(61) Taking No Prisoners with Zawn

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Writer and feminist, Zawn Villines, drops lots of (uncomfortable) truth about gender inequality bullshit in marriage and parenting. We discuss the thing she heard in a mom’s group that shocked her, the kind of man who cannot be “fixed,” an equitable solution that isn’t just leaving your marriage, and innovative ideas about what we do about these inequalities for ourselves and our children. 

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Brandy:  Hello Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. Today’s episode drops lots of truth even if it’s a little uncomfortable to hear. Today’s guest, Zawn is an outspoken writer and feminist who takes no prisoners with gender inequality bullshit in marriage and parenting. She has a fascinating backstory that explains how she got her point of view, and so early, and she’s helping moms to demand better for themselves, even before they’re married or choose to become mothers. In this episode, Zawn and I discuss the thing she heard in a moms group that shocked her, the kind of man who cannot be fixed, an equitable solution that isn’t just leaving your marriage, and innovative ideas that sort of blew my mind about what we do about these inequalities for ourselves, and also our children. On to the show.

Brandy:  Today on the podcast, I’m talking with someone who I think can get even more heated than me about the patriarchal lie that is self care, among other things. So today’s guest Zawn Villines is an outspoken writer who’s whip-smart and also sick of men’s shit! In addition to her background in writing about politics and medicine, she writes about motherhood, marriage and household inequality. In many of my social circles, I tend to be one of the loudest voices in gender equality and parenting but Zawn I feel like is even louder than me and I love her for it. Whenever I see a new article, or post by her, I’m always like, “Oh, what am I gonna learn today?” So I asked her here to help educate and validate us. So welcome to the podcast, Zawn.

Zawn:  Thank you.

Brandy:  I’m so excited to talk to you and I’m so happy to speak to you voice to voice. I hear your voice in your writing but I always enjoy putting something more personal to an online name. So this is sort of exciting that now I know the voice that goes along with you. We have a lot to get into and possibly rage about with each other, and also some action steps so this isn’t just going to be anger, and pointing out injustices. But before we get to that Zawn, what do the listeners need to know about you? 

Zawn:  Sure! Like you said, I’m a writer, I’ve been a writer my whole career, most of what I’ve written has (inspite of being raised a feminist and being a lifelong feminist) been pretty apolitical. I mostly do medical writing so I was not really that familiar with the world of feminism and motherhood until I had a child, and then I started joining all of these mom groups. It was the same question over and over again, which basically boils down to, “I just had a baby, and my husband needs me to cook dinner and he needs to go play golf, and I need to clean the house, or it’s Mother’s Day, and my husband didn’t do anything, but he went out with his boys.” And I was just like, “What the fuck is this? This is actually happening?” So I sort of came to this awareness of household inequality, as someone who did not experience that and who was just stunned by it. So I just started writing about it, and saying exactly what I felt about it and I thought that I was going to get a lot of backlash but instead, what I found is that women are really mad. Most of the criticism I get from women is actually for not being radical enough.

Brandy:  Wow! Oh, my God, who are these women? I need to know them. I need to be connected with these women who are even more extreme than me and you. Holy shit.

Zawn:  Right? It’s wild. I’ll be like, “Divorce him!” and they’ll be like, “No, no. Poison him! Light him on fire!” And these are, you know, seemingly normal seeming women. 

Brandy:  Oh, my gosh, there’s so much there.

Zawn:  I’m also kind of like a birth justice advocate. I have this nonprofit where we basically educate women about their legal rights in childbirth and I know that seems a bit disconnected from household labor but I’ve actually found that there’s a really close connection. There’s this horrifying phenomenon of men just being shit when their partners have babies. I don’t have any data on this point but what I do observe is that the less likely a man is to contribute to household labor, the less likely he is to be a good support person when his partner has a baby and that initiates a whole cascade of things of birth trauma and postpartum depression. So I feel like these two things are connected and I’ve been sort of struggling to find a way to connect them more publicly. But what I’m finding is that even among very conservative women who would never dare to call themselves feminists, when I post on my nonprofit page about lazy men, they’re like, “Fuck, yeah, kill them all!” So this is across demographics and I think that’s important to emphasize.

Brandy:  Yes! I was a birth doula for 10 years, and I taught childbirth education, and I worked in birth trauma counseling. So exactly what you’re talking about is so, so real and to be honest with you, the reason I got out of birth work was because I would be a part of these people’s most amazing day, and I was trauma informed, and I felt like I could offer so much and I would just see all of the things that you’re talking about just play out in birth, and then after birth, and it became really hard to watch this family be born, and then watch the woman—I’m like, “Oh, what kind of autoimmune disease is she gonna have in five years? Because she’s been running herself ragged.” It became like fatigue for me as a care provider, because I knew that’s what was coming. And I could see the dynamics in the birth room. So you are absolutely spot on about how those are connected.

Zawn:  Yeah, it’s really so upsetting to see women at this really vulnerable period, rather than having their partners being like, “Yeah, you did it and you’re awesome!” Be like, you know, “Get in the fucking kitchen and make me some dinner.” It’s just awful.

Brandy:  It’s hard too because it’s kind of like, what you were saying is that you didn’t know the intersection of feminism and motherhood until you became a mother yourself. But we pick our partners before we get to this stage in many cases and so I think this is the first time for many women where they realize that they really see, “Oh my gosh, my partner, who yeah, maybe I thought he was a little bit lazy or whatever but now I’m seeing that this is a problem.” So then you’ve got a woman becoming a mother and all the heaviness of that, and then birth and everything. But then on top of it, you’ve got her going, “Oh, shit, did I pick wrong?”

Zawn:  Yeah!

Brandy:   “Did I pick the wrong partner? How does this play out?” And also of course, you know, she may love her partner. But then it’s like, “So now do I have to educate him about this? Do I have to undo these things in him?” It’s like basically caretaking everyone in the picture that I’m just I’m exhausted thinking about it.

Zawn:  Exactly. Yeah. It’s tough.

Brandy:  I wanted to go back and ask you—so lifelong feminist. How did you grow up that you know you’re a lifelong feminist? What was that like and how were your parents? What was the setup?

Zawn:  I come from a long line of activists. All four of my grandparents were activists in different ways and my mom was a stay at home mom for the first couple of years of my life but she didn’t do a whole lot of staying at home. She was on all of these boards, there was always like a protest or a cause or a congress person she was threatening. And my dad is a lawyer and lobbyist who loved this about her, so they would often tag-team people where one of them would play like the rational one and the other one would be like, “My spouse is fucking crazy, you got to do what they want.” It was really amazing. They divorced when I was 10, but they still remained best friends and continued to work on various causes together. My mom’s big thing was child advocacy so she did a lot of child abuse prevention but what was really interesting is she was an early advocate of family reunification. Not putting kids in the foster care system, not reflexively saying, because a mother is poor, she should give up her baby for adoption.

