. Everyone you passed was a potential super spreader, a lethal germ machine unknowingly spewing droplets to land on what? And for how long? Do you bleach everything you buy from the store? Does it make sense to wear gloves? Does Trump know, or care, that people are dying? Does the CDC have any fucking clue what it is talking about? Are other citizens watching? Do they know what’s happening here? Do they realized it is already in their grocery stores, gyms and restaurants, silently spreading? Do they know they will be here too? That it might already be too late to stop it?

And then it was.

And here we are.

So, what now? What do we do now? The past 3.5 months have been really hard. Us New Yorkers have largely stayed home, stayed safe, masked up. For awhile, it seemed like nothing we did could stem the tide. It felt like those numbers would keep climbing, our loved ones succumbing. And then, one day, those ever-rising numbers stabilized and then started to fall, and fall, and fall.  It felt like a miracle, but it wasn’t. I would like to say it was the result of collective action – millions of New Yorkers staying home to protect themselves and others – and in some ways that is true. We did stay home. But let’s be honest, a lot of people stayed home because there was nothing else to do. No museums, bars, restaurants, salons, gyms, jobs to travel to, schools and after school activities to ferry kids to and from. But now that our numbers have fallen and stayed low, things are starting to open. And as I said back in March when I hoped that bars and restaurants would be forced closed, if things are open people will go to them, regardless the risk. And if people go to them, they have to be staffed.

Listen, I get it. We are stir crazy. People want to see their friends, return to some degree of normalcy. But as far as I am concerned, these decisions to reopen are not about us at all. They aren’t about our happiness, health or well-being. They are about the fact that, as I stated at the offset of this piece, this country is a fucking disaster. The unemployment benefits, with the $600 weekly extension, are set to expire at the end of this month along with the moratorium on evictions. So people’s unemployment and housing security will both be gone at the same time. The House has passed an extension of the federal aid – called The Heroes Act – that was supposed to extend the $600 through January 31, 2021. Mitch McConnell will not allow that to get through the Senate. So these re-openings, in my opinion, are largely being pushed through too early because people need to pay their bills and without continued help at the federal level they will not be able to. So, back to work in the middle of a deadly pandemic we go! But not to worry because the governor has put a travel restriction on people traveling here from…16 states where coronavirus cases are on the rise. People arriving here from

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Arizona
  4. California
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Iowa
  8. Idaho
  9. Louisiana
  10. North Carolina
  11. Mississippi
  12. Nevada
  13. South Carolina
  14. Tennessee
  15. Texas
  16. Utah

are all being informed by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-quarantine for 14-days upon arrival. This self-quarantine is “voluntary but compliance is expected.”

I’m sorry, what? Have they watched the news? There are people spitting on people with cancer who ask them to put a mask on because the Constitution apparently gives them the right to be goddamn disease vectors. (I tried to find a link to the article but I couldn’t because there are too many articles about people spitting on other people who ask them to put on a mask or give them space.) People in this country are monsters! Sure, most people will likely cancel travel plans to these states as some of my friends already have but as we have  seen it literally takes one person, one super spreader, to undo all the work we have done. The mantra of individualism that we bow to in the good old U. S. of A. is one that creates a society full of selfish assholes who care more about their own right to go to a fucking swimming pool than the rights of their neighbors to actually survive. This “every state for itself” bullshit doesn’t work when you have porous borders. We either have to shut down the whole country or else just resign ourselves to the fact that this will go on until there is a vaccine, as we swiftly approach flu season, while people’s money runs out. And it seems as though the government has made its choice.

So what does this mean for those of us who work in non-essential businesses that are now basically being forced to reopen during an international health crisis? It means that we don’t matter, that’s what. The federal government has essentially thrown its hands up and said “whelp, we tried!” and sent us all back out into the world. But let me remind you, that we don’t actually know that much more about this disease than we did when it first showed itself. Herd immunity could be a thing or it could not; antibodies could be helpful or they could not; blood type might be indicative of the seriousness of the virus, or it could not; this virus could form another strain and run right back through our area, or not. We know literally nothing except what has already happened – people get sick, really sick, and then they die. And so for all this talk about learning from history, we sure do have a short fucking memory. And for all this talk of American Exceptionalism, we sure are exceptionally stupid.

