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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.

 

 

no-respect

Right now everyone’s talking about beliefs. Beliefs that prompted the infamous Religious Freedom Act in Indiana last year, and last week’s Georgia’s Religious Freedom Bill and most recently North Carolina’s wide reaching and shocking HB 2, along with other similar initiatives that are peppering the country. Laws and bills aimed at limiting or taking away rights.

It’s supposedly all about beliefs. A conversation that has echoes of the not too distant past. Beliefs that are being recycled but not repurposed. A hand me down with historical context.

Beliefs are being held up and declared all while clutched in sweaty, angry fists. Beliefs are being trotted out like a prize pig at a State Fair.

So much talk of beliefs. And we all know that talk is the cheapest currency.

All of this talk is treading on some sacred ground. Beliefs (especially the religious kind) are for most of us a taboo subject. We don’t discuss them, we don’t engage in debate about them. Just try to bring it up on FaceBook and watch the insults fly and the defriending begin. No, we prefer to leave others to their beliefs and quietly go about living our lives guided by our own.

Most of us, that is.

Others? Well, they like to scream their beliefs in the faces of those who dare stand up to bigotry. Spittle forming in their taut mouth as they spout their reasons for the taking away of rights from others.

So what’s a respectful equality loving person to do when we see beliefs being molded into a vehicle for injustice and discrimination? What do we do when we see someone using their beliefs to leave people out, to treat them differently? When it’s affecting people’s rights to rent an apartment or a home? People’s rights to access to anything and everything that most of us take for granted. People’s rights to patronize a business? Sound familiar?

Do we sit quietly out of politeness and deference to said beliefs?

I have been struggling with this. I don’t want to step on anyone’s faith or beliefs. It’s not my way. But this conversation needs to happen and it doesn’t have to turn into debates over beliefs.

I don’t care about your beliefs.

I’m not here to trample your beliefs. I’m not here to comment on anyone’s beliefs.

I don’t feel like your beliefs are any of my business.

I don’t feel the need to say that I respect your beliefs.

It’s not my place to evaluate or determine whether your beliefs are worthy of respect.

Because I don’t care about your beliefs.

I care about your actions.

I care about how you treat the people you come in contact with every day.

I care about how you treat people you may not agree with.

Your beliefs? Who am I to judge them? They are for you to wrestle with and to determine.

If you are my neighbor, my friend, my boss, my congressman? I don’t care if you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist. Your beliefs are not my business nor my concern.

Beliefs are something that may guide you to live life with integrity and compassion. Or beliefs can be something you can carry around in your back pocket and pull out at any moment to justify actions. The difference boils down to character.

I’m interested in the fairness and compassion and empathy you do or do not express to your brothers and sisters of all faiths, all sexes, all races, all sexual orientations.

If you have to justify your behavior with your beliefs? That I can’t respect. Your beliefs are inconsequential. Your actions are the mark of your character. Making excuses or justification is just a lazy way to explain bad behavior. To pat yourself on the back as you step on the backs of others. If that’s your standard operating procedure, then I don’t respect you.

If you think you are better than others because of your beliefs? Then I can’t respect you. If you judge the lifestyle of other good people just trying to make it in this harsh world? Then I can’t respect you. If you cloak your compassion in judgmental pity? Then I can’t respect you. If you only lend a helping hand to others under the condition that they have to listen to your beliefs and subscribe to them? Then I can’t respect you.

If you are using beliefs to justify inequality? Then maybe you should check your beliefs. Because this is an old song and most of us are tired of hearing the tune. There was a time when beliefs were used as justification for unequal and in-humane and degrading treatment of black people in our country. Looking back I think we can all agree that it was a perversion of the beliefs that were held up as testimony. I think we can all agree that the beliefs that were co-opted and intertwined with vitriol were being abused and used as a cover for fear and hate.

Using beliefs to take away rights? Using beliefs to make a group of people less than? That’s ideology cloaked in fear and hate’s clothing. And it has the faint smell of disingenuousness. Don’t hide behind the safe and untouchable veil of your beliefs. Own your actions. Don’t pass the buck or the blame on to something you claim you hold sacred.