Brandy:  Yeah.

Zawn:  So I got an early introduction to that and was very committed to the feminism and family stuff but the lens through which I saw things was a socio-economic lens. I didn’t really ever consider the feminism and family stuff for upper middle class white women, because that’s just not what I was seeing. You know, my parents did a pretty good job splitting things and then after they divorced, they had joint custody and my dad did all this stuff my mom did. I remember him being very dismissive of uninvolved dads. He had this line that he would often say that “Real dads don’t golf,” and “Real dads learn how to do the French braid correctly.” So that was very much my model and it wasn’t perfect. I mean, there’s always (especially a generation ago) some inequality, right? But I was very keenly aware that I wanted that in my own relationship. So when I looked for partners, on our first date I’d be like, “Tell me about if you’re a feminist and why.” And if I got any pushback, I just be like, “This is not going to work.”

Brandy:  Wow. So you knew—You were one of the few people who knew from the beginning the right questions to ask. You knew this to ask the questions that like 30 to 40 year old you would want answered at 20 or somewhere in your 20s?

Zawn:  Yeah, I mean, my parents, and my grandparents all did a lot of talking about what makes a good relationship, what makes a good life. My grandmother, in particular—my grandparents were married for, like, 50 plus years, very happily and so I kind of like had that model of like, “I want what they have.” So we talked a lot about how you get what they have. So I went into this with a lot of advantages that I think a lot of other women don’t have, having had adults talk to me about what to expect from a partner and also seeing from the adults in my life, what I didn’t like, with how they were with partners, and I think that a lot of women only come to that much later in life and when they do come to it, the cultural message is just like, “Well, that’s how men are. You just have to—it’s just a little thing.” And it’s not a little thing.

Brandy:  Yes, but you give me hope. I think it’s so important, the recognizing that you have this advantage that a lot of people don’t. But hopefully those of us in these generations who are raising our sons and daughters, and anything in between, to be more cognizant of that and to be more feminist, that our kids will be like you, because they will grow up in that and then they will know and they will know the questions to ask. And they’ll know because they’ll have family members who talk about what makes a good relationship. So you, I feel like are the product of what a lot of us of this parenting generation are trying to produce. Does that make sense?

Zawn:  Yeah, you know, I think it’s important for people to hear that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You know, what you model to your kids does matter if your relationship is unequal, that’s going to be what feels normal to them. But if you’re openly talking to them about things, and there are some problems that they’re witnessing, they’ll get the critical thinking skills that they need. You know, my parents divorced so obviously, their relationship wasn’t perfect but they had talked to me enough and modeled to me enough good stuff that I was able to not normalize the bad stuff.

Brandy:  I love that. The “good enough.” And maybe the most important stuff was the stuff that was modeled. 

Zawn:  Right. Right. And it was a partnership. I mean that’s the real thing. My mom died two months ago, and my parents were partners until the very end. My dad did her eulogy, even though they’ve been divorced now longer than they were married. They were working together on legislation right up until she got sick.

Brandy:  I saw that go by. I’m so sorry. Let’s see, there was something—Oh, I know. I wanted to make sure that I read this quote of yours. You are forthright in coming out and just saying, “Household labor inequality is domestic abuse. A man who can watch his wife work herself into illness doesn’t care about his wife.” Yes.

Zawn:  Yeah.

Brandy:  So yeah. Okay. Yes! I’m wondering about your husband. What were the questions you had for him and how did you pick him? And is he like this unicorn, perfect feminist guy? Or are there still times that you butt up against his conditioning as a man? How is that? 

Zawn:  Wow, okay. So that’s a lot. {Laughs}

Brandy:  Yeah, that was a lot I just asked you. {Laughs}

Zawn:  You may have to redirect me. I want to focus on the male conditioning aspect first. Because one of the things that I hear a lot is, men are socialized into this and so we have to understand that it’s not really their fault or you have to be gentle with them. No, that’s bullshit. Men are socialized into all kinds of problematic things and we are socialized into all kinds of problematic things. Racism is socialized. Every white person in this country is raised with all kinds of racist ideas and we don’t say, “Well, we’re going to let ourselves off the hook because of that.” I think we need to separate the idea that men learn this from the world around them from the idea that it is somehow inevitable and unfixable. I think what’s really important is with my friends, what I have observed is there’s three ways that men will respond to being called out generally and to hearing talks about household inequality, specifically. One is that they can say, “Oh, you’re right, I’m sorry, let me do better.” Or some variation of that or, “I want to do better. Tell me more.” But that’s the least likely one. More often what you get is they demand even more work. “Prove it to me. Go through every chore I’m not doing and explain to me why I should do it.” And it’s like, by the time you’ve done this, you’ve wasted three days of your life and so things are worse. Then the third is weaponizing anger. The strategy here with these guys, is to make the price of bringing up this issue so high, that you don’t want to do it. Those are the men who I think cannot be fixed. 

Brandy:  Oh, that’s so important. 

Zawn:  Maybe they will change their mind independently but if you see that in a husband or boyfriend, I don’t think that it’s worth spending time with. But the men who are like, “Yeah, I want to fix it.” You can work with that. 

Brandy:  Totally. Yes. 

Zawn:  So in terms of my husband—my husband presents very much like a typical, sort of aggressive white American male. He taught Jiu Jitsu for years. He routinely talks about how much he loves choking people, because that’s what you do in Jiu Jitsu. Now, he is a lawyer, and not just a lawyer, but a civil rights litigator, which is a really intense, aggressive field. So he’s not a pushover and he’s not what these sexist men would call a “beta cock.” I think that’s important that you can be a manly guy and still be a feminist who treats your partner with dignity and respect. When I met him he was 70% of the way to how he is now. He definitely identified as a feminist, was definitely, generally concerned about issues of social justice, though not terribly informed about women’s issues. In a matter of months of him listening to me, he was there. I think that’s the thing that really matters is, do you have a partner who’s willing to listen to your experiences, and then independently educate themselves? Or do you have a partner who’s going to tell you, you don’t understand your own experiences, and that researchers don’t understand what they’re saying about your experiences. I think the latter is much more common with men.