Maybe I am being nervous about nothing. Maybe we are safe here in New York now. But everything in my being is telling me that is not the case and we are a long, long way from where we need to be to start returning to some semblance of pre-Covid life. But, what does it matter what I think. According to the government I’m expendable. And so are you.

Today, I Submitted a Complaint with the NY AG’s Office. Here’s Why.

20 Feb

Today, I write to you out of rage. I don’t know if you all are aware of how much scams piss me off, but they REALLY piss me off. I am not one of those people who is like,

Oh, how cute, a scam. Let’s learn more about it give the scammers more notoriety and fame, ie Caroline Calloway.

Because where ever there is a scam, there is someone(s) who is the victim of it. Someone who has been knowingly taken advantage of. So, here is a story about a decidedly un-cute scam. In fact, to all my race running and riding friends: you might have gotten caught up in it.

A few weeks ago, I signed up to run a race with a few of my friends. It is one of my friends first race ever and I was, and still am, beyond excited to get to cross the finish line alongside her! The signup for the race, which takes place here in NYC this spring, was managed through a company based in Dallas called Active Network LLC. The outsourcing of registration for races is pretty common for smaller organizations so I didn’t think twice when I went through the process. What I did do was make sure to uncheck all the boxes so I don’t get any emails, unwanted magazine subscriptions or added payments for services I don’t want or need. Just sign me up for the race and let me do the rest. And yet today when I checked my debit card I noticed a charge for $89.95 that was labeled ACT ACTIVE NETWORK. I was completely confused. The only charge I made yesterday was $10 to the Warren campaign as a congratulations for her warranted MURDER of Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage but that was done on my American Express card. So, I did what I always do and I researched.

Well wouldn’t you know it, I somehow inadvertently signed up for a trial membership, the free period of which had ended yesterday. Friends, I never sign up for trial memberships because I always forget to cancel them and then I end up spending money on shit I don’t want and don’t need.* The first thing I did was dispute the transaction. I work hard for my money and it is the winter time and the bar has been very slow. There is no way I am giving away a chunk of my money to some membership thing that I did not sign up for and don’t even understand. After doing some more digging, I found out that I am by no means the first person to deal with this. Here is a complaint that dates back to 2014! Even with this piece of information, I thought I would do the right thing and give them a call. I called the number listed on their website, it said it was out of service. So I found a second number and called that one. What I found out is that if you wait long enough they actually present you with an option related to the credit card charge that apparently takes a lot of people by surprise. (When you Google the company, the charge is one of the top search results.) After a few more minutes on hold I was put through to a person. She said hello, introduced herself and asked how she could help. So I said,

Hello. I am calling about a fraudulent charge…

It was at this point that I heard a beep and Sufjan Stevens started playing. Weird. I looked at my phone and wouldn’t you believe it — she hung up on me and my phone automatically started playing a song I didn’t even know I had! Now I was really mad. I took the reasonable next step: Better Business Bureau, bitches! What I found was that this company has A LOT of negative complaints. Here is one of my favorites:

I’m a lawyer who has litigated deceptive “free trial” offer cases and I have no idea how i got enrolled in this Active Advantage scam. I do find that there was a class action settled in California regarding this practice, as well as an Iowa Attorney General action. this practice seems ripe for some more class actions or FTC referral.

I added my complaint to the pile. I still had some rage left over so I took the reasonable next step, and some good advice, and reached out to Leticia James, the New York Attorney General!** I explained my complaint AND I submitted supporting documents because everyone loves supporting documents plus it made me feel really official. Basically like a detective. I might actually go online and order myself a cool badge and wear it around for the next few days.

So I guess I will have to wait and see what Leticia James has to say about this. Hopefully her office will respond.


