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Kathie Klages, David Pecker, Mollie Tibbetts and the Devaluing of Women

25 Aug

At the very early stages of recording Welcome to My Vagina the Almost Famous Podcast, Jessy and I talked about the sexual abuse scandal that was tearing USA gymnastics to shreds. (I wrote about it here and then again here.) We called the episode “A Girl’s Worth,” which was based off of Rachael Denhollander’s victim impact statement in which she asked, time and again, “how much is a little girl worth?” I find myself asking this question of myself often, but extending that to include not just little girls but grown womyn as well. I extend it to include all of us. And every time I ask myself this question and then go on to answer it, every time I think about what value I hold to society at large, how much my life is worth in the eyes of law enforcement, the justice system, the media and our very own president I can only come to the exact same conclusion over and over and over again: I am not worth very much. And then I think to myself that I was born with white skin to upper middle class parents in a safe neighborhood that had good schools and I realize that the small amount that I have determined my own worth to be in the eyes of so many is higher still than a lot of other women. It’s a lot to take in, to live in a culture that hates and diminishes you. There are constant reminders of this. A few of which I want to talk about here.

Kathie Klages

For those of you who don’t know much about the Nassar scandal in USA Gymnastics, let me give you an ever-so-brief overview. Over the 20+ years that Larry Nassar was treating gymnasts and other female athletes through his offices at Michigan State University, his ‘volunteer position’ with USA Gymnastics as the women’s national team doctor and his arrangement with John Geddert of Geddert’s Twistar’s in Lansing, Michigan, he sexually assaulted over 300 women and girls that we know of. And he did not act alone. It took other people ignoring reports or looking the other way. Kathie Klages was one of those people.

Back in 1997, a gymnast by the name of Larissa Boyce reported to Klages that Nassar had been sexually inappropriate with her during an appointment for an injury. Another woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, also reported to Klages at the same time. Klages did not go to MSU and she did not go to law enforcement. Instead, she shamed the women until they stayed silent. Kathie Klages knew about Nassar, knew that he was a predator, for 20 years and she did nothing, she said nothing. She continued coaching the MSU women’s gymnastics team until she was forced to resign in 2016 and in that time she sent countless athletes to see a doctor who she had been told had a habit of sticking his ungloved fingers into their vaginas under the guise of medical treatment. One of those women, Lindsey Lemke, gave an impact statement while she was still competing for MSU this past January, 2018, 21 years after Klages was originally told of Nassar’s behavior. Klages could have done something, could have stopped him, but the reputation of one single doctor was more important, more valuable, than the physical and mental well-being of hundreds of women. As far as Kathie Klages was concerned, a woman’s worth is but a fraction of a man with medals and awards, a man who will die in prison, a man whom she still defends.

American Media Inc.

Next we have The National Enquirer, its parent company, American Media, Inc. (AMI) and David Pecker – no, really, his last name is Pecker – the CEO and Chairman of American Media. The other night, I hunkered down on the sofa to watch Rachel Maddow explain the breaking news of the day and it was big. We had already found out that Michael Cohen had made a deal with the feds in which he plead guilty to 5 counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution and two counts that are related to the breaking of campaign-finance laws. Those last two charges were due to payments that he made to Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, AKA Stormy Daniels. Cohen said he was directed by then-candidate, now the worst president of all times, Donald J. Trump in order to keep the two women from speaking out and therefore hurting Trump’s chances at winning the election. Each of these women were paid $130,000, which was determined to be the amount that their silence was worth. Our country’s norms and values were sold on the market for a combined total of $260,000 to a snake-oil salesman who knows nothing about the rules of grammar, let alone international politics and, you know, how to have a conscience. But that isn’t even what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the other breaking news. The Pecker stuff.

So apparently AMI, led by David Pecker, had a habit of what has been dubbed the “catch and kill.” For years they would find negative stories about Donald Trump, catch them, get exclusive rights to them, and then bury them. This happened in the case of Karen McDougal. AMI bought the life rights to McDougal’s story for a sum of $150,000, which precluded her from sharing the story of her 9-month affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, right around the time Trump’s son Barron was born, if memory serves. But AMI also interviewed Beth Ferrier, one of the women who accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her, and then buried it in exchange for an exclusive interview with Cosby. Ferrier didn’t sign the rights away and could have told her story elsewhere, although she was ever informed of the trade AMI had made. And we also know that women were speaking out about Cosby for years before any of the allegations really stuck. So how much is Beth Ferrier worth? About $7,500 that she never received from AMI and one exclusive interview with a wealthy and powerful man.

