Friday, November 11, 2016

Forward Together

When I was 12 years old, I was scared about some of the things going on in my state. I went to a Moral Monday event. I've been to many others since then. It was there I first met Rev. Dr. William Barber and it was he who first showed me how to fight.

Yes, this is a sermon and no, I am not religious, but listen to these words. The work we are about to undertake is going to require us to not allow things like our religion, our class, our gender, our political party, or any other label to divide those of us who are serious about the work we are called to undertake. Take some time when you can, listen to these words, and ask yourself where you fit into this message. 

I know a lot of people are scared right now. Many are angry. I share those feelings with you. But we can't allow those feelings to overcome us and allow them to paralyze us into inaction. It is inaction that got us here in the first place. We also cannot allow these feelings to influence wrong actions.

Make no mistake, the fights we may very well be facing soon will not be easy and results will not be quick. But we can make a difference. 

So let me get back to Moral Monday and the Forward Together Movement for a moment. A lot of people might be tempted to see our gatherings as protests, but they are so much more. These are opportunities to organize around issues. Representatives of organizations and people directly impacted by legislation speak to inform. We have teach-ins where people gather in small groups to share ideas on taking action. We meet new people and network with each other. We contact our legislators. We practice peaceful, non-violent, civil disobedience when our legislators, the people who are elected to represent us, refuse to listen to us and communicate with us. We mobilize people to vote. We can follow this model now, nationwide.

When it comes to my state legislature, Senate, and House of Representatives, I know how to watch them in session and when I can't watch, I know who to follow to get updates on issues. I know how to look up bills and find out who voted how and what districts those people represent.

I see a lot of people talking about elections in two years or in four years. We have elections next year. What and who is going to be on the ballot in that election in your area? Where is justice going to be on the ballot next November in your area? What is happening in your area to get justice on the ballot? What is happening in your area to allow and encourage as many people as possible to vote for justice on the ballot?

What we need to do now is organize and take action. We need to focus on issues. We need to hold our lawmakers accountable and tell them what we expect. The time for excuses as to why we can't do this is over. There is a difference between I can't and I don't want to. There is a difference between I don't know how and I'd rather stay in my comfort zone where things are easy. There is a difference between I don't have time and I'd rather spend my time doing something else.

Instead of arguing with people, gather with those people who share your vision and mobilize. Sharing productive things on social media is great to find more people to gather with you, but also share your feelings and ideas with legislators. Call them. Email them. Show up at their offices. Find organizations that work for social justice and work to help vulnerable populations, join them, and get to work.

We need to tell our legislators what we expect and give them the opportunity to do right. Even if they have done wrong in the past, we need to allow them the opportunity to hear us and change and do right. When they do wrong, they need to hear from us, every single time. 

When I was 12, I saw my state legislature remove pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds in a voting reform bill. This was wrong. I spoke out and communicated with legislators. I tried to meet with my Governor. I did not shut up. I kept speaking out. Other people saw me speaking out and decided to speak out too. The issue was brought into Federal Court along with other parts of the voting reform bill. Parts of that bill were struck down by the court and pre-registration was returned. On election day, my state elected a new Governor. That was a three year fight. That was a victory for teenagers who are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. That was a victory for the state and the country as a whole encouraging more people to participate in democracy. That was a victory for justice.

When we organize, when we show up, when we have each other's backs, when we keep our eyes on the prize, when we don't get distracted by those who want to work against us, the victories will come. They will not come easy. They will not come fast. They will not come all at once, but they will come.

We need to be the change we want to see. We need to take the moral high ground when they don't. If we want them to change their behavior, we have to change ours. There will be people from across the political spectrum who will stand up with us. Not all people will join with us in all areas, but we have to go issue by issue, forming coalitions of support and working. Now is not the time to focus on red or blue, liberal or conservative. Now is the time to focus on right and wrong.

We have to be brave and stand up boldly with the courage of our convictions.We must try to do this in every area of our lives. At work, at school, at home, in our relationships. We must stand for those who are weak. We must stand for those who are persecuted. We must stand for those who are in danger. We do not ask for justice, we demand it. We demand it with our words and with our actions, but most importantly with our actions.

Who will stand up with me today and lead? I'm not giving up. Forward together, not one step back.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear President-Elect Trump,

I was brought up to respect the office of President of the United States. As a voting rights activist, I deeply respect and revere the opportunity we have as Americans, that has come as a result of great service and sacrifice, to exercise our most sacred civic duty and choose who represents us in government. I congratulate you on being elected to the highest office in our nation.

In your election night speech, you said, “For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can unify our great country.”

I did not support you in this election. Today, I am taking you at your word.

A transgender teenager I’m connected to on social media committed suicide at 4 AM Wednesday morning. One of my best friends went to school on Wednesday where other students were walking up to one of his Muslim classmates saying they hope he gets deported. I got another message from another friend saying that a boy grabbed a fellow student’s crotch while other boys laughed and shouted, “Make America great again.” Many kids and teenagers are very scared right now all over America, and many of their parents are scared for them. I myself am scared for my safety and my future.

