Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

Or, We *Could* Try Taking Women Seriously

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A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to see a one-woman show by the funny and charming @funkybrownchick. She’s a sex educator by profession, so some of the stories she told were quite saucy, some were side-splittingly funny, some were touching, some were sad…and one was scary.

Many years ago, prior to the advent of cell phones, she was traveling back to her home in Chicago when a big snowstorm forced her plane to land in Detroit. They were going nowhere else that night, so the stranded passengers queued up at the airline counters to be assigned hotels. Being an inexperienced traveler, she was slow to queue up, so by the time she got to the hotel shuttle area, it was VERY late (or early depending on how you look at it), and most other passengers had already been ferried to their hotels.

A shuttle driver – in an official shuttle with the names of several hotels on the side – picked her up and then took off without any other passengers.

Women already know what’s about to happen next, but for the fellas, he waited until they were on the highway to start commenting on her looks, asking increasingly inappropriately personal questions, and “joking” about how maybe he’d eventually get her to her hotel.

Remember, no cell phones, and she’s in a city she’s not supposed to be in, in the middle of the night, and no one knows she’s there.

Fortunately, she’s a quick thinker, and she told the driver she was going to be sick to get him to pull over. As soon as the van got to the shoulder and slowed down, she jumped out and started running back towards the airport along the shoulder. She was able to flag down another hotel shuttle full of passengers, who made room for her, and the driver took her back to the airport and dropped her off with the airport police.

Women already know what’s about to happen next, but for the fellas, the cops didn’t believe her. They dismissed her story, told her she was over-reacting, and chided her that the driver was just trying to be friendly.

She spent the night on the floor at the airport and, thank the Goddess, got safely home to Chicago the next day.

The Atlantic recently had a cover story about this phenomenon, titled “An Epidemic of Disbelief.” In short, cops disproportionately (SERIOUSLY disproportionately) don’t believe women who report sexual assault. Because of that, they don’t test rape kits. Not just one or two, not just in one or two places, but hundreds of thousands all across the country. Because of that, serial rapists walk free to assault more women FOR YEARS. FOR DECADES.

Cops also disproportionately (SERIOUSLY disproportionately) don’t believe women who report domestic/intimate partner violence. Because of that, no matter how “strong” your local red flag law, those violent men get to keep their guns. And while not all domestic/intimate partner abusers become mass shooters, nearly all mass shooters start as domestic/intimate partner abusers and share a virulent hatred of women.

Does that mean women never lie about sexual assault or domestic/intimate partner violence? Of course not, but maybe cops could try approaching our tales of victimization the same way they do other crime victims.

Mugging victims *could* be lying about how much cash got taken.

Auto-theft victims *could* just be trying to get away with insurance fraud.

Someone who got punched in a bar might have been the one who started the fight.

But cops don’t start off assuming that the victims are lying, dismissing their reports, and refusing to investigate the crime unless someone provides them with overwhelming evidence that it occurred. Maybe, just maybe, they – and we – could start affording women the same courtesy, just as a test to see what happens.

Image from the Seattle Times.

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As Ye Sow…

red hibiscus flower

It’s been another rough week with two mass shootings, hundreds of Latinx kids returning home from school in Mississippi yesterday to find their parents taken by ICE, hundreds of kids still in ICE cages and the border, and probably a million other awful things I’m trying to block out right now.

We’re also just past Lammas, deep into the harvest, and I can’t help but think that what we’re reaping now as a country is the bitter fruit of an overdue reckoning with our history we’ve been unwilling to face for four hundred years.

I had taken a break from heavy reading to catch up on a bunch of novels I’ve been wanting to get to.

