Tag Archives: feminism

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?

An Open Letter to the Girl Scouts of America

17 Jan

To whom it may concern,

When I was a young girl growing up in suburban New Jersey, I was a Girl Scout. My mother was the Troop leader. Although I did not participate past elementary school, the camaraderie I felt with the other girls in my troop had a lasting influence on me. When it comes to being female in this world, I have always been a believer in the importance of surrounding myself with other smart, caring, strong, empathetic women. It is, honestly, how I have managed to live what I consider a successful life. So you can imagine my dismay when I was informed that the Girl Scouts of America, a group I have always respected and felt played an important role in the healthy mental and emotional development of thousands of women, announced it would be participating in the inaugural ceremony of Donald J. Tr*mp.

Donald Tr*mp simply does not respect women. He has demonstrated this time and again through his vile language, his proud admittance of sexual assault and his objectification of anyone with a pair of breasts and a vagina. To think that you, an organization that has always celebrated the strength and abilities of young girls, would parade them in front of a man so heinous is unfathomable to me. There have been a lot of statements and actions taken by organizations that have made me question their moral standings and ethical foundations but this? This takes the cake. How dare you dehumanize our girls like this? I thought you were better.

Sincerely
Rebekah Frank

Dear Francis

5 Dec

The other day I made the grave error of engaging with a troll on The Internet. I know, I know, rookie mistake. But in my defense the only reason I got involved in the second place was because this guy (who we will call Francis) posted something I didn’t like in response to a (rather funny, if you ask me) joke that my uncle posted in the first place. I get irritated when people say things I don’t like to my family and close friends. And so, after some thought about the nature of my response I held my nose between my fingers and dove into the depths, responding to Francis with a clearly thought out and argued historical analysis about the Electoral College’s roots in the era of slavery and how, even today, it gives largely white states undue power in terms of the election of our President and that (among other reasons) is how we ended up with a racist, misogynist, ableist, white nationalist sympathizer in the White House. Well, wouldn’t you know it, my response was met with all kinds of assumptions about who I am and what I believe. And then he said that the election of Trump had nothing to do with racism and that Hillary lost because she was a smug, elitist bitch, but misogyny didn’t play a role, and that I “don’t understand (my) condition as a woman.”

My condition as a woman.

I pretty much tapped out of the conversation at that point but I would just like to say, right here right now, that I am perfectly aware of my “condition” as a woman. It is impossible for me not to be. Here, Francis, let me tell you a little something about it.

Every single month I bleed like crazy. It is like a goddamn flood. I bleed so much that the first two nights I have to sleep with an ultra tampon AND a pad and I have to get up at least once, but usually twice, to change my tampon because I will have bled through it. And, while we’re talking about that, a few years ago they stopped making the tampon that I needed because the OB company decided that, rather than throwing ladies with a heavier-than-average flow some sort of a bone, they would instead discontinue the tampon we relied on and tell us we should go to the doctor because our flow was unhealthy. We were unhealthy. Yeah okay great. Funny enough they only stopped offering the ones I needed in the United States so I had to have someone in Europe buy them and ship them to me so that I wouldn’t have to get up 4 times during the night the first two days of my period. So, Francis, you try forgetting about your “condition” when you’re dealing with that nonsense every 27 days.

And then there is just the day to day business of going out in the world. A few months ago I was heading home from my friend’s place after having dinner. It was warm out and I was wearing a floor length dress that I felt really pretty in. The guy I was walking with was on my left side. Two men approached us. As they passed on the other side of me one of them leaned in and, loudly enough for me to hear but in a low enough volume that my companion wouldn’t, he said “you look good without a bra.” In about a fraction of a second I went from feeling human to feeling like an object. Just like that. Just because some dude felt like pointing out the fact that he was staring at my tits and he liked what he saw. Stuff like that happens to us on the daily. Makes it hard to forget our “condition.”

