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I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles. Let's hug.

November 13, 2016

on misogyny, internalized and otherwise

I have my own definition of misogyny: hatred of the feminine. Most dictionaries will tell you it's hatred of women, but when you google "hatred of the feminine," misogyny is the first hit. So please consider the following with that in mind.

Misogyny, as I define it, is more than simple sexism. It's a dismissive contempt for all things that code feminine, including affection, love, tenderness, sincerity, child welfare, peace, compromise, empathy, nature, and vulnerability, just to name a few.

What do I mean by "code?" A basic understanding of deconstruction is a key to applying my weird little definition. It's actually pretty simple. We tend to categorize things as binaries -- pairs of opposites -- in our attempts to make sense of the world. Day/Night, Sun/Moon, Father/Mother. God/Goddess. You can go on. There's also Good/Bad. And there's Masculine/Feminine. And that's not about what sex or gender you are. All humans of all sexes and genders experience and express some masculinity and some femininity.

Concepts that "code" feminine are ones that fall on the same side of our conceptual binary divide as "feminine" or "woman." For example, let's take Hard/Soft and Masculine/Feminine. Hard is equated with Masculine, and Soft with Feminine.

Why am I explaining this? Well, two reasons:

1. We women know what misogyny looks like. We've been deeply conditioned to fight our discomfort when it's present, and we get ridiculed when we bring it up. Usually we're dismissed as incorrect, liars, or overreacting to a fleeting bit of nonsense. But misogyny, internalized and otherwise, just lost Hillary Clinton this election. So I'm done not mentioning it.

2. I'm not signing up for any left movements based in patriarchy and misogyny. Misogyny devalues everything in life actually worth pursuing or living for. It deprives us of access to love and peace, dismissing such concerns as "unserious." The idea that we need to be cold, unsentimental, insensitive, rote, regimented, and violent to oppose Trumpism is false. That's only the best way forward when you accept misogyny as a given, as many political movements do.

In college, I joined an international socialist party. I signed up because of my well-intentioned, empathetic young heart. But before long, going to meetings made me feel sick to my stomach.

I remember one particularly nauseating meeting. The topic was how we as socialists should approach feminism. Several women in the room talked about how great it was that they joined international socialism so they could quit getting therapy for their rape and child abuse histories and finally do something "REAL." That was one of many early signs to me that the movement was fucked up. But, because I was being taught to ignore my sensitivity and intuition by that patriarchal and misogynist ideology, I kept quiet and soldiered on. (For less than 2 years. I was done with that shit before I turned 20.)

Switching gears, let's look at today: Alt-right patriarch Steve Bannon just got tapped to be Trump's chief strategist. You can read all about Bannon's work, but this story about his history of domestic violence tells you what you really need to know about him. He dehumanizes the women closest to him. It's not that he should be disqualified from his Trump team post because women need to be protected like children (though of course children need to be protected, and he clearly harms children). It's that he has a powerful contempt for women that is an indicator of his deep contempt for all that is feminine. Because women are so fundamentally objectified in our culture, a man's treatment of women serves as a barometer for his relationship to the feminine. Bannon is clearly a misogynist, no matter how you define it.

Whatever political or group identity we hold in this country, we minimize its misogynist tendencies at our peril. Misogyny can happen on the left or the right, in any religion or cultural or political organization, in any profession or industry. But once misogyny takes hold, all infected institutions are headed in the exact same direction: dehumanization and misery. And not just for the women involved. For everyone.

As we look at Trumpism, the Alt-Right ascendence, and Hillary's loss, misogyny and internalized misogyny are bigger players than most are willing to say. I didn't talk enough about this when I saw the blatant misogyny influencing the lead up to the election. I'm talking about it now.

Some might argue that I'm not being class-conscious enough, but I do not find economic arguments sufficient at this time. Well-off whites who support Trump -- and there are millions -- confound that argument. They're agitated by perception and identity more than material circumstances. In this new century, comfortable people everywhere are angry. They're angry about inequality, sure. But that's not the only thing, or even necessarily the main thing, that's going on. Bannon himself is one of those (many) cases where simple class analysis breaks down. He doesn't want more money. He wants control, power, dominance. He's disconnected from other humans and alienated from the feminine aspects of the human experience. So he's miserable, angry, and dangerous.