Mollie Tibbets

A few days ago, the body of missing college student Mollie Tibbetts was found near her boyfriend’s home in Brooklyn, Iowa. She was murdered and buried under some corn stalks in a field by a man she did not know after she rebuffed his advances while she was out for a run.  I am a runner and I have had the same experience Mollie had, with an obviously very different ending. I have been out for my daily run and been followed by men on foot, in cars and once on a bicycle. It is terrifying and infuriating. I have been lucky. I’ve been able to shoot men down without having them rape and/or kill me. Mollie, and way too many other women, have not been as lucky. There is a lot to be said here.

First, let us engage with the reason Mollie was killed. Mollie was killed because she rejected a man and he got angry. It does not matter where this man came from, why he was in the United States or what his legal status was. He was a man who could not handle rejection and believed that the proper retribution for the fact that she didn’t want him was her death. He killed her because she said no. Plain and simple. To this man, Mollie’s life was less important than his ego.

Second, let us talk about the narrative that has arisen around her death. Predictably, the party that tells us not to talk about gun control after another mass shooting claims scores of our young people did not skip a beat before using Mollie’s death to make a plea for “The Wall” and in defense of racist immigration policies. And all of this while Mollie’s family itself has said the following:

Hey i’m a member of mollie’s family and we are not so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals. now stop being a fucking snake and using my cousins death as political propaganda. take her name out of your mouth.

It’s true that if this man wasn’t here he would not have killed Mollie. But do you know what he would have done? He would have killed another woman. I am certainly not valuing one woman’s life over another’s, but I am saying that this is a conversation about murderous misogyny and not immigration. In the aftermath of this, we need to be having a conversation about how to educate men to be better, not having one about how we should or should not spend billions of dollars to build some bullshit wall that’s going to become a symbol for racism and will ultimately be torn down. To our asshole president and many members of the Republican Party, Mollie Tibbett’s life is worth a few talking points about illegal immigration.

Third, we need to look at this case and notice one thing: Mollie Tibbets was a beautiul, strong-willed, smart, athletic, white woman. The fact that she was white matters here because in our culture, whiteness is associated with purity. That’s why our newspapers, magazines and tabloids were ablaze with the stories of Elizabeth Smart, Jonbenet Ramsey and Natalee Holloway and yet none of us have heard of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year old Muslim woman who was killed last year while walking back to her Mosque with a group of friends in Virginia. A driver, who got angry after he exchanged words with one of the young men in Hassanen’s group, grabbed Hassanen and beat her to death with a baseball bat before dropping her in a pond. There was no national coverage of her death, nor is there national coverage of African American children who go missing. Mollie Tibbett’s life was worth more than Nabra Hassanen, and is worth more than the African American children whose disappearances have never been on the cover of any newspaper or magazine. All life should be valued that same regardless of the color of your skin, your country of origin, or what you have between your legs.

***

I don’t have too much more to say here other than this: being a woman is hard. It is harder for some than it is for others but the reality is that every single one of us knows what it is to be silenced and to have our experiences devalued. And if we haven’t been silenced ourselves, although I do not know a single woman who has been so lucky, we know what it looks like because we are surrounded by it every single day. There are so many things that are not said, not heard or “caught and killed.” And that silence, that under valuing of women’s worth, has terrible, and sometimes deadly, consequences.

My Name is Rebekah and I Exhaust Myself

22 Mar

This past May while wandering through the streets of New Orleans I decided I was going to move for a while. It was a weird sort of calm and assuredness that I had about the decision, something that is not normal for me. I constantly second-guess my choices, paralyzing myself through the fear that maybe the plan I have hatched for myself isn’t right, that I will miss out on some opportunity. Every once in awhile though something just comes into my mind that seems so right, so perfect, that I just dive in and hope for the best. Moving to New Orleans, even temporarily, was one of those plans.

***

I remember a few years back a friend of mine decided to leave Brooklyn. We ended up talking one night about whatever came into our heads and I remember just looking over at him and saying

You know that even if you move somewhere else, you’re still going to be there, right? You’re still going to be you? So just make sure it’s here you don’t want to be, and not that it’s you that you don’t want to be.

He looked at me for a while, nodded his head, and we continued on to something else less heavy. I’ve thought about that conversation a lot over the past few years; I think about it almost daily now. And I wonder, why did I run away from my life? And what did I think would happen, would change? Who did I think I would become?

***

I’ve spent a great deal of time by myself here. That was sort of the point. I needed to just, I don’t know, be with myself. To try and get a sense of what I want and, perhaps more importantly, what sort of thing I want to put out into the world. What sort of person I want to be. But perhaps it’s more complicated than that – I am still trying to work this bit out honestly. It’s not that I don’t know who I am, it’s that sometimes who I am is just too much because who I am is tied up so much in being the best me that I can be and for me that means being the most supportive, most giving, most there person I can possibly manage. And when I can’t be those things to the degree that I think I should be capable of, I experience this crippling guilt and sadness and feeling that I should have done more, should have been more, should have given more. But sometimes, there is just not any more to give. I feel like by the time I left Brooklyn I had hit the bottom of my well. I had depleted myself emotionally and physically. I was exhausted. I was breaking out in hives daily. My hair was falling out. I honestly had nothing left. And I had no one to blame but myself. So I got in my car and went.

