Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 4.54.35 PM

“I was asleep before… that’s how we let it happen. They suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary.”

This is Offred’s stark warning.

A narration of regret.

Her name’s not really Offred. It’s Jane. Or June. Or something that I can’t remember because her name no longer matters. She is no longer a human with an identity, she is the property of Fred. And she is the main character in Hulu’s series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel.

Offred is a Handmaid in Gilead, the religious fundamentalist reincarnation of the United States. After a terrorist attack and environmental disasters left the republic weakened, a strong-arm theocracy took hold. Patriarchal control was the new order. Women, no longer allowed to work, read, vote or hold property. Children, taken at will from parents who refuse to conform. Traitors, hung along the river, government spies around every corner.

In this dystopian theocracy, women no longer have choices. They are assigned roles by the almighty government. The small number of women who are still fertile become Handmaids, their job to produce children for the elite. They are human incubators. Vessels. Possessions of the privileged. Routinely subjected to state sanctioned rape every month in the name of glorious and holy conception.

Blessed be the fruit of the non-consenting womb.

The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a warning, as many great works of art do. With it’s desaturated colors and stark visuals, the horrors on the screen should shock us.

But they don’t.

Instead of shock, recognition. We see it, how it could happen. The clarity is so unnerving that many women can’t even bear to watch the show.

Exaggeration? Fear? Perhaps. But possible? Yes.

Possible, because our country has done these things before.

Our great country likes to practice the art of selective amnesia. We prefer to whitewash our hateful past and water down our history books and our conscience.

Those who never learn unadulterated history are doomed to repeat it.

In our great country, humans were bought and sold like livestock. We stripped them of their names. Their identity tied up in the men who owned them. Slave women were expected to produce more slaves to keep the fields stocked with blood and sweat. When they failed, they were beaten and sometimes sold as damaged goods. We excused every bit of this with religious text and disgusting theories on race. We denied their humanity and we denied them their names and heritage.

My name is Offred. I had a name before… 

Wives in the antebellum south looked the other way while their husbands raped slaves. Their jealous rage directed at the victims in the form of beatings. Their lack of voice or control unleashed on slave girls while their husbands continued to rape at will. An uncomfortable fact of life for the privileged women was a soul stripping act of violence for the slave girls and women.

Blessed be the ability to control through fear and domination and violence.

Lynchings were community events. The town’s people would gather to cheer and celebrate torture and murder. Smug words of consternation. Them boys should have listened to their master. Them girls should know what’s good for them. The bodies would hang for days. Weeks. White supremacy has sadistic ways of making sure you remember. He shouldn’t have been driving with a broken tail light. She shouldn’t have questioned his authority and lit that cigarette.

You don’t read much about the lynchings and the rapes in the history books though. Nothing more than a sanitized mention before moving on to the battles and the bayonets, the blood on metal tips washes down easier than the blood dripping from a tree branch.

It’s not possible to go back to such dark times, we say. But did you see the evening news?

Another black boy’s name is trending on Twitter and another murder is excused. We shake our heads as we sip our coffee.

It’s not possible, we say, as we press our “I Voted” sticker onto our shirt and take a selfie to show proof of our civic duty.

It’s not possible, we say, as we watch men behind closed doors decide that we are pre-existing conditions. Our rape, our pregnancy, our broken jaw from a closed fist, all preexisting conditions. A tax on our bodies and our psyches and our wombs.

It’s not possible, we say, as we watch bills being debated on state house floors. Bills that infantilize us. Forced vaginal ultrasounds… because we need a wand shoved into our cervix to grasp the idea that we’re pregnant.

It’s not possible, we say, but politicians keep saying rape is only rape if there are bruises and marks. Because men raping wives, and boyfriends raping girlfriends, and date rape, and victims freezing because that is biologically the mechanism that takes over when being assaulted in the most personal way, is not “really rape” according to these men. And the only scars they care about are the ones that are visible and verifiable.

It’s not possible, we say. But lawmakers are trying to make us get consent from a man before getting an abortion. Because of course our bodies should be regulated by the men in our lives. Of course our husband/boyfriend/father has more say about our life changing decision.

Shall I get my rapist to sign a permission slip, dear congressman?

What about my abusive husband who keeps me pregnant to keep me imprisoned in his sick, controlling world? Shall he sign it in my blood?

It’s not possible, we say, as we scroll through social media and wonder how we got here. But it is possible. You just don’t recognize it because you didn’t live it, and your ancestors don’t bear the scars, and the color of your skin and your religion protect you from what’s happening now.

What you don’t necessarily see or feel or fear every day is happening. And eventually it will touch you and yours if you continue to sit in your comfortable apathy.

Our false sense of security and privileged ignorance will one day be our yoke. The bliss of being able to turn the page or tune out or pretend like it isn’t happening… is akin to sipping iced tea on the plantation porch, fanning ourselves and talking about the weather while we listen to the snaps of a whip hitting flesh in the fields below us. We avert our eyes and pretend like we don’t hear the cries of anguish. My, it’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?

It’s all possible. Gilead is not just a dystopian fiction. It’s a warning. A preview of what inaction and unchecked power can do. The likeliness is still a question. But by the time we’re sure, by the time we realize our rights have been stripped away, it’s usually too late.

I was asleep before… that’s how we let it happen.

Corporations have more humanity than their female employees, so says the court. Their religious belief or how they interpret ancient text trumps my healthcare decisions and what my doctor and I decide is best. Their profit is their humanity, their fetish for patriarchal control is their soul. And it’s worth more than the humanity that is present between my heart and my ovaries and my mind.

Personhood bills are popping up across states like a sick game of autonomy Whack A Mole. Bills that threaten to make my reproductive choices nonexistent. No pill. No IUD. No sex. Good girls don’t have sex for pleasure. Good girls only have sex to make babies. Good girls will produce as many babies as her body is physically capable of. Good girls don’t get roofied by Cliff Huxtable. Good girls don’t get raped. Good girls don’t make accusations and make people uncomfortable. Good. Girls. Don’t. Question. Authority.

