So yesterday I told you about the 7 Random Things I Learned at BlogHer ’10. All kidding aside, here’s what I really learned at BlogHer ’10.
First, I need to write more. I need to write about what I’m passionate about. I need to write every day or most days whether it is blogging, journaling or creative writing of some sort. I need to just write and not worry about my own internal critic or what others will think of my writing. I need to believe that what I have to say is of value, that is important.
Second, I really want to use this blog to create a disability rights movement within mainstream feminism and there are a plethora of ways to start to do this.
- Ask people to share their personal stories
- Start petitions in support/protest of an issue
- Use polls or surveys to gain or share information
- Create a newsletter
- Reach out to politicians and like-minded organizations
- Document and research your issue. For example, Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood documented and wrote about the lack of women in documentaries. The foreign press, especially in the UK, took notice and the issue started to get some attention.
- Create relationships with other bloggers who care about your cause. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
Third, BlogHer attendees are very concerned about comments on their blogs. Several of the breakout sessions I attended on blogging and activism quickly turned into “How to Manage Negative Comments” sessions. Best advice: Remember that “people have issues” and
- Have a comments policy and stick to it
- No personal attacks
- Decide how you want to deal with inappropriate comments
Above all, I need to decide what my mission is as a blogger and stick to it. Do I want to my blog to be about disability rights and feminism or am I happy with the current mix of feminism, politics, disability rights and random other things? BlogHer showed me that if I really want to become a better blogger, writer and activist, I need to focus on the former, not the latter.
So this is what I learned at BlogHer ’10. Hopefully, you can take some of these lessons and apply them to your own blog. If you went to BlogHer, I’d love to hear what you took away from the conference. Please feel free to leave a comment below!
I’m back from my ten day trip to Washington D.C. and New York City, the highlights of which were hanging out with friends and, of course, attending the BlogHer ’10 conference in NYC. BlogHer was an amazing experience, which can’t be summed up in just one post, so I’m going to spread it out over the next three days. Today, a quirky list of random things I learned while at the conference. Tomorrow I’ll write a more serious post about the breakout sessions I attended and what I took away from the conference. Finally, on Saturday, no vacation would be complete without pictures so it will be a Photo Blog Day.
So, without further adieu…
7 Random Things I Learned at BlogHer ’10
1. The Hilton New York Hotel does dessert really well: cookies, brownies, petit fours, tiramisu and Italian pastries…. Oh. My. Gawd.
2. BlogHer is a strange and wonderful place where best-selling authors (like Gretchen Rubin, who wrote the New York Times bestselling book The Happiness Project sit two rows behind you in a breakout session on publishing and you get to meet some of your idols. For me, this was people like Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood of America and author of the upcoming book No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. I was also super-psyched to meet and hang out with Jenn Pozner, founder and executive director of Women in Media and News (WIMN) and author of Reality Bites Back, slated to be released in November.
3. Bruce Jenner, formerly of Olympic fame and now best-known as the nerdy step-dad on the reality show The Kardashians, is a man-whore. Apparently, part of how he helps support not-so-little Kylie and Kendall is by showing up at conventions and conferences like BlogHer where his adoring public can get their picture taken with him or even, if they’re very lucky, an autograph(!). Think Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler,” only this event was corporate-sponsored and the fallen idol wore chinos and had a bowl-cut.
4. BlogHer isn’t very diverse. While attempts were made at diversity, such as token women of color in many panels, the conference was still really targeted towards mommy bloggers. The token lesbian in the Voices of the Year even wrote about motherhood. I’m not saying that mommy bloggers don’t deserve a voice at Blogher. They do: a large one. By the same token, we need to realize not every women blogger talks about politics, sexuality, race, books, health care, pop culture, technology and everything else under the sun as it relates to motherhood.
5. “Legally Blonde” was originally a self-published book that, as we all know, has gone on to spawn two major motion pictures and a smash Broadway play. Take heart, self-published authors, it could happen for you, too.
