I spend an average of 20 hours commuting to my temp job in Washington D.C. and needless to say, I have a lot of time to do nothing but read on the bus and Metro. (Seriously. It’s also why this blog has been somewhat neglected.) Twenty hours is like the equivalent of having a part-time job strictly for reading and it’s the only thing that makes my commute bearable through highway traffic and delays on Metro’s Red Line. Besides that, I love to read. Before I started working in D.C., I’d always grab the latest book I was reading for pleasure or for graduate school, take it on the Metro and pick up where I left off. Before I knew it, I was at my stop in the District. Like listening to NPR in my car while driving, reading on the Metro/bus keeps me sane…most of the time.
In the past six weeks, Bitch magazine, The Nation, Reality Bites Back, Express daily newspaper and my Twitter feed have provided me with a steady diet of good, feminist reads and quick synopses of breaking news. (Also, see previous post on Radical Reinvention.) Sometimes I come across a great passage in a book or article and have that sudden urge to share it with someone. And then realize that that’s pretty much out of the question since I’m traveling alone. It happened to me a few weeks ago when I finished the spring/summer issue of Ms. and read Autumn Whitefield-Madrano’s piece, “I Can Handle It,” a personal essay chronicling her experience in an abusive, violent relationship. (The essay was first published on Feministe last year.) Whitefield-Madrano writes about being in the fog of an abusive relationship – of having no idea who she was and having her life rearranged.
The last paragraph of her essay stands alone and transcends the subjects of her essay (domestic violence and feminist invincibility) to become a wonderful, broader point about allowing us, as feminists, to feel vulnerable and connect with one another in times of need. It was a reminder that we need to acknowledge our vulnerability and weakness and the transformative aspect of it. It definitely stayed with me that morning:
I wonder what would happen if we, as feminists, started to see that even the fiercest among us might not be capable of seeing outside her fog. I wonder what would happen if we all had a broader template that showed that vulnerability is just as valid a state for a feminist to inhabit as strength and invincibility. I wonder what would happen if we better understood that feminism, independence, capability and autonomy do not form a cloak of protection. I wonder what would happen if we, as feminists, were prepared to look our sisters in the eye and respond to I can handle it with No, actually, you can’t.But together, we can.
I’ve moved on from that issue of Ms. and I’m now throwing in podcasts of Citizen Radio, an independent political radio show by Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein, and The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson to my morning and evening mix. I even found a rare first-edition copy of Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation by Mary Daly in Kulturas secondhand books one day during my lunch break.
My commute sucks, and if I’m a little bit sleep deprived during the week, at least I can catch up on my feminist reading and media. Check out all of these suggestions and feel free to leave me recommendations in the comments! I guarantee these books and podcasts will improve your commuter life.