In the News

Me Too

It isn’t just the men in positions of power.

Unless you take into consideration that all men hold a position of power.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I hadn’t thought much about it in years because there was no point in thinking about it. But the country is talking about this sort of thing and I can’t not think about it.

Me too.

I had a boss who once told me over email that I would get a raise if I came to work naked. I didn’t keep the email and when I quit that job I was very explicit in my exit interview that the reasons were fiscally motivated. I didn’t include that incident, which was only one of many comments, because I wanted to come off as level-headed and not a reactionary little girl. Even in telling this story I am carefully to avoid any hint of exaggeration, any description that could be described as embellished.

I had another boss who was accused of sexually harassing a coworker. She said he called her into his office alone and asked her to take off her shirt. He denied it, of course, and there was no “proof” other than the accusation. He pulled out the excuses I’ve come to recognize as tired diversions: that she wasn’t attractive, she didn’t have much filling out her bra, she wasn’t a good worker. I didn’t believe her. This is one of my biggest regrets in my life. I should have. I see now that what she said happened absolutely did happen. I wish I could go back in time and believe her. It’s just that I often wonder, if I could do that, what could I have done about it?

The head of HR for that same company was fired later that year for asking interviewees inappropriate questions of a sexual nature.

But, you have to understand, it’s not just men in power.

I started working at Safeco Field was I was 19. I’d always looked young for my age, and was asked at least once a game how old I was, most often by men. I’d tell them and would often get the reply, “You don’t even look old enough to drive!” Sometimes this was asked out of anger, like when I was responsible for carding people in the Hit It Here Café (“You can’t even drink, how can you tell me I can’t!”). Sometimes it was when I wouldn’t let them bring prohibited items into the game (“You mean a 19-year-old girl has the final say on what I can bring into the game?”). Sometimes it was to see if I’d have them arrested for what they wanted to say or do afterwards.

There were a lot of opportunities for men to say things to me. I encountered thousands of them every game. The worst of it happened when the games were over. We would stand at the bottom of the stairs and look for people leaving with their unfinished beer. We watched thousands of people leave every game, many of them good and liquored up, but alcohol consumption is never an excuse for bad behavior.

All through the egress, I’d have men touch my arms, pat me on the back, and oh so subtly (you know, not at all subtly) brush up against me, their hands “accidentally” sliding past my chest, or their pelvis gliding along my body.

They’d say all sorts of things to me. “Can I take you home with me?” was probably the most popular. But I’d get questions on what I was doing after the game. I’d be asked if I was there was keep them in line, because they were naughty boys. I’d be asked if I was in a sorority at school and if I liked to party.

(At one point I started telling people I was dating a linebacker on the UW football team. That worked until fall when it was suggested that I must be lonely since he was occupied with football.)

There was the group of 20-something guys who discussed as they stood feet away from me in line whether they would have sex with me and what dirty things they thought I’d do. There was the man who sold Grand Salami magazines outside Home Plate Gate who salivated over me when I straightened my hair one day. He wasn’t actually jerking off in front of me, but he may as well have been for the looks and words he gave me that day.

I wasn’t silent about what was happening. I talked about it all the time. I was told all the time that there was nothing that could be done about it. I’d just have to deal with it.

Most of my coworkers then were a little older, mostly college age guys. I often wonder what they thought about everything they saw happening to me. Occasionally one of them would step in and tell someone to back off when they got a little too handsy or inappropriate, but mostly they joked that I needed to be put in a cage for my own protection against the crowds.

It was something I had to put up with if I wanted to work at Safeco Field. And I really wanted to work there because it was a cool job. It was fun to tell people I worked there. It was fun to see a little bit behind the curtain. It was incredibly fun to be part of the 2001 season.

I had to put up with the constant, unrelenting harassment if I wanted to work there. I worked for a company that was contracted by the Mariners to do security, mainly bag checking at the entrance gates. We had to be nice to every asshole who walked through the gates, no matter what. So I learned to laugh off the inappropriate comments, and I learned to smile and thank men for their comments on my hair and my body and their inquiries into my personal life.

One time I didn’t. One time I snapped and essentially told a man to fuck off (not in those words, but that was the gist). He complained to the Mariners about me and I was reprimanded for the way I treated a fan. Because you can’t expect middle age men to behave appropriately. The burden is on a teenager to accept-with a smile-whatever abuse that man chooses to bestow upon her.

