Please don’t ask me what else I do

24 Sep

Mostly, right now, I want to explode. I don’t actually know a more accurate way to put it. You know how sometimes you just go about life and realize that everything is just sort of, wrong? Or that you ended up somewhere entirely different than where you thought you would be? And then people say stuff like “oh, maybe that’s not so bad” but it is. It actually is so bad. So the other day at work this thing happened. So just to preface, I think maybe some of you people think I am really sensitive. I’m not, actually. I get mad about things but they don’t tend to penetrate through to anything, you know? Like, I get pissed off when people go through life acting like entitled little shits, but it doesn’t make me feel worse about myself, it just makes me feel a little worse about those people and the people who raised them. And also their friends who never call them out on their bullshit. Oh, and also the society in which we live that seems to think it is better to placate people because they have money than tell them that they suck at life. Because, obviously, money > respect.

Anyway, I can tell that I am in a spot when things people say to me at work actually get through. Generally what it is is some well-meaning person who just doesn’t get it. This is a perfect example. You wake up one morning and you have this HUGE zit on your forehead. Right in the middle of it. And you are aware of it and super self conscious and all that and you do whatever it is that you can to try to get it to go back to where it came from. You put on toothpaste to dry it out, some sort of zit cream, makeup. But nothing helps. It’s like a third eye. And you go out in the world and you know everyone sees it but there is nothing you can really do and then one person, one stupid person, is like

“hey, there’s something red on your forehead. Did you bump your head?!”

And you’re like

“no, motherfucker, that is just a HUGE GODDAMN ZIT THAT I AM INCREDIBLY AWARE OF BUT THANKS SO MUCH FOR POINTING IT OUT AND POINTING OUT THE FACT THAT IT IS BASICALLY LIKE I AM GROWING A NEW HEAD OUT OF MY ALREADY EXISTING ONE.”

and then you go home and cry and wonder why everyone is so mean.

That’s not what happened at work. What happened was the following. I was at work, you know, working, and this lady who has lived in the neighborhood who I have known in passing for a long time came in and ordered her drink and sat down right by the service station and the following conversation happened:

Actually, let me preface this real quick by saying that I have spent the better part of the past 5 months feeling like a waste of space. Okay, so keep that in mind.

Lady: So, are you done with school?

Me: Yup, graduated a year ago May.

Lady: what was the degree in again?

Me: Master’s in International Affairs.

Lady: So, are you working?

Me, standing behind the bar, I look around: Um…yes? Right now?

Lady: No, like, somewhere else.

Me: I work at another bar in Crown Heights.

Lady: But not in your field?!

Me: No.

Lady: Well, are you looking?

Me, wanting to scream MIND YOUR BUSINESS: No.

And then I stormed off and didn’t make eye contact again. It’s like, I know she meant well and was taking interest and couldn’t possibly know that the fact that I am doing nothing with my degree except paying it off is the equivalent, for me, of having a massive goose egg-sized zit on my forehead but still. It made me mad. So, a word to the wise, please don’t ask your service professional what “else they do” as if doing what they’re doing isn’t enough. For some people, it’s what they love and they have made a career out of it and that is fucking awesome. For many others, we are trying to figure it out and putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. Your questions, well-meaning or not, might not have the desired effect of making you seem interested in our lives. It sounds as if you think what we’re doing isn’t good enough. And the thing is, it is good enough. It just might not be our passion and that is something we are all trying to figure out and deal with. So, ask us how our day was, but please please please for the love of god, don’t ask what else we do.

Ray Rice. Oscar Pistorius. McKayla Maroney. One of These Things is not like the Others.

13 Sep

Let’s be honest here, guys. It has been a really crappy month for those of us who give a shit about women’s rights. First, there was the huge leak of celebrity photos. Then there was the release of the Ray Rice video by TMZ. And then there was the Oscar Pistorius verdict. It’s been, disheartening, to say the least. And I, of course, have a few things to say about it. But before I do, I want to share something that one of my friends from high school wrote on Facebook the other day because, really, it’s almost as if she pulled this right out of my brain, made it better, more relatable, less ranty, and certainly significantly more hopeful. And all this from across the pond. From Rebecca Holmes, who works for an amazing UK-based women’s advocacy organization:

Today I was distracted at work. Today I watched and waited and watched again as a live feed of the Oscar Pistorius verdict streamed on my screen. Now, after he was found not guilty of both pre-meditated murder and murder…I feel shocked. Disappointed. Disheartened. Angry. There really aren’t words. All I am left with today are questions.

Would the verdict have been different if he wasn’t a high profile athlete, an Olympian, a symbol of overcoming obstacles? Would it have been different if Reeva seemed less capable, less desirable? Will the legal system ever catch up with what we know to be true? Will the media still care about this next week?