While I do respect the office of President of the United States, I do not respect positions and attitudes that are violent, sexist, racist, bigoted toward the LGBTQ+ community, or discriminatory based on religion or national origin. The actions some people have chosen that result from these positions and attitudes are unacceptable and have no place in a great America. On this, I hope we can agree.

I would like to offer you some guidance and help today in unifying our great country, sir. I would like to invite you to join with me in offering the leadership our nation needs right now. This starts with denouncing, very vocally and prominently, the positions and attitudes that threaten the equality, well-being, security, and lives of our fellow citizens, especially our children and teenagers.

I know firsthand that the political world is tough. I know how hard it is to personally struggle through feelings and attitudes that aren’t in the best interest of our country or its people. I know that saying what you know will be attention-getting or well-received by your audience is easy, but digging down after deep reflection of what’s right is much harder. The past several hours have been incredibly hard for me. My audience would probably much rather read some very different words from me right now. But my country needs me now, and sir, it needs you too.

I would also like to let you, and anyone reading this, to know that it is in large part because of Hillary Clinton I am able to look forward today. It is because of her leadership and what I’ve learned while working on this campaign that I am able to put my country first today. I hope that, in your desire to unify our country, you can look past the ways in which you might differ with Secretary Clinton on policy and look to some of her outstanding examples of inclusive leadership that have, and continue to, offer hope to millions of us.

I am not religious, but I believe in forgiveness and redemption. I believe that people have the ability to change. I believe now that the time for campaigning is over and the time for governing nears, you can look at some of the rhetoric that has led to my friends reaching out to me in fear, anger, and despair and reflect on the kind of leadership these young people need from you right now. Your silence and failure to act in the face of this turmoil is complicity.

I promise you this. Moving forward, I will do my best to focus on the words you use and actions you take from this day forth and not dwell on the words and actions of the past. I promise to help my President and First Lady in any efforts to encourage our young people to actively participate in our democracy in positive ways. I’m sure there will be times when we do not agree on policy, but it is my hope that we move through the next four years agreeing on what constitutes common decency and the importance of providing positive leadership for our young people. I also promise you that I will do my duty as a citizen to continue to speak up for the young people of this country and fight for their freedom, equality, and opportunities and I will hold my lawmakers accountable for their words and actions. In the times my lawmakers fail to step up, I will stand up.

The sun has come up in the morning. Whether the view out of our windows is a shining city on a hill or the burning rubble of destruction is up to both of us, I think. You reached out for help. I am willing to help. I choose this thing not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

Forward Together,

Madison Kimrey  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Your Apathy Is Killing Us

When you're an activist of any type, you know that those moments when mainstream media covers your issue, whatever it is, you've got a very small window to get the viewers and readers of those stories to turn from passive consumers into action takers. It's very easy to get people to comment on stories. It's a little harder to get people to share information. It's really, really hard to get people to take action and contact a legislator. It should not be this hard.

When a big story hits, your inbox goes crazy. Mixed in with information about what other people in your networks are doing and people asking you legitimate questions are some of the most vile and disgusting messages. These range from the ridiculous to rape threats and death threats.

Worse than this are the people who know you and actively try to discourage you. Yesterday, an activist I know got messages that she was going overboard with her gunsense information and call to action posts, in the wake of a great tragedy and on a day when it was especially important to get as much legislative contact from the public at large as possible.

Worse than this is the silence from people who, when you need them to show up, are nowhere to be found.

People need us now. They need you now. They need you every day. They need you to show up.

Young activists are tired of you talking about the future. We are here and now and trying to make a difference right now. Where are you?

There are those in the LGBTQ+ community who are scared and hurt. Some of these people are out and some are not, but knowing that someone cares about them enough to publicly take action on their behalf to show support could be the ray of sunshine that cuts through the clouds and reminds them that someone cares and helps them go on. Where are you?

If you are tired of excuses from our legislators as to why they can't do anything, where are you?

Stop making excuses. Stop being a coward. Inform yourself and take just one moment out of your life to do something. Have somebody's back. Show somebody you have their back.

Here are the emails, phone numbers, and Twitter handles of every member of Congress:

This is the easiest thing in the world you can do.

This will take less than five minutes.

Seriously, all you have to do is call or email or tweet and say "I care about this thing."

What do you care about? What important things do you care about? Show up.

Thoughts and prayers are for you. Do something for somebody else.

Your silence hurts. Your silence kills.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Call Me a Bitch

This quote is about the situations women face involving inappropriate behavior, such as catcalling, unwanted touching, and other forms of male aggression.

I posted this quote and received the following comment:
"But then people get on you for being a bitch and it becomes another problem. Gotta find a middle ground."

No. No women don't have to find middle ground when faced with sexism and misogyny. Finding middle ground requires respect. No one who calls me a bitch for standing up for myself is interested in finding middle ground. This comment also implies that when a man calls a woman a female dog, she should internalize that comment and adjust her behavior to his liking.