6. Not enough people hate me. No, for realz, people. During a breakout session on “Creating Tangible Social Change”, Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood explained that having naysayers and negative comments on your blog is a good thing. “If you don’t have haters, you’re not doing it right”.
7. The rumors are true. New York really is hotter than you-know-where in August. Good grief.
And there you have it, folks. Just a few of the notable tidbits I picked up while taking a bite out of the Big Apple. Be sure to check back tomorrow and Saturday for more posts on my time at BlogHer ’10!
Just a quick update on my pledge to walk twenty miles in the “20 Days to BlogHer” that I started a week ago Saturday. Over the last ten days, I have walked four times for a total of 5.1 miles and rode the stationary bike once for thirty minutes.
Considering I haven’t gotten any physical activity over much of the winter, I’m very happy with this progress. It also helps that my goal is primarily to increase my endurance and mileage rather than “I have to lose weight or I’m a big fat cow” as The Beauty Myth would have me believe.
I know I won’t reach my “20 miles in 20 Days” goal but thinking about physical activity (I refuse to call it exercise) in this manner makes it much more pleasurable and even, dare I say it, fun.
How do you approach physical activity without being sucked into the Beauty Myth that says you have to lose weight in order to be beautiful?
I think I broke my toe. I stubbed it this morning on a chair and it hurts when I put weight on it. I can bend it so it’s probably not broken, but it’s sprained at the very least.
This was the last thing I needed right now. Forget the pain, which is minimal. A broken or sprained toe, particularly the one right next to the pinkie, is going to wreak havoc on my balance and coordination for a while and make me even more wobbly and accident-prone than I already am.
I had this grand plan that I would walk 20 miles in the “20 days to BlogHer” countdown that I started on Saturday. Putting aside the fact that this scheme has already been slightly derailed due to ginormous bumper crop of mosquitoes we’ve got this year. I swear to Goddess, it’s like a reenactment of Tippi Hedren and “The Birds” in Skeeterville every time I step out the door. Last night, I had to forego the walk for a 30-spin on the stationary bike instead. While I got a good workout and use different muscles than I would normally, I want to walk.
Walking makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel ‘normal’ or that I can pass as ‘normal’. Part of why I am pushing myself so much harder to be physically active than I usually am is because I want to be able to keep up with everyone at BlogHer and participate in as much as possible without embarrassing myself. Of course, I have to do all of this without getting so tired that I don’t trip and fall so if someone could please point out the Diet Coke vendor, that would be terrific, thanks. I also have to worry about my feet swelling to three times their normal size. In addition to looking gross, it’s not great for my foot health. But the orthopedic stockings are hot and ugly so don’t be surprised my feet are bare.
On a happier note, I don’t think they have mosquitoes in Manhattan. Cockroaches, I hear that’s a different story….
Good grief, it’s been way too long since I’ve blogged. Sorry guys. I’ve been trying to recover from a neck injury and get myself physically and emotionally ready for a long trip to the East Coast at the end of the month. I’ll be flying out to DC at the end of July to spend a few days with my best friend and then taking the train up to NYC for BlogHer ’10, the mega-bloggers’ conference that’ll be taking over the Big Apple on August 7-8.
August 7th is 20 days from now and I have been in major training for it. And I do mean physically training. I haven’t gotten much physical activity since my two falls on Dec. 21st and Jan. 21st (yes, they happened exactly a month apart) and I really need to build up my physical stamina, as I know I’ll be doing a lot of walking, both in DC and New York. So, I’ve been trying to get some walking in each day. My house is 0.3 miles off of the main road so walking to the highway and back is 0.6 miles. I’ve been trying to walk at least that much most days. I’ve gotten to the point where that is pretty easy and am now struggling with two laps (1.2 miles). I am hoping that by the time I leave for DC on July 30th, I will be comfortably walking 3 laps (1.8 miles) and approaching 4 laps (2.4 miles).
Now that you know how incredibly out of shape I am, I’m hoping that if I post an update each day, along with some random musings about feminism and disability as well as a few pics from along the trail, maybe you could cheer me on as I train for BlogHer?
