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Believe us.

22 Nov

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how men treat women. Obviously, a bevy of sexual harassment accusations have been all over the news recently. It’s been genuinely confusing and mystifying (but also gratifying) to see these stories suddenly given wall-to-wall coverage, to see at least some people finally facing consequences for their actions. It’s also brought out a lot of what is ugly about this society – it’s proven how systemic, endemic – how central – male dominance over women is in the way our society functions. It’s also brought out an untold number of men fretting over the possibility of false accusations. There are elements of this that make us all uncomfortable – it’s not just a fear of the innocent getting swept up with the guilty, it’s also about highly personal definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment or assault, and it’s about a reckoning we are all having about what exactly the consequences should be for the accused versus the proven or even the convicted.

Although false accusations of rape, for instance, make up between just 2-10% of all reported rapes (depending on how you define a false accusation or unfounded claim), many people treat all claims of rape, sexual assault, and harassment that come from women as highly suspect. Let’s be clear, it’s okay to be skeptical of claims until they are proven – but it doesn’t follow that we need immediately and forcefully disbelieve every woman coming forward. In any criminal case or even just public accusation, you give your benefit of the doubt to someone – to the victim, to the accused, to the police or prosecutors (the State) – and then you wait and see if that is proven out. All I am asking of men, of society at large, is to give your benefit of the doubt to the victim – in this case it means believing women.

I’ll tell you why you should believe women (which doubles for why false accusations are much lower in reality than they are often purported to be). In cases such as these, what would a woman’s motivation be for lying? In the few cases we’ve known to be proven false, it has typically been vengeance/hatred or money/notoriety, it has also on many occasions been tied to mental illness of some form on the part of the victim. How many women do you know in your personal acquaintance who might act this way, for any of these reasons? Assuming most of you are decent men who hang out with decent people in general I am going to guess this number is low to nonexistent. So, first, extrapolate that out to the general population and you can see how low the incidence of false accusations of sexual harassment, assault, or rape should be. But this is purely anecdotal.

Second, let’s look at the consequences not just of false accusations but of any accusation. The victim will have to recount the story over and over again – this is an obvious source of trauma for a real victim and an equally obvious potential for being found out for a false victim. The victim may have to undergo physical examinations that are highly invasive and answer questions that are deeply personal. Socially and sometimes professionally, victims may experience shaming, ostracization, or even retaliation depending on who the accused is and the venue the accusation is made in (what if you are accusing your partner, a good friend, your boss, a well-liked coworker, a public figure?)

For all this, what might the victim get in return? Rape kits go untested for decades. Out of every 1000 rapes, only 310 are reported to police for many of the reasons stated above. Of those, 57 reports lead to arrest, 11 cases get referred to prosecutors, 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction, and 6 rapists will be incarcerated. If we assume the motivation for reporting an abuser is to a.) get some measure of justice for yourself and hold him accountable and b.) stop him from doing it again to you or at all (to someone else), then we can see how ineffective reporting is. If reporting is a pain in the ass to start, brings trauma, and potentially alienates you from your friends, family, coworkers, etc., AND 303 times out of 310 results in NO conviction, one can imagine how few women would go to such lengths with false accusations, especially considering the further consequences in store for them if they are found out.

Now it’s true these numbers only refer to people who report the crime to the police. Even if we remove the potential for an invasive physical examination, an accuser who goes public is still subject to multiple rounds of questioning from both sympathetic and unsympathetic sources and experiences the same (or, in some cases, worse) social backlash as a victim who has reported the crime to the police. In short, it is safe to assume a vast majority of these accusations are true solely on the basis of the damage done to the accuser by speaking out. Even when they may remain anonymous, they still witness the backlash.

All of this still leaves the question: if we can all, at least, agree that 2-10% of false accusations are out there, what do we do about that? My answer stays mostly the same: trust multiple women. If multiple women have come out with similar accusations about one person, it’s safe to assume they are true. There isn’t some kind of cabal of women plotting to take down famous and notable men the world over using false accusations of sexual misdeeds. First of all, up until a month ago, that would have been a really bad plan as, historically, accusations of sexual harassment haven’t led to many consequences for men in positions of power. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying, Clarence Thomas was confirmed and still sits on the supreme court, Harvey Weinstein only just recently fell from grace as Hollywood’s IT producer after years of settling and intimidating his way to silent victims. For chrissakes, our PRESIDENT has had multiple credible accusations of sexual harassment and even rape thrown at him over many years. If this is supposed to be some grand conspiracy, it’s a piss-poor one.

More than false accusations, I’m concerned about what constitutes bad behavior and what level of bad behavior merits what severity of consequences – and who gets to make those decisions. If we are, at this moment, finally holding men to account for egregious actions, are we also holding them accountable for the smaller, every day indecencies? Because that’s a long fucking list and this is going to take awhile. It’s like, are we going after the big fish or these little betas, too? Generally, I think the hope is that you go after the big fish as a way to start to change the culture – but that minutiae at the bottom is the hardest part to change, those guys are, in some ways, the toughest to take down – because they are every guy. Every dude I know has made a poor attempt at a joke, a lame pass, a rude comment, an unwanted advance or unwelcome touch, oftentimes “innocently” and obliviously. I don’t even want to “take them down”, I just want that light bulb to go off – I want them to “get” it, and then I want them to stop – and then, further, I want them to police the men around them to behave better.