The identity breakdown is certainly also about race, and I'm indebted to those who will offer us crucial racial analyses. Here's one such piece. For my part, I'm here to offer a perspective based in gender. My argument is only one and must be combined with many other arguments.

I am not 100% sure of the way forward, but after ignoring so much misogyny in the lead up to this election, I vowed after Tuesday not to let it slide anymore. I've been holding my tongue on it for years, partly because it's the unspoken code of my industry never to speak of how virulently misogynist stand-up culture is. But a lot of people are genuinely shocked at the outcome of this election. It's as if they aren't aware of the toxic waters we all swim in. I was shocked myself. I pushed my knowledge down because reality is so unfair and it goes so deep. I didn't want it to be real.

But the fact is, I have a keen perception of misogyny, so I'm speaking out. And I'm not going to stand by while movements that evolve out of this crisis poison themselves with misogyny.

And, as an artist, I aspire to help liberate men and women and everyone from the prison of misogyny. Misogyny is fundamentally dehumanizing. Misogyny robs us of most of what life is truly and deeply worth living for. Misogyny enables us to destroy our planet and beat our children. Those are the stakes.

We've got to be vibrant, creative, open, respectful, and optimistic. We've got to listen to people of color and LGBTQ+ people and women and men and believe them/us. We've got to pool our resources and play to our strengths.

At this unprecedented time, creative solutions, not dogmatic ones, are required.

November 12, 2016

post-election breakdown

I'm done having my post-election breakdown. Now it's time to actually break it all down. So let's get to work:

I'll start off by saying that YES! Let's economically improve the Rust Belt! That's been necessary for about 40 years now! And let's definitely try to figure out an economic future for small town America, and working families, without pretending that manufacturing and resource extraction jobs are coming back. People, of course, want jobs. Public works initiatives can get us partway there, but not all the way. There are not enough jobs for everyone in America's future. We must face that and come up with plans that don't involve trying to stuff the automation genie back in the bottle or tear up our remaining natural resources in search of extractable materials just to provide Americans with jobs.


from the exit polls
But in reviewing the exit poll data from the 2016 election, I saw some startling revelations. And then I saw a whole lot of people on social media coming to entirely different conclusions!

For instance, I've seen a lot of people claiming that this election is all about economics, about the decline of the Rust Belt and middle-class America. That's a really comfortable liberal analysis. But it's not accurate.

Let's unpack some of the false beliefs a lot of people on the left hold that are messing with their analyses here:

1. Racism is evil. And people are good. Therefor, people are not racist.

The truth: Racism, particularly against Muslims, BLM activists, and Mexican, Central American, and South American immigrants, was a huge factor in the way Americans voted in this election. We have to take a stand against that, always, even if it means losing votes. And we have to oppose it and call it out in our streets, from our police forces, and in our news media.

2. People vote their best interest from an economic perspective.

The truth: Most people vote based on a complex set of deeply felt issues and gut heuristics. I know I do. Being economically comfortable doesn't stop you from lodging a protest vote. Many securely middle-class people voted Trump. In fact, that is where most of his supporters stand.

3. While sexism is a problem, most people evaluate men and women fairly, based on the facts.

The truth: Most people -- women included -- don't trust women. It's a fundamental story -- the very first, in fact -- in Christianity. In this election, a woman ran against a known and clear liar, and with every victory she logged along the way, more people, including many on the left, labeled her a crook and corrupt and a liar. It's not comfortable to face how differently we all judge women, especially for those of us who believe deeply that men and women should be treated as equals. But the fact is, the electorate did not believe the woman candidate could be trusted, even though her opponent lied at every debate repeatedly and has defrauded tens of thousands of Americans for his personal economic gain. Trust was a major factor here, and the biggest liar I've ever seen run enjoyed a lot more trust than his female opponent.

If we don't face that, we'll continue to excuse the tremendous injustice women and girls face. Women's health care decisions will be taken from us, since we can't be trusted. And we will continue to live in a culture that covers up sexual assault and abuse. Not to mention we'll continue to see every major industry dominated by men and see far too few women in government, leadership, and culture.

We have to face the data. We cannot just dismiss it because it doesn't fit our narratives. We must shape our narratives to the evidence, not the other way around.

Read the exit polls. Face the data. Then let's move forward.

