Friday, October 18, 2019

2016 Fucking Happened

The idea behind this quote was also super-racist:

"There is no question that Sanders was central to their strategy. He was clearly used as a mechanism to decrease voter turnout for Hillary Clinton," Darren Linvill, associate professor of communications and one of the researchers who worked on the study, told The Post. 
Linvill said the tweets analyzed as part of the study "give us a much clearer understanding of the tactics they were using. It was certainly a higher volume than people thought."
Painting the painting above was meant to bring me relief, but it made my blood boil over and over again. It brought back all of the physical sensations of fear and abandonment and shame, tensing up as the notifications rolled in, as stranger friends-of-friends lined up to tell me how stupid I was, what a liar, how if we lost the election, it would be Hillary supporters’ fault for wanting representation—Oh, sure, a woman, just not THIS woman. The horror and sadness and moved-to-loudness I felt when my friends and then even Roxane Gay said they’d been afraid to speak up for Hillary. All this was before it had really sunk in that Trump could be our rapist-in-chief. Before the regrettable, inarticulate fury with which I ruined Thanksgiving and then rage-drove five hours, only able to find comfort in the new Gilmore Girls episodes.

Since then, I’ve learned to use my anger mostly-constructively. I’ve been so heartened and lucky to be in a city with progressive values and frequent marches, so glad that it’s only a day trip to yell directly at the White House or the Supreme Court. I’ve come to rely on visits to the Hope Diamond or long stretches of phone-games-in bed to calm down after protests. I have written every strongly worded letter that came to mind. I made a chart in case I can’t pick what to write to congress about on any given day:

And I’m very happy to be going as Rose Quartz for Halloween, because it means I’ll be ready with a DON’T MAKE ME GET MY PLANT ARMY sign come the Women’s March.

 Over the summer this year, my BFF and I listened to the Lawfare Blog’s Mueller Report podcast ( on family trips and on dreamy drives home from the beach. The jazzy music that plays to indicate direct quotes was our song of the summer. It was a weird comfort to listen because so much of the time we’re gaslit into forgetting our election was stolen, but it was. As paranoid, panicked, as fight-flight-or-freeze as I’ve always been, even my anxious imagination could not have come up with THE SHIT THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

As outlined in the epigraph, a tyrannical enemy leader was able to exploit Bernie supporters’ misogyny to commit an act of warfare, to steal our election, and somehow this contingency still thinks they have the moral high ground. And it’s not just bigoted white men on his side—plenty of badass women who have NO ACTUAL NEED of obedience have joined the #BernieSquad rather than supporting any of the wildly qualified women who are running. AND YET I STILL FEEL BAD FOR NOT BEING NICE ABOUT THIS.

Sometimes Bernie/Russia rage comes out when I don’t necessarily want it to, especially when it comes to my better-behaved straight white lady friends. They do plenty of activism in their own ways, but I’m honestly sick of them guarding their social capital by outsourcing their anger to less-gender-conforming women like me. I found myself on a tear during a lovely Longwood Gardens brunch, during a beautiful walk in the autumn woods that is supposed to be abut other things.  I want to ask them to stop being so obedient, so diplomatic, to stop hiding in the shelter of their agreeableness and appeasing the men and the institutions they serve. I seriously hate it when people blame women for Trump, but I also seriously need these ladies to be braver, to close their empathy gaps, honestly to be just better friends to me and to America.

As these conversations progress/dissolve, I become conscious of the other lady’s “civil” moral high ground. Why does everybody have to argue, they ask. Why couldn’t you have been more diplomatic? Just be in community and everything will be okay. Perceiving their assurance of the innate superiority to my unhinged self, I feel more unhinged. I apologize a thousand times for being so mean. I don’t want to apologize any more.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Birthday Heart Inventory and Grandmom’s Still Lives

Despite the grief, despite my predictable frustration with summer for being over, despite even the errant landscapers who tore out my blue morning glories just as they were starting to bloom, I would call this one of my happiest years. My work is getting closer and closer to being exactly what I want it to be—my commute is nearly gone! I feel the most at home I’ve ever felt and I have so much hope for the future—my own and, even a little bit, for the world.

