To The Accused: I Do Not Accept Your Apologies

17 Nov

These past few weeks have been overwhelming. Weeks? Months, maybe. It’s hard to keep track. It has to be months, though, because it all started with Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. It started with a flurry and it turned into a blizzard. I wonder if there will be an avalanche before it is all over, and if there is one who will be buried – the accused or the accusers. I wonder whether all the people coming forward are empowered by their sisters and brothers in trauma or whether they are afraid, like I am, that we have to seize this moment, right now, and run with it as far and as fast as we can before we lose it. Before it becomes about something else. Before this reckoning gets silenced and the conversations I have been hearing all around me start happening less and less; until eventually they become once again what they were – a bunch of us women talking in hushed tones, telling each other who to avoid, where not to go, and offering hugs and tears and sheer unbridled rage because that is all we have to give. We have, it seems, an unending well of that. Of rage and of support for each other.

I don’t know about all of you but what we are living through right now is hard. It physically hurts. I have felt like I’ve been punched in the gut, in the face. Like my heart has been ripped out of my chest again and again with every new allegation, every new story. There are just so many. And I knew there were, of course I knew. I’m not stupid. My girl friends, every single one of them, has experienced some sort of sexual abuse, sexual harassment. We’ve been touched, raped, followed, stalked, catcalled, sent unwanted photographs, masturbated in front of. Me and my group of friends are not unique, no. We are the norm. We are representative of just about every single woman who walks the face of this planet. We all have stories. We all have experiences. And now, once again, we are doing the work. We are coming forward, telling our stories, defending ourselves, explaining rape culture.

Every single time I have to say the same things I have been saying to the seemingly never ending parade of clueless men I feel defeated. It’s like an assembly line that just never seems to end. Honestly, I am heart broken and I am angry. So very, very angry. We all are. Sometimes I think if we could harness all the female rage built up over the centuries we could power every single electrical grid in the world with plenty of energy left over. That is how real this anger is, how deep it goes. And it isn’t just about men, it is about us too. We were raised by the patriarchy just the same as everyone else. So at the same time we were reading about equality and learning about women’s rights and paying lip service to how far we have come, we were being sexually abused and it was so damn normalized that we didn’t even know to call it what it was.

***

I came to political consciousness a few years before Monica Lewinsky was labeled a slut by the national media. It happened in 1998. I was 15 years old. I remember talking to my mom about it, not understanding why what the President did in his bedroom concerned us. I didn’t think someone’s extra-marital affair should overshadow the important things that were happening at the time like the assault of Abner Louima by the New York City Police Department or the fact that after 156 years of British Rule Hong Kong was turned over to China. I didn’t understand why we weren’t discussing our tragic and embarrassing response to the Rwandan Genocide or how scary The Unabomber was. But Monica Lewinsky’s experience was a huge deal for reasons that I could not understand because I was raised in a social climate that blames women, calls us gold diggers and power seekers. While out society lives and dies by the Church of Male Power, it refuses to acknowledge how that power is wielded as a weapon and how women are so often the victims. Bill Clinton had sexual contact with his 22-year-old intern and then he lied about it. He was impeached but not for his treatment of Lewinsky because that simply didn’t matter. He was impeached because he lied about it. And then, since we have been talking about apologies recently, he said something that I find to be so incredibly insulting, so incredibly dehumanizing to every single woman everywhere

I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

He did not have sexual relations “with that woman.” It makes me queasy to just type those words. That woman. I can hear his voice in my head saying those words. And to think, Lewinsky didn’t even want to come forward with what had happened. Yet she at 22 was dragged through the mud. Still to this day, 20 years later, “Monica Lewinsky dress” is one of the first items to come up when you google her. Bill Clinton was able to go on and finish his presidency, to continue to play an important in world politics. She will always be associated with that dress and its semen stain.