Those of us who work in the sector devote our lives to this issue. We campaign, and we educate, and we try to get the world talking…we talk about it with our partners over dinner and with shopkeepers at the local market. Then something like this happens. It feels as though sometimes, the law is dragging its feet, trying to cling on to the horrific days of yore, the days when if a man shot his wife three times, it wasn’t murder but ‘negligence’ and ‘excessive force’.

I am grasping at straws today, trying to find a positive in this outcome. And I hope, I think, I have found one. People are outraged. And outraged people talk…they talk about Oscar Pistorius, about Ray Rice, about the 1.2 million women who were victims of domestic abuse in the UK last year. The media is covering the story, people are posting on Facebook, and I am sitting at my desk hoping that they take the next step. Will they research the terrifying prevalence of domestic violence (1 in 4 women) or the statistics around murder (38% of all women who were murdered were murdered by their partner/ex-partner)? Will they take time out of their busy lives to explore the incredible gender inequality that underlies the Pistorius case? Will they make the connection that gender inequality lives in our homes, our businesses, and our schools? Or will they go back to calling out the feminists, the angry women who make a big issue out of childrens’ toys and books? Will they turn around and say ‘boys will be boys’.

I am desperately hoping that these outraged people will take the time to learn about the issue and support organisations that challenge these inequalities. I am hoping that more people will hear what we are saying and realise that why doesn’t she just leave’ is a useless and victim blaming question. I am hoping that this story helps to ignite a spark that finally turns into a blaze. It is easy to be angry at a verdict…to bang our fists on our desks…shake our heads and tut. It seems to me, that the best way to respond to the Pistorius verdict, isn’t just in the courts. It is in the schools. It is in the streets. In our families. Change the story. Change the message we send. Call out gender inequality and by all means, stay outraged.

I really hope that people do stay outraged and that it isn’t just the usual suspects. I mean, I for one am outraged as fuck. It has actually been one of those situations, especially with the Ray Rice case because I worked all day Tuesday at a sports bar with about a million televisions all tuned in to everything Rice, where right when I think I can’t possibly get more angry, I do. It’s as if my anger about this knows absolutely no bounds. I actually wish I had live-blogged the thoughts that went through my head over the past week or so. It was truly something to behold. Here, though, are some of the things. Stick with me here.

When the initial video was released that showed only the view from the outside of the elevator, what we saw was horrific. A woman, clearly unconscious, being dragged like a rag doll by a man who easily could have lifted her up. And the NFL suspended him for two games, saying that Ray Rice was a “heck of a guy” and that they could not determine what had happened inside the elevator from the video they were giving. I am calling bullshit. First of all, a good man does not beat his wife. Not only that, but I would bet all the money I have, which admittedly is not much, that this was not the first time this happened. It was the first time it was caught on tape. Violence escalates. The first punch isn’t usually a knock out. Second of all, what the fuck did the NFL think happened inside that elevator? Two people walk into an elevator of their own power, and then only a few moments later one drags the other one, completely callously, out of that same elevator and leaves her lying unconscious on the floor of an Atlantic City casino hotel. I don’t think we need to be geniuses to figure out what the fuck happened inside that elevator. I don’t think we needed to wait the months to see that absolutely horrific and nauseating attack. I don’t think we ever needed to see that. I don’t think that Janay Rice needed to endure the knowledge that one of the lowest moments of her life was captured on video and that millions of people were watching it, talking about it and judging her relationship.

So this is the thing. The other day I received a message accusing me of writing “whiny Feminazi hairy armpit gibberish.” At the time I was like, whatever, fuck you, man. But the reality is that a lot of people think what I say and think and write about is a load of crap. The reality is that it simply is not. The reality is that women are considered public property and we are undervalued. You think what Ray Rice does away from football doesn’t matter? Fuck you. Being an athlete does not preclude you from also being a descent fucking human being. And do you know what descent human beings do not do? They do not knock their fiancees out in elevators, or anywhere else.

I don’t know how to say this next thing other than to say that reassessing the way we think about things matters. Because changes start at the micro level. There will not be a change in the law until their is a change in the way we understand, and think about, intimate partner violence. And yes, this includes violence not only against women but against men as well. And there won’t be a change in the way we talk about intimate partner violence unless we start rethinking our ideas about victimhood, and the stigmas attached to that label. And while we’re at it, let’s think about the way we talk about people, value them. I understand that Ray Rice and Oscar Pistorius are fantastic athletes. The also were lucky enough to be born with penises, and therefore given extra chances. But they are also shitty human beings. You know who else is a fantastic athlete? McKayla Maroney. But you’d better believe that the majority of comments surrounding the release of naked photos of her said that maybe if she didn’t want those photos released, she shouldn’t have taken them. People are saying her career is now over. All because someone hacked into her private accounts and released, without consent, photographs of her. As many people have said, that is a sex crime. So here we have Ray Rice, who acted violently upon someone else, and McKayla Maroney who was acted violently upon. And yet some of his fans think he deserves a second chance while many of her former fans are calling her career finished and saying they are glad that her life has been destroyed.

