Friday, September 12, 2008

It's Already Friday?

I'm eager to get re-involved with On The Issues, a progressive magazine that is now back and on-line. I just submitted this piece for their up-coming issue on Women and Terror:
\Women and Terror
\The Water We Swim In
\By Ellen Snortland

Women are terrorism experts. Females all over the world, in developed and developing countries, deal with the possible threat of male-on-female violence daily — it is the most common, insidious and often unexamined form of terrorism there is. And yet, how many of us know how to defend ourselves with the only thing that is with us at all times: our own bodies? Far too few. Wake up, sleeping beauties! The prince ain’t coming, and sometimes he’s the problem.

As the author of “Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior Within Women and Girls,” christened a “how-come” book as opposed to a “how-to” self-defense book, I am an unlikely advocate for women and girls’physical self-defense training. I grew up in a gentle Norwegian-American home in the Midwest with a loving father and a well-educated mother with many privileges and advantages. My little town was “safe.”

As a middle-aged woman, by outward appearances, I seem harmless. However, I am proud to say I’m a completely dangerous mammal, and if someone were to threaten me or a loved one, I am prepared to kick serious ass. And I am devoted to having a critical mass of women become dangerous too. The more dangerous more of us are, the safer we will all be.

I am on a life-long mission to educate women and girls on physical self-defense as a physical literacy issue, a domestic anti-terrorist measure, and a human right — a necessary ingredient in the quest for women’s liberation. In fact, the 3rd article of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

“Terror” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is defined as “4: violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.”

Predators and rapists are “terrorists” using “destructive acts,” i.e, rapes and assault, intimidating the population of women and girls to conform to the patriarchal “demand” that we remain compliant and “feminine.” Notice that the news of a single rapist in one area of the city tends to put all the females on high alert.

Given that female independence is a relatively new idea, we are in transition from “chattel” to “citizen.” Historically, it used to be that our physical safety was the responsibility of our “owners,” whether that was a father, husband or sometimes, uncle or brother. Indeed, if we were not virgins, our property value plummeted and our father was honor-bound to marry us off at a “discount” or had to fake our “purity,” depending of course on our class or how much he had for our dowry.

With our declaration of independence, we also need to be responsible for our “security of person,” since we now “own” our own bodies. Waiting for all men to behave or other men to protect us is often a fool’s game.

Am I saying all men are rapists? Of course not. Not all men subscribe to the rules of patriarchy. Many women also enforce the rules of patriarchy as rigorously, if not more so, than males. What I am saying is that our culture is so permeated with often undistinguished patriarchal rules it’s as if patriarchy is the water we swim in, air we breathe and the rules we follow, often unwittingly or unconsciously.

Many women and girls still live with the vestigial fairy tale that someone else will rescue them. To end our own terror, women must reclaim their natural ability to be physically dangerous in order to achieve true freedom. Only then can we live happily, if not “ever after” then most of the time.

Ellen Snortland is a non-practicing lawyer, performer, playwright, columnist and documentary film-maker. See the trailer to “Beauty Bites Beast” the documentary by visiting: or visit her web site at:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ahh, Monday.

Hello, cyber-space.
I'm sometimes tripped out by the sheer numbers of people who "blog." Who will ever read these ubiquitous entries? Will some future species find them and say, "Girlfriends, these folks were really wrapped up in themselves." I think too of all the photos that digital cameras have allowed. Really, who the hell cares to see one more "spontaneous" shot of Sally flossing her teeth? Or the umpteenth birthday party. Part of the joy and pleasure of things is in their rareness.

Mr. Grubersnort just got an e-mail from a long-standing friend that accused him of being "gay." What is THAT all about? I suppose if he were a red-neck, a fifth-grader tossing epithets around, it might fit. Then we started wondering if he might not be a deeply closeted, thick into denial gay man himself. It's just odd. Here Mr. Grubersnort actually really loves women. Has had very successful relationships and this fellow can't seem to keep a relationship together. He doesn't even particularly like women as far as we can tell. Me thinks he doth protest too much.

I wonder how their little e-mail kerfuffle will turn out... hmmmm.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Seeking Submissions for New Anthology Proposal

Seeking Submissions for Proposed Anthology
I’m looking for stories and anecdotes for an anthology that may morph into a play or movie. The stories I’m looking for are those moments that were so stunning that you were left speechless. They are often defining moments and I’m looking for ironic or absurd not tragic or violent.
Here’s an example, one of my own anecdotes:
I was 18 years old, newly in California from South Dakota and grateful to be “home,” in a state where I felt like I belonged the moment I set foot here. I was a young actor and pretty good, a natural. I fell in love with the head of the drama department’s acting program and who happened to be directing a lot of the up-coming shows. Oh and by the way, he was a recovering monk, literally newly out of a monastery where he’d lived for the previous 10 years. He was horny.