I posted a link to this transcript in my Saturday Link-Love but I wanted to post the actual text of my conversation with Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) from last Thursday. As you may recall, I was part of the BlogHer conference call on health care along with some other great bloggers. Reading the transcript back, I’m a little embarrassed at how incoherent I was. Okay, I’m more than a little embarrassed, but I was really emotional. Moreover, I was hesitant and nervous about challenging a Republican member of Congress, even over the telephone.
Here’s what I want to point out: I asked Rep. Lummis if there was any way she could support the current health care reform bill. She never answered that question and instead reverted to her Republican talking points. It seems to me that if Republicans really are in favor of health care reform like they profess to be and aren’t just playing politics, they would realize that health care reform is happening. They would be demanding a chair at the negotiation table and arguing for what was best for their constituents, not their campaign financiers.
The other notable point from the conversation is that after I talked about how Medicaid and disability are demonized, Rep. Lummis went on to tell me I shouldn’t be ashamed of being on the program. Rep. Lummis barely skipped a beat before going on to say that Medicare and Medicaid are going broke and she refuses to burden her daughter and grandchildren with these unsustainable government programs. I’m sure she didn’t realize she was doing it, but Rep. Lummis was doing the exact “demonizing” I was talking about: Making me feel like I am contributing to our national economic downfall by being a recipient of an “entitlement” program. She nearly brought me to tears.
Anyways, here’s my portion of the call:
Operator: Thank you. And the next question coming from the line of 455-L. Please proceed.
(Danine): My name is (Danine) and I am calling from (assumption). I have a complicated medical history and I currently on – I’m so sorry – on Medicaid and I want to get off of those programs, be kind of quite frankly, Medicaid and disability are demonized and treated, you know, every time you talk about an entitlement program, you know, well, they’re demonized.
But I absolutely have to have health insurance. I have a condition called (hydrocephalus) and I have a shunt in my head that relieves the pressure from my brain and every single day of my life, I have to be able to afford health insurance and healthcare.
And I – in order to get off of SSI and Medicaid, I need to be able to – I’m working towards self-employment – and I need to be able to afford health insurance.
And with all due respect and I mean this incredibly, the reality is is that our greatest chance for – I don’t – I can’t – the reality is is that I probably won’t be able to afford private insurance in the current environment and my best option is probably – I’m sorry – but it’s probably in with this healthcare reform as the Democrats are proposing it.
Is there any possible way that you can support their policies or get on-board with healthcare reform in 2009? I need healthcare reform. I need something because the day that I don’t have health insurance, that could be the day that my shunt breaks and I need emergency brain
It’s a life – I think it was literally started – no, I’m sorry. I don’t remember which person said it. That’s the day that I could – that’s the day that – it’s a life and death thing and I’m sorry, but it’s very, very personal for me.
And I need my legislative Congress people to help. I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but…
Cynthia Lummis: No, you’re not putting me on the spot and I appreciate your dilemma. I want you to know how proud I am of America that Medicaid is there for you and you should not feel the least bit apologetic about the fact that Medicaid is serving you to help you with a condition that is highly debilitating and that really affects your quality of life.
That’s why it’s there so please take advantage of it. You are exactly the person that it was meant for. In the case that your condition were to improve to the extent that you could leave the availability of Medicaid, there would be tax credits in Republican plans for low-income people.
Of course the high-risk pools if you still can’t get coverage would be available to you. There is in Republican bills the opportunity for insurance to be purchased across state lines so in states like my state of Wyoming which has a very small population and health insurance cannot be pooled across state lines, bills would allow for Wyoming to participate in much bigger pools.
And the people of Wyoming could band together either through their church or their trade associations or states themselves to provide larger pools of people who can share the burden and lower the cost of health insurance, especially for those of us as I said that are in areas of very small populations.
So by all means, keep your Medicaid, keep healthy to the extent that those medications are helping you have a higher quality of life and don’t be the least apologetic about participating in Medicaid. That’ what it’s there for.