Here’s a little of what I believe.

I believe that equality is equality is equality.

No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.

I believe that compassion and caring and empathy for people who are not like you is one of the most important elements of our character.

I believe that actions speak louder than beliefs.

Equality.

It’s really not that complicated.

I believe the loving people in this world far outnumber the fearful and hateful people.

I think most of us want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our brothers and sisters who are just trying to make it in this harsh world.

I do not buy into the politicization of beliefs. The co-opting and the twisting of ideals. The cult of fear and judgement.

If you look upon everyone who is different from you with contempt and fear and condemnation? Then you are going to be spending a lot more time in a dark place my friend. Because our world is becoming smaller. We are connected and exposed in ways never before possible. Thanks to our digital age, we hear from and see and meet people from all over.

Along with this connectedness comes lots of new. New ideas, new lifestyles, new perspectives, new experiences. There’s no turning back from the world we now inhabit, one that is becoming increasingly… one. So maybe now is a good time to open our minds and open our hearts. To accept all the differences that come with living amongst other people.

Maybe now is a good time to embrace the differences and learn to adapt to our changing world. Maybe now is a good time to operate with an open mind. To realize that your way may not always be the best way. That change is not always bad.

Maybe now is the time to stop using your beliefs as a shield against all that you fear. Maybe now is the time to realize that your beliefs belong to you. No one can take them from you. The lifestyle of others does not impact or change your beliefs. If someone else’s way of living affects your beliefs? Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.

Maybe you will find that your beliefs shouldn’t cause you to mistreat or discriminate.

Maybe you will come to the conclusion that no good ever comes from taking away rights.

Maybe you’ll see that it’s not even about your beliefs.

It’s about your actions.

Maybe you’ll realize that it’s time to leave beliefs out of the equation.

Maybe we’ll all be better off for it.

 

** Author’s Note: This is a post I wrote last year in response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law. I am re-posting it today given the recent legislative actions in Georgia and North Carolina. If you would like to make your voice heard, use the hashtag #WeAreNotThis on Twitter and Facebook (hashtags and social media have proven very effective in raising awareness and enacting change.) If you are still concerned about Transgender people using the same restroom as you, please read these articles and learn more about what the NC law entails and what it is to be transgender. 

http://www.upworthy.com/heres-what-itll-look-like-if-trans-people-arent-allowed-to-use-the-right-bathroom?c=ufb7

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-n-passes-anti-lgbt-bill-country-article-1.2576194?cid=bitly

crying-lover-boy-wallpaper-images-photo

“Boy… You’re going to carry that weight,

Carry that weight a long time…”

-The Beatles, Carry That Weight

You realize a few things when you bring a baby boy into the world. Your mind swirls with emotion and awe and fear and joy. You start to dream immediately of the kind of life your son will have.

And somewhere in the midst of the love and elation and the dreams there are a few wishes. Please let him be healthy. Please let him have a happy life. Please let me be a good parent. Please let him always feel safe and loved. And also… please let him be tall and strong and bold and athletic. You don’t really say any of this out loud. In fact the last part is said quickly in your head as you rush to tick off the superficial qualities that you only care about because society cares. Because possessing these qualities will make his life a little easier… actually, a lot easier. It will afford him more respect and privilege. It will give him a leg up and an advantage on the playing field of life.

Yes, many of these traits were at one time vital to survival. They used to be desirable in searching for a mate who could provide food and protect the family in a world of man against beast. But now? They are just superficial.

Society still cares. Society still deems these as qualities that all boys and men should strive for. Society still rewards height with higher pay and more leadership positions. Society and the media still perpetuates the idea of men settling deputes with violence. Society still gives a side eye to the man who takes a different path than the traditional “Honey, I’m home” role.

Our world has evolved. But we as a whole are still stuck in Neanderthal times.

I think it’s time for us to grow up.

