Tackling Taboo Talk

Alliterations aside (heh), part of why Whole Damn Woman exists is because I grew tired of being told things weren’t polite to discuss. I remember in the early days of my Instagram use, I shared I wanted to talk about bodies and sex and food and politics and sexuality and race . . . a friend replied, “You mean all the stuff that’s not polite to bring up over dinner?”

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

Think about it. We live in a constant relationship with our bodies, but we rarely talk about them. During a presentation this morning, I asked attendees if they were ever asked as kids, “How do you feel about your body today?” Or even “How are you feeling in your body today?” No one said yes.

Yet we’re also told, “Listen to your body.” Like how? No one teaches us that. But we can’t bring it up because talking about bodies is impolite.

The same goes for politics, which influences and affects literally everything we do. Yet it’s rude to talk about it because it’s supposedly divisive.

Sex? Literally how we are created.

Food? Literally how we stay alive.

Sexuality? Literally how we maneuver major relationships.

Race? Literally a part of how we encounter one another.

Yet we aren’t supposed to talk about these things? This is my problem. Calling such major topics “impolite” forces us into silence, which perpetuates hatred, violence, abuse, and ignorance. If we can’t talk about what massively affects us, how are we to tackle the problems?

Maybe calling it all “impolite” was by design . . .

Des Moines Politics: I’m Out

For most of my adult life, I’ve thought about going into politics. I specifically wanted to run for Des Moines City Council. That is no longer a goal or even a consideration for me. Not only does it kill whatever joy I have, it makes me feel like I’d be selling my soul. Here’s what pushed the decision:

For the last couple months, I engaged in an email conversation with council member, Josh Mandelbaum. I voted for him, and he seemed like the ideal liberal to represent my section of the city (where you can’t go far without running into a BLM sign). I was also asked to partake in Carl Voss’ campaign. I declined because I was concerned about his lack of work for people of color. Voss himself went door-to-door including to our home. I made my concerns clear to him, and he said he was aware and would work to improve it.

I was wrong to believe in either man.

Voss, it seems, has rolled over and played dead to appease the rest of the council. He’s stopped being responsive to emails or social media messages. It feels like a total bait and switch. That might be harsh, but it is my experience with him, and I’m beyond disappointed.

Mandelbaum gave me a little hope because he was so willing to engage. And then I realized he was lawyering me in his emails. I see no soul in his response; just legal maneuvering to make it look like he cares. I know ego-writing when I see it. I engage in it all the time, I graded it for twenty years, and I edited four books (this, friends, IS ME EGO WRITING). I know when someone is trying to leverage their experience.

But experience means jack if you don’t give a fuck. Caring is asking questions and trying to figure out how to do better. And none of the words Josh Mandelbaum sent me seemed about anything more than his ego. I recall no questions about what he can do better. I felt no effort to empathize. The whole thing read like campaign about why I should vote for him again.

It should also be clear I’m pretty sure the only reason he contacted me was because I threatened to run against him the next time he runs. It seems he saw a threat to his power, and he wanted to squash it.

This is why people hate politicians. This is why good people don’t run for office, and if they do, they end up so corrupted that there is little redemption left.

To my fellow Desmoinians: I hope you dig deep into what’s going on behind the scenes in this city. A major portion of the control here is about real estate. It’s about who owns what, who controls zoning, and who is related to or friends with whom. Des Moines is not unique in this sense. However, the Cownies are STEEPED in this apparent real estate corruption, and the rest of the city council is not much better. (I also had a moment where I found myself in Cownie’s old office before he was mayor, and the art on his wall shocked me to my core. It’s something I’ll never forget, but it’s also something I will never be able to prove. I trust no one in that family. Not even a little. And yes, I voted for Cownie more than once, and I’m ashamed of that.)

So, I’m out. I want to keep my soul. I want to make differences for others, and none of that happens in politics. What I want is community. I’ll always post about local stuff as long as I’m in this city, but I hope it will always be about the people we all can help, befriend, and support, not the people we can bribe and control.

Enjoy yourself, Des Moines City Council. I hope you find deep meaning in the pockets of the power-rich in this city because you’ve almost certainly lost your wholeness.

How Your Body Suffers Injustices

While our society can make recommendations for what is supposedly best for our bodies, we still have bodily autonomy. We still get to decide what “best” truly means. This, however, is where the injustices come in.

Where Body Injustice Shows Up

CW: Violence, assault, sexual abuse, bodily harm, death

Think back to those large social structures like government, law enforcement, and health care.

Politicians make laws telling us what we can and cannot do with our bodies, and courts frequently strike those down. Sometimes, political decisions lead to human rights violations like forced sterilizations. And sometimes, the medical industry itself does not provide informed consent and uses human bodies as experiments.

And we’d like to think this isn’t happening close to home (I’m speaking to my fellow Iowans here), but it does.

Moreover, medicine is not advanced enough to cope with one fact: All bodies are different. The history of medical care is founded upon the White male body as the default. Not only is that inaccurate, it costs people their health, time, money, and lives. That is injustice.

That’s not even all of it. I haven’t even talked about these industries: food, beauty, fashion, technology, fitness, finance, environment, and more. Most social structures have something to say about our bodies without taking into account the truth that they aren’t prepared to deal with how different our bodies are.

My Point . . .

What I want is to advocate for respecting the differences between informed recommendations, generalized suggestions, and force. Thanks to social power, it’s understandable to want to influence behavior for the sake of a healthier populace. We want folks to stop smoking, to stop drinking to excess, and to avoid anything that creates harm. However, we may not always understand what is best for a person especially when our knowledge on what creates harm is still evolving. After all, medicinal marijuana is almost mainstream while some politicians are fearmongering against it (and mind you, I’m not even that interested in weed in any sense, but come on).

Body justice allows room for bodies to be different, to be respected, and to be honored. It allows us to look at our bodies with compassion rather than social expectations thrust upon us. Instead of certain body types being the default of what’s considered healthy, large social structures can adapt to the realities that some bodies need what others don’t. Body justice changes how we see food, exercise, reproductive rights, disabilities, trans rights, sexuality, and mental health. And maybe we could be less stuck on models that simply do not work like dieting, gender binaries, and outdated laws.

In short, tons of industries are making billions on what they tell us our bodies need without knowing anything about who we are, our genetic make up, or our desires. Instead of tailoring to us, they try to manipulate our desires to fit what they’re selling. I’m saying, “That’s enough.”

Call to Action: Keep an Eye on Iowa’s Legislature . . .

If you want to keep an eye on what the Republican-controlled government in Iowa is doing this legislative session, here are a few resources:

Iowa Legislature website

Ballotpedia: 2021 Iowa Legislature

And don’t forget the evil Iowa Republican leader who you definitely shouldn’t be writing every day to remind her how many Iowans have died on her watch or how her support of Donald Trump is nothing short of support for a traitor.