Five Fictional Girls Who Made Me Who I Am

Truly excellent female role models for young girls (or, you know, young humans) are not the priority for most storytellers in our culture. That doesn’t mean we have nobody. Generations of kids grew up with Anne Shirley of Green Gables or perhaps Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time. And of course I spent many years obsessively reading/playing/thinking about The Baby-Sitters Club which has several strong, capable, and complicated young women (have you seen the new Netflix reboot? It is *perfection*).

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s I benefitted directly and massively from the second wave feminists. We don’t think about it as much as we should but less then a decade before I was born, women could not get credit cards on their own – they needed a husband to have credit. This among many other seemingly mundane little details that have shaped my life and yours.

But I also had all these incredible fictional role models to learn from and they shaped me at least as much as the feminists (and suffragists!) who paved the road for our real world rights. Fictional girls taught me that girls can do anything, that we can be leaders, that we are smart and funny and interesting just as we are. Fictional girls taught me that girls are equal to boys.

Since we are already familiar with many of the more well-known characters such as the aforementioned Meg and Anne, I wanted to go a little bit into some of the badass fictional characters you may have forgotten, or never met.

Okay. Punky Brewster is maybe not what one would call “obscure” so much. Although in my defense, when I graduated from university only a few years ago, none of my classmates had ever heard of her. I mean, that’s sort of what happens when you graduate college at 40 years old. I also got to regale them with tales of laserdiscs and typewriters. It was pretty great.

Also in my defense, I actually wrote a paper on Punky Brewster in university in 2018 (during which time I rewatched the series on YouTube). It was for my literature class on Stranger Things. College is amazing you guys.

But I digress.

Punky Brewster was maybe one of my first autistic special interests. I loved that show so much. I actually have a quite tragic story about having adult sized feet and not being able to find Punky shoes because nobody makes cool shoes for grownups. To this day I want those shoes. But in a size 10 now instead of 6 please.

I digress again. God.

So this girl taught me Punky Power. Punky Power is like Girl Power but maybe more individualized. All girls have Girl Power, but only Punky had Punky Power and only I had Bonnie Power.

Punky was a misfit right down to her mismatched socks, but she used that to her advantage. She’d approach any situation in the Punkiest way possible because she inherently knew that nobody but her could figure things out in the unique way that she could. This is something we should all work to internalize. You bring something unique to the world, to every thing you do. That is powerful magic.

If you are interested in rewatching the show yourself, I will give a general TW/CW for fat phobia. Frankly, I cannot think of a single 80’s show in which fatness wasn’t stigmatized. Seriously. It’s gross. Punky is part of that. And there are some other archaic things I’d noticed as well, but setting those aside, overall the show holds up as a feminist sitcom.

Blossom Culp was the protagonist in several of Richard Peck’s novels. I originally “met” her in this book, Ghosts I Have Been, in which she has a psychic experience of being on the Titanic and becomes a minor celebrity. Blossom is a teenager around 1915 and lives in extreme poverty with an abusive mother. But the book doesn’t dwell on any of that; for whatever that’s worth, it’s glossed over and frankly I was only vaguely aware of it as a kid (in fairness, I am an unusually unobservant human).

ANYWAY. Blossom is smart, sarcastic, clever, and kind. She’s not flowery or delicate, having no money or training in any of that. But she always has a plan to enact justice on her terms, from dressing as a ghost to spook teen boys out tipping outhouses on Halloween, to publicly humiliating a scam artist. She is not sugary sweet but she is always there helping out the downtrodden, whether or not they are alive. (Helps to be psychic when doing social work, I guess!)

I’m actually finishing up a reread of this book right now – which is why this topic is on my mind, I think. Looking back, I can see that Blossom taught me to find the humor even in darkness and to afflict the comfortable while comforting the “afflicted.” In a way, Blossom taught me the core of my social justice work.

The book holds up and is just as delightful today as it was when I first read it 30 years ago. (Stop saying “thirty years ago.”)

