#WhoRunsTheWorld (Or #NowWhat)

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“Who runs the world?” -Beyonce (Women do, duh.)

Saturday’s global Women’s Marches scattered expectations, supporting various causes that included women’s rights, immigration reform, health care reform, environment protection, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, workers’ rights and to give Donald Trump the finger. A reported 673 marches took place worldwide, and in my hometown of Reno, over 10,000 men women and children took to the main street with signs and chants, positivity and hope.

So,now what?

My biggest fear is this movement will slowly fade as the year progresses. Where do we go from here? Despite my admiration for the high turn out of this weekend’s protests, what will be most impressive is what we do by putting our words and feelings into actions. Movements are not just about dramatic marches- they’re everyday acts of resistance, creating the positive change and seeing growth with issues we marched for.

First off, VOTE! Vote in your upcoming city, county and state elections! That is the biggest way to have your voice be heard. Support who and what what you believe in. Call, write and email your city’s and state’s representatives about the issues that you are concerned about the most.

Start by donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, the ACLU and the National Lawyer’s Guild. Also, support media outlets like NPR that provide the public with reliable journalism.

I also understand if you’re broke (you and I both!). One of the simplest thing you can do is not be a passive observer if you see someone being mistreated. Stand up when you see someone being teased or harassed. Tell the abuser that they are wrong. One of the best way to support women, people of color, the LGBTQ, etc, is to stand up for them and never be complacent on something you believe will advance their position in society, as well as their happiness and safety.

If you are more community orientated, volunteer at one your local non-profits. Organize a toiletry drive for a local women’s shelter (shelters often need sanitary napkins and tampons the most). Spend some time at your local animal shelter- kitties and puppies need love, too. Get involved with political and advocacy groups in your area. Get off your couch, step out of your comfort zone, meet some cool people and make plans to change the world!

Remember that the resistance doesn’t stop with the march- we need to keep the drumbeat going and the pressure on from all sides and state. There is no “right” way to get involved- you simply need to get out there. Figure out what works for you. Then do it. JUST DO IT. Fight on, dear reader!


The FIRST EVER (!!!) Reno SlutWalk

Saturday, September 6th- the Reno SlutWalk was underway!

Slut. Ho. Tramp. Whore. Bitch. Those words are heard by women on the daily. How many times do you hear those words thrown around in a casual conversation- words that we think are the norm but really hurt us deep down inside?

But words are only the beginning. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Assault is something that is still not openly spoken about. Today’s women assume that the name calling and sidewalk whistling are a part of everyday life. But there are many people who know that this is wrong and should not be tolerated. Hence creation of the SlutWalk.

Participants made their own signs. There were so many funny and clever ones- this one was one of my favorites... "Catcalls are not compliments."

Participants made their own signs. There were so many funny and clever ones- this one was one of my favorites… “Catcalls are not compliments.”

Reno hosted the city’s first SlutWalk this past Saturday. It was a huge undertaking but it created AMAZING results. Over 125 people- men, women, children and a couple of dogs- marched from the ReTrac Plaza to the Second Street police station, stopping to pose under the infamous Reno arch for a great group photo. There was a sign making session, fun costumes and inspiring speeches. The entire experience moved me to tears and made me so incredibly proud of my city.

The first SlutWalk was in Toronto in April 2011. The organizer, Sonya Barnett, created the event in part of a response to a Toronto police officer telling a York University safety forum, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

SlutWalks aims to take back the word, “slut” and all its variations, transforming the negative meaning into an empowered one. They encourage women to wear whatever they chose to without feeling any shame nor victim blaming. They teach men and women not to rape and how to peacefully fight back against those who hurt others verbally and physically.

Parents brought their children along, which was pretty amazing. I loved all our mini protesters!

Parents brought their children along, which was pretty amazing. I loved all our mini protesters!

There was a couple kinks in the road- the organization of the walk was a little crazy. We got a couple complaints, ranging from the name of the walk to people thinking the event was a downtown pub crawl. But in the end, all the stress and anxiety I had about the SlutWalk melted away. All I wanted to do was spread our positive message and have our voices be heard.

