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Be About Consent: My Thoughts on the #MeToo Movement

23 Oct

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Enough is Enough

21 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexual Abuse Allegations Rock USA Gymnastics

21 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 Aug

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

There, I said it.

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

Yes, this is okay on my watch.

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

Open your goddamn eyes, white people. OPEN THEM.

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

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

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

And fuck Donald Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ending Radio Silence

25 Jul

I know I have been largely absent (or, actually, entirely absent) since my last post on April 20th about Bill O’Reilly but I am back because honestly, this shit is fucked.

Back when Donald J. Trump (heretofore referred to as SCROTUS), was elected President of the United States of America there was one thing I simply couldn’t wrap my head around. It wasn’t, as you might have guessed, the Access Hollywood tapes. I have been a woman for far too long to ever think that a recording of white men degrading women would be the thing that brought SCROTUS down. Let us not forget that Bill Clinton was impeached and it wasn’t because of statutory rape or sexual harassment. It also wasn’t for that time SCROTUS told an audience at a campaign rally in Sioux Falls that he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and (he) wouldn’t lose voters.” This country, it seems, doesn’t care too much about threats of violence when they come out of the mouth of a white man. No, it wasn’t either of those things. It was, instead, SCROTUS’ dismissive comments about John McCain’s status as a war hero. It was back in July, 2015 when, still on the campaign trail, candidate Trump said,

“He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Say what you want about John McCain. About his politics, about his run in 2008, about his temper, about his sense of humor that is oftentimes wildly inappropriate and not in the least bit funny. All of those things are up for conversation and debate. His status as a war hero, however, is not. And so when then-candidate Donald Trump, who by the way was granted 5 deferments during the Vietnam draft, essentially called McCain a loser I figured he was finished. This country is fucked up in a lot of ways but it respects its war heroes. Not enough to provide them physical and mental health care or job training, mind you, but when it comes to verbal respect, we’ve got that shit on lock. Especially the Republicans. It’s sort of a calling card for them. So when a man campaigning for the Republican nomination talked shit about a war hero, and one who had served in the senate for decades no less, I figured his days were numbered. But then he went on to get the nomination from the GOP and that’s when I knew this country was fucked. I still didn’t think he would win the goddamn election (fuck you #FailingElectoralCollege) but it was at this moment when I realized the divisions in this country run a lot deeper than I ever thought possible.

All of this is to say that despite my disagreement with John McCain on a lot of policies – for example that time he ran a successful filibuster to stop the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy or that time he voted in support of Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court – I always respected the guy. I, perhaps naively, thought that compared to other Republican politicians he was at least reasonable, at least willing to work with people on the other side of the aisle. He did, after all, say that the Citizens United decision was “arrogant, uninformed, naive.” But today whatever I thought about him perviously, about his desire to do what was in the best interest of the citizens of the United States, went forcefully out the window. This man who has served this country for the majority of his life today voted against its future. He voted against the future of every single American and so I have this to say:

Senator John McCain you can fuck right off. 

Seriously though, fuck off. You went in for surgery on your eye and came out with a diagnosis of glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain tumor. People rallied around you. Spoke about your reputation and everything you have done for this country. And then, to a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle, you returned to the senate floor and voted to open a debate to try and pass a bill that would strip millions of Americans of health care. And after that, after you basically said that the care that you have received should be a privilege for the rich and not the right of everyone, you delivered a speech. No, not even a speech. It was a condescending admonition of your colleagues. And honestly in that moment, I lost every bit of respect I ever had for you as a senator, as a war hero, as a human being.

You stood up there and you talked about how partisan the government has become, and you admitted to the role you played in that. And then you said that at times you had “let your passion rule your reason” and to that I have to say, no. In this case you certainly didn’t choose based off your passion because what human with a soul could ever be passionate about so unjust a bill. And so where’s the reason, John? What was your reason? Because I, for the life of me, outside of partisanship and greed cannot come up with a reason why you would support this. And why you would think that your chastisement would be appreciated. Because as far as I am concerned, you’re worse than the rest of them. You traveled to Washington from your sick bed to vote for something that would bar millions of people from getting the same level of care that you have received over the past week. And so again I say this:

Fuck right off.