I’ve learned, sometimes, in a still-flawed way, to dole out anger constructively. I’ve lost, most of the time, the conviction that the world is actively trying to push me out of it.

This summer, I had to get good at grief. Grandmom died in June and just last week a favorite mentor succumbed to a second onslaught of cancer. It’s a dubious thing to be proud of, but I think I’ve done my best job ever with grief. Rather than lash out (or lash inwards) I was able to simplify, to focus on the lives well lived, to just go ahead and sleep as often as possible. Grief feels a little like the task of learning bifocals: hurt a little or a lot, feel dizzy, sleep, let the connections grow in my brain and let my vision reset. If post-traumatic growth can be a thing, so can post-grief growth. I’m proud of that growth. I’m proud of the sad strength it took to photograph Grandmom’s house without her in it. The light and colors were new, so may angles I had never seen before.

This year, at the tender age of 44 (oh, to stay Obama-age forever) I learned something like attachment. I was swimming in the ocean with my family a few weeks ago, surrounded by baby jellyfish or some other kind of gelatinous not-stinging aliveness, and I had this thought: “I’ll probably see these people again.” I knew I was loved. I knew I was part of the family—I’d never known it quite so deeply before. I can maybe attribute this shift to a higher Prozac dosage, but the less scientific part of me sees something supernatural—something like Grandmom’s grace reprogramming and refocusing my brain.

Right now I'm having trouble saying anything else about the year, so I'll let Grandmom's Still lives take over:

Add caption

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Grief and Artifacts of Russian Interference (Or: What Did I Ever Do to You, Barbara Kingsolver?)

A few nights ago, I got to officially sign up for Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign. ( I’ve had her bumper sticker on my car for weeks (First primary sticker I’ve seen in my neighborhood!) and I feel so lucky and happy to have her as a choice, but before I can get truly excited about 2020 (Or even the awesome election work I have slated for 2019!) I need to process some stuff. My thanks if you’re kind enough to read it!

I hate to even type the name, but I really, really wish that Bernie Sanders were not in the primary race. Right after he joined, I could see that a few friends (Who I guess have less-curated feeds than I do) were already annoyed/beleaguered by Bernie Bro/Becky posts and comments. I felt the bullying fear and loss wash over me even as I declined to engage with those threads. After a few days of NOT TODAY, PUTIN-ing ( I broke down and cried. Suddenly, it felt like the Blue Wave was over, like the most diverse primary in U.S. history had been irrevocably colonized by Russian troll farms and a racist, dead-hearted, misogynist hate monger. And the worst thing about it is that that hatemonger is our own.

Even as I mourned the lost of that brief and wonderful Bernie-free race, I knew that friends and family members were getting excited about him (or that other, dreamier, but equally white guy), not even reading the women’s platforms. I knew that the quest not to engage about Bernie, not to explode about him at family gatherings, would be intense and long-lasting, and that the assumption of “reasonableness” would be placed only on the males in the conversation. I knew that the burden to “behave” and “be civil” would be on me, and that foreknowledge made me want to be preemptively shrill, unhinged, and hysterical. (I’m reclaiming all of those terms, thanks.) All of the 2016-to-present election PTSD made me feel crazy, trapped, and hopeless, even as I should still be enjoying the progress of the last three years and the promise of 2020.

The cult of Bernie Sanders has done unspeakable amounts of damage to America. This week, my feelings of fear and pain found a new level in, of all things, the new Barbara Kingsolver book. I HATE the practice of accusing powerful women of betraying women (while dudes get off scot free), but abandonment and betrayal are the emotions I feel. Until she hurt my heart in Unsheltered, I hadn’t realized she was one of my heroes, one of the brain-mentors out there in the world looking out for us, with her ecology and her love of nature. It stings that she turned on the kind of woman I am, so forcefully and blindly. Maybe she never would have thought of me as a worthy person, who knows?
(Before I get to my main point, I want to cover the fat-phobia in the book: Kingsolver indulges in the trope of using fatness as a symbol for hateful, brainwashed, selfish, Trumpish capitalism. She accuses fat passengers of “oozing” into a character’s airline seat and suggests that thin, small people are the next phase of human evolution because they fit more neatly into airline seats. All of that stung, but what she did historically and politically was way, WAY worse.)