Oh, and by the way, there is a petition circulating to try and get the Obama Administration to charge McKayla Maroney with production or possession of child pornography because the nude photos of her that were stolen and then leaked were taken, by herself mind you, when she was underage.

Whiny Feminazi hairy armpit gibberish my ass.

From Fark to Rant and Back Again

5 Sep

Earlier this week I had a post published on Her Blueprint, the blog associated with the Global Fund for Women.  I am going to be writing monthly, and perhaps eventually twice monthly, so stay tuned!  I will try and post links here on FranklyRebekah for the few readers among you who are not my friends IRL (that shorthand makes me laugh, don’t judge me).  Anywho, I am incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity to write in the company of so many talented women.  You should read all their blog posts. Such diversity of topic and perspective. I don’t know. It’s cool. I’m gushing.

For my first post, I wrote about a change in commenting policies recently announced by Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark.  For those of you who don’t know Fark, it’s a link-aggregator, allowing people around the Internet to post links, with funny headlines, to articles they find online.  The result is kind of hilarious.  I actually feel totally in the know about this particular site because back in the day my brother, Aaron, used to send stuff into Fark and I always thought it was really awesome when his article, with his very own title, went on the homepage.  My brother, the Internet-famous title-writer. Over the years, the comment section on Fark has sort of devolved into more of a bro-culture, with people making all sorts of disparaging comments about all sorts of individuals and groups of people, most commonly women. (My brother is not a part of these sorts of things because he is a nice and awesome guy.) As a result, Crutis announced that the mods over at Fark would start deleting comments if they belonged to one of the following three categories:

1. Rape jokes;

2. Calling women as a group sluts, whores or some other derogatory name;

3. Making jokes that say that women who were the victim of a crime were somehow deserving it.

Personally, I think this is a great move.  I know there are some people who are going to go on and on about their right to opinion and personal expression and all that other stuff and, okay, I see your point.  But I think it’s dumb.  There, I said it.  I think that going online and saying mean things about people for no reason other than your own amusement and the amusement of those you hang out with in cyberspace is dumb.  I think that intentionally, and oftentimes anonymously, going online to express thoughts, jokes and feelings that many people would never actually make if forced to do so face-to-face with someone else with the express purpose of getting a rise out of someone else is dumb.  And I think that people who believe this is an important part of the internet are, surprise surprise, dumb. I think I just insulted about half the internet.  Good thing those people don’t read my blog.

Maybe I should be a little more nuanced, and a little less childish, here.  I apologize to all the people who I just called dumb, that was not nice of me.  It also is not the way I like to carry myself as a Responsible Adult on the Internet.  So let me give this another go.  We have this attitude online that anything goes.  That is is a bastion of free speech.  That, quite literally, you can say whatever the fuck you want.  Honestly, in my mind, that is how the Amanda Todd tragedy happened.  Just a word to the wise, if you don’t want to spend the rest of the day thoroughly depressed, don’t read about Amanda Todd.  Also, definitely don’t watch the video she posted on YouTube about a year before she died.  I watched it once and cried for like an hour.  And another thing:  do not read the fucking comments under the video because I just read 3 of them and actually want to throw my computer.  Seriously, this is what I am talking about!

Cue the rant.

Amanda Todd committed suicide because of the degree to which she suffered from online bullying, which was then expanded to real life bullying as photos of her inevitably got shared by her tormenter with the student body of every school she went to.  She posted a video about her experience.  A year later she killed herself because the bullying didn’t stop.  And the people on the YouTube page, a page that could potentially be used to help avert others from following the same path, use the comment section to say she deserved it, that she is going to hell for killing herself, that obviously she was a slut.  And there is no thought about the fact that another young person who might be having a similarly terrible time of it could go on this page, watch the video in order to understand that someone else went through it, might read the comments to find some support and instead find people saying that this 15-year-old girl deserved to die and that she brought it upon herself.  I can’t even imagine how that must feel. Why would people kill themselves? Maybe partially because people online tell them that they, and people going through similar experiences, deserve what they get. It hurts my heart to think about the people, especially young people, who look online for support and help and are faced with a massive amount of just…I don’t know…hate. And anger. And victim-blaming.