Some men have the audacity, as a result of growing up in a society that endows them with privilege, to believe that they can treat women any way they want without consequence. They believe that degrading women by calling them names or otherwise implying that a woman who commands or demands respect is undesirable is a legitimate way to empower themselves. When women talk about the issues we face, they come in to our spaces to argue against the importance or even the existence of these issues.

A friend of mine posted another quote shortly after I posted the one above.

It's not only the culture mired in patriarchy that contributes to the issues women face; it's a culture mired in ignorance. The same person who implied that being called a bitch is somehow a woman's problem later denied the existence of rape culture but doesn't understand the concept of date rape.

Anyone who is truly interested in furthering the cause of equality and in empowering men and women will take the responsibility to inform themselves seriously. Anyone who expects me to take them seriously will undertake that responsibility with respect. Otherwise, prepare to meet a bitch who doesn't care what you call her.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bathroom Things

While scrolling through my feed this week, I came across a post saying that talking about the "bathroom things" is not good political strategy in one person's opinion. That talking about it, "helps us lose."

In the words of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, "This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and a country, have enacted to protect them - indeed, to protect all of us. And it's about the founding ideals that have led this country - haltingly but inexorably - in the direction of fairness, inclusion, and equality for all Americans."

Republicans are using fear and discrimination to rally support from their base in order to increase their chances of winning in November. They are using the most vulnerable and marginalized among us as their pawns and not caring if they are sacrificed. To them, it's just a game.

We must ask ourselves, is this what we are? Are we merely opponents playing the same game? Are our actions just moves in an attempt to win a round?

Real people are hurt by the "bathroom things." They are hurt by  the bullying and discrimination that leads to depression and suicide and violence. There are people advocating carrying guns and even using pepper spray against transgender people who enter a bathroom. This is not a game.

The battles we've fought for civil rights in this country have never been easy. The victories that have led to expanded rights and opportunities for our neighbors have come from those with the courage to take a stand. They've come as a result of bloodshed and imprisonment. They have come at the expense of lost friendships, broken family bonds, and yes, even lost elections. They've not come instantly, but as a result of being patient and persistent. They've come from those who have had the strength to march on, even when what's right is not what's popular.

Now, our President has shown the courage to talk about the "bathroom things" and stand up for all public school students across the country. In doing this, President Obama has not only shown his willingness to fight against bullying and discrimination, but that he believes in all of us. He believes we will also demonstrate the courage of our convictions and stand up to those who refuse to acknowledge that a trans woman is a woman and a trans man is a man. He believes we will stand up whenever someone starts talking about "boys in the girls' bathroom." President Obama believes that we will march on.

Yes, the stakes in this election are high. We must do our part to elect representatives that will continue to protect and expand civil rights. But we must also look forward to the elections of the future. There was a time when people advocated segregated water fountains. Now, saying something like that in public is almost unheard of because enough people, over time, became members of the chorus of voices speaking out against those kinds of discriminatory actions and attitudes. It took time, but we changed the reality millions of Americans have to deal with in their daily lives, and it has been reflected in our politics.

Regardless of the outcome of this or any election, we will march on. It's not enough to say, "We are not this." We also have to define who we are.

Yes we can.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Go Fish

If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card." - Donald Trump

Let's play.

The King: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "It's not women's liberation. It's women's and men's liberation."

The Queen: Hillary Clinton, "I have always believed women are not victims; we are agents of change, we are drivers of progress, we are makers of peace- all we need is a fighting chance."

The Jack: Wendy Davis, "Women all over the country deserve leaders that care, that listen, and that work to protect their interests."

The Ace: Gloria Steinem, "Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon."

The 2: Cecile Richards, "If [women] aren't at the table, we're on the menu."

The 3: Madeline Albright, "People everywhere, including the United States, are still prone to accept stereotypes, eager to believe what we want to believe, anxious to believe while others take the lead, seeking to avoid both responsibility and risk."

The 4: Elizabeth Warren, "Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and woke up in the 1950's? Or the 1890's? Should we call for a doctor?"

The 5: Kirsten Gillibrand, "We need more consensus-builders, we need people who will listen more, who are less ego-driven and partisan."

The 6: Nancy Pelosi, "Women are leaders everywhere you look- from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women, and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes."

The 7: Loretta Lynch, "It's the choices you make and the things you're willing to accept and not accept that define who you are."

The 8: Claire McCaskill, "It’s important to me to encourage more women to run for office…But equally important is encouraging more men to sometimes just shut the hell up. It’s not that women don’t value your thoughts, it’s just that we don’t value all of them."

The 9: Rachel Maddow, "I can't be frustrated with you because you're stupid but I can be mad at you because you're evil."

Go Fish, Donald.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Yesterday, I wrote about the relationship between women advocating for their own pleasure and advocating for their own power. Last month, I wrote about the underlying sexism directed at women, Hillary supporters in particular, who are active in the political sphere.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders laid out reasons he disagreed with Secretary Clinton at a rally in Philadelphia. But that's not all he did. He said she is unqualified to be President of the United States.

This morning, I posted the following on Facebook:  "Sexism: When a Wellsley and Yale Law graduate who served in the Senate and as Secretary of State and has both more delegates and more total votes than a man does is called unqualified."