[When I spot a novel that looks interesting, I pop it onto my Amazon wish list, which really functions as a “to read” list. Periodically, I open up my local public library’s Libby app and search to see if they have any of my “to read” picks available as ebooks. I put maybe 5-10 on hold – or check them out and download them immediately, if they’re available – and then get little presents from Past Me when I get that email notification that my ebook has become available and is waiting for me to download it. But maybe that’s just me…]

But eventually you have to get back to the work of reading Serious Shit That Will Make You Think, which I have, with:

  • Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race
  • Jonathan Metzl’s Dying of Whiteness
  • Robin D’Angelo’s White Fragility

All three have me thinking about the United States’ unexamined original sin of racism. The chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost, only because this is the US, the people who are suffering are mostly people of color.

One thing that Metzl’s book makes crystal clear, though, is that the policy choices white voters support because they’re afraid of black and brown people (unlimited gun purchases for everyone! open carry everywhere!), or because they’re resentful that black and brown people might possibly get a piece of a public good (well-funded public education, affordable health insurance) HURT WHITE PEOPLE, TOO.

Metzl looks at guns in Missouri, the ACA in Tennessee, and public education in Kansas, and clearly and persuasively documents the ways white people can be persuaded to die, literally TO DIE, to prop up white supremacy.

And, per D’Angelo, when you look at all the ways we’re utterly unwilling to engage around race and racism, it’s not surprising. Every time we white people define racism as only deliberate, individual actions directed by particular evil white people who are motivated by personal animus at particular people of color, we decrease our chances of being able to understand white supremacy as a systemic problem that requires a systemic approach to rectify. Every time “progressive” white people claim to be color-blind, we invalidate the lived experiences of the people of color who are unlucky enough to be subject to our bullshit – experiences that are VASTLY different than ours, that are likely hidden to us in our daily lives, that we can only hope to begin to understand if those people of color are willing to risk trusting us enough to share them, that they will 100% NOT trust anyone who “doesn’t see color” with.

As Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, do better.”

So how can we white people begin to know better?

Oluo can help. To quote the National Book Review review: “[Oluo] explicitly raises questions and provides talking points and counter-arguments for both people of color and white people.”

She is firm, and unsparing, but speaks from a place of love. Ever thought, “But I don’t know what to do?”Oluo gets specific.

And no matter how long you’ve been doing this work – whether it’s decades or “this book is the first thing I’m picking up” – you will learn, and begin to know better, so you can start doing better, which is the first step toward healing the wound that’s been suppurating for generations.

Photo by the author. If you copy, please link back.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Happy Birthday, James Baldwin

James-Baldwin

Had he lived this long, James Baldwin would have been 95 today.

I had purchased the (very nice) Library of America edition of his collected essays in print form several years ago, but I hadn’t read them until the fall of 2016, and I have to say that James Baldwin saved me. I would not have made it through that difficult election season or its disastrous conclusion (and aftermath) without him.

His wisdom and incisiveness showed me how to face evil without fear, to call it by its true name with courage, to propose remedies from a place of love, and above all to maintain hope, not from a place of foolishness or denial or lying to myself to try to protect my own comfort, but from a clear-eyed assessment of the disaster and an unwavering commitment to do what lies in my power to fix it.

A few favorite lines from Notes of a Native Son:

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this was an immutable law. It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace, but must fight them with all one’s strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep own heart free of hatred and despair.

And again, speaking to white supremacy:

no black man can hope ever to be entirely liberated from internal warfare – rage, dissembling, and contempt having inevitably accompanied his first realization of the power of white men. What is crucial here is that, since white men represent in the black man’s word so heavy a weight, white men have for black men a reality which is far from being reciprocal; and hence all black men have toward all white men an attitude which is designed, really, either to rob the white man of the jewel of his naivete, or else to make is cost him dear….the American vision of the world – which allows so little reality, generally speaking, for any of the darker forces of human life, which tends until today to paint moral issues in glaring black and white – owes a great deal to the battle waged by Americans to maintain between themselves and black men a human separation which could not be bridged. It is only now beginning to be borne in on us – very faintly, it must be admitted, very slowly, and very much against our will – that this vision of the world is dangerously inaccurate; and perfectly useless. For it protects our moral high-mindedness at the terrible expense of weakening our grasp of reality. People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

From Nobody Knows My Name:

The time has come, God knows, for us to examine ourselves, but we can only do this if we are willing to free ourselves of the myth of America and try to find out what is really happening here….In a society much given to smashing taboos without thereby managing to be liberated from them, it will be no easy matter.

