Sunday, January 15, 2017

10 Women Who Gave Me Strength in 2016.

I have had this blog since 2009. TWO - THOUSAND - NINE! Barack Obama had just been elected president! I had been on the West Coast for less than two years and everything was fresh and new! We were so young and innocent!

I only posted on here three times in 2016, the least I have ever written since that naive 2009 inception. There are a myriad of personal reasons for that, I know. But on a global scale, too, 2016 was rough. Things feel scary. It's hard to know how to best process, because there is just so much TO process.

But you know what consistently gives me more and more strength with each passing year? The ladies. In an effort to remember the good in 2016, and in honor of the upcoming Women's March on Washington, here are 10+ women that empowered me this year, whether through making me laugh, educating me, or just not backing down from their power and magic. I am in debt to them all.

10. Leslie Jones

Leslie's tweeting during the summer Olympics in Rio was one of the PUREST JOYS OF MY YEAR. PURE. JOY. And I don't care if it got bad reviews, Ghostbusters, and her role in it, also gave me PURE JOY. Remember when no one would make her a dress to wear to the premier? And then Christian Siriano was like, what is wrong with you, I can make this woman beautiful, I mean look at her, you should be able to, too? And he did? And remember when nude photos of her were leaked and the worst of humanity assaulted her online about it, and then she strolled up at the Emmy's and didn't apologize for one goddamned second about the photos but instead said: "I just wanted to feel beautiful, y'all. Can a sister feel beautiful?" I can't even describe how much she took me to church in that moment. It was perfect. Fuck shame. A sister CAN feel beautiful.

9. Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is the first woman to have her own late night political commentary show (correct me please if I'm wrong on that) and sure, it's only on once a week and sure, it's on effing TBS, but how many Samantha Bee clips did you see friends share on Facebook and Twitter this year? If you didn't see any, why are you even reading this blog, but if you did, it's probably because you have smart friends and Samantha Bee is killing it.

Like all great late night political commentary, she is critical of EVERYONE. This included often being harsher on Hillary than my own sensibilities would agree with this year, but damn if I don't love how little she gives a fuck. About anything or anyone. May she continue to be just as vicious and fearless in 2017, and may more be allowed to follow in her footsteps.

8. The ladies of Another Round.

Another Round was hands down one of my favorite podcasts of 2016. Say what you want about BuzzFeed, but they produce some solid ass podcasts. While Tracy Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) and Heben Nigatu (@heavenrants) are the two regular hosts, I am also obsessed with Bim Adewunmi (@bimadew), who filled in for Heben on quite a few episodes this year. Importantly, she was with Tracy for the first podcast ep post-election, and while all the other NPR and NPR-ish podcasts I subscribe to were like "Let's be professional and examine this apocalyptic event rationally and logically," which made my absolutely broken and fragile mind want to implode, Bim was like LET ME TELL YOU HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS I HAVE CRIED IN THE LAST 48 HOURS, and it was exactly what I needed. I feel like they're all my friends even though they never will be. But like they ARE. In my head. Which is all that matters.

If you're a white woman wanting to Do Better, I highly, highly recommend Another Round. This podcast is not For You, but you will be better for it. I promise.

7. The lady editors of Book Riot.

While I feel bummed that I no longer have the time/motivation/talent to write for Book Riot, the ladies who are in charge of it--and ALL the writers on it, including a great number of awesome dudes--make me so consistently proud that I once did. Amanda Nelson (@ImAmandaNelson), Rebecca Schinsky (@RebeccaSchinsky), and Kelly Jensen (@KellyJensen) are constantly calling the publishing world out on its shit, and I love it so hard. And if someone shows up in their comments or notifications complaining about their promotion of diversity, or their "political correctness" or whatever, they say BYYYEEE and delete and block and never apologize, no matter how much the naysayers whine about "censorship." They respect and collaborate with all of their writers so well and are a fantastic example of how a website and a start-up can be run. 

I truly believe that they, along with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, are changing the book world, and it is in turn going to change the legit world. Seriously.

6. Jessica Williams & Phoebe Robinson

If you are NOT listening to 2 Dope Queens.......................why. Damn, I cannot even handle how fierce they are in this foto.

And NO, I have not read Phoebe's book yet but you KNOW I got some Amazon gift cards for Christmas and you KNOW it's in my shopping cart.

5. Beyonce

Listen. I know Lemonade was not made for me and I will never think it was but damn if it didn't shape my year anyway. I was so empowered and centered by so many of its songs, whether I was playing them at the gym or as loud as I could on the way home from work, or just in my head when the real world was pissing me off. Her and Kendrick Lamar's performance of Freedom on the BET Awards--I cannot even think about them kicking that water with so much defiance and strength without getting chills. I hope I never stop getting chills thinking about it.

