Ways to be an Accomplice to People on the Frontline of the Fight Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Content note: discussion of environmental racism, links are provided to blog posts that discuss to settler colonialism, r*pe. 
Note: This is written from the perspective of a non-Native to other non-Natives

Recommended reading before you begin (and just in general): Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial ComplexListen Up! 50 Provocative #DearNonNative Tweets, Decolonization is Not A Metaphor

Required Reading: Oceti Sakowin Youth Letter to President ObamaSpirit Camp Warriors Stand In Path Of The Dakota Access Pipeline


“Solidarity with the trans community is not a retweet, ‘like,’ or Facebook share. Solidarity solidarity is not a retweetis informed, intentional, reoccurring, sustainable acts of service.”

This quote by Blackademic and activist Lourdes Ashley Hunter in reference to trans communities is one I think we can use as a model for true solidarity. Keep this quote in mind as you navigate this blog post.

Fast Facts on the Dakota Access Pipeline

Fact: Oceti Sakowin, which means Seven Council Fires and are what is commonly known as the Sioux or the Great Sioux Nation, land is sovereign land.

Fact: The building of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is in violation of at least five federal laws and treaties.

Fact: The pipeline comes within 1,000 feet from Oceti Sakowin land. Tribes were not consulted or properly informed.

Fact: The Keystone Pipeline was shutdown because it leaked, recently and horrifically.

Fact: Oil spills are an inevitability and the results can be absolutely catastrophic 

Water
Image of clean flowing water edited over an image of a pipe spilling crude oil and words saying “Water Over Oil”

Fact: The DAPL crosses the Missouri River at a culturally important juncture.

Fact: “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life) is a slogan but it’s also the name of a crucial rural water pipeline that runs from the Missouri River to several South Dakota tribes and the DAPL oil pipeline threaten this vital resource.

Fact: There are serious cultural, health, safety, environmental, religious, racial, and sovereignty issues at work.

Fact: The average adult body is about 57-60% water and 0% crude oil.

 

Right now there are people at the Sacred Stone Camp/Camp of the Sacred Stones  as well as in Washington, D.C. putting their lives on the line to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the oil pipeline that threatens sovereignty and the environment. They are risking arrest, injury, illness, violence, job loss and worse in order to #StopDAPL. They are protecting our water and they are defending the earth from people who seek to destroy both in their quest for oil and ultimately profit. Whether you realize it or not, they are fighting for you and the future of our planet. Some call themselves activists. Most see themselves simply as protectors and defenders of water, earth, and air; however, they shouldn’t have to do this vital work without aid.

So now, how can we be better accomplices if we aren’t on the frontlines?

1. Don’t show up for ally cookies.

Take a back seat, the very back seat. It should go without saying that this work is not about accolades or feeling good. Question your motives, always. Make sure that what you’re doing is appropriate. Are you taking up space? Is what you’re doing actually beneficial or do you just think it’s beneficial?

2. Amplify those most directly impacted.

Marginalized and oppressed people are always the most affected and we must work toward assisting those most directly impacted. Those most directly affected are Indigenous/Native people, specifically the Oceti Sakowin in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is our duty to assist appropriately, particularly as the descendants of settler colonialists who stole land that was not theirs. Follow ReZpectOurWater  and Sacred Stone Camp Take the actions they recommend, then signal boost (retweet, share, nudge people about it) it everywhere! Don’t just share things once or twice. People need reminders. Add your own message of encouragement.

3. Take Action

Sign petitions and then spread them. Now spread them again. Then contact your Senators and Representatives, especially those like Democrat Heidi Heitkamp,  who directly encouraged North Dakota’s oil boom. Contact your legislators  via phone and email. Get together with friends on the weekend and make a day of it! Take to phone banking, letter writing, social media campaign “party” to get it done! Make it an event! Do it with an organization you’re a part of! The more the merrier!

4. Donate Money and Supplies

Contribute to the  legal defense fund , donate directly to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dakota Access Pipeline Donation Fund, and donate supplies for those on the frontline. I created the Sacred Stone Camp Wishlist on

donationbox
Brown background with the words Donation Box in bold black letters

Amazon that delivers some of the needed supplies to the address I got from them if you have the money to spare. You could use that or create your wishlist if money is tight for you as well. Another option is to have a contribution box and pool resources with friends, family, or co-workers! When I was in college, the cultural coalition next door to mine, the Black/African Coalition, had a big box outside of their office where they’d accept donations for an organization with which they were partnering at that time. Ask companies to donate supplies! Often companies will donate, but they require a nudge from someone within the company. You can also partner with people to make your job easier, even reaching out to local businesses!