We have men in power who pledge allegiance to their scripture, not the country. They eschew the basic tenet of separation of church and state, the very foundation of our democracy and Constitution. The words of the founding fathers inconsequential when holy words direct you to fund torture of gay teens and deny AIDS prevention and force heartbroken women who’ve suffered loss to pay to bury their miscarried remains. Because patriarchy and purity culture is nothing if not creative in their ways to retain control of women.

We have a members of The Council for National Policy, a super secret group filled with extremists and Dominionists pulling the strings of government as we speak. Their goal is to turn our country into a theocracy, their strategy is to manipulate the government from within.  Key members have funded, aided and staffed the current administration. They, along with The Heritage Foundation, have been working for decades on projects like Citizens United and school choice which is coded language for government funding of religious schools. The Prince family, the DeVos family, Conway, Bannon, Mercer, Koch. Do these names ring a bell? They are cozying up to white supremacists and other religious zealots to make sure your children get a hefty dose of fundamentalist branded God™ in the classroom.

Blessed be the righteousness of money to gain power…

They tell us those “other” people are evil. They’ve come here to rape us and to plant bombs in our malls and take our jobs, and it works because fear is the most effective means of control.

They pass “Religious Freedom Laws” which is cool kid speak for “we hate gays so we are going to hide behind our cherry picked religious text.”

They tell us it’s not a crime when unarmed black men and women are shot. They shush our horror with platitudes and lies.

Blessed be the electorate willing to believe modern day lynching is somehow justifiable.

Blessed be the gerrymandered districts that make voter suppression of black people so much easier than the good ‘ol days when we just spit on them and burned crosses in front of their house and beat them and killed them.

Blessed be the prisons where we can lock people up for minor crimes and keep people away from their jobs and their families and their lives because they can’t pay court fines . And the private prison system that feeds the cycle of poverty and gives us our modern day slave labor and serfdom and keeps rich men richer and poor men poorer.

Blessed be all the people who spread the propaganda so willfully… women are not to be believed or trusted… black people are thugs… gay people are sinful… transgender people are predators waiting in the Target bathroom to attack our women and children… authority is to be respected no matter what… we shouldn’t question a person in uniform… we shouldn’t question those in power… we should be enraged at a football player kneeling during the national anthem but stay silent while unarmed black men are shot.

Blessed be those who repeat the words of control and manipulation and authoritarianism. 

Blessed be those who confuse “respect the office of the presidency” with blind loyalty, who play Candy Crush instead of reading the news, who think that apathy to racism is not as bad as being a full on racist. Who excuse “low key” racism with a shrug and feign ignorance.

Blessed be the patriots who think voting is the sum total of their civic duty, who think that our democracy is unbreakable and checks and balances will always save it, who don’t want to offend so they stay silent when they see atrocities, who not only allow it to happen, but aid and abet it.

This is the warning. Too late happens while you sleep. The effects not fully realized until the point of no return is but a speck in the rearview mirror.

“It’s not possible,”  should not be the last gasp of democracy.

Are you awake?

 

I would love for you to join my Stop Sexism Facebook group that is part of The Good Men Project’s Social Interest Groups. Jeremy McKeen and I run the group and moderate discussions on sexism and hold weekly conference calls. Please click HERE and join if you’d like to be a part of the discussion!

 

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

 

pexels-photo-246804

A guy walks up to a girl in a bar. She’s laughing with her friends, engrossed in conversation. He slides in next to her to introduce himself. Offers her a drink. I’m just here to hang with my friends she says more than once. He proceeds to ask her “get to know you” questions, ignores her icy stare. Oblivious to her friends rolling their eyes. He appears immune to her Not interested‘s and her No thank you‘s. Finally, she sighs, I HAVE A BOYFRIEND. He backs away grudgingly, defensively, hands in the air, It’s cool, it’s cool. I got it.

Her rebuffs weren’t enough. Her refusals were dismissed. It was clear that what she wanted wasn’t of much concern to him. But another man’s woman? That’s a record scratch. A stop sign. A no trespassing sign.

This story isn’t unusual. It’s not even rare. Most women at some point have played the boyfriend card to fend off an aggressive guy.

Not all men have to hear the boyfriend excuse to accept a “No.” Many men approach women humbly and respectfully. But the reality is that far too many men are the aggressive guy with the selective hearing. It’s disheartening, frustrating, and at times… scary.

And it all comes down to ownership.

Entitlement.

We watch in horror as it plays out in the most grotesque ways. A man kills a woman on a train for refusing his advances. A man shoots his wife and her two students because she left him. A man shoots an innocent stranger and says his girlfriend made him do it. It’s a man going on a murderous shooting spree after posting a video blaming all of the women who refused to see how “nice” he was.

It’s not always violent or abusive. Most often it is vague and hard to put your finger on. But our society is constantly telling men they have rights to us. That they own us. This message isn’t shouted or barked. No, like most effective messages it’s subtle. Implied. It’s in our everyday interactions. But it’s there, coloring our language and our attitudes and our traditions. It’s the pervasive, implied entitlement in casual words and actions that we accept and absorb because we are so accustomed to it we don’t even recognize it.

Ownership. Women are property. Men are entitled to us. Society is unconcerned with our agency and autonomy.

It’s tradition and it’s doctrine. It’s history and it’s gospel.

It’s the marrying off of daughters as a transaction. A young girl whittled down to the equivalent of a goat and an acre of land.

It’s women being the spoils of war.

It’s women being categorized as either the virgin or the whore.

Most men don’t walk around looking at women as property. That’s not how this works. But it’s there, implied. It’s woven into our culture. Passed down like a defective gene.

It’s not just the persistent guy in the bar. It’s the guy who tells us to smile. As if our expression is there for him to dictate. Our mood, his to determine.

It’s the man who thinks he has the right to catcall a woman because she is walking down the street. And then thinks he has the right to get angry if she doesn’t respond in the way he thinks she should.

It’s the shock and disdain for a woman who curses. It’s not lady like. It’s unbecoming. It’s trashy. No. Admonishing a grown woman as if she’s a child is unbecoming.