Our attraction was mutual and we soon became an “item.” Rather than being a classic example of a “casting couch,” he turned out to be more concerned with his reputation than my education and bent over backwards to make sure I wasn’t cast well in anything. So much for his mentoring abilities.

So one day, I’m at my house which I share with 2 other young women. He calls and says he’s got some bad news. He’s got gonorrhea and by “extension,” I probably do too. I’m hurt, stunned and scared. This is way before instant research and I can’t just “google” to find out if gonorrhea is going to kill, sterilize or drive me mad.
“I’ll be right over to take you to the clinic. The county law requires that I make sure you get treated.”
Fifteen minutes later, I hear him honk outside.

I go out and he’s got a borrowed station wagon with two other girls in the car. Girls that I know. Girls in the drama department. Girls who presumably also have swapped fluids with him and may be carrying his bacteria.

So stunned, I did not have anything to say in the moment. Instead, I dutifully got into the “clap mobile” and went to the VD clinic with them.

Ooooh, the things I coulda, shoulda, woulda said if I’d been thinking straight.

You can see what the tone is, here right? “Stupidist,” sexist, racist, job interview and dating anecdotes are of particular interest to me for this project.

If accepted, contributors will receive a complimentary copy upon publication and a contributor's discount on additional copies. The contributor will need to sign a waiver and agreement that the material may be edited or perhaps not used at all.

No previously published or simultaneously submitted material, please.

For submissions or more information, please contact me at

Saturday, September 6, 2008

September 6

Just started to write "Bite Me" which I envision as a musical. I promised someone that I would write at least one page today of the first scene, and I did.
It makes a big difference to tell other people that you're going to start something. At least, it makes a big difference for me. I'd rather poke a stick in my eye than tell someone I didn't keep a writing promise.

Not much more today. I'm lazy and I'm reading a dear friend's manuscript for her.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Beyond the Pale- Palin

Rush Limbaugh wished for a “babe” for vice president of the U.S. and may get two if we’re not careful: a babe with a babe. Ironically, McCain’s running mate is also some feminists’ wish come true: a nightmare and dream in one person. Didn’t we all envision a day when ANY woman or girl could aspire to the presidency? Enter Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska — with baby in arms — accepting the V.P. nomination. We women’s rights activists didn’t say, “We only want women who agree with the feminist agenda.” Accordingly, the greatest tribute we can pay to the woman’s liberation movement is to regard Palin as the formidable adversary she is and soundly defeat her and McCain. To do any less would be patronizing, er, matronizing.

Despite Palin’s membership in the anti-choice group, “Feminists for Life,” Palin is no more a feminist than Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a civil rights worker unless “worker” can be defined as “working” AGAINST civil rights.

But as I despise the GOP hypocrisy, I must be careful to not also be a hypocrite in working to “cream” McCain/Palin. Even the campaign metaphors are dominated by mostly male pursuits. “Taking the gloves off,” “kicking her ass,” and “No holds barred,” are sports references that we all use irrespective of life experience. What metaphors then, if not sports? We’re going to: Flatten her curls? Clean her closet? Burn her toast? You get the challenge here.

Regardless of our metaphors, we under-estimate the power of an anti-feminist woman at great risk to our economy, the troops, healthcare, our mortgages. In a male dominated country, Palin is a Limbaugh/patriarchal dream: she’s devoted to so-called traditional male values more than many males are. Anyone who dismisses her potential for wreaking right-wing fanatical havoc was not awake or around in the 80s when feminists got their Equal Rights Amendment closets cleaned by progressive gender politics enemy Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly and her minions defeated the ERA, a constitutional amendment so simple and elegant that it boggles the mind that our society still runs from it: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

This past primary season was a disgusting display of American men AND women’s sexism. Radio maven Randi Rhodes called Sen. Clinton a whore. I heard too many women that in my opinion should have known better dig into Sen. Clinton with “below the belt” criticism of the pitch of her voice, or not liking her because she seemed “bitchy” or “scolding.” One commentator I usually respect used terms like “claws” and “fangs,” terms that Women’s Studies 101 students know are misogynist shorthand for women being “cats” or “snakes.” I have saved one personal e-mail from an “enlightened” gender leader that could be easily described as strident and “shrill” who hated Hillary for being strident and “shrill.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, a non-sport, cooking metaphor.

Even though it’s tempting to go after Palin with anything and everything, I aspire to not use the same below the belt tactics I saw the anti-Hillary forces use.

