Learning to FIght for Her Rights

Until this summer, I had never protested anything in my life. My
mother burned her bra in New York City in 1967 in support of
women’s rights, then marched around Manhattan braless afterward, an
experience she describes, ironically, as “uplifting.” But I hail
from the Slacker generation, a group of jaded navel gazers so lazy
that our loudest public outcry to date has been the collective
“bummer” mumbled the day Starbuck’s discontinued its Raspberry
Mocha Chip Frappuccino. (Why? Why!)


Over the last three months, though, while protesting the
management policies of my former employer, the Santa Barbara
News-Press, I learned that standing up for what you know to be
right is exhilarating. It’s also frightening. And when you’re
trying to look defiant in front of TV news cameras as your kitten
heels sink into the grass of the public plaza, well, it’s awkward
at best.

What I never knew before I raised my first public fist of power
is that, whether you’re torching undergarments or demanding
integrity in the press, righteous indignation can be freaking
exhausting. It’s tough, you see, to sustain both the energy and
decorum required of a juicy and drawn-out public fight. You must be
the very model of a sober soldier, though you’ve never needed a
drink so badly in your life. You must ever endeavor to embody the
morality of your cause, despite your gnawing inclination to say
something truly profane to your direct supervisor. Twice. Former
colleagues of mine let their gardens go to seed and their bills
pile up while they made phone calls to lawyers, collected
signatures from subscribers, wrote press releases, distributed
posters, and hunted down sound equipment for our protests.

This tug between the Right to Assemble and the Need to Have
Groceries threatened to tear me in two on the day of a major public
rally, during which we reporters had agreed to stand in solidarity,
wearing black to signify the solemnity of our professional
situation: My infant son awakes with a raging fever and drippy
nose, making him unwelcome at daycare. My dryer breaks, leaving me
to choose between two categories of black clothing — too wet and
too slutty. I arrive at the rally late. With bad hair. And snot on
my shoulder. The event’s speeches — probably very inspiring — are
drowned out by a continuous news scroll in my head that reads, “No
food in the house. … How much is a new dryer? … Column due in two
hours … Can babies get bird flu?”

That evening, while dashing through Trader Joe’s with my sick
son, I am interviewed via cell phone by a reporter from another
paper. I’m knocking food into my cart, shoving Cheerios into the
baby’s frowning pie hole, and failing to sound profound or even
literate when I drop a container of lemon yogurt on the floor. It
splatters across my shoes, and those of everyone around me.

I am not noble David in the face of Goliath. I am Larry, Moe,
and Curly with a picket sign. For me, the finest moments of the
News-Press conflict so far have been recognizing the good company
of the protesters around me — in the ribcage-rattling chant of
rightfully angry readers, or the collective yelp and subsequent
laughter of my fellow journalists as we ripped the duct tape from
our mouths before heading back to work.

Now that I’ve experienced the unique adrenaline rush of
agitation, you’ll probably see me at more protests: political
marches, perhaps a sit-in or two. But I’d like to go on record as
saying that when it comes to standing up for one’s rights, I don’t
think bra-burning is the way to go. Protesting, it turns out, isn’t
something you want to enter into without support.

See more of Starshine at www.starshineroshell.com.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.