***

I guess the point I am trying to make is that we all grew up steeped in it. And some of us were victimized and, at the time, we didn’t even know it. And as we have gotten older we started to realize that the way men treat women, although it is normalized, is not normal. It is not right. And for as complicated as we make it, something that I believe we as a society do in order to justify its continuation, it actually isn’t that complicated. Sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and sexual assault is wrong. It has always been wrong. It is wrong whether it was at the hands of Roy Moore or Al Franken; Bill O’Reilly or Harvey Weinstein; Kevin Spacey or one of the presidents of the United States. They should all get the same treatment. They should all be taken down. They should have been taken down years ago. I have no sympathy for any of them. I don’t care what they thought the “social climate” was like when they did what they did. I don’t care how they justified it to themselves over all the years they tried to keep it quiet. Some of them, I’m sure, never thought it was wrong to begin with. They never thought about a day that for them was so normal but for the victim could have changed the course of her or his life. But that is not my problem. It is theirs. So I want them all to shut the hell up. It’s our turn.

Men Are the Fucking Worst

8 Nov

Sorry, guys. It’s true. Men are the fucking worst. White men, I am mostly talking to you. But before you all roll your eyes, shut the browser window and grumble about women and feminism, and #notallmen and whatever, please hear me out. I feel like you owe us that much. Or don’t. And just reinforce my theory that men are the fucking worst.

Here’s the thing. There are plenty of individual men who are not, on their own, the fucking worst. I am, in fact, dating one such person and in my opinion, which of course is biased, he is pretty great. So let’s not get all crazy here. There are lots of men who, when they are on their own, I like very much. It is men as a group that I have a problem with. And also some men that are part of that group and absolutely refuse to engage with their own privilege, their own behavior, and the ways in which those things negatively impact those around them. Those men are individually pretty shitty. As a white person, I can understand the frustration with being lumped in with a bunch of other people who just happen to share a characteristic with me and then being blamed for their bad behavior. Or for the bad behavior of the group as a whole in which I am a member. Did I choose to be part of the oppressive class? No. But I am. And much in the way that men are the fucking worst, white people are also the fucking worst. Seriously, we suck. I am Jewish and do you know who tried to kill all the Jews? White people. People who look like me actively tried to wipe people who also look like me off the face of the earth and for what reason? Some bullshit, that’s what. And I am still lumped in with white people even though if it was up to white people I wouldn’t even exist anymore. And even still I am like, well, you know what? I benefit from the way that I look and even though I might not have been around at the inception of racism, I benefit from the persistence of it whether I like it or not and whether I want to admit it or not. But what does not admitting it get me? Nothing except that it makes me even more of the fucking worst. It is my job to be better.

So in my mind the same thing applies to men. I get it. Men get mad that women blame them for all the bad treatment and shit like that. And women do, in fact, blame men for historical things that current men might not have even been alive for. I understand that is frustrating. But take a second and ask yourself, really ask yourself, do you receive benefits in your daily life solely from being male. Let me give you some direction here. The answer is YES, yes you fucking do. And that isn’t your fault, necessarily, but it does need to be acknowledged and challenged and much as white people shouldn’t task people of color with undoing racism and educating us about how our behavior negatively impacts their lived experience, women should not be tasked with constantly calling men out on their shit. And that is part of the reason why the #metoo movement pissed me off. Women were tasked with reliving their horror for the benefit of men. This has been going on for fucking ever, it is the year 2017 for crying out loud, and this is all just coming out now. And it doesn’t just take one woman to make it happen. It takes tens of thousands. Millions, even. And I still don’t see us really having large discussions about the systemic reasons why this is the case.

Part of me feels compelled to go into all those systemic things that I wish we were talking about. A lot of me wants to address the issue that, in this rare moment when women are actually being listened to, there are only some women, very few women, with a platform to speak and with a voice that people are willing to hear. Those women are mostly famous, mostly wealthy, and mostly white. And, in my personal opinion, they still aren’t really being heard. They are the most privileged among us and still they are being dismissed in many corners. They are being given this moment but I can already see the moment fading away. See people wondering why we are still talking about this. People getting frustrated. But just think about all the women that have had these experiences who are not speaking up because, for myriad reasons, they cannot. The voices coming from Hollywood might be expressing experiences that most of us have had, but they are not loud enough to drown out the silence of millions more. And they are not powerful enough to stop all of the sexual assaults and sexual mistreatment that has happened since these scandals hit the mainstream, and they cannot stop those which will happen going forward.

