A Crash Course in Unconscious Sexism

When Senator Sanders’ heart issues (now, finally, acknowledged as a heart attack in a 78-year-old man) were first announced, I commented that we were about to get an object lesson in unconscious sexism.

And have we ever.

You may not remember, but I do, that for months the Trump and Sanders campaigns conducted social media assaults implying that Hillary Clinton wasn’t well.  She’d fallen years ago, after lots of oversees travel left her dehydrated with a stomach bug, and the fall resulted in a concussion.  It must have led to brain injury!  She might have MS!  Why’d she suddenly need glasses?  Trump kept saying that she didn’t have the “stamina” to be president — which apparently meant that women can’t be president because he could never explain what he meant other than to keep repeating that she lacked the necessary stamina.  Then, after months of campaigning and shaking thousands of hands, Clinton caught pneumonia.  And as women all too often are, she was in a Catch 22 situation.  If she’d announced that she had pneumonia and was taking a few days off to recover, it would have fed the fire of innuendo about her health.  So, as women all too often do, she got treatment, but kept quiet about it, and attempted to go on with her work.

A few days later, standing at an extremely hot and humid 9/11 memorial, which as the former Senator from NY she wanted to attend, and wearing a bullet-proof vest under her formal suit, she became faint and appeared to slump while getting into a car.  (Full disclosure, that same weekend, I was at an event at Monticello and the heat and humidity overcame me, too.  My heart was racing, I felt faint, and I had to go back to the hotel, take a cool shower, nap, sit in the air conditioning, and do some deep meditation to feel better.  And while I was seriously exhausted from work, I didn’t have pneumonia and wasn’t wearing hot clothes.  So I can testify to how challenging it was to do anything outside that weekend.)

All hell broke loose.

One of the main charges from even-the-liberal bros and the news organizations was that Clinton should have been more “transparent” about her pneumonia.  This, when Trump had refused to release any real health data.  And no one bothered to mention why she might not have been in a hurry to release such data.  And, of course, the “she’s not transparent” charge fed into the “deceitful woman” trope that surrounds any powerful woman and which had been weaponized against Clinton decades ago.  MSNBC literally ran a minute-by-minute timeline of Clinton’s fainting spell and recovery (she went to her daughter’s nearby home, cooled off, had some water, and then came out on the street to wave and assure people she was fine).  The topic never really died and her health remained an issue long after she had recovered from pneumonia.

Contrast Senator Sanders’ “heart issues.”

Sanders is a 78 year-old man in country where the life expectancy of white men is about 78 and a half-years old.  If he were to win the election, he’d be 83 at the end of his first term.  If he ran for a second term and won, he’d be nearly 90 years old at the end of that term.

Four days ago, he experienced chest pains.

Thankfully, he was hospitalized and had two stents inserted.  (By the way, this info comes from Wikipedia, which, even today, lists these health issues at the very bottom of the page concerning Senator Sanders.  The very bottom.)  His campaign initially refused to release any more information than this.  Supporters tried to shame anyone who asked questions:  “Can’t you please allow the man 48 hours to recover?”  Hillary didn’t get 48 minutes.  TV screens and newspapers were not covered with complaints about his “lack of transparency” and we’ve seen nearly no discussion of whether or not a 78 year-old man with heart problems would make the best president.  I’ve seen no discussion at all about how his obvious anger issues and complete lack of friends (he’s known for being prickly, for having few friends in the Halls of Congress, and for having a fraught relationship even with his only son — whom he didn’t support as a child and wouldn’t endorse when the son ran for office) may play into this heart attack and impact his future health.  Yet research shows that these factors matter quite a bit when considering the outcomes of cardiac health problems, especially among men.  Maybe those issues are as important for a future president as a prior concussion?

Days later, when his campaign admitted that he’d had a heart attack, everyone went, “OK,” and moved on.

Look, I hope Senator Sanders has gotten excellent medical care and is on the road to recovery.  I hope that he’s able to live more healthy years and enjoy his wife, new lake home, and whatever friends and family he can find.  Maybe he can write an inspiring book.  I’m not writing this to root for his bad health or death.

I’m writing this to point out that unconscious sexism results in massively unequal and unfair coverage between men and women.  And woman are really, really tired of it.

Earlier today, I commented on a blog about the uneven treatment of Clinton’s and Sanders’ health issues and one of the nicest commenters wished that Bernie and Hillary supporters could “find some grace” and just get over the 2016 elections.  It’s like wishing that Nazis and Jews could find some grace and get over the concentration camps.  Like wishing that descendants of slaves and of slave holders would just find some grace and get over slavery.  The people who are supposed to shut up and “allow” grace are always the victims.  I’m not going to just shut up and “get over” the sexism that results in massivley unfair coverage of women until something is done to address that sexism.  I’m going to die angry over the way Clinton was treated because it was wrong and because it’s indicative of the way all women get treated.  You can have your grace; I’ll take some equality, thanks.