***

The thing about leaving your life behind, as I said to my friend a few years earlier, is that your life follows you. Or, more accurately, you follow you. The essence of me, for lack of a better term, didn’t stay in Brooklyn when I came to New Orleans. It got into my small Honda Civic with me and took the 2 week long winding journey through the eastern United States and landed in this awesome shot gun apartment in the Marigny. And now it makes itself cozy in my bedroom and hangs out with me in my backyard. It comes with me to work and does speed repeats with me on the track. It’s just me…and it’s exhausting. I am exhausting. I fucking exhaust myself.

So that’s what I’ve learned so far on this journey. Something I sort of already knew but didn’t actually apply to myself. Which is basically that we can be different versions of ourselves in different locations and with different people and in different contexts, but we are, at our core, still ourselves, for better or for worse. We bring all of our habits, all of our tendencies, our strengths and our weaknesses with us and it’s just a matter of figuring out how to manage it all and, for me, it’s a matter of figuring out how to be the best me for myself, not for everyone else, and trusting in the fact that being good to me oftentimes results in being a better me to others, which is what I ultimately always strive for.

Also, it means less hives. And let me assure you, when it comes to hives, less is always more.

How I’m Dealing

26 Jan

This has been a really rough few days, friends. Hellish, I would venture to say. And I am going to be completely and totally honest with you, as I normally am, and tell you how I have been handling it. Not well. Not well at all. Here’s a recap:

Thursday: Trained at a new job from 9am to 4:30pm. I tried to gage where all my coworkers stood on the issues by asking them some questions that I will not divulge here because I am actually afraid that some agents for the government might arrive at my door and whisk me away under the cover of night. That’s where we live now, folks. After work I headed off to a bar that my friend works at and had a few very necessary drinks in preparation for the end of the free world.

Friday: Trained again at the job. This time for 12 glorious hours. The benefit was that this allowed me to entirely miss all the fracas surrounding the inauguration of Tr*mp or, as my friend Ben suggested we call him, SCROTUS. My friends Emily and James came into town so that was great, but there was still just a very heavy gloom that hung over everything. When I got home that night I turned on The Internet, read a few things and cried myself to sleep.

Saturday: Women’s March day. I went to the march with Emily, James and Emma. I wore my “unpresidented” shirt (thanks Beth!) and we all carried signs. I would like to acknowledge here that there were some problems with the marches in general (underrepresentation of POC being high on that list and something I will get into in another post because it is way too important to be just a talking point in an overview) but overall it was nice for me to be in the company of friends and surrounded by a bunch of badass women and men who disagreed with the inauguration of SCROTUS and were just as apprehensive of what the future would likely hold. This was especially important for me seeing as how I just moved to a new city and lack the sort of support system I had in New York. Also, the South is different.

Sunday: Had to be at work to train at 8am.  At a restaurant. I know, I know. But the people must have brunch, after all. It was a really hard day. I hadn’t slept enough, but I had certainly read a lot about what all has been going on. I had the time to have conversations with a lot of good friends who feel similarly to me and it was all just crashing down. The reality of it all. Like a giant, horrible wave teeming with dead sea creatures who could no longer survive in the increasing temperature of the oceans. The shift was awful. Not because of my coworkers or the managers, who are all lovely, but because everyone is politically charged these days, and down here a lot of people voted for Tr*mp. It isn’t like in New York where those people are few and far between. They are everywhere here. Especially when you work in a restaurant that is in a highly touristed area and has a lot of domestic tourists from cities and towns that are significantly less progressive than New Orleans. There were some things said. Like the young white women who insisted that women (read: them and the white women they know) already have equal rights and what the fuck were all those idiots marching for. (I summarized.) I had to keep my mouth shut. It felt like my soul was just melting. Luckily Emily and James were still in town so I was able to run to them after work and decompress. I also called my dad and started crying on Canal Street amongst all the normal New Orleans revelers. No big deal.

Monday: I woke up crying and basically didn’t stop all day. I tried to quit my job because I felt like everything was horrible and I wanted to just hide in my house forever. My managers would’t let me quit, though. Apparently I’m okay at my job. Who knew. But in the process of trying to quit I entirely lost my shit in front of not one but TWO managers at work and, if my estimates are correct, about a third of my coworkers and now I feel sort of like a crazy person. Lots of tears, lots of eyeliner running down my face. Great first impression, Rebekah. Luckily my friend Carie is awesome and I called her and we spent the day doing fun things interspersed with me crying. By the end of the day it dawned on me: there was a good chance that, for the next four years, whenever I wasn’t otherwise occupied (or even sometimes even when I was) I would likely be crying. That seemed to me rather unsustainable.