Also from that same collection:

Northerners indulge in an extremely dangerous luxury. They seem to feel that because they fought on the right side during the Civil War, and won, they have earned the right merely to deplore what is going on in the South, without taking any responsibility for it; and that they can ignore what is happening in Northern cities because what is happening in Little Rock or Birmingham is worse…This perpetual justification empties the heart of all human feeling. The emptier our hearts become, the greater will be our crimes…the South is not merely an embarrassingly backward region, but a part of this country, and what happens there concerns every one of us….The country will not change until it re-examines itself and discovers what it really means by freedom. In the meantime, generations keep being born, bitterness is increased by incompetence, pride, and folly, and the world shrinks around us. It is a terrible, and inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of one’s victim, one sees oneself.

In speaking of the American illusion (one might say delusion) that everyone around the world respects and envies us as the richest, most powerful country in the world, Baldwin writes:

I am very often tempted to believe that this illusion is all we have left of the great dream that was to have become America; whether this is so or not, this illusion certainly prevents us from making America what we say we want it to be.

Writing on desegregation, Baldwin notes:

Any real change involves the breakup of the world as one has known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or thought one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free – he has set himself free – for higher dreams, for greater privileges….There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.

Baldwin famously disdained what he called “unquestioning patriotism,” which is the source of perhaps his most well-known quote:

I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

And perhaps one of his most hopeful quotes, speaking to the white mobs that rioted against integration in the South:

these mobs fill, so to speak, a moral vacuum…the people who form these mobs would be very happy to be released from their pain, and their ignorance, if someone arrived to show them the way. I would be inclined to agree with this, simply from what we know of human nature. It is not my impression that people wish to become worse; they really wish to become better but very often do not know how.

Visionary, intellectual, patriot, critic, hero, archetype. Thank you for your many gifts to us in your too-short 63 years on this earth.

I think we have to look grim facts in the face because if we don’t, we can never hope to change them….The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.

I could continue to go on, but I want to close with:

A country is only as good – I don’t care now about the Constitution and the laws, at the moment let us leave those things aside – a country is only as strong as the people who make it up and the country turns into what the people want it to become. Now this country is going to be transformed. It will not be transformed by an act of God, but by all of us, by you and me. I don’t believe any longer that we can afford to say that is it entirely out of our hands. We make the world we’re living in and we have to make it over.

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Once More, For the Cheap Seats

Headshot of Robert Mueller testifying before Congress

ROBERT MUELLER IS NOT COMING TO SAVE US.

He never was.

We have to save ourselves.

I can summarize Mueller’s testimony from Wednesday’s hearing in four words: “Read the fucking report.”

Which was exactly what he said he was going to do, so if you were expecting more from the hearings, that’s on you.

Don’t get me wrong – there were good tactical reasons to hold hearings. One, most people (including most Members of Congress) haven’t read the fucking report, or even a reliable summary of it. And because the news media initially credulously accepted and repeated Bob Barr’s lies about the content of the report, most people are NEVER going to read it, or a reliable summary of it. And because that initial narrative was so fucking wrong, generating video sound bites to illustrate exactly how wrong it was has value, particularly since disturbingly large numbers of people still get all their news from TV and/or videos shared on social media. So video content is critical.

Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) tweeted an excellent summary of the key points made in the hearing:

“Takeaways from Mueller’s testimony so far:

  • Mueller didn’t exonerate Trump
  • Trump encouraged aides to falsify records
  • Trump engaged in witness tampering
  • Trump’s actions met 3/3 elements of obstruction [of justice]
  • Trump would likely have been charged with crimes if he was anyone else”

And:

“If you care more about substance [than “optics”], Mueller testified that:

  • Russia attacked our election to help Trump
  • Russians made many contacts with Trump campaign
  • Trump campaign welcomed their help
  • No one reported it to the FBI
  • They lied to cover it up”

That’s a useful summary, and it was provided in a format that’s hard even for FoxNews charlatans and their zombie viewers to ignore.