Should men like Al Franken be held accountable in the same manner or to the same degree as men like Harvey Weinstein? I think most of us, even his accusers, would probably say no. Not, “he should suffer no consequences whatsoever”, but, rather, “he should suffer less severe consequences”. In the same way that there are different punishments and sentences for people convicted of snatching a lady’s purse versus people convicted of defrauding an entire company, there should be varying degrees of punishment for public figures accused of harassment or sexual misconduct. But because of the nature of justice in these cases (nearly nonexistent from the legal system and almost entirely taking place, now, in the public square), the punishment is near universal: a tarnishing or loss of prestige or reputation, and, loss of your job, livelihood, or electability. This punishment is both too much and not near enough, given the wide range of types of accusations.

And then there’s a whole ‘nother Pandora’s box we haven’t even opened yet which is the question about how your actions in your personal life, or that happened 10, 20, 30 years ago should affect your career now. I’m not even gonna fuck around with dudes that used their professional positions or capacities to gain access to women or to silence them, or harassed or abused women they worked with – those dudes can just go straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200. They deserve every professional consequence and then some, even when it happened many years ago. But what of the guys who “privately” harassed women, who abused their wives at home? What makes you unfit, and for what? I might not think that guy is qualified or fit to be a senior statesman, but a mechanic? Maybe – like, it has no bearing on his ability to fix my car (although, if known to me, it would certainly  affect my willingness to give him my business). And, yet, if we only stop sexual harassment and abuse when it’s done by public figures in positions of power, what does that do for the millions of everyday women harassed and abused by the men in their own lives? Does it change behaviors in any meaningful way? Does it change social norms and mores? Does it make harassment and abuse unacceptable at every level? Ultimately, I think that’s the hope here, but I sometimes feel it is naive.

This cultural moment is about exposure, awareness, and justice. Bringing famous and powerful men to account for their past actions is a way to get everyone to recognize the sheer massive scale of the harassment and abuse women (and others) face. It’s a moment of reckoning for individual men, and for our nation. But it is also a primal scream from women who have for too long been dismissed, silenced, diminished, and excluded. And you will hear us, now.

The solution, to me, is very clear: we need more women in power. We need more women in power so that our managers and CEOS and committee heads and judges believe us, take our accusations seriously, and act quickly. This is not to say women are infallible or perfect or that men cannot, in time, grow this capacity. The simple reason women are more likely to believe women, at this point in time, is because we have all been there before – how many men can (or will) say the same? Aside from decisive leadership from the top, women need to be in power to remove these problematic men from power – to take their place. Again, women are people and they have faults, too. Just like men, some women are great leaders and others are not. But women, as a group, haven’t held power in the same ways or for as long as men – we’re still so reverent of just the ability to hold power, we don’t typically abuse it. We don’t want to lead so we can take advantage the same way men have for millenia – but we want to gain the advantages we’ve never had while toppling many of the systems and individual men who have poisoned the well for so long. I don’t believe women are somehow naturally or genetically better suited to leadership (I also don’t believe this of men), I just think because of the privilege men have exercised for so long, we have reached a point where men are more likely to abuse their power than women.

Unfortunately people in general, of either gender, are more likely to protect their assets over their people (to protect their “stars” over their peons) – this is something that needs to be addressed separately. No one person should be untouchable and financial considerations for companies should be separated as much as possible from the decision-making process when considering whether or not to take action upon hearing credible sexual harassment or assault allegations.

But for more women to be in power, we need more women willing to lead. And that means we need to remove institutional and societal barriers to women’s advancement. In a world with paid maternity leave (with job security while on maternity leave); with low-cost daycare; with partners who do their fair share of the emotional labor and domestic work; with bosses that take us seriously when we make allegations of harassment; with men who aren’t allowed to stay in power when they’ve abused it; with men who are willing and able to mentor us; with more women in the position to do so, instead; without a “boy’s club” atmosphere at the upper echelons of power – this is the world in which women will not have to face nearly insurmountable challenges to get to the top – where, in short, their path will be as easy or as hard as it is for men now – where the playing field will finally be even.

And (surprise twist!) this is the great work of feminism – not to place women over men, but to put them on even ground with men, to give them even odds. I don’t actually wonder that so many men are so antagonistic toward feminism because it seeks to remove them from power when the power is given for no other reason than their sex and all the advantages and privileges afforded them because of it. Fairness is not in the best interests of those who maintain a strangle hold on power not just because of ability or hard work but through the sheer luck of one Y chromosome and the years of power structures built up around the basic assumption that men were superior. If we expect anything to change for women reporting sexual harassment and assault, we need to create the world in which those events are the exception, not the rule – and creating that world requires unseating men from their supremacy over us all.

 

Peaks and Valleys

10 Apr

Psst…I did a maybe-weird thing where I recorded this for the more audibly-inclined of you. Have a listen:

 

Always searching for the next thing.

If I’m too busy, I think what I am missing is free time. If I have too much free time, I think I must be missing opportunities, or not making as much money as I could be. If I’m bored, I must need a larger social network, more to do. If I’m stretched thin socially, I must refocus in on the friends and events that really matter. If I’m just hanging out with those friends, I’m missing so many other interesting people. I don’t hang out with my family enough, but if we spend a weekend hanging out with both sides of our families, it’s time I could have used more productively elsewhere.

I eternally feel that I am missing something, but it also always feels like it is just around the bend, just out of reach, right around the corner, any second now.

Sometimes it’s difficult to realize how far I’ve come, how many of those corners I’ve turned, how much has changed. It’s awe-some when I ponder it for any amount of time, but then it’s also discouraging because you look at all that progress and ask yourself: do I feel better? Am I content now? Am I done?

