Motherhood, Leftism and Feminism

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Going back to the kitchen radicalized me. I became a leftist and a socialist. I now fully understand and appreciate how Russian women headed into the streets in 1917 full of rage and fury. Pissing off women who spend their days in the kitchen is not a good idea, not in 1789, not in 1917 and not in 2017. It is when I returned to the home to perform the most mundane and traditional of duties that spurred my activism and turned me from a lukewarm liberal feminist to a radical socialist feminist. There is no turning back.

My husband told me that I’ve become too politically radical lately. My criticisms against the police state, white supremacy, institutionalized racism, sexism and misogyny, US imperialism and military aggression, the overt anti-immigrant stance of this and previous administrations has gotten to him.

He told me I am too old to be a radical, a not so subtle dig that my days of political activism and youth are long behind me, that I should focus on “more important things” – translation: being a good mother and wife. Just one year ago I would have vociferously defended myself on the one thousand and one ways in which I am a good mother. I don’t care if I am a good wife or not, but for the record, I am not a terrible wife. I’ve since entered a give no-fucks zone. I give no defense for my actions or beliefs. I don’t care to, I don’t want to and no one will shame me into living my life differently. While I wasn’t much affected by racism, toxic masculinity and patriarchy has scarred me. I won’t defend it, I won’t cater to it and I won’t accommodate it. Me shutting down any fat jokes, racist, sexist, misogynistic or ableist speak has made me a politically correct bore. I used to be so much more fun or I used to laugh at slightly inappropriate jokes. Perhaps, but at who’s expense?

I naturally lean left, but I grew up with mostly conservatives (in culture and politics) around me. My father was a registered Republican but would be considered a Democrat today, he was a social liberal (pro-choice) and fiscal conservative. He died before the 2008 elections heated up, he didn’t live to see our nation elect a black president. My mother and her family are Confucianists, largely apolitical but conservative in culture and beliefs, with an authoritarian bent. My natural anti-authoritarian nature didn’t fit well in this mould. Many times I was far too reactionary for my own good. My early feminism came of the desire to defy convention and there’s no better way to piss off the authoritarian males in my life than to become a feminist.

Feminism is natural to me. How could anyone not be a feminist? What kind of a person isn’t for promoting equal rights for women? If the majority of the people are for equal rights for all people, feminism ties right into that. Feminism seeks to liberate half of humanity.

I became a leftist for my children. I went from a liberal feminist to a radical socialist feminist for my children. I was born in 1979, a generation no-man land between Gen. X and Millennials. I am too old to be a Millennial but close enough in age to see up close and empathize with their plight. I graduated from college in 2001 and was probably one the last batches of college graduates who got a full time job with benefits and 401K plan within six months after graduation. I saw the last vestiges of the corporate boom before it all came crashing down. When the crash of 2008 happened, I had enough work experience under my belt where I could get another full time job and I wasn’t ‘too old’ to start over. I am lucky. Those who were born a few years after me weren’t so lucky.

They experienced the cruelty and evils of capitalism without ever tasting its rewards. The ruling class has completely looted the economy and not any single one of them have gone to prison for their crimes against humanity. Their crimes created untold poverty which might last generations, the economic violence which they unleashed on the working and middle classes is on a scale we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. And nine years after the 2008 crash, they act like all is well again, and the economy is stronger than ever. I heard one financial ‘advisor’ describing the crash of 2008 as getting rid of the “deadwood” which invariably exists in capitalism. People’s jobs, lives, homes, families are “deadwood” to capitalists.

Article after article is promoting the hipness of the ‘gig economy’ as the next ‘cool’ thing. It’s what Millennials want, it’s what they like so they have free time to pursue their other passions. The truth is the economy has no more good jobs on offer; no one has a stable job with benefits because capitalism has exhausted itself. Everyone has to make do with part time contracting work and try to make it seem cool and hip. Remember that Lyft driver who got a special commendation for working until the day she gave birth? If that isn’t sadistic I don’t know what is.

I became a leftist for my children. I grew up in an authoritarian household under authoritarian male and female figures. With the exception of my maternal grandparents and mother, I hated every single one of them. My contempt for them was barely contained and palpable. I became a self-taught feminist out of my disgust for authoritarianism and I reserved extra bile for the women who upheld male authoritarianism and used it to suppress other women. My early feminist influences were Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir; I devoured the ‘The Second Sex’ and ‘The Feminine Mystique’, the early seeds of giving no-fucks were sown. It affirmed my latent belief that as a woman I do not owe anyone an explanation about my choices, that if I made a mistake, I need not hang my head in shame and beg for absolution. There are no such things as the scarlet woman, the whore, the sinner; it was all invented by men to oppress women so they can go on and be the scarlet man, the man-whore and sinner without impunity.