I know this probably sounds like a waste of time to some of you. I was on hold with my bank and with Active Network LLC for close to an hour; I spent a fair amount of time looking for other reports to be sure I wasn’t just an idiot who missed something; I filed complaints with two different government offices, including supporting evidence. But here’s the thing. This is crap. People shouldn’t have their money taken from them via questionable means. People budget. A random $90 withdrawal from an account can be devastating. And I am lucky enough to have time, research skills and an abundance of rage – especially right now. I can take the time to call my bank, submit these complaints, and do follow-up if needed. I can sit here and write this blog. A lot of people don’t have that time and, in my opinion, that is what companies prey on. They work it into their metric that a lot of people don’t regularly check their bank statements and might miss these withdrawals year after year (I saw reports of this). They rely on the fact that a lot of people will realize what happened, cancel their membership, (maybe) get a refund and never take additional steps. And then there are a few people like me who really don’t like to feel taken advantage of by a company acting in a shadowy manner. And more than that, I really don’t like that, based off my research, they have been doing this for years. And that there is a chance they are taking money from old people. I really don’t like when people take money from old people.

Next stop: Federal Trade Commission.

Anyway, I will keep you posted. And don’t worry, my hate fire is still burning.


*Side note, I think this practice that companies have of rolling trial memberships over into paid memberships without a reminder is sneaky and should be outlawed. We all forget to cancel that shit. I think I paid for a membership to the Wall Street Journal (PUKE)  for a year because I wanted to read one article about Simone Biles that was hidden behind a paywall and then totally forgot to cancel immediately. Technically my fault but I feel like a reminder would just be the right thing to do.

**Actually I just went to the website but whatever.

The Censorship Trolls Strike Again

11 Feb

Ah, friends, what a world we live in. It’s a world where people dismiss Trump’s recorded admission of being a predator as harmless locker room talk but where we, a couple of feminists trying to sex educate people, get all our shit taken down because it violates some ever-changing, nonsensical community guidelines. It’s really enough to make you want to scream. Here is the latest installment of The Internet is a Hell Scape and We’re All Doomed.

Back in August, we posted a photo to our Instagram that was originally taken by @claudiasahuquillo (don’t worry, we credited it appropriately as we do with all the content that we repost from other sources. We’re not monsters!). While some of our content does probably toe the line of what is deemed appropriate by Instagram, this photo was really not of much concern. Want to see it? (Sorry it’s so big I tried forever to resize it and failed.)

View this post on Instagram

Celebrate yourself woman. #skinisthenewcanvas

A post shared by Claudia Sahuquillo (@claudiasahuquillo) on

Okay, review the image. Really look at it. What do you see? I see a person with breasts who is not wearing a shirt or a bra and who’s boobs — the nipples and areolas specifically — are obscured by body paint. Bearing that in mind, read the section of Instagram’s community guidelines that we are supposedly in violation of:

“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”

Alright, so the first thing that I just want to get out of the way here is that Instagram’s community guidelines don’t have a problem with nipples full stop, they have a problem with female nipples exclusively. (The use of binary language here is also hugely problematic.) And the reason Instagram has problems with female nipples is that breasts are sexualized. Sure, nipples can be a very stimulating portion of foreplay and intercourse. In fact did you know that over 50% of men also get stimulated by nipple play? So it’s not the sexual gratification aspect of it that is at issue here. It is the fact that women’s nipples are deemed inappropriate and I would say they are deemed inappropriate because, for whatever reason, women’s nipples which look exactly like men’s nipples are considered sexy. The patriarchy is a real mother fucker.

But also, I have some questions about the mastectomy scaring portion of their guidelines. If a person gets a mastectomy then, what? Their breasts are no longer a threat to the delicate minds and eyes of the viewing public? Does this count for people who have had reconstruction? For people who have had nipples reattached or tattooed on? What, exactly, are the rules on this? They are, as are all community guidelines, intentionally vague.

Which leads me to wonder, what exactly about the above image violates the community guidelines as stated above? The breasts are not considered genitalia so that’s out. There is no closeup of a butt or sexual intercourse. And, (drum roll please) there are no nipples. Just breasts with cartoon eyeballs painted over the nipples and areolas. Or are cartoon eyeballs out now, too?