Brandy:  I’m taking notes here because this is so important, what you’re saying. There’s a couple things that are coming up for me, which is, if you have a guy who’s 70% of the way there, and then you get together, that’s only 30% more that you have to go. I mean, let’s not say it’s going to be perfect. That’s 20% or something where you’re getting better, right? But then if somebody realizes all of a sudden after having kids, “Oh, my gosh, my husband is only at like, 30% so I’ve got 70% to go.” That’s a different workload to do because then if you’re the one that’s going to try—if the woman is the more feminist one and trying to pull him, that’s a problem. But then also, I think another really important piece of that is that you said how willing to individually and independently educate themselves are they, that this isn’t now a task of yours to now feminize them?

Zawn:  I agree, and I think that I think that early emotional labor is often a harbinger of what’s to come because if he’s not willing to Google, “What is feminism?” What the fuck is he willing to do? Nothing, right? So I started this advice column on my Facebook page and I started getting questions from young women who are in the “serious dating/considering engagement” stage of things. They all already had problems with their partners and problems that I consider really serious problems. They all prefaced it with, “He’s a great guy, and I love him so much.” And it’s like, “Okay, well, that’s nice, but people put on their best display early in the relationship so however things are early in the relationship, you should assume that that’s the best it’s ever going to be. It’s not going to get better when you’re tied to this person, when you quit your job to raise their children, when you’re financially dependent on them. These are things that do not improve. I saw this ridiculous Slate article that just infuriated me a couple of days ago. I think it was the Care and Feeding column. And they’ve got this dude answering questions. A woman writes in and she’s like, “My husband is fundamentally lazy, and I’m afraid to have kids with him because I’m afraid he’ll leave our child to roast in the backseat of the car.” That strikes me as a pretty serious problem. This dude’s like, “Well, you know, once they have kids, everything gets turned on and they become more responsible.” No, that’s not true. It’s the exact opposite because once you have kids, they’ve got you. You’re trapped.

Brandy:  That’s so interesting. In some ways, it’s like, “I can see that fatherly instincts come up but then I can also see how the dynamic of most of the heteronormative marriages, straight, cis marriages are that the woman does everything. That’s just how it’s been set up. So even if you have a guy whose fatherly instincts come on, a lot of times, everything gets put on the mom’s plate. I feel like it’s not as simple as that. There’s so much at play so to just say that all of a sudden, he becomes a person he’s never been and all of a sudden has the knowledge and education, even though he has a background and possible conditioning from growing up a man, it all goes away. I don’t think so.

Zawn:  Exactly. Just think back on every relationship you’ve ever had prior to the one you have now. Did the early problems get better? Or did they get worse? They don’t get better. 

Brandy:  Great. Yeah. Great point and great question. I want to read this part of this article you wrote for Working Mother. I want to read the whole thing because it’s so good, but I just want to read a couple gems from it. You say, “Men are not innately lazy. Men know that children have to eat to live, that they can’t drive themselves to school, and that someone has to buy the holiday presents. He knows clothes have to be washed and that someone has to buy and cook the food. They choose not to undertake these basic tasks because they know someone else will.” Okay that we need to unpack but the second part that I love, too is, “Similarly, our lady genes don’t uniquely equip us to understand that leaving newly purchased groceries out is a recipe for food poisoning. Our woman parts don’t give us superpowers that enable us to smell dirty diapers. Instead, most heterosexual male partners buy their leisure time and their freedom on the backs of the overworked, exhausted women with whom they live. It’s exploitation plain and simple.” Girlfriend, yes! Can we please unpack these things? Can we please unpack these things?

Zawn:  Yeah. So everything you ever read on this topic starts from the assumption that this is in some way, the woman’s responsibility. All of the guides for dealing with household labor are like, here are the lists you should make for your darling husband.

Brandy:  Yes.

Zawn:  All of the books are like, here are the ways you can hire someone to outsource the woman’s work. It all just assumes that this is the woman’s natural role and that’s ridiculous. We can argue about gender and genetics and I’m sure you can imagine where I come down on that. 

Brandy:  Yeah.

Zawn:  But the X chromosome doesn’t carry unique knowledge that you have to eat food or that children can’t be left alone in the yard. Men are not innately idiots. They’re just not.

Brandy:  Right!

Zawn:  I think that we need to reframe things and talk about how the way we talk about this issue is incredibly anti-male.

Brandy:  Yes! 

Zawn:  It treats men as these lazy, stupid, incompetent children but then tells us that we should still be grateful to be with them. It’s like, “Okay so this species of human is so dumb, that they can’t figure out that you have to put raw meat away. But also, they’re so awesome that you should be willing to do endless extra hours of work every day of your life forever to be with.” Those two things are incompatible.

Brandy:  {Laughs} Totally. Oh, my God, it’s enraging. It’s so offensive to men that we don’t demand better from them. We’ve so lowered the bar, that you think that at some point, they would be like, “Hey, you guys, we’re not as stupid as everybody thinks. Watch this. We’re gonna just know when something needs to be cleaned. Or when the laundry’s full or the trash, all of these things, we’re just gonna know it.” But instead, it seems often that it’s like, “Well, the enjoyment of not having to do those things is so great. I’d rather be thought of as kind of an idiot and not have to do those things.” I don’t understand why anybody would choose to do that.

Zawn:  I think the reason for choosing It is really clear. If someone came to you, and they told you, “You can get 20 extra hours of free time a week, and there will be no consequences at all, to you forever. Does that sound good?” You’d be like, “Yeah, sign me up!” And that’s what marriage is for men.

Brandy:  Real fast, do you think that they’re not realizing that the other part of the deal, the devil’s deal there is like, “But here’s the catch. It’s off the back of the person that you supposedly love the most. So are you still in?” Are they just in avoidance of that part of the deal?

Zawn:  I think that these men don’t actually love their partners. 

Brandy:  Oh, interesting.

Zawn:  I think that’s the thing that people don’t want to talk about and that is really difficult for people to face. There is a ton of data showing that marriage, typical heterosexual, cis marriage, I should say, is absolutely terrible for women, it shortens their life expectancy, it erodes their quality of health, there was a study that came out in 2010, that found that men are six times more likely than women to leave their partners with cancer.

Brandy:  I saw that, yeah. 

Zawn:   If you are a woman with cancer, then being a woman is the biggest predictor of your partner abandoning you. There’s tons more data. It causes more heart disease that shaves years off of life, it destroys careers. Marriage in general is terrible for women and it’s wonderful for men. They make more money, they have more free time, they get free domestic labor, they live longer. There’s lots of good reasons for men to invest in marriage and there’s this other sneaky thing; we have this social idea that men don’t want to get married. So women have to earn marriage. We really put it all on women as well, “You really gotta do everything you can to lure him in, you really gotta do everything you can to keep him.” It’s almost this like, worshipful thing of luring someone in who on average is going to not only make your life worse, but make your life shorter.