So here’s the thing. I have been online bullied recently. I have the benefit of having this experience, if I have to have it at all, at 31-years-old. I also consider myself lucky in that I have a healthy dose of self-confidence. I don’t think I’m perfect, but I think I am a positive contributor to the world and most people like me. And the people that don’t like me? Fuck ‘em. I don’t really care.  For that reason, when I get essentially called a loser online, it does not bother me. I laugh.  Because it reflects more on the person saying it than it does on me. But again, I am an adult. I have had life experiences. I have a supportive group of friends and a wonderful family. I have this blog, which I love writing. And I have my readers, who I appreciate immensely. For a lot of people, these things are not true. For young people, and especially young women, these unkind words can have a real and permanent impact. People are mean. Some of them do it for sport. Most of those that do are online. And the thing about it is that it is like a crowd mentality. Once one person starts, others follow. And all of a sudden everyone is spewing rape jokes, calling someone a slut, telling a young woman looking for help that the world would be better without her and once it is without her, that she is going to hell for her actions.

So, yea, back to Fark. Start moderating that shit. The Internet, as Drew Curtis said, has a real problem with women. The whole world, in my opinion, has a real problem with women. Just look at this clip from Jon Stewart about sexual harassment in the government if you don’t believe me. Oh, and also this one about catcalling. I think at this point that real life, and internet life, reinforce one another. If we are more respectful in real life, perhaps we’ll be more respectful online, and vice versa. So, thumbs up to Drew Curtis and for those of you who think this is a slippery slope into censorship? I say whatever. There are some things that simply shouldn’t be supported by web moderators and cruelty for sport is, in my mind, one of those things. It’s great that we can say (almost) whatever we want on the internet, but that doesn’t mean that we should. And until people get a fucking brain and stop being assholes and devaluing others, then someone should tell them to stop. Because, honestly, it is mean, and cruel, and inhuman, and entirely unnecessary.

Rant over.

My #1 Fan is BACK

31 Aug

That’s right, folks.  After a months-long hiatus during which I gave my #1 Fan basically no thought whatsoever he has returned with a vengeance!  This past Thursday morning I awoke to a new comment on my blog.  Since it came at 1:53am from a person who called himself “Anti-Fail” I figured it was just spam.  I figured wrong.  I looked at the comment and discovered that, from the email address rebekahfranklifefail@yahoo.com, I had been sent the following message of support and love:

Instead of worrying about events happening halfway around the country and world, perhaps you should worry about how you came to be a 30-something year old bartender living on $2 an hour. That in and of itself is a greater travesty than ISIS or Michael Brown. Perhaps the only greater travesty is pretending that going to the New School equates to having a real actual degree. It’s like bragging about graduating from the University of Phoenix. Hahaha. Keep writing your whiny Feminazi hairy armpit gibberish. How it amuses us so.

Now, and forever…

Your Superiors

Just a little back story for those not in the know.  This message came from one of my old customers at a bar I worked at for years.  He would come into the bar 3-5 times a week and get totally hammered and act like a dick.  He called me a cunt a few times.  Some female customers complained to me about the way he aggressively hit on them.  Oh, and he asked one of my coworkers out while his fiancee was sitting like 2 stools down and, when my coworker called him out, he lied about being engaged.  And he one time snuck a bottle of vodka into the bar.  I could continue, but it’s too depressing.  This is a stand-up dude who loves and respects women.  Obviously we got along famously and I was always so happy when I heard his voice from halfway down the block while I approached work.

For those among you who might want to email this person back with some opinions of your own, don’t bother because he undoubtedly deactivated the email account immediately after sending it.  But don’t worry, we play the long game at FranklyRebekah.  As my friend just said, “I am the Scorpio here so my revenge thinking goes to total life destruction even if it takes a long time.”  Everyone loves to have a little vengeful imagination adventure, right?  So if anyone wants to plot revenge and use my #1 Fan as the target, even just for your own amusement, feel free.  He’s shareable.

Anyway, to just sort of hammer this home to you guys a little bit, the last comment I received from this person was 6 months ago.  Six.  Which means that for the past six months this wonderful man has been silently stewing, awaiting the perfect time to appear and call me a loser.  And the perfect time, it seems, was when I wrote a post about a young, unarmed black man being shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, his body then left in the street for 4 hours, which sparked a (much needed) nation-wide conversation about race in America.  Oh, and in that same post I discussed an innocent man being beheaded by ISIS.  It seems a little crazy to me that the amount of money that I make per hour should matter so much to someone who, it seems, hates me.  I mean, if anyone should care a lot about that it should be me, right?  But as it turns out, money is not particularly important to me.  Also, as it turns out, the minimum wage for tipped workers in New York state is actually $8 an hour, with bars and restaurants obligated to make up the difference if our tips don’t amount to that much.  In (legal) theory anyway.  Which I would think this person would know considering, you know, he’s a lawyer.