Remember her performance at the Superbowl? Remember how people wanted to boycott her afterwards? Remember how she then sold BOYCOTT BEYONCE shirts at her tour? See, 2016 did grant us some gifts. We are truly blessed in this world while Beyonce is in it.

4. Joy Reid

2016 saw the passing of Melissa Harris-Perry's show on MSNBC, a passing that I grieved like a dear friend, because it was. RIP #nerdland, forever. I have yet to find something exactly like it, something as smart and inspiring and informative and reassuring. So since I can't have my weekend doses of MHP anymore, the only reason I would ever turn on cable news again, the only reason in this whole wide world after this election, is Joy Reid.

If you're not following Joy Reid, whether on her show (AM Joy, although she frequently fills in for other MSNBC hosts on their respective shows) or on Twitter (@JoyAnnReid), you are missing out on one of the most solid sources we have these days to get information about this wretched world. She just does it all right. She's smart and serious and kind and funny but doesn't pull any BS. She's just good. We're going to have to stand up for our journalists tooth and nail over the next few years. Follow her. Fight for her.

3. Tobin Heath

It is hard for me to write at all objectively or even coherently about Tobin Heath because of my HARDCORE AND FOREVER RAGING FAN GIRL CRUSH ON HER. Ahem. But look at this picture. Look at the expressions on those girls' faces.

The Portland Thorns (and Tobin Heath) meant more to me personally this year than I think I ever could have expected, but on a worldwide level, I think what this photograph captures can change lives. Women's soccer is at such an exciting spot right now. The Thorns are getting attendance numbers as high as the Timbers, and the passion and commitment and support Portland gives to the Thorns are a keystone in the success of the NWSL. Each year that the NWSL is successful, the more it can expand, and the more countries around the world start to support their own women's soccer teams and leagues, and the more girls around the world can start looking like these girls. With their own heroes to look up to.

And hopefully, one day soon, these talented, hard working badasses can GET. EQUAL. PAY. Because every single excuse against it just doesn't even make sense anymore. When it comes to soccer in the US, they're the ones making you money, Soccer Powers That Be. Your fucking move.

2. Hillary

I don't care about why you don't like her. I just really don't anymore. I will never again in my lifetime try to see her through the eyes of millions of voters who thought a racist, incompetent, mentally unbalanced sexual abuser was better than her. I will not read think pieces about "why she lost." I don't give a shit. I know why she lost. Your opinions are irrelevant.

Here is what I care about. I care that in the face of utter ridiculousness, of callousness, of cruelty, of ignorance and dishonesty and the basest qualities of humanity and America, she never forgot the best ones. She never lost her dignity. And somehow--some freaking how--she never stopped caring. Never in our history has there been a woman in the public eye that was beat up so many times, but still kept fighting. I honestly don't know how she did it.

She lost. But she changed things. She still broke ceilings. No one ever got as far as her before, and I think her loss is going to mobilize a future of feminists that will blow all of our minds. She wasn't perfect. But she made us better. She made me better. And there is nothing a sad, bitter old man can say on Twitter to change that.

1. Michelle Obama

Sometimes I feel like I can't even look at her when she walks onto my TV screen or my social media feeds anymore. She is too beautiful. She is too elegant. Too genuine and kind and smart. Too human. She is too wonderful for words.

The Obama presidency wasn't perfect. A lot of people are quick to say that right now, as the nation starts to reflect on the legacy of the last eight years. And I think that's important, in time. But I don't know if I need to hear all the criticisms right now, right now when so many of us are grieving what's about to be lost, what's already lost. When we are so afraid of what's to come. Of what's happening.

All I need to think about right now is that for the past eight years, this woman and the gorgeous family she led lived in the White House. They invited more people of color into their home, into our nation's home, than had ever been there before, more queer people, more of Our People. She was warm and inviting and funny. Her fashion was flawless. She hardly stumbled over one single word of her speeches. Her eyes were rich and alive and comforting. She belonged there. She was grace. In a way, she centered us all.

And while ugliness is moving in, rolling in waves of dark, blotchy, foreboding storm clouds, one small thing that's giving me peace is that Michelle Obama will still exist in this world. She'll still be able to give talks and appear on talk shows or just do whatever the hell she wants. She can choose to never be in the public eye again, if she wants. But we'll still know she's there. And we'll remember that we can be good. We'll remember that we can be great.