Snowquester Cogitations

Pleasant Progressive1It’s snowing in Washington, D.C. and the federal government has shut itself down. The Hill is still working, though it’s very unclear for what purpose. In observance of my semi-snowday—watching white stuff fall, stuck at work doing not much of anything important—I’d like to celebrate with a few random thoughts which I’ll thematically label “snowquester cogitations.”

First, have you heard of Tig Nataro? Last fall, a dear friend of mine went through one of the more painful sequences of her life, which culminated in her fiancé spending a month in the ICU and her closest friends hosting a fundraiser to pay for his medical bills on their would-have-been wedding night. It totally sucked. Around that time, I was introduced to Nataro’s comedic work.

Nataro is now pretty famous for her stand-up set from August 2012. She earned accolades from Louis C.K. and many others—it’s worth listening to, or at least reading about. Nataro had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, weeks after losing her mother, breaking up with her girlfriend, and suffering from some weird gastro issues. Nataro showed up to the stage literally the night she learned about her cancer with honesty, openness, grace and humor that has really touched people in an transcendent way. I listened to her after leaving my dear friend’s side and felt inspired. Somehow, this cool lady was able to stay steady in her craft through such senseless tumult in her life. She was funny, her material was poignant, and it reflected the experiences that so many of us trudge through at least a handful of times in our lives.

At some point soon, I’d like to write more about humor—mostly to contrast Nataro’s style with the likes of Daniel Tosh (Tosh.0), who last year made an offensive rape joke and then threatened an audience member who objected. He apologized and argued that “there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them.” I think Nataro proves you can certainly joke about awful things—and I love the idea of feminist humor. More on this soon.

Second, I read recently that comprehensive immigration reform negotiations are on track largely because of early morning conversations at the Senate gym. Senators apparently get to work extra early so they can work out in a private space, away from media and staff. It makes sense that conversations would ensue, and that these behind-closed-doors (however sweaty) talks would go a long way toward collaboration after workouts are done.

Of course, it also makes sense that this space is incredibly gendered—offering a 21st century remake of the dark, smoky room:

That is one of the catches to this club, like so many others in Washington. There is a separate locker room and smaller workout space for the Senate’s 20 female senators. Although few members of the early-morning crew said they had seen women on their side of the gym, or ever seen the women’s workout room, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said she has used the primarily male workout room. “I’d be fine with it being all opened up, and I think actually that would be a good thing [because] it’s not a real big gym, to make it larger,” Ayotte said Wednesday afternoon. “But I do go over to the other side to use the equipment, and it’s no big deal.”

Senator Ayotte says it’s no big deal, and maybe so. But a sanctioned and even celebrated (working out is great, right?) mechanism for keeping women sequestered away from where powerful men let their guard down and actually get along smells bad in my book. And I’m not just talking about the gym.

Did you notice my humor? The use of the word of the hour? Huh? Did you? On that note, my final musing is a snowquester special: as we all know, the real sequester went into effect this past Friday because Republicans refused to negotiate a deal that required them to raise revenues. Nobody in Washington wanted to repeal the Budget Control Act, or take ownership over what indiscriminant ten percent cuts will mean for the full array of government services we rely on. So here we are, living under sequester, waiting for the sky to fall.

Kind of like this snowstorm in D.C., some have argued that it isn’t a big deal and life has to go on. Who cares if our schools take big cuts or nobody is there when you dial 911? Even if you want to toe the line that the sequester is as big a deal as the snowquester, the comparison is far from workable.  In my case, the skies will clear. Unfortunately for our society—and humanity, really—NIH will now lose $1.6 billion in researching diseases like breast cancer. Over half a million women will be dropped from what is our modern-day food stamps program. Five million families will lose access to prenatal care. And tens of thousands of women will lose access to shelters and services because of cuts to domestic violence programs.

Not cool. Not even cool enough to snow.

With love,
The Pleasant Progressive

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