So what is the “ladies” equivalent of the gentleman’s code of honor to not hit below the belt? Avoid her family, looks, vocal qualities or fashions and attack her politics, statements and affiliations. We leave ridicule based on biology to the comics, although it’s one of the most powerful tools men have used against public women since we first tried to break into the “no girls allowed” treehouse of politics. We treat female opponents the way we’d like to be treated; as full citizens with as much right to be wrong, idiotic, male chauvinist, greedy and short-sighted as the next guy or gal.

Although I risk being labeled a “single issue” voter, I oppose the McCain/Palin ticket on most issues but primarily because of their stand to overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion is NOT a single issue. It’s a mega-issue constellation that is a major tenet of women’s rights and responsibilities.

Reproductive self-determination, including birth control and abortion, is at the heart of individual liberty, family economics, separation of church and state, environment, foreign aid policy, education, civil rights, gender and health.

The most utterly private and personal decision a person can make is when, with whom or whether to have a child. And Republicans claim to champion individual liberty and non-intrusive government? Such hypocrisy!

Child-bearing is integral to domestic and global poverty issues given the feminization of poverty. The population explosion that contributes to global warming is a result of too many people born. The decision to regard a fetus as a full human being belongs between a woman and her religion, not government. Abortion is a tapestry, not a simple thread of one color. Aha! Another non-sports metaphor.

I literally can not afford one more year, let alone 4 more years of a Republican administration. If you oppose the GOP platform, please step up to the plate, or, step up to the stove, and let’s cook Palin and McCain’s goose and gander.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sept. 3

I just wrote my column about Governor Sarah Palin. How tempted I am to call her names. That desire I guess must be on the human hard-drive. But she's so dangerous. Her politics are to the right of Phyllis Schlafly's. Yikes!

Sometimes blogging seems so lame. I mean really. How on earth can the world take so many people journaling?

I'm waiting for Ken to wake up from his kidney procedure and will be going home to Wisdom Course homework party underway at the house.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Part of my answer to my friend's question: What do Women's Rights ultimately look like for you?

Part of my answer to my dear friend:

In the meantime, to address your question of yesterday: “what do Women's rights ultimately look like for you?” ...

There is no one answer to your question for me. It’s a constant creation of what that might look like. I am a woman of firsts for my family as I imagine you are too. We are the first women in our families to do all sorts of things. No one, I believe it’s safe to say, knows what women’s rights ultimately looks like and it’s really empowering and useful for me to remind myself that I am a pioneer in so many ways. So are you!

What I do know is that I’ve taken on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights— which I share in my show — as the basis for what human rights are universally, aptly enough. I also know that there’s a large gap for many cultures, including our own, as even really acknowledging women as full citizens, let alone, fully human. It’s taken YEARS for the international development community to even include “women’s rights” in the human rights agenda. As absurd as that may seem, it’s absolutely accurate. Charlotte Bunch of Rutgers was the first person to write seriously about including women’s rights in the human rights agenda. And unlike ethnicity, religion, etc., women have not automatically been included in human rights activists’ agendas. Whereas we boycotted South Africa for apartheid, very few people understand the parallels for gender apartheid that exists in many, many countries, and often in harsher more deadly forms than South Africa ever practiced. Anyway I digress a bit...

For me, reproductive rights/health rights are emblematic and primary to the women’s rights frontier. For thousands of years, women had no say in where, when and with whom she’d have a child and it put her/us in a very vulnerable position, as citizens, as people, as decision-makers. Our status was that of property not only in custom but in laws. It was codified in almost every civilization after the patriarchal system became world-wide that women and children were literally the property of men.

(This is all very general so forgive me if you already know all of this. I’m telling you a lot of this so you can see where I’m coming from.)

Rape was considered a crime against property; not against a person because if you don’t live as a person within a legal or economic system, a rape was simply a crime against the owner, the father, the husband, the brother even in some cultures.

So, jumping ahead by many centuries, we have this major breakthrough called birth control which makes a woman now capable of being the manager of her own reproduction. This in the scope of human history is MAJOR, and phew, just in time because we are also going through major stress on the planet because of a population explosion. Studies start to show that women will conduct family planning in such a way that things become balanced, for the family, the community and by extension society at large. However, most patriarchal systems put the most value on quantity/size/force by numbers.

But this creates a huge backlash with the patriarchy. And with a bit of Karl Marx philosphy sprinkled in here, all of a sudden the economy is threatened, patriarchal religions are threatened because the means of capitalism and production are intimately tied in with control of “reproduction,” not only production. Where are all the expendable workers going to come from if women can now control their own family size? Women who control their family size suddenly want education. They want to have more say over the economics of their family. They want all sorts of things that women aren’t “supposed” to want! Shock of shocks! They want a lot of the things that men want! It turns out that women are — gasp — human beings! They are not just baby machines. They have hopes, dreams, hunger, ambition, all sorts of attributes that heretofore are considered to be the domain of men only.

