Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mail Call #12: Actually no, it's not my job

In lieu of responding to this email sender directly, I figured I'd put this out to the world in an effort to educate folks about how opinion writing can sometimes work.

I wrote you a week ago and am still waiting for an answer. Isn't it part of your job to answer reader email or only those that pander to the liberal viewpoint?

Paul from Menomonee Falls
Thanks for asking, Paul! To answer: No, it is not part of my job to answer any or all reader emails. I am a freelance writer, therefor not employed by the Journal Sentinel. I get paid a fixed amount to write a weekly column and that's it. The time I spend responding to reader emails is all pro bono/off the clock. I don't get paid for it. I still do it, though, when people send me thoughtful questions or stories or responses - yes, even those people who disagree with me, so long as it's in a coherent way that doesn't just spend a lot of time insulting my person.

Paul's first email, it should be noted, did not fall into that category.

So there you have it, friends: Not all opinion/column writers are employed by the papers that run their work. Actually, I'd venture to guess we're freelance more often than not, these days. And we don't get paid to spend time responding to all of the vitriol that finds it's way into our inboxes. You wanna throw me a few bucks to do it, though? Feel free.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mail Call #11: Through the Rabbit Hole

Boy howdy, the things people say in light of my ongoing criticism of president-elect Trump. Some people act like they ain't got no relations, I swear.

Here's a greatest hits list again, for your reading (dis)pleasure:

Why don't you just hold your breath, then? All your articles are left wing bullshit. You are obviously a lesbian liberal. Just wait and see what Donald Trump will do. It's about time that the swamp is drained. You are just a poor looser. I suppose you are also crying about young women unable to get birth control. why don't they just close their legs?
I'm bisexual, actually, but thanks. This letter was also apparently sent by another woman, which is extra depressing.

Your party has been in charge the last 8 years. Your party has been in charge of the cities forever. How is all this "racism" possible? I know it is fashionable in your circles to look down on working people who get their hands dirty, your party even wrote them off in 2011. These are the people that pay the bills and they are weary of self appointed "elites" making horrible decisions in the name of globalism and diversity.

I suggest you put on your big girl pants and go out and do an honest days work for once, if you're capable of it. Maybe you would be able to gain a little perspective, or is that beneath you ? Take a look in the mirror and stop projecting your hate on to others. Stop being a crybully. Help us to make America great again!
Ooo, "crybully" is a new one.

I asked this guy why he voted for trump. This was one of the reasons he gave:
I'm concerned about the culture of the United States. It has been kind of a Dinty Moore stew with all the different races and nationalities. I would like to keep this recipe (it tastes good) as it is which means immigrations should approximate the groups that are already here. I know you probably think I am a racist regarding Mexicans but I'm not. However ... I don't want so many in this country that it becomes a Latino dominate culture. I refuse to apologize for liking my own culture and wanting to keep it.
Frankly, I wouldn't mind living in a "Latino dominate" culture but agree to (racistly) disagree, I guess.
Face it, Emily, Donald Trump could create lasting world peace, reverse “global warming”, end all wars, do away with nukes, personally create a renewable energy fuel and cure cancer, all before he even takes office and you liberals would still hate him.

Rather than take out your vitriol against the man, why don’t you get a real job (not writing for a dying newspaper) and become part of the solution instead of bashing everything he tries. How are we ever going to move forward as a country if you snowflake liberals can’t get over the fact that America did not want a old white woman who can not tell truth if she had to. Get over it.
Dude, if Trump did all of the things listed in the first paragraph I would be STOKED. Also, you might be amazed how many people seem to honestly think that my only job is writing this column. I wish it paid enough to get by on but, um, no. Just no.

Thank God not a lot of voters think like you. if you feel so depraved living here try moving to another country see how you like it.

take ur own advice get out of ur town (Madison) from time to time see how life really is. time for u to grow up act like a responsible adult

I went to school in Madison. it is truly a fucked up community. is it bc of your generation. prolly.

I'm honestly not sure if "Blood" is this person's signature or just a vaguely threatening closing note. Regardless, I don't feel terribly "depraved" living here but I'm also going to guess that this person would look at a lot of what I choose to do with my life and disagree (if they figured out the difference between "depraved" and "deprived" anyway). C'est la vie.