Tuesday: Woke up still feeling like everything was totally fucked. Kept reading The Internet and panicking (but at least I wasn’t crying?). Carie and I ran some errands which helped to take my mind of our impending collective doom. I was supposed to go to running group but didn’t because I am pretty sure I had cried out the entire salt content of my body and was exhausted. I went to bed early.

So, I mean, needless to say if you are wondering how I have been handling all this the answer is, as I said before, not well. I have sat down to write about 5 different blogs in the past few days and nothing comes out how I want it to. I think that is partially because I am so overwhelmed with the onslaught of information and, honestly, an intense feeling of loss. It is like I am in mourning. And, you know what, I am. I am in mourning for the world I thought that I lived in now that I live in one that operates under a completely different set of rules, if we can even call them that. Here’s what I realized (with a lot of help from friends) and how I am going to operate going forward.

I cannot longer assume that I live in the same reality that I always have. Our government operates largely through precedent and the moral foundation of those who work within it. Regardless of whether we agree with the politics and whether we feel the person him or herself is of good moral character, there was a general area in which people operated, and that area was largely predictable and normalized. We might not agree with it, we might find the actions themselves morally bankrupt, but there was still, for lack of a better phrase, a general code of conduct within which people operated.

That is no longer the case. The code is gone.

We have been shown, throughout the campaign itself and now during these first few terrifying days, that Donald J. Tr*mp does not abide by any code outside of whatever one is guiding him in that particular moment. And for those of us, myself included, who believed that there was something codified in law that required a certain level of behavior, there is not. So all those times we scream

But how can he do this? Can he really do this?

The answer, it seems, is that he can. The rules of the game have changed. He can remove information from government websites regarding climate change and LGBTQ issues as if they no longer even exist. He can demand that the National Park Services stop tweeting from their official handles, but he cannot stop them from making a new one that is not associated with the government, and he cannot stop the 1.8 million followers and counting from supporting that action. He can appoint cabinet members with little to no relevant experience and they can somehow get questioned and confirmed regardless of the fact that many of them have not yet passed ethics screenings. He can become President of the United States of America without releasing his tax documents and he can repeatedly say that the only people who care about that information are reporters, which is patently untrue. I am not a reporter and I would like access to those documents. He can shut down the media and send us all into a tizzy with these fucking “alternative facts” which makes us doubt every single bit of information that we read. If this administration is known for one thing, it will be known for the number of synonyms for the word “lie” it uses on a regular basis to justify the man that they, and Russia, and James Comey, and all those fucking white people, empowered.

Our President, is a man who has never heard the word “no.” People have said it to him I’m certain, but he has never heard it. “No” is simply not a word that applies to Donald J. Tr*mp. And when you have a man for whom the word “no” doesn’t apply, you have a man who can not compromise, you have a man with a huge temper, you have a man with the social mentality and awareness of a 5-year-old. That is who we are living under. We are living under a 6’3″, 240-pound toddler who pouts and stamps his feet at the mere smell of any sort of negative feelings cast in his direction. And yet he is quite possibly the biggest bully to ever darken the doors of the Oval Office.

So no, this is not normal. But it is even less normal than we previously thought. There are no rules, there are no precedents, there are, it seems, no laws that can touch Donald Tr*mp. And so then the question becomes:

What do we do now?

We cannot use the normal routes, we cannot take the same actions, we cannot think this will change or our displeasure can be registered in the same ways they have always been because this is not the same reality. This country will never be the same. We will never be the same. It’s as if we have been living in a world with a ground that is made of rubber, only before we thought that it was made of steel. And he is pushing that ground, stretching it, and we are all off balance and we have to walk differently. Because you cannot walk the same way on something that moves and changes and thins out as you can on something strong and flat and secure. So again I ask,

What do we do now?

And honestly, I don’t really know. I wish I fucking knew. But for me just wrapping my head around the fact that everything is different, and that I mean that word everything to be all encompassing, is helpful. Because it means I have to open my mind and stretch it and challenge it to respond to all the changes that are coming at me, at all of us. Because we, friends, have brought knives to an unregulated gun fight. So we have to be smarter and quicker and we have to use our bodies to keep coming at them again and again and again. And honestly, as much as I loved to hear Michelle Obama say “when they go low we go high,” there is no low or high anymore. There are those with morals and those without morals and those are two completely unrelatable realities. There are those who care about the future of the world and those who care only about the immediate future of themselves.

So, what do we do? Seriously, what do we do?

New Orleans Diary: Week Four

23 Dec

Goal: To keep a diary of all the haps and observations of every week. This is my fourth diary entry, and therefore the fourth time I have managed to successfully reach my goal. This is a big deal. Hitting goals I make for myself is not my strong suit. Maybe all this not having a job is really helping me out in the life skills department. (Speaking of, someone want to pay me for this?)