Okay and you’ve probably heard of Harriet M. Welsch, but I still think she’s overlooked too often among lists of Anne Shirleys and Jo Marches. I love her because she’s messy. She’s an angry and stubborn little ball of curiosity and she learns some really hard lessons through the book. She’s the kid in class that you wouldn’t have liked very much and yet the character is beloved and adored (maybe especially by those of us who were also disliked in our classes?). But she has a big heart underneath all her misdirected fire and she learns and grows from the pain she’s inflicted on those around her.

Harriet taught me persistence; she taught me that it’s okay to be messy or fiery. She also taught me that my messiness could affect those around me if I am not careful (this is a lesson I am still learning. daily).

Anastasia Krupnik was one of my very favorite fictional friends. She was a quirky and intelligent teen with a hunger for life. She spoke of having a crush on her female teacher before anyone ever talked about girl crushes. She went through a phase where she wore a black turtleneck and wrote poetry. She’d carefully place a hair across her journal to test that her parents weren’t sneaking looks (her parents were maybe one of my parenting role models, too, because they’d never dream of invading her privacy). Honestly, her whole family was quirky and warm and I wanted to move in with them. The lessons learned in the book were always full of love and were nearly always approached from an unexpected angle – they were very much an attachment parenting family before the terminology.

Anastasia taught me that quirkiness can be a gift and a talent. That problems can be solved through love and reason. That fitting in boxes isn’t necessary because YOU are already perfect in your uniqueness.

Really Rosie was probably my very first autistic special interest. I made my grandma take me to the library to check out the record (hello, I am old, from the days when you could check out vinyl from the library) and the script. I read it so much, they eventually found me my own version. This show is one that very few people I’ve met know of, but it’s a collaboration between Maurice Sendak and Carole King so I hope you are asking yourself right now why you’ve missed out on this incredible story and music all these years. If you are familiar with it, chances are it’s through either the song “Pierre” or “Chicken Soup with Rice.”

The premise is that of a bunch of neighborhood kids in New York City look up to Rosie to keep them entertained. She’s wildly theatrical and organizes the neighborhood daily into play or song, making her friends do as she wishes whether they want to or not (they usually want to). She’s a leader and an artist. She gets frustrated when her vision is hard to achieve or her friends aren’t into it at the same level she is. She’s a kid driven to direct and star, to follow her biggest dreams. She cannot be deterred, she will always find a solution to get her back on track. She’s charismatic – even when the other kids get tired of her direction, they still enjoy her and recognize she’s the center of their imaginative lives. Rosie is the source of joy and love and fire in their neighborhood.

Rosie taught me that “bossiness” is okay, that leadership looks good on a girl. She taught me to shape my life with theatre and art, to always find something joyful to do. She taught me that dreams are fire and can fuel a whole neighborhood.

Every single one of these characters helped shape me. As I’ve revisited them over the years, I can see direct lessons I took from them, that I incorporated into my life. I took these characters into my mind and soul, and shaped myself into someone full of fire and determination and spiritedness and messiness and wild love. At least as much as the women in my life, these girls were role models in which I recognized myself and saw who I could become.

Who did I leave off this list? What are your favorite femme heroes? Share in the comments below!

Let’s not “Just Be Friends”

A quick hello to my readers, and a thank you for being so patient with me as my family struggles through the worst year of our lives. I am working on slowly getting back to work here at SOAM.

Joe Biden has been elected the new president of the United States!

I hadn’t realized exactly how much the election (and the Trump presidency) had been affecting me until Saturday, which I spent crying with relief. Since then, each day has felt like I am floating. My god, it’s like the weight has been lifted (that’s a Killers lyric and I am absolutely making a Killers reference, you’re welcome).

But it’s vitally important that we not become complacent in our relief because there is much work to be done. This pandemic has shown us the weaknesses in our society that existed even before Trump – lack of access to medical care, predatory landlords, the fact that the 1% really does not give a shit about their workers, only their capital gains. We’ve also seen how deeply racism runs in this nation – this isn’t new, it’s merely awoken. We were broken before Trump and now we have a chance to fix things for now and the future and we cannot fuck this up. Or we will be back here in four more years.

It will be a lot of work.

And that work may feel uncomfortable to some of you at first because we are taught from an early age that we should work to create peace with our enemies. And that isn’t untrue; it is a noble ideal. And it works if both parties are willing to examine themselves and move forward. But that is not the reality most of the time.

