Feminist

Sex, Lies, and Assault

The full quote engraved above is, “For the Improvement of Social and Living Conditions”

This morning Al Franken will be making an announcement regarding the allegations against him. Many believe he will be stepping down, many believe he should step down. Maybe this post will be up before he does so, but know it was written prior. I hear/see a lot of people saying this is a watershed moment in American history for women and women’s rights. Time Magazine’s person of the year 2017 isn’t one person, it’s the #metoo movement, the “silence breakers.”

I don’t have answers in regards to Franken, and I’ve been finding it impossible to read every detail coming to light about all of these men. It’s all so, so much. Not just so much in terms of the volume of accusations against the ever-growing number of men, but so much when looking at the many, many terrors happening on a daily basis. There isn’t one area of our society that isn’t under attack from within right now. All this said, I have thoughts. I’ve been speaking up and out about women, sexual harassment, and assault for a long time, and I’ve used Mrs Fringe as a vehicle to do so for the past five years. I’m not so sure this is a watershed moment.

Yes, there is much awareness and many important, necessary conversations happening. Yes, we are seeing repercussions for men who abuse/have abused women and positions of power in a way we haven’t seen before. I just don’t know that we can see this as a definitive turning point. Do I want it to be? Yes! But can it be, and why not? Because we’re only seeing this in very limited arenas. I understand that any/every movement has to begin somewhere, and the highly visible and well documented eyes of Congress and Hollywood are excellent places to start. But nothing happens or exists in a vacuum, and while the Left is celebrating, the Right is working. (I’d say the Right Extremists, but at this point it’s safe to say those who were considered extremists on the fringe right twenty years ago are now mainstream.)  Our current President is a man credibly accused of both sexual harassment and assault by multiple women over the course of many years. Accounts of him wandering into the dressing room backstage of the Miss America contest–with underaged contestants–are also documented. This was all well known and well documented long before the 2016 election, an audio tape of him bragging about groping women released, and millions voted for him anyway.  You could and should argue that the current movement is a well deserved backlash because of this.

But these formerly extremist Right Wing politicians have all the power right now, and they’re using it to harm women for generations to come, regardless of who’s on the cover of Time Magazine this month or how many Democrats are called to task for inappropriate, immoral, and sometimes illegal behavior. Mitch McConnell and the GOP stole a pivotal Supreme Court seat after Scalia died by refusing to hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s pick for nominee. Do we think this won’t have repercussions for women’s rights, for Roe vs Wade? The current monstrosity of an administration is also busy stacking the federal courts with more extremist, right wing, appointed for life individuals. In another time in our history…say, 10 years ago, this might sound hysterical. They’re judges, they have to be impartial and qualified no matter who they vote for, the GOP cares about women and sexual predators, right? No. No they do not. Not anymore. This is how qualified you now have to be to qualify for a federal judgeship appointment, and this is how much the GOP cares about women. I’m sorry, did I say women? I should say women and girls, because those credibly accusing Roy Moore were most definitely not adult women at the time of these incidents.  I cannot say this loudly or frequently enough, the damage being done right now is generational.

And that’s not all. Yesterday the House–and by the House, I mean the GOP members, since they are in control–voted to pass a bill allowing concealed carry holders to legally bring their guns into states where they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed these concealed carry permits. Like, say, from states where domestic abusers are allowed to purchase and concealed carry guns into states that care about protecting their citizens. Oh yeah, this is going to be awesome for victims of domestic violence. So much caring about women and children.

Should the Hollywood and media men who have been fired/suspended/called out and shamed lost their careers? Absolutely. But given our quickly disappearing legal recourse and support from the government, I don’t see this helping Suzy Q Torres working in middle management, or Mary-Sue Regular Gal after she’s cornered by her sweating, piggish boss in the after-hours kitchen of the local fast food restaurant. So I don’t see how we can say, at this moment, that this is a turning point for women’s rights and safety in America. Celebrity cases often bring light and awareness to issues, a starting point. Without follow through for all, they stop there.

There are other aspects to this. Due process–I’ll leave that exploration to those more versed in the legal system, though I question some of these cases.  Not because I don’t believe women, not because I don’t want everyone to believe women, but because the stakes are high. Higher than they’ve ever been, in light of all recently discovered about the manipulability (is that a word?) of public opinion through the use of social media.

And then there’s the distinctions I see too many glossing over. A lot of men are assholes. They make unwanted comments, gestures, use a beer and a crowded bar as an excuse to make unwanted advances. Some men are predators. Some men prey on children. Some men are pushy, refusing to accept no thanks when asking for a phone number. Some men are stalkers.  There are assholes, there are sexual harassers, there are predators, there are rapists. These categories are all morally wrong, an affront to women’s intelligence, autonomy, and safety. But they aren’t equal.

I’m fairly safely invisible now, but let’s pretend I’m twenty years younger for a few subway scenarios. If a man on the subway asks for my phone number and tells me I should smile, I can tell him to fuck off and he can call me a feminazi bitch, I get off at the next stop. It’s yet another unpleasant incident that I shouldn’t have to deal with, and I do dream of a day when women won’t have to. If a man on the subway uses rush hour as an excuse to rub against me, or uses the longer time between stops when going through a tunnel to take out his junk and masturbate, I can get loud, tell him to fuck off, try to move away, stomp on his foot/offer a sharply placed elbow, get off and report him at the next stop. (I can’t, apparently, expect other passengers to help me, since the current PSAs on the subway tell people not to get directly involved with these types of incidents unless they’re certain it’s safe to do so, they should report it to the appropriate authorities when they can). I’m disgusted, I’m shaky, I’m pissed off that this is the world I live in. If a man on the subway traps me on an otherwise empty car when the train is moving through a tunnel, or follows me off the train and drags me to an unpopulated stairwell and assaults me, well, now we’re in completely different territory, with lifelong physical and emotional repercussions shaping every single choice I make for the rest of my life.

