Women Be Marchin'

Hello! Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 12 years and just now crawled out and somehow got yourself to a public library or internet cafe and taught yourself how to log onto the internet and started to type "how do I use this thing?" into your browser but instead only got as far as "h-o" and were miraculously re-routed to Hottsauceblog.com, and this is literally the first piece of world news or information you've read in over a decade, you're well aware that on Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America. And that the following day, Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions of women and men gathered all around the world to express their hopes and fears over the new administration.

If you have, in fact, been living under a rock welcome and hello and OMG I must hear your story, what a wild adventure, and also yep, yep, and yes, Donald Trump is now the President of the United States of America. Uh huh, this guy. I know! Times are weird, huh? Wait, where are you going?? Oh, back under your rock? Eh...makes sense. Thanks for stopping by! 

But yes, for the rest of you, you know the drill. You've seen the CNN coverage. You've read the backlash and the backlash to the backlash, and the frontlash, and the eyelash and now you have whiplash. But you haven't yet read MY thrilling account of the day so bust out your reading glasses and buckle up...because here it is.

womens rights are human rights

I made the trip from NYC to DC with two of my besties, Maureen and Kathleen. We traveled by MegaBus Friday evening, a trip that was to take 5-6 hours and came in closer to 8, finally dragging into Union Station close to midnight. The bus was stuffy and bumpy and as we stopped and started down the Jersey Turnpike, it became warmer and warmer until finally, unable to bear the heat, one woman approached the driver to inquire about adjusting the heat, which he revealed to be a crisp 83 degrees. Oof. But from this discomfort emerged a warm camaraderie which would set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Nearly all of the other passengers were also headed down to the march, everyone with homemade signs and comfortable sneakers. When we finally did arrive in DC and emerge, blinking, from our brick oven of a bus, we saw dozens of other buses unloading fellow protesters, everyone buzzing with energy. I realized our bus parked right next to a bus marked with the emblem of the Chickasaw Nation, which had likely traveled in from Oklahoma, and I was awestruck -for the first, but not even close to last - time at the scope of the event in which we were about to participate.

Early Saturday morning we hit the streets, bundled in layers of heattech and spirited layered  t-shirts - Kathleen had a homemade shirt with the slogan "Women's Rights = Human Rights" across the chest, and I wore my Unapologetic shirt, natch, the same shirt I wore to vote for Hillary Clinton and awkwardly interrogate the manager of the jewelry-thieving boutique in my neighborhood. Two equally momentous moments in women's history!!! After obsessively reading up on rules for the march, I had purchased a hideous clear backpack  the only regulation bag allowed by the NPS, and filled it up with water bottles, because if I am one thing, it's a rule follower and if I'm two things, it's a rule follower who is obsessed with hydration. 

But not quite as much as this guy, who is my new role model:

not all heroes wear capes

Not all heroes wear capes! 

As we walked out the door we were greeted by a sea of women in the now ubiquitous pink pussy hats streaming through the streets. A man caught our eyes as we walked past, gave a grin, and said "give 'em hell, ladies."

And I'd like to think we did. 

war on women

We arrived at the National Mall around 9:30 AM and finally dragged our addled bodies home as dusk began to fall. In between, we wandered from street to street, trying to take everything in. The march was a bit disorganized, I must admit, likely accounting to the massive swell of visitors. The day began with a rally featuring incredible speakers like Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards, America Ferrara, and Michael Moore, and musical performances from Solange (omg), Katy Perry, and obvzzzz the Indigo Girls. Cell service came in and out throughout the day, but I managed to catch some just enough for my brother to text that Indigo Girls performing at a Women's Rally is the center square in Feminist Bingo.

El. Oh. El. Too true.