It’s the “Friend-zone.” The place where hard-up guys and their precocious desires go to die. Angry that they are denied access to someone they were friendly with. I was so nice to her, why wouldn’t she have sex with me? As if being cool means they should automatically have rights to us.

It’s the seething hate directed at every woman who has a large online presence. A platform, a big following, a blue checkmark next to her name – all are cause for threats. It’s the armies of men who troll, looking for powerful women to go after. Who have rabid anger for women they’ve never even met. Why? For moving into their space. For taking up their oxygen. For getting attention and followers and likes. They are threatened by it. They feel less powerful when they see a powerful woman. So they try to control her, bully her, intimidate her. They try to drive her off social media and sometimes out of a job.

It’s the looks of disgust or the comments when a woman is breastfeeding in public. Her breasts should be used to sell Carl’s Jr. burgers or to entice or to entertain. But using them for their intended purpose is disgusting. It’s utilitarian and not serving the greater male population in any way so put those things away, you exhibitionist whore. 

We are here to accentuate. Complement. To be arm candy or stay quietly in the background. We should be easy going, but not easy. We should laugh easily, but not too loudly.

We should be soft and sweet and curved in all the right places. But not too curvy. Unless that’s what is desired by the men we meet. The goalpost of what is desirable is constantly moving so we must read magazines and scour pop culture to see what’s what. You see, we are complicit in our own servitude. It’s part of our DNA as well.

We should speak demurely. Speaking loudly, projecting our voice is an affront. We should calibrate our voice to precisely the tone that is pleasing to male ears. And for the love of  all things nasty,  please don’t laugh too loud.

Our bodies are commodities. Our sexuality is for other’s to copulate to. Our pureness to be held up as saintly. Our reproduction legislated by old white men who couldn’t find an ovary or a female orgasm if they had a GPS.

It’s male journalists frothing every time Chelsea Clinton speaks or wins an award. Their condescending laments laced with the fear of another ambitious woman coming dangerously close to that glass ceiling. Their words dripping with contempt. How dare she be visible or audible when they had other ideas. Stay in your lane, Chelsea. 

It’s the pat on the head, the unsolicited advice, the let me tell you how you really feel because my male perspective is more valid and more right, ok sweetheart? 

It’s telling a woman to calm down because her outburst or her fire or her anger make it so much harder to rein her in.

It’s the stealthing that turns consensual sex into sexual assault, and the online chat rooms that instruct bros how to do it, and the judges who will laugh it off or brush it off or dole out a slap on the wrist with a wink, and now we have one more fucking thing to warn our daughters about.

It’s the men who help themselves to parts of our bodies as we make our way through a crowd or through the office or across campus.

It’s our lovers, the men we trust and love. They think nothing of laying down a guilt trip if we refuse sex. After all, what right do we have to consider our own mood/desires/feelings? Our bodies should be open for business when he needs it, the moment he needs it. After all, we love him, right? C’mon baby, you say you love me but you aren’t acting like it right now. And they don’t understand or see that their pressure and guilt is added to the pile of male needs and desires we’ve spent a lifetime collecting and being held responsible for.

We watch young girls, on the brink of womanhood who are ogled and leered at. Men, with their shirts straining against their dad-bods, scanning every inch of her. Oblivious to her discomfort. Unconcerned that she is still just a child. They act like they don’t see how their hot gaze makes her squirm. Making her feel equal parts dirty and self conscious and guilty. You see, she learned long ago in school that how she dresses is responsible for how men and boys act. But they’re oblivious to her tugging uncomfortably at her clothes because they don’t see her as a person and they’ve been taught that it’s harmless to do these things and it’s not big deal, it’s just guys being guys and geez, stop overreacting, wouldya?

We’ve heard the song, the one that has been in the background our whole lives. The one that tells us we’re the temptress, the siren of the sea. We’re Eve, licking the apple from our wet lips wearing nothing but a wicked grin. That we’re the built-in excuse for male aggression and anger and frustration and missteps. A convenient scapegoat for society’s ills.

We’re supposed to be “a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed.” Unless he’s not into that kind of thing, in which case we better figure that shit out and accommodate before he decides to dispose of us and tells his friends that we’re just a dirty whore.

We are not your property.

You don’t own us. You are not entitled to our bodies or our minds or our emotional labor.

It’s ownership when men get angry at the fat girl and call her names. How dare she go out in the world in a way that’s not pleasing to his eye?

It’s ownership when they scream at the transgender woman who doesn’t fit their idea of what a woman “should” be. And they’re going to make damn sure she knows it by their voice or their sneer or their laughter or their fist.

It’s ownership when dudes ask a lesbian if they can “get in on that action” or when they wink, “give me a chance to change your mind.” Because it’s really not about her identity and being who she is, it’s about them getting off.

We are not your participation trophies. We are not your conquest or your ego boost.

We are not here for you to decide how we should act/talk/smile/laugh/look/live.

Our role in the home or the board room or online is not yours to define.

Our daughters are not your son’s distractions.

Our wholeness is not a threat to your existence.

Our minds and bodies are tired of this game so if you could wake up and see that we’re not asking you to feel guilty or to drag you down, that would be great. We’re asking you to listen and to believe us and to help us make it stop.

Help us make it stop with the young girl getting dress coded because her body is a distraction to the boys.

Help us make it stop so that when she tells her teacher about a boy making a rape joke, she doesn’t get the “Boys will be boys” retort that tells her that her fears and safety are secondary to boys having fun and blowing off steam.

Help us make it stop because she will learn before she’s even out of puberty that grown  men will take from her, whether it’s the lingering stares or the hand that rests on her shoulder for too long or some other innocuous gesture that she can’t put her finger on but she knows it’s not right. Help us before she goes off to college and she tells herself “boys will be boys” when a drinking game goes too far and she finds herself going from laughing and playing along to being victimized but feeling like she deserved it because she is just repeating what she’s seen and heard her whole life. Boys can’t control themselves. Their actions are just a response to you. You should have known better/done better. 