The fact that men like those in the second scenario exist doesn’t negate the wrongness of men in the first scenario, and those in the third don’t make those in the second acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

These were “easy” scenes, clearcut. They didn’t involve people who were known to the victim, dates, boyfriends, spouses, relatives, child predators, gang rapes, positions of financial power and employment repercussions, drugs/alcohol, or any of the million and three ways women find themselves being negated and disrespected, abused, assaulted. They are all unacceptable, and should all be addressed by our society with repercussions. But they aren’t all the same.  If we on the Left are in fact taking the moral high ground, that has to include looking at each case individually, or we run the risk of becoming the twenty-first century version of the 1980s false moral majority. While many of these scenarios grow from the same root problem, if we on the Left insist they are all the same, we make it that much easier for those on the Right to ignore these very real, pervasive, and damaging issues women deal with every day, the systemic degradation of women; paving the way for legal and sanctioned support of predators.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Unfortunately, our nation has jumped onto the tracks, and it seems we’ll be chunky pudding for the rats before that light helps us find our way.

I know I’m supposed to be positive and forward thinking, visualizing the world I want to live in, but I’m too busy gaping at the world I do live in. Every damned day feels like an assault, every news cycle (what are they, 11 seconds long now?) an emetic. Why does it feel this way? Because it is. An assault on our nation’s norms and values, an assault on our government, an assault on what could have been our future, an assault on the earth, an assault against people of color, and every day, new assaults against women–our rights, our autonomy, our bodies.  I didn’t participate in the #metoo campaign (on Twitter and Facebook) nor the #meat14. For some it made them feel empowered, more connected to share their stories and show the world exactly how widespread the issues of harassment and assault against women are. I know the stats, I know the stories, I know exactly how insidious and pervasive misogyny is. As long as we allow women to drive, keep their heads uncovered, and say that rape and assault are illegal, the powers that be can continue feeling superior to those other cultures. You know what else I know? This is a surprise to exactly no one, and is considered acceptable in our country.

Yes, that isn’t a typo, I said acceptable. Not to all, but to many. Too many. So acceptable that millions of citizens in the US decided to vote for a man accused of sexual assault multiple times by multiple women over many years– a man who we all heard discussing women as nothing more than toys and acquisitions in the basest possible terminology, bragging about predatory behavior, we heard this before the election–and still millions voted for him. Currently, Ray Moore is running for a Senate seat in Alabama. Ray Moore, such a fine and upstanding conservative with fine American values, well documented as saying homosexuality should be illegal, stating that there are communities in the US under Sharia law (I’d love to know exactly where), supporting transgender discrimination, and the old favorite of claiming Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen. Yes, that fine American was recently accused of preying on a 14 year old girl when he was a District Attorney in his thirties. And now more accusations from more women who say he molested/attempted to molest them when they were teenagers.

Am I shocked? Nope. Is there any woman in America who is shocked? I doubt it. So what’s the problem, you ask. The problem is there are still people supporting him, despite these now public and well supported allegations. Still elected officials supporting him. What’s a little molestation when tax cuts are within reach, right? And of course, we all know how 14 year old girls can be,nudgenudgewinkwink, it isn’t like anyone should reasonably expect an adult man to be an adult and keep his paws to himself.  There are not only constituents but elected officials literally saying they prefer an accused pedophile to a Democrat. His Democratic opponent, by the way, is Doug Jones. Jones is an attorney, and when he was a prosecutor, he successfully convicted 2 of the 4 Klu Klux Klan members responsible for the 1963 16th Street Church bombing. Such a moral dilemma there, eh?

Last night I watched an interview with another woman accusing Moore of having preyed on her as a teen. She was specific and credible, and made sure to say this had nothing to do with politics–she and her husband are Republicans who voted for Trump. My heart hurts for that young girl trapped in a car with a grown, predatory man, and for the woman who carries those memories and fears decades later. (Because that shit doesn’t go away.) But my heart hurts for all of us. My fear grows daily for all of us. This woman may believe she is rising above politics to speak up against a Republican politician, but apparently she was just fine with another accused predator sitting in the White House, because why? Because it wasn’t her? Or because fear and hatred of women, girls, and women’s sexuality is so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even know to protect each other?

Now, today, the number of credible accusers against Moore has grown to five, I believe. I guess five is the magic number for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. McConnell has stopped snickering, and they are finally calling for him to step down from the Senate race. The governor of Alabama is apparently experiencing no such conflicts, and she is still saying she will vote for him. The Alabama State Auditor even twisted this into a neat bible story, babbling that this makes Moore just like Joseph, and the violated 14 year old girl is just like Mary. Can’t wait to see the episode of Veggie Tales that covers this.

This should all do wonders for the safety of women and girls nationwide, don’t you think? That we have an administration in the White House and elected officials nationwide who place the value of tax cuts for the uber-wealthy, ability to appoint backwards and unqualified persons for federal judgeships, and of course the rights of men to put their hands wherever and however they damn well please over the rights and safety of women.

So, be positive, celebrate that we’re turning over rocks and all these abusive, predatory, powerful and corrupt men are coming to light? Excuse my pragmatism (yeah, I know, you can call it cynicism) but I’ve heard this before, when everyone talked about how wonderful it was that ubiquitous video phones and the internet were allowing us to see the racism living in the nooks and crannies of our country. The sunlight didn’t kill it. The light allowed that shit to photosynthesize into a rooted, giant weed controlling all branches of our government with racism, bigotry, and misogyny.

I’m fucking traumatized.

 

’til My Uterus Falls Out

(because) The moon is always female (also the title of an excellent book of poetry by Marge Piercy)

The title of this post was my standard answer when I was pregnant with Art Child and people would inevitably ask, “Again?! How many babies are you going to have?”

It was none of anybody’s business how many children Husband and I chose to have. You know what else is nobody’s business? How many babies a woman chooses not to have, or why she and her partner, or she alone makes that choice.