Brandy:  How fucked up is this?! {Laughs}

Zawn:  All of that is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t think you can spend day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, watching your partner exhausted and actually care about them.

Brandy:  So you’re saying that you think that it’s pretty transactional. It’s part of a story and a framework. The guy continues to do it because it’s like, “Well, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to have the wife and the kids and the job and so I just do that.” And they don’t ever question themselves like, “Gosh, is this really fair? Do I really love her?” It’s almost like the acting out of love. Like, “Oh, this is what love (I think) all the pieces that make love, but they aren’t actually looking inside. Like, “Do I really love this person?”

Zawn:  Exactly. I mean, it’s like, Brandy, you and I don’t even know each other in person but all of a sudden, in the middle of this conversation, I was like, “Yo, I’ve got this really serious thing in my life that I am really struggling with.” You’d be like, “Well, let’s talk about it. Let me help you.” And that’s just acquaintances. 

Brandy:  Right. 

Zawn:  So to have your partner over and over again, saying to you and showing to you that this is affecting them. And so often see the physical consequences of it. I mean, we see women who work too hard in the postpartum period, who end up with catastrophic, pelvic floor issues, for example. To just not be like, “Well, maybe I should, like wash a dish,” to me suggests something much more sinister than just being socialized to not know.

Brandy:  Yes.

Zawn:  I think the socialization really fundamentally is socialization to not care about women’s feelings, to dismiss women’s emotions as hysterical and crazy and trivial, to view women’s suffering as not real, to view their physical health symptoms as made up. That’s the socialization that enables men to look at their suffering wives and be like, “She should probably still clean more.”

Brandy:  Ugh. I want to ask you about this. This is totally off script of even the question that I had, but I’m just so curious, your take on this. One of the themes in my novel that I wanted to explore was this idea of when you aren’t the person making the money or the bulk of the money, how is your value tied to that? Even for the wokest people, that’s still a complicated thing. So I want to ask you, your take on stay at home moms, or women who are working part time or something where they aren’t considered a big breadwinner? How have you seen and what are your thoughts on how those women basically give over their rights and privileges because the person who makes the most money is the person that everybody has to cater to? I find myself having a hard time with this because on one hand, it’s like the person who makes the most money or the bulk of the money—Like we have to (I don’t want to say cater) but we have to work around to make it possible for that person to do that, otherwise we wouldn’t have that money. So I get kind of screwed up in the head about some of that stuff because it seems logistical and practical but I know there’s something fucked up in there. Can you help me? {Laughs}

Zawn:  Yeah. So yeah, a couple of things. I think the stay at home parent thing is really weaponized against women a lot. Because there are usually layers upon layers of sexism that cause women to end up staying at home with their children. It’s the fact that there’s not affordable childcare, it’s the motherhood penalty, even though the data shows us that mothers are actually better and more efficient workers. It’s the wage gap. It’s even earlier socialization, where women are not going into as high earning careers. So there’s a sexism component from the outset. But also being a stay at home mother is a completely valid choice and it is incredibly hard work.

Brandy:  The hardest.

Zawn:  I’m struggling to come up with a job that strikes me immediately as more difficult. So I think we need to start with validating stay at home mothers, as really, really, really hard working, and also immediately dealing with a lot of sexism because as soon as you stop working, you do become financially dependent on that guy.

Brandy:  Yeah, and you don’t even know—my husband and I were actually having this conversation. We were both kind of floored by it. But that’s something that you don’t even know when you make this choice and nobody (when I became a mom) was really talking about it and I don’t know if enough people are talking about it today. You think, “I’m going to stay home with the kids because it makes sense financially right now and I want my kids—I want to be a part of my kids lives or whatever the thing is, and nobody’s—except for Suze Orman—Actually, I take that back. Suze Orman who was on Oprah in like the 90s, I remember watching an episode and her saying, “Women, when you have kids, you need to have a job, you need to keep your foot into something because then you’ll be financially dependent on him.” And I thought back then, “Well, that’s sad for your kids, then you don’t get to be around your kids.” Anyway, fast forward when I became a mom, I’m like, “Well, I’m not gonna do that, where I don’t have a kid so that I can just go back to work, I have a kid because I want to be with it.” That’s not the right way to think, by the way. So my mind was not even thinking it’s having somebody sit me down or having a conversation that’s like, “Okay, you can love your kids and want to be with them and be a part of their life and also here is some of the sacrifice of that is when you want to get back into the working world, there’s a penalty, and you will feel it. Also, along the way, if you ever feel like you want to leave your partner or you want to have some financial independence, you no longer can have it. All of those things are super important that I feel like you don’t know until you’re in it and you’re kind of stuck.

Zawn:  There’s just layers and layers of stuff and there’s also—you have a baby, and then you’re going to drop them off at daycare six weeks later? That’s unbearable. I got really lucky. And this is just layers upon layers upon layers of privilege talking, in that I have a full time job. I like my job. It’s also relatively low stress, aside from the letters from Incels. 

Brandy:  {Laughs} Yeah, standard.

Zawn:  They are my biggest fan. I also work completely from home. So I never had to deal with that, dropping my child off in an unfamiliar setting and not knowing what was gonna happen.

Brandy:  How do you get work done? Do you have somebody who helps? 

Zawn:  I have childcare. Yeah, we have an amazing nanny who is actually going to probably be listening to this, Veronica, who is just a saint. Before her, we had another amazing nanny, Haley, who are just great and I’m able to know that they’re great, because I’m home and I’m able to be with my kids. I really wish we could move toward this model, daycare and workplaces where possible, working more from home where possible, because mothers and fathers have a biological drive to be with their children, and their children have a biological need to be with them. Anything that disrupts that is going to cause people to have to give up lots of things that are going to be painful. So that’s kind of an aside, but going back to the stay at home mom thing, I think it’s really hard when someone becomes a stay at home mom to be like, you know, leave that asshole. So like, I’m not going to tell people to do that. I think it’s important to talk about things from a lens of equity rather than equality because yes, if your partner works outside of the home, you are going to be doing more of the childcare and if you’re not, something has gone wrong. What we need to talk about is the time when they’re home, or in the alternative the time when they should be home, because during that time, it should be split evenly. That’s the equitable solution., Yes, you might be doing 40, 50, 60 hours a week of childcare, just as he is doing 40, 50, 60 hours a week of work. The difference is, if you’re doing 90% of the childcare overall, he has a 60 hour work week where he gets time off, and you have 168 hour work week that lasts forever, and you never get time off. 

Brandy:  Yes. 

Zawn:  That’s where there’s a lot of room where things need to change. With my own parents, when my mom was a stay at home mom, my dad would get home around dinnertime, and he would basically take over. We’d have some family time during the week, and then usually he’d take us all day Saturday so that she could sleep because he knew she was up breastfeeding my little brother, and dealing with the fact that I was a child who never slept. 