At the time I didn’t see the connection between the oppression of women and the role capitalism played in that context. In order for capitalism to succeed a large number of people need to be oppressed. They include the middle class, working class and within those categories, women. Women provide uncompensated domestic labor so men can go out and earn his living. The woman provides a comfortable and relaxing home so the Fortune 500 company executives can focus on his career and earn all those bonuses. None of it is possible without women giving their labor away for free at home. Even women who work full time still does more chores at home than her male counterpart. Part of the Steinem, de Beauvoir and Friedan’s philosophy is that women can do anything and everything a man does and more, and that includes joining the boardroom, making her own money and more importantly having full control over her own money; a sort of first-wave pre-Sheryl Sandberg ‘Lean-In’ ideology. While that sounds good in theory, in practice, women have just stretched themselves even thinner; never mind the fact that Lean-In doesn’t apply to working class women, only well educated elite women with jobs that earn above the median wage apply. That aside, while she may be the boss of the boardroom, she still has the responsibility of being the archetypical wife and mother outside of the boardroom, and with those titles, there are still expectations attached to them where no amount of status or high salary can erase. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s long essay in The Atlantic brings this point home, literally; she had to give up her dream job as Director of Policy in the State Department because her two young sons were struggling without their mother (her family lives in New Jersey and she commuted weekly to Washington DC for her job). But to save face for her husband, because let’s face it, all that means is he couldn’t hack it, he couldn’t be a tenured professor at Princeton University and look after the needs of his two sons at the same time, something his wife manages everyday without giving it a second thought. Slaughter said she had to return to her tenured position at Princeton University because she had been absent for two years and they can take away her tenure if she doesn’t return. It’s a load of crap. If Anne-Marie Slaughter was a man, it would have never occurred to him to quit his dream job and return home to manage his children, his wife would be expected to handle it, and if she couldn’t she’d be seen as the loser, a mother who can’t handle her responsibilities. She’s supposed to know how to do that without the involvement of her husband.

While Slaughter correctly pointed out the way the American workplace is structured is what contributed to her dilemma, she didn’t point to its biggest culprit which caused her to abandon her dream job and that is capitalism. It is the exploitative nature of capitalism which caused Slaughter to nearly crumble under the stress of her dream job and being there for her family, not the ‘corporate work policy’. We can argue that the way companies and their work policies are set up suits men and single women more than women with children or people with other care taking responsibilities, meaning if we institute more flex hours for those that need it, more people would be able to participate in the workforce. If we can only get out of the rigid nine to five concept of work, we can get more people involved in employment. But the baseline question is still not addressed, who made it a rule that people must sell their labor and time to earn a living. Depending on how much wages we are able to earn, that then determines how much goods and services we can purchase and the quality of life we can lead. How much wages one makes has no correlation to how hard they work or how many hours they work. If that were the case, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet wouldn’t be the richest people in the world. They do not work, they’ve stopped ‘working’ decades ago, they let their capital, which is earned on the backs of workers from all over the world, work for them. They haven’t done an honest days work in decades. Like a good capitalist, they let their money work for them while everyone else works backbreaking hours to just pay rent and put food on the table. And somehow we are brainwashed into thinking all of this is normal and this is the way it should be, because capitalism is deemed the most efficient way to do business, the cream rises to the top, the deadwood float until a tide sweeps them way and the rocks just sink right to the bottom.

Capitalism is a drug, a powerful toxic drug. In the West, Capitalism is equated with affluence, freedom and democracy. Socialism and communism is equated with poverty, oppression and authoritarianism. Capitalism is a system of exploitation, where the ruling class owns the means of production and exploits the middle class and the middle class exploits the working class and the lumpenproletariat. Hence poverty will always be a byproduct of capitalism. Capitalism cannot survive but for the poverty it creates. No amount of reform can change this simple fact, neoliberals can dress it up however they like, but at the end of the day, someone, somewhere, will have to work slave wages in deplorable conditions in order for capitalism to thrive.

I believe socialist feminism can free the world from oppression. This might sound naive and fanciful but I believe it wholeheartedly. Women as a category, is the largest group of oppressed people. Women as a group have been oppressed by the patriarchy since the dawn of time. To liberate women is to liberate the oppressed. But liberation cannot come at the cost of some women over other women. The price of women’s liberation cannot be paid with the blood of underprivileged women so privileged women can enjoy freedom. The first wave and second waive feminists addressed specific rights such as voting, property rights, right to self-agency, to be able to open bank accounts and purchase property without a male co-signer. Then it was right to our bodies, access to birth control and safe abortions so we can have agency over our bodies. If women in Third World countries and the Middle East are being bombed and subjected to unbearable conditions and oppressive authoritarian regimes installed by Western governments, then the liberation of women in the West is meaningless. Freedom and liberation cannot come at the expense of other people, that is not true liberation. Liberal feminism and their brand of Lean-In feminism has no place in socialist feminism. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-In method of female advancement in the corporate world has no meaning to working class women all over the world. Feminism which doesn’t address capitalism as the root source of female oppression has no place in socialist feminism.