Women have never been equal in this country (note that the ERA was never actually passed, though it was first introduced in Congress in 1923). We’ve been closer and further, but never equal. Now, after years of steady progress, we’re about to be manacled to the nursery as we haven’t been since the 1970s. This week the House passed a ban on abortions at/after 20 weeks. Will it pass in the Senate? Who knows? I’ll tell you what I do know, no woman chooses to have an abortion for the hell of it at any point in a pregnancy, and certainly not after growing a baby for 20 weeks. The vast majority of abortions performed beyond that point are done because of fatal fetal defects. Fatal. Not learning disabilities, not a fixable heart defect, or the “wrong” sex, or blue eyes instead of brown, not because a woman decided it was an inconvenient time after all. Included in this bill is the criminalization of doctors who choose to perform late term abortions.

Today I saw this gem. The White House is set to repeal the federal requirement that employers cover birth control (without copays) in their offered health insurance plans.  In order to keep this post under a gazillion words, I won’t even start on the fact that easier, affordable access to birth control has contributed to abortion rates being lower than at any point since the passage of Roe v Wade.

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with being pro-life, this is about being anti-women. This is about further blurring the separation between church and state. This is about control, misogyny, and living under an administration that condones violence against women. If it was about pro-life, we wouldn’t have a White House and a GOP doing everything possible (which is a lot) to take away health care from women and children. They already let CHIP lapse, which means 9 million children are about to lose health insurance.  They’re doing everything possible to reduce with an eye towards eliminating Medicaid, which is the gov’t sponsored health insurance that covers the very poorest children and the disabled. Also today, reporting that 45 and the White House have given directives to do everything possible to have the ACA fail. This isn’t a political strategy, this is an inhumane, callous and calculated attack on the most vulnerable members of our society, to go along with the attack on women. If any of these pompous, hypocritical blowhards in the White House and GOP cared about life they’d care about tending to the lives of those who are here and suffering now.

It may take a village, but that isn’t what most of us have. This isn’t going to end. It won’t stop until women have no access to birth control or safe and legal abortions, because Big Daddy’s gonna take care of us. He’s gonna take care of us right into our mass graves.

What? You aren’t a member of the White House or GOP but feel so strongly against abortion that it shouldn’t be legal? Congratulations on the adoption of your 15th unwanted and/or medically needy child. Congratulations too, on raising your sons not to objectify women, not to ever have sex (married or not) if they don’t want a child, not to keep knocking up their wimmenz until their brains and their uteruses leak, not to rape, letting them know the responsibility of rape is on the rapist, always, never the victim, and of course, that they need to do a full 50% of the diaper changing, child rearing, school meetings and function attending, doctor visits, and of course, the laundry.  What? You haven’t seen fit to adopt as many children as you can stuff into your home, whether you can afford them or not, whether you’ve got the time to give each one of those children the attention they need, and are just fine with their health insurance being stripped away, and without raising them with the weight of being told how lucky they are that you rescued them like a wormy, emaciated puppy found in the parking lot? You haven’t explained to your sons that what she was wearing doesn’t matter? Did you explain to those oh-so-wanted-and-valued children that it was ok to vote for a man who thinks it’s his right to grab women by the pussy because he’s rich? No? You didn’t/don’t do all of these things? Then maybe, just maybe, you should live your life the way you see fit without stripping away anyone else’s rights, and everyone else can do the same.

Peace, Love, & Feminist Fury

 

 You may know me as someone who’s angry, a loudmouth New Yorker who howls about equality and civil rights and whines about writing. You may know me as someone who’s kind of hippie dippie, wanting peace on earth and goodwill towards all, wanting the homeless to be housed and fed, someone found at Grateful Dead concerts back in the day who still wears the occasional piece of tie-dyed clothing while doing yoga.  These are both me, and this post is an expansion of thoughts over the past several days and a couple of discussions I’ve had.

Everyone is angry right now. The Neo-nazis are angry because they’re nazis, that’s their whole ugly shtick. Those of us on the left are angry because we see a rise in injustice, clear threats to democracy and freedoms, and we see the progress of the last fifty years–spotty and slow though it may have been–at risk.  Those who are silent are angry because they don’t see why they should have to get involved or choose a side, all these protests are a nuisance mucking up their daily commute.

It’s okay to be angry. At this moment, I think it’s a moral obligation. I also think it’s an obligation to speak up and exercise our freedom of speech. Always true, but now more than ever, as we are watching it be threatened by our current government here in America. That said, there are limits to freedom of speech as there have to be, because we live in a society, amongst others, ruled by laws and mores. For example, “threats of intimidation” are not protected Free Speech under law.  I got into a discussion about this with someone on Facebook this morning, who declared he believed in absolute? absolutist? freedoms of speech. (I’d like to look back and use the correct word, but after an hour long discussion that remained calm and civil, he deleted the thread in a muddied display of passive-aggression by not mentioning that he had done this, just reposting his original thought and another stating that political arguments are a waste of time. He needn’t worry, I won’t waste any more of his time or mine.) He argued following the rule of law when it comes to free speech. We differed on interpretation of the law within the framework of this past weekend in VA. I agreed and agree the law is important, but I also believe we as individuals have to speak up so the courts can take the will of the people into account when making decisions. Our country, our world, has changed and evolved and continues to do so. Once upon a time segregation was legal, that didn’t make it right, just, moral, or something to support. He argued censorship, slippery slope, etc. Censorship is an ugly word, with many frightening connotations, no doubt.  In my mind, most ideas/positions/arguments are shades of gray, we are messy, complex human beings living in a messy, complex world. But some things are black and white. Threatening the safety and lives of others because of political or religious ideology, because of a false sense of white makes right, a false sense of penises are more important than vaginas; this is unacceptable.