I think it’s time to talk about boys and men and feminism.

Because boys are a victim of the same system (culture, mindset, tradition) that denies rights to women and the LGBT community, and tries to strip away their value and their worth. Because underneath the blatant misogyny in this system?

The boys and men are losing out.

They are being mislead and mistreated.

They are being told that they have to be tough. That they have to be big and tall and strong. They are told that their job in life is to have a job. They are being taught that their role in parenting is secondary.

They are being boxed in. Into a standard, a stereo type. They are being taught to stuff down feelings and to squash emotion. Unless it’s anger. They are being told that to fight is to prove your manliness. To dominate, to be aggressive, to be tough is the epitome of masculinity.

And it’s all bullshit.

It serves no one.

Not the shy little boy who doesn’t want to fight.

Not the stay at home dad who wants to raise his children and still be respected by his friends and his community.

Not the women or men who fall in love with and share a life with and raise children with these men.

We don’t talk about it much. And it’s understandable. Men make more money than women. They are afforded certain privileges, especially and primarily if they are white straight men. They are almost always the ones in positions of power. But that doesn’t minimize or negate the impact that our culture and society – and in fact most of the whole damn world – has on them.

It shapes their concept of who they should be. It puts undue and unnecessary pressure on them. They are being taught to conform and to look and act and feel a certain hyper masculine way. But rarely do we think about how the system affects men. And that is exactly why I think it needs to be said:

Feminism is for boys too.

Beyond #HeForShe, beyond the battle cry for men to join the movement. Feminism is for boys and men too. To benefit them. To lift the burden they carry from the moment they are photographed in their first “Lil Slugger” outfit.

What if we took these expectations off of boys and just let them grow and evolve organically. No preconceived ideas about who they should be or how they should play or how they should feel. What if we decided that whatever lies within them will lead them exactly where they are supposed to be one day. What if we didn’t have to worry about society bumping up against them violently for not adhering to the plan? Antagonizing them with jeers of being left out or left behind or left hooked?

What if… what if we took the gender ideals – from what colors boys are allowed to like to what types of activities they are expected to engage in – and threw them out with with the grunts and the knuckle dragging.

What if…

What if we stopped expecting or encouraging or allowing boys to settle disputes with violence?

What if we stopped belittling or laughing at tears or emotions when they ripple across a boy’s face.

What if we valued sensitivity in a boy as much as we value a good arm or fast feet?

What if we allowed and encouraged men to talk about and deal with and get help for depression, anxiety, PTSD and any and all emotional and psychological ailments without shaming them or making them feel less than masculine?

What if we took the rape and sexual assault of boys and girls more seriously? What if we took the shame out of it for all victims?

What if we (in the U.S.) gave men paid paternity leave and put changing tables in men’s  rooms and treated dads as vital and crucial in their role of parenting as we do moms. What if being a Stay At Home Dad was just another job?

What if we accepted that our boys might not like sports. That they might like to dance or draw or act or write or cook. What if we took the pressure to fit into one lonely little athletic box -that can’t possibly hold all the boys anyways- off their shoulders?

What if it didn’t matter how tall a man was? That his height was as inconsequential as a woman’s thigh gap or lack thereof.

What if we took pressure off of men to be the sole and/or primary breadwinners in a family? What if we accepted and respected that there is no shame in their wife or significant other making more money?

What if we eliminated the false notion that boys are inherently more violent. What if we realized that nurture (by way of a society that expects it of them) has led us to this false belief?

What if we stopped expecting boys and men to dominate women, to rack up the conquests? What if we allowed and encouraged men to focus on the romance and the emotional connection and appreciate true intimacy?

What if we let boys be whoever the hell they are and didn’t require anything of them other than to grow and learn and to be a good person? What if we did this for all kids?

What if we stopped assuming that men are not able to control their lustful urges and must be protected by covering the female body in school or in the science lab or on the street?

What if we stopped reducing men to bumbling idiots with no self control?

What if we gave boys and men a little more credit?