My sentiment was posted in solidarity with many other women who support Hillary Clinton and even some women who support Bernie Sanders. The reactions many of us have gotten after expressing ourselves on this matter: "What he said wasn't sexist."

Let's say I go to a club with one of my girlfriends. We're having a good time when a guy comes up behind us and puts his hands on both of our rear ends. My friend doesn't mind. I turn around and tell the guy off. He says, "She didn't mind, so you shouldn't mind."

Many would be quick to defend my decision to treat his behavior as sexist because it was overt. But when the sexism is more subtle, it suddenly becomes okay to dismiss a woman expressing that an action or behavior has made her feel disempowered. And when these sentiments are expressed in the political arena, further attempts to disempower a woman by devaluing her feelings are defended as a mere difference of opinion.

When we tell you how we feel you don't believe us unless you agree with us.

Now please continue to mansplain to me how rape culture isn't connected to our politics and talk about how unqualified I am to make my own decisions about my own body, attempting to shame me when I don't make decisions you like.

Also, for those who didn't like my choice of Beyoncé yesterday:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Body Politic

From panties that allow you to bleed on the faces of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, to increasing awareness of the tampon tax, to a coordinated effort on behalf of women to inform Indiana Governor Mike Pence about what's happening during our menstrual cycles, periods are on-trend for Spring in the political arena.

Just about every girl in health class or in sex education, even in abstinence only sex ed, learns about menstruation. Do you know what girls aren't learning? They aren't learning that the way to tell if a guy likes you or not isn't whether he still wants to talk to you after you give him a blow job.

In the absence of any real connection to female empowerment, yet another generation of women is starting to have sexual experiences that are focused solely on men. While we need to continue to take action to improve outcomes for future generations through comprehensive sex education that encourages women to advocate for their own pleasure, we also need to take action to improve outcomes through civics education that encourages women to advocate for their own power. When a girl answers a question about her first sexual experience with, "I think my body looked okay, he seemed to enjoy it," that's not just a reflection of our prudity when it comes to women's bodies. It's a reflection of our politics.

When women turn down a man's advances because we don't like their actions, we get blamed and told we have a bitchy attitude. When we show up at the Governor's Mansion to demonstrate for our reproductive rights, we're given a plate of cookies and told, "God bless you." We shouldn't dress too provocatively because if we do we're both "asking for it" and undesirable at the same time. We shouldn't shout when we're giving a stump speech because that makes us unelectable but we shouldn't speak too softly because then we're not powerful enough to lead. When we have the audacity to expect those we choose to be intimate with to be intimate with us, we're dirty whores. When we have the audacity to expect those who are elected to represent us to protect our rights and access to services, we're dirty whores.

When young women are confused about whether or not to send a picture when a guy asks for it, when they don't enjoy sex at all but feel like "getting sex out of the way quickly" is the only way to get their boyfriends to watch a movie, when they pinkie promise their fathers that they'll remain virgins until marriage instead of deciding for themselves what they want, they relinquish power. When young men turn to pornography for sex education, when they base their identities on what they can take from women, when they label and value women based on what they will or won't do in the bedroom, they learn that objectifying and coercing is the way to attempt to obtain pleasure and power. If more women start to truly respect and value ourselves, we'll expect men to do it too. If more men start to truly value and respect women, they'll expect other men to do it too. This is on the top 10 list of what Conservatives are most afraid of. If the patriarchy breaks down, if rape culture breaks down, and if equality advances, they will be the ones relinquishing their power.

I'm thrilled period politics are on-trend for Spring. Those of us women who get it need to continue to demonstrate that we're not ashamed to not only talk about our bodies but are also not afraid to demand our legislators listen to us talk about it. Talking about periods, something young women regularly experience, are informed about, and therefore can relate to, and directly relating this with the laws that are designed to regulate our bodies and the lawmakers who attempt to enact them is a powerful demonstration that young women won't get in their Civics 101 textbooks. And maybe, just maybe, if we can continue to demonstrate to young women that we're capable of demanding that our lawmakers respect us through deeds not words, it can help them to be more confident in demanding respect through deeds in their personal relationships too.

Our society should not be working based on a system of coercion, control, and relinquished power, but more like this:

Friday, March 25, 2016


It feels only right to start this post here on my little blog. This started because of an attack on the LGBTQ+ community that forced me to not only pay attention to what was going on around me, but to find my place in the issues and decide how I, at barely twelve years old, fit into those issues and could take action. Almost three years later, my journey has taken me places I never could have imagined back then. My destination point today is my state passing one of the worst pieces of discrimination legislation

This is not a total shock to me. I knew a month ago we were in danger. Let me explain why I, as a straight cisgender woman, am using the term "we" here. I listened as much as I could to the proceedings on HB2. While listening to the public testimony before the judiciary committee, a girl my age said this as transcribed by Indy Week:

"'Changing in front of my girl peers is already stressful enough due to societal standards from Hollywood etc. Now the possibility of males changing alongside of me makes me even more self conscious.' Girls should never be forced to undress in front of boys. She says being a teenage girl is as confusing as being confused about your gender orientation, and that she has rights not be forced to change next to boys. 'You shouldn't change laws to punish and single out most of us.' This is a threat to her safety. Knowing a man could easily walk into a bathroom is completely frightening. There is no stopping what people may do. Charlotte is the first city and if lawmakers don't fix this more would follow. I am not the only girl who is scared, we deserve protection."