Laundry: So I posted a photo of this the first day that I moved into my new apartment (AKA Palace) but for those of you who are not my Instagram or Facebook friend or managed to miss it here’s an update: I have a washer/dryer in my kitchen. IN MY KITCHEN! My friend Katie used to tell me years ago that she will know she has made it as an adult when she has a clawfoot tub in her bathroom. I replied that I would know I had made it when I have a washer/dryer in my building. (I set my sights sort of low. New York livin’, am I right?) Well paint me green and call me a cucumber because I have surpassed my wildest dreams. Yesterday I did 3 loads of laundry and I didn’t have to carry a huge bag around the corner, fight for a washing machine that barely works or avoid tripping over someone’s kid who is riding around the laundromat on one of those stupid scooters that I hate. Nope, I just stayed home. And now my whole house smells like freshly laundered clothes. Aaaaaaahhhhhh……

Waterbugs: I found one in my bathroom. I really had to pee so I did but I didn’t flush the toilet because I was afraid the noise would scare the bug which, in turn, would scare me. I hid from the bathroom for the rest of the night despite the fact that I had drank a lot of water. So much water, in fact, that when I woke up in the morning my eyeballs were swimming. I went into the bathroom and made a whole bunch of noise in hopes that the bug would come out from where ever it was hiding when I was semi-prepared for it and not when I was in mid-stream, but to no avail. Now I have no idea where the bug is. I am starting to rethink my previous inaction. Will update as necessary. But suffice it to say that if this blog goes dark it is because the bug killed me.

Some People Don’t Like New Yorkers Here: And I get it. I totally do. Also, despite the fact that I spent the last 12 years in Brooklyn I was born and raised in New Jersey. I am not sure whether that helps me or hurts me in this situation, tbh. But just in case it helps maybe I should bust out that neon green and yellow New Jersey trucker hat that I bought at the Palisades Mall back in the year 2002. Feel free to leave your thoughts about that in the comment section. So anyway the reason I say this is that the other day I was visiting my friend at work and he introduced me to some of the people sitting at the bar which was very nice of him since I know approximately 5 people here and one of those people is me. The dude at the bar seemed all interested in the fact that I had just moved here until I told him I had moved from Brooklyn and he goes

Yeah. The seems to be the trend.

And then he turned his back on me. Just turned his back. He behaved as if I told him a string of those crazy outdated and not funny “yo mama” jokes. On a slightly serious note though, I get that the city is changing really fast. I spent the last 12 years in Brooklyn, for chrissakes. But the people we should turn our backs on are the people who somehow think they are god’s gift to where ever they moved to, people who need the city to adjust to them rather than the other way around. I can tell you all about them. We’ve got plenty of that type back home. Listen, if I wanted this city to be just like Brooklyn I would have stayed there. I had it good. I left for a reason. I needed a change. And let me just say this one other thing: if it was someone turning their back on me who actually would be impacted by the arrival of a youngish white woman, I would have accepted it. That, however, was not the case. If you pick up what I’m putting down.

Waterbug Update: I was informed by my friend Sarah Jane that there are A LOT of these bugs here so, I don’t know. We will see how this all goes. The odds are not in my favor.

The World War Two Museum: I went there on Monday and it was really intense, especially when put in context of what all is happening in our country right now with Tr*mp and the crazies and how much they hate the Jews. I am not going to go into it here though because I wrote an entire blog about it that I am really proud of and I would love it if you would go over there and read it and maybe share it with your friends and family.

Hive Update: As some of you might already know, part of the reason I came down here was that I kept breaking out in hives. The crisis started when I went to Iceland last March. I was at a loss. I had no idea what was causing it. Was I allergic to the sulfur (AKA eggfarts) in the air in Iceland? Did I have some sort of food allergy? I went to a doctor and went on this crazy diet to try and figure out and then one day I did. Through sheer happenstance I discovered I was allergic to the cold. Even my friend Katie (different Katie from the clawfoot tub Katie) told me it was possible and she’s a nurse. Anyway so I moved down here to get away from the cold and also the hives. And the first week or so I was here I broke out in hives a few times but recently even though it has been cold they haven’t appeared! Which makes me think. When Katie told me that she thought my hives were caused by the cold she also said that I should be concerned about the underlying reasons for that. I kind of glossed over that in the moment because I was just really excited that I said something health-related to Katie that she thought wasn’t a load of shit. I come up with absurd theories all the time. Katie even thought up a really funny idea for a TV show based around this particular part of our friendship. As I was saying, even though I sort of tucked what she said in the back of my head I didn’t dismiss it at all. And so now I am thinking that maybe lack of sleep is one of the things increasing my histamine levels, leading to an uptick in hiviness. I have been sleeping A LOT here. This, by the way, is still a working theory.