What if while fighting the good fight for women’s equality and LGBT equality we also acknowledged and focused on how the system affects the mentality of a young boy and consequently shapes the mind of the man? What if we recognized that these very issues that boys deal with as they grow into men are intertwined with the very things that Feminists are trying to achieve?

What if we were all in it together and fought the system together?

What if one thing lead to helping the other. The vicious cycle of misogyny and hyper masculinity ground to a halt by the refusal of men and women to participate in the perpetuation of an ancient myth for one second longer?

What if we eliminated this pressure and instead created a place where boys could express emotion. Could cry. Could deal with anger or fear or sadness without embarrassment. And could grow and mature in a world where they could be their authentic self. What if this trickled down to less violence in our world?

What if it is that simple?

What if inclusivity is truly all encompassing? Women, Men, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders… all doing it together to just be who we are. Without expectations and parameters and shame and judgement.

What if changing our mindset and calling out pressure and expectations and bullshit for everyone was the thing that finally took down the system.

Maybe there’d be a little less anger in this world. A little less confusion. A little less hate. Maybe there’d be a little more understanding. A little more acceptance.

Maybe boys need to be a part of the feminist cause too.

Tell me what you think. Do you think that changing our cultural mindset about boys and men will have an affect on other feminist causes? Do you think that men are tired of the pressure they feel to fit into these roles at a young age? Or do you think this is a non-issue? 

 

no-respect

Right now everyone’s talking about beliefs. Beliefs that prompted the infamous Religious Freedom Act in Indiana last year, and last week’s Georgia’s Religious Freedom Bill and most recently North Carolina’s wide reaching and shocking HB 2, along with other similar initiatives that are peppering the country. Laws and bills aimed at limiting or taking away rights.

It’s supposedly all about beliefs. A conversation that has echoes of the not too distant path. Beliefs that are being recycled but not repurposed. A hand me down with historical context.

Beliefs are being held up and declared all while clutched in sweaty, angry fists. Beliefs are being trotted out like a prize pig at a State Fair.

So much talk of beliefs. And we all know that talk is the cheapest currency.

All of this talk is treading on some sacred ground. Beliefs (especially the religious kind) are for most of us a taboo subject. We don’t discuss them, we don’t engage in debate about them. Just try to bring it up on FaceBook and watch the insults fly and the defriending begin. No, we prefer to leave others to their beliefs and quietly go about living our lives guided by our own.

Most of us, that is.

Others? Well, they like to scream their beliefs in the faces of those who dare stand up to bigotry. Spittle forming in their taut mouth as they spout their reasons for the taking away of rights from others.

So what’s a respectful equality loving person to do when we see beliefs being molded into a vehicle for injustice and discrimination? What do we do when we see someone using their beliefs to leave people out, to treat them differently? When it’s affecting people’s rights to rent an apartment or a home? People’s rights to access to anything and everything that most of us take for granted. People’s rights to patronize a business? Sound familiar?

Do we sit quietly out of politeness and deference to said beliefs?

I have been struggling with this. I don’t want to step on anyone’s faith or beliefs. It’s not my way, it’s not my aim. But this conversation needs to happen and it doesn’t have to turn into debates over beliefs.

I don’t care about your beliefs.

I’m not here to trample your beliefs. I’m not here to comment on anyone’s beliefs.

I don’t feel like your beliefs are any of my business.

I don’t feel the need to say that I respect your beliefs.

It’s not my place to evaluate or determine whether your beliefs are worthy of respect.

Because I don’t care about your beliefs.

I care about your actions.

I care about how you treat the people you come in contact with every day.

I care about how you treat people you may not agree with.

Your beliefs? Who am I to judge them? They are for you to wrestle with and to determine.

If you are my neighbor, my friend, my boss, my congressman? I don’t care if you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist. Your beliefs are not my business nor my concern.

Beliefs are something that may guide you to live life with integrity and compassion. Or beliefs can be something you can carry around in your back pocket and pull out at any moment to justify actions. The difference boils down to character.