Brandy:  {Laughs}

Zawn:  So that’s to me what an equitable solution looks like. It’s gonna vary from family to family. But then there’s an alternative side of equity. We also need to talk about equity on the male end, where there are absolutely times where the man should be doing significantly more work than the woman, no matter how much he works. That’s going to be when the mother is sick, when the mother has just given birth.

Brandy:  Yes.

Zawn:  My husband and I—I’m pregnant, I’m due this summer. My husband and I were just talking about our postpartum plan for when our child arrives and it’s basically like, we get home from the birth center, and I get in bed, and his work begins because him doing three or four weeks of all of the childcare and all the household work is a lot better than me ending up with like catastrophic, pelvic floor injuries and chronic pain. 

Brandy:  True. Yes. 

Zawn:  So I think in a truly equitable relationship, there have to be times when one person does significantly more work and if that’s always the woman, which is the norm in heterosexual relationships, then that’s an abusive relationship.

Brandy:  So how is your husband going to make it work with his work, in order to take time off, to do that, to show up for you? What did he have to—or what will he have to set up at his current job to make that possible? Because one of the other components of this that I’m endlessly fascinated with is our capitalistic culture. The culture of work and workaholic men, because what I see is that (I know for me, jobs that I have) we all understand that life has to have some flexibility. But like you said, so many of the moms I work with are efficient and hard workers and we get shit done because we know how to work, almost like with a gun to our head, which is like our children, right? But then what I’m noticing is, I notice that the men (dads) don’t have conversations with their work, that’s like, “Listen, my wife is going to have a baby and we have this agreement and so I’m going to be out for three weeks.” Instead, it’s like, maybe they tell their employers, but it’s almost like it’s taboo to be like, “I’m going to show up for my family.” I feel like guys—this is such a generalization—I haven’t met one that hasn’t had this, but I feel and I get it, I also have empathy for it. I feel like guys are so worried about being fired, even if they’re at a job where they’re loved and they’re not going to be fired, that I feel like they’re so scared to really take that time and have the conversation of like, “My family comes first in this time.” The pandemic feels like a time where I really saw that happen. We thought, “Oh, finally, dads are going to say to their employers, ‘Hey, I got to split some of this burden of the pandemic with my with my wife on this, because our kids are home.'” But instead the conversations after those first couple of weeks, they stopped happening.

Zawn:  Totally. I’ll talk to you a little bit about our arrangement and some of the themes that I see and how I see them manifest in a broader context. We have a huge advantage in that my husband is self-employed. Now, that means that if he doesn’t work, he doesn’t make money and there’s no health insurance that an employer pays for and no paid time off. So all of those things are really difficult. 

Brandy:  Yeah.

Zawn:  They put pressure on him to be back to work as soon as possible so in some ways, they’re a counterbalance to the increased freedom. But he is self-employed, so he can, within reason, decide to take time off. However, he is also a lawyer so he has judges who don’t want to take that seriously. 

Brandy:  I bet.

Zawn:  He’s actually in a fight about that right now with a judge who wants him to come in person to a trial in the middle of a pandemic, of course a pro-life judge, but doesn’t care about the life of pregnant women and babies. So he’s willing to push hard because he understands that the stakes are high and he understands that whatever stress he deals with in filing motions to fight with a judge, or finding someone to fill in on his cases, is going to pay off in the long run because he’s going to have a healthy wife who does not resent him, he is going to have a healthy baby, he’s gonna have a healthy daughter. These are things that make your life better and I think that we need to talk more about how that improves men’s lives. You know, having a wife who hates you is not a great way to live.

Brandy:  No, and it’s not good—that’s the thing is all this stuff is not good for anybody ultimately, at the end of the day. Some of these systems—it just trickles down into everything and I just think, how would things change, if all the dads one day were like, “Hey, we need to not be working over 40 hours or, we’re still in a pandemic and kids are home from school. I’m going to take an hour a day that I’m going to give to my family and I’m going to take it from this. I’m going to take it from work because I’m already working overtime. If they had the balls—and I’m on a rant—but if they had the balls to do that, to stand up for that, to me, that’s what feminism looks like. That’s what being an equitable partner looks like is breaking the system with us. Because I find that so many of us women are the ones doing the work of breaking the system that is hurting us. It’s like, those are things that the guys could be doing, but they won’t, because of so many complicated things. But also, at some point, they have to stick their neck out. At some point some generation, whether it’s the next generation—is going to have to start having these conversations and not fear being fired.

Zawn:  I think that’s it. I think that the solution in every family is going to vary a lot, whether it’s demanding your paid time off, whether it’s fighting with the judge, like my husband is doing. But ultimately the standard has to be, the work is not all the woman. 

Brandy:  Yes.

Zawn:  Jeff, my husband and I were just talking about this situation with this potential trial and what he’s going to do and how he’s going to handle it and all of that and what I said is I just don’t want to have to be the one to solve this. Just fix it. 

Brandy:  Yeah.

Zawn:  And he’s like, “Of course! It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.” More women deserve to hear that. That he’s going to find a way to solve it, or at least try to find a way to solve it. 

Brandy:  Yes. When men speak up on our behalf, it’s worth everything. It just is amazing, because I feel like that’s part of the problem is they listen to each other, instead of listening to women and so if some of them become more vocal, that’s how things change.

Zawn:  Yeah, you know, my husband (obviously as a civil rights attorney) is deeply involved in social justice work and I’m a lifelong activist so we’re part of this community of local activists, and, well, things are changing. For most of my life, it has been men of all ages, and childless women doing the work, and especially getting elevated for doing the work. Even in the world of social justice. Things are not set up for you to bring your child or for you to have child care, or for you to not be demeaned for showing up and breastfeeding your child at a seminar. We have this idea that motherhood (specifically not fatherhood, just motherhood) is fundamentally unserious. So we’ve taken this most important of tasks and we said well, “If you’re doing that, you really probably don’t belong anywhere because you know, that’s weird. 

Brandy:  Yes. It’s so awful. This is the question, I think, that led me to having you on the podcast because I thought, “I wonder what Zawn would say about this?” Because whenever I post about parenting inequality, the question that everyone asks—we all rage, and then the question everyone asks is, “What can we do about it?” It’s hard because I don’t feel like we should also have to fix this problem. Men should be fixing it, but also what do we do? And what conversations or action steps do you recommend when women feel like, “What do I do about this?