It’s hard to examine ourselves. BTDT.

I’ve seen a lot of liberal folx calling for peace and love right now. I’m fully down with that!

But I want to be very clear that peace and love are not merely passive things. Peace and love don’t mean just sitting back and smiling because everything is okay. Peace and love are void if there isn’t a basis for peace and love holding them up.

Peace and love are fierce. Peace and love are the mama bear of the social justice movements. Peace and love are out there fighting for the peace and for the love of marginalized folx. I’m not Christian but I know that Jesus wasn’t out there just sitting around saying “love each other” – he was also flipping tables and hanging out with prostitutes. Love is for the ones who need it. Love fights for their peace. Love prioritizes those who are marginalized and protects them.

Love is here to comfort the afflicted. Love is here to afflict the comfortable, to help them grow and change. If they aren’t willing to do that work, they aren’t a part of the game. If they are unwilling to stop abusing, they don’t get protected. I’m here to include everyone except the excluders.

Or, in not so many words:

Now it’s time to do the dirty work. It’s time for education on racial, gender, sexuality, class, and other social issues. It’s time to shame those who refuse to move past our dark history and leave them behind in their hatred. They are always more than welcome to rejoin us when they are ready.

But here’s the thing that your family and friends who are queer, BIPOC, Disabled, and/or experiencing poverty want you to know:

as long as you are trying to “make the peace” without doing any of the work below the surface, you are not only not making peace, but you are actively upholding all these oppressive systems

demanding that marginalized folx “just be friends” is silencing

silence in the face of oppression is the side of the oppressor

if nobody calls out the racism (homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, misogyny, etc) the racism thinks it gets to say and we get another Trump in four years

allies call out racism even if it’s “ugly” or “uncomfortable”

Don’t silence marginalized communities. Just. Don’t.

Here are some resources you can donate to if you are looking for ways to help keep the momentum from the election and turn it into real social justice activism to create a better world now. (Many of these are local to San Diego, but some have national affiliates.)

San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium
San Diego Food Bank
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
San Diego LGBT Community Center
Border Angels
Planned Parenthood
Indigenous New Hampshire -thanks to reader Rikki who wanted to add that BIPOC are the folx who made this election happen and the indigenous of Arizona are credited with flipping their state. If you’d like to learn more or donate to the people whose land you are living on, you can find which nations once flourished where you live here.

Just a quick note before I close here because I know there are some of you readers out there saying “I’m not here for politics! Get back to talking about body image!”

Body image is inherently a feminist issue.

Feminist issues are inherently political.

Every single aspect of your life, from the roads you drive on, to the access to medical care you may or may not have are decided by politics.

Identities cannot be separated from each other: because some women are Black, or disabled, or queer – feminism must also stand for those movements or else it is only for white women (and I am not here for that).

Finally, the world has become so unstable and frankly outright dangerous, that body image may need to be set aside a little bit while we focus on, say, eliminating fascism from US government. I’ll never stop talking about body image and how important it is, or all the issues associated with it, but if people are dying body image doesn’t mean much, so let’s triage the issues and get folx safe before we drop these other pressing issues.

Black Lives Matter (Anti-Racism Resources)

I’m officially back, Readers!

I apologize for not having a whole beautifully written statement on the events that have transpired here in the US and across the globe this week. I have long stood with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and I have been sharing everything I can on SOAM’s space on Facebook, so check that out for more resources including an album I am creating with various thoughts and perspectives on racism in the US.

For understanding racism more fully, including historical context:
A Timeline of Events that Led to the 2020 “Fed-Uprising” (Hint: it starts in 1619)

Ben & Jerry are not fucking around.

John Oliver killed it last night with his post on the events in the US this past week. Other timely John Oliver recommendations:
Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization
Police Accountability

Here is a list of Ted Talks to help you understand racism in America

A list of Facebook pages to help parents discuss racism and decolonization.

Resources for protestors:
Teen Vogue killing it again: How to Safely and Ethically Film Police Violence

Broadcastify is a website that allows you to access thousands of local police scanners. I often listen to my local police when I hear a lot of sirens, but during the riot in La Mesa, CA the other night, it was especially helpful.