Oh and then there were the two times that the same dude spit on me while I was running. And that time the delivery guy grabbed my ass as he rode past me on the sidewalk on his way to drop some food at someone’s house. And the time some asshole threw a glass at my face and gave me a black eye all because I dared to tell him I wouldn’t serve him a drink. Oh, man, and that one time I went out to drinks with someone I thought was my friend and he spent the entire time trying to fuck me. And how could I forget that Christmas night that I was reading in a bar and some dude informed me that women only really write about shopping? That was a great night. Oh and the one time I went bra shopping and ended up realizing how ashamed I feel of my own body because I have been disallowed from defining my own sexuality. And, of course, a few weeks ago when we elected a man who, in a recorded conversation, had admitted to repeated sexual assaults. Shall I continue? Because I can. I can go on for days, Francis.

But I won’t.

Honestly, if you don’t get the picture by now you never will. Honestly, Francis, I wish I could be a little bit less aware of my “condition.” Because maybe if I was less aware I could just, you know, live. I could just live like how you just live. Only if I could do that, I wouldn’t spend my spare time telling people about themselves.  I wouldn’t use my energy to talk about things I don’t know and could never hope to understand. I wouldn’t say that misogyny wasn’t a thing all while dismissing someone based on her gender. My stars, if we could be less aware of our “condition,” if we had that luxury, imagine what we could do. Imagine what we could do if we weren’t working as hard or harder for less; imagine what we could say if we weren’t constantly being talked over and talked down to; imagine what fun we could have if we weren’t constantly policing our drinks or concerned about some drunk asshole raping one of our friends; imagine what we could accomplish if people would just see us as equal.

So, you see, I am more aware of my own “condition” than I could possibly put into words. It is made apparent to me day after day after day through my own experiences and through the experiences of my friends. And so Francis when you and people like you dare to tell me what my own experience is, dare to try to explain to me that misogyny isn’t a thing, that this country wasn’t built through an incredibly sexist system, that I have all the opportunities as you, that Clinton wasn’t the victim of the patriarchy, that I should feel lucky for what I have, well you’ll have to excuse me for laughing in your face. Because you are so deeply intrenched in your own damn world view that you have no space for anyone else. And there are a fuck ton of us. So shut up, and get the hell out of our way. We know our lives. Your penis does not make you an expert.

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

22 Nov

Dear Hillary,

Hi.  Hi. Hi. We don’t know whether to start by saying ‘Thank You’ or ‘We’re sorry.’  Mostly right now though, we’re sorry.

We’re sorry that we live in a world that casts aside the most qualified candidate based solely on her genitalia, genitalia that, by the way, is more evolutionarily sound. We’re sorry that we didn’t do enough. We’re sorry that we didn’t knock on doors, make campaign calls, call enough people out. We’re sorry that we didn’t believe in the real possibility of a Trump presidency. We’re sorry that we  asked you to change who you are so many times to reflect our own absurd value system and when you emerged on the other side we called you disingenuous. We’re sorry that the young girls of today still have to live under the shadow of that glass ceiling. We’re sorry that years of lies about you became truths. We’re sorry that people still don’t understand the things you have done for us over 30 long years of hard, selfless work. We’re sorry that as women we’re not enough to combat someone as hateful as Donald Trump and we’re sorry that if you were a white male this probably would have turned out differently.  We’re sorry that the media portrayed you as impersonal, insensitive, inauthentic, shrill, dishonest, and weak. In reality, we’re sorry about how little the media acknowledged you at all. We’re sorry that a less qualified, less accomplished politician might have been able to secure The White House based solely on the fact that due to his masculinity he was not threatening to the status quo and we’re sorry anyone made it seem like you weren’t groundbreaking. Which, by the way, you are and always have been. We’re sorry that people who supported your opponent in the primaries couldn’t get on board with you on election day.  We’re sorry that your opponent in the primaries himself had a hard time throwing his weight behind you when it mattered the most. We’re sorry about the electoral college. We’re sorry that you got 2 million more votes than your opponent and it still wasn’t enough to secure you the presidency. We’re sorry that we, the American people, didn’t get the president that we wanted, that we deserved. We’re sorry about Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. We’re sorry that some of your votes might have gone to someone who didn’t even know what Aleppo was. We’re sorry about the fuckers who didn’t vote, especially the white men who were guaranteed this right from the jump. We’re sorry that the Voting Rights Act was gutted. We’re sorry that the emails plagued you, even though all you did was follow Colin Powell’s advice. We’re sorry about James Comey and Anthony Weiner and your husband and Julian Assange and Vince Foster. We’re sorry for all the men who intentionally or unintentionally stood in your way, even, somehow, in death. We’re sorry that being qualified isn’t enough, that being prepared isn’t enough, that being experienced isn’t enough. We’re sorry that you had to work so hard to overcome your gender and it still wasn’t enough, that you had to work 100 times harder and by no fault of your own you still couldn’t get it done. We’re sorry that you had to be a level headed adult in a world full of distractible toddlers. We’re sorry you had to stand in front of the cameras and concede an office that should have been yours to a demagogue, a bigot, an asshole.