August 11, 2016

Vow of Celibacy is OUT!

It's official: As of this week, Vow of Celibacy is OUT!

 "Out" is also the title of the second-to-last chapter of the book. I believe that we ALL have to come out as who we are, not just LGBT people. The great transition that happens between our mid-teens and full-fledged adulthood can be complicated and difficult to navigate, but two core components are figuring out who we are and what we want, and not being afraid to share that with the world.

Vow of Celibacy is a queer story and body-affirming story and a sex-positive story, but mostly it's a story about stepping out of the shadows and into the light.

I hope you enjoy it.

July 13, 2016

vow of celibacy


My debut novel Vow of Celibacy hits bookstores August 9th, and word on the street is that it is A) sexy, B) good, and C) sexy as hell.

"Gosh, that sounds great! How can I obtain a copy of this sexy, funny book and otherwise support its release?"

Wow, thanks for asking! Here are all the ways:

Pre-Order!


*not really



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Reviews & Blurbs
"Erin Judge’s compulsively readable debut is the rare novel that contains equal parts heart and wit. And yes, it’s sexy as hell, too.”
Maris Kreizman, author of Slaughterhouse 90210

“A smart, funny, and fast-paced book about sex, love, body image, and friendship.”
Kirkus

“Fat-positive, bi-affirming, clever, and fun, Vow of Celibacy is the beach read of your dreams.”
Lindsay King-Miller, AfterEllen.com and author of Ask A Queer Chick

"Erin Judge's Vow of Celibacy is a smart, witty coming-of-age tale starring a complex and courageous heroine who stays burned in your memory long after you put down the book. Natalie's bold adventures in self-discovery and desire are sometimes hilarious, sometimes unnerving, but always engrossing."
Heather Havrilesky, The Cut's "Ask Polly" and author of How to Be a Person in The World

“Like an updated and more grounded Perks of Being A Wallflower, Vow of Celibacy cuts to the bone. The struggle has never been more real, and no writer understands it better than Erin Judge. There is a dearth of literature with bisexual characters at the center—Vow of Celibacy stands out because it captures the experience honestly and in a way that is so relatable. Equal parts witty and devastating, Vow of Celibacy understands the struggle to find footing in this difficult world better than anything else currently on the shelves.”
Catie Disabato, author of The Ghost Network

"Vow of Celibacy is so funny and sexy and heartbreaking and joyous! I didn't feel like I was reading accounts of relationships as much as I was overhearing friends talk about the most vital and exciting parts of them."
Josh Gondelman, comedian, co-author of You Blew It & writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Read the synopsis & find out more about my publisher, Rare Bird Books, here!

...and thanks for everything!

April 23, 2016

late april

Yesterday I received a call from a friend in search of love advice. My friend was wondering how you know if the challenges in an otherwise good relationship are red flags, or if they're just normal stuff that can be worked out. I advised this friend to take a step back and first answer a few important questions: What do you want from relationships in general? Do you want to be in a long-term relationship? Do you want, someday, to build your own family?

Partnership is not simply long-term dating. It's a different thing, a bond that lives at the nexus of romance, friendship, and family. If it's done right, the strength of all three, and indeed of every variety of relation that can be created and cultivated - erotic, collaborative, advisory, artistic, collegial, intellectual - all grow indefinitely.

Well. Until death.

Inevitable. Mercurial. Sometimes reluctant. Often merciful. At times unfathomably cruel. Death.

My mother's partner died ten years ago today. They were never married. In fact, the idea that gay marriage would be legal in Texas by 2015 was pretty much unthinkable when they got together, back in the late 1980s. Nonetheless, the period of time leading up to Doreen's death, when Mom and I held vigil over her hospital bed in our living room, helped me understand what commitment means and what it is worth, why partnership and union and the joining of lives in adulthood are all so important.

I have a lot of love in my life. I am extremely lucky. I miss Doreen very much, and I wish she could've known me and my chosen family better in my adulthood. She was very young, not quite 44 years old when she died. We needed so much more time.

Yesterday, Patton Oswalt, a person I care about and respect immensely but have interacted with only via social media, lost his wife, the writer Michelle McNamara. From all accounts, her passing was very sudden. Patton is the kind of person who routinely pens pitch-perfect reactions to events in damn near real-time, even as they happen, from hilarious jokes to eloquent articulations of outrage to poignant tributes. He's as smart as he is sensitive. My whole heart goes out to him. I wish, in the wake of this awful tragedy, that I had gifts like his to offer.

