Sunday, October 22, 2017

Put an F in Fear

I read the below essay in The New York Times and immediately recognized the writer from Nashville who has been hired for whatever reasons to provide her opinion about living that once would don the pages of a Woman's Day or Better Homes and Garden or even more literary journals such as Readers Digest versus that of a venerable newspaper.  But no we have this.  And why is because newspapers are trying to reach the Facebook crowd where personal essays and local writers are connected and liked enough to possibly generate sales.  Let me assure you I spend my weekend mornings at Barista Parlor in Germantown which supposedly attracts a higher income set and I have actually seen only once another person reading The New York Times.  My first thought:  He must be a visitor.

Yes I am not nice.  Moving on from that.

But in all honesty I don't give a flying fuck that Margaret was too frightened as a girl and had incidents that happened to her that led her to lead a less "adventurous" life.  Really who are you and why do we care?  I am still trying to get why Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino had girlfriends (more than one in Pitt's case) who were victimized by Harvey Weinstein and said "Fuck it we make money with this dude so let's just keep doing it!"  But then I go the President (vomit when I use that term) has done this repeatedly and in fact said, "I could shoot someone in Times Square and no one would care." Alright then.

I was appalled by the term "Rape Culture" as to use the word culture you are implying as it was used in this case that colleges were grounds that boys/men learned and in turn practiced a behavior that was encouraging violence against women and that in turn the College/University enabled said behavior and allowed it to foster as a its own independent movement.

Culture as defined by Miriam Webster's:

a :the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

b :the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also :the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time
  • popular culture
  • Southern culture

c :the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization
  • a corporate culture focused on the bottom line

d :the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic

When we use the word we are implying that is a shared belief and knowledge passed on from generation to generation and now I am beginning to rethink that I was wrong and that in fact there is a "Rape Culture" belief that surrounds the male gender.  It does not mean men are rapists but they cover, excuse or ignore those who do.  This is just another side of the ongoing debate that aligns with Racism, Homophobia and other "ism" that dominate the larger majority debate.

I live in Nashville and I live in a little Big-Town which is more appropriate than one could imagine. It is two cities - one big and one small - it is divided like a pie and each piece is being cut up and divided again to ensure that while one still gets a piece it is smaller than originally believed and in the process damaged due to the evisceration of said pie.  You can only cut something so much before it loses flavor and shape.

And yes the Southern Culture that defines the region includes racism.  It is embedded here as a part of the accepted norms.  It is excused, explained, justified and ignored like Harvey Weinstein and his dick.  And no not everyone is a screaming racist but it is impossible to eradicate, it is akin to salt in a dish, you need it and you can taste it and some times the dish needs more and sometimes less but salt is an additive that is essential for a dish to have flavor.  And you will never eliminate salt as it is insidious and present in everything, you just work around it.

As a woman I work around it. I have been the victim of all of it.  I just at times didn't even know what it was as I had never been taught what it is.  And then 2012 happened and my Bill Cosby moment and I learned first hand what that means in a Patriarchal culture.  I have the battle scars to prove it.  No one helped me and no one ever will.  So no Dan Savage "it" does not get better.  What happened to me lead me to move across country, change my name and attempt to rebuild in a City that has so many scars of battles of its own they have the markers to prove it.  But that explains the fear culture here that is as deep as the Cumberland and just as quixotic.

Dear Margaret, Its me God and what I understood about your letter to the Editor(really all of your columns read like that)*** of which you were paid for we learned that your family failed you in the same way you failed your family.

**(I refused an offer to write an Editorial to the Tennessean about transit as why it would be published I was not getting compensated for it and in turn everyone would know my name and I live in fear here.  I really do)**

While Margaret bemoans the tragedy that befell her and her friends that lead them to make decisions that reduced risk and in turn life choices that she now questions.   I note that she regrets those choices as that is about her and not accepting that they were made and she is still fulfilled and can now do what she only dreamed of.  You know inspiring and leading and modeling but in turn does not explain nor teach her children about sex and sexuality, the rules of engagement (as it is war between said sexes) and in turn the concept of consent, morality and all that enjoins issues of what has become a part of Rape Culture.  Margaret would not do that as she is hard core Christian and we don't talk about sex here or violence.  Clearly as Tennessee is Number Four in the nation for deaths due to domestic violence!

If there is one thing I have learned living in Nashville is that being a Martyr and hating yourself is the number one component of Southern Culture followed by resentment and then residual anger that becomes fear.  If I hear the phrase "Be Safe" I will go postal. I have to be careful with these idioms or I will have the Police at my door - again.  This is the way of the world here - fear and compliance to fear.   These and idiocy are the true markers of a Southerner, hospitality not so much.

I am afraid living here of pretty much anyone but men in particular.  I cannot wait to leave and the sell by date is now about 18 months away. Let's not hope I spoil in the interim and maybe I can scrape off the mold and still eat the cheese.  A life lived in fear is not a life at all. Give fear the F bomb. There is a much better choice for that nuclear option. 