And as for my armpits?  I shave them.  My legs, on the other hand, are sort of touch and go.  I have sensitive skin so I’m a waxer and sometimes I just don’t feel like going all the way up to midtown.  So, I mean, if you are going to criticize my feminism you could at least be accurate and call it my “whiny Feminazi hairy leg gibberish,” ya know?  Although I do take pause at your use of the word “gibberish,” but I’ll leave it.  No need to split hairs (no pun intended).

And as for the stuff about The New School?  You’re welcome to think it sucks.  That’s fine.  It’s not like I established it or something.  But truth be told I actually learned a lot of stuff and was taught by one of the people responsible for the creation of the Human Development Index which is sort of a big deal.  Also, I made some really good friends who are awesome and supportive and also write a lot of “whiny Feminazi hairy ______ gibberish” so at least I found my people.  And, one other thing, I would imagine that the University of Phoenix is a perfectly fine school and the people that graduate from there learned things and are proud of themselves and go on to do awesome things in life, be that bartending or working in finance or becoming a nurse or whatever.  Poo-pooing someone elses education is some elitist bullshit.

So, in summation, I am actually left wondering how this person came to be a 40-something year old man who spends time at almost 2 in the morning on a Wednesday making up email addresses and sending ridiculous comments to people’s blogs.  But, you know, people make choices.  I made my choice to write and bartend and he made his choice to be a cyber bully.

Coney Island Shenanigans

26 Aug

I was going to edit this for Dad-safety, but really, Dad, you should just skip this one entirely.  It’s like that one time I wrote this blog post and warned you about not reading it and you read it anyway and then you regretted it.  Don’t make the same mistake twice, Dad.  Just, yea, close the tab and slowly back away from the computer.  That’s right, ever so slowly…

For the rest of you, there are two very important things that you all must know about me.  First, I love Coney Island.  It is one of my most favorite places in the world.  No matter what time of year, what time of day, that you go to Coney Island, something crazy is always happening.  Good crazy, mostly.  I really believe that Coney Island is one of the only places where people just sort of let their freak flags fly.  Even those people who go about life trying to fit in and be normal, when they get to Coney Island that shit goes right out the window.  People who are still too repressed to let their inner weird-o see the light of day?  Well they steer clear and I feel sorry for them.  Such a boring life they must lead.  Second, I embarrass myself all the time.  Or, well, seemingly embarrassing things happen to me but I think that for the most part being embarrassed is just sort of a waste of energy and so I don’t feel embarrassed.  I just sort of carry on.  Like that one time I ran 10 miles and then worked out at the gym for 45 minutes before realizing that the light blue string hanging out the bottom of my running shorts was not attached to said shorts but was coming from the tampon that was, at that time, shoved inside my body.  I could have been embarrassed but no.  I continued right on stretching until I gathered the energy to make my way down to the ladies locker room to tuck the string back where it belonged.  Life, ya know?

Anyway, normally my love of Coney Island and my tendency to get myself in potentially embarrassing situations don’t really overlap.  Only today they totally did.  So there I was, all by my lonesome on the beach waiting for my friend Kendra.  The sun was strong so I thought to myself, “self, you really ought to put on some sunscreen.”  So I went about putting sunscreen all over, even taking care to get some under the strings of my bikini so that I didn’t end up burning the skin just around the edges of my bathing suit.  I always, always, always burn the area of my butt right where my bikini ends.  Every fucking time.  In fact, I even did it today.  That is not important.  What is important is that in the process of trying to get the sunscreen on around my bikini top I totally managed to, initially unbeknownst to me, flash those sitting around me on the beach.  And, obviously because it is me, rather than just quietly putting my boob back where it belonged I said, to no one in particular, and while tucking it back into its temporary home, “get back in there!”

Sigh.

Sometimes it’s like I have no control.  In all the hubbub happening with the right boob, I didn’t realize that the left one was also exposed.  So there I was, on Coney Island, before noon, boobs out.  Good work, me.  I was almost hoping that, since I had already exposed myself, at least someone could enjoy the show.  But not like a creepy someone.  Just someone who would be like “oh, breasts!  Well isn’t that a nice little surprise for a Tuesday!”  I imagine this person with a British accent.  Perhaps thankfully, now that I am thinking about it, the only people standing near me were a dude in a Speedo standing up and meditating while leaning on his bike and a woman flailing around listening to music and drinking Cannabis Energy Drink.  I fucking love Coney Island.  And so now I am left to ask the age-old question:  if a girl flashes the beach at Coney Island and no one is around (or conscious enough) to see it, did it even happen?  I am not so sure myself.  I guess I’ll find out if a picture of my tits show up on the internet.  God forbid.

