Archive | |Uncategorized| RSS feed for this section

Just a Vulva and Her Eyeballs

13 Aug

Chapter One: The Powerful

Do you remember on October 7th, 2016, a mere month before the 2016 elections when the Washington Post dropped a video and accompanying article of then presidential candidate Donald Trump and Billy Bush having a vulgar conversation about women back in 2005? Do you remember how Trump said,

I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.

Unsurprisingly, this behavioral assessment made by Trump himself exactly matches some of the 25 allegations of sexual misconduct, sexual assault and rape lobbed against our current president. There’s Jill Harth, who says that in 1993 she was attacked by Trump in one of the children’s bedrooms at Mar-a-Lago when he tried to rape her and forcibly kissed her on the lips. Then there was Cathy Heller who reported that in 1997 Trump grabbed her and forcibly kissed her. Same thing happened to Temple Taggart in 1997, Jennifer Murphy and Rachel Crooks in 2005, Jessica Drake and her two friends in 2006 and Summer Zervos in 2007. And these are just the ones we know about.

The point is that we live in an environment that is openly hostile to women. Our President is a rapist; there are two members of the Supreme Court who have been credibly accused of sexual harassment and/or rape; and then there are/were people like Roger Ailes, Jeffrey Epstein, Rob Porter, R. Kelly, Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein and so so many more who for years were, and in a lot of unnamed cases continue to be, immune to any sort of real, lasting justice because we do not care about or value the experience of non-cis men. But it isn’t just about the justice system and it isn’t just about rape; this cultural toxicity travels through every single bit of our society and poisons just about everything, including but by no means limited to, education and art.


Chapter Two: The Law

A few months back my podcast cohost Jessy and I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Mistress/Master Leigh for Welcome To My Vagina. During our conversation, Leigh spoke to us about FOSTA/SESTA, a combined House and Senate bill that was designed to try to curb child sex trafficking but was worded so incredibly loosely that it threatens to change the internet as we know it – and it is already happening. What started out as a push to get the selling of underage children – primarily girls – off of Backpage.com turned into an all-out assault on the consensual sex work industry, forcing sex workers offline and therefore separating them from their number one means of safety: the ability to vet their clients prior to an in-person encounter. As we know, there is a difference between consensual and non-consensual sex work, and writing legislation without the input of those intimately aware of that difference – sex workers themselves as well as activists and advocates for sex workers – is highly problematic. It also ends up doing a disservice to victims of sex trafficking themselves. Backpage wasn’t the only place where they were advertised, it was just perhaps the most accessible. Now those same people who were advertised there are being advertised elsewhere. But on what websites? I don’t really know.

Although the safety of sex workers and sex trafficking victims is of course the highest priority here (and both those populations have been done a serious disservice by this law), there is also another way that FOSTA/SESTA fails us, a way that it fails all of us. What FOSTA/SESTA did so effectively was it poked a gaping hole in what was known as the “safe harbors” rule of the internet, AKA Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. This is usually regarded as one of the most important pieces of internet legislation ever created. It reads,

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another content provider.

According to Aja Romano of Vox, “Section 230 has allowed the internet to thrive on user-generated content without holding platforms and ISPs responsible for whatever those users might create.” But FOSTA/SESTA creates an exception to Section 230 that shifts responsibility when it comes to advertisements for prostitution – including consensual sex work – from third party users to the websites themselves. The goal of the bill is ostensibly to make the policing of sex trafficking rings easier, although to be honest I am not entirely sure how this has that effect. However, the wording of the legislation is so sweeping and so vague that many websites immediately removed whole swaths of their services. Have you been wondering where the personal ads on Craigslist went? Or all of the porn that used to live on Tumblr? Websites across the internet have been forced to preemptively remove or censor tons of content before they get mired in costly lawsuits that puts them out of business. Keep in mind this is not because there is necessarily advertisements for sex work on all of these sites, but because monitoring every corner of their sites is simply too difficult and too costly. The onus is too big. So now anything that can be perceived as even vaguely pornographic gets tossed.