Unsheltered is novel about climate change, late capitalism, frightened Americans’ eternal battle against science, and the erasure from history of a real-life female scientist. I like all of those themes, that’s why I finished the book even though it vilified my fat body and erased my own place in history.

The book is set in 2015-2016, and the rise of Trump (Whom she refers to as “The Bullhorn,” the use of which nickname seems like its own form of protest-shaming and civility-policing.) punctuates the story. We see hopeful, peaceloving Bernie supporters, whom Kingsolver calls simply “The Revolution.” (Relatedly, in the novel we see present day Cuba as a utopia, which I guess it might be, I’ve never been. Kingsolver apparently missed One Day at a Time episode that explained to white people why Cuban Americans don’t necessarily love seeing Che Guevara on a t-shirt. Here’s an old article that explains:

What we DON’T see in the book is Hillary Clinton or her supporters. The closest Kingsolver comes to mentioning Hillary is when the protagonist sadly realizes that Trump “or someone like him” seemed bound to win the election.

I know it’s a novel and not a history book, but still. I knew that the erasing of women (particularly women of color, which many of Hillary’s supporters were/are) from history happened, but its horrifying to see it happen almost in real time! It is maddening and creepy to see Hillary and her supporters written out of this 2015-2016 story that I know so many people will read and love.

The erasing of women’s work makes me apoplectic, whether it’s past, present, or future. Not only does Kingsolver (like everyone who equates Hillary to Trump) erase a former Secretary of State’s lifetime of service AND HER ACTUAL POLITICAL PLATFORM from the author’s version of history, she is erasing the majority of Americans as well. She is dismissing the women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, disabled people, and ALL of the other Americans who worked, sacrificed, fretted, and took near-constant online abuse from all sides in order to try and move America’s future leftward, heartward, equailityward.

Where is the payoff from erasing the majority of Americans from history? Is it worth this much disinformation to continue to convince herself she’s right, to continue hoping that all of us who don’t present as socialist enough will be headed for the firing squads, to keep propping up the white-supremacy-serving idea that “identity politics” (i.e. the concerns of every group that isn’t white, straight, cis, able-bodied men) should be silenced in public debate?

I’m supposed to be giving out more benefit-of-the-doubt this year, so maybe she made the book so lady-erasing on purpose. Maybe her characters were monstrous fat-phobes to show how bad that kind of prejudice is. But three years of election traumaand 30 years of regular PTSD means I know how to spot gaslighting when I see it. I’m almost certain that one of the authors I love can’t be trusted anymore. I hate when things get all Invasion of the Body Snatchers in my brain, but I think Bernie and the troll farms (NOT a good name for a band) only teased out a misogyny, a Stockholm Syndrome, a gentle white supremacy that was there in all of us. Still, it’s a loss. It hurts to unfriend and unfollow, but maybe this loss will free my eyeballs for more humane books.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Open Letter: Medical Fat-phobia

To the Management Team at Mount Airy Family Practice;

When I first started coming to Mount Airy Family Practice, I found Vincent Tyson to be a very helpful caregiver. He gave me great advice for navigating my way out of Acute Stress Disorder and helped me find a lifesaving treatment for my depression—I will never stop being grateful for his help.

However, some things were just not right. During exams where a second person was required to be in the room, he would joke that “They just don’t trust us to be alone together.” What’s the joke there? That harassment precautions are silly?

And then there were the reports: Although I have never been treated for anything weight/heart/blood sugar related, I always had to read the phrase “morbidly obese” on my reports. (I understand that that may be a requirement of the insurance companies, but it still reads as a reminder to feel “less than.”) Though I’ve never visited Mount Airy Family Practice for vein trouble, “varicose veins” were always listed on the reports as well. Those two factors combined gave me the feeling that I was being assessed aesthetically rather than (or, I guess, as well as) medically.

Then, a few months ago, I did have a question about weight. I had gained a bunch of weight without significantly changing my exercise or diet routine, and I just wanted to make sure that all of my other vitals were okay. Weight gain is a common side-effect of Prozac, and it seems like a small price to pay for mental health. I did not ask Vincent for any help with dieting or losing weight.

Nonetheless, my report said that I had “weight gain from excessive calorie consumption” even though I had just finished explaining to him that my diet and exercise had not changed.