But that’s not all!  After Kendra arrived and I told her all about my misadventures in sunscreen application, we decided to go for a swim.  So we went over to the life-guard protected area and hopped in.  There we were, swimming, when all of a sudden I saw what appeared to be, at first glance, either a tentacle-less jelly fish or a very small shark.  Then, upon looking again I realized that it was the biggest condom I have ever seen.  Like so big.  I screamed, obviously, and Kendra and I quickly ran out of the water.  Here’s the thing though. I partially screamed because, ew condom in the water and what if it comes near me and sticks to my leg and then I have some sort of crazy horrible disease because that’s how it works, right?  But also I screamed because that condom was so goddamn big.  I mean, I know there is that thing that people a lot of times think that bigger dicks are better but I’ll tell you what, I would not like to meet the dick that belonged to that condom.  No way Jose.  Once, when I first moved to the city I had sex with this guy with a huge penis and I swear the second I laid eyes on that thing I lost all color in my face.  My lady parts are fucking delicate, you know?  I had trouble walking the next day!  And I think this condom, if memory serves, was even too big for his penis.  If I ever had sex with the penis that fit into that condom I would never be the same.  For real.

By the by, does anyone else think that the sentence construction I just used was really weird?  It’s like, through this whole thing I have not imagined a penis attached to a dude.  I have imagined just like, a free-standing gigantic penis kind of going through life, unattached, waiting to find a similarly unattached vagina or else someone in possession of a vagina who didn’t run the other way when faced with this particular phallus.  I would say poor penis only, judging from the condom which appeared to have been used, it did find someone that wasn’t afraid of it.  I hope she, or he, enjoyed him or herself.  Until that last sentence there this imagination game I had was totally heteronormative.  Not cool, Rebekah, not cool.

So, that’s what happened on Coney Island today.  People may or may not have seen my boobs without a bathing suit covering them, and I definitely saw a condom that was, at that moment, thankfully lacking a penis.  Also, I have learned that I do not have a future in erotic fiction, so that’s a career path to cross off the list.  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

The World is Fucked.

24 Aug

Alright so here’s the thing.  I have not one but two degrees in International Affairs.  I don’t say this to brag, especially given that I was bartending before my second degree and I am bartending after so when it all comes down to it I am just an over-educated drink-slinger, as many of us are it seems.  I say this because considering that I have two degrees in International Affairs you would think that I would be up on the news.  On any normal day you would be correct.  I like to read the news, I like to listen to the news, I like to talk about the news, I like to laugh about the news, but more than anything else I like to get angry and sad about the news.  That is because on any normal day the news is mostly really upsetting.  I long ago lost track of how many days I started crying about a third of the way through catching up on the news because goddamnit people are assholes.  Really big assholes.

These last few weeks, though, I have been mostly avoiding the news altogether.  It’s just like, too much.  The other day I woke up to a text from a friend that read “I just watched the beheading” and it’s like, of course you did.  You know why?  Because the world is totally fucked.  The world is so fucked that my friend watched a video that was made available on the internet of an innocent journalist being beheaded in the name of god, or that was the reason given by ISIS by what I can tell.  The world is so fucked that the family of this journalist has to go through life knowing that millions of people saw their son beheaded and my friend has to go through life having seen the last gruesome moments of a man’s death documented and uploaded.  It’s just…I don’t even have words.  I just decided to read an article on the beheading to make sure that I am not making shit up and found this little gem:

“Earlier this year, (Abdel-Majed Abdel) Bary posted on Twitter a photograph of himself holding a severed head with the comment, “Chillin’ with my homie or what’s left of him.” But (Raffaello) Pantucci said that he appeared to have simply picked up and posed with one of many severed heads after a mass beheading by ISIS in the Syrian town of Raqqa. Posing with a severed head is common enough among ISIS fighters, he said, that the Twitter post alone does not point to any connection to Mr. Foley’s later execution.”

Can we just, you know, reflect on this for a second?  This dude, a 24-year-old rapper who just moved home to Syria from the UK, simply picked a severed head up off the ground because there were so many of them lying around where he was with the other ISIS guys and then he posed with it.  Like, yea, this looks like a good severed fucking head.  I think this goddamn severed head I found just sitting in the dirt here will really get my point across.  Seriously.  What the ever living fuck?  It’s like, our 20-somethings take selfies with their dogs and ISIS 20-somethings take selfies with severed heads.  I shouldn’t generalize.  That’s not nice or smart or any of the things I try to be but like, what. the. FUCK?!

Just as an aside, this is not me mocking or making light of anything.  This shit is really serious and really, debilitatingly upsetting.  This is just me writing my internal dialogue.  This is what utter sadness/confusion/disbelief/anger/disgust looks like when I take out the majority of swear words and throw it on a page.  This is the only way that I can express where my brain has been at the last few weeks.  It’s been like white noise in there because I just cannot deal with how completely and totally fucked everything is.  I am experiencing total shutdown of my capabilities to comprehend what is happening.  Shall we continue?  Okay.