Chapter Three: The Creators

Have you seen our vulva? She is very cute, with giant unmatching eyeballs and beautiful long lashes. Marvel at her in all her glory. Isn’t she great? We think so. Unfortunately, the internet under FOSTA/SESTA does not agree.

logo2 copy

This is where the issues with education and art that I spoke of earlier come in. What Jessy and I are working tirelessly to do through our podcast, and what Jessy has worked hard on for over five years with her YouTube series of the same name, is to use humor to educate people about topics considered taboo. This has included, but is certainly not limited to, interviews with a woman who suffers from endometriosis, the CEO of a wellness website, an incredible doula, a Puerto Rican trans-activist, as well as conversations about body hair, labiaplasty, the word hysteria and, you guessed it, the fact that our president is 100% a rapist. And what we want to do is to continue to create content and to broaden our audience because what we are doing matters. There are important conversations that are not happening in public and a gaping hole in our education system through which sex ed has plummeted. And this all effects everyone but it effects the marginalized more. Women, people of color, the impoverished, the LGBTQ community are not getting the information that we need through public resources and so the private sector is working hard to fill in the void. But FOSTA/SESTA is standing there, right in the way. How? Let me tell you how it has effected me and Jessy.

Take another look at our vulva. She is anatomically correct (minus the eyes) and she is a cartoon. She is not pornographic, or vulgar, or overtly sexual. She is simply a drawing of body part that more than half of the population has, a body part that is misunderstood and called by the wrong name, a body part on which heaps and heaps of shame are piled. And for as much as having a vulva has worked against us as individuals for so long, having a vulva as a logo is making our ability to reach more people and make some money off the hours of work we put in seemingly impossible. So far, we have not been allowed to pay Instagram to promote our podcast because our logo goes against their new community guidelines. Just to make this clear we cannot give Instagram money to broaden our reach because, under FOSTA/SESTA, our logo is vulgar. We also cannot give Spotify money to play our trailer unless we lose the vulva and “vaginal flatulence,” their words not mine. This leaves me wondering where they stand on anal flatulence, whether they have an in-house expert to distinguish between the two and whether anyone at Spotify has ever attended a yoga class. And just today Zazzle returned the money we sent them to pay for a few beer steins that we ordered because

the product contains a design that includes adult content…Zazzle will not fulfill orders of merchandise that may be viewed as pornographic, obscene and/or contain nudity that is not artistic in nature.

Put aside the fact that we ordered exactly 3 steins – one for each of us and one for our awesome producer, Cait. What Zazzle has done here aside from censor us, was that they became the arbiter of what is considered art, what is considered pornographic and what is considered obscene. Is our vulva not art because it is anatomically correct? Or is it not art because it depicts female genitalia? What is Zazzle’s definition of obscenity? And if someone happens to be turned on by a cartoon vulva with eyes, what’s the damn problem? No one is getting hurt here. No one is getting trafficked. And you know what else? No one is getting PAID. Not Instagram, not Spotify, not Zazzle and certainly not us.

And yeah, it’s frustrating, but it is also dangerous. Because as I said before, people need the information that we and thousands of others are providing and they need to be able to find it and with the way all this is going, that is becoming more and more difficult. And there will be people – because of lack of access to an income – who will be forced out of this field and that will have real consequences. Because let’s be honest, our schools are not teaching proper sex education and the information coming from our president, many of our elected officials and “news” analysts on TV is oftentimes wrong. The internet is supposed to be a place that can be used by the masses to educate ourselves and others. FOSTA/SESTA is making that increasingly difficult.


Chapter Four: This is all one fight

It might seem from the outside that this is all disconnected. What does Welcome To My Vagina have to do with president Trump? What does an unfilled order for a few vulva-decorated beer steins have to do with child sex trafficking? Honestly, everything.

This is all a story of power: who has it and who doesn’t. Donald Trump can post whatever he wants online because everything he does is considered “news worthy” and therefore operates above the law that all of the rest of us live under. FOSTA/SESTA has no impact on him. And it’s true, that a lot of children who are trafficked are targeted online and then sold online and that is really fucked up. I wish it didn’t happen. And I wish we could come up with a better way to keep kids safe. One step towards achieving that is through access to information. Kids, and adults, need to be able to find community. And they need to be trusted with the truth. Kids can learn to protect themselves from predators by learning what sorts of things to look for. And that information can be taught to them online, through trusted sources that are made easily available. There are a lot of other things that can be taught online. As I said earlier, we live in a society that is toxic to women – one of the ways it is toxic is that women are kept uneducated about their own bodies and are taught that they exist primarily to be consumed by others and to make babies. That is simply not true and we need access to counter narratives and imagery. We need to see more vulvas and we need to hear more queefs. Vulvas are beautiful and queefs, like farts, are fucking hilarious and I stand by that.