I don’t think the answer is to “over cover” Sanders’ health problems the way — with MSNBC timelines broken down by minutes and with hours of talking head discussion — that Clinton’s bout of pneumonia was treated.  (And, Goddess knows, we NEED some coverage of Trump’s obvious (SNIFF!) health issues far more than we need to hear minute-by-minute accounts of Sanders’ chest pains.) But I want some some reasonable parity.  I want a heart attack in a 78 year-old man to get more attention — because it’s a more serious matter — than a bout of pneumonia in a 69 year-old woman.  I want discussions of the need for “transparency” to be equal whether the candidate is a man or a woman.  I want us to address the unconscious sexism that resulted in Donald Trump.

To quote the ineffable Ms. Maines:  “I’m not ready to make nice.  I probably wouldn’t if I could.  Cuz I’m mad as hell.  Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should.”  Millions of women feel this way.  Keep underestimating our anger at your own peril.

/Hat tips to Mrs.Whatsit and ql for some of the ideas discussed above.



Do Something Just For You


This is your periodic self-care reminder.

Every time the news cycle clicks into a higher gear, I think: “This is it. It can’t get crazier than this.” And yet, invariably, a few days or a week later, it does.

The impeachment inquiry is moving along and TrumPutin can’t seem to help telling on himself. I don’t know about you, but I have that anxious feeling that if I turn away from the news for a hot second, he’ll declare war on France or some shit.

State elections are fast approaching in Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi, and many of us have been PUTTING IN THE WORK to #FlipVABlue and, well, do the best we can in those deep South states.

We’ve just gotten through the hottest September on record in many places in the US, passing the previous record which was set at least here in the Mid-Atlantic, a mere three years ago.

Plus back to school.

Plus the approaching pagan High Holidays.

Plus plus plus.

(In my case, a raft of deliverables hitting for two big clients, upcoming travel, trying to keep boxing without re-injuring my still healing elbow, dealing with an invasion of ants, all my major volunteer commitments ramping up – it’s that time of year – and four webinars to deliver in less than a month. Oh, and I’m behind schedule on my next whitepaper. And I need to get the Samhain decorations out. Thank the Goddess the weather broke.)



Put down Twitter.

Turn off MSNBC.

What are you going to do this weekend just for yourself?

Sure, you’re still going to write your daily five postcards to voters, and go to the kids’ soccer game, and bake cupcakes for the Parent-Teacher-Student Association fundraiser, and do the laundry, and plan meals for the week and go to the grocery store, and call your brother.

But what are you going to do just for you?

Women are taught to put everyone else’s needs first, to take responsibility for everything, to manage everyone, and to put ourselves last. We’re socialized that attending to our own needs is selfish. We do too much, we give too much, and we’re punished for even trying to keep a little bit back for ourselves.

Well, fuck that.

In between my coffee meeting with a colleague who has questions about how to run a Mastermind group and hosting my circle for another night of political magic and the monthly local Democratic party officers meeting and boxing classes and the grocery store and battling the ants, I plan to have a late lunch with some dear friends, finish reading The Girl With All The Gifts, and (hopefully) watch my team win Sunday afternoon.

Tell me what you’re planning to do just for you this weekend in the comments.

Image found here.

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Words for Wednesday

“A prayer his body makes entirely.”  That’s how we should all long to pray.

I do — long to pray like that.  But, like Mary Oliver , I find that:

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves . . . .

I long to pray that prayer that my whole body makes entirely and, yet, every summer, indeed, every day — I fail as a witness.  But that’s OK.  What matters is to keep trying, to keep listening, to keep showing up as a witness, to keep throwing our body and our soul into the prayer.

I will never not love Heaney’s poem about Saint Kevin.



The End of the Liturgical Year


September slips into October and, for Witches, the liturgical year is about to end.

For me, this has been a momentous year — an exhausting one, but a good one.

I am slowly becoming the Witch of THIS place and, already there are bits of the landscape the have captured me.

I’m not generally a fan of winter, but, somehow, I am looking forward to a mountain winter, to being safe, secure, and snug in front of my stone fireplace with my two cats.  Summer keeps prolonging itself, so we’ll see if and when I get that chance.

If you can, spend some time journaling, reading the runes, considering what’s worked this year and what you want to change in the next.  The veils are thin — see if your ancestors have anything to tell you.  I’ve had some “be sure to write this one down” dreams lately, I’ll tell you that for free.

Here’s a picture of a fine gentleman I met the other day on one of my rambles.  He was sunning himself beside the railroad crossing, just down from the abandoned apple orchard.