Trauma is a Mother Fucker

30 Sep

This has been an especially rough week. Few weeks, actually. I remember a while back I read this article that summarized a study that had been carried out on Vietnam Vets. Please excuse my lapse in memory since I read this a long time ago and am a little fuzzy on the details but the gist of it is as follows:

Following the Vietnam War, some social scientists questioned a number of soldiers returning from battle. They asked them specific questions about their experiences, what happened, how they felt. They took detailed notes, took down their names and said they would follow up in a few decades time. The years passed and then, 30 or 40 years later, they tracked down the people that they could find and asked the exact same questions they had asked upon their initial return. The vets fell distinctly into two different groups: those whose memories had changed, and those whose memories had not. They had all experienced some horrible things while overseas but some of them had the distinct markers of trauma and some of them did not. Those whose memories had changed over time – who in hindsight saw their experience at war through rose-colored glasses – had not developed PTSD. It was the returnees who explained scenarios exactly as they had decades before, those who remembered all the details of specific events as if they had happened just yesterday, that were suffering the longterm psychological effects of war.

I think about that study a lot in regards to myself and my life. What do I have unwavering memory of and what has faded and changed. I’ve been thinking about it a lot these past few weeks as we have read about Christine Blasey Ford and as we watched her speak before the Senate Judicial Committee. I thought about it while she talked about her hippocampus and the fact that she installed a second front door in her home. You see, we never forget. Trauma simply does not allow for that.

But there’s more there than just that. I have been watching as the women in my life have struggled. How we have all been sad and in pain; how we have had old wounds torn open; how we have seen women on the subway, walking down the street, in cafes huddled over their phones crying. We all know why. It is because all of us, or at least most of us, have either been or almost been Christine Blasey Ford. We have either reported our experiences, not reported our experiences, or tried to report our experiences and been turned away or dissuaded. Her story is not just hers it is mine, it is yours, it is all of ours. How do I figure? I’ll tell you.

Last night I finished an especially busy shift at work and decided to sit down and have a shift drink and a chat with my coworkers. I was sitting at the bar talking to my friend to my left when I felt a quick *tap tap* on my right shoulder. I turned but no one was there. And then I saw hands and realized that the man who had tapped me had then used my distraction to place one hand on either side of me on the bar, essentially trapping me in my seat. I was immediately transported back to my senior year in college when at a frat party a “friend” of mine, upset with me for who knows what reason (he always seemed to have a reason) trapped me against a wall by placing one hand on either side of my shoulders and leaning his body towards me, making escape feel impossible. Not that it matters but I’ll say it anyway: he was drunk, I was not. And I know that because he had tricked me into driving our mutual friend to the airport at 3 in the morning because he wanted to enjoy the party; he knew me well enough to know I was too responsible, even at 21, to put my friends at risk or cause someone to miss their flight home. I don’t remember how long we stood like that, me cowering and him talking loudly at me before I broke free, he lost interest or someone came to my rescue. But I specifically remembered that feeling of knowing that anything could happen, anything could be done to me in that moment and I would have very little ability to stop it. I experienced that feeling again last night and I realized something.

The man who trapped me wasn’t trying to scare me. He wasn’t trying to make me feel powerless or intimidate me. He was just treating me the way a lot of people treat and think of women: as slightly less human than men. My personal space wasn’t his concern, nor my personal safety. He could do what he wanted because even though we are not friends and have never had more than casual conversation he owns me a little bit. He is entitled to me. And even though he might not have been actively thinking that in the moment, or been actively trying to make me feel like I had  no right to take up space, that’s exactly what he did. He reminded me in that small yet aggressive action that I, and women in general, are only permitted to taking up exactly the amount of space a man deems necessary and that amount of space is subject to change at any time depending on any specific man’s mood or level of intoxication.

