Women

Her Lips Say No, but Her Eyes say Back Off, Maggot

Have a seat, ladies. We need to talk.

On my way to the girl’s school this morning, I received no less than three text alerts from various online news sources letting me know Doug Jones’ win in Alabama last night was a “devastating blow” for Republicans.

Fuck. That.

It’s a blow (and not a devastating one) to misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and transphobic bozos who don’t view anyone remotely different from them as worthy of life, rights, or representation in government. Am I glad Jones won? Of course I am, whispered a quiet yes! to myself when I first saw it looking this way at 1am–but didn’t trust it until I read it with my morning coffee at 5. Then I smiled, and ok, a bit less quiet woot! It’s good news for sure, a glimmer of hope I’m pleased to see, but don’t be so quick to celebrate.

Think about it. This was a really, really close call in a Senate race between a man who successfully fought against the KKK, prosecuted them, and believes in women’s rights and a maggot (who’s been suspended from the judicial bench twice) credibly accused by multiple women of having been harassed/assaulted by him when they were teens and he was a DA in his thirties. Someone who thought he’d prove his lack of prejudice by having his wife state “one of their attorneys is a Jew.” Someone who has said on record the country was better off without any of the amendments that came after the 10th.  If you’re unfamiliar, these amendments he doesn’t like include some I’m pretty fond of;  like abolishing slavery, the right to vote regardless of race/religion, women’s right to vote, yanno, little things like that. He’s also been loud and proud in his belief that “homosexual conduct” should be illegal, Muslims shouldn’t have the right to sit in Congress, etc. And we cannot forget that while a few members of the GOP spoke against him, the sitting President rallied for an accused child molester and the RNC gave money to his campaign.

More than anything, what has me sputtering into my tea as I type is the fact that 63% of the white women in Alabama who voted yesterday voted for Roy Moore. Sixty-three percent. One of them even sent her 12 year old daughter to interview him.

Wake up, women! Moore doesn’t believe women should hold office, doesn’t believe we’re equal to men, doesn’t believe we should have reproductive choices, he called the women who credibly accused him of sexual misconduct liars and “criminals.”

Why? Why do so many white women in America hate themselves and their daughters this much? More than anything, how do we change this? Because this is self hatred. Internalized misogyny and voluntary subjugation that is doing great damage to all of us.

I have seen and heard many say their vote for Moore (and let’s not forget the 53% of white women nationwide who voted for Trump, so don’t even start with well, it’s Alabama/the South) is because of religious beliefs. Huh. I am 100% for freedom of religion, and can’t/have no desire to get into whose interpretation of the various religious texts is the “correct” one (though how anyone can be 100% certain they’re speaking for their God, I don’t know), but I am 100% opposed to anyone who feels it is their right to impose their religious beliefs on others. I was not born into/raised in a theocracy and I never want to live in one. I don’t care what religion we’re talking about; the perverted interpretation of the Koran as practiced by the nut job who thought blowing his balls off in Times Square at rush hour the other day was a good idea,  people like Roy Moore, or people like the extremist Christians who are all for further destabilizing the Middle East because they’re impatient for Armageddon.

Several years ago I wrote a short story called “Yous Girls,” and the first line is “Yous girls fucked yourselves,” poking at the idea of what women didn’t gain from the women’s movement in the 70s. Never has that line reverberated more strongly than it has this year.

This isn’t “just” religion. Religion has a strong and significant role in the African-American community, yet 98% of Black women voted against Roy Moore yesterday–despite gerrymandering and widespread voter suppression.  As long as white women continue to view themselves by their romantic relationships, how they reflect men, accepting and even volunteering for the position of “less than,” we’re stuck.  Somehow, the majority of white women in the United States believe they don’t deserve respect or equality.  The MeToo movement (dominated by a very specific segment of white women) doesn’t just illustrate how widespread sexual assault and harassment are, how many men are guilty of inappropriate behavior; it illustrates how many women continue to support these behaviors, even as they whisper, me too.

 

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.