Grief is literally crazy-making. You hear voices, see things, lose your mind a bit. Those effects last longer than you might expect, especially given the three meager days of bereavement "leave" most workplaces offer. It's awful.

And, while I don't have too many core beliefs, I know this thing for sure:

Love is worth it.

Love is worth the pain of loss. Love is bigger and love lasts longer than even the worst agony and heartbreak of death. Grief changes us, shapes us, pokes holes in us that never really get filled up again. But we would be nothing at all without love.

It's been an intense week. Prince is one of those people who I knew meant a lot to me but had no idea quite how much until he was suddenly gone, also far too young. Michelle McNamara's intense curiosity and keen intellect made her True Crime Diary project so compelling. She, too, had so much more art in her, so much more to tell us, so many more stones to turn and truths to reveal.

Today, where I sit, the sun is shining. Palm trees shimmer and whisper in the wind. My husband is on his way home from a week of backpacking, and my mother is off gallivanting around America on a road trip, celebrating her retirement and her pending relocation to Southern California. Our family is smaller than it should be. But we are happy, well, optimistic.

I remain very, very grateful for love, including all the love that still lives within me for the people I've known who have died. And I get to keep that love, to savor it, for my whole entire lucky life.



December 31, 2015

find your figurative desk

2015 is the year I bought a desk.

After writing and editing an entire novel in hotel rooms, friends' homes, Airs BnB, and my dining room table, I figured catch-as-catch-can was good enough. When we moved into our new home in California last December, I decided I'd be fine continuing to operate without a designated space for my artistic work.

Stand up comedy has certainly taught me to value no-fuss, low-overhead creativity. All you need is a mic! And a little lighting! Maybe a stool! Stools are optional! Even conjuring my friend and mentor Salome Gawkerton, Internet Feminist requires little more than a hair tie and a pair of broken sunglasses.

But, as 2015 rolled on, I found I wasn't making a whole lot of headway on my second book. That brilliant new pilot script remained confined within the squishiest regions of my grey matter. I re-designed my whole website, but I did so hunched over my tiny laptop keyboard while sitting in a dining chair. When November came around and my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas, the indignity I'd been steadily subjecting myself to boiled to the surface. "I think I need a desk," I began. "It's been pretty hard using the table," I admitted. I felt an upwelling of hyperbole in the pit my stomach, headed directly towards my vocal chords. "This situation is impossible!" I insisted, my voice trembling, at my poor agreeable spouse. He just stared at me, wide-eyed, as I leapt to my feet, rent my garments, and wailed: "I'm a FUCKING NOVELIST! And I don't even have my own GODDAMN DESK!"

Then I swept out and I took to my bed.

The day after Christmas, we visited every used furniture store in West LA, to no avail. We followed that up with a particularly depressing trip to the high-end Helms Complex, where I was silently mocked by $580 worth of Scandinavian particle board. Instead of pulling the trigger on an antique dinette table or a piece of children's furniture that costs more than my entire wardrobe, I turned to dear ol' Uncle Craigslist, and I found the perfect thing, just posted, down the street, for twenty bucks.

Over the past year, I've been adjusting, moving, changing, finding my way. That's what we do every year, of course, but I've spent 2015 navigating a new coast, a new job, a new schedule, a new life. I journaled and meditated and read Jung. My soul tends to tell me what it needs.

And, at the dawn of 2016, what my soul needs is a desk. The first person who has to take my art seriously is me. If I'm reluctant to invest time, resources, energy, and effort in my work, then everybody else will be too. And if I don't make the space, literal and metaphorical, for my creativity, nobody's going to do it for me.

So I encourage you to find your own metaphorical desk this year. It doesn't have to be big or fancy or expensive or Swedish. It just has to matter.

Happy Desk Year!

December 16, 2015

whites against white paranoia

white, prosperous, and real dang angry
During last night's debate, W. Kamau Bell inspired the hashtag #WhitesAgainstTrump, and I was happy to chime right in. I LOVE it when standing up for all that is right and not fascist is not only fun but SUPER EASY, and that's especially true when it involves sitting on my couch in my yoga pants with a glass of wine typing <140 characters! Hooray for me! I #hashtagged! I'm an activist!

