In the News

An Honest Mistake

The New York times ran an article a little while back on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, in which she described how difficult the transition was from full time career woman to full time mother. Unsurprisingly, she was skewered by the New York media for daring to suggest any of the things she suggested (mainly, that life can be full of difficult decisions and transitions).

See, when you have a child, the child is supposed to fulfill your every wish and desire and you aren’t supposed to want to be away from that child for even a nanosecond because nothing else can possibly make you happy or satisfy you.

Except, when you have a child, the child is also not supposed to fulfill your every wish and desire and you are supposed to want to continue to work and lean in and crash through glass ceilings because you are a modern woman and it takes more than hearth and home to make you happy and satisfied.

It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that you may not wholeheartedly want either of these. And to be honest about the conflict? Pure blasphemy.

Honesty is the most controversial thing to put out there. It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit tidily into the story you’re trying to tell yourself and everyone else about your life. Worse, it has no place in the story other people are trying to tell themselves about their own lives.

To speak honestly requires bravery.

To recoil in horror at honesty is to be uncomfortable with real, messy, unphotogenic life.

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The Wolf’s Gonna Blow It Down

It had absolutely nothing to do with me. Even talking about it the way I want to talk about it, I feel like I’m trying to put myself in a story that isn’t mine. The characters in the drama interact and their scene plays out while I bang on the glass that  keeps me out, trying to be part of it.

The day before, I drove through campus on my way home. I drove through when the building that would become a major crime scene a day later let its students out of class. They crossed the street in a seemingly unending line in front of my car. I just wanted to get home!

I was annoyed at them for no good reason, really. I was annoyed at them, not knowing that a day later one of them would be dead and all of them changed.

I can’t help but wonder if Paul Lee walked by my car that day, the last time he’d leave class. I search the pictures of the other injured students. I study the face of Jon Meis, who brought the gunman down and saved the lives of his friends, and try to jog my memory into recalling him.

It has nothing to do with me.

The night it happened, I stared blankly out my window and wondered what the students at SPU were doing at that moment. What do you do? Were they walking around like zombies, feeling, numb, feeling drained like I was? Were they drinking? Probably not. SPU doesn’t strike me as much of a party school. Were they gathered in small groups, praying, trying to talk themselves through it?

It has nothing to do with me. I would never had been in that building. But it’s a corner of my world. I drive by that building when I drive home from work. I run behind that building on my lunchtime runs along the ship canal. It’s so much a part of my world and a terrible thing happened in my world.

I thought about the bomb threat we had my senior year of high school, a year after Columbine. I thought of us joking about how we had to stay inside, away from windows. Our nervous laughter poking fun at the idea that THAT could happen to us because how can you function knowing that THAT can happen to you?

I started building a wall that day. I added another brick every time a random shooting happened. Another layer of mortar every time I wanted to curl up in a dark corner and not face the world.

I wonder how people do it in parts of the world where bombs and public attacks are a part of life.

Then, I realize this is one of those parts of the world.

My bricks and my mortar are in a pile of rubble at my feet. I can’t help feeling despair as I stare at them. I can build them as strong as I can. It’ll be fine for a while.

Until a huff and a puff and I’ll stare at the pile of rubble again.

I Can’t Close My Eyes and Make It Go Away

You’ve learned to numb yourself to bad news. Mass shooting after mass shooting and somehow, just to survive, you find a way to not let it get to you. Because you have to live and work and be in the world where mass shootings happen.

Then, you hear sirens out the window. Sirens that continue to scream for over an hour.

Then, you turn on the police scanner.

Then, you refresh news sites, even though you already know the story.

Then, you read Tweets about guns and you stare blindly at the screen, trying to make the words fit what just happened.

Mass shootings. A fact of our lives. It’s a difficult thing to hear about and brush off. Somehow you got there, just to live and work and be in a world where mass shootings happen.

Then, it happens a couple blocks away. At a school you drove past yesterday, annoyed as you sat waiting for students leaving class to finish crossing the street so you could get home already.

Then, you sit and stare and try to form thoughts.

Then, you can’t brush it off.

#YesAllWomen

I watched a murder trial in high school. A man was accused of murdering his wife because she had left him. I listened to the testimony of her father, describing the incidents in their relationship that he had witnessed. His daughter was referred to by her full name, Elizabeth, but during a story when she had called him terrified because her husband was trying to break in the door at her apartment he slipped and called her Betsy.

It was utterly heartbreaking.

Her husband sat next to his lawyer, showing no emotion. He was later convicted of her murder in one of the first murder cases in Washington State to use DNA evidence.

It’s a stock news story. It happens all the time. Women being killed by their husbands, boyfriends, neighbors, and friends because they didn’t want to be under their control. Women in abusive relationships are mocked and people shake their heads and wonder why they don’t just leave.

To leave a bad relationship, a woman must be willing to pay with her life.

Not all women have been in abusive relationships or assaulted. Not all women have direct experience with that.

But ALL women have experienced the sentiment that we are only worthwhile if we are pretty objects that please men. ALL women have been told in one way or another that we are less than men, that to be feminine is to be undeserving of respect.

I’ve heard so many men say that they didn’t understand what women went through until they had daughters. These are men who are good guys, but they didn’t fully respect women until their daughters forced them to.