Yeah, But: aka, Dear Hillary

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m working on being ok. Can’t say I’m there, but I’m working on it. Between back to school, medical mayhem in our home, extreme weather events to obsess over, and a new political disaster every 24 (if we’re lucky we make it to 24) hours, easier said than done, no matter how many times I reread Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Speaking of reading, yesterday I decided to get myself an early birthday gift and downloaded Hillary Clinton’s latest, What Happened, and Salman Rushdie’s latest, The Golden House. Why these two, when they’re both new releases, and therefore full (nook) price? Rushdie because he’s Rushdie. Obviously. And Clinton for several reasons. One, because instead of adjusting and leveling off, this current chapter in US history is more awful every day, and I just don’t see a path that truly takes us forward. Two, it’s interesting, I’m fascinated to read what her thoughts are, I do care what she has to say.  She’s a powerful woman who has done more and handled more than 99.7% of us dream of past the age of 9. Three, quotes I’ve read from What Happened make her seem/feel more human than anything outside of those photos floating around the web of her wearing her oversized glasses and earnest youth. And four, I’m pissed as hell seeing all those judgmental posts from people decrying her nerve to blame others, she needs to accept responsibility, blah blah blah. I’m talking about posts from Dems and Progressives.

Responsibility? How about our responsibility as citizens of a democratic society to remember that our elected leaders are human beings, with all the messiness, faults, and fuck-ups that go along with being human? Yes, we have always and we should always hold those in positions of leadership and power to a higher standard, but there’s a difference between accountability  and impunity. We cannot expect superhuman, and in my opinion, this line of thinking is uncomfortably close to the thinking that brought us 45, with his oversized id, hubris, complete disdain for others, disregard of the law, our government, and the norms that have always guided us. People voted for him because of all this. They didn’t want a democratic politician or a regular old human being. They wanted Big Daddy who was going to fix it all and take care of them, not allowing any pesky facts, norms, laws or humanity to get in the way.

As I said to a friend, yes, Hillary was a flawed candidate–I said here on the blog months before the election the DNC would share blame if 45 won.  In fact, I said I’d blame everyone. Well here we are. I don’t blame everyone, but culpability certainly does not rest with one person, or even a select few. A lot of history, a lot of hate, a lot of skewed facts, media slants, Russian interference, lack of compassion, lack of comprehension, and lack of complex thinking brought us here. Close to 63 million votes, I believe. And oh yeah, the electoral college–because when we saw the winner of the popular vote lose the election because of the electoral vote in 2000, we let it ride. Guess what? Bernie was flawed, too. But the choice wasn’t between two flawed and human candidates, it was between one that was flawed and one that was out and out cracked.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the expressions of wishing Clinton would fade away and be quiet feel an awfully lot like an admonition to be a good girl and go make coffee.

I began reading on the trains this morning.

Dear Mrs Clinton, 

I hope all those complaining and saying you need to accept blame read What Happened. At least the Author’s Note in the beginning, where you clearly take responsibility for your choices, actions, and words. 

I’m glad I purchased the book, but I’m sorry I began reading it today. I started tearing up on the way to the girl’s school, so I put it away. Blubbering mom on the subway doesn’t work out so well. I took it out again after drop-off, and ended up missing my stop. I don’t know how you managed to write and edit this with all so raw; each day bringing another insult to America. I don’t know if I can read it through right now, I’m working on being okay, and What Happened is looking so closely at all that isn’t okay. On the other hand, burying our heads in the sand hasn’t worked out so well, to say the least. Whether I read the entirety over the next few days or put it back in the queue and wait a few months, I still thank you for what I’ve read so far. For all the shame woven into the fabric of where we are as a country today, I thank you for the reminder that I’m living in an age where a woman finally did make it to be the first female nominee of a major political party in the United States–wearing white, the color of the suffragettes, to remind us all of the years and work it took to get there.  You did so with power, persistence, and grace. It matters. 

Namaste. 

Respectfully yours, 

Mrs Fringe

 

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.

Deep Breath In…now hold it until you find sensible workout clothes!

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Early yesterday morning I was extolling the virtues of yoga for back care to a friend, and the conversation goosed me to do what I’ve been putting off for a year, buying new workout clothes.  Should be easy, no? Everywhere you look are women wearing yoga pants and capris, with oh so cute little bondage straps–err, sports bras.