Now the problem I have with the bill that the Speaker rolled-out today is that it forces on states unfunded mandates to expand Medicaid. Where are the states going to get the money to do that?
In California, there would estimates that it could cost California $8 billion a year to expand Medicaid according to the Speaker’s bill. California is already awash in debt. They can’t add $8 billion to the state’s debts in order to cover programs that Congress mandates on them that they can’t afford to pay for.
So the problem I have with the Speaker’s bill and with these government-run programs that Democrats are advocating is that they are not paid for so it will just create a situation just like we’re going to face with Medicare down the road and that is that Medicare will eventually go broke because it is going to be paying out more in benefits than people are paying in.
And with those kinds of unsustainable government programs that promise a lot but are unpaid for, we are burdening our children and grandchildren with paying for us and for our needs without regard to what our children and grandchildren will face in the future.
And I’m opposed to saddling my child and her children with debts that I incur. I need to make sure that while I’m here in Congress, I am being responsible to the next generation and doing the best job I can for us in this generation.
That’s why I encourage you to stay on Medicaid to the extent that you are able to and when your situation improves to the extent that you are able to afford insurance, take advantage of the tax credits. Take advantage of state high-risk pools and thank you and, you know, I hope your condition improves and thank you for your question.
(Danine): I have one quick question. How is Medicare and Medicaid more – how is Medicaid more financially solvent and this is – I’m not being just (cold), I actually want to know?
Cynthia Lummis: What was your question again?
(Danine): Is Medicaid more financially solvent than Medicare?
Cynthia Lummis: Well, Medicaid is – they’re both in trouble. They’re both in trouble in the long run because they’re paying out more in benefits than they take in and every year more of the federal budget is going to pay for entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the states are responsible for of course picking-up a share of Medicaid so it’s also having a big impact on state budgets.
(Danine ): Okay. Thank you.
Read the rest of the transcript here
Happy Halloween! Hope your Saturday is treating you well. Here are a few of the week’s best links:
Ashley at the Small Strokes blog has a new project: This is What a Beautiful Bride Looks Like, which features pictures of real brides. Here’s a description of the site, in Ashley’s own words:
As an engaged woman who loves her body, I am sick and tired of seeing ads for “Wedding Weightloss” routines and images of 100% “perfect,” unattainable brides! Here, I hope to collect some pictures of brides with REAL beauty! To submit a photo, e-mail samsanator(at)gmail(dot)com
Finally, here’s a little Halloween fun for ya. The fab team at Bitch Media has put together an awesome list of Feminist Halloween Costumes. I love the idea of going as one of Jem and the Holograms.
This morning I did yet another BlogHer conference call on health care reform. This one was with Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). Did you catch the “R” after her name? Yep, she’s a Republican and vehemently opposed to “The Speaker’s Bill” as she put it. I’ll do a quick recap of the call, but long story short, there’s not a snowball’s chance in you-know-where that Congresswoman Lummis will vote “aye” on the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
At the beginning of the call, Rep. Lummis told Republicans are in favor of health care reform. They would just do it differently. She said she didn’t know what the rush was and that Republicans want to “borrow the best of the bills” to reform the system one step at a time. She also said the current health care system services 85% of Americans “very well” so we should focus our energy on trying to help the other 15%.
Rep. Lummis’ proposals for piecemeal reform including high-risk insurance pools that are (supposedly) available in every state. She also wants to establish a tax credit so individuals can buy private insurance policies that would be portable even if they lost their job. Her third idea was to allow consumers to buy insurance policies across state lines.
Rep. Lummis said she was “terribly concerned” about “The Speaker’s Bill” (doesn’t it sound evil?) because it shifts many costs to the states by expanding Medicare.” That’s a direct quote. (Hence the quotation marks.) I’m pretty sure she meant to say “Medicaid” as the bill does expand Medicaid. Nothing recent is coming up on Google for “expand Medicare”.