Help us. Recognize when you see ownership, in all its forms. Tell your sons and your daughters and your coworkers and your bosses and your bros.

Help us because it’s this subtle sense of ownership that feeds the violence. It’s the little moments that add up and build up and give permission to a man to touch, to hit, to rape, to kill. It’s systemic and institutionalized ownership that allows lawmakers and judges and police officers to question a rape victim’s level of sobriety or her past sexual history or how much the rapist might suffer in prison so we really should give him a slap on the wrist because he is a preppy white rapist with a bright future.

Help us amplify this message. Help us stop the cycle of entitlement.

We are not your bitch, your slut, your problem. We are not your excuse, your reason, your burden.

We are not your anything.

 

 

39b44ab1278fcf89da3102eb2b7ad7c9

Dear Mr. Trump… can I call you Mr. Trump? Is that ok? I want you to be happy, that’s very important to me.

Before I get started, let me say this letter isn’t from all women. The Trumpettes surely won’t approve of this message. But this is from most women.

We see right through you. We have all known you at some point. Your ways are not unfamiliar to us. We see through you because we’ve been dealing with you our whole lives.

We heard you call women pigs. And disgusting. And stupid. And bimbos.

We watched as you called a former Ms. Universe “Ms. Piggy” and then spent four days continuing to insult her.

We see your weakness. Your lust for attention at any cost, your need to denigrate women. We see all of it. And we’re mad.

Yes. We’re mad. And fired up. And here’s the thing about us… we can be bitches.

Gone are the days where we question our power or our influence. We are strong. Smart. We know our worth and it doesn’t reside in the size of our bras or our skinny jeans. We build each other up. We have our sister’s backs. And our brother’s. So when you took on the former Ms. Universe, you took on all of us.

And right now you’ve got a lot of angry women to contend with. And let me remind you, Mr. Trump… hell hath no fury like a pissed off woman who’s tired of this sexist bullshit.

We heard you when you said we should  “look for another place to work” if we experience workplace sexual harassment. Your non-solution illustrates either your lack of understanding or lack of concern. Or both. Your attitude and ignorance on this is stunning. Your response, pathetic. We see you, and we see someone who’s in over their head.

We watched you interrupt a woman 51 times during a 90 minute debate. While the better qualified, more knowledgeable woman was talking, you attempted to bulldoze right over her. We all know this game. It’s called male privilege. And it doesn’t look good on you, Mr. Trump. It makes you look weak. We see you, and we see a man who is so threatened by a woman speaking that you can’t even bear to let her finish. Sad.

And we see it rampant throughout your campaign and your proposed policies. It’s in your paltry maternity leave proposal that leaves out fathers and LGBTQ and adoptive parents. And when you say that women who seek abortions should be punished. And when you refuse to consider supporting equal pay for women.

Your latest ad, in which your daughter, beaming with privilege and pride, says “being a mother is the most important job a woman can have.” didn’t go over so well with us, Mr. Trump.

We are different, us women. We are not a homogenous army of fem-bots. We have different interests, goals and lives. There is more to us than motherhood. Some of us revel in motherhood. Some of us don’t want to have children. And some of us can’t have children. Our status as mothers has nothing to do with our worth. This ad, coupled with your policies show that you are tone deaf to the reality that women face and point to an antiquated attitude. One that keeps women as the caregivers and leaves men out of that equation.

We see you. And we see a man who has no business representing our interests in the Oval Office.

We heard you say no one would vote for Carly Fiorina “because of her face.”

We remember you calling women “a beautiful piece of ass” in Esquire Magazine.

We watch you say one thing, then say the opposite. Then refuse to admit any of it happened. Problem is, we can spot gas lighting from a mile away.

We recall the bit about all women being gold diggers in your memoir.

We cringe and hold our daughters a little closer when we are reminded that you said you’d date your daughter. If only she weren’t your daughter.

We remember when you called a lawyer “disgusting” for requesting a break during a trial to breastfeed.

We roll our eyes when we saw you try to dismiss Megyn Kelly after she had the nerve to ask you questions. At a debate. “Blood coming out of her wherever” was not lost on us. Most of us remember hearing such comments in Middle School.

We are horrified when we learn that you sent a journalist a picture of herself with the word “Dog” scrawled across it.

We seethe with anger when we read your tweet blaming military sexual assault on the fact that women are in the military.

We haven’t forgotten your lurid tweet about Hillary Clinton not being able to “satisfy” her husband.

Not only do you not understand women, you seem to have an awful lot of contempt for them. This is not fitting for a man who wants to be President in the 21st Century.

Which leads me to this:

Make America Great Again.

We know exactly what you meant when you branded yourself with this slogan. It’s not-so-coded language for a time gone by. Your “great” America wasn’t so great for women and minorities and gay people.

We won’t go back.

We won’t be relegated to the kitchen.

We won’t be locked into a life where we have no choice over our bodies or whether we have babies.

We won’t accept your patronizing response to sexual harassment.

We won’t be silenced or demeaned any more.

We won’t be ridiculed for our weight or judged by our appearance.

We won’t be shamed for owning our sexuality.

We have come a long way since your days of when America was “great.”

We have busted our asses to get here and we’re not going back.

We are raising strong daughters who fight back against sexist school dress codes.

We are raising strong sons who aren’t afraid of their feelings and aren’t afraid of strong girls.

We are shutting down catcalling.

We are no longer letting ourselves be interrupted and drowned out in the board room.

We are locking arms with our sisters in solidarity when rapists are given a slap on the wrist.

We are shouting about every day sexism.

We are calling you out, Mr. Trump.

We will not go quietly into any good night. We are loud. We are in your face. And we don’t put up with the kind of bullshit you’re selling.

So maybe this isn’t your time, Mr. Trump. Maybe your time has passed.

Maybe you would have been more suited to the early 1900’s when women did not yet have the right to vote.

When marital rape was still legal.

Or the 1950’s when women largely stayed home and produced children and McCarthyism and blacklisting were acceptable.