I’m interested in the fairness and compassion and empathy you do or do not express to your brothers and sisters of all faiths, all sexes, all races, all sexual orientations.

If you have to justify your behavior with your beliefs? That I can’t respect. Your beliefs are inconsequential. Your actions are the mark of your character. Making excuses or justification is just a lazy way to explain bad behavior. To pat yourself on the back as you step on the backs of others. If that’s your standard operating procedure, then I don’t respect you.

If you think you are better than others because of your beliefs? Then I can’t respect you. If you judge the lifestyle of other good people just trying to make it in this harsh world? Then I can’t respect you. If you cloak your compassion in judgmental pity? Then I can’t respect you. If you only lend a helping hand to others under the condition that they have to listen to your beliefs and subscribe to them? Then I can’t respect you.

If you are using beliefs to justify inequality? Then maybe you should check your beliefs. Because this is an old song and most of us are tired of hearing the tune. There was a time when beliefs were used as justification for unequal and in-humane and degrading treatment of black people in our country. Looking back I think we can all agree that it was a perversion of the beliefs that were held up as testimony. I think we can all agree that the beliefs that were co-opted and intertwined with vitriol were being abused and used as a cover for fear and hate.

Using beliefs to take away rights? Using beliefs to make a group of people less than? That’s ideology cloaked in fear and hate’s clothing. And it has the faint smell of disingenuousness. Don’t hide behind the safe and untouchable veil of your beliefs. Own your actions. Don’t pass the buck or the blame on to something you claim you hold sacred.

Here’s a little of what I believe.

I believe that equality is equality is equality.

No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.

I believe that compassion and caring and empathy for people who are not like you is one of the most important elements of our character.

I believe that actions speak louder than beliefs.

Equality.

It’s really not that complicated.

I believe the loving people in this world far outnumber the fearful and hateful people.

I think most of us want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our brothers and sisters who are just trying to make it in this harsh world.

I do not buy into the politicization of beliefs. The co-opting and the twisting of ideals. The cult of fear and judgement.

If you look upon everyone who is different from you with contempt and fear and condemnation? Then you are going to be spending a lot more time in a dark place my friend. Because our world is becoming smaller. We are connected and exposed in ways never before possible. Thanks to our digital age, we hear from and see and meet people from all over.

Along with this connectedness comes lots of new. New ideas, new lifestyles, new perspectives, new experiences. There’s no turning back from the world we now inhabit, one that is becoming increasingly… one. So maybe now is a good time to open our minds and open our hearts. To accept all the differences that come with living amongst other people.

Maybe now is a good time to embrace the differences and learn to adapt to our changing world. Maybe now is a good time to operate with an open mind. To realize that your way may not always be the best way. That change is not always bad.

Maybe now is the time to stop using your beliefs as a shield against all that you fear. Maybe now is the time to realize that your beliefs belong to you. No one can take them from you. The lifestyle of others does not impact or change your beliefs. If someone else’s way of living affects your beliefs? Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.

Maybe you will find that your beliefs shouldn’t cause you to mistreat or discriminate.

Maybe you will come to the conclusion that no good ever comes from taking away rights.

Maybe you’ll see that it’s not even about your beliefs.

It’s about your actions.

Maybe you’ll realize that it’s time to leave beliefs out of the equation.

Maybe we’ll all be better off for it.

 

I can't believe...

“Done, done, on to the next one

Done I’m done and I’m on to the next one”

-Foo Fighers, All My Life

Oh, Time Mag. You’re like, literally, so smart. I read your annual word banishment poll yesterday and I can’t even…

I love your witty and oh so patronizing list you publish every year. You’re so hip and cutting edge. I wait with bated breath every year to hear what the bastion of cool-ness has to say about words that no respectable Chick Fil A manager would ever utter again. Like, ever.

‘Cept this year you kinda ‘effed up. This year you (spoiler alert) added FEMINIST to the list.

And every intelligent equality-loving non-hater was like “Whaaat???”

I mean, for seriously, WTF Time Magazine.

