On Naming Women and Mountains

image courtesy of Lonely Planet

On Naming Women and Mountains

“The truth was more complicated. In my mind, Lucy Rebecca Bryan and Lucy Bryan Green represented two disparate identities. Lucy Rebecca Bryan was the girl who once argued that everything in the world was either black or white, right or wrong—self-righteous enough to think that she knew the difference. She was the teenager who sustained a series of flirtations in hopes of converting her crushes to Christianity. She held the incongruous (and equally offensive) beliefs that she deserved all the good things in her life—loving parents, a college education, thick hair and long legs, intelligence, sorority membership—and that God had given them to her. It took my husband to drag me out of that box of my own making.

It was Lucy Bryan Green, not Lucy Rebecca Bryan, who learned to embrace feminism, pacifism, and non-consumerism; who dared to befriend gays and liberals and atheists. She was the one who wrote a novel, who learned to garden by trial and error, who trekked all 212 miles of the John Muir Trail. The man whose name I took played a fundamental role in me becoming that person. I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to move forward.

I also wanted to take responsibility for my contributions to the mess that my marriage had become. Anger that would boil into door-slamming, hair-pulling, glass-shattering rage; my need to control everything, down to what time my husband woke up in the morning and the clothes he wore; my anxiety, which made basic tasks like doing the dishes or shopping for groceries seem insurmountable—I wanted to work on those problems as Lucy Bryan Green.

And I still liked my name. It didn’t seem fair that he could take it from me. He’d already taken the canoe, a whole bookcase’s worth of books (along with the bookcase), half the set of glass nesting bowls, our nicest chef’s knife, two watercolors I’d painted, our cast iron patio furniture, our Honda CRV, the pine bedframe we’d stained by hand, all of the power tools, and most of the money in our bank account. Those were just the things. When he left, so did his family, many of our friends, my sense of security, the belief that I was unconditionally loved, my trust in God, my identity as a married woman, my plans to have children, and my sense of self-worth. I wouldn’t let him have my name. He’d taken enough.”

Another wonderful essay about the power and privilege of names. I love the metaphor of women and mountains; the lyricism and imagery are especially moving.

(See also: What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name)


Think You Know What ‘Queer’ Looks Like? Think Again.

Think You Know What ‘Queer’ Looks Like? Think Again.

In January 2014, Sarah Deragon posted a photo her wife had taken of her on Facebook with the words, “Queer Femme,” and The Identity Project was born. This photography project was launched because as a photographer, Sarah wanted to explore the labels that we use when we define our sexuality and gender. 

Sarah believes that The Identity Project resonates with people because the photo project pushes up against the preconceived notions of what it is to be LGBTQ in today’s society. Not only are the portraits striking, the participants in the project are playing with language, making up entirely new terms (transgenderqueer or inbetweener) and showing pride in their complex and ever changing identities.

Just fantastic. I love the idea of creating your own label, of really owning your identity. As the author of the Jezebel article stated,

I am firmly in the “labels are important and serve to bring people with similar marginalized experiences together” camp, although I know plenty of people within the queer community both in the West and in Japan who balk at labels. “Why do we even need labels,” they ask, “can’t we just get rid of all of the labels? We’ll be ever so much better off!” Well, I think that would be true if all identities and the expression of those identities were treated as equal. Then the unifying aspect of labels for marginalized identities wouldn’t be necessary. 

Check out Sarah’s website for more photos & information about her work. You can even donate money to expand her project to other cities across the country.

Sidenote: This reminds me so much of Project 562: Changing the Way We Native America. Another wonderful example of a photographer using her lens to help people see beyond labels and stereotypes.

What We Can Learn From the Embarrassing #CancelColbert Shitstorm

What We Can Learn From the Embarrassing #CancelColbert Shitstorm

Last night, The Colbert Report aired a segment skewering Washington R**skins’ owner Daniel Snyder’s pro-Native American charity that contains an anti-Native American slur (“R**skins”) in its name by suggesting Colbert, inspired by Snyder, would be starting his own charity, the “Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” A Twitter account controlled by Comedy Central tweeted the announcement without referring to the R**skins charity Colbert was skewering, which ignited a Twitter shitstorm that called for Colbert’s cancellation, a shitstorm that keeps getting more embarrassing. What can we learn from this? Besides “everyone calm the fuck down for a goddamn second”?

This article is fantastic for a number of reasons. The cultural analysis is hilarious and spot-on. I love the author’s tone and her complete annoyance at the whole thing. I also appreciated the fact that she wasn’t being condescending about it, she just said, look, the internet happens, let’s try to learn from this and move on.

And can we all just take a second to laugh at the absurdity of the R**skins starting a charity for Native Americans? BECAUSE REALLY?! How is that going to help ANYTHING?


Ethics, Morality And A Ticking Clock For How To Report On The R**skins

Ethics, Morality And A Ticking Clock For How To Report On The R**skins

A fascinating media analysis on a very controversial topic: what to do about the Washington R**skins? I won’t try to summarize such a lengthy, well-researched piece. I will tell you to read it though, whether you have an opinion about it or not.

For more about this issue, and other issues important to Native America, I encourage you to read Native Appropriations, one of my favorite blogs and the perfect place to dive into to learn more about why wearing a “Pocahottie”/Indian Warrior Halloween costume is not okay, why some people are offended by Indian mascots, and why you should not be that asshole wearing a Hipster Headdress.

Project 562: Changing the Way We See Native America

First, read Jezebel’s Combating the Misrepresentation of Native Americans, Through Photos. Then, for more background and photos, read The New York Times’ Rejecting Stereotypes, Photographing ‘Real’ Indians. Finally, because you’re just as into this as I am, check out Matika Wilbur’s Kickstarter video as well as her own blog for more photos and information. Bonus: you can also watch her TEDx Talk, Surviving Disappearance, Re-Imagining & Humanizing Native Peoples.

“Last December, Native American photographer Matika Wilbur embarked upon a journey with a staggeringly ambitious goal — over the next few years, she hopes to photograph members of every single Native American tribe. There were 562 recognized by the federal government when she started (and 566 now), hence the project’s title: Project 562.” [Jezebel]

“She only asks her subjects to be photographed outdoors on indigenous land. It is challenging, since weather and lighting are as unpredictable as where her subjects choose to be photographed is. She has waded through icy water, flown in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon and driven thousands of miles. After printing her images, she hand colors sections with oil paint to emphasize certain parts.

At the completion of the project, she plans to create a moving photo exhibit, accompanied by a book, photographs, video and geographical mapping features to pinpoint tribes across the country. A collection of her images and audio interviews will be on display at The Tacoma Art Museum in May.” [New York Times]

Amazing, amazing, amazing. People like Matika Wilbur give me hope for humanity, and that is not an exaggeration. Let yourself be moved by her passion and creativity.