I don’t know how to even begin to fix that other than to tell men to listen to the women in your lives. Don’t mock us when we express fear that, to you, might seem unfounded. We have been trained to sense danger in even the most unexpected places. Don’t call us crazy when we tell you that the way you are talking to us is condescending. Don’t get into bed with us when we are too drunk to consent and then tell us our behavior was confusing or that it is our fault that you misunderstood or that we wanted it.  Don’t tell us our lived experiences are not valid. Don’t speak over us. And also, pay attention. Don’t make us do all the work. Open your eyes and see what is right in front of you. See what you, yes you, do on a daily basis that undermines women’s feelings of self worth. It is not your fault that you grew up in this system. We all did. But it is your job to work to be better and to challenge it.

So, men, I am telling you that as a group you are the fucking worst and I don’t really like you. As a group, you make my life worse, more difficult. As a group, you make me feel less valuable, less valued, less human. So as individuals, try to be better. And in an effort to help, because I am feeling charitable today, I am going to start doing something. I am going to take my power back. Because what I have come to realize is that I don’t care if you like me or not. Did you hear that, men? I, Rebekah Frank, do not care whether you like me or think I am the biggest bitch in the entire world. I spent a lot of time caring. A lot of time protecting your feelings where you didn’t protect mine. A lot of time dressing a certain way, acting a certain way and doing certain things I didn’t want to do to make you like me but I am done with all that. In fact, I am going to do you a favor. When I don’t like what you’re doing, I’m going to tell you. And I might not be nice about it. And I hope you are man enough to take a step back and realize that what I am addressing did not happen in a vacuum, it has the full power of history behind it. And that history might not be your fault, personally, but you benefit from it so it is up to you to fight against its persistence. Just try and be a little bit less the worst. It won’t be easy and you won’t always get it right, but we’ll all be better because of it.

It is up to every man, just like it is up to every white person, to be less of the worst. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Be About Consent: My Thoughts on the #MeToo Movement

23 Oct

Me Too. Yes. Of course. Me fucking too.  I’ve written about it so many times here. Talked about it so much with friends and family. Gotten into deep discussions with people about the nature of consent and the evils of the patriarchy. And in ways I am happy to see that people responded to Alyssa Milano’s call. But at the same time goddamnit am I pissed, and sad, and frankly, in some ways, dumbfounded. Why? Oh, let me count the ways.

***

One. I am pissed that the burden of this has fallen, once again, on women. That always seems to be the case. We are supposed to take self defense classes to protect ourselves when we go about our daily lives. We are supposed to keep an eye on our drinks, never leaving them unattended, even around men who we consider our friends. We are tasked with walking home in groups, with putting our friends in cars, with connecting with each other through apps for our short, yet perilous, rides or walks home. We are supposed to be careful what we wear, where we go, who we smile at or talk to, who we trust. And then, almost inevitably when at some point in our lives something happens to us, we feel guilty, we are blamed, we are tasked with telling our painful stories, reliving horrifying events, walking back through a door we worked so goddamn hard to close. We have to do those things. And we do. And yet here we are, doing them again.

Two. I am saddened by the fact that people, mostly men, seem so surprised by the magnitude of this problem. I guess that was the point. But the thing that this says to me is that a lot of the men out there haven’t been listening all along. That we had to turn our experiences into a hashtag for them to finally be listened to. We go through this shit every single mother fucking day and we talk about it. Oh god do we talk about it! Because it is part of our daily lives. And we aren’t doing it to ourselves. It is being done to us. Mostly by men. And so my logical conclusion is that if most women have experienced some sort of sexual abuse or sexual harassment or sexual assault, then there are A LOT of men who have perpetrated it. It’s not like there are 10 guys out there making the rounds like fucking Rapey Santa Claus, dropping through chimneys, into work places, dorm rooms, company parties, first dates, marriages. If what this hashtag campaign has taught us is that if most women have experienced this, then it stands to reason that at some point or another most men have perpetrated it.

Three. We have a consent issue. And a power dynamic issue. And a huge fucking gender issue. Not to mention a value issue. And what, in my mind, this hashtag has not done, at least in my experience, is force those topics into daily conversation. It’s all well and good to retweet things, write notes of support and ruminate on the number of your friends who have gone through different versions of the same nightmare. It is an entirely different thing to take all of that information and ask yourself one simple question: why. Why is this happening? There are so many reasons but one of them is that women’s stories, our experiences, are not heard, they are not respected and they are not taken as real. How many women did it take to finally bring down Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Larry Nasser? How many Lupita Nyong’os or Angelina Jolies or Rose McGowans equal one Harvey Weinstein? How many victims could have been spared if we were believed, if we felt empowered, if we actually thought that sharing our stories would save others? Because the reality is that sharing oftentimes has the effect of turning our lives upside-down. Just ask Anita Hill.

