Happy Grandmother’s Day!

Photo of the cover of Paola Gianturco's book Grandmother Power, a global phenomenon
My father’s mother, Sarah Dukelski, died when I was very young. I don’t have any “real” memories of her, only “virtual” ones. What I mean is that my childhood memories don’t stretch back far enough to remember her. The only way I know I spent time with her is because of the “virtual memories” in my father’s photographs of me sitting in her lap.

My mother’s mother, Viviana Mendoza, and I did share a couple decades of time on this earth. But by now she too has been gone for, well, for what is but a flicker of time to the universe, but a chasm compared to a human breath.

My father passed away in 2008. My mother is still alive and thankfully, well. My daughter turned 21 six weeks ago! So Happy Grandmother’s Day! (and Mother’s Day) to my mother, Magdalena Guerrero Blaylock, aka “Maggie Bla”.

I don’t anticipate being a grandmother myself anytime soon. But I suppose when you have a 21-year-old child, you never know.

Back in 2011 Tara Sophia Mohr was inspired by the fantastic project The Girl Effect and she organized The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign. Now in 2013 Mohr’s been inspired again, this time by Paola Gianturco’s work on Grandmother Power, and she’s organized The Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign!

Mohr offered many prompts for bloggers to motivate their post, but I didn’t get past #1 before I had to start clacking at my keyboard:
1. What kind of world do you want for your grandchildren?

I’ve been thinking about Patriarchal Culture, The Military Industrial Complex, and Slaughtering Animals, lately. Actually, I have thought about these things for a long time. But now is the first time that I’ve thought about them not as separate issues, but as a constellation, as different facets of a complex. I’m not here to bash the male gender, nor to aggrandize women, nothing is that simple. Still, when I think about these issues that I care about they do seem to have a sort of common testosteronefulness to them.

I’ve also been thinking about that old author cliche,

Men write about important things, like war;
women write about unimportant things, like families.

I think everyone recognizes this as a cliche. Even so. The world and the values that it represents are exactly upside down from the world I want to live in. It’s exactly upside down from the world I hope my grandchildren will live in.

• The culture of war is so pervasive, can we ever get past it?
• Can my grandchildren live in a world where violence toward women exists only in history?
• Is it time for me to move past “eats very little meat,” to an actual vegetarian?

Perhaps connecting Patriarchy, Misogyny, Militarism, and Carnivorism seems strained to you. I am not writing a political platform. I am not writing a marketing brochure. I am only striving to find a space for myself to be in that has some degree of internal consistency. I would like to move as far from violence as matter-of-fact normative as I can. I don’t want films that glorify violence. I don’t want songs with misogynistic lyrics.

Performance Image - VB33 - Sugar Mountain
13 months ago we marked my daughter’s 20th birthday by stepping outside the 2nd story window at her art gallery space in Palestine and waiting for midnight to mark the start of her 20th year. (then we went back inside and danced!)

Civil Rights 4 My Grandchildren

What I do want isn’t really a new dream at all. I dream of my grandchildren living in a world where they are judged not by the color of their skin or their gender, not by their sexual orientation or their body image, not by their ableness or their age, but by the content of their character. That dream from another century is incomplete. Although I do believe we’ve made progress, we still grapple with all of those chauvinisms. But in our own century I have to add something new, I dream of a world where my grandchildren don’t have to check their civil rights at the door to cyberspace.

Are giant new media nation-states like Facebook and Google+ more like “public utilities” where there is an obligation to serve everyone? Or more like “shopping malls” where you check your civil rights at the door and are only allowed to practice consumerism within the bounds of that public-feeling but actually private space. So far these new media private clubs have been able to dictate behavior and deny access on their own terms and by their own changing whim. But when the ears of a culture are increasingly listening to online voices, to say that I can leave Facebook if I don’t like it, and that my civil rights are not violated because I can still go stand on a soap box in the park and shout to the few people there, just isn’t true. When a culture lives online, to deny online speech is to deny speech. There are no civil rights online so long as Vic Gundotra or Mark Zuckerberg get to decide what the acceptable and unacceptable ways to spell my name are.

IT’S MY FUCKING NAME! Don’t these billionaires have something better to worry about than how they’re going to allow me to spell my name? (neither Facebook nor Google+ will allow you to use their service if you spell your name “Vaneeesa.” In order to use these platforms you are required to change the spelling of your name to “Vanessa.”)

Avatar participants in VB28 stand in a configuration on a mosaic tile floor at Biscuit Bay, An Li, in Second Life
In “The Seniors Project” we imagined our future selves.

What’s in a Name?

Dukelski… Mendoza… Blaylock… Gundotra… Zuckerberg…

With such a tumultuous world, should I really be worrying about men who tell women how to spell their first names? Or women changing their surnames to their husband’s surnames?

Family name practices vary across the globe, but it’s still true today that when heterosexual couples in the English-speaking world marry, the vast majority of women trade their birth name for their husband’s. What if we flipped that? What if we just flipped that for one week? Ignorance breeds fear and hatred. Knowledge brings understanding and inclusivity. What kind of culture are we creating when so many men never spend a second thinking about name changes and so many women give up at least some bit of who they are and what their lineage was?

Single? Engaged? Married? What if everyone flipped family names for 7 days? What if married women went back to their birth name? What if men forgot their own family name for a week, and exclusively used their wife’s family name? It’s a small thing. Still, you can’t appreciate someone else’s life if you’ve never walked in their shoes. I hope my grandchildren live in a world where we take the time to walk in each other’s shoes.

Although I wish it wasn’t so, my grandchildren, realistically, will inherit a world that does include violence toward women. They will inherit a world that doesn’t pay a woman an equal wage to a man. They will inherit a world of patrilineal descent. I hope my grandchildren can walk in as many different shoes as possible. I hope my grandchildren can use their knowledge to build a more egalitarian world.

Ignorance is fear.

Knowledge is power.

For my grandchildren to build a better world, we’re going to need more teachers. We’re going to need more journalists. And, oh, look at that… we’re going to need more bloggers!

R E L A T E D . M A T E R I A L S
Girl Effect Blogging Campaign
The Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign
Girl Effect.org
Global Grandmother Power.com

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

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