How does this all ultimately look? I have no clue. I was trained and raised to be a traditional woman; in many ways unconsciously but nonetheless, my parents’ vision for me, while they said that I could become anything I wanted, was more or less that of a successful executive’s wife. They didn’t envision ME being the successful executive. Had I been their son, I’m pretty sure they would have made sure I went to Harvard or Yale, with the brains and ambition I have? Phew. A guy with what I have would have been nurtured to be the executive, not the executive’s wife. Not that there’s anything wrong with being the wife of an executive. I don’t want to make that wrong. And that’s not my own vision of myself; a vision I was able to generate because I started tracking down the history of women, a theme that’s been largely left out of the “mainstream” history books and by extension, media.

Again I kind of digress but afterall, I have written a book and you can see that I have enough wind to do some more books about this.

Boiling this down again: After I did the Creation of Freedom Course and had heard Werner Erhard and Buckminster Fuller talk about “trim-tabbing,” I decided that I needed to create a movement. (Tell me if you know what “trim-tabbing” is. It’s useful to use as an activist if you don’t know but I won’t waste your time if you already know.)

The violence against women and girls statistics are shocking and awful; practically unconfrontable for most people. And the statistics are hard to come by because societies usually only count those things that they deem to be valuable; keeping stats on women and girls is a relatively new phenomonon. Anyway, according to the latest studies, one in three females on the planet are assaulted simply by virtue of their being female. In “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls” policies, on city, county, state, federal and international levels almost ALL the attention is on BEFORE or AFTER the crime, very rarely, if ever, DURING the crime. That leaves the woman or girl out of the loop on ending the violence that’s being perpetrated upon her WHILE it’s happening. It’s coming from a paradigm of women as property since the widely held unexamined belief is still that women are not capable of defending themselves. We are still taught/still believe that 1) men ought to behave themselves so therefore they WILL with regard to women and girls (we know this to be not accurate) 2) a man will be there to protect us (impossible, impractical, and not desirable if we are to be “real” agents of our own lives) 3) if we fight back, we’ll only fuck it up and make it worse (Not true and since we have the biggest stake in not being hurt, raped, impregnated, we need to know the basics.)

Since rape is often the crime that is committed against women and girls, and is also a way to impregnate them, I have taken the chunk of the “feminist” pie that addresses empowering women and girls to learn how to defend themselves. It’s not that I think that self-defense will work every time. Self-defense doesn’t work every time for men either. But my self-appointed job is to bring physical boundary setting to people’s consciousness. I have encountered everything from being utterly and completely ignored, told I’m a bull-dyke butch baby-killing ball-busting witch, having “new age” people tell me I’m “creating” more violence by teaching women how to defend themselves, to being considered somewhat of a “pariah” by some establishment feminists because things of the body are considered to be not credible or pertinent while they are working so hard to be considered real in “academia,” blah, blah, blah.
Meanwhile, I’m bringing into existence a recognition of the 3d article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Right now, half of the planet can’t enjoy that right because they are physically intimidated by the other half of the planet; they are afraid of being forced to have babies they know their family structure can’t bear without having a great cost to the other family members, they don’t have access to birth control or safe and legal abortion, they are regarded as unable to make their own decisions about reproductive rights and health, and they only dream of “security” of their own body. Women do not feel free enough, regardless of country, to do the things that men have always just taken for granted. Walking in the park at night, going to a movie alone, or in the extreme cases in Sub-Saharan Africa, going to the well or to gather wood without being gang raped.

So that’s my piece of the Women’s Rights pie; my impossible promise from Power and Contribution; the thing that gets me up in the morning. The name of my paper for the Conference on Global Transformation is: Physical Self-Defense as Physical Literacy: To Empower Women to be Fully Participating Citizens Worldwide by the year 2040.

“The Abstract: This paper explores the possibility that ending violence against females is an access to ending all violence and that the existing language communities that engage in conversations about ending violence need to include the education of women and girls in self-defense as a part of physical literacy.”

I’m one of the only people on the planet that is generating this conversation on a global level but I always bring it back to local too.
I’m very fond of saying, “Think Globally, Act Locally. There is NOTHING as local as your own body.” When a government or a political party takes a stand against a woman’s individual ability or right or group’s right to make decisions about her/their own body, I will take a very strong stand to maintain choice. I would be completely untrue to my word as an integrity issue not to do so.

So this may be a much longer answer than you EVER wanted. And I wanted to share with you some of the soil from which I grow my views!

Love, Ellen