This leads me to whataboutism. What about those who are violent on the left, those who identify as Antifa? This of course is the question that has been asked of me and every other left-leaning person who has stated a “protest” that begins with angry, armed, torch bearing white supremacists is not and should not be protected free speech. I’ll suggest right along with my other liberal friends that those who ask the question should first do a bit of research into American history over the past fifty years, and look at how many murders and acts of domestic terrorism have been carried out in the name of Neo-nazis and white supremacists vs how many have been carried out by Antifa. But here’s where I splinter off. I’ve seen a lot of jokes and memes about it being right, maybe even a moral obligation, to punch Nazis. I don’t believe anyone has the right or is in the right to initiate violence. You can go ahead and call me an apologist, a feminazi, a hippie, a cunt–whatever. I may tell you to fuck off, but I’m not going to hit you.  I’m not truly a pacifist, either.  Because if you punch me, while the odds are I’m going to go down, I’m going to come up swinging.  I believe everyone has the right to defend themselves if attacked, and to defend those who can not defend themselves.

I believe in gun control, I believe there shouldn’t be open carry laws, and I believe it should be illegal to bring weapons to a protest even if that protest occurs in a state that has open carry laws. It is irresponsible and in my opinion immoral to bring weapons into these situations. Think about how horrible the loss of three lives was this weekend. How awful every single loss of life due to imagined threats has been, whether that loss was within the framework of political protest, white supremacy, or even worse, police brutality. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how easily the situation could have been much worse. If the police had been more forceful–and I wish they would have been earlier than they were–but how easily it could have been a complete disaster, with the loss of dozens, perhaps hundreds of lives if just one Nazi nut job felt threatened while holding a gun so it shifted from the “joys” of beating on counter protesters to firing on them; if just one police officer became too forceful too quickly, feared for their life and fired a shot, and so many of those protesters were armed and armored with weapons of equal force. Are my beliefs censorship under our current laws? I’m not sure, maybe they are.  Maybe I’m naive and in a time where violence and extremist rhetoric is growing and finding legitimacy in our government, maybe this isn’t the time to hang onto hippie principles of peace, love, and inclusion.  Maybe I’m sticking my head in the sand believing that I can be angry without wanting to physically harm others. Maybe. But while I do find the current political climate alarming enough to believe we all need to be aware, vocal, and on high alert, I just don’t believe might makes right.

(I’m sure I’ve posted this one before, but it seems the only appropriate video)

Which Circle of Hell Are We in Now?

New Yorkers 1, Howard Kanovitz, 1965

Well, here we are (the fourth circle, greed?). By now everyone knows the House of Representatives passed their version of healthcare, the AHCA–Trumpcare. It was easy enough for them to do, because several of them didn’t bother to read it, they didn’t wait for details and projections from the Congressional Budget Office, and nor were the details made available to the public. What we do know is that this bill takes us backwards in human rights. In addition to other atrocities, it opens the door for individual states to allow insurers to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions. Of course this doesn’t mean every state will, but we know the insurance companies have a long history of putting profit over people, which makes them quite comfy-cozy with the current GOP.

As it stands, it cuts nearly a trillion dollars of Medicaid funding. This will harm millions. The opening of the door to increased costs for those with pre-existing conditions will harm millions more. One of the possibilities that has people like myself (yanno, those of us without dangly bits) in an uproar is what we’ve already seen in the not-too-distant past.  Pregnant? Might become pregnant? Well, sure you can buy health insurance, buuuut we’re going to jack up the rates to make you decide between health insurance and food. Had postpartum depression?  Sorry, we’re going to charge you more now.

And the cherry on top, sexual assault. Many, including myself, have been talking, tweeting, blogging about this. Sexual assault as a pre-existing condition, which could allow insurance companies to deny you or kicking you over to a high risk pool–as in, unaffordable.

Politifact rated this claim as mostly false.  They’re correct. I still call bullshit. It’s true, we don’t know exactly what’s in the bill. It’s true, the bill doesn’t define what is/isn’t a pre-existing condition, the insurance companies do.  However, again, as we know from the not-distant past, before the ACA (Obamacare), people in America who had been treated or even tested for sexually transmitted infections were later denied insurance, or kicked to the high-risk pools.  We know that domestic violence and sexual assault rates are high. We know these are already underreported. We know women are still not treated as equal and autonomous human beings. We know we have someone sitting in the White House who bragged about sexual assault, who rates women according to their mammary glands. We know it’s mostly men who are drafting these bills and making these decisions. That matters. That there isn’t a significant number of people of color, representing all of the many communities and populations that comprise America matters.

So yes, it’s technically correct to say the AHCA isn’t labeling sexual assault a pre-existing condition resulting in unaffordable premiums, but it’s paving the way for this to become the case. Let’s be real here for a second. We don’t want to be inflammatory, don’t want to induce panic when it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t ever productive. But to say it’s out and out untrue is a whitewash, a normalization of what is unnecessarily going to harm us all.

I know it’s a long way to go before this bill becomes law. It goes to the Senate now, and supposedly the Senate plans to write their own version. That doesn’t set me at ease. I’ve heard many say the Senate won’t allow the cuts to Medicaid, particularly Medicaid expansion under the ACA, that they won’t allow the rollback on protections for pre-existing conditions. I hope that’s true, but I remember hearing our current president would never win, he wouldn’t get the backing of the more moderate, traditional members of the GOP, that religious groups wouldn’t support him. I also remember a time when politicians, even Republican ones, talked about protecting the most vulnerable among us, not speaking publicly about the disabled and ill as if they are gum to be scraped off the bottom of their shoes. Hell, I even remember a time when elected members of Congress wouldn’t brazenly admit to not reading a bill they were voting on.

So if my words are inflammatory forgive me, because I’m pretty sure a match has been struck shockingly close to my ovaries.

Empty Words

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Have you ever wished Mrs Fringe would stop whining and shut the fuck up? Today is your day. I am taking a break. At the moment, I’m not sure how long, maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow, next week, next year (so go ahead and stay subscribed for a while), I don’t know.