Four. The number of people who asked why the hashtag only applied to women because men get sexually abused too. Way to “all lives matter” this shit. It is true. Men do get sexually assaulted. And it is an issue that is not discussed nearly enough. It also is deeply rooted in power dynamics, our fucked up way of engaging with gender and sexual expression as well as aspects of shame and control. What I don’t think it is, and correct me if I am wrong, is a massive systemic problem. So please, let’s talk about that. Definitely. But let us not, once again, let the plight of some men overtake the experience of the vast majority of women. I am not arguing that it is less important, or less horrible to experience, or less life altering. What I am saying is that this is not the place for it. This is about systemic and institutionalized sexism that doesn’t only exist in Hollywood. It is in politics, it is at work, it is in our homes, at school. This is about Women, as a group, being undervalued, controlled, disempowered, abused and about it being the year 2017 and all we can do is come up with a damn hashtag.

Five. This is somewhat tangential but I am really sick of people being like “I believe this is bad because I have a mother.” Congratulations, you have a mom. It stands to reason that since, you know, we all exist then probably at some point we all also had mothers. And think about this. Your mother was more likely than not the victim of sexual violence of some kind at some point in her life. Your mother. Because she is a woman and if this hashtag has taught us anything it is that most women have been assaulted in some way. It shouldn’t take you having a mom, or a sister, or a daughter, or an aunt, or a best friend who also happens to be a girl to give a shit. We are people. And we deserve to be treated as such regardless of our decision to procreate or our relation to someone of the opposite sex. We are not important because of the roles we play in men’s lives. We are simply important. Period. End of story.

Six. It is 2017. TWO THOUSAND AND SEVENTEEN! This has been written about so much. And talked about. And so much of that has been done so poorly but it doesn’t take a genius to know that Brock Turner is a garbage human and so is his dad and so is the judge who let him off easy. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that our President has sexually assaulted women. He admitted to it! On tape! And it doesn’t seem to matter! And really, I know that a lot of big names are being taken down right now. But these dudes are old. They are ooooooold. They have been doing this for so long. And do you know what? There are young, powerful men who are doing the same fucking thing right now. Because while we hashtag and have conversations about Harvey Weinstein, and Bill O’Reilly, and all the other pieces of shit we are not talking about MEN. We are not talking about toxic masculinity, the patriarchy and what that does to society as a whole. We are not talking about how we raise our boys and how we blame our girls. We are not taking on the bigger issue, instead we just bought a huge Harvey Weinstein shaped bandaid and acted like something really got done. He is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself.

***

I don’t think I am offering any sort of new analysis here so I don’t know what the point is. I’m just frustrated. I am frustrated because this has been happening to all of us for so long. So long. And I think that our definition of sexual assault is too limited. There are so many experiences that I have had, that my friends have had, that I believe qualify. It is as simple as your girlfriend, or wife, saying no to sex and you continuing to push and her eventually just giving in. No one wants to just give in to having a penis inserted into her body. It’s incredibly invasive. And I know that men have this experience too. But the difference is the system. The way we value things. The way we doubt women and their experiences. And the way we, as a society, are somehow shocked that this is as big a problem as it is. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read the RAINN statistics and thought they were actually too damn low. We have a problem. We have had a problem for a long time. And no hashtag is going to miraculously fix it. Be an ally. Be an ear. Be compassionate. And for crying outloud, be about consent.

Enough is Enough

21 Sep

I don’t know how you all have been feeling recently, but I have not been feeling good. I have been feeling really angry, really anxious, really sad, really depleted. I have been feeling like all the sexism that I have always talked about has just been pummeling me, dragging me down, and then telling me that it isn’t what it appears, that it isn’t sexism at all.

Let me just tell you a little bit about how this last year and change has felt. Take it for what you will. Feel free to disagree with my recollection of events, but please keep your opinions about how those experiences have led to a specific way of feeling to yourself. Because the way I feel is weak, powerless, unimportant and fucking exhausted. Let me tell you why.