Part of the problem is in thinking there is such a thing as “done” – we’re always growing and learning and striving, right? But it is similarly dangerous to think that we must always be in motion – to always be asking “what next?”

I’ve come around to this new conclusion: if you’re never bored, I pity you. If it’s never enough, I’m so sorry. It’s such a burden, I know, because I have been that person (I still am that person on my bad days). Part of the great work of growing up for me has been and continues to be becoming okay with being okay. Not great, not fantastic, but not awful, not bad – just okay.

At work and in life we are told we need to work hard, we need to be the best, ace the tests, climb the mountains and then find another, higher mountain to climb after that. Goals are good, ambition is grand. But you have to rest, there are peaks and there are valleys – and it does you no good, when you are in a valley, to spend the whole time longing to be on the mountain again. There are always more mountains, and there are always more valleys – both serve different purposes, and both are necessary.

I’m in a valley in my life right now. By all accounts and outward appearances, things are good. Some days it feels really good. But then I remember I’m in the valley and I get sad – I wonder if it will stretch on forever, maybe there are no more mountains for me. What I am trying to do these days is enjoy the valley – valley’s are lush and verdant, they have a different climate than the mountain peak, they’re gentler and quieter and calmer – or, at least, they have the potential to be, if you let them. The hardest part of the valley is when you are in the shadow just after or before a mountain – when you still remember what it was like being on the peak, and then again when you feel you’ve almost forgotten and you’re compelled to feel it all over again – when that next mountain is just staring you right in the face.

The other thing is, I don’t know about you, but my mountains and valleys don’t usually look like this:

even peaks

They look more like this:

bigger peaks

Each time I meet and surpass a goal, a new, taller, tougher one rises up before me. It casts longer shadows, the valleys get narrower – pretty soon I’m in a valley that is all shadow, no light. That’s sort of what I feel is happening right now for me – I’m just trudging through this dark valley, maybe I’m even at the very first tiny incline of the base of the mountain, but, Jesus, that peak is so freaking far away and I’ve already been climbing for a while.

In times like these, it’s easy to forget: most people don’t live on the mountaintop. It’s inhospitable, unsustainable. Sure, a select few make their homes there – but most of us choose the valley, most of us, let’s be honest, can only handle the valley. And that knowledge – that this is where we are best suited to be, that it’s maybe all we can do – can sometimes makes us feel lesser. I often feel lesser for not being a mountain dweller, as it were.

If you’ve ever known you could do more, but decided not to for your own health, sanity, peace, etc. you’ve probably experienced this sensation. Same if you’ve ever been in the midst of doing more, like you’re 3/4ths up the mountain, and you decide you don’t want to summit the peak after all – maybe it’s too hard, maybe it’s just too hard RIGHT NOW. Maybe you’ll come back to it, maybe you never will.

If you’re me, you’ve done the half-summiting thing before and you’ve spent the last 10 years being mad at yourself for not reaching the top of that particular peak while simultaneously knowing you made the best decision, the right decision. There are few things more painful in life than making the right decision but knowing all along that you wish you could have done it differently, all the same – these are the decisions that haunt you, forever.

So, anyway, you’ve done the half-summiting thing before and you REALLY don’t want to it again because you’ve been there, you’ve done that: it wasn’t pleasant and you still think of it often. I don’t want to set myself up for another regret. I have so few true regrets in this life (I’m not counting regretful pizza orders). I strive to regret as little as possible – but the ones I do have are big, and they eat me up inside and I guess that’s the price you pay for living so unapologetically the rest of the time.

ANYWAY, I’m trying to get myself to a place where not just “the valleys are nice” and “I could live in the valley” but also “it’s okay to fail”. It’s okay to come back down to the valley without even having reached the peak. I struggle, as so many of us do, with walking that fine line between being kind to yourself, forgiving yourself, giving yourself room to make mistakes – and – letting yourself off the hook TOO easily, letting fear keep you from things, justifying what shouldn’t be justified. In this mindset, on this razor-thin margin, it’s hard to know: am I scared or am I right? And the problem is, sometimes it’s both – just like before, where you can regret something you know was good for you.

Ugh, I’m sorry to be speaking in these riddles and metaphors, but I find them helpful to process what I’m going through and maybe they help you, too. But putting it bluntly (and thereby erasing much of it’s magic): I work too much, I have no time to myself, and I don’t know how to solve the problem because the obvious solutions (quitting one thing or another) are not appealing for various reasons, the foremost of which is that I haven’t met the goals I once set for myself. I feel like I’m trying to choose between a life in the valley and a life climbing the mountain. I don’t feel like the peak is within reach, I don’t even really want to go there. So it begs the question: why keep climbing? But, for so much of my life, I have defined myself and I have existed for the climb. I have found the climb in itself purposeful, useful, meaningful. If I’m not climbing, who even am I?

 

Unplugged

3 Jan

Upon opening my personal email this morning, I realized I somehow went the entire weekend – since Thurs actually – without checking it. No wonder this weekend had been so lovely and restorative, even though I worked both Sat and Sun! It’s crazy to me what a difference simply unplugging for a bit (intentional or not) can make.

I was on Facebook a bit this weekend, but not often (due to the aforementioned work), and on Monday I had the day off work and finally got the opportunity to use a gift certificate given to me a year and half ago to go to Loyly, a local Swedish-style sauna and spa. When I left, it took me a full 30 minutes before checking my phone – which may not seem like much to most of you, but is basically a lifetime for me. Like, it’s a miracle that I didn’t once in those 30 minutes think about my phone.