I’m sorry but you don’t get my sympathy anymore. You talked today about the price of winning. That so much of the poor decisions and the governmental gridlock and the backroom moves and dishonesty are all with the goal of a short term win and that that attitude won’t help us and I agree on that. But today? Today we lost. We all lost. And you were incidental in that. So get the fuck off your high horse. This time your status as a war hero cannot save you. Not in my mind.

Bye Bill, Bye.

20 Apr

Yesterday afternoon at work a message from The New York Times appeared on my phone. It read:

Bill O’Reilly Out at Fox After Harassment Allegations

I threw my hands up in the air and hissed a quiet “yes!” to myself. Then I looked around the bar to see who I could share this moment of sheer glory with. The only other person behind the bar was a dude who I have not been overly impressed by. But, I thought to myself, perhaps I have been a little judgmental. If you know me it will come as no surprise that I have a tendency to be slow to forgive the poor behavior of new men that I meet. I am even slower to forgive the poor behavior of new white men. It’s my belief that they more often than not get the benefit of the doubt by default and are therefore allowed to get away with bullshit other people cannot. Not only can they get away with it, but they oftentimes benefit from it. However in this particular moment I decided, selfishly if I’m being honest, to set my pre-conceived notions aside and invite him to join in my celebration of the demise of one of cable news’ biggest pieces of shit. (And that’s saying something.)

So I walked over, still grinning from ear to ear, and told him about the news.

Bill O’Reilly got fired by Fox!

He looked at me, cocking his head slightly to the side.

Oh? For what?

I let out a slight exhale of annoyance. But I calmed myself. It’s okay, I thought, not everyone is up on the news. Not even HUGE news that is being written about almost constantly. Some people just like to live their lives and surround themselves by the things that matter to them and that’s totally cool. I surround myself by gymnastics, current affairs and institutional sexism and racism. That’s not everyone’s thang though.

Allegations of sexual harassment. Fox has settled for like $13 million with 5 different women and I imagine that is only the tip of the iceberg. Dude is a piece of shit.

He smiled.

Well, that’s good. Although I thought it would be something bad.

He thought it would be something bad. I stared at him, realizing that my suspension of previous judgements was clearly a mistake. The times he talked down to me and snapped at me for no reason. The time he scolded me for stirring rather than shaking a vodka martini by sneering

You’re stirring vodka? Shake vodka; stir gin.

And then walked away and joked with one of the male bartenders, leaving me stewing and feeling tiny in the corner. Because that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes you end up working in a boys club. Where (white) dude after (white) dude talks down to you and scolds you meanwhile your male coworkers do the exact same things as you and they get a slap on the back. And so of course he wouldn’t think that sexual assault allegations dating back decades against the highest grossing cable news anchor in history is that bad. Of course not. Because treating women poorly is just part of life. It’s just the way things are.

Sometimes I want to look at someone like him, some doughy faced boy, and just tell him about himself. I want him to know I am smarter than him, better informed, kinder and more responsible. But that doesn’t really matter because he can go out and get hammered and not worry about getting raped on his way home and he can routinely show up to work 2 hours late, still drunk from the night before, and be up for a promotion. Meanwhile Bill O’Reilly has gotten far, really far, my mistreating women and the only thing that actually got him ousted was Fox’s bottom line. And no, not the $13 million, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what O’Reilly brings in. It was because of the loss of advertisement dollars. It was because O’Reilly had to start doing 8 more minutes of show daily to make up for the shortening of commercial segments. And everyone can say that this is a win for the idea of corporate social responsibility, that this is capitalism at work, that large companies do in fact care but the fact of the matter is they care about where the money is. Meanwhile the true heroes are the women who are strong enough to take on one of the biggest men who works for perhaps the most misogynistic company in media today. That shit takes ovaries. Big fucking ovaries. Because you better believe that the die-hard O’Reilly fans are taking to the internet to harass, shame and threaten these women for bringing their idol crashing down. No matter that he did it to himself. And no matter that, although he won’t be returning to Fox News, he will be fine. These men are always fine. Look no further than Tucker Carlson who just took O’Reilly’s spot. He might not have racked up sexual harassment allegations but he is no stranger to treating women like garbage.