The "grow up" mantra is definitely a favorite go-to of my detractors, by the way. Along with the "you stupid little girl" and "you look like a man," etc. these are all pretty clear cases of ceding the argument. If you have a valid debate point, make it. You don't need to attack someone's person to do that, so when you do, it just tells me you ain't got nothing else.
Oh Emily Emily Emily. Still spewing the same old bullcrap. Example: UNARMED black people being shot by police in disproportionate numbers. Funny, why didn't you mention about armed and unarmed black people being killed by blacks?

Why don't you mention there are more whites killed by police then black. Why don't you mention that most of these black people that are shot by police would still be living if they knew how to listen to orders. I have a lot of great examples to disclaim the bullshit you spewed, but i refuse to waste any more time trying to get you to open your eyes and see what a lot of the American people feel, but you refuse to see. DEMOCRAP POLICYS dont work, THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN! Every big city with all these killings, robbery s, rapes, car chases, and every other crime you can think of are all lead by DEMOCRAP mayors, every single 1 of them! Now you just hide in your little liberal hometown of MADISON, and stay away from Milwaukee because you know better! Why though? So repulsed by you idiots failure to admit, YOUR ALL FUCKED UP! People have spoken Emily! Milwaukee journal has lost so many subscribers because of liberal media like your self. WAKE THE F--K UP EMILY!!!!
You guys I think this person knows my name.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Best Music of 2016

It's that most wonderful time of year again, and frankly, after the shitshow that was 2016 generally, I'm grateful to have something to look back on that doesn't totally suck: music! In fact, a whole bunch of really excellent music came out this year--everything from iconic rappers A Tribe Called Quest riding in to the rescue, to the continued evolution of electro-pop into some really fucking lovely and dark-tinged jams from Tove Lo, to the warmly funky but deeply personal grooves of Solange and Frank Ocean.

There was so much good music, in fact, that I ended up having to do a lot of cutting in order to get a mix that fit onto an 80 minute CD. If you want the full list (which I'll likely be adding to a bit over the coming months, as I inevitably get introduced to other great music that came out in 2016) you can head over to Spotify for a listen.

The following is the pared down final mix. Obviously this doesn't include everything worthy of a year-end best-of list, but it's what I've been listening to and loving, and I hope you enjoy at least a few tracks. And please, as always, do what you can to buy these songs/albums and support the artists as much as you can.

Em's Best of 2016 Which Was Otherwise a Garbage Fire

  1. "True Disaster" - Tove Lo, Lady Wood
  2. "Same Old Blues" - Phantogram, Three
  3. "Don't Hurt Yourself ft. Jack White" - Beyonce, Lemonade
  4. "Smile More" - Deap Vally, Femejism
  5. "Born Again Teen" - Lucius, Good Grief
  6. "Worship" - Lizzo, Coconut Oil EP
  7. "Rendezvous Girl" - Santigold, 99cents
  8. "We the People..." - A Tribe Called Quest, We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service
  9. "Long Live the Chief" - Jidenna, single
  10. "U-Turn" - Tegan and Sara, Love You to Death
  11. "Like an Animal" - Rufus Du Sol, Bloom
  12. "Algo Esta Cambiando" - Bomba Estereo, Amanecer
  13. "Garden (ft. Jay Electronica & Aine Zion)" - Ameli Sande, Long Live the Angels
  14. "Make You Feel" - Alina Baraz, Urban Flora
  15. "Mad (ft. Lil Wayne)" - Solange, A Seat at the Table
  16. "Pink + White" - Frank Ocean, Blonde
  17. "I Can't Go On Without You" - Kaleo, A/B
  18. "Nobody" - Rachel Yamagata, Tightrope Walker
  19. "Lazarus" - David Bowie, Blackstar

Friday, December 2, 2016

Emily's Handy Guide to How I Generally Respond When People React Badly to My Presence in Women's Public Restrooms

1. Them: "Oh my God it's A MAN!" Me: "Oh my God a MAN where?! WHERE?!" *jumps, squeals as though running from a spider, makes a scene until they leave/leave me alone*

2. Them: *does a double take at the sign on the door after seeing me at the sink* Me: *dramatically stares at own body, then back at them, then around the room, then gets stone cold calm and leaves while making unbroken eye contact*

3. Them: "What the fuck?! Get OUT you're not supposed to be in here!" Me: "Oh my God I'm so sorry is this the restroom for assholes? I'll show myself out."