Words and writing have always been such an integral part of who I am, I’m honestly not sure who I am without them.  But as I’ve always said, I write to be read, I write to be half of a dialogue–spoken or not.  About a year ago I came to the conclusion that my fiction isn’t going anywhere.  That was a very difficult, painful conclusion.  I made self deprecating jokes and gave myself lectures.  Ok, you suck– big deal, so do most people.  Welcome to the ranks.  Sure I have occasional bouts of the dreaded hope, and send out some queries or write a story, but that faith that it will happen?  Not so much. I don’t have writer’s block, if you’re wondering–I’ve got plenty of ideas and notes and internal discipline; if someone offered me a contract tomorrow I’d be back to work within an hour. I have always written the stories and characters that I love, that I would want to find in the bookstore. But I don’t write for myself, I write hoping to offer others what I love to read, that sense of Yes. This author gets it, and has given voice to my thoughts, breathed life into characters I want to spend hours with. Many (most?) fiction writers disagree, and believe you should write for yourself.  Perhaps they’re right, but it hasn’t worked for me.

I kept blogging because it’s different than writing fiction, offers something else without pesky hopes, dreams, or expectations. I have tried to use humor (often gallows humor, but still) to address real and sometimes frightening issues.  Mostly I kept blogging for the same reason I started, a space to be a whole person, more than any one label or role I fill in the “real” world, to connect and have conversations with others, listening and being listened to. Now I am depleted. At this moment I see no point in blogging about writing if I’m not writing, no point in blogging about being a woman standing up for other women and women’s rights when my country has made it clear it isn’t interested in women’s rights and safety, no point in blogging about democracy when my country has voted for a demagogue, no point in blogging about the struggles facing people of color when the country has aligned itself with the KKK, no point in laying out the struggles of dealing with chronic illnesses in loved ones when the majority, including some who have cried with me, has just made it clear that ultimately, they don’t care and don’t want to hear it.

I know that many who are better, smarter, more evolved and generous souls than I am are sending out messages of hope, reassurances of caring, safety, and continued efforts.  Very lovely, and necessary.  Right now, I can’t do it, and frankly, I think it was the assumption that in the end people will put shared humanity above differences that has led us to where we are right now.

Many of my regular readers and commenters are not American, which has been an amazing, beautiful thing; WordPress is a fabulous platform, allowing me to feel that I have connected with others outside of my immediate, narrow margins. That said, I am American, and the American people have spoken–I am to pick a label and that is the sum of who I am. How boring. Hell, it makes me yawn just to think about it, who wants to log on and read a label?

I’m Sorry

Alexander Archipenko, "Seated Woman," 1912-Bronze

Alexander Archipenko, “Seated Woman,” 1912-Bronze

Really, I’m sorry.  I’m sure you’re tired of reading and hearing about this, everyone who’s anyone or no one has already blogged, posted, written this article or that essay.  I want to let this go, want to roll my eyes at the stupidity of people and snicker about those on the Right getting the candidate they deserve.  I can’t do it.  I can’t let it go, and I don’t believe anyone deserves someone who brags about sexual assault as their President.  Not even those who want him.  Maybe especially not them, because in the year 2016, there shouldn’t be one woman in the world who believes sexual assault against women is a man’s right. Not one woman.

I can be uptight in many ways, but language isn’t one of them.  I straight out tell people not to bother checking out Mrs Fringe if they’re offended by the word fuck.  I tell them because I acknowledge that some people are offended by certain words, and if you are, you aren’t going to be happy here.  I love language, and I love words, all of them.  Words are powerful, written or spoken they can outlast a good deed, a box of candy, they can remain and ring through your brain and guts longer than any slap upside your head.  A couple of years ago there was a hashtag that went around twitter, #yesallwomen in response to #notallmen, I blogged about it here.

And here we are again.  Only I’m seeing “not all men,” “not my men,” “not my sons,” etc, in response to comments and posts supporting Trump, saying that horrific tape of him speaking about women, with charming highlights like, “I moved on her like a bitch,…she was married…you can do anything,” and of course, “Grab them by the pussy.”  I literally feel sick to my stomach with every comment and post I see in support of him and his words.  Here’s the thing, most of those posts and many of those comments are from women.  Women.  Protesting that all men speak that way, no big deal, it’s only words.  No, these aren’t only words.  And no, I haven’t suddenly become a delicate fucking flower, offended by the word pussy, in need of men to stand up for me and remind everyone that when Trump was speaking, he was speaking about someone’s wife, mother, daughter.  I saw a meme floating around to the effect of “If Trump’s words are so offensive to women, who bought a gazillion copies of Fifty Shades of Gray?” Sigh.  If this makes sense to you, look up logical fallacy.

These language used is not colorful, against the rules of the FCC, or naughty.  They are words describing assault, making it clear that he sees nothing wrong with literally aggressively touching and grabbing another human being whether they want to be touched or not.  A likely smaller person, not as strong physically, and likely someone he’s in a position of power over.

I don’t want to hear about responses that begin “But Hillary,” or “Well Bill.”  This has absolutely nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, and she is not responsible for what Bill Clinton chose to do.

When I was 16 I worked as a cocktail waitress.  Think about that for a second.  16, working as a cocktail waitress.  Standards, not that high.  I remember one busy night, I had just begun serving wine to a large table, no room to maneuver with another table right behind me when one of the men reached back and, well, grabbed me by the pussy. In the moment, with his wife sitting right next to him, I was stunned.  He said (exact quote, because WORDS), “Sorry sweetie, I touched your box.”  And he smiled.  A fucking fifty year old man, who turned his back to his wife and didn’t move his hand.   At this point in my life, I had already learned there were situations where I could be out numbered and overpowered but this wasn’t one of them.  I lifted the still full carafe of wine I was holding and poured it on him, “Sorry, sweetie, did I pour that on your dick?”