Women will not experience true liberation unless the underlying economic inequalities is addressed, which again goes back to capitalism. Even if men and women made equal amount of wages for the same work, we are still beholden to wage slavery. Our time and labor can still be exploited and stolen from us, the issue of surplus value still isn’t addressed. Capitalists will still control the means of production, which will determine how the rest of us live.

I do not know what kind of a world my children will inherit. There will be no jobs left for them. Everything will be automated, digitized and robots will take over most of the jobs that used to be done by humans. They have two options, join the army of part time contract workers soon to be the surplus army of laborers or they can become capitalists where they become the oppressors. Both of those options are unacceptable to me, so I became a leftist to show them another way. When I am long gone, they can continue the fight. I hope they sharpen the guillotines and use them when the time comes.

Feminism without policies written to the specific needs of women only leads to despair.

One of the biggest demographic suffering from endemic poverty is women and they are at risk of passing on that poverty to the next generation. Single women with children are at greatest risk of living in poverty. Women still earn less than men for doing the same job. Women without college degrees often work at low wage, low skilled and menial shift work. The hours are often unstable and it’s usually a job without any benefits. Often times these women who do low wage work have children they need to support. The economy since 2008 has been brutal for the American working class. All of the gains of the ‘recovery’ have gone to the top 1%; none of the gains have trickled down never mind to the working class, not even the middle class. The combination of low and stagnant wages, unstable employment, drastic cuts in social services, cuts in mental health services, the failure of Obamacare to bring quality care to everyone – has wrought havoc in the lives of women, some of this havoc has been deadly.

Middle class and working class families are hit the hardest. The incomes of the middle class is shrinking or stagnate. Working class women are struggling to support their families on shrinking wages and rising costs of living. People in general are working longer hours for less money and their jobs are more and more precarious. More and more people are falling into the ‘precariat‘ and ‘unnecessariat‘ categories, where they’ve become the excess people of society the ruling class wants to go away or wish didn’t exist. The people in this last group is getting larger. The study by Angus Deaton and Anne Case: Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century, which was published in August of 2015 is still reverberating in the chattering classes. White people are the most privileged group on almost every criteria in America, how did one of the most healthiest (physically and economically) demographic in America began to decline so precipitously since the 1990s. The most alarming thing is working class women or women without a college degree are dying by huge numbers due to alcohol addiction, opioid addiction and suicide or what Case and Deaton call “death by despair”. Following this study, The Washington Post did a series of in depth reporting of death and addiction in white America called: Unnatural Causes: Sick and Dying in Small Town America, where addiction has decimated communities, ruined countless lives, and alarmingly, it’s the women who are succumbing to lives of misery, lost hope, missed opportunities and finally despair in huge numbers. People are committing slow suicide either by taking dangerous cocktails of drugs and combining them with alcohol and some have taken their own lives outright while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

The subject of women and addiction is not normally discussed. When we talk about drugging and boozing, we think of hardened middle aged men who let their boyhood habits get out of hand. Addiction, specifically alcohol and opioid addiction when relating to women is still a bit of a taboo subject. Respectable women, especially women who are wives and mothers should not drink to excess where it becomes a ‘problem’ requiring treatment. It is seen as a personal weakness and a moral failure. The shame that is attached to every addict is magnified tenfold when it involves a woman. But as the Washington Post reporting shows, as the reporting went from town to town, trying to discover why so many people (especially white women) are choosing this dangerous path to an early but still a slow and painful death, many of the same themes keep reappearing. For opioid addicts, it almost always starts with an injury or chronic pain (migraines) where the doctor prescribes heavy opioids for an injury that may or may not require such, the patient gets addicted and tries to feed her addiction any way they can. When prescription opioids gets too expensive or the prescription refill limits have run out, they turn to heroin. Long term heroin use also has its own side effects, anxiety, depression and other health issues, which more pills are prescribed to treat those symptoms, many on prescription medication which suppresses the central nervous system are advised to not mix alcohol with their medications, but patients rarely listen or care about what can happen to them. The Washington Post also reported that white people are  more likely to be prescribed heavy opioids than their Black and Latino counterparts, which is why opioid addiction is featured so strongly in the white community.