How to talk about racism, riots and looting, and other related topics:
Why you should stop saying “All Lives Matter” explained 9 ways.

How to respond to “Riots never solve anything!”

Affirming Black Lives Without Inducing Trauma

Tone Policing Is Just Another Way To Protect Privilege

Let me know if there is anything else I should include here. There is a lot to take in here, but I’m sure it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Keep doing the good work, readers!

Taking a Break- be back soon!

Hello, friends! As you know, I struggle with a few disabilities and illnesses. Even before this stupid pandemic, my life was already a major struggle. Right now I can only do a very few things each day and I have some personal chores that need my attention urgently. So I’m going to spend the next two or three weeks catching up on all that and then I’ll be back here again working hard for you!

I will still be active at our Facebook page, sharing memes or information. And if you’d like to help support the work I do here you can join our Patreon.

I plan to be back by May 25 and will keep you updated if that changes.

Thank you for always being so supportive and understanding!

Feminist Fridays: Don’t Miss Out on Life During Quarantine!

Before I go on, I want to share two links with you to remind you that it’s okay to not be Super Woman Productive Mom Lady during this time. This is a trauma we are living through, it’s okay to just sit and rest.

~Psychology Today says it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and be unproductive.
~The Chronicle of Higher Education says you should ignore all the coronavirus productivity pressure.

One more thing: I don’t usually get partisan here (political, yes! strictly partisan? not so much), but the United States’ president is leading us quickly into the depths of a fascism that we cannot recover from. In particular in this moment he is threatening to end the United States Postal Service which is the only way we will be able to vote him out of office come November (since this pandemic will almost certainly mean we cannot vote in person). This is perhaps the most serious moment of your life right now: we are at the precipice and we must utilize our remaining political freedoms (responsibilities!) to save the world from Donald Trump. This is that moment that precedes all those dystopian novels you love so much, but don’t want to live through. This is the moment you must act. Find your representatives here and your senators here. If that overwhelms you, check out ResistBot – you can lay in bed nearly catatonic and contact your representatives via text! But whatever you do, please do something.

Okay and here’s the real topic: how to not miss out on life during this time.

A few weeks ago Angie from Mid Drift Movement and I did a livestream together on Facebook (we will be doing these more regularly very soon!) and something we talked about struck this idea in my head that I think is very relevant: we idealize middle adulthood as the absolute epitome of the human experience. Think about it: we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, we talk about who they’ll marry when they grow up, their whole lives are basically about achieving adulthood. Older people romanticize their pasts and talk about when they were young. We sell beauty products to women to keep them looking forever 30 (even though they will still only admit to turning “29 again”). We absolutely worship the idea of our own middle-adult lives.

What this means is that lots of women get stuck waiting. Waiting to be a certain weight is probably one of the biggest things we wait for. We avoid bathing suits, perhaps avoid pools or beaches entirely. We put our lives on hold, limiting our own enjoyment for the time being, waiting for the day when we finally have a body we are happy with.

But here’s the thing: life is happening right now.

Children aren’t waiting for life to begin – life is happening now! Older adults aren’t merely remembering their lives – they are living them!

I think this quarantine is a really good time to reflect back on this. We aren’t waiting for quarantine to be over for life to begin again – we are living life right now!

Take some moments to be mindful each day, to be in the moment. Hold in one hand all your blessings that come with this pandemic – perhaps you are able to get enough sleep finally, or perhaps you have found new and creative ways to connect with people and that fills you up. In the other hand, acknowledge all the challenges. Sit with all that for a few minutes. Just accepting and acknowledging that this is life. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s hard. But be in the moment and remember that life is constant and we aren’t waiting for anything.

So this week be in your life as it happens and next week I’ll talk about how we can use this time to dig into why we choose to present ourselves the way we do (i.e. if you never had to leave your house again – how would you choose to dress? would it be different than how you dress now?).

Stay safe, friends.

Feminist Fridays 4.9.20

Today, I’m going to basically just plagiarize an email that my former Women’s Studies professor sent this week in the college newsletter. The links explore how this disease is affecting different communities, and how society is responding to that. Do you have anything to add?