I learned to deal with it. I decided to be flattered by the attention, as many men told me I should be. I learned to embrace the utter disregard of myself as a person and accept that I was a visual object. I behaved in ways that make me cringe with horrified embarrassment when I think back on them now. I imagine having conversations about what it was like for me with my male coworkers and having them tell me, “Well, you acted this way. You behaved that way. You brought it on yourself.” I imagine these conversations because that’s exactly what women are told, when we have the attention forced upon us and when we try to find ways to cope with it.

My experiences feel trivially minor compared to the abuse many women suffer at work. I feel lucky for this. Yet, they truly affected me negatively throughout my 20s. They influenced the way I thought about myself and the way I measured my own worth. They colored my outlook on the nature of men. I know, I know, not all men. But ENOUGH men.

It’s not just the men in power positions, except men know they have an intrinsic position of power over women in society. They know that women will face punishment for not accepting their pervertedness. They know when we are young and trying to find our place in the world that they can influence where that place is. It took me fully 10 years to get to the point where I realize how fucked up that is.

It’s the men you work with. The men you see walking down the street. The men who go to baseball games and see a 19-year-old in khaki pants and a polo shirt two sizes too big. It’s even the men who aren’t overtly doing anything. The men who would laugh as their friends would harass me. The men who shrugged their shoulders when I talked about it. The men who dismiss the behavior as something about which nothing can be done.

It’s so fucked up. And what I experienced was minor. I feel lucky about this.

It’s all so fucked up.

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The Old Familiar Sting

The world doesn’t want us to care.

The world wants us to remember that we’re all nothing. A tiny speck in the universe, and of course we are.

I think we’re born caring. I think sympathy and empathy are part of us all.

Until the world beats it out of us.

Caring is pain. It hurts to care about other people.

The pain is thinking about the parents of the children killed by police. It’s the dagger of learning that a journalist was killed in a botched rescue mission. It’s reading that a rape survivor’s story is being called in question because a journalist royally fucked up their job. It’s a fictional story on The Wire about 14 dead Russian girls brought to the US for prostitution because it’s the real life story of so many women.

The world doesn’t want us to care. It wants us to turn our backs. To hide from this pain.

To care about the world is to embrace the pain and realize that it’s always going to hurt.

Sometimes I feel like the pain is going to kill me. It probably will. But it’s worth dying for.

Thank You

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a police officer because I have no idea. But I do know they see things most of us never see. I know they see the very worse sides of human nature every single day and they choose to stand between that and us.

I knew a Newcastle police officer who was killed with his own weapon by a previously unarmed assailant in the midst of controversy about racial profiling and deadly force used by the Seattle Police Department. If the officer had fired first, he would have become the latest target of protest. Instead, he died shortly after his oldest daughter graduated from high school.

There are bad cops. There is a huge problem with racism. But the things people are saying about the way police officers should do their job bear absolutely no resemblance to the realities in which police officers live and breathe and work.

Instead of criticizing police methods you don’t understand, thank a police officer today for seeing the things they see so you don’t have to.

Even On A Cloudy Day

It’s easy to be infuriated by anything related to rape and sexual assault, and the world provides us ample opportunity.

But that anger and the overbearing sense of injustice can be crippling. It’s easy to look at what’s happening and think it’ll never get better. But it is getting better.

The good to come out of all the idiotic things that are being said about rape, is that things are being said about rape. It’s out there. If admitting you have a problem is the first step I’m not sure that society as a whole is quite there, but we’re not drinking rape out of a paper bag in dark alleys anymore, so I call it progress.

We’re all in an uproar over the Bill Cosby rape allegations (and the idiotic things said in the media about it. Looking at you, Don Lemon). I feel like I missed something because the drugging and the assaulting and covering up first came out almost 10 years ago.

It was settled and brushed under the table and we all forgot about it because we all wanted to forget about it.

A silent head shake during a radio interview a decade later, and it’s completely different.

Now there are consequences for Cosby. Now, we’re all in an uproar. I understand the feeling of injustice that this didn’t happen 10 years ago. If we’re angry about that, we’re missing the point.

The uproar is happening now. It’s a big deal now. We’re not forgetting now.

This is proof that things are changing.

Then, There Was The Ever Present Football Player Rapist

We all like to think we’re individuals.

We’re all so unique and important and no one else is like us.

Except, you, over there in Ohio.