There is also the urban and rural divide. In rural middle America, where factory jobs were once plentiful, many have become industrial wastelands. More than half of the town emptied, people who were able to leave did, those that stayed are unable to leave and are left behind by the political establishment. There are no focus groups or lobbyists hired to peer into the minds of the America’s precariat and unnecessariat. The jobs have left town and so has everything interesting with it. One of the towns featured in the reporting is Bakersfield, in Kern County California, only two hours north of Los Angeles, Samantha Burton says “[it] can be a very stifling place. It’s culturally barren,” she said of Bakersfield. “There is no place where children can go and see what it’s like to be somewhere else, to be someone else. At first, the drugs are an escape from your problems, from this place, and then you’re trapped.” The only jobs available in these type of towns are fast food jobs, service jobs earning just above the minimum wage. Unlike previous generations, people who grew up in small town America who wish to escape it can do so by attending college in another town or by getting job in a bigger town, there wasn’t this feeling of being perpetually trapped in a small town with no hope of ever escaping.

In many cases, some women just give up. After enduring so many hardships, marriages, breakups, job losses, deaths of children or spouses, physical injuries, mental health crises, addiction, all of which receive little government or community support, it becomes too  much to overcome:

When a woman dies in Kern County, it falls to Coroner Manager Dawn Ratliff to determine what happened. Her investigators explore medicine cabinets, flip through journals, scrutinize text messages and interview friends. Repeatedly, a pattern emerges, Ratliff said: A personal crisis leads to prescriptions to soothe the pain. And then they lose control.

“They are worn down. And they can’t rise above it,” said Ratliff, who puts the blame in part on the rise of social media, which can create unrealistic expectations about how life should go.

Another is an expectation for women to ‘be strong’, to take all the shit that life has thrown at her and somehow turn adversity into triumph and come out the other end ‘Lean In’ style: “Women have had to be strong for so long. Opioids are a good way out. Benzos are a good way out.”

Joan Knowlden, a psychologist who practices in Kern County California also observed “a sharp rise in middle-aged female patients in the early 2000s. Many had turned to alcohol, anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers to “mellow them out.”

Many had delayed childbearing, Knowlden said, and were trying to raise children just as they reached their peak professionally. Many were also entering menopause, which typically causes a drop in serotonin, a chemical that naturally soothes the brain. “With perimenopause and menopause, you already have anxiety, sleep loss, loss of bladder control and loss of sex drive,” Knowlden said. “It can just become too much.”

Middle age is assumed to be a time where people get their act together, to have finally figured out their lives and put the mistakes of their youth behind them. But it can also be a time where everything implodes all at once, where one more setback is more than they can handle. Job loss, injury, marital breakup and its fallouts (often poverty and living in reduced circumstances) can easily lead to depression and anxiety which a combination of medications are be prescribed to treat those symptoms. And in a society where women are not at all supported in any meaningful way when they encountered crises in their lives, it can make for deadly result. In the developed world, the United States is the only country which doesn’t require paid maternity leave or paid family leave when a family member falls ill, affordable subsidized child care is nonexistent, affordable housing waiting lists are so long that some counties have stopped taking names for the waiting list and now governors in many states are cutting the budget to life saving mental health and addiction treatments. All of these punitive draconian cuts harms working class women the most. Especially single mothers who are trying to support their children on single income, without help from anyone, any kind of health crisis or injury can put them under.

But what of the feminism and the empowerment of women since the 1960s people ask? Feminism means nothing if public policy doesn’t change to support the specific needs of women. All the feminism and college degrees in the world isn’t going to help women if ultimately, her two choices in life are having a family or choosing her career and if she chooses to have a family in the middle of the rise of her career, her career will most likely be stalled and forfeited all together some time down the road. If getting divorced and taking on the full responsibility of her children for a woman is almost always a road to poverty and ruin because social policies are not adequate enough to support single women with children, then no amount of feminism or self-empowerment will help her. If the government doesn’t enact state mandated subsidized child care for all women (rich and poor), poor women will never get ahead and women with advanced degrees will get stalled in her career should she choose to have children one day.

The Welfare Reform of the 1990s have also set women back, it decimated the support network created to assist working class women. The slow and systematic health care cuts, specifically targeting women’s health and mental health services have been detrimental to working class women, especially when they are in crisis. And when they suffer a breakdown as a result of economics induced anxiety, stress or addiction, the ruling class blames the victims of savage social services cuts for their own plight. They start using words like “personal responsibility”, “self respect” to people who are suffering from addiction and mental illness when in fact people living in derelict and neglected towns have been deliberately left behind to rot.