I know that things are not going to change overnight. There will still be catcalling and hating and sexual violence. But with time and respect from everyone, Reno- the United States, our ENTIRE world, can be a safer and more positive place to live and work. Together, we change our home, our city, for the better. The SlutWalk aspires to show that sexual assault and cruelty are not way of life- respect and acceptance is.

Thank you all again for being a part of the movement on Saturday. See you next year!

Thoughts from Your Local Journalist

Today was a hard day; not only as a journalist but as a human being. I went to Sparks Middle School to cover today’s shooting for the Sparks Tribune to talk with students and parents about the incident (for those who are unaware of today’s event- a student brought in a handgun to Sparks Middle School this morning and shot at several people. A math teacher and former Marine, Michael Landsberry, was shot and killed while protecting a student). As much as I tried to be stoic and professional, I wanted badly to drop my notepad and camera to hug these individuals. The amount of tears I saw this morning was overwhelming but at the same time, I was happy to tell these people’s stories.

A lot people criticize today’s journalism as being insensitive and callous. But my journalistic peers and I strive to tell and show the truth. After reading various media sites, where people commented on how terrible people we journalists are for reaching out at the scene for stories, I want to remind everyone that we are people, too, and we do feel for our story subjects. My heart breaks for the students and staff at Sparks Middle School. As thrilling of a news day it was for me today, I hope to never report on such a tragedy again.

This and That

I’m the president of the Procrastinator Club (okay, not really!).

I’m loving life and the stuff I’m doing (most of the time). Work at the newspaper is going great. I’m busy developing a start-up and am trying to focus in on school. My relationship with my boyfriend, Nathan, is better than ever. Most days, I wake up and I go go go- biking to work and to interviews, back home to change and bike out to grab dinner and drinks with friends or a snuggle session with Nate. Most days, after running around all over town and spending a good chunk of time in front of my work computer, by the time I get home I’m exhausted and don’t feel like blogging. I do beat myself up about my lack of personal writing- that I’m the president of the Procrastinator Club- but then I’m reminded to be kind to myself. As much as I want to be Superwoman and get everything on my to-do done, there is no way that I can get it all done. I’m doing my best and I do deserve a break sometime.

Even though I haven’t posted in a while, I still think about 20Something topics all the time- things I think people would like to read about, things that are relevant. From the recent government shutdown that has affected my friends in the AmeriCorps, to sexual psyche questions I had after watching “Don Jon,” my brain is buzzing with things to write about. Often times I’m riding my bike and something pops into my head. I drift over, pull a pen out my purse and write down whatever in my head (I don’t recommend doing this as I once almost got ran over by a truck).

The following are the things I’ve been thinking about the last couple weeks. I might develop them into longer posts (or I just may not, depending on time and my schedule). ‘Til then…

Halloween is coming up. I feel weird writing this (maybe I lost my party gene) but I want to stay home and hand out candy this year. Maybe set a booby trap for the neighborhood kids. I know that Halloween is that one time of the year girls across our fine nation get to dress provocatively (thank you, “Mean Girls!”). But lately, I’ve been thinking about how society shames women when they dress quote-unquote slutty.

Are these women really "sluts?"

Are these women really “sluts?”

Why? When I got out clubbing, I wear a short dress with low-heeled shoes (so I can get my groove-thang on without falling). I love to dance and get pretty sweaty when I do (hence the small amount of clothing). Why am I labeled a “tramp” then when I decide to wear a little dress, rather than something heavy that will soak up my sweat?

When I was living in NYC, I participated in the Slut Walk (an event Reno will eventually host- hopefully). I walked in the Walk, wearing shorts and a thin tank top. During the walk, I talked with a woman about why mainstream television shows blood and violence instead of breasts. I don’t understand it. Why doesn’t our society accept something natural and beautiful as a pair of breasts on primetime television? Is the naked body more horrifying than a dead one?