Here are the calls:
- Loralee, of the LooneyTunes blog, asked Rep. Lummis to elaborate on her ideas for expanding the high-risk pools. The congresswoman told Loralee she is co-sponsoring HR 3400, which would provide more funding for high-risk pools so individuals could buy into the plans at a lower rate. This would be paid for with unused stimulus funds (which apparently aren’t needed for any of the bridges that are falling down.)
- Jaelithe, a blogger for MOMocrats.com, told Rep. Lummis “there is a rush” for health care reform. People like her step-father, who has diabetes, are going without health insurance and life-saving medicine, such as insulin. (Which is kind of important to diabetics). Jaelithe asked Rep. Lummis if there was anything explicitly prohibiting insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions in HR 3400, her go-to bill. To my recollection, Rep. Lummis didn’t really answer that. Instead, she told Jaelithe her step-father could join the high-risk pool in his state. What Rep. Lummis apparently doesn’t know is that high-risk pools are still pretty darn expensive for the average citizen, especially if you’re poor.
- Nancy from the Sunlight Foundation asked how Rep. Lummis felt about transparency, at which point, I mentally blocked out so I could figure out what question I wanted to ask
- Next up, Yours Truly: I was really emotional so I’m sure this came out crazy and incoherent but I told Rep. Lummis that I have a rare medical condition and that I am on SSI/Medicaid. I don’t want to be on disability because honestly, it’s demonized. I know I said that twice. (The shaming of people on disability, Medicaid and other “entitlement” programs is a post for another day.) I told her I want to get off those programs very badly and am working towards self-employment but I need affordable health insurance. I need health care reform. With all due respect, the only way that’s going to happen this year is with the Democrats’ plan. I asked her if there was any way she could support the Democrats’ billWithout taking a breath, Rep. Lummis did not answer my question. Well, actually, she did – by not answering it.
She started immediately listing her Republican talking points about how they would do health care reform: tax credits, high-risk pools and let people buy insurance across state lines. I actually started rolling my eyes while she was talking. She never once said anything about how she could work to find a compromise with the Democrats which means she can’t. Or won’t.
Also, Rep. Lummis basically told me not to apologize for being on Medicaid and that I was the reason the system was there. I had nothing to be ashamed or guilty about. However, seconds later, she told me both Medicare and Medicaid are going broke and we are saddling our children and grandchildren with back-breaking debt.How am I not supposed to feel guilty about that debt every time I go to the doctor or receive my monthly check via direct deposit? Or how about when Sen. Judd Gregg goes on MSNBC and basically pitches a fit about how health care reform is another entitlement program that will bankrupt future generations, like he did less than an hour before I spoke to Rep. Lummis?
Needless to say, I was not impressed with Rep. Lummis.
- I was, however, very impressed with Erin Kotecki Vest who some of you may know as @QueenOfSpain on Twitter. Erin asked Rep. Lummis if she was in favor of expanding Medicare and Medicaid after listening to talk about how wonderful she thought Medicaid was for people like me (more on that in a moment). Rep. Lummis said she was glad I was able to take advantage of Medicaid but said it would be “inaccurate” to say she supports the program as it is. “I’m glad that the safety net is there for the last caller,” she told Erin, referring to me. Still, she said she is an advocate for reforming Medicare. “We must ferret out waste, fraud and abuse.”
Can we please ferret the Republicans out of this debate? I appreciate the bipartisanship that the Sunlight Foundation and Blogher tried to introduce to this conversation but at this point, isn’t the GOP irrelevant? I want to pretend they are, at least, because John McCain and Lindsey Graham’s influence on Joe Lieberman is driving me up the freakin’ wall. If this health care house of cards comes falling down because Joe Lieberman, who was elected vice-president of the United States by the majority of the people in this country in 2000, decides to kill it, I just don’t know what I’ll do.
I just don’t.