But Thank You. Thank you for being so fucking classy. Thank you for getting up over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, putting your head down and getting shit done. Thank you for being an amazing senator and a baller secretary of state.  Thank you for showing us that there’s a place for us in all walks of life and that our dreams are possible. Thank you for being unapologetically a woman.  Thank you for being smart as fuck and for not being ashamed of it or hiding it.  Thank you for your Wellesley commencement address in 1969; not only was that awesome but it still inspires to this day, almost 60 years later.Thank you for fighting tooth and nail and doing so with poise; you might not have broken the ultimate glass ceiling but you certainly paved the way for one of us to smash right on through. You did so much to weaken the patriarchy that soon enough we will dismantle the whole damn thing and for that we are eternally grateful. Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for inspiring Pantsuit Nation. Thank you for inspiring a nation period. Thank you for holding the torch in the women’s movement for so damn long.  We know that people complained about your shifts in policy and opinion over the years but, seriously, thank you for listening and changing your approach according to what the people needed. Thank you for being a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for being an unapologetic policy wonk. Thank you for being prepared. Thank you for absolutely TROUNCING Donald Trump in every one of those three debates. And because it bears repeating, thank you for listening even when people didn’t give you the same courtesy. Thank you for your seemingly unending well of confidence because we all know that as women in this society confidence is hard to come by and even harder to hold on to. Thank you for ALWAYS taking the high road. Thank you for being a role model. Thank you for being a Nasty Woman. Thank you for being a badass bitch. Basically, thank you for everything you’ve done.

We see how hard you worked. Believe us we know, we acknowledge it and we strive to work as hard as you.

Hillary, we wanted to hear your voice and see your face for the next four years. We wanted to see another first in The White House. We wanted to continue to be proud of the person who represents every single one of us at home and abroad as we have been over the past 8 years. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Instead we will follow your lead, pick up the torch and keep on fighting until we are equal. And then we will wake up the next day and fight some more so that every single person from every background and every walk of life has the benefit of equal opportunity. We’ve got a long way to go, but thank you for getting us just a little bit closer. Every little bit helps.

With unending respect and admiration

All of the ‘thank yous’ we have

Love always and forever

Jessy and Rebekah

These are scary, scary times

10 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York, Have You Become Respectful?

12 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Biden 4Ever

5 Oct

As I said last night during the Vice Presidential debates, my overall feelings remain as follows: I would very much like Joe Biden to be VP forever. Where is science when what this country really needs is the ability to make Joe Biden live on for the rest of time? Behind. That’s where. But seeing as an immortal Biden is probably not in the offing at the moment, perhaps we should discuss what we do have: a Democratic VP candidate who came off overbearing, condescending and elitist against a cool as a cucumber Republican who is horrifyingly socially conservative, but who managed to essentially dodge every single barb lodged his way to come across the clear winner. Not good folks, not good.