I just came back from having dinner with friends at a downtown establishment. As much as I’m happy to go out and be social, I don’t know if I’m exactly “friends” with these people. I haven’t seen a few of them in years and neither of us were close before. Perhaps that was why I was in such as hurry to leave. I don’t remember what I have in common with those people anymore. Is it my social anxiety that’s kicking it? Or maybe we aren’t in each other’s lives for a reason….

My boyfriend refers to me as the “social butterfly” but I know myself as the “Vine Street Recluse.” Truth be told- I’m fine being alone and I think tonight, I rather have spent this time alone. Why it is so awkward to spend time with people, especially people haven’t seen in years?

My university is asking its students whether or not they want to pay a semesterly fee to the construction of a new gym facility on campus. I understand that such things like a new gym would help bring students in- thus, bringing in money- but universities are foremost places to learn. Why don’t we spend more money on academics? I’m starting to think that students nowadays are being fooled- or perhaps they’re dumber than they appear. Would you want to go to a college that has stellar academic programs or have a decent gymnasium facility? (I can’t wait to read the results of this survey.)

I’m embarrassedly obsessed with new Fall Out Boy album- just thought the world should know how amazing it is (especially Patrick Stump’s vocals).

Tell me dear reader- what has been on your mind lately? I hope you’re well and are loving your life as much as I’m loving mine. Now, if you can excuse me- I’m off to meet a friend for a nightcap. Or four.

I Am an AmeriCorps VISTA

When I tell people that I’m VISTA, they get confused. Honestly, I don’t blame them. I’ve been an AmeriCorps VISTA for about four months now and I still have no idea what the hell what is it and what I’m supposed to be doing. Instead of repeating the VISTA history and its mission and blah blah blah of the organization (you can Google it all), I’ll tell you what I know and how I got to where I am.

I was laid off from my restaurant job in November. After that happened, I applied to every job I read on Craigslist. Nothing came up and soon, I had no money for rent or food. I got desperate and thought about leaving the state (Nevada has the worst unemployment rate in the entire country). However, I was encouraged to apply to the AmeriCorps from the director of the shelter I was volunteering at. Out of options, I filled out the application and was “hired” a week, later. I had to wait two months for my position to actually start (which was incredibly difficult since I didn’t have any money and was living in an unpleasant living situation) but after a weeklong orientation, I started at the homeless shelter I once volunteered at.

VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. We “volunteer” our time to help eliminate poverty at the local level. You’re given a VAD, which is an acronym for a piece of paper that details your job description and are placed in a local non-profit that needs serious help but can’t afford to hire full-time, “real” employees. When you agree to become a VISTA, you commit to a year of service at your site. A lot of people don’t make it through the full year, though (I think about quitting all the time). My VAD is pretty simple: I’m to design the shelter website, create a monthly newsletter and request donations from community members and local businesses. I have a year to all this. I’m not cranky about this even though I’m half-way thorough my VAD’s task list. I’ve had several setbacks at the shelter. For the first month, I didn’t have a computer and internet at my office. So, I “worked” for two hours before going home for the day. Even now with things to do, my most of my day is spent gabbing with my officemate and trying to work on my lackluster writing career (a dream that I hope will blow up and be wildly successful one day). My office still doesn’t have a phone or a fax machine even though we were promised that on day one. The communication in my office can get and is often jumbled. A lot gets lost in the mix and half the time, no one knows what’s going on. I assumed with working at the homeless shelter that I would have a lot of interaction with homeless clients but I spend every day in front of my computer. I don’t know about the other VISTAs around town or around the country but I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. I’m not eliminating poverty. I’m playing around on Microsoft Publisher all day, trying to perfect font sizes to my boss’s specifications. I won’t lie- part of me expected to save my corner of the world when I signed up to be a VISTA. But I’m not saving anyone. I leave my office almost every day, feeling incredibly low and disappointed.