~This New York Times article about how Coronavirus has shed light on inequalities among students in college.
~”You can’t pick strawberries over Zoom.” This LA Times article examines the inequities facing those who are still picking our food for us. Overwhelmingly Latinx, many undocumented and therefore lacking access to medical care, these people cannot stop working or we will all starve. These people are not being cared for and they are literally our access to survival. Be aware. Vote for changes.

~This one is SO IMPORTANT. People with disabilities are one of the most invisible marginalized groups. This article lays out why some of these decisions being made in regards to the effects Coronavirus is having on our society are harmful to people with disabilities. PLEASE read this one and pass it on.

~This article at Common Dreams is long and complex but very good, so grab your cup of coffee. It lays out how and why women do more work in society and how this pandemic will put even more pressure on women than men during this time.
~And this article from The Atlantic talks about the racial disparity during this crisis. This is an issue that’s getting some attention, if you pay attention. Trevor Noah did a bit on the Daily Show and I’ve seen tweets from Black Americans pointing out that it is less safe (and at times frankly disallowed!) for Black people to wear masks – they are more likely to be seen as a threat and to be a target for mistaken violence by police.

My former professor also shared this article about radical healing from Psychology Today. It’s an excellent read and I hope you choose to, but if you can’t for lack of time or ability to deal with the sheer overwhelm, here’s a summary:

1. Educate yourself and share information about the impact of COVID-19.
2. Nurture your spirituality and practice self-compassion.
3. Stay connected and increase emotional intimacy.
4. Cultivate cultural understanding and curiosity.
5. Take action to address racism and inequities related to COVID-19 and to promote health for all.

I will be back next week to talk about how not to miss out on life during this pandemic. Stay safe, my readers.

Badass Bitches From History: Margery Kempe

(TW/CW for marital rape, psychosis, suicidal ideation)

You are going to think, “wtf, Bonnie? why this bitch?” And my answer is this: for the past few months, I have been in the darkest place in my life. I have spent weeks crying, unable to stop at all. Driving to and from my kids’ schools and appointments, shopping for groceries, anything, tears running down my face 24/7. I keep Margery Kempe in my heart for times like that. She walked across the country, wailing loudly and obnoxiously, but never hiding herself. She kept showing up to the work she felt called to do, despite the constant tears. She is my archetype, my goddess, patron saint of depression, mental illness. I invoke her in my darkest times for strength and spiritual fuel to keep going, despite the tears. I want to share her with anyone else who needs her.

So. This bitch.

Margery was ordinary. This is one of her most remarkable features, according to scholars. For many centuries since her life and death, we knew almost nothing about her. It was only in the 1930’s that her book was discovered in an ancient family collection somewhere in England. She’s remarkable because she’s middle class and her book gives a rare account on the life of middle class medieval women. Her father was notable in their small town, even serving in leadership roles. She married when she was about 20 to a man who seems by all accounts to have been as kind as any medieval man could be (specifics on that later).

After the birth of her first child, Margery had what was probably postpartum psychosis*, having visual and auditory hallucinations of demons commanding her to harm herself. This lasted for nearly a year until she had a vision of Jesus which saved her from a suicide attempt and began a lifelong series of visions and voices.

This changed her life and she wanted to become as holy as possible but faced some obstacles. For one thing, she was married, so her ideal celibate life was out of the question. In the middle ages – particularly for a woman so devoted to the Church – husbands had the right to sex regardless of whether their wives wanted it. Margery was wholly sold into this concept; constructs can be powerful af. She speaks of her husband with love and without blame. He treated her (mostly) tenderly and compassionately, and followed her throughout many of her travels. He stood with her through adversity whenever he could (he struggled with debilitating social anxiety). At least fourteen children and many years down the line, he finally consented to a celibate marriage. Obviously this is super complex to our modern minds and I want to make it clear that I am in no way excusing rape for any reason; rather, I am simply relating her story as she has written it herself.

So anyway, this bitch struggled in other ways, too. She owned and ran two businesses for a time (a brewery and a mill), but they both failed (beer went flat and horses refused to pull) – she attributed the failures to not following God’s will for her life; her employees just thought she was cursed. Eventually, she began to take pilgrimages instead.