Zawn:  I think, first of all, it’s important to frame the issue correctly. We use all this really passive language that sort of takes men out of the equation as if this is just a force imposed upon us from above. It’s parenting inequality. That’s not what it is. In heterosexual cis relationships, it is men offloading their work onto women, so that they can have leisure time and sleep. I think we need to get really clear that that’s what it is. That it’s not an accident, that it’s quite deliberate, and that if a dude lives by himself, presumably at some point he’ll make himself food. 

Brandy:  {Laughs} Right. Yeah, I think that’s how that works.

Zawn:  Yeah, I mean, I don’t hear about an epidemic of men starving to death or getting salmonella because they leave out ground beef or whatever. So I think it begins with the framing. I think that we really need to talk about this as a form of abuse. Now, I’m not talking about when there’s a minor difference in standards. That happens and that’s more a product of personality than social issues. But if she’s working when he’s not, if she’s taking care of the kids, while he’s relaxing, if he’s like taking off all weekend to go play golf while she tends to the house, that’s abuse. Because time is our most valuable resource. Our lives are literally time. That’s it, and you can’t get your time back. So someone who is stealing your time is stealing your life and I cannot think of anything more abusive than that.

Brandy:  So okay, aside from poisoning men, then what are our— are there other options? Knowing that once we reframe it, and we really look at what’s happening, then what do we do that also doesn’t—isn’t hugely, humiliating, embarrassing, in a way to be like, “Hey, this is abuse. Also, here’s how I’m going to help you to fix it for me.” Right? Because then that feels fucked up. So it’s like, what is the next step after that?

Zawn:  The sad truth is that in a lot of marriages, I don’t necessarily think that this problem can be solved and I don’t necessarily think that the woman will be able to leave either. You know, I do hear from a lot of women who have left their husbands over this and they universally say that their lives are better. 

Brandy:  Oh, yes, yeah. I’ve heard.

Zawn:  I think that’s a good thing to know for women who are on the fence, but also there are tons and tons and tons of reasons that women can’t leave. So I think you do what you can to try to fix it, you give them a chance and then if you can’t, you just have got to find ways to try to make your life better independently of this asshole that you’re stuck with. Whether that is taking more time to yourself, whether that’s going on strike, whether that’s getting more help from family. That’s gonna vary from relationship to relationship. But the critical thing to me begins with framing this as what it is, because I see in all these mom groups—people laugh about it. It’s amusing to them. That means when women do leave, they don’t get support, which sucks. But it also means our children are listening, and your sons are seeing that they can get away with this and your daughters are seeing that this is what’s normal. 

Brandy:  Exactly. Yup.

Zawn:  We have to stop framing this as normal and we have to, we have to, we have to stop this obsession with marriage and romance with little girls. Because all of the objective information—if you just look at marriage objectively, we can see that it is miserable for a lot, if not most women. Yet from the time, they’re like 18 months old, we start in on this princess shit. You know, we plan weddings, and we talk about their boyfriends and we get them all into this romance stuff. We don’t do this with little boys. I think we do it with little girls, because this really aggressive conditioning is the only way that we could possibly suspend their critical thinking enough for them to not notice how damaging marriage can be. For them to be so obsessed with getting married, that they will overlook the terrible material conditions that come with a lot of marriages. So I think we have to look to the next generation.

Brandy:  I want to slow clap you there. {Claps} I want to just stand by the lockers and slow clap you as you walk down. Shit. Yes. Yeah.

Zawn:  I think we have to look to the next generation, particularly if you’re stuck and you can’t get out, that sucks. But that doesn’t have to be the end of your feminist legacy. You can talk to your daughters, you can talk to your friends. You can disconnect yourself from a bad marriage as much as you can. 

Brandy:  Yeah. I also think there are—I’m always a proponent of never being stuck. I always want some out. I think one of the things (even if you’re not looking for an out) is to get in touch with like minded friends and groups. Like people on Zawn’s page, people on my page, other friends that you meet. When you meet other women who are being honest about things, and that doesn’t mean that you’re like, “Well, I guess I’m only friends with  cynical, divorced people,” or something like that. But a lot of us who are in marriages that we want to stay in also are critically thinking about them and talking about them and I think that’s healthy because if you are somebody who wants to do more of that, then get around people and communities who are doing more of that, because I think that’s where you find ideas. I know even with friends who are all in similar experiences, we learn from each other. One of us will be like, “Hey, so I had this really hard conversation, but it ended up being really great and here’s how it went.” Then that plants a seed in all of us. So you have to be around the community that you want to push you to be better. That, in addition to some of the more practical things about—if you’re in a situation where you’re stuck, okay, what are the elements that are making you stuck? And are there ways to work toward not being stuck at some point?

Zawn:  Right. I think also, we need to be talking to high school and college aged women because that’s when this starts. Most people who are married, meet their partner in their 20’s. It’s the theme over and over again. It’s like, “Well, I do quite a bit more housework than he does but it’s only the two of us, it’s not that much housework and I really love him.” We really need to talk about after that initial rush wears off and whatever it is you think you like about him is not so exciting anymore. What’s left is the partnership. That’s the thing that is going to dictate, literally, the rest of your life. If you have a partner who is lazy, and you tie yourself to that partner, that is going to define everything that happens in your life forever. It doesn’t matter how smart he is, or how many books he’s read, or like how feminist he says he is, if he’s foisting his work on you, before there are even children, it is impossible to have a good life with this person. It’s just not possible.

Brandy:  Yes, and I’m hoping that the parents of all kids will be having conversations about these things because I’m also thinking, there’s got to be a fine line between educating our kids, and especially our daughters about this, but then also not scaring them or having them have their expectations so high that they’re like, “I will never find a partner, because none of them can actually meet my expectations.” So it’s that fine line. I’m always walking this line of wanting to be real and tell them what’s at stake but then also, knowing that life is about figuring these things out, and also making mistakes, and then making the next best choice and all of these things. I can see there being a pitfall of—I know if I talk to my daughter too much about some of these things, it will be like, well, then there’s no—I can see for kids who lean towards anxiety, I can see them being like, “Oh my gosh, every choice I make, every person that I’m with, it’s like, what is this little thing mean that they said or did? What does this little thing mean?” So I feel like for an overthinker, it could be super overwhelming, but it’s still important.

Zawn:  I do agree with that, but I want to push back on that a little bit, because I think never finding a partner is not a tragedy. There are lots of ways to have fulfillment in life, even if you want to have kids. So I think that we need to—I think that’s the thing that we really need to get away from is this idea that little girls need to find partners. 

Brandy:  Yeah, true. 

Zawn:  Because when I look at the women I know, they’re not getting fulfillment from their partners. They’re not getting joy from their marriages, with very, very few exceptions. So never finding a partner is not a tragedy, any more than lots of things that you might never do is a tragedy. I also think that we’re not setting their expectations too high, because we’re not talking about finding someone who’s perfect. 