Over the last three years, my journey has involved many destinations. After starting to get involved standing up against LGBTQ+ discrimination, some of the first issues I found my place in were a woman's right to a safe abortion and rape culture. I've written a little on the inherent sexism often involved in the stereotyping of teen dating and how it negatively impacts both men and women. I've written a lot about slut shaming and the ridiculous dress codes that treat female bodies as impediments to the education of boys. I've written about equal pay, undergarments, and Conservative women trying to impose their life choices on other women and about the Equal Rights Amendment. I've written about the adult war on teen sexuality and how we are being failed by not being provided with adequate, comprehensive sex education. Of course, I've written a lot about voting rights, the regressive actions of the North Carolina state legislature, and the failure of Pat McCrory to exemplify the qualities of leadership our young people deserve after he called me a prop at the age of 12. I've also written a lot about the importance of young people getting involved in creating the future in which we will lead by getting involved in the political process.

The public testimony made by that teenage girl in support of the bullying and discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community brought home why it's so important to continue to speak out on all of these issues. Her testimony highlights why the work feminists do is important not only to continue to expand rights and opportunities for women, but to expand rights and opportunities for all.

The reason that girl is so stressed out over the "societal standards" she perceives as coming from Hollywood that she feels uncomfortable changing in front of her peers is because she has been taught to judge her body against others based on what men are supposedly supposed to want and has been given no alternative. Yeah honey, that's not just Hollywood, that's patriarchy, and it is ingrained in many elements of society, not just the entertainment industry. It's also why she can't see gender in any other way than through the most simplistic definitions of girls and boys. She can't understand that a trans woman is not a man and is just as much a woman as she is because she's been taught gender is based on genitalia. She doesn't understand how she is contributing to rape culture by disempowering not only women with her assertion the mere act of being a teenage girl is confusing just because she's confused, but she's also disempowering men by her assertion that everyone in possession of a penis is a threat and we should all fear all penises. She also doesn't understand that when a transgender woman enters a woman's bathroom or locker room, it's not because she is confused about her gender orientation. It's because that woman has determined her gender identity and feels safer and more comfortable peeing and changing around others who share her gender identity.

I'm not ashamed of my body. I'm not uncomfortable changing in front of anyone. I'm not uncomfortable in a bathroom stall when others are in the bathroom. I'm not threatened as a teenage girl by the idea of sharing a bathroom or changing in front of someone who might or might not have different body parts than I do. I'm threatened by my lawmakers.

I understand that the answer to combating rape culture is not fear culture. There is nothing legislating bigotry will do to prevent sex offenders from sex offending. When a woman, or a man, is sexually assaulted or raped, the person is responsible is the assailant or rapist. Sexual assault and rape occurs in every setting imaginable. There are laws against sexual assault and rape, whether it occurs in a bathroom, changing room, school, church, home, wherever. I know we will never prevent all rapes or assaults, but the way to prevent more of them is to strengthen these laws and to make sure that victims have equal standing in court, regardless of gender. We should be investing in testing rape kits instead of in special legislative sessions for the sole purpose of passing discrimination laws that only contribute to making it more dangerous for the LGBTQ+ community, who is at increased risk for sexual assault, especially in light of the fact passing non-discrimination ordinances that guarantee access to bathrooms have not resulted in increased cases in sexual assault. I'm aware that a lack of sex education, and the fact that even when sex education is offered it is often extremely lacking and reflects inequality in terms of what young men and young women are respectively taught, contributes to negative outcomes.

It took around 12 hours yesterday to move HB2 from committee, through the House and Senate, and to be signed by Governor Pat McCrory. The fight ahead of us, not just in terms of having this law overturned by the courts, but also in fighting against the attitudes and ignorance that creates unacceptable outcomes for not just the LGBTQ+ community, but for all of us.

It was discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community that started me on my journey, and the latest actions of NC Republicans have awoken many citizens not just around the state but around the nation who, some for the very first time, are asking what they can do to stop the assault on our rights. My hope is that many of these people will start journeys of their own. I hope that as they realize how long the path is, they do not get so wary they permanently drop by the wayside. That's what the legislators who continue to attack our rights are counting on.

It's not good enough to express your outrage today and quit. Constant vigilance and regular action is required. Even if you're not eligible to vote, you can volunteer. You can contact lawmakers. You can inform your friends, family, and neighbors and hold them accountable. You can donate. I've been doing all of these things since the age of 12 and I have continued to do them along with school, a continuous string of theatre productions and other extracurricular activities, a public speaking schedule, my writing, and a social life. You have zero excuses.