HOWEVER, as I pointed out earlier, if you want an impeachment inquiry, you MUST call your Members of Congress, particularly your Representative.

This is not Nancy Pelosi’s sole decision, and while sniping at her on social media might make you feel good, it accomplishes bupkis (and is pretty sexist to boot – why is this solely her responsibility?). She is not going to move without the votes, and she still doesn’t have them. As a refresher, she needs at least 218 – a majority of the House – and as of the last count I saw, she has fewer than 100. Without them, articles don’t even get passed to the Republican-controlled Senate (where Mitch McConnell will 100% ensure they do not vote to convict, of course, but we’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it).

“But the hearings themselves will persuade more Representatives – and the public!”

Probably, but that might get you from 211 to 218 – not from 97 to 218.

Call to request an impeachment inquiry every single day. Call both your Representative’s DC office and her or his local office. Call even if your Representative is a Republican. Ask your friends and family to call.

You know what else is about to happen?

Congress’s summer recess.

That means your Representative is coming home to your district to hold events. Many are fundraising events to which you have to buy tickets. But you can probably find out where they are with a little digging. And s/he might hold some town halls, too. And show up at parades and community events.

So go.

If you can afford a ticket, go to the fundraiser (Democrats only obviously). If not, see if you can figure out where it is and wait for your Representative to arrive or leave (obviously, don’t trespass). Go to the town hall. Go to the community event. Stop by the local office. When you get there – when you get your 30 seconds with your Representative or a staff member – ask – politely – whether or not your Representative supports opening an impeachment inquiry in the House and, if not, why not. Go armed with Don Beyer’s talking points from above.

Getting this done is on us, so let’s get to work.

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

The Power of Relationship

Daughters of the Moon Ten of Pentacles - The Harvest - Card

During a week where, as I saw on Twitter, “the hoods have come off,” which has been horrific and depressing and dispiriting and infuriating, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to end the week participating in a SuperMajority call on relational organizing with Jess Morales Rocketto.

[Do you not know SuperMajority? You should! It’s “a community for women who want to work together to build economic and political power, organize for gender equity, and transform this country.” Joining is free, they’re doing all kinds of groovy stuff, and you should sign up. Go now – I’ll wait.]

[Do you not know Jess Morales Rocketto? You should! In addition to being one of the SuperMajority founders, she is also the political director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the executive director of Care in Action, and on the board of Families Belong Together. So, you know, your basic progressive rock star organizer.]

Jess opened by acknowledging that talking to family and friends who hold different views can be even more intimidating than talking to strangers. But it’s important to start with our nearest and dearest because we have a base of shared experience due to our existing relationships. That makes it easier, in our organizing work, to share ourselves and our stories, and to be empathetic with theirs.

Additionally, you are far more influential on your family and friends than you may realize. People don’t listen to studies, or politicians, or the media – they listen to people they know and trust. Relationship speeds up organizing, because I don’t have to invest as much time in vetting a person/cause/event myself if I know you and trust your judgement and you’re vouching for her/them/it.

People are also more likely to say “yes” to a personal ask. I’m more likely to get a friend to, say, go to a protest if I personally ask them to go with me than if I forward an email from some organizing group or share that group’s ask on social media. Note, that doesn’t guarantee your friends and family will say yes. As Jess pointed out, we all have to get used to hearing no, because “organizing is 90% persistence.”

So where does relational organizing start?

Jess recommended starting with a house party, where you invite ten or so people to come to your home to talk about your chosen issue (say, for instance, gender equity). Organizing, after all, is most effective and efficient when each of us does a little bit of it.