Or perhaps 1930’s Germany would have been a better fit for you.

But now? Now is not your time.

We’re moving forward. All of us, smart men and women, have had enough of the tired gender roles. We’ve had enough of you and other weak, fearful men trying to stop progress.

We see you, Mr. Trump.

We see your sexism and your bigotry and your racism. We see right through you.

Remember. We can be bitches.

And bitches get shit done.

Bitches Vote.

See you on November 8, Mr. Trump.

 

*photo source*

 

donald-trump_3372655k

Third Party voters. You’re everywhere. You’re young, you’re old. You’re Independents, or you’re disillusioned Democrats and Republicans. There’s a lot of you this time around.

And it scares the hell out of me.

You might think I’m being dramatic. Or experiencing some longest election year ever hysteria.

But right now there is a racist, bigoted, nationalistic, white supremacist baiting, federal reserve illiterate, foreign and  domestic policy ignorant, dangerous narcissist applying for the job of the most powerful person in the world.

And your protest vote could very well be the reason he gets the job.

I get it. You’re fed up. Frustrated. And you’re going to walk into that voting booth in November and vote your conscience.

But I don’t know if we can afford your conscience.

Your moral vote, your election day purity, your clean conscious, they are all luxuries we can’t afford in this election year. Not when Donald Trump is running neck and neck with Clinton in the polls. Not when polls that include Third Party candidates show him taking a lead over Clinton. Not when your protest vote could result in the most dangerous presidency in the history of the United States.

All of you together can disrupt this election. All of you together could have us staring slack jawed with a death grip on our pocket Constitutions while we watch our worst nightmare get sworn in.

So this is a plea to you, a plea for reason.

Because I know you’re reasonable. You know your world history. You know that equal parts Mussolini/Hitler/Joseph McCarthy in an Armani suit would be a disaster for our country. You don’t really want him to win. But you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think your Third Party vote could be the reason there’ll be a six foot tall Trump painting hanging in the Lincoln bedroom.

Whether you admit it or not, your protest vote is relying on the herd immunity.

Herd immunity: The majority of a population is immunized, creating a barrier of protection for the vulnerable and immunosuppressed. 

The disease is Trump. The vaccination is your vote. The vulnerable? Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, children of Mexican immigrants, Jewish Americans, Women, LGBT, Muslim Americans, and any other minority population within our country. One could argue that eventually the vulnerability trickles up to everyone, the disease eventually will infect anyone and everyone in our country.

So this election is about more than what makes you feel good in the five minutes you spend in the election booth.

It is about someone who is unpredictable and easily riled who has no business holding the key to the nuclear football.

It is about someone who lacks the judgement to make a decision about whether or not to launch a nuclear weapon. A decision that once put in action is irreversible. A decision that can’t be walked back.

And some of you are taking a risk on Donald Trump being that person. 

This is about someone who has been deemed so dangerous and unfit for office that over 50 Republican Former National Security Officials have signed a letter stating that Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” and “would be the most reckless president in American history.”

This is unprecedented. Never have more people agreed that a presidential candidate poses a serious danger on so many different levels. Long time republicans, conservatives, people who’ve dedicated their careers and lives to the GOP are fleeing. And they are being very clear about why.

His words create unease among allies and enemies, they embolden racists and they create propaganda for terrorists.

A short list of who wants to see Trump in the White House?

ISIS.

Vladimir Putin.

The KKK.

The Alt Right.

Are you scared yet? 

THIS IS NOT POLITICS AS USUAL.

This is about a candidate who has tweeted and retweeted racist words and ideas and memes.

Who is regularly throwing out a bone or a “wink wink” to the increasingly prominent White Supremacist crowd. A candidate who hired the proud, self proclaimed leader of the Alt-Right  to be his campaign CEO. In between rabid musings about the “white genocide” they are gleefully retweeting Trump. They show up at his rallies. They call him “their candidate.” This is about a candidate who not only encourages the Alt Right, but emboldens them.

This is about a man has actually recommended doing things that were done in Nazi Germany. Creating a database of Muslims. Banning an entire religious group from entering our country. Demonizing Mexican immigrants. Threatening the press. Threatening enemies. Building a wall. This is about a man who is openly promoting Xenophobia, Racism and anti semitism. Sound familiar?

Unless you want our country to look like a Trump rally… unless you want Confederate flags being flown by angry men screaming at black people and Jewish people and gay people… unless you want your grocery store or your kid’s little league game to become a venue for expressing pent up racist rage, you need to think twice before you press that Third Party button. The things happening at Trump rallies? They’re happening everywhere. They are becoming the new normal.

So, yes, your Third Party vote scares me.

It is at best a risk. At worst a destruction of everything we hold dear and true about our country.

Your vote is dangerous.

It is the bloodshot eyed, stale cigarette perfumed gambler laying down his last chip.

It is the Prada bag you’re drooling over but your credit card is maxed out and you haven’t paid this month’s rent. We can’t afford it.

That vote that you’re throwing against the wall is the petulant toddler who insists on ice cream when staring at a plate of broccoli and green beans.

Your Third Party vote isn’t a protest. It isn’t a bold statement of rebelliousness. For most, that Third Party vote is a last minute hook up under the blinding bar lights at 2am. You don’t really know what you’re getting but you’re getting some.

We need all the adults in the room to show up and do whatever needs to be done to keep Trump in his self congratulatory, phallic tower and out of the White House.

Your Third Party vote is dangerous because it is relying on herd immunity. You’re having your feel good moment while you’re pressing a button next to a name you’ve only known for a few months. You’re relying on everyone else to get the job done and keep the mad man from having his finger on the button.

Herd immunity works. Until it doesn’t. And when it stops, when there is a breach, one tiny cough, it can be disastrous.

Your protest vote is the feverish stranger wandering into the I.C.U. when their shots aren’t up to date. You’ll walk out and you’ll go home and you’ll watch your HGTV and you’ll take some aspirin and you’ll go to sleep, but you exposed the vulnerable to your illness.