This chick was one highly sensitive person (actually, as I was reading her autobiography, I repeatedly recognized neurodivergence in her). Her understanding of Jesus’ life and death was too much for her and she’d cry when she thought about it, which was almost always. And she cried L O U D L Y okay? People, as a rule, did not like this bitch (that’s often the hallmark of one of the best bitches). In fact, when she traveled to the Holy Land, her companions repeatedly tried to ditch her and leave her to travel utterly alone. In England, she was arrested and put on trial more than once for heresy, but she was never convicted.

Why? Because this bitch was SMART. She was not literate – most weren’t at that time – but she knew her scripture and could hold her own against the most scholarly priest. She had knowledge of other religious texts as well. I mean *I* have auditory processing issues, but even so I cannot imagine just hearing something and knowing it well enough to debate it. Impressive!

And that is how she came to be the first author of an English language** autobiography. Not a man, not a scholar, not a poet: just an ordinary, illiterate, middle class woman. Talk about a badass bitch, am I right?

Truth be told, reading her autobiography became tedious at times. She gave a *lot* of dialogue between herself and Jesus (or Mary or God himself… an occasional angel, you know) and I skimmed all that. And even back in the middle ages, she was too “Jesusy” for many of her peers – including the ones who were literally on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land – so if that isn’t your thing, hers might not be the book for you. But as a historical figure – as an archetype – she is vital to me, a badass bitch who cries, um, kind of a lot.

Margery Kempe inspires me to be unabashedly myself, no matter what that looks like. Sometimes it’s easy to be myself. I am funny and smart and empathetic. But I am also angry and emotional and wild, and I’m ashamed of those things sometimes (maybe more often than sometimes). Margery Kempe is the goddess I invoke when I need to find love for my uglier bits. I hope some of you find comfort in her, too.

*Since writing this post, I’ve come to understand that history scholars avoid applying modern psychiatric terms to past eras. The medieval way of thinking was so different that it may not have had the same societal effect as a diagnosis of postpartum psychosis does today. Mystics were revered so, although Margery was challenging to many of the people around her, it is possible they did not consider her “sick” at all and instead believed her to have messages from God. I am no historian so if I have explained this poorly, I am happy to be corrected by someone who knows better!

If you’d like to read her book, you can do so here.

**Technically, she spoke Middle English which is not as closely related to modern English as you might think. You can read her original version here.

Drop me a comment and let me know who you’d like to hear about next!

Feminist Fridays (Why did I restart this right now??)

Haha, what was I thinking with restarting this right now when literally the only news is gonna be COVID-19-related? Well, perhaps I’ll begin seeking out some uplifting stories, too, to get us through this tough time. Today, though, I think I’m going to share a few thoughts that have been going through my head this week, in this scary time we are living through.

I’ve barely gotten to function this month. After my PMDD episode ended, I only had a few days before the World Got Weird. And the rest of that time has been processing and more depression and anxiety. So I’m more behind than I would be normally. I suspect you may relate.

Last week, Angie of Mid Drift Movement and I did our first joint livestream (click the link, click the link!). This is a project we’ve been wanting to do for more than a year now but as the world has suddenly shifted so drastically we both find ourselves with time to focus on this and a need to support people through technology in more and more personal ways (i.e. facetiming might be the best option many of us have right now for interpersonal connection). We will absolutely be doing more of those in the future and I’m super excited for that!

One of the things that we talked about was this poem by Kitty O’Meara, who was rightfully dubbed the Poet Laureate of the Pandemic by O Magazine.

Make that your prayer right now. These last few years as I have struggled so much, and then since discovering my own neurodivergence, I have learned that rest is not just important, but it is absolutely vital. And if you are doing rest correctly, you will feel lazy and ashamed. It is important work right now to try to let these feelings go because they were taught to you by Capitalism, which is a theory that sees human beings as a means of production rather than as individual people with dreams and lives and needs. This pandemic is showing us, starkly, that Capitalism isn’t working for us right now. Literally at this moment the highest leaders in our country are willing to let a wave of death wash over this nation if it means keeping the stock market healthy. I have news for you: we totally made up the concept of money; human lives are more important than an imaginary concept.

So rest. And flip Capitalism the bird. We are going to rest and heal and destroy the fucking patriarchy once and for all!