The manager came flying across the restaurant and hustled me into the kitchen before going back to the table, apologizing profusely and comping their wine and their meal.  I didn’t lose my job, I had been working there long enough and the manager knew me well enough to know I wasn’t kidding, imagining, or exaggerating what had happened.  If you’re thinking what a good guy the manager was, stop.  This is the same man who, when I asked for a specific day off from work a few months later, told me he’d be willing to give it if I “popped his son’s cherry.”  In retrospect, I’m sure the whole underaged thing played into the decision to keep me, too, not a scenario where he would want attention.  It didn’t occur to me that by comping this man’s meal, he was rewarding him for being a pig, I was just grateful not to be fired.  I’ll be honest, at that time, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make a “bigger deal” of what happened.  Sure I knew I didn’t want his hands on me, and I sure as shit could tell him to get his fucking hands off of me, but I’m not sure I knew I had the right to do so, and I had no idea that this was something that could be considered assault.  If someone had floated the word to me at that time, in 1980something south Brooklyn, I would have either laughed or taken off, certain that I would be the one in trouble.  Why? I don’t know, something about not having dangly bits and being the kind of girl who worked as a cocktail waitress.

I’m not sixteen anymore, and I know better. I know better, my husband and I have both taught our sons better, we’ve taught our daughter better.  That doesn’t make us anything more than decent human beings, who’ve tried to raise decent human beings.  Don’t you dare, anyone, tell me or anyone else, that Trump’s words are no big deal.  I’m not offended.  I’m sickened that anyone, male or female, is telling our children that assault of women is okay.  I’m disgusted that there are women who are just fine with this type of behavior for themselves, their children, their loved ones, for the hussy down the street they’ve hated since the third grade.  I’m saddened that people are perpetuating the myth that women are less than men, because that’s what you’re saying when you condone this message.  I’m angry, because get your hands off my body!  This isn’t about not-all-men speak this way, or think this way.  This is about no woman should accept this as a fact of life, ever, and it is unacceptable for any man.  Not if he’s older or younger, rich or poor, famous and powerful or a shlub toiling away in obscurity.  #Notoneman.

American Elections 2016: The Witch Hunt Edition

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Despite the fact that it’s only June, I’m already exhausted by this presidential cycle and all the nonsense that has accompanied it.  Yet here I am yapping about it.  Why? Because I’m confused, and sometimes writing things down helps sort it out–and maybe, hopefully, we’ll get a rich conversation going in the comments that will allow for clarity.

I’ll admit, my imagination is limited.  I can’t fathom what it is that enables someone to want to be President.  I’ve gone extended periods with very limited sleep while still needing to make decisions, large and small, that impacted five people.  It isn’t fun.  To choose to do this while making huge, impactful-for-generations-to-come for 318 million people?  (Many more, really, because US decisions and policies are felt worldwide.) To believe you are the best person to be in this position?  Nope, unfathomable to me.  But hey, I’m someone who can spend two hours staring at the screen attempting to decide if I’ve chosen the most effective verb.

I keep saying, “How have we gotten here?”  “How is it that in 2016, the GOP candidate is an openly hateful, selfish, liar?”  How is it that the Democratic candidate is likely the most contentious woman in America?”

In regards to the Democratic party, I’m conflicted.  I’m sorry Bernie lost, truly sorry if not surprised.  I don’t care for Hillary Clinton.  I want to be clear, this isn’t because of the history of bogus witch hunts targeting her, not because of what went on/goes on in her marriage, and definitely not because of her $12,000 blazer.  Really people, what gives with that nonsense?  First and foremost, I’ve never heard outrage or seen articles about the cost of any male candidate’s suit.  Call me an old and out of touch feminist, to me that’s yet another symbol of not-so-subtle sexism.  I know, I know, she wore it while talking about inequality.  It is gross, represents much of what’s got people angry and frustrated in this country.  But let’s be honest.  If you were able to swallow her throwing a $3 million dollar wedding for her daughter while this country was in a serious recession, people losing jobs and homes daily, well then, let’s not pretend moral outrage about her jacket.  I’ll be straight, you could tell me you found proof that she was in the backseat of Ted Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick and I’d still support her right now.  Why? Because the alternative is Donald Trump.

Talk about witch hunts.  Can you imagine if he was to become our President?  Goodbye, First Amendment. That’s right, he’s been pretty clear.  For all his lies, there are kernels of truth as to what he supports and believes, and what he believes is that he should be not just President, but Dictator, wanting to stomp on the  rights of the press, freedom of religion, free speech, and the right to (peaceably) assemble.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be burned at the stake along with the real journalists, because no slight or grievance is too small for him to let go.  Well, maybe not burned, that leaves a horrible stench in fabric, and could drive his property values down.  Hanged.  Go ahead and say goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, because our liberties have been eroding–fuck, we’ve given them away in the name of “freedom”– and Trump is not interested in accepting any poor, tired, huddled masses.  White, energetic, wealthy and attractive, maybe.  Say goodbye to women’s rights.  Women will go back to their place, at their men’s sides, lips stitched closed and legs spread wide.  Only if they’re young and attractive, of course.

Many are tired of the status quo, and Hillary represents just that.  I get it, I really, truly do, and that’s why I was hoping Bernie would win the nomination.  But he didn’t.  It’s over.  He can continue to speak, I hope he will continue to work in the Senate, but he didn’t win the nomination.  That he got as many votes as he did, that he got as far as he did, gives me hope for the future, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence for the present.  There are too many variables, and we have too long a history of bedding down with fear, hatred, greed, and wishful thinking.