Conclusion: So that’s it! Week four in the books! Up top! (In the interest of full disclosure I just gave myself a high five.)

These are scary, scary times

10 Nov

Friends. As many of you already know, today I am embarking on a journey. Today I leave, my trunk full of clothing and books, my heart heavy, and head down to New Orleans for a short but important new chapter. A time when I can reflect on who I am and who I want to be in this world. I time when I can just sit back, far away from family and many of my friends, far away from where I have called home for my entire adult life, and start building. I want to start building a me that makes active choices and decisions for where I want my life to go and becomes a more vocal person within my community, where ever that community may be. This is more important now than ever.

I thought that I, along with one of my closest friends, would be driving South in a different America than the one we find ourselves in today. I thought we would be driving in the spirit of celebration and safety, not feeling as though we are in a high-speed train, breaks failing, hurtling into the darkness. Clearly we, along with millions of others, were out of touch with the degree to which people are hurting all over this country, to the degree that people feel ignored and left behind, to the degree so many disdain the cities and the people that live within them. And I get it. Shit is hard. And I am sure I am going to be seeing a lot of hard shit on this ride – a different kind of poverty and destitution than I see day after day in my beloved New York City. And that is unfair. I truly believe we all deserve opportunity, that we should all feel as though we matter. But more than anything else, I feel as though we should all feel safe and at home here in our America. In our beautiful, diverse, America. And so, in keeping with my post from yesterday, albeit with slightly less swearing, I have just a few things to say.

I am having so many feelings right now. I am angry, I am shocked, I am saddened, but more than anything I am afraid. I spoke on the phone with my father last night and he who lived through America during the Vietnam War, through the assassinations of JFK, RFK, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, through the on-air killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, through the resignation of Richard Nixon, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the horrors of the Cold War and September 11th and everything that has come before, in between and after, he told me that he has never felt so unsure or afraid for and about the future of our country. These are scary, scary times. Scarier than ever before. And I remember speaking to my mother in the days and weeks following the 2001 attack on our country, myself in tears and her with a strength she always manages to find, and having her assure me that there are always these moments, always these times, that give us uncertainty but that we must have resolve and move forward and know there is more good than evil out in the world. That although things will never be the same, we will adjust and we will learn and we will get better. When I spoke with her at 10pm on election night, as we were understanding the reality of where we stood, her voice cracked. These are scary, scary times.

And in the past few days since Donald Trump’s election, things have become clear: we are living in a moment where people are angry and this outcome has, for some though certainly not for all, legitimized their feelings of closed-mindedness and has emboldened them to behave in ways that openly threaten those around them. My friend Ashlie shared this story:

Tonight we were at a bar, celebrating Leon’s fantastic film screening. A man came up to our table behind my seated friend and proceeded to, without greeting or warning or any words at all, put his arms around her, hug her, and kiss her cheek. We all assumed it was an old friend, and she squirmed around to see who it was, and it was a complete stranger! I said, “Do you know him?” and she said “no! Not at all!!!” We all started telling him in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t get to do that, just touch and kiss anyone whenever he feels like it, and he responded, “but Trump just won the Presidential Race.”
I am not kidding, lying, or being even the slightest bit hyperbolic. That is what happened, and that is how he defended his actions. So, know that.

Reading through the comments on her post revealed to me that there were many women who had the same exact experiences. Men walking up to them and touching them, grabbing them, kissing them and saying that because now that we have a President Elect Trump it is within their rights to do so. And then, of course, there was the one man, the one white man, who called all these women liars. These are scary, scary times.

And my younger sister, a graduate of Wellesley University, shared with me a story recounted by Sydney Robertson:

Today, Wellesley women, like a lot of America, were in mourning.

Edward Tomasso and Parker Rander-Riccardi, two students at Babson College, decided to drive around our beautiful campus with a Trump flag in a pick up truck. They laughed, screamed and sped around campus. Then, they parked in front of the house for students of African decent, and jeered at them, screaming Trump and Make America Great Again. When one student asked them to leave, they spit in her direction.

This is not my America, this is Trump’s America filled with hatred and bigotry. This is what he has provoked. Please help us get these faces out there, they cannot get away with this.

And this is just the tip of the ice burg. There are women afraid to leave the house in the hijab; women making appointments at Planned Parenthoods to get IUDs before our access to birth control, and our rights to choose, are further threatened; one member of the North Carolina LGBTQ community woke up to find a note on his car that read “Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016.” And this is just the beginning. This is just 36-hours in. These are scary, scary times.

