I’m over it.
In case you aren’t keeping track, it’s been a tough month for women. Over 270 girls were kidnapped from Nigeria, an Iranian actress faces prosecution for kissing the 83 year old head of the Cannes Film Festival on the cheek, a Sudanese woman is facing the death penalty and 100 lashes for converting to Christianity, the shooting rampage of a man angry for being rejected by his female peers has left seven dead and many injured, and the death of Maya Angelou has taken away a great feminist, poet, and teacher. There’s a reason why I hate reading the news.
Meanwhile, back in my two foot square of influence in Chicago, while standing in line to buy my comfort food, purchased at least in part because I have absolutely no idea how to process and deal with the bombardment of bad news in the media lately, I noticed that US Weekly has chosen this week to publish “The Body Issue: Heidi Klum and 100 Sexy Stars Strip Down and Show Off.”
There just aren’t words.
Yesterday my students helped me label and sort books in my classroom which, over the weekend, became the book room of our school. I’m up to my eyeballs in boxes of books with more than a little work cut out for me.
I let my students pick the songs we listened to, until one of my students said she wanted to listen to “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry and Juicy J. I said I didn’t like that song. She of course wanted to know why, so I said, “I don’t like the rap. You know the part where it says, ‘She’ll eat your heart out, like Jeffrey Dahmer”?” And then I explained who Jeffrey Dahmer was, and why that line is particularly twisted.
They didn’t really feel like finishing their breakfast after that.
It reminded me of a small moment; a conversation I had with my friend Amber. My husband and I were deciding if we were ready to have a baby and I was pretty sure it was hinging on how well we were prepared to do the whole “sex talk” thing. (I have really weird ideas about what it means to be a parent, hang with me here.) Since Amber is a mom I respect, I asked her how she broaches such important topics with her children and she said, “The same way we deal with every other issue. We talk about it, we’re honest about it, and we answer the question that is asked.”
Basically, they talk to their kids, listen to their stories, and share their own. It seems so simple, and yet…
When my student found out about the lyrics of “Dark Horse” her first comment was, “I have GOT to tell Lana about this. That’s her favorite song. She knows all the words. And she don’t even know what she’s rapping.” Then the three of us had a long conversation about being afraid of people like Jeffrey Dahmer, the shooting in California, and what it feels like to be women. And it wasn’t just my stories, it was their stories, too.
It’s kind of amazing what happens when you answer the question that is asked.
Mary Oliver says that the instructions for living a life are: “Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.”
I find that when I’m overwhelmed with the news, it’s often because of what I’m paying attention to.
It’s been a rough month for women. But that’s not the only story.
There are women sharing their #YesAllWomen stories. There are post cards being sent to politicians saying “Not One More”, we’ve had enough of the killing. Neko Case is challenging people’s ideas of what it means to be a musician who also happens to be a woman. And my fourth grade helper is telling her friends why its important to understand the lyrics of the songs they listen to.
It’s not everything, but it’s something.
I’m over it. But it isn’t over. It’s been a tough month for women, but we keep marching along, and “still we rise.” We have to.
And so I keep paying attention, I keep telling my stories, and I try not to forget to let the good ones astonish me as much as the bad.