The ideals of feminism are totally pointless if no laws or policies are enacted to promote those ideals. While we cannot legislate our way into changing the mentalities of people (such as women are natural caretakers and men are natural breadwinners); what legislation can do is give women an equal footing in the workplace or at least not suffer gender based discrimination. Mandating federal paid maternity leave would go a long way to easing the anxieties of women (and by extension her family if they depend on her income) when they are about to have a baby. They won’t worry how they will manage the bills and rush back to work before she’s ready to because she needs to earn the family income. Federally mandated paid family leave will also go a lot towards easing the economic anxieties of families should a family member or child fall ill and a parent needs to step away from work and attend to that emergency.

The current system is not set up to benefit working families, it’s set up to punish them, where families are one disaster away from financial ruin. Any mistake, illness or injury which results in job loss can make a family homeless or live on the breadline. After twenty years of neoliberalism, we have been programmed to believe that our poverty is our own fault. That it’s the cumulative result of our mistakes (as if the rich never make any mistakes with regards to their finances) or short of that some people are just plain unlucky and they must grin and bear it. In fact, the reason why so many people have fallen into poverty or be forced to live in reduced circumstances is by design of the ruling class to keep a permanent and exploited underclass available for them to abuse, shame and blame for their own excesses. When President Obama was trying to sell the bailout to his voters who just enthusiastically elected him as the first Black president of the United States, anyone who opposed or raised concerns about the bank bailouts were dismissed as being childish and immature. But he went about it in a very clever way, ‘I understand your anger and rage, but this is how it’s got to be. Your day will come’. Of course it never did for America’s working poor.

“Bathroom Bill” Lies – Part 2

One of the tried and tested ways to scare the public into believing a lie to be true is to inject moral implications into the lie. Examples throughout recent times are:

Wide distribution of female contraceptives is an inherent evil because it will promote promiscuity without consequences and women will be EVEN more promiscuous and abandon their virtues. The possibility of an unwanted pregnancy was the only thing keeping women in check. Maybe so, but who cares? Girls can have fun too.

Feminism is bad because women would then all abandon their duties to their families (i.e. domestic slavery and caring for husband) and go earn an income and leave said family. (Side note: as a mom, I’d never leave my kids behind to pursue a greener pasture, they come with me everywhere I go. Women do not abandon their children not because they are feminists, women abandon children because they choose to abandon their children regardless what their self-identification is – feminism has been coopted to excuse bad behavior for all women).

Civil Rights Movement is bad because if black people and other minorities are freed from the shackles of white supremacy and institutionalized racism, they will take revenge on white people and kill them all and take over the governance of the nation. Cue to 2008, the election of President Obama, the Right had a complete existential meltdown, went totally batshit-cra-cra and as a result ruined the political legitimacy of their own party. And guess what? As far as I can see, institutionalized racism is still alive and well, if not worse due to aforementioned psychotic meltdown by the white establishment. The police are as brutal as ever towards people of color. School to prison pipeline is still ongoing, mass incarceration of black and brown people is still ongoing, everything the white supremacists feared would happen didn’t really happen, despite the election of a liberal black president.

Homosexuals, besides being sexual deviants are a moral threat to the fabric of society. Homosexuals would promote their ‘lifestyle’ on to heterosexuals and the whole moral structure of society will breakdown and it’s going to be a Sodom and Gomorrah free for all. The gay community seems to be rather traditional after all, demanding legal marriages recognized by the state and form families of their own.

While most rational people of society have gotten over the hysteria of the above mentioned, there is a new one hysteria pedalled by the political right: transgender people are natural predators, they are dangerous because their transitioned gender doesn’t match the one they were born with, so they need to be watched, supervised and surveilled at all times; including when they visit the facilities. We must especially protect our children and women from these natural predators and we  must also make sure cisgender men don’t feel uncomfortable when sharing the bathroom with a transgender male, that their masculinity isn’t threatened or questioned. Transgender people, roughly 700,000 American adults who fit this category are to be collectively feared. They are to be collectively supervised and surveilled by the cisgender population.

If we want to talk predators, here are some numbers on real predators, people who’ve been convicted of sexual assault. According to the Department of Justice, The Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking, here are some key facts and statistics on sex offenders.

Victims of Sexual Abuse

Adults
  • About 20 million out of 112 million women (18.0%) in the United States have been raped during their lifetime. 12
  • Only 16% of all rapes were reported to law enforcement. 12
  • In 2006 alone, 300,000 college women (5.2%) were raped. 12
  • Among college women, about 12% of rapes were reported to law enforcement. 12
  • A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey on the national prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking found:
    • 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short- or long-term impacts. 18
    • About 35% of women who were raped as minors also were raped as adults, compared to 14% of women without an early rape history. 18
    • 28% of male rape victims were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger. 18
Child/Teen Victims
  • In a 2012 maltreatment report, of the victims who were sexually abused, 26% were in the age group of 12–14 years and 34% were younger than 9 years. 9
  • Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault. 4
  • Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. 1
  • 35.8% of sexual assaults occur when the victim is between the ages of 12 and 17. 1
  • 82% of all juvenile victims are female. 5
  • 69% of the teen sexual assaults reported to law enforcement occurred in the residence of the victim, the offender, or another individual. 5
  • Teens 16 to 19 years of age were 3 ½ times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.6
  • Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. 7

Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse

  • An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors.
  • About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.
  • Only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child.
  • Not all perpetrators are adults—an estimated 23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18.