Let’s bring it back a little. Back when the #MeToo movement had its second life (it was originally conceived by Tarana Burke and, surprise surprise, co-opted by wealthy white women) a lot of people were afraid of an impending sex panic. How will men ride in elevators with women? How will they hit on us? How will they interview for and secure jobs? How will they have sex? How will they do all of this when any woman at any time can accuse them of sexual misconduct, sexual assault or rape and ruin their lives? Clearly women are unhinged and it is the men who are really at risk here. But let me remind you of something:

  • Donald Trump has 16 credible accusations of sexual misconduct, assault and rape and he is the president of the United States (vomit)
  • Larry Nassar sexually assaulted 400 women and counting; he was first accused back in 1997 and nothing was done for 20 years
  • Louis C.K. jerked off in front of women, stopped performing for 9 months and then walked on stage at the Comedy Cellar here in New York City and got a standing ovation before he even opened his mouth
  • Bill Cosby was sentenced 3-10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. He drugged and assaulted or raped other women as well, something he admitted to in front of a grand jury in the early 2000s
  • Brett Kavanaugh had been accused of rape by 3 women – one of whom detailed “train rapes” that he and his childhood friend Mark Judge participated in – and there is a very good chance he will be confirmed and end up with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court

So I guess what I am trying to tell you is this: yes, things have been changing. Yes, women are being heard now (whether or not they are being believed is still up for debate). But remind yourself which women are being heard. And remind yourself that the entire country just watched, transfixed, as a giant man baby blubbered to a group of politicians about how his life was being ruined.  And while you’re thinking about that, don’t forget about the woman who had carefully, and respectfully, testified earlier that morning about how her life had been turned upside down by actions taken by a young Brett Kavanaugh. She wasn’t just effected by this now, in 2018. She has been dealing with this, and living with it, since the early 1980s. While every one is saying that we need due process, that we cannot “just believe the victims,” that she is probably part of some conspiracy to keep the court from becoming more conservative just remember that it is Dr. Ford who was hacked, it is Dr. Ford who is being called a slut and a liar, it is Dr. Ford who had to move her family out of their home and hire protection. She is not guaranteed a right to space, to her story and to her humanity. None of us are. And trauma? Trauma doesn’t allow us to forget. That is what this is about.

A Letter In Defense of Immigrants

22 Jun

To Whom it May Concern:

We are writing to you today out of concern and heartache. The atrocities that are occurring at our southern border – atrocities that have been occurring for months now – must stop immediately. As you know, in January of 1945 the Allied Forces liberated Auschwitz, the largest killing center and concentration camp of all those run by the Nazi Party. And here we sit today, in the country that spearheaded the liberation of people who were starved and tortured, families who were torn apart, communities that were decimated and we find that we are not much better. We find that this country that has, since its establishment, claimed to be a safe haven for the worlds most marginalized communities, has turned its back, as we once did on the Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, on morality and decency and is instead using the force of its laws and its enforcers to further disempower those who lack voice, who lack protection and who lack a safe space to simply live. We said never again. And now here we are, as we lose the last of the Holocaust survivors, moving close to repeating the same horrific mistakes that we once stood firmly against.

This is not who we are. This is not who we want to be. This has to end now.

So we are writing to you to ask that you do not stop acting now that the horrific policy of separating children from their parents has ended. We are asking that you stand strong and say no to Trump’s attempt to overturn the Flores decision. We are asking that you stand with the people who are fleeing gang violence, domestic violence, drug wars and oppressive governments. We are asking that you stand with those who come to this country seeking safety and opportunity for themselves and their children. We are asking that you stand with them, not against them. Let us not continue to repeat the mistakes we have made in the past. We had internment camps once before, we cannot go down that road again. Indefinite detention is simply not an option. It runs counter to international Humans Rights norms as well as American values.