I’m picky.  Yoga gear should be form fitting enough that you can easily check your alignment, and not have everything rolling up, rolling down, and twisting under you.  You should be able to move freely in whatever you’re wearing.   I had looked online last week.  Good grief, $100 for a pair of yoga pants?  By the time $60 began to look reasonable, I knew it was time to step away from the laptop.  And so I went to the local discount sporting goods store, where I was sucked into the vortex of fluorescent pink sports bras with perfectly coordinated checkered capris.  A mere $75 for an outfit.  No. Went home, went back online, found some things that were more reasonably priced, and purchased nothing.  Better prices aren’t really better if I can’t tell exactly how something is going to fit, if it will actually be comfortable to move in but discreet enough to throw a long t-shirt on top and run the girl to school.

Yeah, I’ve seen some of those inexpensive pieces in person, and they’re barely opaque enough to qualify as tights.  And the rest–including some of the very priciest ones–seem to be manufactured and promoted by the same sadists who came up with Spanx.  How the fuck am I supposed to execute a smooth downward facing dog if I’m busy trying to force air into my lungs?  Now I’m sure the idea is to hold in and hide all the rumply bits you’re trying to smooth away with exercise, but they seem to have forgotten one thing.  That excess of skin/cellulite/*gasp*/flab?  It doesn’t actually disappear with the bondage gear, just gets pushed up over the waistband and down under the rib band.  Thanks, I feel so attractive.

And ah, the sports bras. I get it, if your workout is high impact, you might want something with more hold. But for yoga?  With the way most of these things are structured, I expect mammogram results to pop out when I take them off.  And why is the choice that either they come with pads thick and durable enough to walk by themselves or no room in the design for nipples, let alone breasts?

When, exactly, did workout clothes become yet another haute couture arena?  This may be sacrilegious to say in 2016, but as long as it’s reasonable enough to get on and off the subway in, I don’t care what this stuff looks like.  I don’t care if the sports bra matches the t-shirt matches the shorts.  Maybe I’d feel differently if I worked out in a gym, or a class, and was being seen by others.  Actually, this likely contributes to why I prefer to stick to the privacy of my living room.  If you’re headed to an appointment, or date, or work, after you work out, go ahead and live a little by getting dressed in real clothes.  They don’t have to be fancy, just yanno, clean–something you haven’t spent an hour sweating in.

So yes, I went shopping in one of the basic discount stores yesterday, determined to be successful.  If I don’t care about the fashion statement, how hard could it be? First off, I thought it was the perfect time of year to replace my workout shorts (I like to wear shorts for yoga in the hot weather, sue me).  There were indeed two racks of shorts in the clearance racks of the “athleisure” department.  Are you freaking kidding me? Lycra microshorts.  Just right for the woman who wants her already sagging butt cheeks to fall out during child’s pose.  Fine, forget the shorts.  I grabbed every sports bra, yoga pant, and capri that I could find that looked like it might fit, didn’t feel like it was made from that magical duck tape/spandex blend, was under $20 and headed to the dressing room.

I could have skipped the early morning yoga session, because just trying all this crap on certainly counted as a workout.  Mrs Fringe is not a large woman.  That said, as a woman-of-a-certain-age, I’m not as small as I used to be.  These things are obviously all designed for the prepubescent among us.  In real clothes, I wear a size 6 or 4, depending on the cut and the “designer,” usually need a petite (except in pants, my legs are oddly long for a short woman), and I needed– needed–mediums in this stuff.  What the fuck?  What about women who are truly curvy?  Or, god forbid, a bit more than full figured?  Are they banished to the dismal plus-sized rack at the back because they wear a size 12 (which doesn’t necessarily mean more than full figured)? When I came home I saw the brouhaha online about a well endowed teacher in a dress that covered her completely but was, ahem, form fitting.  I wouldn’t wear it, but I like things that are roomy.  Not sack cloth and ashes, but what I consider breathable. Appropriate for work? I don’t know, but I know for sure that is a woman who would be hard pressed to find something off the rack that fit her without being either tight or tent like.