I am disappointed we didn't get to catch much of the rally, I really would have liked to see or hear more, but it was fun just to soak in the energy. As many people have remarked, the vibe was so, so, positive and polite. Everyone was elbow to elbow, constantly bumping into one another, and each time, the women would turn to each other and apologize. Kathleen, Mo, and I cracked up each time, referencing this classic Amy Schumer sketch, only to find ourselves blurting out "omg sorry!" the next time we turned around. People were sharing snacks, helping one another cross streets, high fiving cops, at one point a group was trying to cut through a large mass of people standing in the street...and they walked ON THE CROSSWALK! It was adorable. Anne Helen Petersen, one of my favorite writers, penned a really thoughtful piece about how the symbols of this particular march - homemade hats, signs, regulation backpacks - represented how inherently feminine this march was. Worth a read

march march march

Finally around 4 PM, after having been out and on our feet for coming on eight hours, we decided to call it a day. We'd been so ensconced in our little cluster of folks right around the National Mall that we thought we were it. But as we elbowed our way out of the crowd, we realized we were just one of many mini-marches streaming all over the city. As we headed out, groups were pouring into the main area, blasting music, chanting, dancing. For several blocks in all directions the streets were blocked off, bars and restaurants open to the street, women in pink hats as far as the eye could see. It was truly incredible to be part of. 

And then we went back to our hotel and were rewarded by a beautiful cable TV lineup consisting of a Lindsay Lohan marathon (Mean Girls and The Parent Trap) followed by Frozen. There is a god and she is good! 

But more on the march! Among the protesters, we met a group of young women from Hanover College in Indiana, Mike Pence's alma-mater, who traveled 12 hours by overnight bus, doing their homework on their laps, to protest against the ideologies of their now famous (or shall I say infamous) vice presidential alum. We met women who'd traveled in from California, Georgia, Maine, Boston, Oregon. We chanted alongside the funniest young girl named Saja, who led the crowd in enthusiastic rounds of "not my president," hilariously throwing her whole body into the cheer.

The crowd was heavily skewed towards female, but a lot of men joined too. There were older women relying on walkers who still stood up and marched. Parents with babies strapped to their backs or in strollers. We marched next to a middle aged man in a wheelchair who wore a tshirt with "Donald eres una pendejo" emblazoned across the front. Feel free to Google Translate that ish! 

mother daughter duo womens march blog

I could have spent the entire day just reading people's clever protest signs. A large amount were focused on reproductive health, including several VERY anatomically correct reproductions of female genitalia and two gigantic papier-mache bloody tampons. But not all were quite so, um, graphic, with many bearing general female empowerment slogans, funny memes, or focusing on the enormous list of issues women fear will be threatened under the new administration: climate change, Black Lives Matter, gun violence, immigration, LGBTQ rights, equal pay, protection against domestic violence and sexual abuse.

womens march resist
womens march signs

One criticism the march received was a lack of a central theme - what are these angry women protesting, anyway?? And it's possible to look at this wide range of protest signs and say, you know, "pick one thing and stick to it!," but to me, it's an impressive, visual reminder that women's issues are WORLD ISSUES. And to downplay them as just, well, bitches bitchin' is a risk to our communal well being. 

voldemort
Putin

There were a fair number of others which poked fun at our new president, including one featuring ACTUAL CHEETOS, which I failed to photograph, many making digs at his close relationship with Russia, and this one which of course spoke very deeply to me:

donald trump is illiterate

FOR REAL THO.

And though the day did carry an air of Anti-Trumpsim, with the crowds erupting into hilarious chants like "He's orange, he's gross, he lost the popular vote" and, my favorite, "We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter," it wasn't just about him. There really was an overwhelming sense of communal forward energy, of women (and men, but mostly women) who have been quiet for too long finally speaking up. 

One of the other of the main criticisms (oh, and there have been many) (some likely valid, I'm sure!), lobbed at the march in the past few days has been on this theme: "Where have you been before this?? Why are you just getting mad now??" This question comes from two distinctly different groups. First, from people who generally seem annoyed by the march and consider protesters "crybabies," who I would politely ask to mediate on the cliche "the straw that broke the camel's back" and also email me (lizhottsauce@gmail.com) if they'd like to discuss in depth in a civil way. But the second group is one I want to really take to heart, and this comes from groups of women who have been fighting on the front lines of justice for women, primarily non-white, non-straight women who have had to wage daily battles for their rights which I just haven't had to go through. Here, here, and here are a few pieces I've been meditating on, if you think this might be something for you to consider, too. 

from here http://www.theroot.com/woman-in-viral-photo-from-women-s-march-to-white-female-1791524613

from here http://www.theroot.com/woman-in-viral-photo-from-women-s-march-to-white-female-1791524613

from here http://fusion.net/story/382776/amir-talai-viral-photo-womens-march-nice-white-ladies-black-lives-matter/

from here http://fusion.net/story/382776/amir-talai-viral-photo-womens-march-nice-white-ladies-black-lives-matter/