It has always sucked a little bit to be a woman. Sometimes it has sucked a lot. It sucks to be catcalled, to have men try and run alongside you when you are out for a few miles, to have people question your experience and opinion. It sucks to read about backlogged rape kits that could have stopped countless serial rapists but were never tested because the cost – $500 – $1500 per kit – was deemed prohibitive. Because our lives, our sanity, our safety is not worth the money. It sucks to read about sexual assault and rape and, inevitably, have some asshole dude bring up the Duke lacrosse team. I cannot tell you how many times I have been instructed to read “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case”  or “The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of our Great Universities.” I don’t need to read those books to know that a false rape claim was made against a group of athletes and that that one false rape claim made it harder for every other victim to make her case. Every single damn time a woman makes a high profile rape allegation someone brings that damn case up. Enough already. But if you need proof, just look at Brock Turner, the swimmer from Stanford University. The woman he assaulted was found unconscious behind a dumpster while he was humping her, after he manually penetrated her, and that was barely enough to convict him; it wasn’t even nearly enough to send him to jail for any reasonable amount of time. The cards are stacked against us. I mean, I don’t know how else to put this other than by saying this: rape means that someone stuck a foreign object or a piece of their body, like their penis or their finger (depending on the laws of the specific state) inside the body of someone else. Just let that sink in, really think about it. When it comes to the criminal justice system and how it deals with rape allegations, the victims are guilty until proven innocent, not the criminals, and you just try and prove to me otherwise. I have stats on stats. I dare you.

And the thing is that it isn’t just about sexual assault it is about everything. God forbid we have a female superhero without a bunch of dudes getting their panties in a bunch about her being too sexy, not good enough at fighting, too easy to jerk off to, not super not hero enough.  Was she perfect? No. Could she have been better? Of course. But the reality is that male superheroes have been in movies for a long time and the casting still isn’t perfect, the storylines still could be better, the fight scenes still could be more convincing. But I have never, in all the times I have read reviews of superhero movies where the men are the stars read quite so many complaints that this person or that person was cast specifically to be jerked off to. That is not our problem. That is not the problem of the casting. That is not the problem of Gal Gadot. That is not the problem of her and all the women who played the Amazons in that movie who worked their butts off for months to prepare to be picked apart by you for being too this or not enough that. That is your limitation. Yours and yours alone.

And while I am on about that, don’t act like your criticism about Wonder Woman isn’t based in sexism. Ask yourself if you would make the same critique if the lead were a guy. And then think about what you are so afraid of. Because this isn’t about the movie, really. It is about challenging your own perspective, taking a step back, thinking, and then stopping yourself and saying “if I have to specifically say that I am not being  sexist then maybe I should rethink this.” What is it they say about people who say “I’m not racist but…?” Because the same thing applies here. There are, as I said, multiple legitimate criticisms to be made about this movie. The fact that Gal Gadot is too easy to jerk off to is not one of them. Honestly, most people I know – male and female – would fantasize about that woman if she was wearing a potato sack.

Let me just put this into perspective a little bit. This movie came out over the summer, the summer after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in a contest between him and arguably the most qualified presidential candidate ever. This man is racist, he is anti-semitic, he is an elitist schmuck masquearading as a man of the people, and he is an admitted sexual abuser. He grabs women without their consent. That is assault. And he was elected president. How do you think that made a lot of us feel? And how do you think it made us feel that white women, who have drank the Kool-aid of their own oppression, helped put him there? And how do you think it makes us feel now to see people, women and men, tell Hillary to “shut the fuck up.” Well I will tell you how it makes me feel, it makes me feel like shit. And seeing Wonder Woman, watching Gal Gadot kick some ass, made me feel just a teensy bit better and honestly, at this point, I will take what I can get.

Because here’s the thing: I honestly don’t care if you like Hillary or not. I don’t care if you voted for Bernie in the primaries and still think he is some sort of savior. (If you voted for Trump instead of Hillary for whatever bullshit reason, kindly fuck right off because I have exactly zero time for you now and in the future.) What I care about is that you think about this critically. Since the publication of Hillary’s book, people have been saying that maybe she should do something good for the country rather than write a book that no one cares about, that Bernie is still working to make a difference. Bernie, I will remind you, wrote a book already and is still in government. Hillary is a private citizen and therefore can do what the fuck she wants and if she wants to write a goddamn book about what it was like to be the first woman to run for president as a major party candidate then fuck yes she should do it. You’d better believe I would. Because whether or not you like her, her story matters, she matters, and her experience will help shape the campaign of the next woman to run for president, the next woman who might have seen Hillary get so close and thought to herself “you know what, I could do that.” And i the same way, Wonder Woman has made little girls, and some of us grown women, think we could grow up to be a super hero too.

