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*

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/

 

 

photo: Christian Peterson/Getty
photo: Christian Peterson/Getty

Did you feel that? It was subtle, so maybe you missed it. The ground shook a little and the skies cracked open. Swear jars and chore charts toppled off of the shelves of suburban track homes all across the country. There was a collective gasp from young children, their eyes assaulted. Parents everywhere rushed to shield their children’s eyes from the horror, sloshing their Lite Beers in the process. Salsa was spilled while furious Tweeters and FaceBookers took to the social media airways to express their disgust and admonishments. What was responsible for this onslaught of carpet stains and sticky phones?

Boobs.

Nuclear families all across our great land had settled in to watch a game of skull crashing, mind pulverizing, wholesome fun. It was the College National Championship game. What should have been a time to bond as a family and celebrate good old fashioned Americana was sullied. Because boobs.

Ciara sang the National Anthem wearing a lovely rhinestoned dress and cape that would have had Liberachi drooling in his bedazzled goblet. She was pristine in her white sparkliness. Her hair pulled back in an elegant chignon. She stood regally, mid field, and sang the most sacred song of our nation. The one that makes every good American pause, hand over heart, one single tear slowly trickling down their cheek. Except the eyes were dry on this good night. The patriotic moment overshadowed by her classless display of body parts.

“It’s a family event!” the people cried. “Cover up!” “Not appropriate!”

There were Tweets from ESPN reporters, the arbiters of decency and propriety.

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 9.42.24 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 10.27.50 AM

The pearl clutching was in full effect. It was a little too much for a nation still in recovery from the yoga pants episodes of 2015. You know, the one where women and girls were shamed and scolded for wearing yoga pants as… err… pants? The wound is too fresh on our delicate sensibilities to now have to contend with breasts.

It was reckless and selfish of Ciara. Being all… there. With her body. Who the hell does she think she is, trying to draw attention to herself on national tv? Because of her, the fans of the SEC and ACC were distracted from the game. They could only half-heartedly scream profanities at their tv screens when coaches called the wrong plays. Their FaceBook updates -that the public at large relies on for game updates and sideline coaching- were lackluster. Their hearts weren’t in it knowing that their children would never be the same.

Breasts have no place on tv. If you have them, it is your duty, nay your responsibility,  to make sure they are covered at all times. It doesn’t matter if you are 13 and headed off to middle school or 25 and headed to the gym. Breasts have no business being seen. Throw on that turtle neck and get thee to a baked goods sale, ladies!

It’s a slippery slope for our youth. They see breasts when their young brains are still supple and growing. The next thing you know, they’re snorting meth off the stomach of a stripper at the Lucky Penny. Breasts are the gateway drug for debauchery and a lifetime of Hooters Happy Hours eating bad wings and drinking stale beer. No one wants this for the youth of our country. Our kids deserve better.

And please, spare me the arguments. I’ve heard them all: “breasts are natural, they shouldn’t be sexualized” “I just want to feed my baby without being banished to a smelly public restroom” and “other cultures aren’t afraid of breasts.” Pffftt. I scoff a these pleas that are trotted out to try to instill some common sense and civility. In our country we like our breasts hidden from view, modestly hidden from sight. Until we want to see them. And then you can wear that v-neck shirt that’s been gathering dust in the back of your closet. Then you can proudly strap on your Victorias Secret Miracle Bra with pride. But only when we want to see them. It’s up to every single one of you to figure out the difference. Getting it wrong can have dire effects so tread carefully. Public shaming or assumptions about your character will be doled out based on the status of your breasts. It’s best to think of your boobs as weapons. Unless you have an open carry permit, you best keep ’em wrapped up tight.

I tried to stay strong through this whole ordeal. I tried to not get upset at the awful display that came across my tv screen. But then I saw this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 10.34.29 AM

 

Ciara. Women everywhere. Next time you’re getting dressed to sing the National Anthem,  or getting dressed to go to the grocery store or to go anywhere for that matter, think of Coop. What would Coop say? Coop and all the other innocent children out there. Can we spare them this kind of inappropriateness? Coop hasn’t even grown into her Vineyard Vines Shep Shirt yet and already she’s had her poor little mind tainted.

It’s incumbent upon all of us, those of the ever present breasts, to consider the ramifications of the clothes we wear. To speculate upon the effects our OOTD may have on the people who cross our paths. And, most importantly, to think of the legacy we are leaving the children.

 

 

 

 

 

image: Shutterstock
image: Shutterstock

There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.

It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.

It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.

So maybe they don’t know. Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s ages actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth. That we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.

So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing. Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will  allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.

We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.

We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.

It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign.

It is the boss who says or does something inappropriate. It is the customer who holds our tip out of reach until we lean over to hug him. It’s the male friend who has had too much to drink and tries to corner us for a “friends with benefits” moment even though we’ve made it clear we’re not interested. It’s the guy who gets angry if we turn him down for a date. Or a dance. Or a drink.

We see it happen to our friends. We see it happen in so many scenarios and instances that it becomes the norm. And we really don’t think anything of it. Until that one time that came close to being a dangerous situation. Until we hear that the “friend” who cornered us was accused of rape a day later. Until our boss makes good on his promise to kiss us on New Years Eve when he catches us alone in the kitchen. Those times stick out. They’re the ones we may tell your friends, our boyfriends, our husbands about.

But all the other times? All the times we felt uneasy or nervous but nothing more happened? Those times we just go about our business and don’t think twice about.

It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.

It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.

It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.

It’s feeling shame and regret the we didn’t call that guy out, the one who seemed intimidating but in hindsight was probably harmless. Probably.

It’s taking our phone out, finger poised over the “Call” button when we’re walking alone at night.

It’s positioning our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon when walking to our car.

It’s lying and saying we have a boyfriend just so a guy would take “No” for an answer.

It’s being at a crowded bar/concert/insert any crowded event, and having to turn around to look for the jerk who just grabbed our ass.

It’s knowing that even if we spot him, we might not say anything.

It’s walking through the parking lot of a big box store and politely saying Hello when a guy passing us says Hi. It’s pretending not to hear as he berates us for not stopping to talk further. What? You too good to talk to me? You got a problem? Pffft… bitch.

It’s not telling our friends or our parents or our husbands because it’s just a matter of fact, a part of our lives.

It’s the memory that haunts us of that time we were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s the stories our friends tell us through heartbreaking tears of that time they were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.

It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this. They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.

Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it to ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.

The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?

So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on regular basis.

Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.

It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the every day sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.

Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.

We de-escalate.

We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to? That guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.

Guys, this is what it means to be a woman. We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex. That boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.

So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.

The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.

The next time you read about or hear a woman call out sexist language, don’t belittle her for doing so. Listen.

The next time your girlfriend tells you that the way a guy talked to her made her feel uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off. Listen.

Listen because your reality is not the same as hers.

Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.

Listen because the reality is that she or someone she knows personally has at some point been abused, assaulted, or raped. And she knows that it’s always a danger of happening to her.

Listen because even a simple comment from a strange man can send ripples of fear through her.

Listen because she may be trying to make her experience not be the experience of her daughters.

Listen because nothing bad can ever come from listening.

Just. Listen.