So, Ferguson.  The other day I ran into my friend Ashlie on the train and we were talking about Serious Things which is something we always do.  And so we started talking about Ferguson.  And I said that I have been having a hard time reading about it, that I had been largely avoiding it, because I just didn’t think I could actually go about my day productively if I started reading about it.  And she said one of the most poignant and accurate things she has ever said, and she says a lot of them because she is insanely smart.  She said “maybe we shouldn’t be able to go about our day productively.”

That is exactly right.  We shouldn’t.  What happened in Ferguson was appalling.  Mike Brown woke up on Saturday morning, August 9th, thinking he was just going to have a normal day and he ended up dead.  For no goddamn reason.  And then his body was left for 4 hours in the middle of the street in the middle of the day in front of friends, families, neighbors, and community members while blood flowed out of his head and through the street.  Four hours.  There is literally no excuse for that.  None whatsoever.  And then to see images of police officers with assault rifles pointed at protestors?  Assault rifles.  Tear gas.  Riot gear.  As a result of Ferguson there has been movement in Washington to address the degree to which local police forces are armed in preparation for a terrorist attack, even though terrorist attacks on US soil are incredibly rare.  In response, Republican Representative Peter T. King of New York, who is on both the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees (oh, great news!), said basically that there was no evidence that giving this sort of heavy weaponry to police officers worsened the situation in Ferguson or elsewhere.  He then continued by saying that he disagreed with anyone who might say “that somehow the police are the cause of what’s wrong.”

He disagreed that the police are the cause of what’s wrong.  I am a girl in Brooklyn who has been avoiding the news because my brain cannot handle the injustice and the sadness and the hopelessness and the evil that seems to be fucking everywhere.  Representative King is a man in Washington with access to information and yet he somehow thinks that the police are not at all the cause of what’s wrong?  Who is the cause?!  Who is the fucking cause in this case?!  Tell me!  I am dying to fucking know and understand who the fuck is the cause of a police officer shooting yet another young, unarmed, black man if it isn’t the police officer!  And I am dying to know who is the cause of leaving that body on the street for all those hours?  And who is the cause of local police forces having military grade weaponry when they don’t get military grade training?  And who is the cause of men and women in uniform, fingers on triggers, pointing assault rifles at protestors?  Who?!  I just cannot fucking handle it.

Cry break.

And then there’s Eric Garner.  And the Ebola outbreak.  And methane seeping from sea floors all along the east coast.  And Ray fucking Rice and the stupid NFL.  And INS detainment centers.  And Israel.  And Gaza.  And the Ukraine.  You guys it is just too much and I am angry and confused and it doesn’t actually even seem right that it’s beautiful outside.

Why do we keep doing this to each other?  It is just so totally fucked.

No, Doree Lewak. Just No.

20 Aug

I.

It was about 2:30 in the morning on a Wednesday and I was covering a shift at my local bar.  My customer’s glasses were all filled so I decided to take a quick walk across the street to read the handwritten sign left on the front door of my (now-shuttered) favorite coffee shop.  I walked down the ramp, eyes glued on my destination, when it happened.  The whistles.  The kissy noises.  The comments about my shorts, my boots, my legs, my hair, my body, my face, my value.  I looked over and saw the driver of a garbage truck looking at me with a foul little sneer on his face.  Before I even had time to think the expletives started exploding from my mouth.  I was in the middle of the avenue in the middle of the night, arm outstretched, finger pointing, telling him whatever the hell it was that traveled quickest from my brain to my vocal chords and out of my mouth.  I can’t imagine it is much worth repeating.  I took out my phone, took a photograph of the truck’s license plate and went back to work.

II.

My friend and I decided to go for a walk.  As we made our way down 5th Avenue we were forced onto the street by some sidewalk construction.  While walking past an especially freaky-looking piece of heavy machinery we heard it from just above our heads.  The whistles.  The kissy noises.  The comments about our shorts, our boots, our legs, our hair, our bodies, our faces, our value.  As we walked past the cab of the truck, another wave of bullshit washed over us.  My friend took out her phone, took a photograph of the truck’s license plate and we went back to our walk.

III.

I went on the internet yesterday and came across this article, written by Doree Lewak of the New York Post titled “Hey ladies – catcalls are flattering! Deal with it!”  I would like to just say two things here before we get going.  (1) I am not a reader of The Post, I just clicked on the link this one time because I am a sucker and (2) the Wikipedia page about Doree Lewak that I linked describes her as a humorist, something I wholeheartedly disagree with.  Now, let us carry on.

