I did a crazy thing on Saturday. I wore my #nastywoman t-shirt in public. I stood on a stage in front of probably the biggest crowd I've spoken before yet, and declared myself, before God and (it seemed) everyone, to be a #MotherFfffeminist. [02/13/18: Updated to include the link to the PechaKucha Mother Ffffeminist video from this evening. It gets ramped up at about slide 13. *NSFW* I'm also expanding this project into book-length, with my current work in progress, Mother Feminist: Raising Ourselves and the Men We Fall For. Stay tuned....]
I mean, anyone that follows me on Facebook with any regularity already knows I'm a feminist (and I'm sure there are plenty who've unfollowed since November 2016 because of it), but they can't get a true picture of what feminism means to me simply from skimming through a post or two.
We all have our assumptions, right?
A friend came up to say hello and wish me well before we began. I know him to be a super guy, and he says, "Nice shirt. But that's not you. You're sweet." "Ahh," I reply. "But that's precisely the point." "Ohhhh," says he. "Brilliant!" And thankfully he was one of the first to come up and congratulate me afterwards. So, we're still friends.
The person I wasn't so sure would take my six minutes and forty seconds in stride was my dad. But here you can see him in the middle of the photo below. He's the bald blur on his way up to join the standing ovation I received from about half of the crowd. I'm sure there were those who didn't clap at all (white leg guy, bottom left). And that's okay by me. Dad's got pretty thick skin, thankfully. And yet he said out loud, more than once, "I'm not scared!" Psst: This, from the guy who's married and divorced four damsels in distress.
We have a history, Dad and I. But he's always been one of my biggest fans. I'm happy to report that he still is, and that his understanding of me as a fully formed individual, as a woman, a mom, a wife, has grown exponentially since I've been tackling difficult topics in my writing and storytelling. Topics like, being a young single mom and being suicidal. Or, being a rape survivor and mothering two teenage boys.
My storytelling allows me to share things I can't, for whatever reason, share with my dad and others one-on-one. It allows me to control the conversation, to ensure that people digest what I'm feeling before they can interject their own feelings and assumptions or try to influence mine. I have written and edited and edited again and fully processed something on my own terms. I know pretty clearly what my memories and feelings are, or I know what my questions are, before inviting others to join in the conversation.
Writing and storytelling have given me life. Through Listen to Your Mother and PechaKucha, I feel more relevant today, at fifty-one, than I've ever felt in my entire life. Not only that, I believe it's given my husband permission to seek and follow his own creative journey, and for us to grow stronger and better than ever together, instead of growing apart. He did a story this night, as well, called, "I Could Have Been a Mother," and these pictures are courtesy of his photography business, Scott R. Gane photography. I couldn't be more proud of him, the man he is, and the man he becomes with every passing day. Of the man he is teaching our boys to become.
For those who don't know, PechaKucha is a global storytelling platform which takes place in over a thousand cities. Translated from Japanese, it means roughly "chit chat," and it gives presenters 20 slides x 20 seconds per slide to tell a story. Or, as it originated, it allowed architects to present on their mighty erections with strict limitations as to time and number of photos. Ahem.
On to my "PK" from Saturday and the whole crazy, terrifying, wonderful, exhilarating experience.... I thought I would share the text of my story below. I'll update with the link once the videos are uploaded and available for viewing. The slides help tell a deeper story than the words alone, but the words are deeply important, too. (Language warning, if you didn't already get the idea from the title.)
by Kim Jorgensen Gane, Copyright (c) 2017, all rights reserved
1) This is what my family looked like when I first became a mom, 30 years ago—alone, at only 20. Gawd, I was young! This was my mother’s and my daughter’s favorite Christmas. We spent the night at my mom’s and woke up there Christmas morning. It was my worst Christmas. I couldn’t buy my daughter those presents. Or new pajamas.
2) I SUCKED at asking for help. I’d made my bed. My *CHOICE,* right? Mother Ffffeminist that I was, even then, I bought it, too. Hook, line, and sinker. I believed her biological father’s choice didn’t have to the be same as mine, plus experience told me I didn’t want him in our lives. So I never demanded child support.
3) And then this guy came along, whom you met earlier, and with him, his delightful daughter. Our girls are two years apart with the same birthday. They became instant buddies. We were a family almost immediately. We fit together so seamlessly. Life was better, richer, twice the fun. My husband was my hero.