It’s not a badge of honor to risk the stability and livelihood of the country and quite possibly the world, all because your conscious is feeling some heat.

And sometimes voting your conscious means doing the hard thing. It means looking at the reality you’re dealing with no matter how much you don’t like it, and working within that reality.

Morality is only really moral when it’s dealing in truth.

It means possessing enough self awareness to consider your station in life, your privilege and how your vote could affect those who are more vulnerable.

I know you’re mad and you’re frustrated. Sometimes I want to burn it all to the ground and start over too. But we can’t. That’s what separates us from the sociopaths. We work with what we’ve got. We operate in reality. We think about things beyond our own angry impulses.

Start your revolution. Build it. Work. Sacrifice.

But don’t tip over the table because you didn’t like the food you were offered.

Don’t saunter, whistling, through the I.C.U. while your skin is beaded in a viral sweat.

Don’t rely on everyone else to do the non-glamorous task of the practical, safe vote.

Don’t engage in the false equivalency of the “two evils.”

Don’t tell me your conscience can’t take it. Your conscience will be fine. Your conscience surely has bigger fish to fry. But if your protest vote, along with all the other impotent Third Party votes ends in the myriad of dangerous scenarios that experts of all parties and all stripes are warning of? I fear your conscience may suffer a crippling blow.

If you ever wondered what you would do had you been a German citizen voting in the 1930’s… If you ever wondered if you’d have the presence of mind to recognize a virulent danger when it’s looming over you… If you ever wondered if you could stare at racism and fascism seeking power and shrug in apathy or stand up and fight?

Now’s your time to find out. Don’t let the herd down.

 

 

 

 

photo-1465151990534-683bf7717c78

I’ve been screaming for most of my life. Ever since innocence was taken from me at a tender age. I’ve been screaming, but you haven’t heard me. This scream has been trapped behind a polite smile. This scream has been buried in the haze of blurry memories and life moving forward. It’s been lying in wait while I went about living what turned into a pretty happy life. But it’s always been there. I didn’t ask for this primal urge, it was gifted to me by a sick soul. Silently screaming for decades.

No more. I’ve written about my experience. I’ve purged and I’ve felt some release. I’ve spent years doing the work of healing and I’ve dealt with my demons. I’m good.

But sometimes? Sometimes I still want to scream out loud.

When I see rapists getting a paternal pat on the head from sympathetic judges, I want to scream.

When I see girls getting shamed for being victims, I want to scream.

When I see child molesters go free and live to abuse another day, I want to scream.

When I see a culture that still shames mothers for breast feeding because our breasts are for sexual gratification only, and not for feeding our babies, and how dare you use your body for anything other than a man’s satisfaction, I want to scream.

When I see young girls sent home from school because they are wearing leggings, or their skirts don’t meet the fingertip rule, or they are standing awkwardly while a teacher puts a ruler up to their thighs, or they squirm in the shirt that is tighter and more revealing than it was last week, or they get sent to the office to put on a sweater from the Lost and Found because their fucking shoulders are showing, I want to scream.

When I read comments on my own blog telling my own experiences in life aren’t real. When they say that I’m ridiculous for even speaking up about the everyday sexism that is an insidious undercurrent in our culture that leads to permissibility of rape by the community and the judiciary and the media, I want to scream.

When I see fierce friends open up their old wounds and write about their own rape and they have men respond with comments of “you look like the type of woman who deserves to be raped,” I want to scream.

When I have my 12 year old daughter come home from school telling me about the boy who sits next to her and jokes about raping classmates, and the boy in P.E. class who talks about the girls’ breasts while staring at them intently, and the boys in the hallways who make lewd comments. And she worries about what she wears and whether the boys will say something, or whether the administration will say something so she wears nothing but loose t shirts and long shorts, I want to scream.

When I realize that my son went through three years of Middle School with no complaints. Without ever feeling uncomfortable about his safety or his body, I want to scream for my daughter.

When I see women get torn apart in court for what they wore, or how much they drank, or how many times they had sex in the past, or how many people they had sex with… as if drinking or enjoying sex is an open invitation for rape. When I see rapists shrouded in entitlement and anger. Emboldened up by a lifetime of seeing women blamed for rape. And girls blamed for distracting in school, and women blamed for tempting with how they are dressed and blamed for not fighting back and blamed for politely resisting his advances and… and… blamed for just being there, I want to scream.

When I see people quibble over the statistics on rape… is it 1 in 4? You know, that study was flawed… When I have lost count of the women I personally know who’ve been raped and assaulted, and I can only count one that has reported it, and does it even matter because it sounds to me like arguing over the statistics is a convenient diversion from the harsh reality that rape happens way too fucking much, I want to scream.

When I hear women say they don’t need feminism while their sisters in the world are being raped and sexually assaulted, I want to scream.

When I see athletes and musicians get a pass on rape because, you know, they can run the ball real good or they have gold records and we get angry over trivial things instead of men raping women and girls, I want to scream.

When I hear “stop being a victim” because I wrote about sexism, and they equate speaking about it to being curled up in a corner in some strange warped fallacy that means they really just don’t want to think about hard things, I want to scream.

When I see, all around me, women getting judged by their looks. Held to a different standard. Walking the fine line between looking attractive because it’s what society expects of us, but not too attractive because then you’re begging to be raped… or women who don’t care and don’t dress or put on makeup according to society’s “standards” get blasted for not being attractive enough, I want to scream.

When I see a purity culture than shames women and heaps guilt and feelings of being “used” and “worthless” on victims of rape because there is a premium on virgin brides, and promotes phrases like “modest is hottest” without even seeing the sick irony in such a phrase, and treats female sexuality like a commodity instead of something that belongs solely to her, I want to scream.

When I see grown ass men -fathers and husbands- leering at young girls who are only a few years older than their own daughters, who are feeding the very monster they so desperately want to protect their own daughters from, not caring that the young girl is squirming under their gaze or that her own father is desperately hoping that other men will treat his daughter with respect and not as a sexual object to be drooled over, I want to scream.