We can't get so wrapped up in what we're fighting against and who we're fighting against that we lose sight of what we're fighting for. The things I and other feminists fight for are things that can help generations to come grow up in a more equal and inclusive society. Young people like the one who, through her public testimony, demonstrate that bigoted attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community are intertwined with attitudes shaped by policies that are anti-equality not just towards the LGBTQ+ community but towards all men and women, deserve better. They deserve better education, stronger laws and the equality under the law necessary to fight discrimination, the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and a culture that empowers them.

Start today. Start a journey. Find yourself in an issue. Don't quit. Stay woke.

I end a lot of these posts with music videos. As I thought about my own journey leading up to today, I pulled up a Spotify playlist I made back in my early days as a writer. Since this is a marathon, not a sprint: here you go.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Multiple Choice

It's a lazy Saturday morning, cold outside, raining, and I happened to click on a friend's link to a site full of online quizzes. We've all taken them. Sometimes it's fun to share them with our friends. Seeing some of the ones that were created on this site though and knowing that many of them were created by young people made me weep a little for humanity. So, I've decided to provide some answers on the topics, no multiple choice needed.

How much sleep do you need? Infinite amounts I will never obtain.

What kind of woman are you? One who doesn't need a quiz to figure this out.

How big is your banana? Cannot even.

What reactions should your profile pic trigger? Currently: votes.

How far would you go for love? The refrigerator is about 15 feet away.

Are you easy? Easy to piss off with this misogynistic bullshit, yes.

Of 229 people, how many are willing to go out with you? 538 and the answer is no.

What Barack Obama thinks about you? He seemed to like me okay.

What's the best part about kissing you? I kiss like I organize.

Who dreams of being spanked by you? I like to think I haunt the nightmares of at least one elected official.

What is your warning message to others? If more people don't stand up for comprehensive sex education, the number of these ridiculous quiz topics is going to continue to grow.

What is your market value according to the opposite sex? Currently about 79 cents for each dollar a man earns and as much as 2 million dollars less over the course of my career.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mysogyny Isn't Your Color BTW

I wear black a lot. I like red lipstick. I don't answer texts and messages right away always. And I support Hillary Clinton for President.

Those things I listed there are just a few of the things men have recently taken it upon themselves to mansplain what they feel is wrong with me. Most people would agree that a man trying to dictate how a woman behaves or what she does with or how she displays her own body is sexism. Many men are quick to jump on the bros when this overt sexism occurs. But when men attempt to belittle the political opinions of women and badger their way into our spaces and conversations, many of you guys are not so quick to holler at your boys. And you are especially slow on the trigger to holler at your boys when they come at us girls who support Hillary.

Let me break this down for you unwoke males out there. Not sexist = "I prefer my candidate's position over your candidate's position for reasons." Sexist = "I can't believe you support your candidate." Not sexist = "Did you see this good thing my candidate said about a position I know you support?" Sexist = "I'm posting/tweeting the latest meme/article/video that slams your candidate directly to you."

The reason the sexist things are sexist is because they imply that we, as women, are not capable of considering information for ourselves and making an informed choice. They imply that we don't interact with a wide variety of information. The men who engage in these actions are implying that they know better than we do and if they just question, mansplain, or yell at us enough we'll obey change our minds.

And it gets worse. Take a moment to ask a Hillary supporting woman in your life who is active online to tell you about the names she's been called, disgusting things she's seen, and even threats she's gotten. And it's going to get even worse if Hillary gets the nomination as we move into the general election.

Women don't need you to speak up because we're weak and can't speak up for ourselves. We need you to do it because if the guys engaging in these behaviors cared about women's voices, they wouldn't be engaging in them in the first place. I really don't think it's too much to ask of those of you who have benefited from the male privilege bestowed upon you by a patriarchal culture to when you see something, say something. Also don't make the mistake of ignoring that some of the behavior directed towards male Hillary supporters is a result of the fact they are betraying the patriarchy by supporting a woman. Feminism is for the benefit of both men and women.

You don't have to support Hillary Clinton to call yourself a feminist. But if you don't support women who support Hillary Clinton and call yourself a feminist, you're a hypocrite.

I am perfectly capable of making my own informed choices, and I look fabulous in black.

Holler at your boys.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Note to the Undecided

Even though I'm too young to vote, I feel it's part of my civic responsibility to use my voice to help build the kind of future I want, not just for myself, but for my country. Maybe you are undecided about who you'll vote for in your upcoming primary. Maybe you're not just thinking about yourself, but about the young people in our country and what we want. I can't speak for all young people, but I can tell you a little about the things that are important to me in this important election.

I'm going to be going to college after three more years. That's exciting. It's also scary.  College admissions are very competitive. I have to work hard in my classes so I can have a chance at even being considered by some of the schools I'd like to attend. I also have to work hard so that I can pay for my education. I overheard my parents talking the other day. They were proud of me because I got straight A's. They were talking about how maybe some of these dream schools I have on my list might not be just a dream for me. They know that the students applying to these schools often have a lot of advantages. My parents were talking about what they could afford to do to help me and talking about how they wished they could afford to do more. I'm lucky that I have parents who are willing and able to help me achieve my goals. Many kids don't have that.