I am one of those people who (unfortunately) wakes and immediately checks my phone. It sits on the desk in front of me during my work day, I am attached to it in-between clients at the salon (and also partially because of my salon booking needs), and then you’d think I’d put it aside once home, but I tend to use that time to check Facebook and browse Pinterest and do my crosswords before bed. So, my phone and me pretty much = inseparable, for both legitimate and not-so-legitimate reasons. I read a post somewhere recently by someone who was committing for the new year to putting their phone on Do Not Disturb after 6pm each day. What a lovely idea. I could never.

That being said, I would like to be less attached to it – to wean myself off a bit. Maybe two years ago I moved to having it on vibrate and silent almost all the time to save myself from incessant dinging. Last year, I turned off all notifications for Facebook, and changed my settings so that most other notifications were just the little number in the corner of the app as opposed to a pop-up. These seem to be such small changes, but they have made a difference just in that I have to think “hey, I want to check that” instead of having it thrust upon me every 10 minutes or so.

Still, the pull to check everything, all the time, is pretty irresistible. I’ve heard it compared to a lab rat who keeps pressing the button for the treat – even if the actual treat only comes intermittently. And that is how it feels sometimes, particularly with Facebook. The very nature of the beast is that you get the puppy videos and the cat gifs and your friend’s new baby, but you also get the depressing Donald Trump news and the terrorist attacks and police shootings. It is like reading the world’s weirdest newspaper – some odd mix of People magazine, The New York Times, and, like, a fancy cat calendar.

When I manage to stay away for a bit, indeed, I feel an odd mix of less informed but also less stressed, but also less – hmmm – amused, and possibly more bored. It’s a weird mix of positives and negatives in much the same way paying attention to Facebook is a weird mix of positives and negatives. So you can see how it’s easy to be compelled to just go ahead and stay engaged with it.

So, here are the three things I’ll be trying out to help replicate my restful and stress-free experience this weekend, more often:

  1. All yesterday, I hardly glanced at my phone until much later in the evening, and I didn’t feel like I missed much – in fact, the opposite was true, I felt like I gained something instead: mental and emotional space. It sounds kind of the opposite of what you’d think, but I’m trying to only look at Facebook during work. Haha. I have some time between clients for that, but not much time/ability during my day job – so you see the appeal. There’s guaranteed time to get it in pretty much daily, but, most days, not much time. On the other hand, I’m going to “let” myself look at Pinterest and Instagram “after hours”, since overall those are much more pleasant and consistent social media experiences that aren’t as mentally and emotionally exhausting. I want to be intentional about what brings me joy – and what doesn’t.
  2. I’m also going to try not to be on my phone when waiting. I’ve been doing this intermittently for a while now, but I want to refocus on it. Like when waiting for a friend at a bar or waiting for an appointment at the doctor – it will free up more mind-space to just look around, observe the world, people-watch. I think even picking up a magazine or newspaper is preferable to Facebook at this point – at least you know what you’re getting if you choose Real Simple or The Washington Post. When I was at the spa, I couldn’t have my phone on me (obviously) while in the sauna, etc. and the enforced stillness and thoughtfulness was restorative.
  3. I’m getting an alarm clock. Between notifications, messages, being up later than needed staring at it, and just, my cat knocking my phone off the bedside table when she’s being a real beez – it’d be great to just not even have it in the same room with me while I’m sleeping. You know, when my sister-in-law is close to giving birth, the next time Nana’s in the hospital – on those occasions I can easily bring it in with me, but otherwise I think somewhere near my purse will work just fine. It does make you start to think an actual home phone might be nice for unexpected emergencies…what is this?! 1990?! Anyway, I’m going to try it regardless (without the home phone, for now).

In what ways will you strive to be more unplugged this year?

 

 

 

 

 

Good things in 2016

29 Dec

Kendall and I got in the stupidest spat last night. Just after reading news of Debbie Reynold’s passing one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher’s, death, I was lamenting what a garbage year 2016 has been. He pointed out that celebrity deaths don’t affect him much and implied they shouldn’t affect me so much. I tried to articulate that, while I’m not personally affected by them (I didn’t know any of these people), they have been like a shit cherry on top of a dumpster-fire year. Anyway, the world’s dumbest fight escalated from there before we both got over it and went to bed, but it got me thinking about how often I have talked about what a shit year 2016 was and the degree to which that is or is not true.

David Bowie, Prince, George Michael. I didn’t know any of these men. I knew their music and their public personas. But their loss is especially stinging because of their gender and sexuality fluidity. At this particular time in America and in the world at large, we need big public personas like theirs, voices like theirs, more than ever – to lose them all this year in particular felt like adding insult to injury because so much of what has happened politically this year has felt like a retaliation for loosening social mores and expanding values. They’ve been some of the most public champions for living loud and proud in their various ways and we lost them all this year, the same year living loud and proud in your weirdness just became that much more dangerous. So, yea, their deaths have affected me more than they might otherwise.

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Daughter then mother, within one day of each other – the mother saying she is “ready to join” her daughter. That is just a sad story, I don’t care who they are. And every sad story I read as we march toward the end of the year just makes my load heavier to carry. Look, it’s been a rough year. Even if my chosen candidate had won the election, the election year was bruising. Things were said, lines were crossed, that made me feel uncomfortable and unsafe in my country and worried for humanity’s future. And then that guy WON. I can’t speak for Kendall, but I imagine a lot of his points last night amounted to an argument that you can’t carry all of that – you can’t let that stuff affect you to the point where you declare it a shit year because of one election, or umpteen celebrity deaths.

