I used to write a blog. This blog. I started it anonymously during my second year of law school, I think. Maybe my first year, actually. I can’t really remember when, but I remember that I was having a lot of feelings and needed to write it out. Anyway, the timeline isn’t that important. What is important is that looking back, I see a pattern in my creative life: I have this urge to write, and I follow it, and then I get scared.
Now maybe the urge to write, maybe that is just a distraction. I doubt this urge a lot, find it quite silly and a little embarrassing. If I really want to write, then shouldn’t I have some kind of clear idea what to write about? I struggled in my college creative writing classes because I couldn’t really choose a topic. I was very critical of my creative self and felt that all of my ideas were stupid and weak. I was afraid people would think what I wrote was lame. (I named all of my characters Jess for the entire semester. My professor wrote on my final portfolio something like You were the smartest person in this room and you could have been the best, if you had tried a little harder. It was my first B.)
It’s hard for us, I think, to really know the difference between what we are supposed to do, what we want to do, and what we are afraid to do. I read something this week that reminded me of this feeling – that we sometimes doubt our “callings” because they don’t always feel like we have been told they will. And sometimes the things that I am most afraid of doing are the things that, once I take the plunge and give it a try, are the things I am most proud of accomplishing.
So anyway, back to this pattern. I followed the urge. I started a blog (and it was really terrible, and oh, the graphics – so horrible) and I kept at it, bit by bit. I was nervous and afraid each time I hit “publish,” and yet I really loved what I was doing. I had only a handful of readers for years, and then I took on a blogging challenge where you posted each day for an entire month. It was fun and also terrible, and I wasn’t sure how healthy that experience was for me so I wrote about it. That post was selected for the front page of wordpress.com. And then – I had thousands of views in a few days and I was on top of the world. It was a rush: I had written something that someone important thought was good, and had shared with others, and those other people thought it was good and helpful too. I was in love with blogging.
Somewhere in there I connected my anonymous blog with my real-life facebook profile. I was proud and wanted to show my people what I had done, but I was also afraid that “people” would “find out” and think I was “silly” or “over-indulgent.” I felt that writing on the internet would be a source of personal and professional shame for me. I went through periods of excited writing followed by periods of absolute fear. (Hey other writers out there – do you feel this way too?)
I didn’t want for my blog to be silly or indulgent or a professional liability or something people would make fun of me for. But I also think that those fears originate from something I shouldn’t let control my actions. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty about the things that give us pleasure. And as a woman, I shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed that some stereotypically female activities like journaling, blogging, crafting or cooking make me happy. I get to be a fully integrated person, who is serious professionally and yet still totally me, and I shouldn’t have to feel nervous that if the internet reflects my true personality my professional reputation will suffer. (I mean, seriously, it’s not like I’m doing anything weird.)
But I do worry. Just because I think intellectually that a thing should be true doesn’t mean that my secret inside person is fully there, all the time. I’m still nervous that waking this blog back up, after letting it sleep in maintenance mode for over a year, is the wrong choice. I am still afraid that my boss or my colleagues would find it and be like Ahahaha you are so silly and ridiculous, look at this blog with purses and makeup and feelings everywhere!
But I miss writing to you. I want you back. And I might get scared and go dark again in the future, I can’t promise that I’ll consistently be brave. But I am here, on October 1, turning my little blog-project back on and saying hello.
I started a blog post at the beginning of this year that I never finished. It was tentatively titled “On Speaking Up in 2014” and it was inspired by my friend Osheta Moore. Osheta wrote a fantastic viral blog post that called for white Southern lady-bloggers like me to use our voices to validate the experiences of non-white women who did not have our same privilege. Osheta wrote (and I agree) that white women writers must realize that their ability to choose whether or not to speak about an issue is directly related to their privilege in that situation: by saying nothing, they lose nothing because they already have everything. In early January, I told myself that I would spend this year of “ATTACK” speaking up; I wanted to practice taking risks in small ways so I would be ready for the big moments when they arrived.
But speaking up is hard work, and a number of internet scandals and real life disasters have come and gone since the New Year and I haven’t even gotten around to publishing the draft blog post that says I want to practice participating! It’s pretty cozy over here on the sidelines, where I can roll my eyes at internet crazy from a safe distance.
I’ve ignored that inner voice a lot this year, but over the past week it came right out and surprised me. I saw something that I thought was wrong, and before I could count to ten and calculate potential liabilities and decide not to get involved in a messy situation it was too late. I was on the record saying THIS IS WRONG. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HURTING ARE PEOPLE I LOVE. THEY MATTER. MAKE IT BETTER.
My words didn’t necessarily bring about a better result, but I received a surprising number of private messages from women who were afraid to speak until they heard my voice, who told me that they felt braver and stronger because I went first. They began to share their opinions too. The opinions were all different — of course we did not all agree — but we had a dialogue that was mostly healthy and that I was proud to participate in. This week was sad and stressful and there have been a couple of personal emergencies and family health crises on my mind. Each of the notes I received and each instance of robust and impassioned dialogue I witnessed has been special to me. I enjoyed seeing women I respect disagree well. It was beautiful.
And so, I pulled this draft blog post out and I’m dusting it off a bit. I’ve learned this year to get right to the point in my writing so here it is:
We often think about oppressors as them. But sometimes the oppressors are us. Sometimes we are the ones whom we should be speaking against. When the people we love and respect are the ones committing wrongful actions (whether it is a relatively minor power imbalance or something big and terrible like systemic racism or institutional poverty) it is so much harder. Because then we have to not just speak out for the weak, but speak against those we love. That is WAY WORSE.