These two photos were making the rounds on social media following the march and have been lingering heavy in my mind as I map out my action plans for the coming days. I have not been as active or as vocal as I could have been. There's that saying "put your money where your mouth is," but the problem is, I kind of need to put my mouth where my money is. I've happily given as much as I can financially to causes I believe in. But I have yet to march in a Black Lives Matter rally. I just voted in a mid-term election for the first time this past fall and mostly only so I could show off about it on Instagram. I do call my senator every time there was a mass shooting (so like, once a week), but I never really follow up, I just kind of check it off the list and move on. In high school and college I used to be so active in community engagement and then when I moved to New York I just kind of stopped. I'll do some outreach here and there but I've never made it a cornerstone of my life the way I used to and I'm ashamed of that. 

I suppose I have Donald Trump - and Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan, and Betsy "Dolores Umbridge" Devos, and the whole motley, racist, misogynist, homophobic crew - to thank for ultimately being the straw that broke my back, for lighting the fire that's been simmering inside of me, untended, for all of these years. I'm fired the fuck up. And should I have been protesting years ago? PROBABLY. Could I have been better about being engaged with the community? FOR SHEEZY. But is it too late to get started now? Is it too late to make a change? is it too late to apologize? No, Justin Bieber, it's never too late. Don't tell me what I can't do! 

And I'm saying this both because it's like, a rah-rah, inspiring end to this blog post, but also, mostly because of accountability. Studies show that if you tell a people you'll do something - go on a diet, quit smoking, whatever - you may be more likely to actually go through with it. And anecdotal data has shown that I, personally, am very motivated by a fear of letting people down or being considered a failure. And also by attention, ha. So I figured if I told all of the millions of people who read this blog (hey mom!) that I was going to try to become a better citizen, well, maybe I would. 

We'll see! 

Now tell me - did you march? Where? How was it for you? How are YOU taking action and accountability in the coming days? I'm all ears for suggestions! Conversely, do you have totally different viewpoints that me and want to have a respectful discussion? I'm working hard to be a better listener, so I'd really love to hear from you.

Fired Up, Ready to Go -

Liz  

 

HOTT READS: Volume Two

Guys, I don't know about you but I have been on a kick with the literature lately! One of the great things about my job is that I get to read books for a living. Dreamy. And yet, I'll often find myself drawing a blank when people ask if I've read anything good lately - either I've been reading books for work I might not necessarily pick up for funsies or I'm reading so far ahead my answer is all "yes! This amazing book but it doesn't come out for three years but it's gonna be hayuuuge so...stay tuned!" and that always feels vaguely pretentious and doesn't really help anyone in the here and now, does it?

But luckily for all of y'all I have apparently been neglecting my job bigtime lately and am SUPER behind in work reading but absolutely ripping through non required reading in all my spare time. 

Whoops? 

I mean, at least I'm still reading. I'm keeping those brain muscles fresh! Contributing to the greater literary conversation. Employee of the year! 

Ok enough rambling, without further ado, herewith are some #hottreads I've been digging.  As always, you can find all of my recommendations at the HottReads tab above and I'd LOVE to hear what you've been reading lately! Clearly I'm on a real bookish binge so hit me with that good stuff. 

celeste yay

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I actually read this a while back, but it just came out in paperback so it's fresh on my mind. Plus it's one of my favorite novels in ages! 

15-year-old Lydia, the favored daughter of a Chinese American family living in a small Ohio university town in the 1970's is found dead in the town lake and Ng brings their story back and forth in time, exploring how they cope with this loss and the layers of family history that formed who they are today. It's a bit of a literary thriller in that way - how did Lydia end up in that lake? Is someone to blame? - but more it is a deeply intimate look at the inner workings of an ordinary family navigating extraordinary sorrow. 

This phrase is bandied about pretty fast and loose but I, for real, could not put this book down. So much so that, my nose buried in the pages, I ended up getting on the wrong train home from work one day, finding myself deep in a different portion of Brooklyn, miles away from home. Not in the mood to re-try public transit, I got a cab and finished the novel by the faint glow of the Taxi TV, weeping in the backseat the whole ride home.