Wikipedia tells me the goal of yoga is moksha–liberation.  Looking at the western yogi-gear offerings, I suspect something has been lost in translation.  If you’re wondering, I did wear my new gear this morning and got on the train wearing my new (see above photo) slightly baggy olive-green capris, crayola-box purple sports bra, and big ocean-blue long sleeved t-shirt. I left the falsies behind.

Halloween decor?

Halloween decor?

Let’s Play!

I assume this is a bad hand, no aces or picture cards, no pairs.

I assume this is a bad hand, no aces or picture cards, no pairs.

I’m burnt out from the online political arguments.  Tried distraction yesterday, went to the zoo (yes I did enjoy watching the gorillas, thankyouverymuch).  That was nice, but not quite enough.  Back to disgusted by 9pm last night.  So this morning I was thinking, we need a game.  A nice, game, old-fashioned yet modern.  Naturally, LARPing came to mind.  So much talk about the good old days, why not go back to them?  Yes, everyone currently ranting, please join in.  At first I thought everyone should play, but then, as I thought more about the premise, I decided that if I want to keep to the spirit being touted as proper American values–yanno, my rights and conveniences are of more value than those of my neighbors or society–I don’t have to give up my Housewives or torture myself into a corset.

What shall we call our game?  Women in the Kitchen?  Back of the Bus?  We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges?  Maybe we should just keep it simple, call it America.  Though that might be exclusionary.  How about, History–Revisionist Edition?

The 1930s.  In thinking about what time period to choose, I wanted to be fair and really support those who are mourning lost values.  I considered 50 years ago, but that leaves us at the beginning of the peace and love era, dirty hippies are certainly not pictured on the memes I see going around, and really, why distribute windowpanes to distance ourselves from this glorious trip down memory lane?  100 years ago?  Hmm, that feels a bit too distant, electricity wasn’t common in American households until the ’30s, and it wasn’t until the 1920s that Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924.  Yanno, immigration restrictions in the good old days, working hard to prevent Asian immigrants, as well as Italian, Jewish, and Slav immigrants from setting foot on our red white and blue shores.  Besides, in the early 1930s, more people were emigrating from America than immigrating into it.  (Is that the current desire and dream?) Great Depression and all that.

While I and my fellow filthy liberal hippies keep score, those who believe in traditional values like backsliding, giving away rights, hating your neighbors, yourselves, and equal opportunities will get to live the dream.  If you are from a family of longtime, multi-generational wealth that didn’t go under with the stock market crash of 1929, I’m sorry, you are ineligible to play.  Unfortunately for you, your place in our culture was, is, and always will be secure.  Anyway, this is gonna be awesome.  Tremendous, even.

Concerned that you won’t have enough people and ethnic groups to hate?  Pfft, we won’t leave you without, plenty of ethnic groups and minorities to blame for…everything.  Sure, the Land of the Free wasn’t quite as mixed then, but believe it or not, there were brown people.  And for those who aren’t sure there were enough people of color to hate, we’ve got you covered, with the “wrong” white people until those numbers come up.  Concerned about having to live without your AR 15s and AK 47s?  I know, so sad, so SCARY.  In exchange for giving up your inalienable right to be a one man army, we’ve got other, more traditional good old days guns and rifles.  And beatings!  Sure, not as splashy as a semi-automatic, but is there anything quite as satisfying as old-fashioned bones-of-the-powerless-and-disenfranchised cracking under your fists?  Who says the right to vote for women need take away your swagger? Gratifying and manly, you don’t need any Latinos or Eye-talians to teach you about machismo.

In the very early 1930s, 25% of potentially wage-earning Americans were unemployed.  Please draw a card to determine if you have a job or not.  If your card is lower than a 5, you have no job.  Luckily for you, there’re also no disgusting,  Socialist (ooh, so scary)  Welfare, Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicaid, or Unemployment benefits in place.  I’m so glad you get to hold true to your values.  Don’t worry, your family and neighbors will take care of you, if you draw an ace.  They’ll throw you a rotting cabbage and a bit of chicken skin.