I only have three years before I start college and I can't afford to wait for $70 billion per year promises to give "free" tuition to kids from families who can already afford expensive summer programs, tutoring for the SAT, and can contribute to college tuition. Many of the schools I want to get into will offer me aid based on my need and I can get merit aid and scholarships if I work hard. I want to build on what we already have that works and make it better and stronger so that it works for even more students at even more schools. I need a President who will fight to get results, who will celebrate each incremental result beside me, then get up the next day and fight for more. Hillary Clinton will be that President and has a college plan that is strong, sensible, and will help more students not only get an affordable education, but a quality education.

I know Hillary Clinton will fight for me and get results because she's been doing that even before I was born. When I was little, I had health insurance because of the CHIP program Hillary fought for. That's why when I hear my grandparents talking about paying for their medicine under their Medicare plans, I trust that Hillary Clinton is the person that can help lower those drug costs. In her speech to the UN conference in Beijing that's included in a book of important speeches in American history I got when I was a little girl, Hillary Clinton declared that "women's rights are human rights," and I trust her to take on the attacks that threaten to limit my access to things like equal pay and healthcare and work to protect my rights and expand my opportunities.

I want America's young people to have the kind of leadership that inspires us and values us. A lot of candidates and representatives say they care about us and want our involvement, but often they mean they just want us to help them. Hillary Clinton has been consistent in making it clear that she values the involvement of young people in any way. Even if they are not fighting for her, she is going to fight for them. I and other young people I talk to who have been honored to meet and speak with her agree that when she answers our questions, she gives us honest answers instead of just telling us what we want to hear to get our support. She not only focuses on the big issues that affect young people, but on the small details. She knows, for example, that my state of North Carolina eliminated a voter pre-registration program for 16 and 17 year olds and voter education programs in our high schools. She took the time to find out about it, look at the motives behind it, speak out for the young people in my state, and advocate a plan for automatic voter registration. It means a lot to me that Hillary Clinton shows through both words and deeds that she values the involvement of all our nation's young people and is showing us that even if we don't agree, all of our voices have value in our democracy. There is no candidate who better exemplifies the kind of leadership our young people deserve.

It's because of Hillary Clinton paving the way that I can, it is because of her example that I am, and it's because of the policies she's advocating that I will. I'm asking you today for your vote for Hillary Clinton, but know that no matter how you vote, I appreciate you using your voice in the way you feel will best help me and other young people of our country. I might be too young to vote right now, but I promise that if you stand with me today and help elect Hillary Clinton to the office of President of the United States, I will join you at the ballot in 2020 to reelect her to her second term.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Props and Press Hits

There are some days when a young progressive moderate literally can not even, and this is one of those days.

When I was twelve years old, I stood up for voting rights in my home state of North Carolina. I became MoveOn's youngest leader when I started a petition to meet with my Governor, Pat McCrory, to discuss the removal of my state's pre-registration program for 16 and 17 year olds. The day before I was to deliver my petition, Governor McCrory, the occupant of the highest office in my state, went on a radio show where he called me a prop for liberal groups.

Today, the campaign of someone who wants to be the occupant of the highest office in our nation, someone who not only proclaims he wants to engage young people but has made it a focal point in his campaign and promotes his immense support among young voters, re-tweeted a message that echoes the same sentiment as Governor Pat McCrory.

This is how the Bernie Sanders campaign chose to respond to to 27 year old DREAMer Astrid Silva's endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I am going to give Senator Sanders the benefit of the doubt and assume that he, himself, did not re-tweet this. I hope my assumption is correct.

Astrid Silva is an inspiration and a role model. Through her activism, she continues to strive to improve the lives of children and families and is a champion for undocumented youth.

As I said when my Governor chose to belittle me and dismiss my voice: This is not leadership.

Also today, the Bernie Sanders campaign made this tweet.

This does not represent Democratic Party values and it does not exemplify the leadership the young people of this nation deserve. It is pandering to the lowest common denominator of political extremist. This nation is made up of a diverse array of voices that together make a stronger America. The Democratic Party welcomes a diverse array of viewpoints to join together in achieving the goals we believe will make America even stronger. The President of the United States is required to serve WE the people, not only the people who pass his or her ideological purity test.

As someone who has thousands upon thousands of young people following him, attending his rallies, and taking part in his campaign, it is my hope that Bernie Sanders will consider the impact his words and his deeds have on our youth. I hope he will consider the kind of example he wants to set for our young people in political discourse. I hope he will engage in some serious reflection on his feelings regarding youth engagement and involvement, what his principles are in this regard, and then communicate those principles to his campaign staff. I hope he will put principles into practice that welcome all young people not only to participate in the Democratic Party, but to participate in any way in our democracy, no matter what platform they identify with or what side of an issue they take.