And, for what it's worth, and to me it's worth quite a bit, I've met Celeste Ng and she's just the loveliest, most gracious, wonderful person. 

Buy this book! Just do it as a favor to your old pal Liz! 

Recommended for: fans of The Lovely Bones, people who love a good cry (in the back of a taxi or elsewhere), anyone and everyone 

naming these real weird because I don't know SEO

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Part love story, part war novel, part rumination on the addictive thrall of danger, The Lotus Eaters follows three photographers based in Saigon during the Vietnam war: Helen, a rookie struggling to prove her worth as a woman in a "mans world," and the two men she's torn between, hotshot American Sam Darrow and his Vietnamese assistant Linh. 

Upon typing out that extremely general plot synopsis, this sounds very Lifetime Original Movie and it could easily veer in that direction,but Soli draws her characters (especially Helen!) so vividly and honestly, elevating the love triangle above a cheesy trope. This book is sad, sexy and suspenseful, pulsing with the wild energy of Vietnam, the horror of war and the seductive power of ambition.  

And while The Lotus Eaters certainly had special meaning for me reading it having literally just stood in many of the spaces Soli writes about, you definitely don't need to have been to 'Nam to be drawn right in.  

Recommended for: photography geeks, people who are depressed my honeymoon recaps are nearly completed, anyone who has been or plans to visit Vietnam 

lynsey.jpg

It's What I Do by Lynsey Addario

Reading The Lotus Eaters had me suddenly obsessed with stories of photojournalists, especially female photojournalists and I remembered: aha! This memoir had been sitting on my bookshelf at work for months. Surely you saw one of the zillions of reviews, features and interviews surrounding this book's release earlier this year, 'twas unmissable.

(Note: saying a book's release is "unmissable" is pretty much the highest compliment one can grant a publicist so a huge hat tip to Lynsey's team. Clapping emoji!!)

Basically Lynsey Addariois a certified badass, fullstop. She has photographed some of the most dangerous places in the world, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, The Sudan, often the only woman in the field. Her unique perspective allowed her to get intimately close to women and families in that area and her photography is extraordinary. And she's such a brilliant writer, too. You understand, deeply, why she is so impassioned about telling these stories, why she can't pull herself away from the work even after being kidnapped and seeing colleagues die in the field. 

And talk about having it all - as a woman, she faces both frightening sexual harassment as well as the sort of low level daily sexism that women face every. single. day. She gets double the judgement her male colleagues get over her choices to postpone marriage and parenthood to follow her career, and triple that scrutiny when she does decide to become a mother and try to balance the dangerous job with motherhood. It's fine for a father to leave his wife and kids at home to chase a story but a mother do the same? Oh, the humanity! 

Though I remain convinced that war journalism is not a career I'm cut out for, I understand entirely why Lynsey and others in her field feel called to do the work. And I do believe it is a true calling. Brave and necessary work! 

Recommended for: people who just finished The Lotus Eaters and are now obsessed with female photojournalists, actual female photojournalists, badass ladies across the globe, snoots who like reading books before they become films so they can act all superior to their friends in the movie theater (Jennifer Lawrence is slated star in the movie version soon!) 

Royal We hottsauce book review

The Royal We by Jessica Morgan & Heather Cocks

Switching a full 180 from The Sudan to Kensington Palace, this is basically Will and Kate fan fiction as penned by two of the funniest lady writers out there. 

Obviously this is going to speak to a pretty specific set of readers, so to you I say: it's even better than you think it will be!!! It's smart, well plotted, emotionally compelling, witty, wonderfully populated with relatable characters, just a pure delight.

A DELIGHT!!!

Recommended for: you know exaaaaaactly who you are. 

Americanah and SEO and hottreads and yay

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Speaking of badass ladies, Chimamanda is a boss. If you've yet to watch her TEDX Talk "We Should All Be Feminists," might I suggest hopping to like, right now? Here, I'll make it easy for you: 

PREACH!!

Can white people say "preach?"

That segues nicely into my recommendation for Americanah, as it is a novel that is very much about race. Through the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, high school sweethearts who grew up in Nigeria's middle class before immigrating to America (Ifemelu, on a scholarship) and England (Obinze, illegally), Adichie explores the myriad ways we talk about (or, quite often don't talk about) race in the 21st Century. She made me think and sometimes cringe and often laugh out loud. 