 

5. Use Your Talent and Skills

Are you an artist? A creator? Do you have a helpful skill you can use to benefit people out protecting the land? Maybe you have a product that you make that you can donate the proceeds or a portion of the proceeds! Get creative. Maybe your talent is in marketing or in facilitating donor relationships. Whatever it is, we all have something, so think of ways to use it. If you’re stuck, I can help! While we can always ask those most affected what they need, we can also get creative and lead ourselves as long as we’re cognizant of the room we’re taking up.

Find your talent or skill, and then use it! Do something! A retweet is not enough!


I hope you found this helpful! I certainly had some assistance from some amazing Native American friends in writing this blog post! Thanks to them!

If you found this beneficial, please spread it widely! I’d love any feedback!

-IsaJennie

 

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WEIGHT…Waiting to be Happy

Content Warning: This blog post discusses weight, eating disorders, body image and food.

As a very young child, I thought thinness, skinniness, would make me popular, would make the other kids like me and would make the bullying stop.

As a 12-year-old, I realized that it wasn’t just thinness that mattered but, rather, having 12 (4)the perfect body, the idealized body we see splashed across the pages of Victoria’s Secret catalogues and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition: the hourglass body with perky “natural breasts,” a tiny waist, toned arms, a flat, lightly toned stomach, and a tight butt with sculpted legs.

I used to hold my hands so carefully, trying to still the tremors as I cut out Gisele Bündchen’s photo from the pages of Victoria’s Secret to be used as my inspiration to lose weight and work out harder, back when I still could. I’d clip certain phrases from the magazines like “pounds,” “work-out” “body”… all in the hopes that I would resist my body’s natural desires to eat food that made me happy and that I would go a day without self-loathing.

I used to think that if I weighed 145 pounds (my goal weight for years, scribbled furiously in my journals when I was at my most desperate to be loved and accepted) if I just didn’t have love handles…if my arms didn’t jiggle so much when I moved and if my thighs didn’t shake and rub together when I walked…I’d be happy. I’d be free to enjoy life. So I’d restrict my food intake some days. I’d deny myself foods that I loved, and I’d work out hard sometimes. I’d ignore the massive warning bells clanging loudly in my head, telling me: THIS PAIN IS NOT NORMAL! I was in a competition with my body, my mind, my spirit to love myself. If I just got to my goal weight, I could rest. I could love myself.

I weigh 123 pounds today (I’m 6’0) and sometimes my weight drops lower.FullSizeRender (6)

Those love handles that I fought so hard to be rid of? Those are gone. That “arm flab?” That’s gone, too. I also have that coveted thigh gap. That’s certainly not all it’s cracked up to be.

I cannot work out, even though yoga actually brought me a lot of joy and relaxation and cycling was a great way for me to let off steam.

My diet is permanently restricted and I can no longer eat my favorite foods, or most foods.

I spent so much of my life wanting to be 145 pounds, thinking it would bring me happiness, and now that I’m this thin, all I can think is…why did I waste so much of my life thinking a number on a scale would bring me happiness? Why wasn’t I eating the foods I loved when I could? Why was I wasting my life trying to change myself? Why did I spend so long hating myself? Hours spent in the mirror pinching “fat” and measuring and finding flaws that weren’t there instead of loving the beauty that was.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes, my decades of self-loathing and wasted time. Eat what makes you happy. Focus on what you love about yourself, not on those flaws companies benefit from manufacturing. Spend time treating your body with love. Try and love yourself. It’s not easy, not in our society. Self-love is an act of defiance, it is a battle cry.


I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you did, please comment, like and share everywhere!

Thanks!

-IsaJennie

 

 

#LiveBoldly…Unless You’re Disabled?