I do see his point, but I think there is also a danger in not engaging – especially with the political. You can’t Ostrich your way through the world, sticking your head in the sand at every sign of discomfort. You have to be aware, you have to fight – you have to use your voice, now more than ever. But it is exhausting. We’re not the first ones to realize this. Audre Lorde’s famous quote has recently been making the rounds, as we all come to grips with where we’ve landed: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. Activists the world over can speak to the need to care for yourself so that you can bring your best abilities to the fight ahead, so that you can be your best self and so you have the energy to serve others, or to serve the cause.

Immediately after the election results came in this year, I told Kendall: “I am just going to focus on my little family – that is where I will find my refuge”. While it is true that I come back to the well of family and my relationship again and again to replenish myself and find comfort, it was really wishful thinking. Thinking I could somehow turn this “off” – that I could ignore the reality of our new world order. I can’t. I’m very upset, and afraid, and unsure of what to do next, and I think about it constantly. All of this is to say, I’m here today to try, for a short while, to take Kendall’s advice, and to think about something else: namely, all the good things in 2016.

First, and foremost, there is my relationship with Kendall. We entered our third year of dating – we took an amazing trip to San Francisco and Monterey – we moved into a house. I love his family, and he loves mine. We are raising our little cat, Weaslebee, together, and going through the Harry Potter movies again. He helps me stay sane when everything else in my world feels like it’s spinning out 100 miles per minute.

Also, equally important, is my supportive family. My mom is my rock, my nephew is the sweetest joy, Noah and Annette’s place is my home away from home and this coming year they’ll be giving me another nephew or niece to adore. I even got to see my dad this Christmas – it was a great visit.

My work has been challenging this year – I’m still trying to figure it all out, and work means so much to me, it’s a piece of my identity. So that has been fraught, but still – I’m getting a raise in the new year. My coworker’s are all lovely. I have new challenges coming my way, and I’m excited to take them on.

I, finally, this year took concrete steps to improve my health. Late last year I got my pre-diabetes diagnosis and now they’ve downgraded that – I am no longer considered pre-diabetic! I’ve lost some weight, and my skinny jeans fit again. I still have a lot of work to do to re-wire my eating habits, but I feel like I’m on the right path.

And, I still have all the small joys I’ve always had: hot baths by candlelight, doing crosswords in bed, my weekly vanilla latte, belting out songs in the car, cooking, writing and journaling, Monday trivia night with the girls, monthly Cookbook Club meetings, and occasional game nights, amongst many other wonderful things.

Finally, I have intention. This coming year for me is all about stepping out of auto-pilot. I’ve been working so much for so long, and I’ve lost track of why or what it’s getting me – note I sometimes don’t even think I’m working hard, just a lot. I know there’s no end point – there’s no such thing as “figuring it all out” – but I’m excited to figure out a better direction (or just, a direction at all!). I saw this quote the other day and it will be my mantra for this year: “You can be intentional about your direction without knowing your final destination”.

What are your good things in 2016?

 

 

 

What makes a good person?

16 Nov

I have been dwelling a lot lately on the people I know and love who voted for Trump. I was, in the immediate aftermath, angry at them – even the ones I already suspected would vote for him. It was sort of fine that they were voting for him back when I thought he didn’t have a chance of winning. Don’t get me wrong, it was disappointing – but I just felt like it was a difference of opinion and that it would gain me little to argue with them about it or try to actually change their minds – my way, the way of progress, the way of the future, was going to win. As those who have been reading lately will know, I now regret my hands-off approach. I wish I had engaged them better, and more often. I vow to do better moving forward.

But I’m left, now, with my feelings toward them. The anger has faded a little, I am mostly just disappointed, in the way a parent might be disappointed when the child they thought they raised better acts out in unexpected and distressing ways. I thought I knew who they were.

I thought they were “good Christians”, and I thought that really meant something to them. Each time another Trump incident went viral, I thought “this is the one – this is the thing that will change their minds about supporting him, they have to see now”. I assumed that, in the end, his bigotry, his immaturity, his sexism – and, just, how woefully underprepared he was – I thought all of this would come clear and ultimately would stop them from being able to cast a vote for him. Or, rather, I hoped for it. Because, let’s face it – I had already seen in their rationalizations that they had the capacity to ignore the worst facets of Trump. I just hoped that their better selves would carry the day. I am deeply disappointed that didn’t happen. But when you talk to many of these people, they feel the same about my support for Hillary – how could I gloss over x, y, and z (nevermind that x and y aren’t true, and z doesn’t begin to compare to Trump’s alphabet of problems)?! Surveying our cultural differences right now is to look out across a deep, wide canyon that seems unbridgeable – it is so easy to lose hope.

These votes for Trump have forced me to acknowledge things about people I like that are hard to acknowledge:

  1. They have different ideas of fairness and equity than I do. They believe we all start off at the same spot and then where you take yourself is up to you – where they acknowledge that some people start worse off, they believe if those people just work hard they can overcome it. Maybe they don’t believe racism and sexism and classism are institutionalized, or that certain people are disadvantaged from the word ‘go’ for no other reason than the color of their skin or the set of genitals they were born with.
  2. When they saw Trump mock a disabled reporter, or heard him call Mexicans rapists, or talk about grabbing women by the pussy they, at best, didn’t see those as deal-breakers. Why weren’t those deal-breakers for them? Because they aren’t disabled, aren’t Mexican, haven’t been sexually assaulted? Maybe they even thought some of it was kind of funny or true? I have no way, really, of knowing. I know these people don’t have bad intentions, but I also see what they have been able to overlook. How could they overlook those things?
  3. They want fundamentally different things for our country than I do, and they have a lot of company in that (but, importantly, not a majority). Maybe they think marriage should be between 1 man and 1 woman. Maybe they think abortion should be illegal. We may disagree on the social issues – but larger than that, we disagree on the fundamental question of whether our country should be open or closed, for others or for ourselves, global or local. We have different ideas about how we should be taxed, about how the government should spend money, and about what kind of laws we should have all based around that simple axis: open or closed, for others or for ourselves, global or local.
  4. They may not be good people, even though they are nice people.

