Posted in Body Politics, Politics

Well of course he did

The revelations about Al Franken, erstwhile progressive hero, are beyond disappointing. But what surprises me most is that I’m not even a little bit surprised. Because Al Franken is a man. I’ve known a lot of men. And most, even those I’ve known only casually or professionally, have eventually tipped their privileged and entitled hand, if not their outright gross, predatory, and misogynistic one. Men I despised and men I liked, both, and men I didn’t even know well enough to form an opinion.  The mental gymnastics it would take one to continue, at this point, to believe it’s just a few bad apples, are dizzying; this is a rotten tree growing from a rotten root going back 300,000 years.

Just Tuesday, a male employee at Home Depot touched me unnecessarily (in that I hadn’t stumbled, or gone unconscious,) at least 4 times on arm and leg while we discussed the relative merits of Ryobi and DeWalt cordless screwdrivers. And the sad part is, I don’t even think he was actively trying to be creepy. It just didn’t even occur to him that he shouldn’t touch a strange woman. Which is why I didn’t knock his block off. Most women have reasonably strong creep radar, and we have been trained to make allowances for the oblivious creep-adjacent types because, Christ, if we didn’t, if we had to spend our days cataloging and coping with every microaggression, every crossed boundary, every juvenile sexual innuendo, we’d do nothing else, and we’d slit our wrists.   Among the male menaces we might have to deal with on a given day, a man touching my arm while he talks to me about screwdrivers in a public place is barely a blip on my fear radar.

And yet, it bothered me all the way home. That I, as a woman, and previously a girl, have to spend so much of my brain power, every day of my life, to keep myself safe in a rape culture, to protect myself from liberties taken, when men can go around blithely not having to think for one second about what they do, and whether or not they should touch a stranger in the tool corral.  Because they’ve been taught, in word and deed, for generations, that women and their bodies are public property belonging to everyone BUT the women themselves.

The answer is no, not without invitation or pressing medical emergency, in case anyone was still wondering.

This is what women have been talking about for ages:  the casual misogyny and entitlement that runs the gamut from puerile jokes, to lack of professional opportunity, to rape and murder, to the ridiculously light sentencing for those who rape and/or murder women (especially as compared to sentencing for property crimes). It’s all the same thing:  a fundamental lack of respect for, or hell, even the most basic acknowledgement of, the basic humanity, dignity, and agency of 51% of the human race. It permeates everything, including the consciousness of every last one of us.  And it bears noting that to extricate yourself from that kind of cultural group-think is a difficult and revolutionary act that takes a lot of thoughtful effort.   Men of milder offenses might be somewhat understood for not realizing that their actions were actual psychological violence (sometimes paired with physical), but many women are unwilling to make allowances anymore, because men have been told.  Again, and again, and again, and again, and more loudly every time.

It is not a question of not knowing what’s okay and what’s not.  It never was.  The fact is, we’ve all grown up in a culture that has allowed, encouraged, and barely consequenced even the most egregious offenses perpetrated by men against women, and even as story after story rolls out on the news ticker, there will be many men and women making excuses for the perpetrators, or blaming the victims thereof.  It’s not that we never knew before Franken, Weinstein, and the rest that men frequently behaved badly.  I can tell you that those of us raised girls were also raised to expect it.  It’s not a secret.

What’s new is that victims of that bad behavior are starting to refuse to make the traditional allowances, and the bravery of some has conferred more bravery on others.  Al Franken’s outing as a man who engineered situations to take stupid, gross liberties and violate a woman doesn’t make him particularly unusual, as men go.  That’s the sad, bad not-news that’s been going on for ages.  But he does symbolize the reality of, yes, goddamnit, pretty much all men–even pretty decent, admirable men–it’s really only a question of degree.  The remaining question is, are men ready to evolve?  Are they ready to end toxic masculinity and misogyny?  Are they ready to step up?  Are they ready to not just be good men, but better men?  They need to.  Because “good” has always been graded on a generous curve for men, and merely “good” compared to the worst men isn’t good enough anymore.  Because our society has, maybe inadvertently, raised generations of warrior women who walk with their keys splayed in one hand and a can of Mace in the other.  And we are done being fucked with.

Posted in Commentary, Politics

I Can’t Stand It

I admit, I’ve been a little shut down lately–in self-defense, mind you–regarding the hateful, greedy dumpster fire that is our federal government currently, because I cannot deal with the daily onslaught of untrammeled horror coming out of D.C..  But with the release of the budget, and the intolerable stupidity and heartlessness coming out of the mouths of the people who are stumping for it, I just can’t stand it anymore. There are three things I hate most in life, and those are willful stupidity, meanness, and lying. This government is saturated with all three.

It’s impossible for me to understand all those American voters who voted for what we’re seeing now because they are against “their hard-earned money” going into pockets of people they deem unworthy because they are…well, let’s see, who are they? They are single-mothers, and children, and people of color, new arrivals to these shores, refugees, the poor and vulnerable, and themselves in many cases, but somehow, that doesn’t matter. Somehow, though, they’re just fine with “their hard-earned money” being funneled directly into the deepest pockets in the land. The logic fail on the most basic level just leaves me sputtering in disbelief, and yet it’s happening. I cannot deny it. Robber barons have taken over our government, with the express consent of the people who will suffer most for it, and the majority of us get to suffer right along with them. And they have the gall to be surprised, despite 65,844,610 of us telling them that this was exactly how it was going to be, for 18 months leading up to the election.

What a country. I don’t even know what to do with it. I really, really don’t, because it is so wrong-headed, and the ramifications so dismal, far-reaching, and terrifying that I find it hard to string words together to rant about it, because my basic and constant to reaction to what’s happening is this:

And this:

When you have politicians proudly explaining to us that poor children don’t need free and reduced lunch (often the only meal some kids get all day) because it doesn’t improve test scores, and that the elderly, ill, and homebound don’t need meals-on-wheels (often the only food and human contact some people get all day, or week), we have taken a hard turn to the darkest side. Especially when these cuts are being used to finance tax breaks for people who already have more money than sense or compassion. Their greed is insatiable, and the Trump administration, and all the cronies he’s installed in it, will not be satisfied until they have emptied the treasury of every single cent, and incentive, they can wring out of it for their own current and future enrichment. And they are willing to starve children and old people, to let Americans die without access to health care, to get it.

That is evil, my friends. That is unequivocal evil. And yet these are the people who constantly claim they are the party of morality; that they are the good Christians fighting the righteous fight against the rest of us perverts who think human rights are for all humans, civil rights are for all citizens, and that we ought not let the most vulnerable among us suffer for our selfishness and fear. They don’t know a damn thing about Jesus Christ, or what he stood for.

I have been disappointed in my country before, but this is new. This is despair. We are in real, existential trouble, and people are literally dying, and there will be more, whether they’re shot in the street by racists, or raped and murdered by people who are fans of a President who thinks he can assault women with impunity, or they can’t get the medical treatment they desperately need, or they just quietly starve in obscurity.  I don’t know how we stop this horrible juggernaut. Will it only stop when it has consumed and exhausted all of us, and there is nothing left but corpses and dead earth? Are we going to peacefully, if fearfully, walk ourselves into the ghetto, telling ourselves that if we just cooperate, it’ll all get straightened out, and it couldn’t possibly be that bad?

It can be. It is.