Lemme clue you in. Equality. Bam. ‘Nuff said.

Imma quote you here “Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.” Aw, you’re using snarkiness. I do love me some snark. Except when it’s used as a tool for ignorant speak.

Quick history lesson: Susan B. Anthony was one bossy bitch. She was bad-ass. She didn’t shrink away from thoughts and ideas and labels that may have been considered unsavory by those who willingly trudged through the murk of ignorance and hate. She and countless other women fought for basic equal rights for women. Rights that we all apparently take for granted every time we eschew the Feminism label. Kind of important rights. Like the right to vote. The right for women to own land. The right to not be raped by their husbands. We’re talking 94 years ago this went down. Except for marital rape laws. Marital rape wasn’t considered a crime in all 50 states until 1993.

In the history of our country, we’re still in the adolescent years of women’s rights. Feminism isn’t fully grown yet. Feminism still has a lot of maturing to do. We still need equal pay. We still need to do something about the fact that women are objects for some men to use and abuse and objectify and discard and demean.

When will feminism be fully grown and not a “thing” anymore? When one in four college women aren’t raped or sexually assaulted. When 3 women don’t die each day at the vicious hands of domestic violence. When girls aren’t shamed for wearing leggings to school. When women in the gaming world don’t have to endure death threats and threats of rape. When women can go online without fear of being stalked and harassed to the point of having to flee their homes and the on-line world for safety. When nude photos of women aren’t gleefully shared and spread around like a copulating circle jerk.

When? When women around the world are no longer subjected to genital mutilation. When women aren’t victims of “honor killings.” When women don’t have to brandish baseball bats to go after abusers because police shrug off their reports of attacks. When girls aren’t punished or killed for trying to get an education.

When… when… when I can look at my daughters and know that they will have the same opportunities and rights and safe passage that my son will have. When I can tell my children that women and children around the world are treated as humans. When boys and men don’t have to subscribe to some ridiculous and oppressive notion of being “tough” and non-emotive and hyper-masculine.

So you see, Time Mag. We’ve got a long way to go. You may be annoyed that the Beyonce’s of the world are declaring their Feminist position. Maybe you don’t like all the Feminist women out there doing all the talking and tweeting and writing and stuff. I get it. Skeptical Baby memes are a lot more fun. They make you LOL. They don’t make you really think. ‘Cause, you know, all this Feminism stuff just makes you think about icky stuff instead of totes adorbs cat videos on YouTube.

But when you throw Feminist in this list along with trendy slang like bae and basic and obvi and YOLO you’re really showing your ass. Whether it’s a shameless attempt to garner page views or an authentic exasperation with all of the people out there who are claiming to support equality, it’s kinda pathetic.

Deep down, I think you know this. Deep down, you know that there’s still lots of work to do. Having fun with the “label” just isn’t cool, m’kay? That label has been Limbaughed and spun into a twisted meaning that was constructed to perpetuate over hyped and trumped up stereotypes.

feminism_quote_2

So hear this, and pay close attention. Every time you want to demean the word. Every time you suggest it’s non-relevance. Every time you play into this mindset you are reading from a script you didn’t even write. You are joining a chorus of ignorance and misogynistic oppression. Your inclusion of this word tells me that you have willfully and blindly gone the way of the sheep and bought into the misinformation and propaganda that has been slowly oozing it’s way through our culture over the last few decades. Like a bad smell, this has been wafting around enough that you don’t even notice it anymore or realize it’s noxious nature.

Feminism isn’t some foul thing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

That would be the bitter taste of lies and obfuscation.

Feminism is the basic fight for equal rights for women.

Equal pay for equal work.

The right to vote.

The right to join the military and not be raped.

The right to not have your body exposed and recorded by some creep with a cell phone.

The right to go to college and not be sexually assaulted.

Basic human rights of decency.

Sorry, Time Mag. But you’ve just jumped the shark. You’ve taken a cheap shot. You’ve played a bad hand. You’ve just shown your ass.

