Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Harveys

I’m getting whiplash from the continually breaking and increasingly disturbing allegations against Harvey Weinstein. And each day more women (and men) are coming forward to tell stories of their own. Stories of harassment at the hands of the powerful.

Same old song and square dance. In case it’s been a while since you heard this one, (who was the last? O’Reilly? Cosby? Ailes?), let me remind you how the old grab your partner do-si-do goes.

Grab your partner with your left hand! Powerful man sexually assaults/abuses/harasses women. Back to the Partner for a Right and Left Grand! Women are silenced by payouts, nondisclosure agreements, threats, bribes, and the harsh reality of bringing accusations against those in power. Ace of Diamonds, Jack of Spades! Excuses are made, justifications proffered, denials scattered like seed on the wind. Women are blamed for enabling the behavior. Meet your Partner and All Promenade! More women come forward. They are routinely accused of doing it for the fame/money/press. Men complain.

The dance ends. Until the music starts up again.

You see that neat do-si-do trick there? Men abuse. Women get the blame. Oh sure, we focus on the star-quality name for a hot minute or two. We all tsk-tsk and oh, isn’t that awful, but it always–always–comes back to bite women in the ass. Because by the end of it, the media, the powerful, the ignoramuses with Twitter followers (Et tu, CNN?) still put the burden on women to speak out and put a stop to this behavior.

It’s up to women! They must report it! They must stop enabling and allowing it! They must stand up to rich and powerful men (or just regular old asshole men who sign their paltry paycheck every week). They must create a culture at work which does not allow for this! They must understand not every creepy hand on a shoulder is sexual harassment!

They, they, they! Women, women, women!

Fine. You want to put the onus on women? Do it this way:

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Harvey Weinstein.

Or Ben Affleck. Or Casey Affleck for that matter. Or Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas or any of the thousands of nameless, faceless men across the world who feel the presence of a woman gives them carte blanche to grope, proposition, grab, belittle, demand, leer at–oh hell, use a damn thesaurus if you’re not sure what I’m trying to say here–women.

Once upon a time there was a seventeen year-old girl, working in an office for the summer. One day she had on a vintage green dress, the color of Sprite. Darted at the bust line, scoop necked, below the knee. She liked the way she looked in it. So did the man whose office she walked into. He liked the way she looked so much he backed her into a corner with his chair. He never got up, just sat, wheeling that chair from left to right so she couldn’t leave without brushing past him. There were suggestive comments about the lemon-lime dress. Most of them went over her head. Because she was seventeen.

First, she panicked. Is this real? Was she imagining this? Did she miss something? Then she planned. How would she get out of this? She could scramble across the desk but if she does her pretty, lemon-lime colored dress will ride up, exposing her underpants, her ass. Would he grab her? Would he put his grown-man hand, the one that looks like her Dad’s, on her skin? Too risky. If she told him to stop would he call other men over to laugh at his joke, laugh at her who’s not in on the joke? Too risky.

So she stood there. Because she was fucking seventeen and this man was an adult and should know better.

But he didn’t. Because–well, why didn’t he? No one taught him? Do you really need to be taught that crude sexual innuendo aimed at a seventeen year-old girl is wrong?

So she stood there. And she felt dirty. As if she’d done something wrong. As if she wasn’t getting the ‘joke’.

Do-si-do and around we go.

Let’s be clear. That seventeen year-old girl didn’t ask for a grown man to corner her in his office. What was she supposed to do? Who was she supposed to tell? In the end, she did what women have been doing for decades.

Nothing.

Seventeen year-old girls may be young, but they intuit the way the real world works. Which is why men mostly get away with it. Because no one is going to believe a seventeen year old girl over a grown man.

Just like no one wanted to believe a nineteen year-old Rose McGowan. Or maybe they did, but it was more important to protect the big, important man who held all the power.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Harveys.

This is not rocket science. This should not be hard. It shouldn’t take having a daughter to realize that forcing women into a corner, literally and metaphorically, is wrong. That soliciting women is wrong. That asking women to perform for you, on a casting couch, in a board room, in a work shop office that smells of metal and machinery oil, is not ok.

Teach your sons it is not someone else’s daughter’s fault. Or her responsibility. Teach them the lemon-lime color of a pretty, vintage dress makes no difference. Do not make excuses and justifications for the Harveys, the Clarences, the Bills. Because every time you do-si-do around the truth, you make it easier for the next guy to get away with it.

There are a lot of Harveys out there. Weinstein is not a one-off. His is just the biggest name..today. Most of them have no damn clue what they are doing is wrong. They lash out because they feel confined by political correctness.

Sure, because it’s political correctness telling your grown-ass, should-know-better self it’s not ok to corner a seventeen year-old. Or promise an actress a career-making role if she gives you a blow job. Or to talk about porn with your law clerk, or dazzle your White House intern with your power.

This is not about ‘how it used to be’. This is not about political correctness or not being able to ‘say anything anymore’. This is about power: who holds it and who doesn’t.

There are thousands of thousands of women with stories about their own Harveys.

Don’t let your sons grow up to be Harveys. And don’t let your daughters grow up to think they’re responsible for them.

I don’t remember that asshole’s name. But I can tell you the exact hue of that Sprite colored dress. And how I never wanted to wear it again.

 

 

All quotes from 21 Harrowing Stories of Sexual Harassment

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One Day at a Time, One Woman at Time

I have a challenge for you. Every day for the next week, compliment a woman.

To be sure your wife, your best friend, your mother or daughter–they should be complimented freely and frequently, but for now, go a bit further afield. A co-worker or colleague, perhaps. Maybe the woman who gets your coffee order right every day. Hell, send a tweet to a woman in public office you admire, an artist whose work you love, an activist who inspires you. Say something nice to the small, elderly lady you see going to the shop every day by herself.

Compliment a woman every day for a week.

That’s it.

As far as challenges go, pretty simple right? I mean I’m not asking you to sell Girl Scout cookies or shove two dozen hot dogs down your throat. I’m not even asking you to give up sugar or alcohol. Easy peasy.

Ok, ok, there’s one, small catch. Your compliment can’t rely on a woman’s physical appearance or what she’s wearing.

Did that make it more difficult? After all, appearance is our go-to with women, our fail-safe.

You look nice today. Your hair looks beautiful. You look good. You’re looking well. I love the way that dress looks on you. That color looks great on you.**
Look, look, look.

Look: There are tens of millions of women who are doing hundreds of millions of admirable, compliment-worthy things each and every day. Single moms who are raising amazing kids in difficult circumstances. Women who donate their time to help others. Women who work to cure cancer. Women who teach your kids and care for your elderly mother, who do a million shitty jobs with a smile. Girls who are acing AP chemistry exams and breaking sports records. How often do we actually see these women, the ones who aren’t our wives or daughters or friends? And, when we do see them, how often do we see beyond the shade of their hair or the clothes they’re wearing?

How often do we tell them that we see them, see what they’re doing?

**************

If the patriarchy was set up by men, the mechanisms which keep it running are lubricated by women. And most of the time we aren’t even aware we’re dutifully oiling the cogs.

Some women like the protection and order a hierarchical structure offers them. There are plenty of women who benefit from patriarchy. Think Serena Joy in The Handmaid’s Tale, or the Aunts, clinging to whatever crumb of power over others they are allowed. As long as a human being has power over another, they are going to question dismantling the structure that allows them that power–even if it’s hurting them in other ways. Some women bristle against the idea of inequality-perhaps because they haven’t faced any situation or scenario in which they’ve felt unequal. Others bristle against it because it’s a painful thing to come up against, the idea that there is a structure in place which fundamentally views a category of people as inferior.

So we fight. Not against the power structure itself though. We fight with each other.

Frankly, women are often awful to other women. Instead of working together to form a bridge so we can move forward as a whole, we’re hurling one another off at the closest checkpoint, burning it behind us, in front of us, making sure that no one can get across.

The structure’s already there. It only needs an occasional tweak. And we’re doing most of the maintenance ourselves.

**************

A while ago I made a conscious decision to stop judging other woman on the way they look. I try not to disparage women for the choices they make. I try. It’s not always easy. There are plenty of women in the world who disagree with me, and I them. Forcefully. There are women who believe that the role of women is to be subservient, behind the scenes, best supporting role in a male society category. As much as that makes me go all funny in the head and want to stage a full-scale intervention, if my definition of sisterhood does not have room for their personal choices, then I’m really no better. We don’t have to agree. But neither one of us is ever going to get anywhere if we’re dueling it out in the middle of the bridge while other women dismantle the support struts.

I refuse to support a system which encourages me to view other women as my enemy (except for Ann Coulter. I will make an exception for Ann Coulter). I am not going to keep oiling the gears. If a system of a down is going to keep me down, I’m going to make the fuckers who are benefitting from it work to keep it running.

I’ll be damned if I’m going to do the work for them.

So I stopped. I make a conscious effort every day to support other women. I pay more attention to the way I treat other women. And I, who write about it, who is so focused on it that I miss the forest for the trees at times, I have a long way to go.

So I’m on a mission, to lift one woman at a time, one day at a time. And the easiest way to do that is to actually see other women. To look at them. To listen and support. And to let them know I see them and hear them.

That’s it.

I can’t swoop in and change the world, even though there are times I desperately want to. I can’t beat people over the head, though some times I desperately want to do that too. I can’t control what is out of my hands, but I can control how I react to the world around me. And I can control how I live my life.

And for now, I choose this.

One woman at a time. One day at a time.

I’m not saying it’s going to change the world. But it will change me. And isn’t that a good enough place to start?

 

 

 

**In Darling, You Look Marvelous, I wrote about the importance of women complimenting other women, particulary their physical attributes, as a way to get over viweing other women as competition. Viewing women as ‘other’, as competition, is simply anohter cog in the machine we’re continaully greasing up.

The First Rule Of Hillary Club

130529144309-emily-davison-funeral-horizontal-large-galleryRecently I was added to a secret group. It’s a group of women (and men) who are #WithHer. And by with her, I mean with Hillary. But even more than that, they are with every HER that is part of the group.

Members run the gamut between long time Hillary supporters (raising hand) to those who swung their legs down onto her side of the fence after watching the debates to those who have been life-long Republicans who are broken-hearted, disgusted, or tired of the party they feel has abandoned them. Not just abandoned them, but actively thrown them under the bus. Then backed that bus up over them for good measure.

It’s a place of positivity, of sharing, of leaning in and shoring up. In the few days I’ve been a member I’ve read countless stories of mothers, grandmothers and daughters, of women across religion, class, color, age.

There are stories of women who fought their way out of abusive marriages. Women who have had to battle sexism in the workplace, in university. Stories of the little girl who had to fight to get the shoe salesman to sell her the boy’s shoes she wanted and women who had to reassure medical school boards that their husbands didn’t mind the fact they would be more ‘important’. Women who weren’t allowed to have a bank account in their own name…until the 1980s. Women who have been and still are held to different standards.

You read one or two or ten of these stories and they send a little trill up your spine. Sisterhood is powerful. Then you keep scrolling.

And scrolling.

And scrolling.636053770725830396-hillary

There are hundreds. Stories of sexual assault, stories of triumph, stories of woman after woman after woman putting her head down and doing whatever needed to be done to keep a roof over her head, to keep her kids safe, to keep food on the table, to stay alive. There are stories of fathers telling their six year-old daughters they could be anything as well as stories in which a father tells his daughter that despite her own sexual assault he’s still going to vote for a candidate who has been accused of doing the same to someone else’s daughter.

It’s bad enough when your political party throws you under the bus. When a family member has their foot on the gas? Is it any wonder the group is secret?

Another reason? Women who live in red states, who are terrified of announcing public support for Hillary Clinton. Women who in past elections have had their homes targeted. Who have been harassed because of a bumper sticker. Women who have been screamed at and yelled at, disowned by relatives, harassed online by ‘well-meaning friends’, accosted by strangers.

Over their vote.

And so they are doing what women have been doing since the beginning of time. Meeting in secret, like a coven of witches. Playing their cards close to their chest, keeping their heads down. They are staying out of the public eye, not because they don’t feel strongly or passionately, but because they are ensuring their safety, whether that safety is real or metaphorical.

The first rule of Hillary Club is it’s a safe space for women who have been threatened or intimidated for their choice, their voice, their support, their sex.votes-for-women

Less than one-hundred years after American women were granted the right to vote, there are thousands and thousands of women who need to keep their votes, and therefore their power, secret. Secret from husbands or fathers or relatives or bosses who at best, simply don’t listen, but who at worst, could do serious damage. One woman told a story of her own mother, whose mail-in ballot is controlled and overseen by her abusive husband. She is not the only one, not by a longshot.

There is a reason why ballots are secret. The fact that women are being harassed for holding a political view which dares to differ from their spouse or family or neighbors or employer or church is only one of them. And so just like our great-grandmother witches, women are keeping that power to themselves, unleashing it when they need to.

The need for secrecy is both surprising and yet not at all so. Women know their right to a ballot is powerful. Men know it too. It’s why it was withheld for so long. It’s why when the electoral map showed how the race would turn out if only women voted, #repealthe19th started to trend on Twitter. Smart men and women know they need to factor women’s issues into their politics. Smart men and women know that ignoring the power of those ballots is a risky venture.

b901114b65485711eb231144d41b3597At the end of the day , Hillary Club is overwhelmingly supportive and strengthening, blessedly free of words like Benghazi and Wikileaks and Bill. There are political discussions, pros, cons, concerns and discourse. No one believes Hillary Clinton is the Messiah. No one believes she is perfection wrapped up in a white pantsuit, her nod to the suffragette movement. No, Hillary Club is like hanging out with 100,000 of the best friends you’ve never met all in one place, with one common goal. But don’t be fooled. That goal is not only to elect Hillary Clinton, but to say, my voice matters too and my vote counts. Ignore it at your peril.

The last time I checked, there were 125K members of this secret group. And it was growing by about 6,000 an hour. And this is only one group. There are others.

If there is as big a gender gap in the polls as they are predicting, don’t be fooled. It’s not because the Democrats are recruiting the walking dead to cast a vote. No. For hundreds of thousands of women, the vote for Hillary Clinton is not rigged, but righteous.