And on their fact sheet “What You Need to Know About Sex Offenders” – it explicitly states:

There is no such thing as a “typical” sex offender. Sex offenders can:

• be male or female;

• be young or old;

• have different levels of education;

• be married or single;

• have strong ties to their families and communities, or have weak ties; and/or

• have no record of prior criminal involvement or have a record either for sexual or non-sexual offenses.

The reasons why they offend, the kinds of interventions required to help them stop offending, and the risks they pose also vary.

Nowhere does it say transgender people are more likely to offend than other groups. Also, “An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors,” again, nowhere is transgender people specifically singled out for predilections towards predatory behavior. The assertion that transgender people are morally and sexually deviant simply isn’t true, just as it wasn’t with homosexuals, it wasn’t true with women on the pill or feminists.

I am not an expert on gender identity. I don’t know what makes one male or female besides the obvious. I know it’s more complicated than just sex and reproductive organs and I also know during the chromosomal divisions and multiplication process during the formation of a human being, lots can happen and chromosomes can end up mismatched where the physical gender of an individual doesn’t match their heart. Hence we have hermaphrodites, intersex people and possibly this is how transgender people are created, all of which are natural and perfect in its manifestations. There is no need for society to single people out because of these differences.

While I am not a member of the LGBT community, I know how it feels to be singled out for refusing to conform or “do as I’m told” (and I am not comparing my own experiences to the marginalization transgender people feel). Many times, in moments of exasperation my mother wished I would just conform and agree to make my life and hers easier. It was excruciating then and it is excruciating now to be expected to conform to a role and execute your duties as such. I cannot imagine what it’s like for members of the LGBT community to face this expectation from society everyday. If they don’t want to conform, then “don’t rub our noses” in your “lifestyle” and “culture” is what the rest of society likes to say, even from tolerant people. They’d rather not see and hear what members of LGBT people do. Have your Gay Pride parades in the part of town where we don’t frequent. Members of the LGBT community are expected to live anonymous and invisible lives out of the sight of the public so that they don’t make the gender and sexual orientation conforming community uncomfortable with their outward expression of their uniqueness.

It is precisely this type of thinking that gives rise to “religious freedom bills” allowing businesses including lifesaving ones like doctor’s offices to deny services to members of the LGBT community. It’s this type of mentality and pathology that gives rise to these ridiculous “bathroom bills” under the guise of safety for women and children when its real purpose is to make single out transgender people and make them squirm while in public, even when using the bathroom, since it’s illegal to openly discriminate them any other way. The religious freedom bills, where it allows a bakery to decline to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple is not exercising their religious freedom, because Christianity asks us to not judge others and be tolerant and kind, they are exercising their bigotry and it’s a way of saying: the state may recognize your marriage, but we (the, cisgender, straight, Christian community) don’t. Also, dogma and religious freedom aside, it’s just bad business to turn away good money on the table for something so ridiculous as the couple being gay. This is one thing I’ve never understood; nothing would ever induce me turn away an honest opportunity to make money.

For those hysterical people who are so convinced that a transgender army of 700,000 strong is here to attack unsuspecting women and children, according to statistics, it’s best to look in their own backyard first for that predator; the creepy uncle, the soccer coach, softball coach, camp counselor, the babysitter, parish priest, pastors, and extended families as statistics tells us 60% of the time, it will come from one of those people, not the socially awkward, shy, perhaps depressed or suicidal transgender classmate of your child.

Kramer v. Kramer Revisited

Kramer v. Kramer was Meryl Streep’s breakout movie performance for which she won an Oscar for her performance as Joanna Kramer in 1980. The movie nearly made a clean sweep in all of the major categories and depending on who you talk to, it was either hailed as a film which promoted the feminist cause or promoted the patriarchy.