Picture by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

The Magical Battle for America 9.29.19


Now’s probably a good time to remind everyone to check/refresh the wards on your home or wherever you do this work.  Be sure that you’re rested, grounded, and in a comfortable position.  Maybe wrap up in a blanket or cloak or grasp a stone or talisman that matters to you.  Grow your roots, send them deep into the soil, let them intertwine and grow small hairs to attach to the mycelia in your own landbase.


Anchor yourself firmly to your landbase.  Notice a small detail that will call you back when this working is finished.

Ground and center.  Cast a circle.


As you move to our American plain on the astral plane, you can see again the safe hillock where you do your work.  You can see the five giant banners, shining in the sky:  Walden Pond, the Underground Railroad, the Cowboy, the Salmon, and Lady Liberty.  Do they seem more defined since we began our work?  Do they have anything special to tell you this week?

For a few moments, just sit on your hillock and allow yourself to become comfortable. This place should be feeling very real to you by now; we’ve been working together to create it for months and months.  What’s become familiar to you?  A tuft of prairie grass?  Buffalo off in the distance?  The scent of sand carried on the wind?  You’ve been involved in a months-long magical working here, joined with magic workers from across the globe.  Feel your connection to this place on the astral plane.  It is always here for you, always a source of strength.

So, it’s finally happened.  A real impeachment inquiry has begun, something that many of us have worked for years to achieve.  And you can almost sense the energetic shift.  I was thinking this weekend that perhaps this is how Dion Fortune felt when the US finally got involved in WWII.  Energy shifts, the magical tides turn, and, suddenly, the aggressor is on the defensive.

And so, today, I want you to stand on your magical hillock and summon the shades of all of those Americans who fought against Hitler, Mussolini, and other fascists in WWII.  Are some of them your ancestors of the blood?  Of the spirit?  We know that, when the veils thin, some of the sailors who went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor want to work with the Resistance.  We need to call for help from those ancestors, ask them to strengthen and guide those who are involved in impeaching Trump, to steady the sword arms of those doing the questioning, to light the minds of those taking depositions, to ground those who do the daily legal work.

Can you talk to them and help them to understand our present need?  Can you listen to them for guidance as we move ahead?  What do they ask of you?  What offerings can you make to them?  Can you visit a graveyard with veteran headstones?  Can you prepare a ceremony for Veterans’ Day?  How will you continue the work that they started?


Return to your own body, your own landbase.  Open your eyes.  Rub your face, move your arms and legs.  Notice the detail you selected to call you back from the astral.  Open your circle.  Drink something, maybe a hot mug of soup or some green tea.  If you like, have something to eat, maybe warm popcorn or steaming corn chowder.

During the course of this week, you may want to visit the revisit Pearl Harbor several times in order to strengthen its presence on the astral.  You may want to repeat this working.  You may want to place something on your altar to help you to remember those ancestors who fought against fascism in WWII.  You may want to journal about your experience.  Are you inspired to make any art?  Can you sit beside a warm fire, or light incense, or stare into a candle?   What actions are you inspired to take for the Resistance?

Picture found here.

Hunter Biden, Chelsea Clinton, and Unconscious Sexism


I want to say a little bit about how differently we treat men and women due to unconscious sexism.  We are ALL unconscious sexists.  How could we be anything else, having been raised in a society soaked in patriarchy and sexism?

Unconscious sexism isn’t when you say, “Women should stay home,” or “It’s women’s job to make people feel good.”  It’s when you just regularly find the male candidate  more “suited” to the job than the female candidate or when you are somehow put off by a woman like Greta Thunberg who doesn’t smile and sugar-coat her message.  It’s when, without realizing it, you hold women to different standards than men.

Thus, lots of people enthusiastically supported John Kerry and John  Edwards, but later refused to support Hillary Clinton because “she voted for the war.”  (I was against the war, too.  But all three of those candidates voted for the war. )  Women get held to these weirdly contradictory standards.  On  the one hand, they have to definitively prove that they’re not too “weak” or “soft-hearted” to use military force while, on the other hand, they are disliked and provoke anger when they aren’t the “good mommy” who would never hurt anyone.  There’s also research that men’s mistakes are forgiven while women’s mistakes are noticed more and remembered longer.   That’s unconscious sexism.

Unconscious sexism is often much more insidious that outright sexism.  That’s because none of us likes to think that we’re a sexist.  So when an example such as  Kerry/Edwards v. Clinton comes up, people defensively rush to find some other reason to support their opinion.  I watched grown adults insist that they supported Kerry and Edwards because they had “apologized” for their vote, while Clinton merely said she wouldn’t have voted that way if she’d known that Bush was misleading the county.  That, my friends, is what we in the law call a distinction without a difference and it happens when people don’t want to acknowledge their unconscious sexism.