This last point brings me to the real meat of this post today.

They may not be good people, even though they are nice people.

That is the thought that has been occupying my mind lately – because I haven’t really decided if it’s true. I don’t know what it means to be a good person, but I keep reaching for some general definition. I am reaching for a definition that defies categorization – that defies politics and religion. I think maybe the word I am reaching for is actually “ethical”.

And under that definition, which essentially can be described as “right” or “moral” behavior, I don’t know what matters – intent or result. Because the result is that a racist, misogynist demagogue has just been elected to our nation’s highest office. And the intent in their vote was, indeed, to elect him. But was it to elect a racist, misogynist demagogue? Or was it to elect someone they thought would better serve their interests and world view? If it was the the latter, does it matter? If you voted for a racist, misogynist despite his racism and misogyny are you morally superior to those who voted for him because of it? I think the answer is yes, but only just – because, you see, the result is the same.

“But,” my little lamb brain keeps bleating, “but, these people are nice people. They are kind people. They do things! They volunteer at soup kitchens. They serve at church. They treat their employees well, and hold their friends close. They raise big-hearted children who are also kind and nice and do good deeds.” Does all of that get thrown in the garbage because of one vote? Or even because of a lifetime of votes?

I don’t have an answer. It’s not a rhetorical question. What do you think?

Here is some further reading, all articles I read in the last several days that help illuminate my thought process:

This piece by Jamelle Bouie who essentially falls on the side of arguing that intent doesn’t matter. “There is No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter”

Elizabeth Gratten argues similarly that “the decent white woman who voted for trump does not exist”.

This New York Times piece about women who voted for Trump is a great humanizer.

And, lastly, I like to read the National Review from time to time, even though I can find many things with which to object, because the articles are well-written, arguments are well-reasoned, and it gives me insight into how people who think differently than I do feel about particular issues. This piece is about the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist. There is much to pick at and disagree with, but ultimately I am encouraged that leading conservatives are also concerned with the appointment and voice their opinion that, regardless of his own beliefs, his pandering to the alt-right is cause enough of concern. Here again we see that interplay between intent and result.

I won’t erase my anger

11 Nov

It’s the Friday after the End of the World – or so it feels. I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions and experiences these last several days. At times I almost forget – I see now the appeal of not participating. In those moments when I’ve been able to opt out mentally and emotionally for a precious hour or so I can see the beauty in focusing in on what matters in my own little universe: my partner, my cat, my new couch, my comfortable little home.

Inevitably it comes crushing back down at some point – the reality of the situation we find ourselves in rushes back in and disrupts my oblivious little dream universe where I was so happily ensconced watching cat videos.

On the night of the election, just as Donald Trump was beginning his victory speech I posted on my Instagram. I said:

I never thought this would happen. I’m heartbroken, lost, afraid. And I don’t have any kindness or forgiveness in my heart for all those who supported him or simply stood aside and allowed him to rise. Not tonight. Maybe not ever. I didn’t like when Bush Jr won either election – I cried when he won his second term. But I am beyond tears tonight. I am full of white hot rage. And I am so sick of the decisions of dumb white men being the ones we all have to live with. Fuck you all.

 

Two days later, my brother posted his response:

“Ugh… this racist, sexist, elitist rant is beneath you… and so very misdirected. Delete it and try again. Exit polls show Clinton did worse than Obama with women voters, Hispanic voters, black voters and young voters. Maybe try spitting some of that venom at the Democratic leadership for fixing the primary and playing right into Trump’s narrative that the system IS rigged. #thanksdnc#trumpbringsouttheworstinpeople

Noah and I have a great relationship – I love him dearly and he is the best big brother I could ask for. But our conversations around politics this last year or two have been fraught. At one point, I backed away from the conversation because I was getting offended and I didn’t want to engage in something that might make me very angry at him – I didn’t want to taint my opinion of him or strain our relationship. I’ve now come to regret that.

As I wrote the other day, I should’ve pushed harder and engaged more with the people in my life (liberal and conservative) who I have disagreed with. I should have tried to understand them better and to present more cogent arguments to them supporting my own theses. Instead I shied away from confrontation, from conflict, from difficult conversations and discomfort. But I realized yesterday, with my brother in particular, that I also shied away from being angry at him. I didn’t want to be angry at him or I didn’t think I should be. Meanwhile he had no problem being angry at me and expressing himself forcefully. In the end, all I did was silence myself.

Since I wrote my original Instagram post I’ve had time to reflect and recalibrate a bit. I am still angry at dumb white men. But now that we have more exit poll info and analysis, I am also angry at dumb white women. I’m also angry at third-party, protest, and abstaining voters. Noah’s underlying points are all valid: I am and have been angry at the DNC/Democratic party apparatus and leadership – I never said I wasn’t. The fact remains that the brunt of my anger is not reserved for them – and that showed in my initial reaction to the election results. My response to him on the post says everything about how I feel about his trying to police my reaction: “I won’t erase my anger, for you or anyone”.