So I know we all have lots of very valid feelings about how incredibly unqualified Donald Trump is to be President. Watching him and reading about him and coming to terms, over and over again, that yes, this is in fact happening right now to us here in the United States in the year 2016, is a harrowing experience. Even more harrowing? Thinking about what our future might be if the unthinkable happens. I have been largely incapable of actually engaging with what the reality of a Donald Trump presidency would be. All my brain calls up is nuclear winter. Seriously. I think about where we will be like 2 years in and all I can really envision is myself emerging from some shack that has replaced my previously comfortable and lovely apartment and looking around, seeing only the remains of what once was, with people walking around in drab, worn out clothing searching for food for their children, emerging occasionally with a somehow preserved piece of organic rainbow chard from the co-op. I know that is probably a little bit extreme. Of course we will still have chard. There will always be chard. But things will not be good. That man is going to be in charge of appointing at least one Supreme Court Justice along with all the different Secretaries of different things. He knows no one in the political world. Where would he even find these people? Under his bed? In his pantry? I don’t know. And then there’s the speeches to the country and, worse, the world; the trips overseas to speak with foreign leaders; his presence in towns as a voice of empathy and resolve when, inevitably, another shooting occurs; him sitting in the Situation Room, beating his chest and declaring that he alone knows about war, even though the only thing he really knows about war is how to avoid being drafted to fight in one. And also…and also…he is going to be a man at the helm during the formative years for so many young people. How do you tell boys to respect girls, tell girls they are worthwhile and smart and equal, with that man as President? I just don’t know.

It’s all very scary. Scarier? Mike Pence. Over the past few weeks people have said to me in voices both hushed and not-too-hushed that they either think someone should or someone will kill Donald Trump if he wins the Presidency. Now I don’t think that will happen and, honestly, I hope it doesn’t. I dislike Trump as much, maybe more than, the next gal and wish he would just sort of decide that he is just too great to share his tremendous greatness with an undeserving populace made up of losers and dogs and just sort of fade away. Saying I want him dead though, that makes me feel like garbage. Also a dead Trump means that we have a Pence presidency and that proposition is scary as fuck.

Pence is currently the Governor of Indiana. As the Governor, he signed the most restrictive abortion regulations in the country. House Bill 1337 requires women to view an ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat hours before an abortion; it criminalizes fetal tissue collection or transferring, a practice that has been useful in trying to understand Zika, among other things; it bans women who wish to abort a child based off the race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus*; it defunded Planned Parenthood which led to an outbreak of HIV in one county because it cut off access to the only HIV testing center available to many residents**; by criminalizing many abortions it opens up the possibility that abortion providers can be sued for wrongful death; the list goes on and on and on. That shit is no joke. Pence even said on the campaign trail that under a Trump/Pence ticket “(w)e’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” My non-child-wanting womb is screaming for mercy just thinking about it. And this man, in the event of Trump’s demise, could become president and therefore appoint a Supreme Court Justice who could be the swing vote on so many things. So, so many. What other things? Ill tell you.

In 2015, Pence helped to pass one of the harshest “religious freedom” laws in the country. It would have protected businesses who wished to refuse service to LGBT people if they cited religious objections. Does Mike Pence remember segregation? Does he remember how incredibly unethical, inhumane, immoral and illegal that was? How would Mike Pence feel if people decided to not serve him because he is a bigoted asshole? Probably not too good, if I had to guess. Furthermore, when he was a congressman he supported legislation that refused to fund treatment for people suffering from HIV or AIDS, and instead wanted to invest that money in programs that would discourage people from engaging in same-sex relationships.

Following the attacks in Paris he tried, unsuccessfully thanks to the sometimes-functioning court system, to block Syrian immigrants from entering Indiana. Back in 2004 Pence supported a bill that would have potentially deported undocumented people from local hospitals. If passed, the Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments Bill, HR 3722, would have required hospitals to report information on undocumented patients before they could be reimbursed for any care given, basically giving ICE unfettered access to people in their most vulnerable moments. In 2006, he introduced a plan that he called a “no amnesty immigration reform.” In Pence’s summary of the plan he wrote,

“The Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act is a bill that is tough on border security and tough on employers who hire illegal aliens, but recognizes the need for a guest worker program that operates without amnesty and without growing into a huge new government bureaucracy”

Dude has an A rating from the NRA. An A fucking rating. I mean I know there are a lot of responsible gun users out there but it sort of feels like there is a shooting in a school or a nightclub or a movie theater every other day. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “firearms were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005.” And that is only in the realm of DV. That doesn’t include unintended homicide or injury, suicide, etc. Shit is bad. But more guns are the answer, right? Mike? You think so? Obviously you do.

