Personal, Political

“I’m Gonna Take This Itty Bitty World By Storm…

…and I’m just getting warm.”–LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”

I have a confession to make. After LivLuna changed creative direction and I left, I was lost. I no longer had a platform and combined with trying to pick up the pieces after my brother’s passing, I was shot. I couldn’t get angry the same way I used to. I’ve made a few attempts on this site, but they were all tied in with my brother or else a false start at a wellness blog. It’s been brewing inside me. I’ve been wanting to write again. But what little writing I did wound up in a diary or in short Facebook statuses (yep. I became one of *those* people.)

However, after the events of yesterday, I can no longer keep silent. In a single day, I saw my mother cry as Hillary conceded the election. I spoke to a friend from college in a private messenger where we raged about how fucked up the system is. I saw Facebook status after Facebook status where people were just so defeatist, I swear, it was all along the lines of “ho hum, oh well, all you need is love!!!! Let’s just be nice to one another and chill out!!!! We can always move to Canada!!!” without planning any real action. Who said we had to accept Trump lying down? Who said we can’t make change? This is supposed to be a democracy, not a dictatorship, for fuck’s sake.

But what really did me in? Seeing three girls in their early twenties just so jaded and defeated the same way my mother was. They’re too young. My mother is too young, frankly, but these girls are way too young. Two coworkers completely sad and distant as they walked out the door, while the third admitted to me that she was scared to come to work because of what Trump supporters would say or do. And then I realized–they don’t have the same space that LivLuna provided a few years ago. I gained confidence and wasn’t scared to fight. I wasn’t afraid to write about things that were fucked up. I was all over the 2012 election, calling out nasty senators that marginalized rape and wanted to implement racist and sexist laws against the poor.

Watching the girl who was scared to come to work interact with an older gentleman who was talking at her–not to her, at her–about why it was so great that the Obamas are leaving the White House when she was in a position to tell him “stop,” feel as if she had to take it because he was older and she didn’t want to ruffle feathers just broke my heart. We need spaces for younger women on the internet. We need spaces for all women on the internet to talk, to read, to feel empowered and not scared to say anything that may be considered outrageous or bitchy because they disagree with politicians or certain celebrities. I loved helping to provide that a few years ago. Facebook statuses are not enough. Sharing posts isn’t enough. I want to be empowering and encouraging again. I’m almost 31, so I’d like to think that I can give that guidance without being completely blinded by anger. LivLuna may not have been a household name, but we were woman owned and operated, which is a rarity anymore. HelloGiggles, Bustle, Jezebel, xoJane, all owned by media conglomerates run by men. Not me. There is Bust and Bitch, but Bust has become very Brooklyn hipster, while Bitch is more collegiate academic. We need both, don’t get me wrong. I want to provide a place where you don’t have to be intimidated if you’re not a 90’s punky alterna-girl or a PhD. candidate in order to contribute (although if you’re either one, you’re still welcome to contribute!)

So I’m done staying silent. I want to set an example for my younger female coworkers, as well as young women everywhere. I don’t have a catchy name, I don’t have a flashy site, I hate listicles, and I’m sure as hell not going to try and curate a lifestyle for people to follow, but I’m not letting that stop me from having a voice. I’ll figure it out along the way–I know I’m going to have lots to say from here on out. Take it away, LL…



No Food Stamps For Felons Is Racist and Sexist

The Conservatives just don’t know when to quit, do they? It’s not just about reproductive rights this time–it’s about the right to food. Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) has created an amendment to a proposed Farm Bill that is currently being considered in the senate that would ban violent felons from being able to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Acceptance Program, aka food stamp) benefits for life, no matter how long ago the crime was committed, or the circumstances surrounding the crime. If they’re currently receiving benefits, they get kicked off. The amendment was unanimously accepted by the senate, and is currently being reviewed by the House of Representatives.

The amendment reads:

“(1) IN GENERAL.—An individual shall not be eligible for benefits under this Act if the individual is convicted of—

  (A) aggravated sexual abuse under section 2241 of title 18, United States Code;

  (B) murder under section 1111 of title 18, United States Code;

  (C) an offense under chapter 110 of title 18, United States Code;

  (D) a Federal or State offense involving sexual assault, as defined in 40002(a) of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. 13925(a)); or

  (E) an offense under State law determined by the Attorney General to be substantially similar to an offense described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C).”

Another paragraph of Vitter’s amendment is also troublesome:

“(2) EFFECTS ON ASSISTANCE AND BENEFITS FOR OTHERS.—The amount of benefits otherwise required to be provided to an eligible household under this Act shall be determined by considering the individual to whom paragraph (1) applies not to be a member of such household, except that the income and resources of the individual shall be considered to be income and resources of the household.”

This is a big, big problem for several reasons. Someone who may have been convicted years, or even decades ago, for aggravated sexual abuse or sexual assault, even if they have served their sentence and been released, would lose food stamp eligibility. Even if the crimes may have been convicted in someone’s youth (think statutory rape cases;) the person served his sentence and has since been integrated back into the community, but as a low-income person, needs food stamps. By Vitter’s standards, that’s enough for disqualification.

Why isn’t this amendment taking circumstances surrounding the crime into consideration?  What if the violent crime was an act of self defense? Should a woman protecting herself against a rapist or stalker be denied benefits because she was fighting for her life? Nope, because that’d be too much extra work. According to Vitter, all crimes are equal.

It also doesn’t take into consideration people who are raising families–the convicted is disqualified for the benefits, so the SNAP now covers a family of three instead of four. However, his or her income would still count against the household’s calculation for food stamp benefits, which barely feeds a family anyway. It doesn’t make sense.

Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, elderly or the disabled, and two-fifths of SNAP households live below half the poverty line.  The amendment would hit African Americans particularly hard as, according to Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“Given incarceration patterns in the United States, the amendment would have a skewed racial impact. Poor elderly African Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated Southern juries would be among those hit.”

Of course, Vitter is claiming that his amendment is only aimed at preventing those convicted of violent crimes from obtaining benefits, apparently under the logic that stripping them of what may be their only form of income assistance will lead to less violence.

This whole amendment just reeks of racism and sexism. Once again, a wealthy, white, male politician is trying to keep the poor down. The Republicans talk a lot of guff about “people just need to work! Be like me, work your way up!” It’s all lip service. This is not about trying to teach criminals a lesson, this is about hurting specific demographics under the guise of “fixing a problem.” A lot of conservatives cry “focus on the family! focus on the family!” Okay. So, if this mother committed a crime, yet is trying to rehabilitate herself and raise her family yet needs some assistance, you take it away from her, it’s not helping. You’re just creating more poverty. (and by the way, telling someone to “get a job at McDonald’s” is not conducive. Many positions are only part time, and most fast food/food retail jobs don’t pay enough in non-management positions, so many employees qualify for SNAP benefits.)

So what’s a good solution? I’m at a loss, LivLunatics. I’m so angry about this amendment, that’s clearly targeting a specific group of people and feeding on stereotypes. What’s your take on this situation? Is Vitter’s amendment a good intentioned one, or should it be rejected?