I own my first reaction and I own the reactions I continue to have since then – they are all genuine and they are all valid. Away from the heat of anger I may have used less inflammatory language – I don’t really think not having a college degree makes you dumb, for example, but my beliefs are largely unchanged. Let’s break it down:

I’m angry at “dumb” white men and women because “Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980”.

It also should be noted that he won whites with a college degree, but just barely. So it’s fair to say whites as a whole are pretty disappointing this election. My take on this has been echoed elsewhere, but it basically comes down to this: if you held your nose and voted for Trump because he ran as a Republican, or because you thought with him in office you had a better chance at having policies you prefer put in place or continued; if you really didn’t like the things he said about Mexicans, or women, or the way he mocked a disabled reporter, criticized a Gold Star family, or has said Muslims should be put on a registry; but if you maybe equated those types of transgressions to the types Hillary Clinton has committed; and then you went ahead and voted for him – you are complicit in fomenting hate into our highest national office. Likewise, if you voted third party or didn’t vote at all because voting for his only real opponent was abhorrent to you – you are complicit. The message you sent to me and to many others was not “I am a racist” or “I am hateful” or “I want to repeal women’s rights and gay rights and send us back to the 60s” – the message you sent was “I don’t care that Donald Trump is all these things and wants all these things”, the message you sent was “my own conscience, or my own policy preferences are more important than your equality, your autonomy, your very survival”. And we heard you, loud and clear.

That is why so many are in mourning now, why so many are so angry, sad, and defeated-feeling. More than half the country decided on Tuesday that they would rather see Donald Trump in office (or would rather fail to stop him from being in office) than to help protect the most vulnerable segments of our population: minorities, the poor, the uneducated and disadvantaged, the LGBTQ communities, immigrants, and women. More than half the country decided, largely by dent of their own relative privilege, that the effects of a Trump presidency on themselves would be negligible or maybe even positive and didn’t give a shit about the effects it may have on others. So yea, to say I am most disappointed in all the people who showed up for Donald Trump is putting it mildly. I am second-most disappointed in all the people who didn’t show up for Hillary Clinton. Somewhere a couple bullet points down that list, I am also disappointed in the DNC/Establishment and the ways in which the Democrats have continuously failed not just the progressive left but the country as a whole.

To understand why that’s further down my list than, say, Noah’s, I offer this testimony:

All of my life, I have faced misogyny and sexism – it is lived experience for me and literally every woman. From cat-calls to condescension, I walk this gauntlet daily. All of my life, I have watched and listened as men in power – overwhelmingly old, white men – have tried to tell us what to do and how to live our lives. And it wasn’t just us they were trying to exert control over – it was black people and immigrants and gays and people practicing other religions (or no religion). Then I have also watched as these same old, white men successfully convinced poor and otherwise disenfranchised and disempowered white people that the problems they faced had nothing to do with capitalism or big business interests taking over government or the exploitation of overseas labor or changing technologies or inequality – but rather had everything to do with black people, immigrants, gays, Muslims, and women. I have watched as many of these white people have swallowed and internalized that messaging and made enemies of myself and my friends. Many more white people haven’t done that, but they have sat in their ivory towers, indifferent to the suffering of those below.

Hillary played the game a little too well – she had to in order to get ahead as a woman in a man’s world, but it compromised her integrity – she became part and parcel with this troubling, undemocratic system. She has made choices and alliances I would not have chosen for myself or for my ideal candidate. But – and this is important – by the time November 8th came around she was the only person placed to prevent Trump’s rising to the presidency. A male candidate with her bona fides – and her mistakes, missteps, quotes, and history – would have beaten Trump – I have not a doubt in my mind about that. It is incredibly painful to live with that knowledge but it is just another in a long line of indignities heaped upon women and all the other disenfranchised groups deeply affected by this election result, who are constantly reminded that we are less-than in our daily lives, and have now been shouted down by more than half the country once more.

So, yea, there’s a reason white men are numero uno on my list of where-to-direct-the-most-ire – I have suffered already at their hands for too long and now face a litany of further abuses and indignities. They overwhelmingly went for Trump in some demographics, less overwhelmingly (or not at all) in others, and many of them simply sat it out. You can argue that blacks and women and Latinos didn’t come out for Hillary as much as they did for Barack – but I won’t place the blame for her defeat there when the demographics look like this:

election

We tried. There were just more of you and you used your power to deny us ours.

So, again, I won’t erase my anger. I don’t regret what I said or take it back. If you’re one of the white men – or white people – who voted for Hillary, I’m sorry you’re taking flack right now for actions that aren’t yours to take ownership of – but that is the price that comes with privilege. That is the price I pay as a white-presenting woman who makes good money and lives in Portland, OR – I have to listen to the flack for white feminism and for this just like you have to. I’m sorry, it kind of sucks, I know. But it’s important and the best way for you to be an ally is for you to just shut up and listen – to shut up and take it, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s yours to take, and then to tell your friends. Not all white people are like you, they don’t all understand. Help them to understand.

What are you going to do?

10 Nov

For me, as for many of us, these past two days have been full of anger, fear, confusion, and – most of all – reflection.

I can’t say I’ve come here to write something particularly inspiring or informative, or to offer a single, coherent solution. I’ve come here to vent and to process and to collect my thoughts and I welcome your own thoughts and comments.

I’m allowed to feel fear and surprise.

Whether or not I should have seen this coming, or should have been more afraid than I already was before is now a non-sequitur. This is the reality we have found ourselves in and I’m allowed to be afraid, and I’m allowed to be shocked and surprised and let down.