The Raw Power of #MeToo

Margaret Renkl
The New York Times
October 21, 2017

A few years back, when there were still three teenagers in this house, I got a little wound up at supper one night and kept going on and on about the brilliance of a novel I was reading by an Irish-born writer. “I can’t believe you’ve never been there,” one of my sons said. “As much as you love this stuff, I can’t believe you’ve never been to Ireland or England.”

“Well, it’s expensive,” I said. “First I had no money, and then I had a bunch of kids. And y’all need shoes more than I need Ireland. I’ll get there one day.”

The skeptical teen was not satisfied with this answer. “Dad biked around Europe all by himself for nine months before he even went to college,” he said. “You could have done that, too, if you’d wanted it bad enough.”

And it’s true: My husband did in fact earn the money to bike his way across Europe at age 19. Alone.

I taught my sons to stand when an adult enters the room. I taught them to look people in the eye and extend a hand when introduced. I taught them to put their napkins in their laps, not to speak with their mouths full, to stand up for children being bullied. What I had not taught them, it suddenly dawned on me, was how it feels to go through the world as a woman, the mental calculations involved in parking a car downtown or riding an elevator at night or taking a walk in the woods.

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“It’s dangerous for a woman to camp alone,” I finally said at the table that night. “There are women who do it, but I’m not that brave.”

My children grew up with stories of their father’s adventures. They did not grow up with stories of mine. I didn’t tell them the story of the 16-year-old family “friend” who babysat while his parents and mine went out to dinner the year I was 11, how he followed me around the apartment, tugging on my blouse and telling me I should take it off, pulling at the elastic waistband of my pants and telling me I should take them off, how I finally locked myself in my bedroom and didn’t come out till my parents got home.

I didn’t tell my children the story of walking with my friend to the town hardware store when we were 14. I didn’t tell them that my friend used her babysitting money to buy a screwdriver and a deadbolt lock to keep her older brother out of her room at night.

I didn’t tell my children the story of my first job, the job I started the week I turned 16, and how the manager kept making excuses to go back to the storeroom whenever I was at the fry station, how he would squeeze his corpulent frame between the counter and me, dragging his sweaty crotch across my rear end on each trip.

I didn’t tell my children about the time in graduate school when I had to call the police because there was a man crouching in the bushes next to my front steps, or about the former professor who told me that my impending marriage put an end to the “longest-running act of foreplay” he had ever engaged in. What I had thought of as an avuncular interest in my career he had thought of as an unrealized act of seduction.

There is nothing unusual about these stories. They are the ho-hum, everyday experiences of virtually every woman I know, and such stories rarely get told. There will never be a powerful social-media movement that begins, “Today I ate breakfast” or “Today my dog pooped and I cleaned it up” or “Today I washed my hair with the same shampoo I’ve been buying since 2006.” We tell the stories that are remarkable in some way, stories that are surprising, utterly unexpected. The quotidian doesn’t make for a good tale.

And maybe that’s why the avalanche of stories on Twitter and Facebook this week has been so powerful. It started on Oct. 5, when The New York Times first broke the story of accusations of sexual harassment against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, but it became a juggernaut 10 days later, when the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within minutes the hashtag #MeToo was all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — over 500,000 times on Twitter and 12 million times on Facebook in the first 24 hours alone — and the deluge shows no sign of slowing. The numbers keep ticking up as women tell the stories of men who used their power to overwhelm or coerce them.

I don’t know any woman who is surprised by these stories, or by the sheer, vast numbers of them. But men are. Some — by one account 300,000 of them — are writing to point out that they have been harassed, too, because of course the abuse of power isn’t gender- or orientation-specific. Others have started their own hashtag: #IHearYou. These are men, like my sons, who have not consistently heard these stories before because for too long women have not considered them stories worth telling. Or because too often such stories are not believed.

It’s an irony worth pointing out that the novel I was telling my children about at dinner that night was “Room” by Emma Donoghue, the story of a woman who was kidnapped from her college campus and kept as a sex slave in a backyard shed. Even reading that beautiful, heartbreaking book, it had not occurred to me to tell my children the story of all the times I wanted to go camping or hiking or traveling myself but didn’t dare because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.

We have bigger things in this country to worry about than whether producers in Hollywood are sexual predators, and the #MeToo movement is bound to fade again into the background, the way it did after the Bill Cosby allegations came to national prominence, the way it did after accusations against Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. In fact, the first Me Too movement was begun 10 years ago by the African-American activist Tarana Burke, and yet here we are again.

This kind of activism inevitably moves out of the news cycle when the possibility of thermonuclear war becomes a more pressing concern, when global warming becomes a more pressing concern, when desperate refugees in mortal danger become a more pressing concern, when women’s ability to make decisions about their own bodies becomes a more pressing concern, when millions of uninsured Americans become a more pressing concern. The list of urgent dangers we now face goes on and on and on. But it’s worth noting that most of them can be directly attributed to a man who boasted of being able to violate women at will, and face no consequences at all.

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