#sorrynotsorry

 bodqhc2ciaawthw_19o506m-19o506t

“Where you born to resist, or be abused?

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?”

-Foo Fighters, Best of You

Saturday was a fun day. We spent the evening at friend’s house. The kids laughing and playing in the pool while we enjoyed good food, great conversation and more than a few drinks. We all came pouring in the door full of energy and laughter. We shuffled the kids upstairs to get ready for bed. I paused for a minute to soak up the moment. My family. All of us smiling, happy. I was still reflecting on the fun evening whenI grabbed my phone. I popped on to Twitter for a quick peek to see if there was anything of interest happening.

#YesAllWomen. That’s what was happening.

I stopped my distracted cleaning that I had been doing while reading tweets. I had to sit. It was everywhere. Women tweeting. Tweeting in response to the shooting in Santa Barbara. Tweeting about their experiences.

All the things that have been said and done or implied that reminded them that they are less.

Less important.

Less valued.

Less worthy.

Less powerful.

I was taken aback. I felt overwhelmed. I felt tears burn at the edges of my eyes. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt too connected to what these women were saying. I could relate. I knew what they meant. I had experienced so much of what they were discussing. The every day misogyny. It’s not the stuff of news stories or even blog posts. Usually. It’s the stuff that I have brushed off my whole life. The things that I have learned to expect and to accept. And I don’t know if I ever truly realized it until reading these tweets.

I am no stranger to women’s issues, to feminist causes. I have written about it many times on this blog.

I’ve written about rape, the need for Feminism, on-line misogyny, and sometimes just your basic rant against Feminist deniers.

I participate in a wonderful and enlightening #FeministFriday discussion every Friday with some smart and engaged blogger friends. I obviously am very passionate about these topics. But it did not occur to me that I had spent most of my life minimizing and diluting the very thing I was writing so vehemently about.

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I think it went like this:

  • In Kindergarten a boy pulled my pants down. It was nap time aka time for the teachers to watch their soaps. I had scooted away from him and he got mad and grabbed ahold of my pants as I army-crawled to a different spot. I pulled my pants up quickly. The teachers were engrossed in their show. No one saw. Out of embarrassment I said nothing.
  • Boys at school would occasionally grab and grope me in the hallway. I said nothing. It happened to my friends too. We would just roll our eyes and shrug our shoulders. If the offending boy hadn’t darted off we would maybe offer a quick punch to send him a message. But we didn’t make a big deal out of it. It was just what happened. It was normal.
  • During my teen years, it came from adults. Strangers. And I was still a kid. A teenage girl, whether she has breasts or looks mature, is still just a kid. These men had no problem flirting with a cashier who was 20 years younger than them. These men saw nothing wrong with saying lewd things passing me in a parking lot. These men would make obscene gestures at a stoplight. These men thought that a young girl was an appropriate outlet for their sick and twisted and perverted impulses. But I brushed these creepy encounters off. It was normal.
  • On the first day of college we had a meeting in the dorm. A meeting about campus safety. About how to not get raped. Don’t walk on campus alone at night. Don’t drink too much at a party. Don’t go back to a guy’s room. Don’t lead a guy on. But never, not once, did we hear: Don’t rape. They definitely said “No means no.” But this phrase was such a sing-songy vague campaign, in the vein of “Just Say No To Drugs” as far as effectiveness. Repeated so oft it becomes white noise. What would have been impactful was a simple rule book. With one rule. Don’t rape. Instead we all heard “Don’t get raped.” We got the message. The onus was on us to not get raped. We didn’t flinch or question. We’d heard all of it before. It was normal.

I left college unscathed by the horror that too many girls face. I realize, only now, just how lucky I was to have breezed through four years without being violated.