Please, stand strong. Just because we have a president who lacks a moral compass, a president who uses the plight of others to drum up his hateful base in an effort to continue eroding our democracy, does not mean that we should follow along blindly. It means we must be stronger than we have ever been before. And the first step is to show the people arriving at our southern border the respect they deserve. They are human beings just like us and should be treated as such. We urge you to do what we put you in office for: to help those who cannot help themselves and to stand in the way of Trump and the GOP’s effort to make the United States a place that is only for the white and the wealthy. This is a country of immigrants and underdogs and that is what makes it so special. We are begging you, please, do the right thing.

Your constituents

Jessy Caron and Rebekah Frank

ICYMI: The Gymnastics Sex Abuse Scandal Broke 14 Months Ago

24 Jan

As many of you who know me personally are probably aware, I am a HUGE gymnastics fan. While friends are binge watching the newest series on Netflix and Hulu, I am rewatching National Championships from the late 90’s, exploring NCAA gymnastics meets and reviewing some of my favorite routines and gymnasts from over the years, amazed by what they have been able to do with their bodies in such limited pieces of air. It is death defying, beautiful, seemingly impossible and yet they do it. And what’s even more amazing is that they make it look easy.

As many of you also know, being a gymnastics fan right now is a very unenviable position to be in. I have watched over the past year and change as my favorite sport has been ripped apart from the inside out, slowly, methodically, and the world has paid no attention. Not until the past few weeks, anyway, and I am so angry. I am so angry that I feel as though I could punch a hole through a brick wall. I am so angry that I am afraid that if I didn’t stop myself from clenching my jaw my entire face might explode. I am so angry that if I ever met Larry Nassar in person I think I could do something I never thought possible of myself; I think I could actually kill him with my bare hands and feel no remorse whatsoever. I am so angry that I want to shake every single person in this entire fucking country and ask them where they were, why they haven’t been listening and why, when the Indy Star broke this story over 14 months ago, why no other goddamn news source picked it up. Where were you, New York Times? Washington Post? NPR? ESPN? Where were you when these women were coming to terms with what was done to them? Where were you to tell them that we were listening, that we cared, when people ignored their pleas for help for decades?

Let us not forget, these were children.

I remember back in 2015 when Larry Nassar disappeared from USA Gymnastics with no fanfare, not even a word. As an avid fan I knew how well respected he was, I knew that he was touted as the best gymnastics doctor in the world. He was a miracle worker, he could fix anything. But then one day, leading up to the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games when we were expected to sweep the field yet again, he was gone. Just poof. Shortly thereafter Marvin Sharpe, coach of 2008 Olympians Bridget Sloan and Sam Peszek, was arrested on child pornography charges. He was later found dead of an apparent suicide. No one said a word. And then it came out that the national governing body of the sport, USA Gymnastics (USAG) had been covering up abuse charges for decades, Catholic Church style. They had complaints about 50 coaches spanning decades. Coaches who they allowed to transfer to different facilities around the country without informing the owners and other coaches of the monsters that were in their ranks, monsters that were training young boys and girls who entrusted them with their safety. When the story broke in the Star it became clear that USAG was an organization capable of covering up the worst in the interest of maintaining a clean reputation all in an effort to win medals, and money, on the backs of young athletes whom they mistreated and did not protect.

These were children.

There were reports about Nassar going back decades. Athletes who went to school counselors, local police departments, coaches, Child Protective Services, university athletic directors going all the way back to the 1990s. No one said anything. No one stopped him. We are talking about a man who stuck his ungloved fingers inside the vaginas of scores of young women under the guise of medical treatment. We are talking about a man so vile that he told girls he could help them achieve their dreams, all while robbing them of their innocence. We are talking about a man who angled himself into a career, a position, where he would have unfettered access to girls who thought he was their friend, their protector. And we are talking about organizations – USAG, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), Michigan State University (MSU), Geddert’s Twistars – who looked the other way for decades as this man violated women who they were obligated to protect. And then, when they couldn’t ignore it any more, they tried to sweep it under the rug and hope that no one would notice and they almost managed it.