In seriousness, it's always eye-opening for white people to see how non-white folks characterize us as a group, since we're this privileged class that gets to exist, often utterly oblivious as to our outward collective identity. But Kamau's call to whites to topple Trump made me think, and it made me realize that my state of disgusted alienation from Trump's supporters is actually a big (perhaps the biggest?) part of the problem.  

I gotta say, deep in my heart... I'm not just disgusted by Trump-supporting white people. I'm worried about them.

My grandmother watched the entire Republican convention in 2012. It was the television highlight of her year. My mother's partner's parents, who lived next door, watched Fox News all the time. Patton Oswalt has complained publicly about Fox News with a fervor that only those with loved ones in its grip can muster. Most white people I know have family members, even close family members, who live in that cognitive hellscape.

But how many of those white, solidly middle-class* people who have been watching Fox News for the past 15 years are sincerely happy? Do they feel safe, secure, comfortable? Did they under George W. Bush, or were they kept nice and terrified back then too? Roger Ailes and his ilk have poisoned countless minds with frightening falsehoods and imprisoned otherwise prosperous individuals in a psychological cage of intensifying hatred and paranoia. Paranoia is a fucking diagnostic criterion for mental illness. It is not a happy, healthy, positive, reality-based state to be in. 

So what we have is a bunch of people, many of them with respectable 401Ks and savings accounts, who can get brand new knees and guzzle Lipitor and live comfortably for decades, and they're miserable. They're angry all the time, they feel disenfranchised, and it's partly because the "information" they've been given 24 hours a day is utterly misaligned with the direction of our country. If the "information" Fox presents as true actually were true -- if climate change weren't real, if Iran were allowed to have nuclear weapons under Kerry's deal, if Syrian asylum-seekers were mostly radicalized ISIS loyalists entering the country unvetted by the hundreds of thousands -- then every decision the Obama administration has made would seem fucking insane. Seriously, try empathizing with that for a second. Millions of Americans' current psychological state -- paranoia and resentment and seething frustration and fear -- is actually, to some extent, the logical conclusion of all those lies.

Since the Iraq invasion I've been somewhat obsessed with questions of the nature of truth, about what people are inclined to believe, about confirmation bias and other ways our brains are "designed" to retain false beliefs. I try my damndest to remember that my own mind is a not crystal-clear chamber of logic and veracity either. 

My white family members (or high school acquaintances, etc.) who follow Trump think I'm naive AF. They think I've been brainwashed by college (you know, the one that those self-same family members were so determined to get me to). That's the assumption most of us #WhitesAgainstTrump are facing.

But those of us who have watched relatives get progressively angrier and more racist have first-hand knowledge of one thing, for damn sure:

Standing up for non-white non-Christian Americans is not something we must do solely for the benefit of those non-white non-Christian Americans. We need to do it for our families, for our disjointed communities, for sanity, for human happiness, for our own hearts and souls. And I'm ready to do more, not just by Tweeting into my personal echo chamber, but on stage, on the page, and in tough conversations with the people I encounter.

I want to say something about how I'll put my body on the line and fight, too, in the streets and in every way possible. But honestly, I don't know where to put it. I remember during the anti-globalization movement stuff back in 1999, a Civil Rights-era activist who spoke to my coalition explained (and I'm paraphrasing): "A movement doesn't consist of demonstrations. You have a march or a protest to demonstrate that there is a movement." 

So how do we build a movement to oppose Fox News, and other profiteers in the Big Paranoia concern? It's certainly a matter of interest to people on all sides of the political spectrum. But I'm against censorship, obviously, and I also don't think that MRE companies are gonna pull their ads any time soon. The prepper phenomenon illustrates that the paranoia industry is substantial. 

So what do we do? I welcome your suggestions. 


*I know there are many MANY thousands of broke, pain-pill-addicted, underemployed, traumatized veteran, and/or otherwise marginalized white people out there who also harbor these paranoid beliefs. And yes, I want to help them. In addition to supporting VA expansion, drug treatment programs, tax breaks for the poor instead of the rich, public education, and Medicaid expansion, I think fighting the Fox News agenda, in whatever law-abiding free-speech-affirming way we can, will help them too.