And so for me, every time I hear someone say Hillary should shut up or go away or disappear, I take it personally. Because honestly, I don’t remember seeing countless front page articles in major publications telling Mitt Romney and Al Gore and John McCain that they don’t matter. And it fucking sucks. Because, no, Hillary wasn’t perfect. No one is. But the treatment that she has endured since the beginning of her presence in the public eye, but especially in the months leading up to and following this election has been disgusting. And we should be ashamed. I know I am.

So yeah, I am tired. So in the future, don’t come at me with your opinions about Wonder Woman or Hillary Clinton or Leslie Jones or whatever other woman you for some reason think is undeserving. Unless you really think. I think before I speak because I have to. I’m a woman. I have something to prove all the time. So does Gal Gadot. And so does Hillary Clinton. Just remember that. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt, we get your bullshit.

A Letter to a Friend from Houston

7 Sep

Dear Friend,

I can’t stop thinking about you. I think of you every time I turn on the news and see people plucked from rooftops by helicopters, rescued by neighbors on boats. I think of you every time I see a highway that was passable a few very long days ago that is now indistinguishable from an ocean if it weren’t for the drowned exit signs and street lights that won’t see power for days if not weeks. I think of you every time I see people crammed into convention centers and furniture stores and churches, not knowing the status of their family and friends or their homes, schools, jobs, churches; not knowing anything about what comes next. I think of you every time I contemplate the long journey back from here. I think of you always.

Because, in a way, I know what it is. I know what it is to come home to a place you understand with every inch of your being and have it be forever changed, forever scarred. I remember when the towers fell. I remember the fear of waiting for phone calls from family and friends, of returning home and seeing my city smoldering, of arriving back in my small town and seeing the cars left abandoned at the train station by people who never came home for them. And of course you know that, too, because you were here. You were here for all of that and I am sure it left a mark on you like it did for the rest of us. That mark of knowing what once was will never be again. That knowledge that nothing will ever be the same, that you will never be the same. That something happened that has changed the world, your world and the world at large, for a very long time. Like September 11th changed everything about the way we interact with our fellow humans whether by choice or through the force of law, these storms – one after another after another like clockwork – change our collective feelings of safety and security in our environment, make the need for action even more dire. This storm will be a mainstay in our conversation about the imminent dangers of climate change, and it will be a marker of time in your conversations about your city.

And so I think of you flying over your city for the first time and having to take that in alone. And I so wish I could be there to hold your hand. And I feel in some weird way that it is a gift that I will be there to meet you at the airport, that I will be in the car with you as you see it all at ground level for the first time, so I can be whatever support I can be. If you cry, I will cry with you. If you need to laugh, I will come prepared with jokes and stories and memories like that time we hitch hiked with priests in Guatemala; that time our car broke down on the freeway; that time we were walking through Houston and a dog ran at us and you puffed yourself up and yelled NO in a voice so grounded, so powerful that he ran away with his tail between his legs and we were safe. And then we will take a deep breath, stand up straight and head out into the world and help as best we can because all we can do right now is offer ourselves to others as support and love and relief. And I hope I can be that for you.

I am here for you. I am thinking about you. And I love you.

Love always

Rebekah

Sexual Abuse Allegations Rock USA Gymnastics

21 Aug

I wrote this awhile ago and it never got published and so, given the fact that Aly Raisman just spoke publicly about this for this first time this past weekend, I thought maybe I would drop it here. Trigger warnings for sexual violence and pedophilia. 

On Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, former Olympic gymnast Jamie Dantzscher testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about her experiences as an elite athlete. Dantzscher reported that starting when she was 12 years old and continuing through the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games six years later, she was sexually abused by the USA Gymnastics (USAG) team doctor, Larry Nassar. She spoke in front of The Committee in support of an amendment to the federal law that governs Olympic sports organizations in America. This amendment, formulated by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali), would overhaul the ways in which organizations that put together the United States Olympic teams deal with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct within their sport. The legislation would require anyone associated with an Olympic governing body, such as USAG, to report allegations of sexual misconduct to law enforcement and would create procedures intended to prevent coaches who have been fired due to such accusations from getting a job at another club. Although this legislation would impact all Olympic sports, it appears to be in direct response to what some have characterized as gross negligence on the part of USAG when it comes to protecting its athletes from serial sexual predators.

Women’s gymnastics poses a unique challenge when it comes to preventing misconduct. Athletes spend roughly 35 hours per week in the gym, sometimes working one-on-one with their coaches. Hands-on spotting is required to assure athlete safety, and as a result coaches are often male owing to the fact that on average men are taller and have more upper body strength than women. The sport also requires that an incredibly high level of trust exists between coach and athlete; a poorly placed foot or a missed hand could result in serious injury or death. In the best cases, this leads to an incredible bond between gymnast and mentor, where the two individuals function as a team and are able to help one another reach the goals they have set. In the worst case, this unquestioned trust and imbalanced power dynamic can result in a situation where a coach abuses the athlete or else turns a blind eye to the misconduct of others in pursuit of a shared dream. In the case of Dr. Larry Nassar, and of 2010 USAG Coach of the Year Marvin Sharp before him, the organization seems to have prioritized its own success over the safety of the athletes, many of whom are minors.

In an interview with 60 Minutes this past February, former USAG National Team member Jessica Howard summarized her experience of abuse and explained why she and the dozens of other gymnasts who have come forward since Nassar’s arrest didn’t do so previously. She said, “no one wants to step out of line because there’s a group of people that make decisions that dictate whether you’re successful or not. So you just comply with what you’re told to do.” The people who make up the governing body of USAG, the body that chooses who represents the United States in international competition, are the same people who see these young women monthly at the National Team Training Camp in Huntsville, Texas and they are the same people who hire the support and medical staff that are tasked with keeping the athletes safe and healthy. The gymnasts spend their entire childhood and early adulthood attempting to impress the members of USAG because those people hold the key to their futures; without the approval of the USAG Selection Committee the gymnasts dreams simply cannot come true. As a result, the athletes unquestioningly do as they are told because they assume, understandably and probably correctly, that obedience is required for the realization of their dreams.

As of March 23rd, 103 women have come forward and joined the federal lawsuit against Dr. Larry Nassar. Among these women are members of the USA gymnastics national team, club gymnasts in Eastern Michigan as well as student athletes at Michigan State University where Dr. Nassar had an office. Almost all of the suits list USAG, MSU and Geddert’s Twistars, a Lansing-area gymnastics club, as codefendants for ignoring red flags about Nassar’s behavior. What this growing lawsuit indicates is that over the course of at least 2 decades USAG, as well as other organizations and individuals, shirked their moral responsibility to protect the women under their guidance and instead allowed a doctor to have unfettered access to them. Perhaps these organizations operated in a shadowy area of the law, but what they did was look the other way as young women were routinely victimized and disempowered under the guise of medical attention. If the situation involving the Catholic Church is any indication of what is to come, it seems likely that this lawsuit will grow larger by the week, month and year and the uphill battle that USAG will have to fight to regain its reputation as a safe space for young athletes is only beginning.

I’m Still on About Nazis! AKA Our President.

16 Aug

I might be stupid for putting this out on the Internet but whatever, if the National Security Agency is really reading our communications then it has seen me say way worse than what I am about to share here. So here it is: every single time a New York Times alert goes off on my phone there is a small (and ever growing) part of my brain that is hoping it is alerting me to the death of Donald J. Trump.

There, I said it.

I am not saying that I want someone to kill him, necessarily. Or that I want him to die in a car crash, or a fire, or of some extremely slow-moving but massively painful terminal illness. I haven’t really thought about it in that amount of depth. I just want him, as I have said over many easily monitored modes of communication, to take a long walk off a short pier and leave us to get along with the business of actually making this country great because these last few months, and specifically these last few days? They have not been great at all. At least not for any of us who believe that racism is a scourge and that all those horrible men (and the few women) who marched this past Friday with their tiki torches were inherently violent. Because here’s the thing: you don’t need to physically assault another person to be violent. Marching through a city carrying the flags of the oppressors, the enslavers, the genocidal and chanting, among other things, “Jews will not replace us” is in itself an act of violence. A permit for that sort of abhorrent behavior simply should not exist. Not on paper, and not in the words of the President of the United States of America. Because that is what Trump did yesterday. He gave a nod to the white supremacists and said, without equivocation,

Yes, this is okay on my watch.