If you are employed, it is of course because you’re a harder worker than the guy in the next town over whose factory folded when the owner took a swan dive off the church tower after the Stock Market crashed.  You deserve employment, you’re a real American.  None of those commie unions to deal with, either.  You’re secure in your right to work in unsafe conditions, your children working right alongside you without the unnecessary complications of health insurance, days off, overtime pay, or your right arm.  No worries, the Black Lung will keep you feeling warm.

And it’s all ok.  Better than ok.  You’ve got all the time in the world, without the modern distractions of cable tv, video games, internet access, cell phones, or reliable refrigeration.  You’ve got radio, that’s all  you sinners who insist on entertainment need! If you’re in the Great Plains, you have an excess of time, what with the lack of farmable farmland in the Dust Bowl.  If you’re a woman, that is excellent news, plenty of hours in the day for washing, drying, and ironing clothes, cleaning the house, gardening, cooking (all from scratch, no frozen dinners, take-out, or convenience foods, and taking care of the children–yup, plenty of children! (sorry, no birth control or D&Cs allowed during your month of gaming, that would be cheating.  Unwanted pregnancy? Bad timing?  No such thing, you’re a woman.)  As a woman, you’re even allowed to vote, what more do you want?

Are you a recent immigrant?  You might be a bit confused, wondering where we’ve hidden those streets of gold.  And the jobs, where are those opportunities?  Good thing you came here and learned English overnight, assimilating immediately and working without pause.  I know this is true because your modern selves talk about this all. the. time.  (“My Grandpa came to America and spoke English!”  “I’m proud to say I can’t speak a word of any other language!”)  Unless, of course, you were a minority, in which case, you were the first to lose your job, if you had landed one in the first place.  You won’t be lonely, you’ve got plenty of company what with all the other non-immigrant minorities (including Native Americans, who invited them, anyway? They should never have made it through Ellis Island.) who lost their jobs.  And recreation! I hear lynchings enjoyed great popularity in the early thirties.  Good thing we all remember those good old days with such fondness and clarity that we can play this game.

A bit of clarity, if you’re thinking that you’re white, and therefore a welcome immigrant, you might need to look a bit harder.  Jews? Suspect, and not welcome.  Italian? Suspect, and not welcome–all kinds of propaganda being distributed due to the rise of Mussolini.  Irish?  Also suspect, no-Irish-need-apply.  Enjoy your tenements! I mean really, so many of these Italian and Irish immigrants were Catholic.  Papists!  Frequent and familiar targets of the KKK in those days.  It isn’t like we’d see a Catholic President in a mere 30 years.

No worries about Mexicans coming and stealing your job, either.  A pox on those who say over a million Mexican immigrants came between 1900-1930 because of a demand for low-wage, unskilled workers when we didn’t have enough citizens to fill those jobs.  No worries indeed, we rounded ’em up, beat ’em, and deported ’em back over the border.  Damn it, now I’m confusing myself, am I talking about then or now?

More excellent news, you won’t be confronted by your child coming out to you.  That closet is padlocked and sealed in concrete.  You yourself are a part of the LGBTQ community?  Don’t be silly, surely no one who belongs to a community that has been traditionally pilloried, still openly ridiculed, viciously attacked, and subject to hate crimes  by many would be playing this game–allying themselves with political parties that want nothing more than to restrict their rights–that would mean they place their bank accounts and guns above their personal rights, to say nothing of the safety and security of their community.  Just think, it’s the 1930s, no AIDS.  Don’t despair, though, plenty of gonorrhea and syphilis to go around, regardless of your sex or sexual orientation.

Speaking of health and health care, remember, these are the good old days.  If you or a loved one get sick or have an accident, you don’t have to think about where your insurance card is, how much the treatment will cost, or if you’re able to cover the copays.  Chances are excellent that what you’ve got can’t be treated.  And your friendly local doctor will make a house call.  If you can pay him.

So, you live life as if it’s the good old days for one month.  No cheating–those of us who believe in reason, justice, equality and science will be watching.  If you make it through your month without dying from illness or a tragic accident, good on you, you win a bootstrap!  If you make it through without starving yourself or family members, losing your home or throwing yourself off of a cliff before Roosevelt can push through one of his commie New Deal roads and bridges, you get a bonus bootstrap.  I hear once you collect enough, you can use them to pull yourself up.