The second thing I always do when I get home is examine the side of the refrigerator. Yes, six years after her youngest child graduated college and moved to another city, my mother still cuts out articles from the Economist and the New York Times and pastes them to the side of the refrigerator for her family to look at, learn from, debate, and discuss. Growing up, Sunday dinner conversation inevitably revolved around these articles and comics and features. With four women in the house – my mother, two sisters, and me – all of us having attended women’s colleges, the “side of the refrigerator” ended up being almost exclusively about women – a “how-to” guide on women’s leadership in the corporate world, an in-depth interview with one of the only female Supreme Court justices, a timeline of voting rights granted to women around the world. Understanding the world and my place in it as a woman was central to my early years.
When the election was over in November 2010, the campaign I had worked on sadly folded away its ambitions as each of us said goodbye, great work, and see you on the trail next time. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in next, only that after 3 years of working in politics, it was time to do something a little different. I started following @Fem2pt0 on Twitter, and just a short few weeks later, I saw a call for bloggers.
I’ll write while I job hunt, I thought. Fem2.0 cofounder Katie Stanton welcomed me on to the blogging team, along with Christina Black and Maggie Arden, both new recruits. Once a week, I wrote about anything that struck my fancy – gender roles, women in Sudan, sexual violence in war, iphone apps to track women’s menstrual cycles. I threw myself into it, and allowed myself to fully examine and explore aspects of my life that I hadn’t had the time or inclination to before.
Six months later, Katie left Fem2 to pursue other opportunities, and Suzanne Turner, the funder behind Fem2, invited me to take her place as Editor. I quickly learned that there is no such thing as taking the place of another who has done so much so fast with so little. But I worked hard. Fem2 changed – I invited younger, newer bloggers onto the team, and we explored not just public policy, but also political representation, marriage customs, media and advertising and film, and global women’s rights. We toyed with the idea – several times – of narrowing the scope of the Fem2 blog to include just a few topics, but we quickly discarded the idea. There were simply too many things we had opinions about, too many issues we wanted to share our perspectives on, and too may words bursting from our fingertips, to try to contain it all in just one or two topics.
It is now 18 months later, and the Fem2 community has become as much my home as any other ever has been. The bloggers are my friends, the listservs and the conversations and the Twitter chats are my intellectual stimulation, and the writing is my teacher – my way of understanding the world around me and my place in it. Our Facebook and Twitter communities have almost tripled, and we have over a dozen bloggers contributing regular content to the site. We’ve initiated partnerships with other blogs like Role/Reboot, Abortion Gang, and Feminists for Choice, and have provided a platform and safe space for our members and friends to discuss the issues that interest them. And some point, one has to wonder – what more can I do?
This week is my last serving as Editor of Fem2.0. I hope to continue to blog, but the time has come for me to pursue other long term interests. This afternoon, I will leave for Europe to vacation with my sister, and then I hope to return to the campaign trail. The election is now less than 100 days away, and there are too many fights on the ground that need fighters – passionate idealists in the way that young people seem to naturally be. It will be a hard break. Even while I am away, I wonder whether I will itch to write about Amsterdam’s Red Light district, or Switzerland’s Gender Equality policies. But if I do, I will try to resist.
Not because such things don’t need to written about, explored, discussed, and debated. But because we’re all human, and sometimes, we need a break. Every movie I see, every song I hear, every encounter I have with a man or woman now, I question. What can I learn about gender and about women’s lives and roles from this movie/song/experience? And I find myself exhausted. Because every day I am sending story prompts and blog ideas to our writers. My google alerts explode with stories of abortion, sexual violence, rape, women’s leadership, female genital mutilation, gender based violence, and so much more. My mind is in constant whirlwind, thinking about such things all the time. And I wonder if perhaps I have forgotten how to enjoy the life I’m so privileged to be able to lead.
The second thing I always do when I come home is read the side of the refrigerator. But the first thing I always do when I come home is take a walk through the first floor of our house. I take deep breaths in the living room – my father sends my mother flowers on the first day of every month, and their aroma pierces the air with sweet remembrance of a long-endured romance. I gaze at the photo collage of my older sister’s wedding in the foyer, how her dress sparkled as she married the man of her dreams and now, reality. And I make my way to the sunroom, where I spent countless hours at the piano growing up.
I was never much good. One sister had more musical talent, the other could sightread. I simply loved music. And I loved the challenge that my fingers always presented when I focused on nothing else for an hour – two sometimes – trying to achieve a perfection that felt that it was right in front of me. There’s something magnificent about sitting down with nothing, and two hours later have a tangible accomplishment to appreciate.
And so the first thing I do when I come home is make my way to the sunroom. As I open the piano and graze my fingers across it, I hear the echos of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, when Beth comes down the stairs after being ill for so long and “loving touched the black and white keys.” Lovingly, yes. But also with challenge, commitment, promise. I look upon those keys and know that for however long I am in my parents’ house – be it an afternoon or a weekend or a month, I will find time with my piano to make music.
There are many more and many other types of challenges that will occupy my time and attention now. Some, like music, I’ve neglected these past few years as I’ve started my young professional life here in DC. Others, like race relations and homelessness and other social justice issues, will be for me to explore. All, I hope, will expand my horizons
Serving as Editor of Fem2 has been one of the greatest challenges and joys of my life, and I’m sorry to let it go. But the blog has dreams to chase that require more sophistication, more experience, and more vision than have I, and sometimes the best thing to do with something you love is to know when to let go.
Violet Tsagkas – a longtime member of the Fem2.0 team – will be serving as interim Editor as the blog and its leadership make the impossible but exciting decisions about where to head next. She can be reached at Violet@turnerstrategies.com.
In just a few hours, I’ll be on a plane to Europe. I’ll follow you all from there, and then as well from the campaign trail, wherever I end up. You can follow my adventures on my personal blog, Left Standing Up. And please don’t hesitate to reach out for good conversation, a nourishing meal, or shared fellowship.