This is a common problem, often discussed in the body positive community worldwide. Physicians often dismiss and ignore true symptoms, data, and information from patients, listening instead to their own biases about fat people being lazy, gluttonous, and stupid.

I wrote to him on the Patient Portal to inform him that this was not okay, suggested some reading sources on the consequences of medical fat-phobia, and reiterated that I was not interested in dieting, citing the fact that the workup he had just done pointed to health. I told him what I still believe, which is that ignoring my actual data in favor of preconceived biases is just bad science.

Vincent then ignored the boundary I had just set and wrote back to again suggest that I go on a diet.

I then called my insurance provider to switch to a different PCP within Mount Airy Family Practice, but was informed by the practice that I would no longer be allowed treatment there.

After that, I received a letter from Vincent (whom I had told in no uncertain terms not to contact me again) gaslighting me, calling me a liar, and saying that I had been “unfair.” It seems that he felt it was unfair that I expected him to hear and respond to information that I gave him (and that medical tests gave him) about my body.

Though I have found a kinder and more humane doctor, it still makes me so angry and sad that your practice refused me medical care because I expected to be treated like a human being, because I didn’t want to be shamed for my size anymore, because I refused to accept Vincent’s skewed version over what I knew to be true. I was afraid, after that, that I wouldn’t find a doctor, that I couldn’t be treated medically without learning to apologize for taking up space in the world.

Your team put me in a dangerous, unfair place, but it seems I am one of the luckier of Vincent’s patients. When I reached out to neighbors about my experience, one woman wrote to me that he ignored her symptoms for months, and because she was losing weight, he “even joked that feeling crummy sure was a great diet.” This woman turned out to have ovarian cancer—due to Vincent’s dehumanizing refusal to hear her symptoms, this neighbor of mine could have died.

Not all forms of harassment are shocking and Weinstein-esque. Some forms of harassment are more mundane, the everyday reminders that we are expected to feel less-than, to apologize to our size, that we must reach a culturally acceptable weight in order to have our symptoms treated at all. They are dangerous and deadly habits that most medical practitioners accept and most insurance companies require.

Everyone can do something about this problem I want to urge you to find ways to remember to treat fat patients with the same dignity and respect that you give to normatively-sized people. The book The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor is a wonderful place to start.

Sharon Wiedmann

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 in Protest Art (For Heather Heyer)

HOPEFUL was my word for 2018 and I definitely honored it every day.
Philly Women's March!

First art after Parkland.

More for Parkland, now and forever.

Seriously read this book, it will save your life!

(Except staple guns!)

The kids made me feel so honored when they used my posters for their walkout! I felt like a mini Shepherd Fairey but more importantly I was awed by their power and dignity. 

March for Our Lives, Washington, DC

This little girl was the best thing that ever happened to my art. 

Mourning Stephon Clark.

People will always be trying to convince Hillary supporters that she was (and we are)  no good, but we will always know better.

Remember Kesha at the Grammys?!

My love for Taylor Swift abides. 

Work epiphany!

My Say Her Name series helped me learn a lot about women of color who were murdered by the police. Committing to always learn more. 

 The absolute best thing that happened all year--protesting for Immigration Rights with my sister and nephew!!! (and my bff of course) 

We yelled at Mike Pence when he came to town,

Trans people continue to be targeted and terrorized by I.C.E.

Inspired by the Dietland show, I give my silhouette some love!

Counter protesting Unite the Right in D.C. We 100% WON this protest.

Ohhey remember how the Blue Wave turned out to be a thing?!

Hope she declares her candidacy for 2020 soooooon! 

Dirty Computer is the boss of my life forever. 

Two seconds away from being unhinged at the Capitol the day of Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Sobbing on the Capitol lawn but not giving up.

She survived Hitler but not Trump.

For the Proud Boys counterprotest in Philly--another time we  100% won.

Pausing on the Philadelphia Art Museum steps to listen to the Women's March rally,
I heard the crowd singing this to the tune of "We Will, We Will Rock You." It seems like a manifesto for the entire year.

I started off the year wanting to lose 40 lbs, but I got Fat Liberation instead. Thanks "She's All Fat" Podcast, "The Body is Not an Apology", and "Dietland." I hope to never again regret taking up space.