You raped some girl. Society blamed it on her. You’re back on your football team.

Oh, how trite and tired.

I supposed I should turn up my nose in disgust at your actions, but all I feel is sorry for you.

The clichiest of cliches.

It would be nice if one of you, some day, could rise above the stereotype and be a prison-bound rapist or a castrated rapist, but for some reason you all insist on conforming to the rapist standard.

I mean, it’s just, could you be any more…ordinary?

Try a little harder next time, will ya?

Like, Totally

I’ve got World Cup fever and the only cure is, well, there appears to be no cure.

I am liking the ish out of this World Cup for the first time ever in my life. However, I appear to like the World Cup for reasons that are the opposite of why other people like it because that’s just how I roll.

I like that the US isn’t a world soccer power. We’re so dominant and arrogant in just about everything else on the world stage that I like that we aren’t a top soccer country. I like that we weren’t supposed to escape the Group of Death. I like, even more, that we did because if there’s one thing we like in the US, it’s the underdog. I like that we’ll, hopefully, win at least one of these elimination games, then bow out and leave the dogfight for the World Cup trophy to the real soccer countries.

I like that the World Cup emphasizes how far MLS has to go before the league is in the upper echelon. There are certainly players in MLS that make buckets of money, but I make more than many players. (How many of us can say that about any other sport?) Those are the players I want to root for. I feel like there’s a gritty quality, a love of the beautiful game. I feel like when I’m cheering for them, that I’m cheering with them. We’re on the same level; I’m not a fan who pays for their lavish lifestyle, I’m a fan cheering them on to their best.

I like how US fans cheer for the US, then cheer for the national teams of their heritage. I love the idea of the United States as a melting pot where world cultures and languages and people mesh into one. I love the pride of heritage and sharing of different ideas that happens when we open ourselves up to them.

I realize these things are a brief snapshot in time. The US Men’s National Team will improve and become a World Soccer Power. The MLS will improve, salaries will rise, and players will become entitled twits. Racial violence, mistrust, and phobia will continue.  That’s just how people and the world are.

But this is a moment in a life that rushes by so quickly and trods over the little things that give a person hope in humanity.

I’m just savoring this moment, and enjoying the World Cup for the first time in my life.

Just let me like my likes!

Just a Little Bit of History Repeating

100 years ago today the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, kick starting a series of events that would trigger the War to End All Wars. (Today, his legacy lives on through an eponymous post-punk revival band.)

His assassination no more caused World War I, of course, than firing on Fort Sumter caused the American Civil War. The pieces for war were in place, just awaiting a hand to strike the match.

The series of events following the assassination are truly astonishing in their utter stupidity and nonsense. This is true of almost every major event in history, but the European Imperialists really out kicked their coverage on this one.

World War I didn’t end all wars, as we well know, but it completely changed the world and it completely changed the United States.

As such an important event, it truly boggles my mind that we spent all of 15 minutes learning about it in my high school American History class. We spent about as much time on the Vietnam War, so clearly learning about history as something that lives and breathes and affects us now as much as it did when it happened just wasn’t the point of history class in school.

The nonsensical, illogical thinking behind the events that caused the War to happen are exactly what we need to be teaching in school. There’s a certain inevitability to human beings making stupid decisions, but how can we ever recognize those stupid decisions as they’re happening if we don’t learn what they looked like 100 years ago?

I can’t help but smile and laugh a little bit to myself when people proclaim that history is nothing more than a set of dates and facts to be committed to memory so a test can be passed.

Because history isn’t facts. History is fluid. It changes and evolves. We sculpt it to fit the way we understand the modern world. Decisions that made sense 100 years ago look utterly ridiculous to us today.

It absolutely fascinating to read about how the assassination is viewed and how the interpretation of the assassination has changed in the past 100 years, being filtered through the ever changing prism we call The Present.

World War I was inevitable. Not just because Europe was ready to get all Rambo’ed-up and fight, but because the world itself was changing and the Old World Order no longer fit.

There’s an inevitability toward violent, destructive change. There’s an inevitability toward the humans involved doing it as stupidly as possible.

Maybe it’s a little silly to wish that we were taught how to look at events of the past critically and apply the lessons to our thinking about politics and foreign policy and voting decisions.

I rail against the willing ignorance of the masses, even though it’s inevitable. Because to think that we’re important and that we can master human nature and change the very essence of our existence is perhaps the most inevitable of all the terrible human traits.