When I hear -over and over again- that sexism “happens to men too.” I want to scream about the power structure in our patriarchal society and the oppressive blanket of sexism that women live under from the time they enter puberty until they are too old to be considered desirable anymore. And I want to scream about the fact that your one or two incidences of being objectified does not equal my lifetime of it so it’s about time for you to sit down and listen or write your own damn article.

When I hear “boys will be boys” as an excuse for doing something inappropriate, a phrase that tells girls that boys’ impulses matter more than their own safety and autonomy, and tells boys they lack self control, and sets our kids up for a lifetime of “acceptable” sexism and, we learn to just laugh it off or looking the other way or just going about our business because this is normal to us… normal because we heard “boys will be boys” used as a dismissal of bad behavior when we were little. I want to scream.

When I see harsher jail sentences for marijuana possession than for rape, I want to scream.

When I see the privilege of class and race come into play even when it comes to deciding how to arrest, charge, prosecute and sentence a man for rape, I want to scream.

When I realize that my daughters will have to be on guard when the stranger on the street speaks to them, when their boss flirts with them, when they walk alone at night, when they go out on a first date with a guy. That they will have to listen to the tormented pain of a friend who has been assaulted, that they will have to know the harsh reality of what rape culture has done to our society and what it’s doing to them, that they may feel the horror of being violated themselves. I WANT TO SCREAM.

When I hear people scoff at the words Rape Culture, ignoring the very things that are embedded into our society, woven into our criminal justice system, whispered into the ears of our young girls, laughed off as jokes, shouted at young women walking down the street, rubbed up against us in crowds, shoved down the throats of women who dare to speak up, paraded in front of you at The Grammys or during Sunday Night Football, and seared into the subconscious of every woman who never asked to be raped…

I want to scream.

Consider this my not so silent scream.

 

 

 

o-american-flag-facebook
American flag

My first political debate took place in the back of the school bus in First Grade. My friend and I had started arguing about the upcoming election. We were going at it pretty hard over Reagan v Carter. We were spitting out words and throwing around phrases we had heard but didn’t really understand. But we both sat firmly in our separate corners, glaring at each other and sizing each other up.

It got a little intense. Other kids joined in and took his side. I was alone. It became clear that I was the only person on team Carter. They were yelling at me about the Iran Hostage Crisis and the gas shortage. I felt myself shrinking into my seat. Mercifully the bus brakes squeaked and I was able to make my clumsy exit. I walked home with tears stinging my eyes.

The next day I got on the bus and sat next to my friend and we were back to making plans to catch crawdads in the creek that weekend. The harsh words and heat of yesterday’s debate was forgotten as we compared scuffs and scrapes from our most recent bike accidents (that were accidentally on purpose to get the scars that we wore like a badge of honor.)

I still care about politics. But these days I avoid the debates. College was the last time I felt free to engage in the healthy exchange of ideals and positions with anyone outside of my innermost circle.

I’m a liberal who’s lived in the South my whole life. In the Bible Belt.

I’ve had a lifetime of listening to listen to viewpoints I disagree with. And that’s completely fine. In fact, I think it’s been healthy for me. It’s made me realize that sometimes it’s better to just listen. Sometimes I can learn from someone who holds a radically different view from me. It’s shown me that political disagreements are just that. I can have many other more important things in common with someone and care about them even if we disagree politically.

But sometimes I’ve also had to hear things that grated my senses, things that were known falsehoods and sometimes things that  were tinged with racism or homophobia but passed off as political opinion. I usually held my tongue except for the few occasions where I trusted a healthy debate could be had. I sometimes seethed that others could just spout off when I had to stay quiet for the sake of not ruffling feathers, being of minority opinion and all.

I’ve marveled at how freely people would speak their mind, not concerned that they might be speaking to someone who disagreed- not inviting debate or discussion- just spouting off because it feels good to unleash a little political fervor every now and then. I’ve found myself a little jealous of the people I would encounter at school/work/in my neighborhood/on the playground/at the store who felt entitled to go off on a political rant without any concern.

Such is the privilege of living some place where your politics are the widely held ideology. The privilege of majority opinion.

I’ve become an expert at changing the subject. Or smiling politely. Or redirecting a red faced diatribe. Or just calmly walking away because I don’t need to listen to anyone’s one-sided viewpoint when they only wanted an audience, not a discussion.

So when I started this blog three years ago, I vowed to never write about politics. I knew it would only bring drama and that is not what I wanted.

I write about the things that matterto me. My first post was a response to a blogger who slut shamed her son’s social media girl friends. My second post was about a 7 year old girl who got kicked out of her school because she had dreadlocks. And I wrote about grief and life and a random assortment of things. Not political, but sometimes still controversial. And sometimes I get a fierce backlash. Hateful comments. Private messages saying vile things. I have learned to ignore them. I’ve had to delete violent comments attacking me or other readers on my blog. My skin has developed a tough shell.

Writing about the things I care about has caused plenty of drama, even when politics aren’t involved.

I’ve always said that writing about social justice or inequality isn’t political. At least it shouldn’t be. These issues definitely seep into politics sometimes, especially when racism or homophobia or sexism motivates legislation.

But this year, this election, is different. I’m no stranger to my “team” not winning.

This isn’t about liberal vs conservative.

This isn’t Reagan vs Carter.

This isn’t politics as usual.

This is about racism and homophobia and fascism. We are faced for the first time in our political history with someone who threatens everything our country stands for. There is an enormous swell of people, conservative and liberal, politicians and pundits, academics, historians, economists, psychiatrists… who are all ringing the alarm bells.

People who have never come together politically are saying This man is dangerous.

Telling us that this is repeating, eerily repeating, the things said and done in Germany while Hitler was climbing to power. This is not exaggeration. This is not people just offering political opinions. These are people from all walks and all persuasions trying to warn the rest of us that history, the absolute worst of our world’s history, is repeating itself right here, right now, in the United States.

So, yes. I will write about politics this time. Because this time it IS about racism and homophobia and civil liberties and the very life we all know. And because I am still intent on keeping this blog politics free,  I will be publishing political posts on other sites.