But even when we disagree with those we love, staying silent doesn’t reconcile or redeem. We may think it is noble to stay silent to preserve relationships; we may even call this “peacemaking” and claim our special place among the Blesseds. It is not. It is not noble to protect the feelings of the majority at the expense of the minority. It is not peacemaking to sit quietly and watch evil or fear or prejudice or injustice run the world. That is just plain old self-interestedness, the kind that reinforces majority status and others everyone else. And really, there are enough people reinforcing majority status and othering everyone else. It’s time to be real reconcilers, real peacemakers. We can do that by starting a conversation.
1. Abi Bechtel for SheLoves Magazine in an essay entitled Her Face.
2. Justin Lee for Crumbs from the Communion Table with Did Daniel Pierce’s Coming Out Video Upset You? Here are 5 Things You Can Do.
3. On Twitter Reputations, “Being Kind” and the Golden Spirit, by Esther Emery.
4. Abby Norman on her blog with Birthday Celebrations and Awkward Feelings: Let the Little Children Lead.
5. Engaged in Paris, the story of my friend Katherine’s engagement which was inspired by me! (well, I mean, not entirely inspired by me. The engagement itself wasn’t my idea, just the way that they told their story. But I’m still taking credit.)
Thanks for stopping by! I’m so excited for the blog to finally be back in action. I’ve missed you guys! Did you read any other awesome things this week? If so, make sure to share in the comments or link me up on Facebook or Twitter.
I know it’s already Sunday night, but it’s never too late to link you up to some fantastic reads from this past week. H and I have been going N-O-N-S-T-O-P since Thursday at 5:15 p.m., enjoying a fantastic yet pretty exhausting weekend in DC. We’re heading back to Chi-town first-thing tomorrow, with each of us going straight to our respective offices instead of heading home. Whew! I’ll be so happy to eat dinner and go to sleep in my own kitchen/bed tomorrow evening. Until then, send good thoughts our way because staying focused and awesome tomorrow is going to be more of a challenge than normal.
- Phil Plait for Slate with #NotAllMen: How NOT to Derail Discussions of Women’s Issues.
- Karl Taro Greenfeld for the New York Times with Faking Cultural Literacy.
- Megan McArdle for Bloomberg View with Why Obama Can’t Fix the VA. (This is not a partisan piece. It’s about how the government works.)
- Abby Norman at Accidental Devotional with On Hashtag Activism and My Own Dark Heart.
- Johnathan H. Adler at Volokh Conspiracy with You Don’t Start a Dialogue with FOIA Requests.
Finally, an honorable mention for my friend Anne’s Summer Reading Syllabus (you know, Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy) — this list looks fantastic! I can’t wait to grab these from the Chicago Public Library this summer.
Hope you all had wonderful weekends too! (Sorry this is so late.)
This week’s five things all focus in some way on women. Enjoy!
This article from Salon.com discussing the problem with using the term “women problem” to describe a cultural failure of including, promoting, or appreciating women.
This story from my new friend Diana, on being a woman in seminary.
This feature story at The Atlantic (from last week) entitled The Confidence Gap.
This New York Post article on the outstanding character and accomplishments of the woman George Clooney is lucky enough to be engaged to.
This list written by my friend Hannah about five things she learned growing up in a fundamentalist household. This post was so popular that it broke her blog, so that’s a good sign, right? Right.
So, what awesome things did you read this week?
ONE. On the give -and-take of the academic job search, and why being “non-traditional” and “less competitive” is worth it: What’s Not On My CV, by J.R. Goudeau at Love is What You Do.
THREE. How to Get a Woman to Show Up. Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy rounds up the best way to get women to show up and take the stage, the lead, the reins at conferences and corporations.
FOUR. Joy the Baker lists Twelve Ways to Tart Up Spring — did you know lemon was my absolute favorite flavor of everything? I want to eat all of these things.
FIVE. What to Do When You’re Overqualified, some straight-talking, realistic advice from Kat at Corporette. This is a question many of my fellow law school graduates and I are facing as we figure out whether we are happy with our current gigs, even though we could perhaps be doing more, and whether or not to risk what we have to try for something different. The discussion in the comment section is fantastic as usual.
UPDATE: This post from Volokh Conspiracy is so interesting, I wanted to add it in here (this is why I typically wait a little later before posting these round-ups!). It’s a discussion of social norms in dressing for male and female lawyers.
Okay, those are my top-five reads this week! What have you been reading around the interwebs?
This post from Jezebel really made me think: What Life is Like When Getting Your Period Means You are Shunned, by Rose George.
Once again, Kate from Eat the Damn Cake writes something that sticks with me. This week’s post, What Do Women Do All Day?, is kind of awesome and wonderful and, just like last week’s post about danger and whether you should save yourself or a stranger, sits in the tension that is so much of everyday life.
Richard Beck’s post on being a famous, influential Christian without being a jerk (or, as he calls it, On Christian Celebrity), was incredibly thoughtful. So much of what I read online is extremes and hyperbole, and this is just good thinking.
Alise has a post up about forgiveness entitled Redemption Only Through Failure?. She asks whether her marriage that began in an affair with the worship pastor of her church has to end in divorce for her to receive forgiveness and redemption and reconciliation with the Church. And to be honest, I don’t think there are any easy answers here.
Last but not least, my friend Osheta Moore’s post for A Deeper Story, Speaking Fear, Praying Shalom. Full disclosure: I was granted a preview of this post and provided a few editorial comments on the draft about a month ago, and I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to come out because I LOVE Osheta and her voice her is so important to the conversations around race and public safety and how we raise our children and how we make our world better. Please do read this.