The first time I saw it, my feelings were indifferent. Meryl Streep was Meryl Streep, able to deliver a good performance when required of her. Dustin Hoffman’s performance as Ted Kramer was too schizophrenic, too jumpy for my liking. It’s not a stretch to see why his wife left him, even if he wasn’t an alcoholic, didn’t beat her and didn’t have affairs (as so eloquently stated by Ted’s divorce attorney). As for the subject matter, it was no big deal to me. I was born in 1979 (same year the movie was released), came of age in the 90s, my parents were divorced, it wasn’t nasty, it wasn’t pretty, it just was. Almost everyone I knew had divorced parents or if not yet divorced were well on their way. Gen X accept divorce as a reality of our lives. Some people coped better than others, some parents behaved better than others, we children just got on with our lives the best we could.

I recently saw it again and this time I paid closer attention to the subject matter and how each character was portrayed. One of the commentary one consistently hears about this movie is that it gives equal weight to the point of view of both Joanna and Ted. That Joanna had legitimate reasons for her being discontented with her marriage and her role as a mother and her taking off to California for 18 months to get some therapy and find herself is just as valid as the anger, sadness and disappointment of Ted when his wife walked out on them. Each character got to present their side of the equation, and it got heated and contested at times, but in the end, they put the needs of their little boy Billy first and was able to functionally co-parent.

This is not a movie that promoted the cause of feminism. This is a movie pretending to promote women and feminism but it’s really shaming women who dare to walk out on their children and after walking out have the gumption and audacity to come back and claim them. If you walk out on your child once, you lose your right to be their mother forever. Especially if the reason for the mother’s departure is personal, as opposed to getting treatment for addiction, serving time in prison or any other reason which the mother was separated from her child against her will; she will receive extra harsh judgement from society, even from other women. Voluntarily walking out on your child and abandoning your duties as a mother even just temporarily is about the worse sin you can commit as a mother. No one will look at you or speak of you the same after that. Fathers walk out on their families all the time, some don’t even bother showing up to begin with, yet, when they decide that they’ve been selfish and cruel and want to reconcile with their estranged children, they are welcomed like heroes returning from battle. Everyone is delighted and doesn’t ask the hard questions, such as, why were you a selfish bastard to begin with?

The movie was adapted from Avery Corman’s novel of the same name. Corman was inspired to write this book because he was tired of hearing feminists haranguing on about how all men are arseholes (I don’t entirely blame him, they were becoming increasingly shrill). So, he decided to write a book to show that women can also be an arsehole and what’s a bigger arsehole than a mother walking out on her family? In Corman’s book –

Joanna Kramer [is the problem], who finds motherhood, by and large, “boring.” She starts taking tennis lessons. Sex with Ted is mechanical. About 50 pages in, Joanna informs Ted that she’s “suffocating.” She’s leaving him, and she’s leaving Billy. (“Feminists will applaud me,” she says.) Ted overcomes his shock and gets back into the swing of single life. More important, he learns how to be a good father. It is then that Joanna does the unthinkable: she returns from California and tells Ted she wants Billy back. The ensuing custody battle, which gives the novel its title, lays bare the ugliness of divorce proceedings and the wounds they allow people to inflict on each other.

If he wanted to make a point that not all men are arseholes and women are just as capable of being arseholes, Kramer v. Kramer is a cheap shot and doesn’t illustrate this point at all. There are several things wrong here.

Firstly, the feminism isn’t about absolving women of their arsholery. It’s about in spite of being an arsehole, our personhood and rights are not diminished or taken away, we still have our rights even if we are arseholes – like men. Feminists are aware that not all men are arseholes, but the patriarchy and all that subscribe to it (which include some women) provide blanket cover and rights to all men, regardless if they are worthy of it or not. Men who behave badly are not called out, it’s chalked up to “men being men” or “boys being boys”. Men who cheat on their wives, abuse their wives and children and don’t meet their financial obligation to them are scum, but they aren’t punished to the degree which women are punished should they commit these sins. Women who behave as men do, in a good or bad way, are routinely shamed, belittled, patronized and condescended. And if you are a woman who just happens to be a mother, you are held even to a higher standard, even by other women. That Corman used this situation to illustrate his point only reveals his own sexism and misogyny. He knows that everyone has strong and harsh opinions on women who walk out on their children.

