#SWAAYthenarrative
BETA
Close

How One Woman Is Using Cheeky Christmas Pranks To Upend The Establishment

Culture

She's the Executive Director of March On and Co-Founder of the Women's March On Washington. She hails from Washington, DC and has made producing socially relevant media, political organizing, and redefining the global narrative of modern African culture her life's work.


Her name is Vanessa Wruble and she is one of the founders of Okayafrica, now “the largest media company focusing on a forward-thinking, nuanced view of Africa today."

After graduating Cum Laude from Williams College, studying Women's Issues, Psychology, and Fiction Writing, and earning a Master's Degrees from in Social Research in Psychology from The New School and Interactive Media from NYU, she worked as the first international correspondent for Al Gore's Current TV; as a Communication Specialist for the United Nations; and as a journalist for several print magazines.

Her missions are to right the imbalance of power, fight on behalf of all marginalized people, and ensure the end of structural patriarchy. So, it should be no surprise that her latest endeavor – Impeach Boutique - involves ugly Christmas sweaters. Yes, you read that right. And, yes, they are ugly. But they are also fantastic. Almost as fantastic as the work they fund.

1. How did you get involved with creating/working on the March?

I was one of the co-founders and main organizers of the Women's March On Washington. After the march ended, I spent months connecting with the leaders of the sister marches that happened all across the country. We decided we needed to continue the work we started with the January 21st, 2017 women's marches, and thus March On, a new political organization, was born. We are resolved to take concrete, coordinated actions at the federal, state and local levels to impact elections and take our country in a better direction. And we're well on our way.

2. How did the idea for Impeach come about?

We launched our Super PAC, the Fight Back PAC, so that the people will have their own Super PAC and be their own “special interest." As part of the “24 For 24" campaign (that's how many seats we need to take back Congress), we launched the Impeach Boutique and the “Gift of Impeachment" -- it's a tongue-in-cheek Christmas gag, but it gets right to the point.

While we're not focused on impeachment, per se, we're making the point that without a majority in Congress, we won't get any of the things we want, including impeachment, if Mueller finds grounds for it.

3. Why do you think it's important to approach this with at least a little humor?

If we can't laugh in these times….I was going to say we'll go crazy. But you know what? We should go crazy, because what is happening in our country right now is off-the-charts insane.

I think most of us are on the same page when we shake our heads in disbelief at the state of US politics. The GOP supporting someone who appears to be a pedophile? I mean, come on. This is where we are right now. So, yes, we'll use humor the way we'll use media, art, anger, determination, and everything else we've got to fight this fight.

4. What makes you keep working in spite of everything that's going on as opposed to giving up?

It's a pretty clear choice for me, and it's one that I hope I can convince more people out there to make. Unless you're actively engaged in fighting back, you're probably feeling a bit despairing and hopeless at the state of our country. I don't feel that way because I know what I'm doing will change things. It's that simple: join us, and you will feel better. Better yet? You'll save the country.

5. What advice do you have for women who are feeling tempted to give up?

Don't give up! Despite the daily horrors we're assaulted within the news cycle -- our world doomed by climate change egged on by the GOP policies, the assault on health care, the level to which Russia influenced our elections, the infantile tweets of the supposed “leader of the free world" -- I mean, I could go on, but you get the point -- despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, we're perfectly positioned to massively change our political landscape for the better.

Everything is now being exposed, and it has activated people like never before -- regular people, like many of the leaders of the women's marches -- and so now is the time where you can really, truly make a difference. You can join us in a number of ways -- really donating your skills and your network and your time, or it can be as simple as supporting the resistance financially by donating to the Super PAC or to March On directly.

Look, if you need some holiday guilt to get you off your tuchus, as my grandfather would have said: it's your duty to use all your resources to fix the mess we're in.

6. What are your hopes for Impeach? Now and in the future?

While our “gift of impeachment" is a fun holiday fundraising drive, I think the Impeach Boutique has legs. Stay tuned for more great stuff.

7. If you had a few moments in the elevator with 45, what would you say to him?

I don't think he's capable of hearing me, so I wouldn't waste words on him. Also, I'm actually scared by the idea of being trapped in an elevator with him.

8. Can you tell readers a little about the March On Platform and the Fight Back PAC in terms of what they are and how they work together and what their goals are?

March On will soon be crowdsourcing our agenda in something we call “Operation Marching Orders." It's very important to us to build community and to make sure that March On belongs to the people, so this is our way of letting the people give us our marching orders of where they want to see March On go. We know that we will be focusing a great deal on our “March On The Polls 2018" program.

MOTP2018 will focus on the vote: getting folks to register, working to overcome voter suppression and then turning out our voters to the polls on Election Day in a “March On The Polls" (Imagine a march, via foot, car, minivan or otherwise in every community in the country to go vote together!). This work will require all-hands-on-deck. Doing this work is very “people" intensive. And we anticipate that March On will also endorse candidates at all levels, from federal down to local elections, again, through our crowdsourcing program.

In turn, Fight Back PAC will look at those endorsed candidates and pick a few to really support financially through what are known as “independent expenditure" campaigns. This will be the vehicle for our “marchroots" community to flex its muscle as it's own special interest and to help elect--or defeat--a slate of candidates that matter to our community. Think of it this way: March On is the vehicle for people activism; March On's Fight Back PAC is the vehicle for our financial power.

9. Do you think Impeaching Delta Tanago will change things or he is just the figurehead for an agenda that Mike Pence will continue to move forward with?

While Pence might be a slightly more conventional politician than Trump (no more threatening tweets to Kim Jong Un!), his policies are equally horrific. But here's the thing that stumps me about this whole investigation: If this crowd--every last one of them--was elected with illegal and nefarious assistance from the Russians, how can this election be seen as legitimate?

Hillary Clinton has taken some heat for suggesting the same thing, but to me, that's an unavoidable conclusion. If a sports team cheats their way to victory, the other team is deemed the victor. I could envision a role for the Supreme Court in resolving this whole mess. There is absolutely no precedent for what we are facing. Let's shake off our numbness and remember: no candidate for the presidency of the United States has ever played footsie with a hostile foreign power to win the White House. These are unbelievable times. And if this is the outcome of the investigation, I do not see how Pence deserves to become President. The whole Trump Administration is rotten through and through if these allegations are proved to be true.

10. Anything else you'd like to share with readers?

Join us at https://www.wearemarchon.org/ and https://www.fightbackpac.com/! We'd love to be your home for activism heading into the 2018 elections. We'll put you to work, but we'll have fun and we'll build a community along the way. We can turn this around, but we need everyone on board.

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
5min read
Lifestyle

Unconventional Parenting: Why We Let Our Children Curse

"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."


In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.

And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.

Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.

But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…

Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.

Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.

And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.

And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.

We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.

Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.

And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.

The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.

And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.

I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.

As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.

Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.

We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.