Brandy:  Yeah, yeah, good point.

Zawn:  I think that’s really problematic framing. It is the bare minimum that a partner should do an equitable share. That’s not shooting for the stars. That’s the threshold at which that person becomes (maybe) marriageable, and anybody who cannot hit that threshold is not marriageable. We need to frame this the same way that we frame domestic violence. That used to be pretty normal and now we’re like, “If he hits you once you have to leave.” And this is the same sort of thing because this has catastrophic effects on women’s health and well being. It is a form of violence and brutality. So to ask them to accept a little bit of it so that they can find a partner. We can’t do that. We have to get away from that.

Brandy:  Yeah. Such a good point. Yeah. Thank you for that. That’s so true. That’s such an important shift in thinking. Damn! See, I knew I had you on here to teach me shit, Zawn! I knew it. Thank you! 

Zawn:  The other thing is, our male children need to be hearing that is an unacceptable partner. 

Brandy:  Oh yeah. Yes. 

Zawn:  They need to hear that makes you undesirable. Because what do teenage boys want?Heterosexual teenage boys want to impress girls. So if all the women in their life react to something they do with, “That’s gross and disgusting, and no one will ever want to marry you,” maybe we can get rid of that behavior. 

Brandy:  Yeah, maybe shame is really what we’re looking for here. If we don’t want to have to do the work ourselves to fix the broken men, maybe we just shame them into being better people if none of the women want anything to do with them.

Zawn:  Yeah, I mean, I’m a big fan of shame. 

Brandy:  Yes! Same. The other day, my son—he’s in school just two days a week—he was wearing shorts that I think he’d been in for like five days or something and I had this whole—I’ve given up even trying to get him to wear actual pants, it’s only shorts. And so that’s a hill I’m not dying on. But then the conversation was like, “Okay, so yeah, shorts, but they should be clean.” Of course, he had like a thousand push backs, “But mom, they’re not actually dirty.” I’m like, “Well, you’ve been sitting in them for four days.” “Yeah, but I’m not like, doing physical activity.” Anyway. I was like, “You know what, go for it.” Then I was thinking to myself, “Hopefully somebody will smell that and the shame will do the work that I can’t, clearly.” So I think shame has its place for sure. {Laughs}

Zawn:  {Laughs} Well, this sort of reminds me—It’s so gross but it’s so worth hearing about. Are you familiar with the movement of men who refuse to wipe their butts?

Brandy:  Oh, God. No. And also, I didn’t think I could hate an entire group of people, and now I’m finding out that I can. Okay, yep. Tell me more, I guess.

Zawn:  Alright. So apparently, this is a thing on Reddit. Kind of how there’s the “no fap (no masturbation) guys”, there’s the “no butt wiping guys” because they think it’ll make them gay. That’s obviously extreme. I don’t think that that’s most men. But if you spend any time on Reddit, or any advice column, or anywhere, wait a day and there will be a “My husband/boyfriend smells terrible” question. He doesn’t bathe, he doesn’t wear clean clothes, he won’t take care of himself. This is a common problem among adult men in a way that it would never be a problem with adult women because adult women spend their whole lives terrified of being gross and filled with shame. I think that phenomenon is worth mentioning—I see a lot of women who say that their husbands smell bad, who are primarily concerned with not upsetting their husbands. I think that’s sort of part of the same idea that we just have to get a guy and it doesn’t matter if he smells bad, and he won’t wipe his own butt, and he’s never made you have an orgasm, and he doesn’t get you presents for holidays, and he doesn’t clean.

Brandy:  And he’s homophobic.

Zawn:  Yeah! It doesn’t matter because you just need a warm body to sit there and make your life worse and somehow that makes your life better.

Brandy:  Right and then you need to be grateful for it. Sounds good? Okay. That sounds like a fun life. Shit.

Zawn:  Yeah, so it goes beyond household labor is what I’m saying. It’s that we just have such fundamentally low expectations for men and such unbelievably high expectations for women, when it should be the reverse because marriage is great for men. They should be jousting in the streets and shooting presents at our homes so that they can marry us, and live longer, and earn more money, and et cetera. It’s just so silly that we as women are conditioned from day one to feel like, “Well, we just have to get one of them.”

Brandy:  You know, as we’re talking about all this, I’m thinking and I wanted to ask you, how are you with neighbors and at dinner parties? I mean, not that they exist in the pandemic, but I’m just thinking that I’m always the one pointing out these things in my friend groups and stuff when we’re having conversations and I just have to laugh because it’s probably hard to be around me sometimes. Also, here’s the other fun part of this, I totally grew up hanging with the guys more. I always resonated with men more, boys more (not always) but for college and adulthood I really have a background in putting men on pedestals so this is all very new-ish in the last 10 years. 

Zawn:  Ok. Interesting.

Brandy:  In my family, we just worshipped the masculine and women were flaky and funny, but I was always a black sheep. Anyway, I still have really close relationships with guy friends and so it’s not like I’m bringing stuff up all the time but I also will say what I think about things and with my husband and stuff. I just feel like you’re somebody who could understand what it’s like to be that person that everybody’s having a conversation and you’re like, “Okay, but that’s actually like abuse. In that marriage, that’s abuse.” And everyone’s like, “God, why do you always have to ruin everything?” So have you had experiences where you’re a group of people and you’re pointing this stuff out? And everybody’s like, “God, Zawn! Why do you gotta ruin everything?” {Laughs}

Zawn:  {Laughs} I’m a delight at parties. I’m always the most popular person in the room, people flock to me, because I’m just so lovable.

Brandy:  This is more for my own personal interests than necessarily the podcast.

Zawn:  I’m kind of the opposite. I’m super feminine stereotypically like, girly girl and have always been that way. So I didn’t want to be around boys from early childhood. I was going through some of my mom’s records from my preschool days and there are notes from teachers that are like “Zawn, literally believes boys are monsters, and will run screaming from the room if they talk to her.” So this started early. {Laughs} I’ve always been just much more woman-aligned. I mean, I do have strong male relationships. My dad and I are friends, I’m friends with a single one of my ex-boyfriends, and I have some male friends, but I’ve been very careful with them. I’ve noticed this really interesting thing that has happened on social media for me on my personal Facebook page, not my public Facebook page, where all of my friends, all of them, will get men trolling them and picking fights with them, and sealioning them and stuff. I don’t get that. I don’t get it ever. I think it’s because the few times that it happened, I was so aggressive in shutting it down, and really focused on making the man feel embarrassed for speaking to me the way he did. That’s just kind of my way of dealing with men. It could just be that I’m lucky. I don’t want to say that I have created this for myself. But, my husband says that people are scared of me and I think that among our group of friends, people know how I will react to things and what I would like to believe is that they also know that the things that I’m going to negatively react to are things that they shouldn’t say.