And so I head south. Away from a New York that no longer feels safe and into the unknown. I’m sure I will be fine but still, the nervous butterflies in my stomach are a little more active than the were just 2 days ago. Things seem less certain, more foreboding, and just, I don’t know, more treacherous. We all need to be more careful because a dragon has been awoken and that dragon has found his and her voice within mainstream media and our government, on the streets of our cities and our towns, and things will be a lot less safe for all of us. Every single one. Because if there is a Trump supporter who is reading this blog, and if that Trump supporter happens to be a white female (as so many maddeningly were) or a person of color, let me just tell you this:

Your vote will not save you. You cannot wear your vote as a badge of honor or protection as you move through your life. You might feel as though you are one of them but you are not. You are not part of their America. You are not equal. You are not free. And you are not safe. And so, though I might be angry and though I might not be ready to try to love you and embrace you in order to move forward, I hope that this horror blows over soon for all of us. Although honestly I doubt it will. We have a long uphill battle. And though on November 8th and the days immediately after you never thought you would be walking alongside us, you will be. Your pussies are just as grabable, your ethnicity and patriotism just as questionable, your skin color just as threatening.

I know that not all Trump supporters are awful or full of hate or voted for anyone else but who they believed would be the best person for the job. But the loudest ones, the ones in the corners of the internet, the ones touching women and threatening people of color, they are full of hate. Those are the bad ones. And so for those who voted not from a place of hate but from a place of fear and hurt, a fear and hurt that so many of us have been experiencing, you know what? We will be here. We will be here waiting for you because no one, no one deserves to be treated as lesser than. And we are, truly, stronger together.

So I’ll be seeing you, New York. Stay safe out there everyone. No matter where, or who, you are.

New York, Have You Become Respectful?

12 Oct

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would get harassed on the streets on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. I got hissed at, winked at, snapped at, clapped at; I had people tell me I was beautiful, demand that I smile, whisper in my ear, ask me out to dinner or to marry them; I had men follow me down streets and try to come with me on my run; I got touched and I got grabbed; one man tried to push his way into my apartment. In all the hundreds of times that this happened, I never once felt flattered or happy, I never once left the interaction feeling more attractive. Sometimes when I complained about it, people – men, to be more specific – would tell me I should take it as a compliment, that when it stopped happening I would miss it. I assured them that I would not.

Over the past few years I have noticed that the amount that I get harassed has been slowly creeping downward. It hasn’t stopped entirely but it is way less common than it used to be. Maybe the city has changed or maybe I have become less attractive or desirable now that I am safely into my thirties. Maybe it’s some combination of the two. The reality of the situation is that I don’t give a shit what it is that is causing this significant downturn. All I can tell you is that I fucking love it. Let me tell you a quick story.

This morning I went to a spin class with my friend CJ. Afterwards, red faced and sweaty, I headed out into the bustle of Downtown Brooklyn to run a few errands. I was wearing the modern-day workout uniform of 3/4 length stretchy pants and a tank top, with a small sweatshirt and a vest thrown over to keep me warm. And you know what? No one gave a shit. No one asked me where I was going or if they could come with me. No one honked at me or yelled at me from the window of their car. No one whispered a hushed “god bless” into my ear as I hustled through my tasks. And it wasn’t until all my  errands were completed and I hopped on the train that I realized it. And do you know what? I smiled. I fucking smiled.

I smiled and I realized to myself that there was never a moment, there has never been a moment, where the downtick in harassment has somehow made me feel bad about myself. I don’t need that to feel attractive or worthwhile. Being harassed wasn’t something that added value to me or my day, it detracted from it. It made me feel cheap and dehumanized and as if because I am a woman I only matter in how I look, and how my looks make other people (read: men) feel. And do you know what else made me feel cheap and dehumanized? Having people tell me I would miss it when it went away. Because that meant that they believed that somewhere in me, somewhere I wasn’t willing to acknowledge existed, I was somehow flattered by the passing lewd comments. And even as I told them I wouldn’t miss it, there were times when I worried that maybe the norm of the hyper-sexualization of women had snuck in there a little and that maybe I did thrive off it, just a little bit. That even though I hated it, it still made me feel desirable. But do you want to know something? I feel more desirable, more empowered, more human and complex and amazing in the absence of it. Because it took a lot of work to build myself back up after being verbally objectified day after day. And now that I don’t have to put that work in as often, now that I don’t have to be defensive and angry and sometimes have outbursts at a passing car or man in the middle of a busy avenue at 3 in the afternoon, I start every single day a little bit ahead. And I have more mental energy to put into the things that matter to me. Like this blog, and my friends, and trying to figure out what the fuck is happening in our country right now.

So, thank you New York City for either getting more respectful or simply not wanting to fuck me. Keep it up – it’s been amazing.