He also is skeptical of climate change. Which I mean, I know that earlier in this post I was disappointed in science’s inability to make Biden immortal, but I trust it on climate change. Maybe we should send him to chat with a polar bear. Maybe he’ll get eaten. Moving on, he believes in the privatization of education. Back in 1990 he used campaign donations to pay for his mortgage and his credit card bills.

And if you saw the debates last night you saw how Mike Pence managed to win without ever really saying he agreed with Donald Trump. Because clearly he doesn’t. Mike Pence is not stupid. Mike Pence is gearing up for his own run at the Oval Office, assuming his career can withstand such a close relationship with the biggest dunce of a candidate we have ever seen. Christie’s certainly couldn’t. But Christie did give us the circus that is BridgeGate so there’s that.

So now, because I am hungry and need to lleave this be in order to eat some food, here is my new theory: you know how back when no one thought Trump would actually be the Republican candidate people kept saying that he was really a plant by the Democratic party to insure a Republican win? What if in reality Pence is the plant. Get Trump elected. Trump gets to brag about what a winner he is. And then he says

Nah, I’m good. It was all about the tremendous chase.

And then he introduces President Pence. And the entire world shudders.

* I know the idea of sexual, racial, etc selection sounds awful, but what this effectively does is turn abortion into a he(she)-said she(he)-said. How do you prove that this was the reason behind someone attaining an abortion? Do you record every session? Or does this open the door for anti-choice activists to target women who have obtained an abortion regardless of the reason?

** This is what pro-choice activists have been saying about the increasingly restrictive regulations surrounding abortions for decades. There are many unintended consequences to the defunding of Planned Parenthood seeing as how a significant percentage of those who rely on PP for annual check-ups and the like are low income and therefore cannot simply hop in a car and drive, where? Two counties over?

 

 

 

Turn Down the Microphone

27 Sep

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

o_O

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

One Day…

27 May

A few weeks ago, over some post-run sushi in the park, my lunch companion asked me what my dream job was. I thought about it for a moment.

You mean like, for real for real? Like if I could have any job in the world what would it be?

Yeah.

He said it so nonchalant. Should I admit that I had spent the better part of my adult life agonizing over this very question and felt no closer to an answer? Probably not. Lucky for me, and for him I supposed because an angsty Rebekah is not the best Rebekah, I had recently come up with something that seemed like a thing I would like to do. Without going into the long, drawn-out backstory that involves my Master’s thesis I told him about how I had always been interested in post-disaster reconstruction work. I feel somehow drawn to being one of those people who goes to places after horrible things happen and then sticks around long after many of the first responders leave. I want to be there to help communities rebuild, after the international aid ends and our global conscience moves on to the next thing because there is always a next thing. I want to be there to shame the disaster tourists. Of course I have absolutely no medical knowledge and, truth be told, get queasy rather easily. Recently at work I had to take a 5 minute sit-down because a piece of glass protruding from my thumb made me so nauseous I turned green.

Back to the drawing board, perhaps.

But, of course, my thinking about it didn’t end there. It never does. The hamster that occupies the wheel in my brain has a never-ending supply of energy, that little bastard. And in the time I spent thinking I realized that, sure, I have all sorts of lofty goals. I would like to have something I write published somewhere that people have actually heard of and be paid for it; I would like to be on the Ellen Show (don’t ask); I would like to perform at The Moth and maybe one day, one wonderful day, be featured on The Moth Radio Hour on NPR that plays on Saturdays from 7-8pm and hear myself on the radio and just be in the car all alone and be like, wow, there I am and just smile to myself; I would like to travel so much that I need new pages for my passport; I would like to be part of a group of women (and some men) who make feminism an inclusive part of the conversation rather than something talked about as its own issue. It effects us all. All those things, though, sort of exist on this other plane separate from where I am right now and so let’s bring it back down to reality, back to the present. And so now I will ask myself:

Rebekah, what is your dream job?