They almost fucking managed it. Here were are, in the middle of the #MeToo movement and #TimesUP and a serial pedophile who preyed on young girls for decades was almost tried and convicted with no media acknowledgment whatsoever. USAG, MSU and the USOC have been putting out toothless statements about the bravery of the young women who have come forward and have done absolutely nothing to take on some of that work themselves. These women are survivors and, as is always the case, they are out there alone doing the heavy lifting. These women, women who have been trying to get people to listen to them for decades, some of whom have brought fame on USAG and the USOC through their performance on the national and international stage have been cast aside. They have been made to feel as though they only hold worth as long as they fly through the air in sparkly leotards adorned with the Stars and Stripes. So I have to ask, where has everyone been? At this moment when people are finally, finally listening to women, why did it take 14 goddamn months of a constant cascade of information for The New York Times to put this on the front fucking page? This is the biggest sexual abuse scandal in sports history and they were children and it was not deemed important enough to print until now. I’ll tell you why. Because for as important as the #MeToo Movement has been we are still knee deep in a disgusting patriarchal culture that does not listen to the voices of women even while news outlets congratulate themselves on how much space they have been giving to our voices. If they cannot make space to out a serial pedophile and the organizations that stood blindly by all while creating an environment that was just aching to host a monster like Nassar then we have gotten no where, our voices, our pain, still mean nothing.

I have been saying since the beginning that our downfall is our tendency to valuate the experiences of victims in order to decide whether the career of one man is worth being ruined. How many of our voices does it take? How many of our careers, our lives, have to be stymied in order to protect the trajectory of a man’s life? How many young girls coming forward to the people whom they trusted with their safety and their happiness and their innocence does it take to get one serial fucking pedophile put behind bars? I think we have our number and it is higher than we know.

When will people start listening? At what point will one abuse be enough to end it? When will our stories permanently stop being relegated to women’s interest subsites as if our experiences do not have universal effects on the societies in which we live. Our experiences matter. What we endure shapes the world around us. I would love to tell everyone to shut up and listen but the problem is that they claim to be but they simply aren’t. How long did it take the news to go crazy over some bullshit story about tide pods? Not 14 months, I can tell you that much. The bottom line is that we as a society simply do not care about women and we do not care about little girls. This story has made that abundantly clear and it breaks my heart every single day.

Am I happy that this monster will die in jail? Yes. If there was a way for us to keep him alive for every single second of his 175 year sentence, I would support it. I want that man to suffer for every moment of the rest of his miserable life. When he is sleeping I hope he replays these past few days in his mind until his very last day. But that is not all that I want. I want USA Gymnastics to be decertified as a governing body until they completely clean house. Every person that worked at that organization while this was allowed to happen has got to go and we need to start fresh. If that means less medals, so be it. The athletes must always come first. I want Marta and Bela Karolyi investigated for their role in this atrocity and fuck them if they think they get to retire in peace and determine their own legacies. They did this. I want every person who had involvement with the athletic department at MSU gone, starting with the president of the University, Lou Anna Simon. I want a complete overhaul at the USOC because that is clearly not an organization that can or should be trusted with the safety of any athlete. And I want people to finally listen to women and girls when we speak. I want people to trust that we understand the difference between a good touch and a bad one, that we can discern a joke from abuse. We are raised to protect ourselves from men, it is the only thing that allows us to survive.

So no, I am not happy and I am not relieved. I am fucking angry. Remember Dominique Moceanu? That little girl who danced into our hearts in 1996? She has been trying to expose the abuse within USA Gymnastics for years and she was maligned. And here’s a name you might not know: Rachel Denhollander. She was the one who started this whole process by reaching out to the Indy Star over a year ago when they published an article critical of the culture of USA Gymnastics. She knew what Nassar did was wrong when it happened to her but she didn’t report it until now. Why? Because she knew no one would listen to her, no one would believe her. And she was right.

This is not just about one man. This is not just about one sport or a few governing bodies. This is not just about the countless adults who did nothing in the face of decades of abuse. This is about all of us. We need to start caring. And not just paying lip service. We need to demand that these stories are told front and center because that is the only way we can stop this from happening again. Because if we continue the way we are, it will happen again. Who knows, it might be happening right now.