UPDATED: 6:09 PM CST
For the record, in case that statement about “what I’ll do” if Joe Lieberman filibusters health care reform sounded weird or could in any way be construed as threatening, let me be clear: The only thing I’ll do is say bad words when no one’s listening so I can pretend I’m still a lady. Or I’ll engage in grassroots lobbying by emailing, faxing and telling my story. Nothing else. Yep, I’m kinda paranoid that anything I write online is considered published and could be traced back to me someday so there. I’ve covered my butt.
This afternoon I had the pleasure of participating in a BlogHer conference call on health care reform with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Sen. Merkley gave a brief statement on the goals of health care reform, saying that it will have an exchange to allow individuals and small business to buy health insurance as part of a large pool. In addition, there will be insurance reforms and investments in wellness and prevention.
After that, Sen. Merkley took questions from members of the BlogHer community. I got to ask the first question, which I have to admit was a teensy bit cool. Here’s what I asked, kinda-sorta verbatim to the best of my recollection:
“I had a spinal cord injury in 2005 and was paralyzed from the neck down. I regained my mobility but I still have a lot of health problems. I’ve been on disability and Medicaid since then. I am hoping to work my way to self-employment but I need affordable health insurance in order to do that. My guess is that the public option will be my best bet. We’ve heard Sen. Reid say that they’re talking about talking about the public option. So what is the status of the public option?”
Sen. Merkley told me that my situation is a good example of why we need health care reform. He said I would benefit from insurance reforms, such as not being denied coverage to a pre-existing condition. He explained I would be able to go to the new insurance exchange, where I could choose from a variety of difference insurance plans, including “hopefully a public option.” Sen. Merkley told me he is working very hard for a public option. “I think the odds are very good”, he said, speaking of the likelihood of a public option being in the final bill.
Looking back at my notes now, I wish I would have asked a follow-up question. I wish I would have asked what the public option would actually do. Who would be eligible? How much would co-pays, premiums and deductibles be? Would there be networks of preferred providers?
Oh well. Maybe I’ll get chance to ask another lawmaker that question. I hope so.
On to the next question: Audrey from Maine, asked why tort reform wasn’t a bigger part of the current push for health care reform. Sen. Merkley explained that tort reform, which has already been done in some states, has not substantially reduced the cost to citizens. In fact, it seems to have had about a 1% (yikes!) impact on the cost to citizens. Furthermore, he said tort reform would take away citizens’ fundamental right to sue for gross negligence.
Audrey also asked why there isn’t a bigger emphasis on health care savings accounts in the current debate. Sen. Merkley replied that most working Americans aren’t able to put money into a health care savings account. “It may be a nice addition to reform… It doesn’t get to the heart of the problem,” he said.
Susan, from Madison, WI, noted the lack of bipartisanship in the current debate on health care, particularly on the public option and wondered what issues Democrats and Republicans are able to find some consensus on. Sen. Merkley said there was bipartisan support for investments in wellness and prevention, disease management, growing the health care workforce and providing incentives to employees to stay healthy.
Sen. Merkley said the biggest difference between Democrats and Republicans is over the public option. Republicans believe in a for-profit health care system but “I couldn’t disagree more,” he said. He explained that he wants a system dedicated to healing people not to profits and shareholders.
Susan asked the senator what it would take to bring bipartisanship back to the issue of the public option. Sen. Merkley explained that some of the compromises currently being discussed might help, such as the opt-out idea, where states can opt-out of the public option if their governor or state legislatures decide to do so.
The final question came from Karalee in California (sorry if I got your name wrong, Karalee). Her family is uninsured and her son was just diagnosed with diabetes. Karalee asked if health care reform is passed, what will fill in the gaps for families like hers until the legislation goes into effect in 2013?
In my opinion, this is one of the best questions of the day (besides mine, of course). Sen. Merkley agreed saying, “It’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an excellent answer.” He went on to say that he has been asking these exactly questions on Capitol. He thinks that states should be allowed to set up their public options and insurance exchanges earlier than 2013 if they’re ready. Stay tuned, he said, because debate on this issue is still underway.
With that, the conference call wrapped up. Thank you, BlogHer and Sen. Jeff Merkley!