And here is my answer, in list form.

  • I want a job where I am respected.
  • I want a job where people aren’t constantly telling me what I am doing wrong and how to do it better even though they have never done what I do a day in their lives.
  • I want a job where people don’t throw objects or insults at me on a regular basis.
  • I want a job where people don’t whistle at me, clap at me, hiss at me, snap at me or flash their cellphone flashlights at me to get my attention.
  • I want a job where no one ever calls me “ma” or “beautiful” or “sweetie” or “baby.”
  • I want a job where I can go to the bathroom and there isn’t piss all over the seats that I have to clean up because people are animals.
  • I want a job where people don’t ask me, while I am working at my job, what else I do because I can’t possibly just be a bartender.
  • I want a job where photographs of me taken without my consent do not end up on Yelp. Or better yet…
  • I want a job where people don’t take photographs of me without my consent. At all. Ever. End of story.
  • I want a job where people don’t hit on me or ask me out and then refuse to tip me when I say no.
  • I want a job where my awesome male coworker doesn’t have to step in and deal with people who treat me like garbage because I am a woman.
  • I want a job where I am not treated like garbage.
  • I want a job where I don’t have to keep my relationship status secret, when there is a status to keep secret, because it will likely effect the amount of money I make.
  • I want a job where I am respected. Wait, did I say that already?

Here’s the thing: my job could be all those things if people would just learn how to act because, if you noticed, nothing on that list had anything to do with my job, really. There was nothing about the weird schedule and late nights (though that isn’t my favorite), nothing about being on my feet for hours and eating the majority of meals standing up, nothing about looking up and seeing eyes upon eyes upon eyes on me all needing and wanting something when I only have two hands, nothing about coming home smelling of the liquor that I didn’t drink but has saturated my clothes and my skin over the course of a busy night. Those are all parts of the job and they are okay. They are how it is. And there are a lot of really cool things. I have met some amazing people, both customers and coworkers; I have learned a lot about myself and others; I think I have become a better, more understanding person. I think that my job, although it isn’t responding to a disaster and helping those having the absolute worst days of their lives, has some amount of value and, to be honest, I think I am pretty good at it. I don’t know. It’s all relative I guess. And maybe the job I want, the job described in that list above, doesn’t actually exist. Maybe it isn’t out there. Maybe my realistic dreams are just as lofty as one day being on the Ellen Show or normalizing feminism. Maybe this is another project my hamster needs to spin her wheel about. And so, until then….

Hi, what can I get for you?

Are You Married?

17 May

No.

But sometimes I say yes.

Right now my entire neighborhood is under construction. There are actually two construction projects currently under way on my block. One of them is particularly annoying to me. So much so that I wrote an open letter to the developer of the site and posted it on this blog. I also call 311 on them at least once a week. You know me: always putting too much energy into things that yield absolutely no results. So here is the thing about this construction site. They start work at 7 on the dot every morning except Sunday. It is like clockwork. And I know that city regulation allows them to do that (because I did my research) but it doesn’t mean that I can’t be mad about it. Especially because them starting work actually means that one asshole climbs up onto the second floor of whatever personality-less piece of crap building they are erecting and bangs a mallet against a metal stud for like 1/2 hour. No joke. He gets up there and he bangs metal on metal. And then once I have been awake for long enough that the overall quality of my sleep diminishes ten-fold he says

Yeah, that’s enough mallet banging for today.

And he stops. I hate him. He might be a perfectly nice guy in real life, but by design his job makes him an asshole.