I had that moment of happiness, and although I am still happy about it I no longer see this as a win. Sure, O’Reilly is gone (for now) but what will replace him? Will the culture change? Will Fox, and the people who watch Fox, start asking themselves the tough questions about their behavior and their privilege and their opinions that are founded in ignorance rather than fact? Or will they just turn an angry eye to the accusers and the liberal scum who support them and retreat deeper into their hole? Because the truth is that O’Reilly might have lost advertisers but he did not lose many fans. And that is a problem. And it’s a problem that runs super deep because as offensive as my co-worker’s statement was, it was an accurate reflection of a normalized viewpoint. Sexual harassment against women isn’t that bad. Misogyny isn’t that bad. Rape isn’t that bad. The patriarchy isn’t that bad. And for those of us who believe the opposite, it is like living in an alternate universe. And it makes it hard to even celebrate the demise of one of the most hated men. It is hard to relish in his downfall. Because this is all a distraction from the bigger conversation. Bill O’Reilly’s ouster does not change the culture; he is just another scape goat for it. He will find himself another microphone. We have not seen the last of him. And in ways it feels as though we are no better off today than we were yesterday.

That Time a Lady Told me to Smile

7 Apr

I had a weird moment last night at work. It was this response to an interaction with this woman where I was like

Wow, Rebekah, you’ve changed!

but then at the same time

Ew, lady, aren’t we supposed to be on the same team here?

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to recount the story and then I am going to go ahead and address these two simultaneous reactions that I had to it. Ready? Break!

Part One: The Story

It is French Quarter Fest here in New Orleans. Anyone who has been here for any sort of fest at all knows that shit is cray. There are people everywhere. There is confusion. Costumes. Glitter. Music. Tourists. More zombies* than normal. It’s a whole thing. Not a bad thing, but a thing. To add to the drama let me inform you that I work in the French Quarter which, if your powers of deductive reasoning are on point, means that I work in the exact area where the French Quarter Fest is occurring. That means that my bar is busy busy busy.

I walked in last night at 5pm to a busier-than-average Thursday night. And the thing about a busier-than-average night in my place is that we have “steps of service.” The steps of service at the spot I worked at in Brooklyn basically involved getting drinks out as quickly as possible while avoiding the limes and clipboards that miffed customers could potentially hurl at your head. No joke. At this place the steps are more involved and less potentially dangerous. I am telling you all this just so that you know that getting people food and drinks at the spot I work at now is something of a process.

Alright so now imagine this. There we are during dinner on a busier-than-average Thursday night and all of a sudden me and one of my coworkers realize

Hey, why hasn’t any of the food we ordered come out? It’s been a minute.

And by a minute we meant like 45. We then come to find out that the printer in the kitchen has stopped working and they didn’t get any of the tickets. So this might lead one to ask ones self

Self, there is a full restaurant out there and yet there are no tickets coming through the printer. Has this city declared a moratorium on food or is something amiss?

But I don’t think anyone asked themselves that. Or maybe they did, I don’t know. But either way they didn’t keep the bar in the loop and we had two ladies on a 45 minute wait for a salad and some shrimp. Anyway, I was in the midst of discussing this fiasco with my manager when I heard from the other side of the bar a very curt and impatient

Hell-loooooooo.

I looked over to see a blonde lady staring at me with what I can only describe as crazy eyes. You know the eyes.

Me: Hi.
Lady: Gesticulates wildly to the space in front of her.
Me: What can I do for you?
Lady: Well, we just got here and….. (gives me a meaningful look that invited me to read her mind but really just made her look even crazier.)
Me: Here’s a drink menu. Would you like food also?
The lady looks at her husband and they share a communal huff and make moves to get up. I shrug my shoulders and take the menu back and go back to the conversation about the broken ticket printer in the kitchen which I was in the middle of having when she sassed me in the first place.
Lady: Smile.
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Lady: Smiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile. You would make a lot more money if you smiled. Mo-ney. Smiiii-llleee. (All the while she is using her hands to demonstrate what a smile the size of Texas might look like and staring at me as if I had somehow committed the largest offense ever.)