4) My knight in shining armor. But I was learning to co-parent, to be a wife, a stepmom. I’d been a single mom for six years and he was divorced, so it wasn’t as if we experienced a flood of cash. But at least we had each other, and our girls had each other. Life was rich in ways that had nothing to do with money. And then another guy came along—
5) Our son! And holy crap! Everything I thought I knew changed. I no longer had the luxury of operating in a female-centric universe. Somebody else took over. I became a stay-at-home mom and my life was not. my. own. And suddenly, our financial decisions didn’t feel like they were mine anymore either.
6) This is one of those “EW, GROSS!” mom moments! Snakes & snails… Men are from Mars… …I was often mystified. I didn’t know what it was like to *be* a boy. What it was like to // have my favorite toy on my person at. all. times. BUT WAIT!
7) He took six years to get here. And those adorable little girls? They were teenagers when he was born. The oldest drove herself to the hospital during a soggy, wet April snowstorm. And the now middle daughter was just coming home from a trip with a friend’s family to Mexico. Remember the show Fear Factor? Well, Fear Factor is having an infant with teenagers.
8) Fear Factor is breastfeeding with teenagers. And their friends—their BOYfriends, coming and going at all hours. Teenagers who are excited to show off their baby brother. Teenagers who burst in the front door, startle you awake on the sofa, make you almost drop the sleeping baby and shout: “MOM! Put Your Boob Away!!!”
9) So, PINK is my spirit animal. She is the baddest Mother Ffffeminist out there. And here she is, nursing her new baby Jameson while hiking. They were super sweaty. Is this making some of you squiggy out there? Well get over it! One way or another, y’all came out of us, and a good half of you suckled at our breasts.
10) Girls graduated, went away to college, boy started school, and then one fall my husband was downsized for a second time. We sped home to St. Joe, across the country from San Diego, where we’d spent two years. Just in time to move into a house we’d never seen, register the boy to start at his old elementary school and to marry off two daughters less than three months apart.
11) Soon, we moved again to downtown St. Joe. Scott opened BajaGringo Taco truck. And we gained another boy when our nephew came to live with us. We call them cousin-brothers. They’re less than 3 months apart and they get along great, usually. And now everything is squared again. Two boys? Why not two poodles?
12) Adding a puppy soon after our nephew joined our immediate family helped *make* us a family, even if he did protest puppy jail. The boys both made honor roll last year in 8th grade, and they’re freshmen in high school this year. Next year we’ll have two drivers. At. The. Same. Time! Which means .. this momma is tired.
13) So let’s talk about why I’m so dadgum tired. And why did we march? *FAST* I am under no delusions that I’m going to change minds in 6 minutes & 40 seconds. What I can do with my time is validate those here who recognize what I’m feeling. The deep wounds of realizing that, while people we love and respect might not *be* racists themselves,
14) They’re perfectly OK reaping the benefits of those in power being racists. While those in power tell Elizabeth Warren to sit down and shut up, or call Michelle Obama an ape and a man. They’re perfectly happy with a president who walks into teenage girls’ dressing rooms, grabs women by their pussies, and tells the world how hot he thinks his daughter is.
15) What I can do is say, I see you. Mothers, daughters, wives, grandmothers, sisters. I share your stories. I, too, was 18, working in a restaurant for the first time when the dishwasher came up behind me at the dish sink and proceeded to grind his pelvis into my backside. Or, again at work in a health food store, when a much younger friend of my dad’s—We. Kissed. ONCE—
16) Stalks in, asks me to recommend a probiotic and then starts talking about blow jobs. Or you’re 25 and another of your dad’s friends comes into your office. You’re alone, and he proceeds to talk about how he likes younger women and what he likes to do to them. Daddy taught me to gauge a guys eyes out if he’s raping me…
17) …but he didn’t tell me how to do it when I have every good reason to be frozen in fear. He didn’t promise to believe me over his friends if I told. And he didn’t equip me to deal with any of that shit at work, where men are the bosses, where men are in control. For every one of the dozens more stories I could share, Hillary Clinton has hundreds. Because. She. Dared.
18) She dared to put herself out there. She dared to believe that she could lead them, us, women and men. You can be anything. But don’t be a slut. You can be anything. But don’t be rude. You can be anything. But don’t eclipse men. I recognize now that boys get some version of the same message: you can be anything. But god-forbid, don’t be a pussy.
19) Because everybody knows, a pussy is the worst thing in the world anyone could be. I’ve been a mom for 30 years. I know a lot of moms who are fucking fed up. We may have different ideas about how to get un-fed up, but I believe that every single one of us should have the equal and fair opportunity to help decide the future for our country.
20) For our children—our daughters and our sons—and for ourselves. Because there isn’t one person in this photograph, not one person among you, who I want LESS for. Including myself.