Sure, we like to talk about valuing reason, justice, intelligence, ingenuity and creativity, equality.  But not really.  When it comes down to it, too many of us value comfort and mediocrity above all else.  Again, I’m not pretending I don’t like comfort, and God knows I’m mediocre, but I’m not trying to lead the country.  We are currently enjoying the most reasonable and intelligent President we’ve ever had, Barrack Obama.  In current polls, his approval rating is shockingly high at 51%.  So why all the moaning about how horrible life is under him?  Is it because he’s (shhhh) black? Or because he’s reasonable and intelligent?  Or both?  Ingenuity and creativity, these can’t possibly be valued.  If they were, our education system wouldn’t be continuing to cut arts and flexibility in what and how our children are taught, valuing fill-in-the-bubble tests, grading teachers on how neat and attractive their bulletin boards are, over real teaching, thought and comprehension.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the things that has stayed with me most is the pride with which I heard so many say George W Bush was a C student.  Pride.  For Cs.  From the man who led America for 8 years.  Equality?  Talk about equality to people of color, trapped in the classroom to prison pipeline.

If Trump wins, I’m blaming everyone.  (because for the moment, I’m still relatively free and can): the people who confuse unfiltered verbiage with integrity, the GOP that allowed Tea Partiers to take over their party, and the Democratic Party, who endorsed and backed a woman so hated that in our racist country a black man was chosen over her the last time she ran.  I believed and still believe Obama was the better choice, and I’m proud and thrilled that was recognized by enough for him to become President.  He can’t run again.  I didn’t agree with all of his decisions and concessions, hated a few, in fact, but wow.  Have we ever had a leader with such grace?  I doubt we’ll see an equivalent leader; be they male, female, white or person of color, in our lifetime.  Think for a second about all he’s put up with and worked through–don’t throw his hard work away.  And yes, I’ll admit it, this old and out of touch feminist is pretty fucking happy to see that if it isn’t Bernie, the Democratic nominee is a woman.  Here.  In misogynistic America, a land filled with people still working to stuff women back in the kitchen, value the comfort and future of rapists over rape victims, and whittling away at our right to choose what to do with our bodies.

We do have a long and proud history here in the US.  But we cannot take pride–we can never move forward–without acknowledging the shameful history woven in with our rights, and our history of sliding backwards before moving forward.  The decisions based on fear, an inflated sense of our place in the world, that old surety that might makes right.   It can’t happen here is a lie.  That we naturally evolve in a positive way, progress with reason is a lie.  Witch hunts, real mass witch hunts have occurred repeatedly, Salem and its twenty people killed was child’s play: Japanese Internment Camps during WWII, McCarthyism, Stop and Frisk, Muslims after 9/11.  If we aren’t careful now, we could be looking at the broadest witch hunts this country has ever seen, because Trump hates and is afraid of everyone who doesn’t look like, pee like, move like, and parrot him.

I’m confused as to how anyone outside a handful of his cronies could support Donald Trump.  Not wanting more of the same should not be blurred with it-couldn’t-be-worse.  So yeah, I’m confused as to how anyone could say Hillary Clinton would be equally bad for our country and our rights.

Here lies reason and knowledge.  Let's not bury them again, ok?

Here lies reason and knowledge. Let’s not bury them again, ok?

Hey Hey Mama!

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Of the million annoyances I encounter daily through life in the city, I’m old enough and defeated enough to realize 999, 997 have nothing to do with me personally, don’t effect me in any way, and are none of my business.  Sure, the number changes if you consider what I bitch about in my head, or to Husband, or even here on the blog, but to cause me to speak up and interact with strangers?  Not so much.

New York is always under construction.  Buildings going up, coming down, being renovated or refaced, streets being dug up or patched.  Interesting if you’re young or new to the city, hours of free entertainment if you’re 3, good news if you’re in contracting/construction.    I’ve heard people complain about “how much” construction workers earn.  I don’t complain.  First of all, the salaries vary widely–union/non-union, public or private project, white/”minority” worker–wrong as it is, last I read white guys earned an average of 20% more (I put minority in quotes because whites are not the majority in nyc), etc.  Second, these guys* work incredibly hard, back-breaking work in freezing cold, rain, heat and humidity that has most of us hiding inside, sometimes questionable working conditions, and often breathing in shit that I don’t want to think about.  Third, the majority of these jobs/workers are highly skilled, and their work is important.  Fourth, the risk of serious injury is high.  A few of the assignments on the sites aren’t labor intensive, they’re incredibly boring.  Like being assigned to open/close the gates and plastic bumpers for pedestrians to pass through in between cartloads of crap being hauled from the fenced in site to the dumpster in the gutter.  Boring, but they can’t blow it off or let their minds wander, because that would be a disaster, a law suit, and an unemployment line waiting to happen.  Often while working this mind-numbing task, they’re being berated and cursed by veryimportantpeople on their way to veryimportantmeetings who can’t contain their annoyance at being detained for 7 seconds so they don’t get a steel beam through their skull.

 

See? Look up or look down--construction.

See? Look up or look down–construction.

I pass several construction sites daily, multiple times per day, as I take Art Child back and forth to school.  The nice part of being a woman of a certain age who’s allowed herself to go gray?  I don’t deal with much catcalling anymore.  I’ve heard there are a few who find it complimentary.  There are also women who like to call their husbands/boyfriends Daddy and greet them at the door with a martini and a smile–but of course that all falls under the annoyances-I-keep-to-myself category, because it’s none of my business.  At best catcalling is a background annoyance, often it’s rude and dehumanizing, and at worst it can be frightening.  I see a lot of the same guys every day, they smile and say good morning, I respond in kind, and that’s the extent of it.

But the other day I was walking with Art Child and her friend, and one of the workers (who I didn’t recognize, not one of the ones usually on the gate) made a comment to/about my daughter’s friend.  Well, of course not so much about her as about her body.  My daughter looks younger than her age, her friend does not.  Young teenaged girls.  Of course she’s attractive.  I shook my head, said “no,” and we kept walking.  This man–was he drunk?–kept on, calling after us and followed.  For the record, he was not a young man.  Definitely old enough to know better than to make these types of comments to a girl who could easily have been his daughter.  I understand, putting to the side the misogyny of catcalling, when it comes to girls this age, it’s easy to think they’re older, especially if you aren’t looking at their faces. I turned back and said very clearly, “she’s underaged, back off.”  Would you believe he kept going, commenting and following a bit more?  Of course you believe it, if you’re a female between the ages of oh, say, 10 and 100.  Was he delusional?  I offered him a couple more words and we kept going.  Why did I keep going? Because the girls were creeped out and frightened, and I wasn’t sure if this girl’s mother would be okay hearing about a confrontation afterwards.  If I stopped, I was going to get loud.  It’s a balance and a judgement call. Sometimes it’s good for young people to see adults doing the right thing, standing up for them and themselves.  Other times (when the option is there) it’s better to cool off a bit and deal with situations without young people present.