Turn Down the Microphone

27 Sep

I was driving down Hamilton Avenue listening to NPR when I heard it, the thing I’d been anticipating since I woke up this morning: The Excuse. And it wasn’t The Excuse I had been mentally predicting since the middle of the debate last night, that Lester Holt had asked him unfair questions, although that was certainly on the list of ways that Donald Trump believed he was the victim of a biased moderator. (Never mind the fact that Lester Holt was simply fact checking Trump’s responses and trying to hold him accountable for any of the countless inflammatory and incorrect statements he has made through his campaign and before. His deep participation in the birther movement, comes to mind, but also the fact that Trump has not yet released his taxes – something that presidential candidates have done for decades.) The Excuse was actually much more absurd. On Fox & Friends this morning, the day after the debate in which, I would say, he got trounced, Trump complained that his microphone was defective, that it wasn’t as loud as Hillary Clinton’s.

o_O

Let us just reflect on this for a moment. Many of us watched the debate last night and I am going to go out on a limb and say that none of us had a hard time hearing Donald Trump. Did we have a hard time understanding him, what with his reliance on incomplete sentences and his incredible overuse of the word tremendous? Certainly. But could we hear him? Loud and clear. We heard his arrythmic breathing – he sniffled 37 times during the debate. We also heard him when he interrupted Clinton – 51 times by some estimates. We heard him when he said that not paying taxes makes him smart. And again we heard him when, in response to Clinton bringing up his long history of misogyny, he said that this well-documented history simply was not true. Except for in one particular instance.

“Somebody who’s been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it, and nobody feels sorry for her.”

The supposedly justified “tough things” that he said? He called her a “loser,” a “fat pig,” a “mental midget, a low life,” a “degenerate” and a “slob.” She deserved all of these insults, though, because she had the gall to opine that his bankruptcy and extra-marital affair perhaps made him unfit to be a moral arbiter for a potentially wayward Miss USA. Rosie O’Donnell made that statement in 2006. And here we are, 10 years later, on the main stage of American politics, in a debate thats purpose is to help the American electorate decide who is best fit to have the fucking nuclear codes, and one of the candidates is so butthurt about a more-or-less harmless comment made by a daytime talkshow host that he brings it up. And, in an effort to not sound like the misogynist playground bully that he is, he blamed the victim.

But while Trump makes the rounds talking about how unfair everyone is in the face of his tremendous ability to make money and respect women, I just want to discuss one simple thing. I want to discuss the fact that last night myself and millions of other people tuned in to watch as one of the most qualified presidential candidates in history patiently waited her turn as an uninformed, unqualified man yelled over her time and time again. And that, friends, is what it is to be a woman. Hillary Clinton had so many opportunities to deliver the kill shot in last night’s debate. There was the issue of misogyny, the taxes, national security, among others but she resisted. She was measured and restrained. It was frustrating as hell but it was smart. It was the only way for her to play it. We live in a society that normalizes sexism. Where women make less than men for equal work, where we have to work harder and be more qualified, where a group of young female athletes win the Olympic gold medal in gymnastics and their excitement is likened to girls hanging out in a mall. We are underestimated and infantilized. And god forbid we succeed. Because success means giving up our only intrinsically valued trait: our femininity. But don’t get it twisted: that trait is valued in that it makes us controllable and unthreatening. And even when we reach the pinnacle of success, when one of us is at the brink of becoming the first female president of the United States of America, still she must demure. Still she must wait while her opponent rattles off a series of untruths, knowing full well that if the roles were reversed, if he was the prepared policy wonk and she the temperamental dunce, she never would have gotten this far. She never would have gotten anywhere. She would have been thrown into the pit along with Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina and Michelle Bachman, resurrected only when her specific brand of stylized politics and nifty glasses were deemed useful to the man she was helping to support. Hilary is smart. She knows what world she lives in.

And now today we have to listen to Trump talk about how his mic was bad. And how that was probably intentional. But how he won anyway. And we have to listen to political commentators say that he came ahead in the first 25 minutes despite the fact that he barely said anything and that what he did say was sprinkled with questionable grammar and overused qualifiers. And we have to remember that she stood there, calmly, hoping that he would self-destruct on his own because it would be unladylike for her to take him down, and being ladylike still matters. Playing by the biased rules of the game has gotten her this far and she is too close, too goddamn close, to let it all go.

So I guess what I am saying is just remember this moment. Remember this moment when the most qualified went up against the biggest blowhard and she had to play it cool in the face of his mansplaining, his insults, and his inaccuracies. Because that is what we as women do. That is what we do every single fucking day. And I honestly hope that if Hillary wins, no, when Hillary wins, that younger generations will see a woman as the leader of the free world and realize that women, all women, regardless of their religion, color, class, job, sexual orientation, physical abilities or whatever else, deserve the same respect, the same opportunities, as men. Because what Hillary endured last night was absurd. It was the patriarchy rearing its ugly head. And mark my word it will continue to do so throughout the next 6 weeks up until election day, there is no getting around it. It’s the patriarchy that makes Trump a viable candidate, and the patriarchy that makes Hillary not a shoe in.

So, no, your mic was working. It’s your privilege that needs to be checked.