In Lewak’s article, she talks about what summer means to her:

“…heat, hemlines and hard hats.  It’s the time of year when I can parade around in a skimpy dress with strategic cutouts that would make my mom wince.”

But Lewak doesn’t just dress this way for herself, no ma’am.  She looks forward to the opportunity to

“brazenly walk past a construction site, anticipating that whistle and ‘Hey, mama!’ catcall. Works every time — my ego and I can’t fit through the door!”

Do you want to experience that feeling of validation?  Well, just follow Lewak’s advice.

“Walking confidently past a mass of men, making eye contact and flashing a smile shows you as you are: self-possessed and playful. The wolf whistles that follow will send your ego soaring.”

And how!  Maybe buried underneath all the rage and disempowerment I felt at being objectified by complete strangers in the middle of the night, and in the middle of the afternoon, was my rising confidence.  Oh wait, no, on second thought I am pretty sure it was actually just fear.  Fear that responding to these men might send them over the edge or that not responding to them might cause them to hurl their own version of hateful vitriol in my direction.  There is no blueprint for how this goes.  Each circumstance is different.  And, sad as this is to say, I almost consider myself a professional at handling street harassment.  I think I could practically put it on my resume.  I assess my environment — are there people around, is it light out, are there easy exits, is there a business I can walk into, do I know the neighborhood — before I decide whether or not to respond.  If it seems unsafe, I scowl and walk on.  But if I am about 90% certain everything will be okay, I take the risk and speak my mind or I whip out my phone and take a photograph.  Ms. Lewak is correct when she says that “feminism is” (at least in part) “about self-empowerment,” but I think she needs to do a little bit of reading and figure out what the word “empowerment” actually means before she starts throwing it around and aligning herself with the feminist movement.  There is nothing empowering about being yelled at from the cab of a garbage truck or a piece of heavy machinery or anything else for that matter.

Oh, and about that.  Belle Knox?  Really?  Belle Knox is an incredible young woman and I have the utmost respect for her.  I think she is having a huge impact on the way we see, and talk about, pornography and the sex industry at large and that is incredibly important and long fucking overdue.  But there is a serious difference between a woman on a street and a woman in a professional working environment.  Belle Knox is, when adult films work the way they are supposed to, in control of her environment.  There are safety protocols.  She knows what is going to happen and, perhaps most importantly for this particular argument, she is consenting to the activities she is engaging in and if she becomes uncomfortable, she can say stop.  And that matters.  When I, any of my friends, and yes, Miriam Weeks (AKA Belle Knox), walk down the street and we get hollered at, we are not consenting to that.  If we become uncomfortable, we cannot necessarily make it stop.  We are not safe.  We have to assess our environments to make sure that our response to harassment does not put us in a physically dangerous situation.

I am sorry that Ms. Lewak thinks all the rest of us somehow got it wrong.  That what many of us see as hurtful, demeaning, frightening and dehumanizing is actually something we should embrace and, yes, even court.  You know what?  Fine.  Doree Lewak is welcome to go about her life, finding her worth in the “primal” utterances of strangers on the streets.  But perhaps she shouldn’t tell the rest of us how to feel.  Or maybe she should read the comments on her own article.  Maybe she should read Diana’s comment:

“But telling other women to “get over it” and respond to catcalls (i.e. street harassment) like you do is deeply inappropriate. For some women—particularly women of colour and women living in poor neighbourhoods, who are at a higher risk of catcalls turning into actual physical violence—street harassment is an issue of safety, not preference. There are tons of blogs by WoC documenting this exact phenomenon. I can’t imagine that they appreciate you giving permission on their behalf to the catcallers who make their streets unsafe.”

Or Astoria Grey’s,

“That’s really great that you have had such a positive experience and enjoy the street harassment you receive. Maybe it has something to do with being 20 years old when you received your first ‘cat call.’ You were probably in a much better space for receiving attention about your body than I was when it started happening to me. Growing up in NYC, my street harassment began at a much younger age. Men telling me to look at them with my beautiful eyes, or to smile more, or commenting on the length of my shorts. It made me feel exposed and vulnerable and not in control of my own body. I still cringe at how these remarks made me feel and can still make me feel nearly 15 years after they began.”

Or Nicole Leigh’s,

“I was 11. My friend and I used to walk by the highway the boarded our neighborhood and we’d count how many men would scream at us from their cars on our walk to meet each other. And we BOTH looked 11. None of us developed early or anything. “

Maybe then she will realize that what she sees as empowering is actually dangerous and damaging for the majority of us.  So, Doree, next time you go for a run and some guy starts running “with” you for 5 blocks because he thinks you’re hot, let me know how empowered, flattered and safe you feel.  Because that happens and it is scary as fuck.

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