Jess offered some practical tips, too:

  • Don’t worry about being “perfect” – your house totally presentable and eat-off-the-floor clean, a fabulous spread of 100% home-cooked food, etc. It’s fine if there are toys on the floor, and you still haven’t gotten around to repainting that one room, and you bought the food at Costco – or potlucked it. This isn’t about creating the perfect Instagram post – it’s about creating positive change in our country. Don’t let the cat fur on the couch get in your way.
  • Prioritize one-on-one connections and conversations, not just between you as the host and each of the attendees, but also inter-connections between all the people who come. Yes, your chosen issue is important, but what’s more important is that you provide space for people to talk about what really matters to them and start building those trusted relationship, which will make later issue-driven work that much more effective.
  • Don’t start with the hard cases. Your whole family are die-hard TrumPutin supporters? Start with somebody else, and work up to the tough cases (which may take years, or may never happen).
  • Invite diverse groups, which could comprise the standard “protected classes” stuff (race, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, veteran status) but could also be something like women who don’t have kids if you normally hang out only with fellow moms, or vice versa. Reach outside your normal circles, at least a little bit.

Hecate recently urged us to all commit to taking one action a day, no matter how seemingly small, to resist Trump and the damage he and his enablers are doing to our beloved country. What can you commit to doing to organize your nearest and dearest to resist?

Photo by the author.

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The “Billy Graham Rule” Is Offensive

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I was going to title this post “…Is a Joke,” only I’m not laughing and I’ll bet you aren’t, either.

Another week, another Republican politician, this time Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Robert Foster, invoking the odious “Billy Graham rule,” wherein evangelical men refuse to be alone, ever, for any duration of time, and under any circumstances, with any woman other than their wives (and, one might presume, other female relatives, although one never knows).

I had myself worked up into a righteous rage, refining a veritable jeremiad…and then Monica Hesse said just about everything I planned to, better, in today’s Washington Post.

Because I know not everyone has a subscription, and you may have hit your complimentary article limit for the month, a few select quotes:

there’s not a single inch of moral high ground achieved via the Billy Graham rule, which purports to honor marriage vows….rules like these don’t honor your wife. They just presume that your marriage vows are so flimsy that you can’t be trusted to uphold them unless a babysitter monitors you.

Or, as WGR550 reporter Jeremy White tweeted:

It presumes either :

A) you can’t be trusted Or

B) women can’t be trusted

Everyone invoking that rule should be prepared to answer which is true

As Hesse puts it later in her article:

The most harmful aspect of the Graham/Pence rule is this: It keeps women out of the room. It says that men can forward their careers via mentoring sessions, golf games and brainstorming lunches, but women cannot….The Graham/Pence rule prevents women from climbing to the top of their careers because the men who have the power to help them get there won’t even let them in the room.

A few additional points:

As I have written many times, evangelicals’ sharia panic doesn’t derive from any sort of noble or principled place. They aren’t defending the first amendment. They aren’t passionate about the fact that the United States was founded on the concepts of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Nope, their objection is, at root, “Hey! No fair! We were in line first to try to force everyone to obey OUR interpretation of OUR imaginary friend’s draconian and arbitrary rules! No cutsies!”

Second, men should be as offended as women by this rule, if not more so. It’s based on the idea that all men have no more self-control or moral agency than animals and will immediately rape any and all women that come in their orbits unless physically restrained by other people.

Finally, men, examine yourselves. If you, in fact, feel yourself incapable of not raping any and all women that come into your orbit unless you are physically restrained by other people, that seems like YOUR problem. You should definitely get professional help with that immediately, you might want to sequester yourself away from all women until you do, and, at the very least, might I suggest not running for governor? The responsibility seems like it’s going to be too much for your delicate, unstable, nay, even hysterical, constitution?

Image of Rembrandt’s The Woman Taken In Adultery from London’s The National Gallery

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Magic Everywhere

I’m feeling a little burned out today, so I thought I’d share one of my very favorite jazz recordings.

(And the story behind it is fascinating.)

Pour yourself your favorite beverage, take 15 minutes, and listen to the whole thing. Pay particular attention starting at minute four, when Paul Gonsalves launches into a TWENTY-SEVEN CHORUS masterpiece that may be the greatest tenor sax solo ever recorded.

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