Still, this shit happened:

  • I couldn’t wash my car for an entire summer in my parent’s driveway because the construction workers building the house next door would make disgusting comments.
  • I got my ass grabbed too many times to count by my boss at the restaurant where I worked.
  • I had to fend off a kiss by my boss with a punch in the stomach.
  • I worried when my boss’s started drinking before the end of the shift if this time they would try to take it further than an ass-grab or a kiss.
  • I had to politely, with a smile, derail come-ons by drunk older men at the bar where I worked.
  • I learned to expect that I would get groped at some point at every single concert I went to, at every crowded bar I frequented. Almost every time I would turn around to try to confront the offender, only to see a crowd entangled, trying to edge closer to the stage and/or bar.

And even now, as a grown woman, this shit STILL happens:

  • I stopped by the house we were building to check on something. I got in my car to leave and turned to look at the house from the road, only to see one of the construction workers making very large, dramatic, jerk-off motions in the window. Directed at me. I was stunned and he stopped as soon as he saw me looking. I drove away considering my options. I could call the builder and tell them. But what if they fired him? What if he has four kids and is struggling to put food on the table? Yes, he’s a misogynistic asshole, but I couldn’t bear the thought of someone being out of work because of me. So I said nothing.
  • Condescension. Too many times to count. The baseball coach who said “And try not to be late next time” when I inquired about an upcoming game. I bit my tongue. I wasted my opportunity to school him in how to speak to a woman, to a person. I didn’t take a moment to let him know that the only reason we were late to practice was because my daughter’s piano lesson ended at the same time that baseball practice started and since my husband travels during the week that I have to do it all and be all places at all times and get all of my kids where they need to be and that I have been all over town in a frantic rush just trying to make it all work. All so he can stand there and smack his obnoxious gum and talk to me like I’m his child. And I knew, beyond any doubt, that if it had been my husband who had been standing there instead of me that he would never have said it. Because no one has EVER talked to my husband that way. But I said nothing. Because my kids were standing right there. Because my son still had a whole season of playing on this dickwad’s team and I didn’t want him to ride the bench because of me. So I said nothing.
  • My husband and I tried to have a drink a our neighborhood martini bar. We sat and watched middle aged men ogle the young waitresses. Girls young enough to be their daughters. The two waitresses stood off to the side, their arms awkwardly hanging in front of their bodies, trying to cover themselves from the creeptitude. My husband I sat and watched, disgusted, as the waitresses timidly walked to the tables where these men sat on their fat asses, leering with such entitled lust and righteousness. I wanted to say something. I wanted to scream at these men to keep their metaphorical dicks in their pants. I wanted to get right in their foul smelling faces and demand to know what gave them the right to make a young girl feel that way. I wanted to walk up to the owner of the bar who was walking around chatting it up with patrons, and knee him in the gut and then explain to him how to treat his employees and how to demand his customers treat them. I wanted to take these girls home with me and wrap a comforting blanket around them and feed them some homemade soup. I wanted to tell them that no one would ever look at them that way again. But I would be lying. And I didn’t do any of that. My husband and I sucked down our sickeningly sweet martinis and paid the bill and left, vowing to never give that bar another dime. I said nothing. Even though I really wanted to.

Enough of that shit.

I’m tired of saying nothing. I’m tired of minimizing the everyday bullshit that happens to every girl and every woman everywhere. To me. To my friends. To those waitresses. I spent my life shrugging it off. I laughed it off. And even when I wasn’t shrugging or laughing, even when I was angry, I said nothing. But then I started this blog. And I started saying something. And then I met some pretty awesome bloggers who care about the same things. And together we started saying something. And then I read these tweets and I saw women, all of them saying something.

And I’m going to keep saying something.

I won’t shut up.

I will say something when I see politicians minimizing rape with qualifications.

I will say something when girls are video taped being raped.

I will say something as long as female genital mutilation continues.

I will say something as long as women are subjugated and demeaned and dismissed.

I will keep saying something.

You won’t be able to shut me up.

I’m hoping you won’t try.

I’m hoping you’ll say something too.

 

What are your thoughts on #YesAllWomen? What kinds of everyday misogyny have you experienced? Do you think a social media movement like #YesAllWomen is helpful/ enlightening/ productive? Talk to me…