I’m also allowed to be angry and to mourn, and to feel shame and to shame others for their choices.

I will have no one telling me I can’t be angry. I don’t care if you thought Hillary Clinton was not a great candidate – I am still allowed to mourn her loss, not just because of Trump’s win, but because we were standing on the precipice of shattering the highest of glass ceilings and we did not get to do it. I am disheartened, let down, disappointed, and angry at everyone I know who voted for Trump or did not do enough to stop it (the latter group includes myself). I will not apologize for shaming those who support him, I will not apologize for feeling ashamed of myself for not doing enough to oppose him.

I’m taking stock of my own failures.

What more could I have done? I know conservatives – I work with them and a few are my clients. Because of the avenues through which I know these people (work), I was not as aggressive as I otherwise might have been in reaching out and conversing with them. I regret this. Jobs and clients come and go, this presidency will leave a lasting legacy for decades to come. We had plenty of conversations that always ended in friendly promises to “agree to disagree”. This is not helpful – letting people remain comfortably ensconced in their own ignorance is not helpful. I don’t want to look back at my actions 20 years from now and wish I had been more vocal and more visible – during Trump’s tenure as president you can bet I will be much louder and much more present and I will be challenging the conservatives I know and love, to be and do better. I will be challenging the liberals I know and love (some of whom sat out the election or voted third party) to do the same.

I need to develop new strategies

Saying I will be louder and more present and will challenge people more seems, at first glance, like taking a more combative approach. It is true that I feel I have been too complacent – but it is not true that I will stop being kind or open to hearing other viewpoints. I need to do the research. I need talking points. It’s not enough to come to these conversations with passion – I need to come to these conversations with concrete knowledge. But it’s also not effective to just throw facts and figures at people – I need to first learn what their concerns are and then come back to the conversation armed with ways in which my approach, our approach, addresses those concerns more effectively than theirs. And I need to help them understand, truly, why I feel the way I do. I need to step out of my comfort zone – I need to be able to handle discomfort better. If having a tough conversation strains a relationship, I need to be willing and able to do that. Challenging someone to change the way they think is just that – a challenge. It’s difficult, but necessary work. My buzzwords these next several years will be “gentle challenges” – I want to start ongoing conversations that nudge people slowly in the direction of justice, kindness, fairness, equity, and love. I will focus less on “winning” arguments and more on sowing seeds. I will tend and water my plants over the long haul, hoping they will eventually grow and bloom.

I need to show up

I still believe there is value in writing blog posts, in posting on social media, in solidarity – and I will keep doing those things. But I also need to get up, get out, and get in the streets and “on the ground”. I need to donate money. I need to attend rallies and events. I need to put in the hours.

I need to listen

I need to listen to all those people of color and other marginalized persons currently posting on social media about how this is a white problem that white people have to fix. It’s all too easy to say “I didn’t vote for him, I did my part, I’m half-Mexican, don’t blame me!” – it’s much harder to simply listen, take the criticism, and try to figure out how to influence those in power around me who I have much better access to than many communities of color do. I need to listen to all the people who voted for Trump, to listen respectfully and really “hear” them so that I can figure out why they voted for him and then we can work on addressing their concerns and making them feel included in this country’s successes. I need to listen to all the people who sit out this process and understand how we can better engage them  – what would need to change in order for them to participate?

There are, however, certain Trump supporters and, just, people I will not listen to, respect, or value – and I will not apologize for that

I have no time or energy to deal with bigots and people full of hate – I will not waste my breath on them. Even after all this, I still trust they are the minority and their numbers are shrinking with each passing year. I will not waste my time on them. I will also not apologize for refusing to legitimize them or their concerns. There is, however, always an open spot at my table and by my side for anyone coming from this community who genuinely seeks a way out of it.

I don’t know what this election was “about”

Depending on who you read and listen to, this election may have been the result of any one of the following:

Misogyny

White Supremacy

The Economy

Anti-establishment sentiments

The divide between women and men, between educated people and non-educated people, between young and old.

I’m sure it is about all of those things each to some extent, but I don’t know who to blame or what to point to as the ultimate deciding factor. Which makes it hard to know where to begin the work. Maybe the best course is simply to choose what I am most passionate and knowledgeable about and start there.

I still do believe that Feminism will save us all

Just don’t use the “F” word. We need more women in office – we need a more representative democracy. We need to make sure our rights are secure. We don’t need to “open up” white feminism to make room for people of color or for men – we need to go to them, to meet them where they live, and to take their causes on as our own and, in the process, to create a new, inclusive feminism for everyone. Ultimately, feminism is about equality – and that is where we will find our greatest strength, in fighting for and championing the equality of all during these dark and turbulent times.

Here’s what I’m going to do

I just donated $20 to the ACLU and I hope you will consider donating your money or time to organizations that matter to you, as you see fit and are able. I am hoping to give more money, more frequently, in future.

I’m going to write and make art.

I’m going to delve deep into conversations with people who think and feel differently than I do, with the intention to learn to be and do better and to help them do the same.

I’m going to get involved on the ground level in my local community. I’ve been listening and skirting around the edges and hemming and hawing for months (years, really) – I’m jumping in now, no more equivocating on the sidelines – there is work to be done, even here in our supposed lovely little liberal utopia.

I’m going to bring it home – I’m going to hug my family and focus on what matters.

I’m going to practice self-care. All of the above is not to say that I won’t be taking deep breaths, stepping away from certain parts of my life and re-prioritizing others. I cannot possibly hope to lift others up without caring for myself as well.

What are you going to do?