It’s absolutely ridiculous that it needs to be said that the #YesAllWomen Twitter hashtag isn’t man bashing. And yet, for every woman who shares a story, there’s a man chiming in that not all men are rapists, abusers, and street harassers.

If there are men who feel victimized by women speaking about their victimization that’s a problem. If there are men who feel that they deserve special recognition because they haven’t raped someone? The problem is worse than we want to recognize.

Is There Anybody Going To Listen To My Story?

I took a Women’s Studies class in college and I hated it. I thought I’d get a nuanced, wide ranging look at the unique challenges that women face. Instead I paid a bunch of money to be spoon fed ultra-liberal talking points. It fit with my political views at the time, but it felt ooky having it taught like that.

One of the only honest and intellectually curious class sessions we had during that course dealt with the topic of race, something Feminists often ignore even though it’s hugely relevant. This was the winter of 2002 and one of the professors asked whether we thought the United States would first have a woman president or a black president.

Us privileged white girls, born of the Gloria Steinem heritage, were sure we’d have a black president first.

Then, a fellow classmate, a black woman, stood up and said she emphatically believed the United States would not see a black president in her lifetime. She spoke of how she’d received more harassment and hate in her life because of her race than because of her gender. As much as we want to be empathetic, we just can’t understand what we don’t experience unless we’re told.

I thought of her the day President Obama won the election, feeling incredibly happy that she was wrong. (I also understood what she had said in class that day a little better after hearing the terrible things that were said about his race during the campaign. Not just by fringe wackos, but by presumably intelligent people in the public sphere.)

This is why the #YesAllWomen Twitter hashtag is so important. I’ve sent quite a few of them into the Twiterverse and received some quite interesting replies in return. It shouldn’t need to be argued, but I’ll say it anyway: #YesAllWomen isn’t anti-men. It isn’t whining. It isn’t not being grateful for our First World lives. It isn’t attention-whoring.

The misogynistic manifesto from a crazy person who randomly murdered people rung true to so many women for the simple fact that every single one of us has had the experience of being a target of misogyny.

It’s been powerful to read the stories of women’s’ everyday lives. Of the way all of our lives are shaped by people who hate women.

So naturally I thought about Donald Sterling. When the tape of him saying incredibly terrible, racist things came to light, us white folk didn’t feel the need to Tweet with #NotAllWhitePeople. Yet, SOME men on Twitter are losing their frequency over #YesAllWomen and breaking out their favorite #NotAllMen even though, duh, we KNOW not all men are like that.

It honestly made me wish there was a #YesAllWomen equivielent for people who are discriminated against because of their race because I know the things Donald Sterling said weren’t isolated. I know people experience racism on a daily basis.

I would like to hear those stories because I want to understand. Maybe we’ve had racial political correctness pounded into us since elementary school and it’s not interesting anymore. But it still exists, like misogyny still exists.

The error in that class about women and race was that the question on a woman vs. a black president tried to suss out who has it worse. Who cares who has it worse? We all have a thing like racism or misogyny (or both). Let’s listen to each other. Let’s try to understand each other.

Then, let’s fucking stop doing this shit to each other!

Machiavelli Called, He Wants His Political Philosophy Back

We’ll just pretend to be health workers, injecting unknown substances into people, taking their DNA, and they’ll totally be fine with it.

I mean, we’re doing it to catch Osama Bin Laden.

Duh.

How can anyone be upset about that? It’s terrorism. And you either support us, or you’re a terrorist.

(It’s quite convenient that it’s so easy to tell terrorists apart from non-terrorists.)

You may have your own culture and your own world view, but trust us. We’re the United States. We know what’s best.

People apparently aren’t getting the polio vaccine anymore because of our tactics. Apparently, this terrible disease is on-trend, despite being so close to eradication. What can we do? It’s your decision not to get the vaccine.

But, jeez, people are causing such a fuss over this! Fine, whatever, we won’t do it anymore.

Just don’t come blaming us for our own actions.

All Pretty and Petite

It’s great that women’s rights have reached a point in this country that the Feminist Intelligentsia can obsess over tiny slights. I’m talking about the use of the word “bossy” and whether or not some celebrity or other identifies herself as a feminist.

(Of course, what they’re missing is that many people choose not to identify as feminists because of the way the Feminist Intelligentsia fixates on tiny slights).

This isn’t to say that they aren’t still gender inequalities, but gone are the days when we need big showy demonstrations and vitriolic admonitions to make progress. Time is taking care of the rest. Being at the head of the charge for change yields power that we’d probably do well to let go.

Much like race, there are still people out there who will express long bygone opinions of gender. It’s absolutely appropriate to get upset at them and admonish them, but we don’t need to act like the sky is falling down.

I think about this as I read the horrifying story of those young girls kidnapped in Nigeria, their families fearing that they were sold into slavery.

This is a thing that happens in the world.

Women are raped and forced to marry their rapists. They are sold into slavery. They are not allowed to be out in public alone. The list goes on and on and on.

American society can be awful to women and what it does to girls can be downright heartbreaking.  But we’re mistaking small things for big things. That’s not to say the small things aren’t important or deserving of attention, but they aren’t Big Things.

The outrage that’s directed at a celebrity who says she’s not a feminist, or who believes that feminism means women want to subjugate men, would be better directed elsewhere.

Of course, the treatment of women in the world isn’t a feminist issue. It’s a human rights issue. And if there’s no “Us vs. Them”, then what is there to drive up the page views?