Over the past several days, I have also seen a few of my fellow Hillary Clinton supporters on Twitter making belittling and dismissive statements about young people who support Bernie Sanders. When you do this, you are echoing the sentiments of NC Senator Bob Rucho who was at the forefront of the attack that removed the opportunity that allowed over 160,000 sixteen and seventeen year olds to pre-register to vote by portraying us as "confused." These statements against young people do not represent our candidate, Secretary Clinton, who, when asked about young people supporting Senator Sanders said, "I'm totally happy to see young people involved in any way. That's what we want." If you are tempted to make disparaging statements about young people, go immediately to Representative John Lewis' timeline and read it, the whole thing, then reflect upon what kind of statements you want to make about youth involvement.

I am a young moderate progressive. I will not be wished out of existence. I will not be shamed into silence. I will not be treated as if I am not a valuable member of the Democratic Party. I will not stand for my fellow young people to be treated as not valuable to our nation nor will I tolerate their voices being dismissed and belittled, regardless of the political affiliation of those being dismissed or doing the dismissing. I will never give up fighting for policies that encourage our youth's engagement and involvement, including the young people who disagree with me on the issues. I expect the people who desire to be elected to represent me to uphold standards of leadership that inspire and encourage the youth of my country to work in any way to create a bright future for us all.

The real revolution involves building an America that is more inclusive and diverse and some of the most important battles in that revolution are the ones we fight within ourselves, not just on some days, but every day, in order to be the change we want to see.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Point

Anywhere and everywhere on social media, people are seeing calls for a "political revolution." Needless to say, I believe encouraging engagement is some of the most important work we can do. That's why I do it. I believe it's the civic responsibility of young people to be informed, get engaged, and build the future in which we will lead. I know that if young people fail to engage, we are giving up a tremendous amount of power that could help create the changes and enhancements that will benefit us in our daily lives right now and lay a foundation of expanded and protected rights and prosperity for the generations to come after us.

Because increased engagement is something I care deeply about, I know a little bit about what it takes to actually achieve it. Calling for it is not enough. Giving speech after speech about it is not enough. Writing piece after piece about it is not enough. These are all things I do. These are the things people see, but equally important in the work to increase engagement are the things people don't see. It involves having conversations with individuals, being there for them when their engagement results in negative attacks from others, and most importantly, it involves placing increasing engagement above your personal opinions and aspirations.

When I see calls for a "political revolution," it doesn't generate any enthusiasm from this young person. Those of us who are working to increase participation know that there is no pronouncement or policy that's going to be the thing that provides the solution to increasing voter turnout and citizen engagement. What we're fighting for is a few percentage points. The pre-registration programs for teenagers, like the one that was removed here in North Carolina, increase youth voter turnout by about 13%. Keep in mind also that pre-registrations here in North Carolina were pretty evenly split between the two major parties, with most teens choosing to pre-register as Independents. So even among that 13% increase, we're talking about a varied range of opinions and support for a wide range of platforms.

Those who worked long before I was born to increase civic participation and voter turnout and those who continue to work today are people who care deeply about Americans, all Americans, having a voice. We know that the few percentage points generated by each policy we may be advocating for add up, but most importantly that each and every fraction of each individual percentage point represents a voice. We place value in those voices, not to achieve the goals of our particular personal preference of political platform, but because we understand that all of our voices combined help to achieve the greater goal of a more perfect Union. We know that each percentage point represents real people, some of whom will join in and work to boost engagement and create more percentage points in the future.

Speaking of advancing our particular personal preference of political platform, many of the issues I work to advance relate to women's rights. Only 14% of women who took part in a recent national survey say they have  phoned, emailed, or written to a public official to express their views on women's rights. Again, all the people I know who are working to put out calls to action to get people to contact their representatives surrounding women's issues are working hard to get just a few more people to make contact. We're working for just a few percentage points. We know that each and every email and each and every phone call matters.

When you care about the percentage points, a meeting with a few citizens at a coffee shop is just as important as speaking at a rally in front of thousands of people. When you care about the percentage points, your message is centered around the actions you can take every day to improve people's lives just a little bit and then getting up the next day and working to improve them just a little more. When you care about the percentage points, a "revolution" is not about leading your followers in directing their pitchforks and torches at the next "establishment" target, but about having the vision and experience to lead a country in which issues are complex, people don't always agree, but progress has been made over the course of our history by building on the work of those who came before us.

Hillary Clinton cares about the percentage points. She cares about the percentage points lost through attacks on our voting rights. She cares about the percentage points middle class families pay in taxes and making sure the 1% pay their fair share. She cares about the percent of increase in distance that women must travel to seek healthcare when local clinics are forced to close. She cares about the percentage my college tuition, not the quality of my education, would decrease with a college plan that helps students from working class families while those from wealthy families pay their fair share.

Most importantly, Hillary cares about every fraction of every percentage point that represents an individual voice. In response to a young voter asking about young people being involved with her opponent's campaign, she said:

"I'm totally happy to see young people involved in any way. That's what we want."

That's what I want. Massive amounts of attention come and go, but if you can gain just a few percentage points, those gains stick. They make a difference in the present and lay a foundation to build on in the future. As I fight to get more people engaged and involved, not just in one election or to support my own platform, but all the time and even if they disagree with me, Hillary is fighting with me. That's why I'm so enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton.