Vive la Révolution

No one expects a revolution.

Oh sure, uprisings are almost always the result of powder kegs of inequity and frustration built up over time, but no one can accurately predict the stray match which lights up the night. Who would have predicted a dearth of French cake or a shipload of too-taxed tea would be straws that broke the camel’s back?

Or a Hollywood mogul.

Glance around girls and boys, we are in the midst of a revolution, though it’s not the one promised or predicted. It’s not the one coveted by ethno-nationalists or the one hoped for by far-left socialists.

Don’t be fooled. The cascade of sexual assault allegations which are coming down as thick and fast as Niagara Falls? It is nothing short of a revolution. It is a seismic shift in the conscious thought of a nation, or at least, a good chunk of a nation. To move, seemingly overnight, from dismissing the concerns of women to not only believing them, but holding the men responsible….well, responsible?

That is a tectonic shift of attitude. That is a revolution.

Sexual harassment is nothing new. Women have been coming forward with allegations of contact ranging from inappropriate to rape for decades. They were kind of/sort of/maybe/sometimes believed. Yet even when we, as a society did believe them, the power structure remained intact. Nondisclosure agreements and arbitration, out of court settlements and gag orders, or just garden variety misogynistic I think women make shit up for the hell of it. Maybe there was a slap on the wrist or a reprimand, a closed-door meeting with HR. But more often than not, not only have women’s concerns, allegations, and evidence been largely sidelined, covered up, and ignored, but the men accused have faced zero consequence.

In fact, not only have they never faced any real consequence, they’re often rewarded.

Casey Affleck settled two sexual harassment suits. He was awarded an Oscar. Chris Brown beat the shit out of Rhianna. He sells out concert venues. Roman Polanski raped a 13 y/o girl. He’s the recipient of several lifetime achievement awards. Woody Allen. Mel Gibson. Charlie Sheen. That’s just Hollywood. That’s before we get to publishing, finance, tech, academia.

Congress.

Like the roving hands of a serial groper, sexual harassment is everywhere. And powerful men who have had their hand in the cookie jar of women’s bodies, psyches, and pockets? They’ve been allowed to slide, chocolate chip crumbs all over their face.

Yet now, suddenly, there are consequences. Real ones. Not just financial settlements, but actual consequences. Powerful men who have abused their power and victimized women are being outed, fired, shunned, dropped.

Fox News’s Roger Ailes was a chink in the damn. Harvey Weinstein blew a whole in it.

And here we are, drenched in the downfall.

Women have long become accustomed to not having their stories believed, to having their motives doubted, their pasts dragged through the public. To suddenly have people believe them is both shocking and confusing. It is a welcome change, a long overdue and needed change, but one which drags with it in its wake a host of questions and uncertainty.

Perhaps there are women who were expecting it. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t. And like those street urchins standing below a tri-colored flag at the end of Les Mis, I don’t quite know what to make of it all.

It’s glorious and affirming, but also scary as hell.

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Human beings are complex and flawed. Both men and women. Add the dimensions of sex and power to that and our relationships become even more complex.

And here we are, standing in suddenly abandoned enemy territory, a flag ready to plant. New map lines must be drawn. What is acceptable, what is not? There will be gray areas that are fought over as fiercely as Kashmir. Does a photo depicting a violating act = a violating act itself?   Does a forced kiss = grooming a fourteen year old? Is there a hierarchy of shitty male behavior? And more importantly, the realization that we, as women, must turn inward and contemplate our own questionable feelings and shitty behavior.

What we need is time to figure it all out.

In a revolution, time is a luxury you don’t have.

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In any major cultural shift, there is a period of panic and disorientation. There are snap judgments and on-the-ground decisions, some of which will turn out to be wrong. When you start dredging the depths, you’ve got to wade through a lot of muck and sludge. You’re going to take a bit of it with you, no matter how hard you try to scrape it off.

Revolutions are a messy business. People are going to get hurt. There will be fallout. Once the dust has settled, a lot of soul-searching will be required. It will take a massive amount of long, hard work to remold the status quo.

And this is where we must be smart. We must take our time and redraw the map of acceptability and accountability. And that requires women to look at their own behavior, their own process, their own complex relationship with sex and power. Because if history has taught us anything, it is this: if you drag out a guillotine and start demanding heads, you run the danger of having that guillotine sharpened and readied for your own.

These are terrifying and exhilarating times. The potential seeds for great change are being laid. All that remains to be seen is which way the wind blows. Away from us, toward that arc of justice…or back in our face, dirt and all.

 

 

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Dear World, Don’t Sell My Sons Short

Dear World,

Do me a favor, will you?

Don’t sell my sons short.

Let me ‘splain. No, no time to ‘splain, let me sum up….

You, world, you sell them short each time you assume they’re going to act like Neanderthals  simply because they are in possession of testicles and a willy. You do it every time you insist they’ll be distracted by the first spaghetti strap that crosses their line of vision, or an extra inch of thigh skin. You do it every time you restrict someone else in response to an embarrassing pubescent erection, which, let’s be honest, is just as likely the result of the wind blowing the wrong way as it is to an object of affection walking by.

You keep selling them short. You presume that somewhere, embedded into the XY chromosomes my sons carry, is a short-circuit which prevents them from telling right from wrong, from conscious choice and decision making, from weighing the options and coming down firmly on the side of acceptable.

But the animal kingdom! You cry. But biology! Precedent! You cry, cry, cry me a river as if human beings and society has not been a constantly evolving game of hit or miss all along.

So please, don’t use elephants in the wild to assume that my sons won’t be able to appreciate the sexuality of a peer without losing their shit and flunking algebra.

They are boys, not single-celled organisms. They are eminently capable of reason and ability, in possession of a morality and a conscience. Don’t give them an easy out or a ready excuse by claiming, repeatedly, they can’t help it.

They are capable of so much more than that. Let them show you.

The US Marine Corps. is smack in the midst of a scandal at the moment. Photos of female Marines, many to them explicit, were hacked, uploaded, taken and shared among a group of 30,000 male Marines.

Cue the tried and trite excuses:

“Well, what do you expect?”
“This is what happens when you have men and women serving together.”
“Men are lusty/animals/biologically programmed”
“All men do stuff like this. It’s locker-room talk.”

Don’t.Do.That.

Men are not static creatures. My boys are not static. They are dynamic. Society changes, we progress. What do I expect, world?

I expect that as a whole, we have moved beyond “well, what do you expect?” and on to “I expect better.”

Don’t tell them not to cry. Don’t tell them to man up. Don’t tell them to grow a set. The need to cry, to empathize and emote–it is not shameful or womanly, it is human. They’ll be men by virtue of growing and maturing into larger, hairier versions of themselves. Don’t sell them short by handing over a definitive list of rules and regulations they need to meet in order to be men. Allow them the freedom to define themselves.

The majority of men don’t rape, don’t grope, don’t assault or assume. The majority of men understand consent. The vast majority of boys and men manage entire lives without uploading nude photos because they have been taught it is not right, or something inside them realizes it is not. If men truly were programmed to do those things, if that’s just what men ‘do’, does that mean all the men who don’t aren’t real men but imposters, traitors to their DNA?

Don’t sell my kids short just because they happen to be boys. Don’t assume they don’t know their way around a conscience.

Don’t give them the easy out of ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘men will be men’. Not only are you excusing behavior, you’re excusing me from my job of parenting them to know right from wrong.

And in case you need a list to put on your refrigerator, here’s a starter. Feel free to add to it as you go along.

 

It is not right to ask a girl to take, send, upload or share nude photos of herself or other females.

It is not right, if a compromising picture exists, to assume you have permission to share that picture. Its existence does not absolve you of wrongdoing.

It is not right to force yourself on a girl or woman who has not given her consent. And yes, that means if you’re unsure, you explicitly ask. And if you’re still unsure, you walk away. Even if it would have meant getting your rocks off.

It is not right to have sex with a girl or woman who is drunk, on drugs, or in any other way mentally incapable of giving informed consent. Having sex with an unconscious girl is rape. Even if she was flirting with you an hour before. Even if her skirt rode up. Even if she’s lying naked on your bed. Why? Because women who cannot speak can’t give consent. And consent should never be assumed.

It is not right to expect girls and women to manage the way they dress, or act, or speak or behave because it makes a man uncomfortable. Boys and men capable of managing their own emotions. Let them. If a girl walks by and her spaghetti strap distracts a boy or man? It’s up to the boy or man to change their behavior, not to force the girl to widen her straps. Every time you assume a boy or man can’t manage those feelings, you are not only taking something away from a girl or woman, you’re taking away something from a boy too. The ability to manage his own emotions and actions.

Don’t sell my boys short. I have taught them, I am teaching them, to tell right from wrong, that respect is not limited to sex or gender, that just because someone else does it it’s not ok, that if it makes them question the devil standing on one shoulder, it’s most likely wrong.

We all make mistakes. We all utilize poor judgment from time to time–girls, boys, men and women. But don’t sell my boys short by excusing that capacity for judgment in the first place.

I hold my sons to incredibly high standards. You should too. Not just my sons. All the sons.

Love,
Me

 

Hunting and Gathering in America

kalina_hunter_gatherer-2Over the past few days I’ve watched several Trump surrogates attempt to deflect questions from women, young girls, and reporters about the recent allegations against Donald Trump.

Mike Pence, when given a question asked by an eleven year-old girl who felt disheartened by Trump’s language, switched to a conversation about foreign policy.

Ben Carson, when pressed by a female reporter to answer whether or not he believed the allegations against Trump, started talking about the economy–and then asked if they could switch the reporter’s mic off so he could keep talking…about the economy.

There’s a reason why women keep ‘harping’ on about this stuff, you dimwits.

This is the stuff that matters to women.

This matters. Our needs and our bodies and the right to exist without stumpy fingers inserting themselves somewhere—-literally or metaphorically. That shit is important. This stuff matters.

That’s why we’re grabbing you by the (metaphorical) balls on this one and not letting it go. Despite the deflections and the denials and the redirection, it’s not going to go away. (Note: don’t try redirection on mothers who have survived multiple Target toy aisle meltdowns. We’re the masters of redirection.)

Look, obviously the economy is important. Foreign policy is important. And national security and a hundred other things. They are what I call ‘Big Game’ stuff. They are the Hunter Policies: How do we protect jobs? How do we secure our borders? Trade deals. Chest thump. Meat roasting over an open fire.

But in our insistence upon focusing solely on the Big Game stuff, we often ignore the policies which affect day-to-day  living, working, and raising kids, saying alive and unmolested: The Gatherer Policies.

How am I going to get to work when my kid is sick? Can I afford to take time off work because the American maternity leave hasn’t progressed past the stone age? What am I going to do if my birth control fails because we can’t afford another kid? How do I protect my child if he/she is gay or transgender? Do I feel safe going out for a run? How am I going to be caretaker to both my children and my parents? Is that guy at work who is brushing up against me and commenting about my breasts going to block my promotion?

Our ancestors knew that protein was critical to survival. But they also knew their newly formed tribes and communities would not survive without the day-to-day sustenance that gathering provided. Not to mention the small task of securing the survival of the species by caring for the next generation.

Yet those damn hunters. They get all the credit.

Grabbing women without consent? It’s important. But it is also a metaphor for this election. When it becomes clear that you can’t even understand WHY women are pissed about this, it becomes crystal clear that lots of men have NOT BEEN LISTENING AT ALL.

For many women, those ‘social issues’? It’s the shit that keeps us up at night. Because they seem less significant than things like foreign policy, they often get subsumed. They get buried under all the Big Game stuff. Men often don’t worry about things like bodily autonomy because it is not an issue for them. Reproductive rights are abstract rights for men. Family leave affects them, but in a financial sense. They are not the ones who are limping back to work with stitches from an episiotomy still in place.

This is the stuff that matters to many women. And for centuries our needs and wants and political desires have been largely ignored. The berries get overlooked in praise of the meat.

In recent times, sex and gender roles have blurred. More women are bringing home the big game bacon and more men are doing their share of metaphorical berry-gathering. But that doesn’t mean the Gathering policies are any less important. On the contrary.

hoodie-womens-rights-are-human-rights-d001006467062The fact that forcing yourself on someone is wrong and indicative of a larger issue should be pretty damn easy to understand. It really doesn’t get more basic than that. Thou shalt not grab pu**y. Most women just assume it is a basic guarantee, filed away under life, liberty and the pursuit of unmolested happiness.

But for a lot of people, it would seem that it is not so evident. They keep deflecting and changing the subject and trying to convince us that we’re stubbornly missing the ‘important stuff’.

Damn guys, if you can’t even understand that for women, the basic idea of existing as a human being means that no one is entitled to snatch the snatch is the important stuff?

We’ve got a long way to go.

 

Skirting the Issue

The long or short of it? We're at risk regardless.
The long or short of it? We’re at risk regardless.

The foreign minister in India just made headlines for a newly published list of tourism tips. They run the gamut of normalcy, common sense mingled with observance of local custom, but with an interesting caveat for female tourists.

Don’t wear skirts.

After a string of high-profile rape cases in India against foreign women, (not to mention the appalling rape and sexual assault statistics for Indian women themselves), I’m sure the foreign minister thought he was helping by giving women tips to lower their chances of being the victim of sexual assault.

That right there is the problem.

Once again we’re putting the burden on girls and women to AVOID being assaulted or raped when the burden should fall squarely on the shoulders of men. Women should not need to avoid getting raped. Men should avoid raping.

Don’t drink too much.

Don’t go out at night.

Don’t go to an area you’re unfamiliar with.

Don’t go out alone.

Don’t go out for a run.

Don’t wear suggestive clothing.

Don’t wear skirts.

You may as well just issue a blanket statement: Don’t be a woman.

No matter the intention, when you give women a list of dos and don’ts to follow like a checklist of rape avoidance, you’re reinforcing the notion that it is somehow IN THEIR CONTROL, that rape or sexual assault can be avoided if they’re careful and follow all the rules. The corollary is that if it happens, it must mean it was their fault, something they did wrong.

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Not only is it damaging and insulting, it’s flat out wrong. There are plenty of women who are assaulted and/or raped who are wearing pants, or sober, or at a party with others. There are plenty of women raped in broad daylight, in their homes, by men they know.

There is one commonality. They are women.

We still haven’t truly changed the way we look at sexual assault and rape. We still haven’t changed the way we talk to boys and men about it. And we still haven’t come up with solutions to stop men from doing it in the first place.

Again, women don’t need to avoid being assaulted and raped. Men need to avoid assaulting and raping.

How do we do that? Education. Training. Punitive consequences. Zero tolerance for sexual assaults. More education. More training.

A friend told me this morning about a college in Canada which suspended their entire hockey program because two of the players were involved in a sexual assault and several more were complicit. Suspending an entire hockey program sounds harsh, right? Especially for the ones who weren’t involved at all. But…

The school put its foot down and took a zero tolerance approach. The school actually put the welfare of women above its hockey team. Imagine that. By taking a resolutely punitive stand on the issue, perhaps the next generation of hockey players will think about the consequences, because the consequences will actually have meaning to them. Maybe it will stop someone in their tracks. Maybe a friend will stop a teammate from committing an assault. 

But in order to have that work, the consequences must be real. We must reach a social and judicial point where raping or assaulting a woman just isn’t worth it.

Until we do, assaults and rapes will keep happening. Two recent cases of young, white men convicted of sexual assault who walked with a slap on the wrist are just one example of why the justice system needs to look at the way they sentence men convicted of sexual assault.

Harsher sentencing and stricter consequences for assault and rape isn’t about an eye for an eye. I’m not arguing that a woman’s life is irreparably changed and therefore a man’s should be as well.

It’s about changing the way we look at assault and rape. It’s about putting the burden on the potential rapists, not potential victims. It’s about making sure that assault and rape are not viewed as ‘youthful mistakes’ or indiscretions that can be overlooked or forgiven, but crimes. With sentencing that means something.

Instead of ‘don’t wear a skirt’, we need ‘if you rape, you’re going to jail.’

Instead of ‘dont’ drink too much at a college party, we need ‘this university has a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault and should you be found guilty of such, you will be expelled in addition to legal consequences.’

Instead of ‘don’t wear suggestive clothing’ we need ‘clothing never equals equal consent’

Instead of ‘what have I got to lose?, we need ‘here is exactly what is at stake’

skirtWe need to change the entire mindset. And that starts with the way we talk to our kids. Both girls and boys. Yes, we need to teach our kids to be safe. We need to teach them to use common sense. But we need to hammer home the difference between right and wrong when it comes to sexual assaults and rape.

We need to shift the burden.

Otherwise, all we are doing is skirting the issue.

34 Things Women do to Feel Safe: The Burden of Being Careful--how many have you done?