4. Them: *sees me at sink, runs back outside and tells/yells at someone about there being a man in the restroom* Me: *calmly finishes washing hands, checks self out in mirror, strolls out of there and makes meaningful eye contact with them, possibly also winks*

5. Them: *actually does something threatening/violent* Me: "Hi hello yes you don't get to police who you think belongs in this restroom, may I please introduce you to my friend the ACLU."

6. Them: *is startled for a moment, then realizes their mistake and smiles bashfully* Me: "It's cool, have a good day." *bows and/or curtsies and disappears into a puff of glitter and smoke*

(take care of yourselves/do what you need to do to stay safe and healthy, babes) xoxoxo

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mail Call #10: Trumpocalypse

It's been a weird, depressing week. I can only imagine it's going to get even more weird and depressing going forward into a Trump presidency (ugh, why are you making me write that, America?!). The email responses to my last MJS column - my initial response to the election results - certainly seem to back up that assessment.

Here's a Greatest Hits:
The Constitution won with Trump's election, even though I am not a fan of the man. Liberalism lost because it discriminates against any opposition to their views and agenda. Especially white Christians. You liberals believe white Christians vote on color and racism. If you knew any of us, you would know it is about policy, not skin color. Maybe people of color will finally realize why not try a Republican. Democrats sure talk a good story but have never helped us or respected us. Your young, hopefully you can be more objective in your future!
What do you say, people of color who overwhelmingly voted against Donald Trump? Why not try a Republican/demagogue? Here's another one:
When Barack Obama won two terms for the Presidency there were few, if any, protests from conservatives. Yet now there is hatred and protests across the country against Donald Trump's election. It's been said that liberals don't know how to lose graciously. I love the Packers, but if they don't win another game this season it won't bother me that much, because the real Super Bowl was November 8th and the conservatives won. Long live Democracy and America.
Conservatives didn't protest? Actually, they did. And then they went to town demonizing Obama, accusing him of being a Marxist Kenyan usurper, hanging him in effigy, and blocking him at every turn in Congress, even going so far as refusing to do their basic duty and allow a vote on his final Supreme Court nominee. The list goes on. But tell me again how y'all accepted Obama's presidency with graciousness. And then compare the election of an openly racist demagogue with a fucking Packers game.

This was a nice letter [sic]:
The citizens of this country have finally stood up to slime like you!You lazy bitches who NEVER worked a day in you life are about to be put back in your RAT holes where you belong! You and others like you have turned the democrat party into a cesspool of perverts,degenerates, and illegals! Hopefully you will be relegated to your place in history with the other EXTINCT vermin!
Hey, I like my party of perverts, degenerates, and "illegals" (i.e. human beings from various walks of life who are looking for a better life). And I've held jobs since I was 15, but that's neither here nor there, since I am apparently a lazy rat bitch (rats make good pets, FYI).
Try and get over the results of this election. I understand how Obama won the 1st time, but the 2nd time threw me for a loop because his 1st term was a failure. So is his 2nd term. But we didn't take to the streets and riot.

Americans are starved for leadership since there has been a shortage for the last 8 yrs.What Trump said over a decade ago about women does not diminish his ability to be a leader. I have heard worse in the breakroom of where I work.........from the women.

In fact, I bet you used a similar phrase at some point in your life.
Uh, no, no I have not.
A friend of mine made me aware of a article you wrote called feels like the sky is falling. I will make this short and sweet, get your head out of your ass and write a article about the rioting being done and hate crimes being done by your party the DEMOCRAPS. 1 of the many reasons i don't read the this rag the MILWAUKEE URINAL. Your a typical LIBTARD living in your own blind little world. THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN BITCH! GET OVER IT! I think your a woman, sorta hard to tell from your picture. Good day LIB! 4 years from now you will be a conservative, oh i take that back, you will still be in denial!
He seems nice.