The reason I am going into this is that every time I walk by the construction site – which is like 10 times a day because it is two doors up from my house – I get mad. I glare at the site. I shake my head disapprovingly. I have ill-fantasies about drawing pictures of penises all over the shoddily-built scaffolding. Sometimes I snarl. I try to give nasty looks to the man I know to be the guy in charge of it for single-handedly ruining my quality of life. He knows I’m coming for him. I have even called him on the phone on more than one occasion although I am not sure he has put two-and-two together. I have become that person on the block. (Although to be fair I have spoken with a lot of other people on the block who have also reported the site to 311, snarled and reached out to the developer guy  who by the way calls himself Ryan although I don’t think that is his real name. None of us do.) So just this afternoon I was walking by the construction site, glaring, when I noticed there was a meeting of construction workers right there in my path. Uh oh. This is never an ideal situation. I have been yelled at by so many construction workers in this city over the years it’s absurd. Construction workers whistle at women so much that there was a site on 4th Avenue above a laundromat and the laundromat had parrots and the parrots learned how to catcall. Not kidding. I would be running down 4th and get catcalled at the construction site and begin to descend into a blind rage when I would realize I was being harassed by a pair of mother fucking birds.

BIRDS!

As I was saying, there was a construction-worker meeting happening directly in my path. I knew something was going to be said. I concentrated very hard on drinking my iced coffee and staring at my feet. I hate that I do this but I did it. I thought maybe if I pretended not to see them they wouldn’t see me. That approach failed, obviously.

Construction worker: Hey.
Me: Grunt.
Construction worker: How are you today?
Me: I’d be better if you guys didn’t wake me up at 7 in the morning every day. (ZAMBO!)
Construction worker: Are you married?

Okay, what?! I am so confused as to how this happened. So let’s recap and see if maybe I missed something. I clearly did not want to speak to him, hence the grunt. Then I basically told him that he was ruining my life. And then he asked me if I was married? And what if I said no? Was he going to ask me out on a date? Was he going to see if I wanted to meet him at the site at 6:57am, climb onto the second floor and, at exactly 7 on the dot, take a mallet and bang it as hard as I could against a piece of metal? You know, just to fuck with the neighbors?

I told him I was in fact married by calling out a sing-songy

Sure am

and continued on my way. I pretend to be married at least once a week.

So what I have noticed is that as I have gotten older, the line of questioning from random strangers on the street or assholes in bars and at parties has changed. They used to ask me if I had a boyfriend and when I said yes they would respond, like clockwork (I totally accidentally typed cockwork and it made me laugh…had to share),

Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to know.

And that always made me mad because it was like, what the fuck? I don’t want anything to do with you and your statement completely takes me out of the equation. There is that assumption that I absolutely want to suck your dick in the bathroom but the only thing that is stopping me is that fact that my boyfriend might find out and then who will I be? I will go from being a somebody with a boyfriend to a single nobody, sad and alone who probably picked up some nasty disease from putting your cock in my mouth. Now that I am in my 30s and clearly cannot just have a boyfriend, I must either be married or single (AKA sad and alone and diseased from aforementioned interaction). So the line of questioning has changed. Now people always ask me if I am married. If I say no, all hell breaks lose. If I lie and say yes, just to get them to leave me the fuck alone, they then follow it up with

No you’re not. You’re not wearing a ring.

And it’s like

I wasn’t wearing a ring when you asked me in the first place, dipshit, so if you’re so goddamn observant why didn’t you notice that before?!

But then do you know what happens next, when I don’t actually audibly call the person a dipshit?

Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to know.

AAAAAH!

But I mean, really, what is the expected response to this? Or, I suppose more accurately, the hoped-for response? I came up with a few possibilities:

  1. You’re right! I know a motel you can pay for by the hour down on 3rd. You down?
  2. You’re right! I’m not wearing a ring but I’d like to be and I know a guy who can perform weddings!
  3. You’re right! I live two doors down and my imaginary husband won’t be home for hours!
  4. You’re right! (Swift kick to the genitals.)

My money is on number 4 for sure.

Anyway, I never claimed to have all the answers. But I’m gonna go for a run and think on this. I’ll let you know if any moments of clarity follow.