This week, I am at the Good Men Project, where I will be appearing weekly as a columnist.  This one is a dating advice piece, having a little bit of fun with a serious issue. More specifically, why you should not date Donald Trump.

I hope you go over there and read it. I hope you like it. If you don’t, that is fine. I am comfortable with people disagreeing with me. I’m kind of used to it. And I don’t mind if you want to have a debate either. As long as tomorrow, when I get on the bus, you and I are still cool.

https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/4-ways-to-know-if-hes-the-one-presidential-edition-kelly-jrmk/

 

girl-690327_1280

I have not lost a child, but I know grief.

I know what it’s like to have a community come together to offer support and comfort and to celebrate a life taken too soon. I know that this comfort can be the thing that holds you up and keeps you from falling apart when you’re hurting.

We could use a little more community these days. We could make an effort to judge less and love more. We are more connected than ever. Some use those connections to support and build others up. Yet others use the access to cast about blame and condemnation on broken hearts.

If you fall into the category of blame and shame, if you find yourself reacting to a tragedy with judgement instead of compassion, please listen to my story…

I have not lost a child, but I know grief.

My brother’s 16th birthday was followed by a cancer diagnosis. A few months after his 18th birthday he lost his battle with cancer.

I know what it’s like to watch your parents say goodbye to their son for the very last time. To hear pain in their voice so palpable you could reach out and touch it. I know what it’s like to feel sadness turn into agony and take over your whole body and make you feel weak and broken down. I know what it’s like to look through eyes clouded with tears and see your parents letting him go. Watching as they have a part of them ripped away forever. I know what it’s like to feel unspeakable pain in your heart and know that it doesn’t even come close to the pain they are feeling.

I know what the aftermath of losing a child looks like. I know the shock that descends upon you. Making your movements slow and heavy, shutting down a part of your heart. And I know that that numbness is only a thin veil. That at any moment a fissure could slowly creep across that veil until there’s an opening big enough for the pain to come rushing out of you. And I know that you hold tightly to that numbness as long as you can, because you know it’s only temporary. You know you could crack at any moment. At any place.

I know the thoughts that go through a parent’s mind after losing their child. The questions they ask themselves. The what ifs, the hows, the blame they will heap upon themselves every day. Self immolation of blame and shame. I know the rationalizing, the thoughts of wanting to welcome their own death. Of not having to walk one more minute on this earth without their child. The warped reasoning that tells them their other family members will be fine without them. They’ll understand. They still have each other.

I know what it’s like to call your mother from your desk at work, every day at the same time. To make sure she made it through another torturous night of nightmares and flashbacks and anguish. To force her to meet you for lunch so that you could try to distract her from the suffocating pain she feels every second of the day.

I know what it’s like when she doesn’t answer the phone and you panic. And you call again. And again. And you call your sister and your Stepfather to see if they have heard from her. And maybe you leave work to go to her house and knock on the door and the relief that you feel when she answers the door in her bathrobe. And you want to curl up against her soft robe like you did when you were little because you’re scared too. And you’re hurting too. And you know that this time your parents need you more than you need them.

I know of the incredible amount of effort it takes to get out of bed every morning after you lost a child. The struggle to find the will to keep going. The struggle that never really goes away. Because even though years have passed and you’ve found ways to stay busy and even ways to find joy, there are days where you are right back where you were that first year. And you find yourself not wanting to get out of bed. You start having the nightmares and the flashbacks again. You start blaming yourself, again. You replay every doctor’s visit and every decision made and wonder what if… I know that this carousel of grief and nightmares and pain will be spinning for the rest of my parent’s lives. That it will slowly ebb up and down for years to come.

And that some days the pain is just as fresh as it was the day we found out it was cancer…

The day they told us it was Stage Four…

The day they told us their were no other treatment options…

The day we had to call Hospice…

The day we had to say goodbye even though we couldn’t imagine ever saying goodbye…

This is just what I know of losing a child, what my parents have experienced. There are many reasons they are still here 16 years later. Still functioning and thriving. They have me and my sister and six grandchildren. They fought through so much of their pain for us.

But it’s also because of my brother. He was very clear about his wishes, in the days and months before his death. There were quiet moments, in the middle of the night at the hospital, when he would tell me and my sister to take care of my parents. To make sure they would be ok. I would nod, a huge lump in my throat because I didn’t want to believe he’d ever be gone.

There was the time that he told my mom, You and Dad have to stay together. You have to take care of each other. He knew. At the tender age of 18, he knew what was coming and how hard life would be for my parents after he was gone. He knew that they needed each other and that so many parents don’t stay together after losing a child.

He knew that it would take all of us to get through it.

He knew that none of us would get through it alone.

At the age of 18, with tumors eating into his bones, causing unspeakable pain, he was thinking of us and looking out for us. He was a beautiful soul who loved even as he was staring death in the face. His words and wishes are the thing that kept my parents going. He’s the reason they are thriving today.

If we could all find a little of that love, a little of that giving and selflessness… if we could all do just a tiny bit of what my brother did and look out for others. If we could think about what they are going through… maybe we could help instead of hurt. If we could all follow his reasoning… that none of us can get through it alone. That we all need each other… maybe we will build the community I think we all really want.

If we could all look past our own pain and fears for just a moment, maybe we would help each other instead of throwing hurt on top of scorching pain.

I promise that you will feel better if you reach out in love to those are hurting. That your heart will be nourished every time you turn to someone with compassion instead of judgement. I promise you that these parents, and every parent who’s lost a child, is beating themselves up in ways you can’t even imagine. What they need is someone to step in and stop the beating. Not throw more punches.

I promise that feeling love and compassion towards others feels a lot better than feeling anger and judgement. You will be happier for it. You will be doing good instead of spreading hate. Let’s try love… just try it on for a little while and see how it feels.

One day, you may find yourself in pain and needing a loving hand. And you will be glad that you extended yours when someone else desperately needed it.

I promise you that love wins, if you let it. Let’s build a community, not burn down the village.