I'll end it on this note (though I got plenty of other...entertaining...letters). This one really caught my interest. I think this gets more at the root of the disconnect in how a lot of white voters approached the election. I won't dismiss the author's feelings outright, though I still think they're based in a very privileged/white POV and experience of America. The pain and fear expressed here are real, I've no doubt. But the blame is, I think, utterly misplaced. So how do we go about addressing that in an effective way?
The people who are protesting and rioting in the streets over the election are providing positive proof that we did it right. Or at least as right as was possible.

Sure, Mr. Trump is a shining example of what we don't want in our president. I voted for him because there was no other choice. No good Republicans were left; even Bernie would have been better (a bit screwy, but probably harmless). Vote for the Bride of Satan? Never! I have read that she was kicked off the Watergate legal team in the 1980's for self-serving unethical behavior, and I would say she has gone downhill from that ever since.

The people who have been the backbone of America for generations are desperate. We (factory workers, farmers, etc.), hard workers all our lives, have watched America die for fifty years. If we passed laws they were overturned by liberal judges or simply ignored. Laws to keep out criminals (anyone who crosses the Rio Grande without papers is a criminal) are not enforced. Our jobs were sent to China or given to illegals. We were (are) ignored.

We might not be able to return our country to greatness, as Mr. Trump wants. It is probably too late for that. But maybe we can reverse things for a bit, slow down America's death spiral. Like a cancer patient being offered dangerous surgery that won't cure him but might give him some extra time (four years?).

We simply voted for Trump because we felt we had no other choice. There is a good chance that we will fail quickly, but he is simply the only hope we have left.
I mean, how do you show someone who thinks Trump is "the only hope we have left" that he and his ilk represent a very real and present danger to them? White folks, we have a lot of work to do on our own people. And it's going to take enormous reserves of compassion, and a willingness to get out of our own bubbles to talk to/get to know people from all walks of life. The emotional (and physical) labor of talking about how race and class impact our country and day-to-day lives has too long fallen on the shoulders of people of color / those actively and often violently oppressed by the status quo. We need to step the fuck up.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mail Call #9: Michelle Litjens says hello

I am thrilled to report that none other than former state rep Michelle Litjens wrote a letter to the editor in response to my recent column making the case for why we need more women in politics, tying it to legislation over women's health and reproductive rights. Litjens, if you don't remember, was part of the Republican controlled Legislature that passed Act 10 (the extreme, anti-union measure that prompted months of protest in the state), as well as being a hardcore anti-choice, pro-gun advocate. So the ideological bent of her letter should make a bit more sense, in that context. I appreciate that she took time to respond, so I've done the same (in bold, below):

In response to Emily Mills’ article on Oct. 23, “Needed: More women in politics,” while she is absolutely correct about that statement she is completely wrong about others (Crossroads).
We do need more women in politics. When I served in the Legislature, women were less than a quarter of the representatives. But I am unaware of any “institutional and systemic barriers” to women running for office. In fact, the common saying is true: “When women run, women win.” That's just...not a factual statement. Lots of women lose their races. I'm not even say they always lose because of sexism, but to claim that women always win when they run just doesn't make any damn sense. Also, just because you, a single human being, are "not aware" of certain things does not mean those don't exist. This is a fairly straight-forward concept for most.
Women are less likely to run for office because of lifestyle choices candidates are forced to make every day. Will a candidate attend a pancake breakfast, church picnic, fall festival or his or her kid’s basketball game? This choice is easier for a man to make than a woman. Not because society says so, but because women say so. She lost me here. This makes no actual sense. Is she arguing that men have an easier time putting work before their family? I'm honestly not even sure, this statement is so convoluted. Regardless of the details, though, those "choices candidates are forced to make every day" and how men vs. women respond to them is very much tied up in those aforementioned institutional and systemic barriers--a culture that demands completely different levels of accountability from for mothers vs fathers, pays women less for their work, etc.
My exception to Mills’ article is her comments about third-term abortions. It isn’t true that “hardcore anti-abortion activists continue to spout harmful lies” about third-term abortions. Maybe Mills was unaware that abortionist Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia was sentenced to life in prison for murder. Aaaand PIVOT.
In the grand jury’s report, Gosnell didn’t call it murder, he called it “ensuring fetal demise.” And how did he accomplish this demise? The jury wrote, “The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that ‘snipping.’ ” Kermit Gosnell's case is an aberration, and does not reflect anything remotely close to medical best practices in terms of abortion procedure and women's health. He was (rightfully) punished for gross malpractice. What he was doing is already illegal even with the protections provided by Roe v. Wade. And it was a single case. Litjens has long been an advocate for doing away with abortion rights, and during her time in the Legislature sponsored bills that significantly chipped away at (especially rural) women's right to access comprehensive and scientifically-based reproductive care.
Please, Ms. Mills, don’t patronize me by saying we need more women in politics because we need more abortion proponents (it was men who upheld Roe vs. Wade). We need more women in office because women bring a different thought process to the room. We contribute ideas during bill draftings that men just don’t think about because of our differing life experiences. She makes my argument for me. Though I do believe the debate over reproductive rights and women's health would be very, very different had women been at the table all along, I also don't for a moment believe all women think exactly alike on that, or any, issue. But Litjens and I are in agreement that we need more women in office because women bring a different thought process and set of experiences to the room.
Elected women are valued for far more than just their reproductive rights. And, I might also remind Mills, that many of us women would end that reproductive right at birth control.
Michelle Litjens
Former state representative
56th District, 2011-’12
Again, my biggest takeaway here is that Michelle is willfully ignorant of the fact that even she is the product of systemic sexism. It's a little easier when you're a right-leaning white woman, of course, but even then I'm not keen to drive wedges between people who should be fighting to lift each other up over an oppressive system that hurts us all. The first step is learning that we all have different experiences and outlooks, and that just because you personally have not experienced something doesn't invalidate that experience for someone else. And that just because you, personally, would not make a certain decision--doesn't give you the right to dictate whether or not it might be the right thing for someone else.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mail Call #8: Men would like me to think about Bill Clinton