They then left. But not after telling me that they live in the city and would never be back to this restaurant ever again if their life depended on it. I shed a silent tear. And then I went back to doing my job. Meanwhile, all the people around this couple were shocked and could not understand what had just happened. I told them I also couldn’t understand it. They said they thought I was nice. I agreed. One guy said he thought they came in with a bad attitude. I said he was probably right. We all laughed and laughed. And then we carried on with our evenings, largely unaffected by the bad attitude cloud that had momentarily descended on the bar.

Part Two: I’ve Changed!

Have you ever had some big experience and then afterwards noticed a large change in yourself? This is totally stupid but when I came back from my year abroad I noticed that, as a result of the countless hours spent in various modes of transportation, sometimes for hours and hours longer than expected, I was completely unfazed by being stuck in traffic or being on long car rides. This is still the case all these years later. I used to get a little impatient but now I’m like

Eh. Whatever. I’m sitting here.

In the grand scheme of things that isn’t such a big thing but it certainly does make the amount of traveling I do significantly easier. AND I think it makes me a better car partner. So anyway, in the past if I had an experience like the one with the lady, I would have gone down this whole rabbit hole of emotion. I would have analyzed every single second of our interaction and tried to figure out what exactly I had done to cause her to behave like such an asshole. But sometimes, people are just assholes. Or, they behave like assholes in a specific moment for no real reason. And sometimes there is nothing you do to cause it and nothing you can do to prevent it and so your only solution is to shrug your shoulders and be like

Alright cool what’s next.

And that’s just what I did. I sort of figured if they wanted to be Bad Attitude Bears all around town that was on them and I certainly didn’t need to let it effect the rest of my night or the service I provided to other people. So, fuck ’em. I hope they went home and stewed in their own unhappiness rather than raining it down upon the rest of us people just out trying to have a good time or make a buck.

Part Three: Teammates? No?

I should have learned this already following the presidential election but a lot of white women suck. And beyond that, all us women are not on the same team. Okay, fine. But here’s the thing. Men tell me to smile a lot. A LOT. I’ll be walking down the street and hear some dude be all

C’mon, honey, it’s not that bad. Smile.

Or

You’d look a lot better if you’d smile.

I find that super offensive. It very well might be that bad. And maybe I don’t feel like smiling. But either way shut the fuck up my face is not your concern. Basically every woman I have ever spoken to about it also finds it offensive. The thing about it is I know a lot of women and none of them, not a single one, goes about life with a smile plastered on her face at all times. And I get it, work is different, especially when you work in service. You have to smile more. It makes people feel welcome and people who feel welcome have a better time and tip better. Yadda yadda yadda. The funny thing about it is that I smile at work a lot. I smile so much that some of the dudes in the kitchen call me sunshine. I smile so much that when the barback heard that some lady told me to smile he looked at me and said,

You? Jesus. I think you should smile less.

And so, yeah, I know we all don’t see life the same way but, come on lady! Get a clue! It’s like, I expect men to be condescending assholes and tell me how to live my life down to my every facial expression. I don’t like it but I expect it. I do not, however, expect it to come from a woman who has most likely had a similar experience and felt disempowered or spoken down to or whatever. It’s like, way to drink the koolaid, bitch. Way to just swallow, full stop, normalized sexism and misogyny and throw it in the face of someone 15 years younger than you because you didn’t get a menu and a glowing smile the very second your ass hit the barstool. And I’m sorry that I wasn’t willing to ignore your impatience and rudeness and discern exactly what you needed at that exact moment. I’m pretty good at my job but I am not a magician.

***

And with that, I must away. another 3 days of French Quarter Fest await and I have to do my facial exercises, you know, so I can smile more.

* Zombies, New Orleans style (n): zom-bie
(1) a. a will-less and speechless human (as in West Indian voodoo belief and in fictional stories) held to have drank too much on Bourbon Street and been supernaturally reanimated
b. the supernatural power of the Hurricane or Hand Grenade that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body