I guess in summation it just feels like a lot of times the most important things get swept under the rug. FOSTA/SESTA is potentially one of the most crucial, free-speech impacting legislative changes of our lifetimes and no one knows anything about it. But you will. Because it’s coming for you. It’s coming for all of us and it feels like we are completely powerless to stop it.

What’s the Difference Between Donald Trump and a Poop Train? The Media Reported Truthfully on One of Them.

6 Aug

I have written a number of times about how much I hate Donald Trump. At least once was well before he became president and one was in the days immediately following his election. My feelings haven’t really changed much although his stature in society certainly has. The reality is that no matter how we slice it, no matter how much people cite his changing politics and past relationships with powerful men on whatever part of the political spectrum, Donald Trump has always been a hot, steaming pile of garbage. But not just any garbage. He is middle of August New York City garbage when workers for the Sanitation Department have been on strike for weeks. The kind of garbage that you can smell, taste and feel seeping through your pores as you walk down a shadeless sidewalk at noon on a 95 degree day. A pile of trash that has been absorbing and reflecting heat for weeks so the fetid stench assaults your senses from every single angle. It runs down the streets in thick, gooey streams and floats through the air, invisible. That is the kind of garbage that Donald Trump is. He is soiled diapers, dead rats, rotting meat, liquified vegetables, used tampons and discarded chicken bones all mashed together and served to you daily compliments of Twitter, your racist uncle and every single news outlet available. He is everywhere and not going anywhere. He is that poop train that got stuck in a small Alabama town. Was that caboose stuffed with millions of pounds of human excrement stuck in bureaucratic purgatory a parallel to our lived reality? Perhaps. After all, it took months for Parrish, Alabama (population 982) to get that train a’moving and here we are, 2 1/2 years into a Trump Regime with no obvious exit and no definitive end in sight. Purgatory? It’s more like hell.

And it is a hell that he understands better than any of us. For all his idiocy, immaturity and bluster Donald Trump knows one thing: he knows how to create loyalty and then squeeze everything he can out of it. He was right when, in his campaign for the presidency he said,

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible.

It is incredible. Imagine it, the President of the United States of America shoots someone dead on Fifth Avenue, in broad daylight, the incident is caught on camera and nothing happens. Nothing. I didn’t believe it when he said it in Iowa back in 2016 but I believe it now. I believe that Trump could kill someone and that still wouldn’t make his reelection impossible. I don’t think it would really change all that much at all. Donald Trump could stand atop that poop train and declare that the entire town of Parrish does not reek of tons and tons of actual shit but instead smells like butterfly bushes, jasmine and rosemary. It would get reported as news and people would believe him. He is only as strong as the loyalty given him and he knows that – that is how he has always operated, it is a tried and true approach. It isn’t about love. Instead, it’s about an unquestioned, unshakeable adulation that allows him to operate the way he has always operated: completely unfettered and unaffected by all his misdoings, by the ways he has wronged people and by any sort of moral or ethical code. Our president, much like the poop train, operates outside the law and outside of common decency.

So what do we do about it? Oh, I don’t know. We could and perhaps should take a page out of Beto O’Rourke’s book. Following the recent shooting in El Paso a journalist asked O’Rourke if there was anything he could do to fix the problem. O’Rourke responded,

What do you think? You know the shit he has been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals… I mean members of the press – what the fuck?!

Set aside for a moment the fact that Beto O’Rourke should for sure sit down the 2020 race for the presidency and instead use this moment to enter the 2020 Senate race to unseat John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. He would be much more useful in that role and has a much better chance of winning that race than he does the presidency. But either way other candidates, politicians and all of us normals need to seize on Beto’s feelings and start taking the media to task. I know there was some stuff with Russia and whatnot that led to us having Trump, but do you know what else helped? The media. And if we don’t do something and keep taking them to task we will end up with Trump AGAIN.

This went in a different direction than I anticipated but I guess I will sum it up by saying this: media awareness about the presence of the poop train and how inhumane having it sitting there stinking up a town for months on end was effective in remedying the situation. The poop train moved and New York no longer sends its shit down to Alabama. If the media can help move the poop train along, then it would stand to reason it could also help remove the shitbag currently fouling up the Oval Office, when he decides to take a break from racist Twitter rants and rounds of golf, that is. So, let’s hold their feet to the fire. That’s how we win.

 

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.