As a VISTA, we aren’t paid a salary. Instead, we receive bi-weekly stipends. The amount of these stipends depends on region of the country you live in (for some cities are more expensive to live in than others). These stipends don’t pay much. Because we work with poverty, the VISTA program encourages their volunteers to experience poverty and live below the poverty margin, thus the low amount of money we get every two weeks. I’ve done the math and I make $3.87 an hour during a 40-hour work week. VISTAs aren’t allowed to hold a second position even though many do find work that pays under-the-table. It’s hard living on so little especially with the unseemingly high price of rent and the rising cost of food (I don’t know how other VISTAs with car insurance payments or children to do it). Trying to save cash is tough, as well, especially when you’re me, who is looking to move out of Reno when my year of service is over. We VISTAs are a creative bunch, though. “Nights out” mostly consist of a cheap box of wine at one of our homes while bitching about being broke.

I don’t want to seem to be complaining. I do like my job, especially the other VISTAs I work with. They help fill the long hours with laughter and spontaneous dance parties. Even though I don’t feel like I’m making a difference at my site, my other VISTA friends around the city are doing good work eliminating poverty at the local level. Two of the perks of being a VISTA is receiving a $5,000 education stipend at the end of your year of service (which is great- I have four classes to finish in order to receive my bachelor’s degree and I have no money). The other good thing is that you get to be a first draft pick if you want to get into any government positions.  I hope one day to live abroad and work somewhere in Africa. An easy application process and hire into a decent paying government job would be a godsend.

As any great journalist, I researched the hell out the AmeriCorps and the VISTA program before applying. I read Anti-AmeriCorps sites (which surprisingly, there are a lot of) and I was feeling hesitant during my Pre-Service Orientation (of course, I cried right before I took the oath). I hope with those looking to join any branch of the AmeriCorps- or PeaceCorps for that matter- carefully consider their options. Remember that you’re going to be without money for a long while and that your VAD may not reflect everything you’re going to accomplish. Though I’m not 100% satisfied with my experience, I do hope things will get better. I may have joined the AmeriCorps looking for some sort of steady employment but I do have a great desire to help inspire change. I know that I probably won’t see any major improvements on my end but I do have a better insight to how our country treats its poor. No one, no matter what their background is, should be homeless and hungry. We need to take better care of each other as humanity, brothers and sisters, and I hope that work of the AmeriCorps will help motivate that.

Learning to Respect Others

When you disarm people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence.” -Machiavelli

In my last 20Something post, I wrote about volunteering and the lack of other’s community service I’ve seen recently. Maybe it my high hopes that I could inspire people’s thoughts to rise above and voices to speak up; everyone gathering in mass herds to the nearest non-profit to fill up volunteers sign-up sheets and commit to their written word. Ha, Andrea. That didn’t happen. I do salute you readers that go out and spend your free time volunteering (you really are making your small corner of the world a better place). A part of me wants to scream at everyone sitting at home, bored in front of their television or their gaming console. But then again, why should I give a fuck? Maybe I just need to be apathetic about people.

A few nights ago, I was hanging out with a friend and he introduced me to, “the Wire.” The only thing I knew about it was it’s President Obama’s favorite television program (and I can see why. I’m only half a season in but I’m in complete awe with the acting and subject matter). I watched a couple of episodes, in which one, a cop was trying to influence a drug mule to come clean in exchange for court-order protection. The deal sounded brilliant and if I was that character, experiencing the same situation, I would have taken it.

After watching that dialogue, I started thinking about trying to convince people with conflicting views to change their opinion. I’m stubborn, more than stubborn- and when I’m being criticized, I become defensive and put up my fists to block blows to my face. I’m sure others are the same- no one wants to hear that they are being lazy or heartless. I realized that these commands I was writing, these “suggestions” I was pushing, just made me sound like a whiny bitch. Sure, it’s my blog and I can write about whatever the hell I want to but still. People have to want to change. Sure, I can encourage people all I want but my words and actions can only do so much. You can lead a horse to the water bucket but you can’t make him drink out of it. So then, I wonder if it meaningful to write, to try to inspire, after all.

Everyone is entitled to their own options, their own actions, their own lifestyles. I need to learn to respect that. The judgments I made upon others are there, strong and true. I maybe be hinting at people’s mistakes indirectly but these faults I find in others just reflect in the negative ones I find in myself. The only thing I can do is just being the best person I can be and wish for the best in others and for them to only do good.