Because, oh yeah, life lessons aside: this is a hell of a book. Jumping back and forth in time, from Philadelphia to Lagos to London to Newark and back, she follows Ifemelu and Obinze as they fall in love, fall apart, grow up and grow into themselves. All of the characters, main and tertiary, are portrayed so wholly you can instantly picture exactly who they are and how they talk and what makes them tick.

And! For the second time this post, a book turned my commute into a whole thingggg! And it's a really log weird story and now I'm going to tell you all about it! 

So. I was riding home from happy hour one Friday evening, about halfway through Americanah when the man next to me turned to me and asked "do you like that book?"

I lept for glee (internally. I wasn't about to actually get up from my coveted subway seat. I ain't no dummy). As we all know, I ALWAYS hope/assume that people are paying tons of attention to me and then get super-duper sad when it turns out that oh hey, they're not. But this guy WAS!!! 

Doubling the fun, he was a middle aged black gentleman. 

I happened to be reading this particular novel during the uprising in Baltimore a few weeks back, so between that whole mess and the book, I was very finely attuned to discussions on how to sensitively and compassionately talk about race. The three top tips I'd gleaned were to 1. LISTEN, 2. Ask polite questions to anything you don't understand, and 3. Not try to one-up or insert your own experiences into anyone else's personal story. You may have been a victim of hardship or racism or any number of things, but they have no bearing on another person's unique experience.

Those are, honestly, just pretty solid rules for living life as an empathetic human person. 

ANYWAY long story so long and borderline preachy, here I was, a brain full of white guilt and current events, being asked by an older black man to comment on a book about race. OH HAYL YES. It was my moment to shine. Liberal white people dream of nothing more than opportunities to show off just how open-minded we are. 

"How do I like the book?" I turned to him. "I LOVE it." 

He looked at me, made a face and snorted "hated it."

I started to sweat. Was this book actually garbage? Am I just a yuppie white girl trying to make myself feel OK about my privilege by reading books about the immigrant experience? Remembering the advice I'd acquired from the 9,407 consecutive Slate articles I"d read that week, I powered on.

"Why did you hate it?" I asked politely. "I think she's a wonderful writer."

"I thought she was smug," he replied. "The main character was smug. And I think the writer is smug."

At this moment I instantly forgot everything I had learned and flew into a defensive tailspin, 1. Not listening to him and 2. not asking him any more questions because, frankly, I didn't feel like hearing his answers and 3. worst of all, taking his experiences and making them allllll mine.

"OH you just called a woman SMUG?! I bet if this book was written by a man you'd appreciate it. Why must the main character be likeable? Is it just because she's female??!!" 

Etcetera. 

The man went on to stand by his assertion that the book was crap, before launching into an impassioned sales pitch about a book he DID enjoy: his own.

Turns out he was carting around a briefcase full of bound excerpts from his self-published copies of his memoir. He gave me one. If I wanted the rest, I could buy it online. 

Cool beans!

So lesson 4, I guess, is that, quite often, no matter what race or creed or gender, people juuust want to talk about themselves.

I mean, I know I do.

So in the time I just told you that story you could basically read a novel written by a member of every race on the planet earth. 

Moral of it all is that this is a VERY good book and I think you should super read it. And yes, duh, I'm a yuppie white girl trying to make myself feel OK about my privilege but also I wholeheartedly believe that we ALL should be reading a LOT LOT LOT more stories written by and about people outside of our own demographic circle, in just one tiny step towards better understanding one another as members of the same human race...while still having lots o' fun reading excellent literature. 

 I bet ya'll didn't think I could get that deep, didja?! Well I can, so there ya go. Americanah

Recommended for: human beings, yuppie white people hoping to get into uncomfortable arguments about race and gender on the subway, people trying to sell their self-published memoirs, fans of "immigrant literature" (see also: Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amy Tan...just to name a few!) 

I think that's just about enough books and ranting to keep you occupied for a few weeks. I, however, am about to find myself at the last page of my current novel so someone save me before I find myself doing the responsible thing and being good at my job again  - tell me quick: what should I read next?!?!

And you BETTAH not suggest that train guy's memoir. Or your own!

Yours in love and literature,

Liz Hott