So I don’t know if this guy was drunk, delusional, or bitter about sweating his balls off in 90° heat.  What I do know is that he was confused if he thought this would pass without incident.  This morning I had a nice chat with the site manager/foreman, who was responsive, respectful, and took me quite seriously.

a)The word “underaged” holds more than a bit of power. Those 9 letters contain many implications; ethical, moral, and legal.

b) Site workers and managers pay very close attention when you stop and speak.  If you’re blocking the pass through, several workers have to stop what they’re doing.  Time is money after all.

Women, we don’t have to tolerate predatory behavior, and we shouldn’t.

Moral of the day:  Most annoyances can and should be ignored, some should be addressed head on.  Oh yeah, and don’t fuck with Mrs Fringe.

*I reference “guys” because while I do/have occasionally seen women working on construction sites, it’s still a field dominated by men–and I’ve yet to hear a female construction worker catcalling.

Playground Politics

We're missing the train

I seem to have missed my train

Hello all.  Yes, yes, it’s been a while.  You know when more time than usual passes in between speaking to a friend, you keep thinking you should call, but the more time passes the harder it becomes to make that call?  Yeah.  First I was in a bit of a funk; there’s nothing to say, no one cares what I have to say, blah, blah, blah. Then, in the past few weeks, there’s been so much going on I couldn’t decide where and how to jump in.  Nothing has happened to me/mine personally, it’s been wonderful having Man Child home, he has a good job, Nerd Child is in the last stretch of high school–drove north and saw his final production the other day–that young man is an excellent director! Art Child is well, Husband is well, Incredibly Stupid Dog continues to forget which end is supposed to be on the pee pad when she lets loose…all good in Fringeland.  But the world around me?  Prince died, which I took more personally than I have any right to. North Carolina has decided genital checks are in order because thinkofthechildren.  The Bernie movement has faltered (to say the least), and Donald Trump has won the GOP nomination.

After two weeks of pretending that last tidbit couldn’t be real, I have to accept it.  I have to get on the train. Not the train car supporting him, of course.  I feel like it’s rush hour and the car open in front of me is suspiciously empty.  If you’ve ever been a subway rider, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, let me give you a tip.  When a crowded train pulls in, if the car you’re about to get on is miraculously empty with several open seats, there’s a reason–and that reason usually involves a stench so foul even the most weary and unsteady travelers would prefer to be squashed nose to armpit in the next car.

Yesterday I was having a conversation about this nightmare with a friend of mine, and I referenced playground politics.  For me, this sums it up.  Because it doesn’t feel like a train.  I’m an adept rider; pains, nerve damage and all, I can keep my balance, squeeze into the most narrow space between two man-spreaders if it means a seat, and throw myself through the closing doors without getting my purse caught.  This is more like a throwback to childhood, a concrete lunchtime playground where girls have cooties and with a choice between splintered seesaws, dodgeball, and a cement water fountain that dribbles rust.  So here we are, this cycle of American politics where might makes right and he who spreads the most outlandish, the most vicious rumors wins.  Where is the lunch aid?  Where are the teachers?  Where are the grown-ups?

As I’ve said previously, I like Bernie.  I never thought he was a perfect candidate, and I had questions, but I thought he was the best choice.  For a moment, I thought he had a real shot.  That moment is over.  I don’t love Hillary.  I have a lot of questions and reservations about her that I don’t want to have.  (I’m a feminist ferchistssake, a woman for President? Yes, please.)  But I’m not hesitating to support her, especially when I look at the alternative.  The alternative isn’t Bernie Sanders, it’s Donald Trump.  A man whose positions take us from an unsupervised playground to Lord of the Flies.

While I wasn’t blogging, I did more reading than I’d done in a while.  I even decided to read Infinite Jest, it’d been on my to-read list forever, and it seemed like the perfect time.  I got about 600 pages in, and spent a good 500 of those pages feeling certain that I’m an idiot, because I didn’t get it.  Not that I wasn’t able to follow the storyline, I was.  Not that I didn’t notice and appreciate some lovely sharp prose, I did.  But I really, really don’t understand the how/why this novel became the lauded, prized bestseller that it did.  So I gave up, once again determined to accept that I’m just not that smart, and clearly incapable of understanding the publishing industry.  If a friend had written it and given me the manuscript to beta read, I’d have suggested cutting about 500 of the 1200 pages.  But the timing of my attempt to read this was perfect for today’s political climate, because today is when we are living the backstory of Infinite Jest.  If Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, we will slide right into Subsidized Time, and tomorrow will become the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.  I may not be smart enough to slog through all 1200 pages, but I’m smart enough to know I don’t want to live inside them.

You’re frustrated?  Me too.  You’re broke?  Me too.  You’re tired of the status quo?  Me too.  But my eyes are open.  And what I see is hideous.  A circle has gathered around the combover playground bully.  The circle is growing, gathering legitimacy and support, and it’s feeding on greed, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and wishful thinking.  I know some people speak of idyllic childhoods and pine for their lost youth.  Me?  I was glad to leave the playground behind, and I don’t want to return.  The lunch aid isn’t coming.  We have to turn away from the childish blowhards telling us might makes right, get on the train before it derails completely, and be the grown-ups.  We may or may not be in the gifted program, but we’re smart enough to recognize the stench of fresh shit.