CONTENT NOTE: This post will contain spoiler alerts for the book and movie Me Before You. It will also be dealing with (assisted) suicide, depression, and ableism.¹

The Lie of Living Boldly and Me Before You

I have been avoiding blogging about Me Before You, most likely because it hits me in a place I try and hide from others. I have sobbed in the shower and screamed into my pillow over its existence and the praise it has already received; over the willful ignorance of the author (Jojo Moyes), the cast, and the general public surrounding issues that affect my life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals in the disability community.

Me Before You is being touted as the “love story of the summer” and the “romance of the summer” (that’s according to the movie trailer and the sponsored ads). Long, horrifying story short:

“Successful” rich man (Will) with everything going for him is in a “tragic accident that leaves him paralyzed.” And his paralysis convinces him life isn’t worth living. Will needs a caregiver so enter Louisa who is the savior who teaches him that life can be worth living…but not really…so Will decides to commit suicide and leave much of his wealth to Louisa so SHE can #LiveBoldly and he won’t be a burden to anyone.

The Problems with the Book & the Casting

  1. NOT JOJO MOYE’S STORY TO TELL: First and foremost let me say that the author of this book turned screenplay is abled-bodied and healthy by her own admission. She has never met a paralyzed person. My absolute biggest criticism of this book and the movie is that this was not her story to tell. This topic requires in-depth knowledge of the community, it requires some level of lived experience, and it requires a sensitivity to the far-reaching implications of the work and the people harmed. Jojo Moyes lacked all of these attributes.
  2. LOUISA AS THE SAVIOR: This is ableism in action. Instead of Will being the hero of his own life, Louisa is brought in to “save” Will from himself and to “heal” him (because Disabled =broken).
  3. FAILURE TO ADDRESS ABLEISM IN SOCIETY: Will was active and happy before he was “tragically injured in an accident” and now he believes he can’t do what he loves, he can’t be who he was because of a wheelchair. (I’ll be honest, this is a phase that some wheelchair users and PWD/Disabled folks go through, it’s an adjustment for those that aren’t born disabled.) But the reason Will believes *he* can’t enjoy his life anymore (he can), is because of pervasive ableism built into our society that has cemented in most of us that we need to be abled in order to be whole and happy. This is an issue Ms. Moyes never addresses because it’s an issue she isn’t familiar with. She’s made this an individual struggle, a relationship story, a family battle, but not a societal issue.
  4. CASTING OF AN ABLED-BODIED ACTOR AS WILL:  There are Disabled actors, including physically Disabled actors that could have played the role of Will and brought so much more to the role. I see Sam Claflin, the actor who is playing Will everywhere now. So easy to cast aside that wheelchair when the filming is done, after you’ve harmed so many PWD/Disabled folks portraying a reality you don’t live and don’t understand. Do you think he’s noticed how inaccessible all the venues he’s graced for red carpet premieres are? How many interviews he wouldn’t be able to attend if he came in his wheelchair? But it’s just a prop for him.
  5. LACK OF APPROPRIATE HELP: Typically, when you find out someone is suicidal, you get them qualified mental health care, if you’re able. In the case of Will and his family, we know that he is able to access great health care (he has the money and the connections). But for some reason, the family and Louisa never get him into see a therapist or a psychiatrist or any kind of mental health professional. Will’s own mother agrees to “let” Will kill himself but only if he lives for six more months. Why doesn’t she make him promise to seek help, since she’s coercing him anyway? Why is it that all of these people in Will’s life believe that suicide is a reasonable and rational response to a non-progressive, non-fatal condition?  Why aren’t they willing to get Will help to treat his depression or even acknowledge that he has depression? Quote from the book:Of course he’s miserable. He’s stuck in a bloody wheelchair!” Basically: of course a Disabled man is miserable,  HE’S DISABLED! Let’s use his misery as a plot device for abled-bodied Louisa so she can learn! She can take him on adventures! But heaven’s no! Don’t actually get him into see anyone who might actually be able to help him. This just clearly illustrates how unaware the author is when it comes to depression and disability. When all of the characters in your book hold deeply ableist beliefs and there’s a plot issue a mile-wide that screams “Better dead than disabled,” there’s a good chance the author holds some of the same views.
  6. WILL AS A RESOURCE: Will serves many roles in Me Before You: he’s the tragic plot device that drives the story, he’s a source of inspiration (inspiration porn) for those around him (bitter cripple though he is, he’s a means of distraction for people in his life, and he is the sacrificial lamb/cash cow for Louisa. Oh of course Louisa doesn’t think of him that way, but the reality is, everyone is using Will. (There’s a bit of twisted Christian allegory in all of this: Will feels useless in life because he’s Disabled and he decides to sacrifice himself so that those around him can have a better life). The bigger picture for Disabled people and marginalized people in general is that often, we are used simply as resources, when we are considered “useful” at all, so it’s interesting and also infuriating to see how a Disabled man is treated as only a resource by the people who claim to love him and by the author herself.