Catching up with emails in response to my recent article about Trump and rape culture. SO MANY men, all saying the exact same damn thing, like broken, paternalistic mandroids:

Emily not once did you mention Bill Clinton in your article? Something to think about.
I was reading your column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel regarding the treatment of woman at the hands of rich and powerful men and I notice something that was conspicuously absent. There wasn’t any mention of former president Bill Clinton.
Didn't see Bill Clintons name even once in your column. It's really sad that liberal journalists can bring themselves to cover an issue from both sides.
...there are a lot of people who can't tell the difference between reporters and opinion columnists, y'all.

These entries go on, and on.

Let me put this simply:
  1. Bill Clinton is not currently running for president. Trump is.
  2. Trump is on tape bragging about committing sexual assault.
  3. Hillary Clinton is not personally responsible for any crimes her husband may have committed.
I will end on this incredibly on-point post made by a friend of a friend, because it should be the most important take away from all of this:

Liberal friends: you know what's not cool? Posting a link to allegations of rape against Trump and then trying to demonize Juanita Broaddrick et al for allegations against Bill Clinton. You're not forensic investigators. You're not gonna blow holes in decades-old rape cases, and you damn well shouldn't be trying.
Conservative friends: you know what's not cool? Defending Trump's harassment and rape and misogyny by pointing out someone else did those things, too. That doesn't make it ok! Two people doing rape just means both people are horrible! Also unfair: making Hillary culpable for all of her husband's sins. She certainly has things to answer for, but she didn't rape anybody. Keep that in mind, please.
Oh, are there inconsistencies in someone's story? Yeah, I bet if you ask me about my rape you'll find inconsistencies in mine; it was years ago and, you know, traumatic. Do these accusers have something to gain? Maybe, but I can tell you as a fact that they probably suffer a lot more than they gain by making up stories like this; look at the way all these women have been dragged through the mud for decades. Rape has a false reporting rate of about 4%, just like most other crimes. While it's possible these stories are made up, it's very very very likely that they are not, especially when so many women have come forward.
Listen up, y'all: WE DON'T GET TO PICK WHICH VICTIMS WE BELIEVE BY WHICH CANDIDATE THEY SUPPORT. If you want justice for rape victims (and you damn well better) then you need to accept that even someone you support might be a horrible person, even if this fact makes your decision making suddenly very morally fraught and messy.
So if you are outraged about Trump or Bill Clinton, that's good! It's good to be outraged about people who molest, demean, assault, and otherwise abuse others. But don't act like your opponent's accusers are all telling the truth while the ones accusing your team are all liars. Every victim deserves justice.
The Lost Albatross