Last weekend was our county fair. We staffed the DFL booth for an hour, handing out stickers and balloons to passersby. The booth had run out of Kerry stickers hours before, which was a good sign, but it was disheartening to see the Republican booth right across from us putting Bush/Cheney stickers on strollers and young women's backs.
After our token hour, we went to eat in the 4-H barn. Matt and John stood in line for food, while I found a seat and tried to get Maia to eat a strawberry shake (she was not feeling good -- the fact that she wouldn't eat the shake is quite a measure of how badly she was doing).
One of our DFL county unit compatriots (I'll call him Dan) serves as a cook for the 4-Hers, and he came to talk with us a bit. Dan is retired, a self-described Humphrey Democrat, pissy as hell, and his favorite thing to say at a DFL meeting is, "Oh yeah? Well, how are you going to pay for that? I hope not by raising taxes!" Now what kind of good Democrat says that? Heh.
Anyway, Dan has always bugged me at meetings by piping up all the time and saying that. I did find out within the last few months that he supported Matt in the race, so I've felt kindlier toward him, but I have to admit I do not give him much of a chance when he talks about taxes.
That night, I was wearing my new t-shirt from the DFL Feminist Caucus. (I've just spent a few minutes looking at that logo. It's the first time I've seen it and no, I don't get it, either.) It's a comfy baseball-style shirt, white with red arms, Made in the USA and union printed. On the back it has a list of words: "Radical. Compassionate. Pro-choice. Rabble-rouser. The DFL Feminist Caucus." It might have some other words, but you get the idea.
As I was fussing with Maia, Dan came over and sat down. "You know, I just had to tell you something about your shirt," he said.
"OK," I replied, showing him my teeth.
He told me someone he knows in Kansas says that the Democratic Party there is branded as radical and that once something is branded radical, it's hard to lose that label.
See how quickly you read that? With Dan, it took about 10 minutes to say. His words come in small bunches; they pop out like ill-timed bullets. It was hard to pay attention to him and Maia at the same time. And suddenly, I Had Had Enough of poor Dan.
"Wait," I said, putting down the shake. "Wait. You're telling me you don't like the word 'radical' on my shirt?"
"No no no no no no no no no!" he said, shaking his hands in front of him as if I'd offered him a joint. "No! Not at all! It's just that, well, you know."
I felt mean. I smelled blood. I felt like a hound. "This is Minnesota, Dan," I said, stalking him inside my head. "We can handle radical, here."
"Well, you know. It's just, well. You know," he offered.
"Are you saying you have a problem with 'radical' and 'feminist'?" I saw what he was getting at. "In Kansas, I'll tell you what the problem is, Dan. The problem with 'radical' and 'feminist' is 'abortion,' and I really hope you're not telling me that's the problem you have with my shirt."
This is not my proudest moment. This is not high debate. But I Had Had Enough, from my own side.
"No," Dan said bravely. "It's not. It's just that, well. You know, it's just that. My daughter, you know, she's 25, and she says she's not a feminist, not like that."
I have never been spoken to like that. I've nearly gotten into fights over labor issues, but never over feminism. Perhaps that makes me a baby in the movement, but it shocked me when it happened.
"Dan, can your daughter open her own bank account?" I snapped, leaning across the table at him. I felt my words raising my voice. "In her own name? And put her own money in it? Or did you have to countersign for her? Or did her husband? Thirty years ago, that was radical feminism. 100 years ago, it was radical feminism to get a woman voting. Radical feminism is where the change starts, Dan, and your daughter has it to thank for what she can do now."
Radical Feminists will likely differ with my use of the term, but Dan is not one to get into feminist theory in the 4-H barn. He muttered, "Well, it's just that. With the. You know," awhile, while I ignored the looks from other people and asked Maia if she wanted a bite of shake. She did not.
I'm tired of explaining it to my own side. I'm tired of defending myself to my allies. But Dan will think twice, I think, before saying something like that again.