My Perspective

Things that inform my opinion: I am physically Disabled (not a person with a disability). I have several disorders and conditions including an incredibly painful degenerative disease. I was once a caregiver for a man with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and I became very close to him. I’ve worked with Disabled kids. I’ve lost friends to disease and disability. I’ve met with a wide range of wounded warriors. I’ve studied psychology extensively. I am a Disabled activist.

My Critiques of Critiques

  1. “WILL ISN’T LIKABLE”: Some PWD/Disabled people aren’t likable. That doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve to be treated with basic human decency and respect. Yes, he’s angry and bitter at times. I’m often angry and bitter. Like I said previously, there’s an adjustment period.
  2. DISMISSAL OF DEPRESSION:  (In community) It’s clear to me that Will is struggling with depression combined with a serious lack of support. But I’ve seen a lot of people say that he has no reason to be depressed because he can still work and do so much that he used to do, as though depression is logical. Yes, he can still do a lot, but that’s like saying someone isn’t actually Disabled because they’re “able” to do so much. It doesn’t make sense and it’s harmful.
  3. “DISABLED PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO DIE”: Do most PWD/Disabled people want to die? No. But is there a percentage that do? ABSOLUTELY! (And for those that DO want to die, it’s a last resort, unlike with Will.) I don’t know how we balance the needs and wants of everyone within the disability community, but I do know that we shouldn’t discount some needs to make blanket statements because they make us look better as a group. Some of us *are* suffering and do want it to end and it has nothing to do with the societal ableism that constantly tells us we’re better off dead than disabled. Those wishes (somehow) need to be respected.
  4. RESPECT OF BODILY AUTONOMY: I’m big on bodily autonomy² and it’s something that I’ll be blogging frequently about in the future, but something that’s been bothering me both with Me Before You and in people’s discussion surrounding it is that no one seems to want to respect Will’s bodily autonomy. As a very thin Disabled woman who’s also mentally ill (and Autistic), I often feel that I have no bodily autonomy.

Takeaway

I am profoundly disturbed by Me Before You.

Imagine taking something you have no connection with, no passion for, something that keeps people up at night and eats them alive, and using it as fodder for a romance novel. Imagine! Imagine creating a down-on-her-luck but looks-on-the-bright-side gal as the hero to a bitter angry cripple. Imagine writing a romance novel that confirms the worst fears of thousands (if not more) of PWD/Disabled people…that they are burdens, and that the most noble, most romantic sacrifice they can make for their loved ones is to kill themselves. IMAGINE!

 

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, please comment below and share!


Glossary:

¹ableism: societal oppression of PWD/Disabled people and people perceived to be disabled

²bodily autonomy: total control and rights over one’s own body

 

Understanding Privilege, Oppression, and -isms

Person 1: “You have privilege.”

Person 2: “What do you mean I have privilege? I’m not rich! I’ve gotten everything I have because I work hard. Nothing was ever handed to me!”

jointhejourneyUnderstanding Privilege

This brief dialogue is often the reaction someone has when they’re first confronted with the social justice idea of privilege. Person 2 is thinking of privilege as it relates to wealth; however, when people involved in social justice work or marginalized communities refer to privilege, they’re referring to a systematic social advantage that is only available to certain groups that society deems worthy. 

Admitting that you have privilege isn’t denying any hard work that you’ve had to do to accomplish what you have, it’s simply admitting that, through no fault of your own, society values some aspect or identity that you possess that you have no control over and this has given you certain advantages over others without this privilege.

It can be difficult to accept that you have privilege when you also experience oppression.

Understanding Oppression

Oppression is the counterpoint to privilege. In a phrase, it is the institutionalized unjust treatment of people based on their membership within a social identity group that is upheld by various systems within society. 