Brandy:  Exactly, yes, yes, yes.

Zawn:  I’ve really tried to make it less about, “Oh, I’m going to go crazy on you,” and more like, “I’m gonna make you feel really dumb for saying that thing that just brought shame to us all.”

Brandy:  Right, that made us all have the most awkward moment.

Zawn:  Right, that just lowered us all.

Brandy:  {Laughs} That’s that shame thing. It’s like we have to keep each other in line and if shame is the only way that it works, so be it. 

Zawn:  You know, I think we good progressives now understand that we cannot tolerate racism when we hear it. Well, to say that we understand that is overly charitable, but at least in theory, you can get people to sign on to that. I think we need to be the same with this sexism stuff, these jokes about men playing golf all weekend. I think the response needs to be like, “John, Jesus, aren’t you embarrassed by that behavior?” 

Brandy:  Yeah.

Zawn:  My husband’s line for a long time—I don’t know if it’s good, because it kind of plays on homophobia, but I do feel like it worked—was always like, “Do you even like women? Why don’t you want to be around your wife?” I think to whatever extent you can weaponize toxic masculinity—whatever extent you can make this seem like—the not wanting to be around your wife—that’s weird and creepy and pathetic, not the wanting to hang out with your wive.

Brandy:  Yes. Yeah, men have to figure out how to have warfare on other men. The woke men have to know how to get ’em by the balls. {Laughs}

Zawn:  And the woke men have to claim the mantle of masculinity.

Brandy:  Yes! Oh my god, yes!  

Zawn:  It is fundamentally weak to have your mommy washing your underwear for you and reminding you that you need to shower. That’s pitiful. That’s not a strong person.

Brandy:  No. Oh my goodness Zawn. If people want to find you and your work, where would you send them?

Zawn:  Probably the best place to see this work (because like I said, I have a lot of stuff that’s not very political) is on my Facebook page. If you just type in “Zawn,” like my name, “Zawn” will pop up and you’ll see me and I post my rants. My Facebook page is a really nice place to hang out. I really heavily moderate it and the posters have kind of gotten to know each other. They’re friends and they support each other.

Brandy:  I love that.

Zawn:  We have a weekly advice column. I feel like it’s a good place to go if you’re looking for more of this kind of stuff. But it’s also a good place to go to commune with other women and critically to commune with good men, because I have some male followers who I just adore, who really get it. I think that’s important for women to see too, is there are a lot of good guys out there.

Brandy:  Yes, I have a couple male followers that I know by name that are people that I think about like, “Oh, I wonder what so and so will think of this” or “I wonder what his take on this is.”

Zawn:  Exactly! Yeah, yeah.

Brandy:  Yeah, It’s like even though it’s online, it’s still real.

Zawn:  Yeah. I have this one follower who’s a lesbian separatist and every time I post anything about heterosexuality I’m like, “Oh, man, I wonder I wonder what she’s gonna say.” She’s often calling me out for not being radical enough, which I really appreciate. I like it that I have this person who likes and respects me but who’s also like, “Just don’t even talk to men.”

Brandy:  {Laughs} Yes. Sometimes we need that person who’s just so fucking fed up, the “Let’s poison them” people. {Laughs} 

Zawn:  Yeah! {Laughs} I really like the “Let’s poison them” line. I started using that in Mom groups. Someone will post this problem with her husband and I’ll be like, “You know, there are a lot of problems poison can solve.”

Brandy:  {Laughs} There is a Facebook group out there—I think it’s called “A group where we all tell you to leave them.” A couple friends have told me about that. Some of them have been divorced and it just makes me laugh because if anybody even goes to a group like that, you know the answer, but you just need the other people to tell you. You know? It’s kind of like “am I the asshole” but with a divorce, with a, “Yeah, you should probably divorce him” slant. It’s definitely entertaining. I will tell you that.

Zawn:  I love it. Do you follow Clementine Ford?

Brandy:  Oh, I think I do, on one of the things.

Zawn:  She’s an Australian, a big celebrity Australian feminist. 

Brandy:  Okay.

Zawn:  Her thing is just telling women to leave their husbands. She got shirts printed up that say “Leave your husband.” It’s so charming and unapologetic. I just love it.

Brandy:  Yes. Zawn, just thank you. This was just the greatest way for me to spend an afternoon. Thank you also so much for the work that you do. The point of view you bring for educating me and for being so unapologetic about all the things that you’re helping women to move past. You always help me learn and grow and I’m grateful to you and I look up to your work. Voices like yours are imperative to getting women out of this overwhelm and illness cycle and actually enjoying their lives, which seems like high expectations but like you said, that should be just the base. So thank you so much, Zawn.

Zawn:  Thank you. Thank you, Brandy.

Brandy:  After listening to this episode, you may need to go to one of those rooms you rent where you can break things with a sledgehammer. I should really partner with one of those “let’s break shit rooms” and give you all a coupon code or something after each episode. Okay, but there was something we talked about on today’s show that I wanted to soften around a little. It’s the idea that it’s never going to get better than it was in the beginning of your relationship or marriage. I think this can be true. Patterns are patterns and when they’re hardwired into someone, it’s difficult to rewire them, especially if the person has zero interest in rewiring them. But if you’re with someone who is also doing the self-growth work that life gives us plenty of opportunities to do, it could actually get better. Your relationship could get even better as you both grow and mature. So notice the word “self” growth work in there, the word “self.” If both people are growing and shifting as they move through the phases of life and maturing and communicating and being moved by what life is throwing at them, that can be a beautiful thing to do with another person. And I think you can’t really know if a person will do that with you until you’re in it with them, like in the thick of life, which makes it sometimes feel like playing the lottery with choosing a partner. And maybe it sort of is.

Brandy:  A quick plug for my book, which as an indie author I gotta do. If you’re enjoying this podcast, you will likely enjoy my book Adult Conversation: A Novel. It’s a darkly comedic story about a frazzled modern mother and her therapist who go on a Thelma and Louise style road trip to Vegas looking for pieces of themselves that motherhood and marriage swallowed up while they are also tested and tempted to make life altering choices. Yes, there are strippers, there’s weed, it’s Vegas. One Amazon reviewer said, “This book has it all! Totally relatable mom content, hilarious LOL moments, parenting pop culture, heartbreaking truths, and the search for the answer to the omnipresent question, Who am I? I loved it and highly recommend it.”

Brandy:  As always, thanks for listening. 

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.