And they fucking celebrated. Of course they did. They can finally rip off their hoods of shame and wear their racism proudly on their sleeves. They can mow down counter protestors,* beat an unarmed black man in a parking garage, vandalize the Holocaust Memorial in Boston for the second time this summer and plan to blow up a building in Oklahoma City. They can finally show us all how fucking oppressed they really are. It feels like open season here in the United States and Trump just threw his support solidly on the side of evil. And his propaganda machine simply continues churning out articles to be sure that they can control the narrative and keep people thinking that those pedaling hate and those protesting that hate are one in the same. And this is what I have to say to them:

Open your goddamn eyes, white people. OPEN THEM.

We are the fucking norm. WE ARE THE NORM.**

Turn on the TV and who do you see?
Walk into almost any board room, who do you see?
Look at any list of millionaires and billionaires, who do you mostly see?
Look at the photographs of our 45 presidents and, barring one single person in that entire list, who do you see?
Look at our Senate and House, who do you mostly see?

I could keep on going but I think I made my point alright and if I didn’t, then whatever, I am not going to waste my time. Because here’s the thing: loss of privilege is not synonymous with oppression no matter how you slice it. What is happening in America is simply an attempt, one moving at a glacial pace it feels like, to even the playing field and afford others the same opportunities that white people luck into at birth. Because that’s what it is: luck. God didn’t smile down on you and bless you with the ability to have a boss that looks like you, a name that doesn’t get your application thrown in the garbage can or the ability to leave an interaction with a police officer alive and uninjured. You happened to be born into a system that values something as inconsequential as the color of your skin and then just hands you things. And you have the fucking nerve to harken back to a time when you were guaranteed that privilege because people that looked like you and thought like you literally owned the competition. They bought them and sold them and bred them and worked them to fucking death and we are still entirely incapable as a nation to engage with that history in a way that gives it due credit for the fucked up systems we continue to recreate and reinforce. Well, fuck you. Seriously. Fuck you.

And fuck Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a farce. He is a sorry excuse for a human being who only cares about you as long as you remain blindly faithful to him and when you lose the faith? Well, then he will use his applauded “straight talk” to eviscerate you on Twitter in much the same vein as a bully on the playground. And if you think for even a second that Donald Trump is seeing any sort of loss of privilege, that he is being oppressed in any way, think again. Because the only thing more protective than being a white man is being a filthy rich white man with absolutely no concern for the well being of any body else.

So, yeah, I wish Donald Trump would go the fuck away. If that means he dies, so be it. If it means he somehow gets stranded on an island somewhere with no access to Twitter or the presidential lectern, that’s okay too. Because as much as I have heard people mumbling that maybe it’s better that these bigots are out in the open because at least we know who they are, I have to disagree. They are using this as a way to fanaticize more people, to normalize their beliefs and to come at  us bigger next time. There is nothing good about that. There is nothing good about violently bigoted people, some of whom are armed to the gills with all manner of weaponry, feeling safe en masse in public spaces. This isn’t about free speech, because this version of free speech that keeps getting touted around values the rights of the oppressors over the rights of the oppressed. And the oppressors are doing just fine as far as rights go, in my opinion anyway.

So I say chase them back to where the fuck they came from. Identify them, humiliate them, let them cower in their basements. Kick their websites off servers and report them to social media. And then when social media does nothing about it, take social media to task. It’s enough already. These people don’t deserve access. They are disgusting. And so is the man that currently emboldens them.

So yeah, Trump can go. I don’t care where and I don’t care how, but I hope it isn’t pleasant.

*One of the recommended advanced searches when I looked for an article to link to regarding the death of Heather Heyer was for video of the attack put to music. This is America.

**As a Jewish person who sometimes passes as white and sometimes does not, I will include myself in this because I also benefit from white privilege. That being said, this is a particularly uncomfortable time to be a Jew, to say the very least.