There is a tendency in the colonized United States and other western countries to downplay the pervasiveness and seriousness of oppression within the West. Within colonized U.S., I believe this this has to with the values that USians claim to hold dear. It is very difficult to reconcile the amount of oppression many USians face with our values of freedom, equality, and justice for all. Despite this difficulty; however, oppression does exist and it needs to be taken seriously and confronted.

We need to remember, too, that oppression is not a competition. Too often I hear people say that women in the colonized U.S. aren’t oppressed because women in the Middle East have it worse. I don’t believe in playing Oppression Olympics. There is no prize for being The Most Oppressed and it helps no one to compare our struggles, instead, everyone loses. Oppression exists everywhere and it needs to be addressed and rooted out.

In my opinion, it is best to focus on the oppression we can most directly influence and then signal boost or amplify the struggles of those with oppressions we don’t experience so that we don’t speak over them.

Understanding the Systematic Nature of Privilege & Oppression

Individuals are affected by privilege and oppression but it’s crucial to remember that privilege and oppression are bigger than the individual. When we discuss privilege, oppression, and “-isms” we need to keep in mind that they are systemic, which means that they have been built into our society and society uses institutions to continue their existence.

When I discuss racism, I don’t use the dictionary definition of racism, which has been whitewashed and sanitized, but instead the social justice definition. When we use the dictionary definition, we are erasing the long and brutal history it has and decentering the people who actually truly experience racism. White people love to claim that we experience racism because on occasion we may be called “cracker” or once a person of color didn’t want to be our friend. Racism is so much deeper than this and it’s not just about individual experiences. The deliberate genocide and enslavement of Brown and Black bodies by our society is racism. The levels of police brutality experienced by Black and Brown bodies is racism. Being called a honky is not.

But please don’t take my word for it, I’m white and I’ve never experienced racism so please check out Racism School Tumblr and this amazing Ted Talk The Power of Privilege.

Understanding Axes of Privilege & Oppression

Privilege and oppression come in many different forms that exist on an intersecting continuum. At one end there is privilege and at the other end, oppression. Most of us don’t have all privileged identities (but it’s possible), instead we have a combination of privileged and oppressed identities.

Axes of privilege/oppression/isms include but are not limited to:

  1. hearing\d|Deaf|hard of hearing\audism
  2. cisgender/transgender/cissexism
  3. binary gender or sex/nonbinary gender or sex/binarism
  4. men/women/sexism or androcentrism
  5. white/people of color/racism
  6. settler/indigenous people/settler colonialism
  7. European heritage/Non-European origin/Eurocentrism
  8. heterosexual/lesbian|gay|bisexual|queer|questioning|asexual|pansexual|polysexual+\heterosexism
  9. abled (non-Disabled)\Disabled\ableism
  10. neurotypical/neuroatypical/anti-neuroatypical bias (anti-Autistic bias is a subtype)
  11. credentialed/nonliterate or noncredentialed/educationalism or credentialism
  12. middle-aged/old or young/ageism
  13. attractive/unattractive/politics of appearance
  14. thin/fat/fatshaming
  15. upper and upper-middle class/working class, poor/classism
  16. Anglophones/Non-English speakers/Language bias
  17. Light,pale/Dark/Colorism
  18. Gentile, non-Jew/ Jews/anti-Semitism
  19. Non-Muslim/Muslim/anti-Muslim bias
  20. non-sex worker/sex worker/anti-sex worker biasprivilege axes

Understanding Your Privilege and Oppression

Often those that have privilege on an axis are completely unaware of that privilege and and the advantages that have been afforded to them. Finding out you have privilege or being told to “check your privilege” can come as a shock and it can cause some people to react negatively: to lash out, to shut down, and to immediately deny what the other person is saying without taking the time to listen and process.

My advice? STOP! Take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Now try and understand where the other person is coming from and forget everything you thought you knew. Open your mind and try to listen and learn from the other person.

Evaluate yourself constantly. Check your privilege (make sure you’re not speaking out of turn or over the experiences of others). Here’s a great source for examining your privilege vs oppression: How Privileged Are You

Your privilege can help ease some of your oppression and your oppression can chip away at your oppression…it can keep you from feeling the full effects of your privileges.


 

I welcome respectful discussion and questions and if you found this post educational or interesting, I hope you’ll take the time to comment and share it on social media!

That’s all for now!

-IsaJennie