We’re seeing an interesting example play out in Trump’s attacks on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter compared to similar attacks on Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea.

During the 2016 campaign, the Clinton Foundation, which has an excellent record, “became an issue.”  (Note the use of passive voice.)  Somehow, even Democrats and liberals began to express “concern” that the “optics” of a president whose family ran a charitable foundation could be “problematic.”  (As far as I can tell, the implication was that someone could donate money to the Foundation, from which none of the Clintons profit, and thereby obtain presidential favors.)  There was no “there” there, but, well, optics.  (Of course, this was in direct contrast to the almost complete disinterest in the Trump foundation, which was corrupt through and through, but we’ll deal with that some other day.)

Chelsea Clinton, the proverbial good girl, worked with the Clinton Foundation.  She gave speeches and donated the money to the foundation.  And literally everyone declared that she would have to stop that work if her mother became president.  Otherwise, the “optics” would just be bad.

Hunter Biden, by contrast, is not exactly a good boy.  Married, divorced, involved with cocaine, he makes a living as a lobbyist.  Well, boys will be boys, right?  And a man has to make a living.  (I want to be clear that Trump’s charges against Hunter have been, as so much of what Trump says, complete lies.  And I’m glad to see Democrats and others rejecting Trump’s charges.  But the different treatment of Chelsea and Hunter is a great example of unconscious sexism.  There was no rush to defend Chelsea.)  Wikipedia reports that:

Because Vice President Biden played a major role in U.S. policy towards Ukraine, some Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates and Obama administration officials expressed concern that Hunter Biden’s having joined the board [of a Ukranian energy company] could create the appearance of a conflict of interest and undermine Vice President Biden’s anti-corruption work in Ukraine.

Really?  Because I follow politics pretty closely and I never heard it.  It certainly never got the attention that Chelsea’s work for the Clinton Foundation got.  Optics were, apparently not a problem for the men because, as Wikipedia notes:

Biden became a lobbyist in 2001, co-founding the firm of Oldaker, Biden & Belair. According to Adam Entous of The New Yorker, Biden and his father established a relationship in which “Biden wouldn’t ask Hunter about his lobbying clients, and Hunter wouldn’t tell his father about them.”

  Now, Joe Biden, Hunter’s father, is running for president,* just as Hillary Clinton ran in 2016.  Yet we’ve heard NO suggestions that Hunter Biden will have to stop his work as a lobbyist because of “optics.”  Back when it was Chelsea, even though there had been no impropriety, she was going to have to stop her work because of “optics.”   Now that it’s Hunter, even though there’s been no impropriety, he isn’t going to have to stop his work because of “optics.”  But we don’t seem to hold the sons of male candidates to the same standards that we hold the daughters of female candidates.

And that, my friends, is unconscious sexism.



*NB:  Joe Biden is not my first, or second, or even third, or fourth choice for the Democratic nominee.  Nonetheless, I will vote for him, donate to him, and work my self ragged to get him elected if he is the nominee.

Of Shiny Objects and Hard Work


We got what we wanted. The impeachment inquiry has started.

TrumPutin finally did something that was egregious enough, public enough, and simple enough to understand to give cover to swing district freshmen Members of Congress, which opened the door for Nancy Pelosi to move forward.

“Why didn’t she do it when I wanted her to?”

Remember, her motto is: “Just win, baby.”

She wasn’t going to do anything that put those red-to-blue first-term Representatives at significant risk of losing their seats – and the Dems of losing the House majority.

“Why didn’t she do it in response to X, Y, or Z other TrumPutin law breaking?”

Because TrumPutin-appointed judges are blocking access to and release of documents and information most of those other probes need in order to prove their cases.

Relatedly, this is why a bunch of us were yelling about the courts in 2015 and 2016. So thanks a lot, people who sat that one out or voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.

But – and this is an important but – it’s HIGHLY unlikely that #MoscowMitch’s Senate will convict and remove TrumPutin from office, and even if they do, we get President Pence, who may be more electable in 2020.

So don’t get distracted – this isn’t the magical single thing that’s going to fix everything. That magical single thing doesn’t exist, no matter how much we all want it to.

Keep registering voters, donating to candidates, writing GOTV postcards to voters, urging women to run for office at all levels, looking into running for office yourself, attending your local civic association and city council meetings, phone banking, text banking, canvassing, calling your Senators and Representative, attending marches and protests, organizing in your local community, and working every day to actualize the world you want to live in. And cling to the vision of the world you want to see with all your might.

When do we get to rest?

Never again – that’s what’s fucked us up in the Obama years. We all got complacent and lazy.

Don’t get distracted by shiny, shiny impeachment. Keep doing the work.

Image found on Medium.

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