Secondly, Corman need not write a book of fiction to depict how women can behave in an appalling manner. He can just look back at history and see that some of the most evil people, most manipulative people are women: Mary I (also known as Bloody Mary) comes to mind, Catherine the Great, Tony Soprano’s mother (not a real person but we all know someone like that), the Chinese Empress Wu Ze Tian of Tang Dynasty – she killed her infant daughter so she can frame the Empress for killing her daughter so that the Empress would be ousted from court and she can take her place. This is the greatest evil, a mother killing her child. There’s a Chinese idiom: Even the treacherous tigress will not eat her cubs, Wu Ze Tian killed her cub. So, the point being, Corman need not convince his readers that women can be evil. The need for feminism and the need for the constant reminders (or haranguing) from feminists is not predicated on women are inherently kinder, more ethical or moral than men; it’s predicated on women (regardless if they were good or bad people), throughout history have been oppressed by men and the patriarchy. Our bodies are abused by the patriarchy, our time to attain self-fulfilment and achievement is robbed – especially those of us who have families by the patriarchy and the need to keep society’s engine flowing. Women’s wants, needs and desires come second to those of men. Employment laws are written to benefit men (and women without children) and their schedules. Women who have children or desire to have children or have other caregiving obligations they have to meet outside of her work have to find her own way, which sometimes leads them to dropping out of the workforce. Pregnant women are seen as an inconvenience. A woman with small children are seen as a burden and someone they must accommodate their work around. But all the times she’s accommodated others prior to becoming a mother is forgotten. Women get paid less than men, about 0.79 to every  dollar a man makes. All of these issues have no bearing on whether she walks out on her family or not.

Thirdly, For Corman to use a woman who walks out on her family to prove his point is appealing to the lowest common denominator of society’s boiling scorn against women who walk out on their families, especially their child. Society doesn’t punish men the same way as they punish women who walk out on their families. He doesn’t become a social pariah and he doesn’t lose the right to see his children forever because he walked out once.

Joanna Kramer was gone for 18 months, not 18 years. So, a little perspective please. Little Billy was 7 years old when his mother left. Ted, prior to his wife leaving them was your typical ‘loving but absent’ father. He was too busy working, earning the bacon to bring home to his family. His wife did all the heavy lifting at home. Because his wife left he’s had to step up to the plate and be a full time parent and work full time, which incidentally, is what many women do on much less income. This glaring fact is conveniently left out of the movie. So Ted was his son’s main caregiver for 18 months, Corman seems to believe this has earned him an award for heroism and that he is unimpeachable. And exactly what is so “unthinkable” about a woman coming back to claim her child? Even if she left of her own volition, to find that greener pasture, to find that perfect man, to find herself and to do so, she did a supremely selfish thing and left her child behind with his father – not with a stranger, she didn’t drop him off at the firestation, she left the little boy with his father, in their home, where he sleeps in his bedroom with the white clouds on the walls every night. Don’t men do this all the time? Leave their wives for the secretary or the nanny?

There’s no way to prepare for parenthood except trial by fire. There are some people whose dream is to become a mother, until she becomes one, when she finally experiences how much work it involves and how much is taken from you. Not just sleep, your weight or  your figure, but quiet time, alone time, time to think, which for those of us who are artistically inclined is like oxygen. Children demand attention from you twenty-four seven, non-stop. They find the most inconvenient time to have an ’emergency’ and that emergency can be ‘I want orange slices nooowww’ or tripping and scraping its knee and you’ve got to drop everything in your hands to attend to that emergency. Some people take these impositions better than others. Some people have no coping ability for them. Parenting can be equal parts soul draining and joyful elation. For those that lack coping skills, parenting is a suffocation, a slow death of yourself.

The movie didn’t explore why Joanna Kramer left except that she’s “bored” and that she didn’t know how to deal with that boredom. It made her appear flighty and irresponsible, after all, what person would just get up and move across the country and leave her family behind? The movie didn’t explore Ted much either. What was he like as a husband and father before his wife walked out? Was he was a screaming bore? What if the marriage was a mistake and they no longer had anything in common but Billy anymore? And what if she just wanted out for no particular reason but that she wants out? The most compelling scenes in the movie is when Joanna Kramer was put on the stand to testify on why now she is suddenly fit to regain custody of Billy when just 18 months ago she walked out without so much as a backward glance. The line of questioning from Ted’s attorney is your typical patriarchal bullying:

Hunching over her on his cane, he asks her to name the “longest personal relationship” of her life. Wasn’t it with her ex-husband?

“Yes,” she murmurs.

So, hadn’t she failed at the most important relationship in her life? “It did not succeed,” she answers weakly.

“Not it, Mrs. Kramer,” he bellows, sticking an accusatory finger in her face. “You. Were you a failure at the one most important relationship in your life? Were you?

You wouldn’t think she was testifying at a child custody hearing, you’d think she was on trial for murder. According to the patriarchy, Joanna is responsible for the failure of her marriage. Not Ted or his actions or their joint actions. It’s not a joint failure, it’s her failure, because, after all, Ted doesn’t beat her, he didn’t philander and he’s not a drunk. Ok – someone please hand him the Husband of the Year award.

Meryl Streep while preparing for the role demanded some script rewrites which would explore the thought processes of Joanna, she asked her own mother about the whole ordeal of raising a family and she said,

“All my friends at one point or another wanted to throw up their hands and leave and see if there was another way of doing their lives.”

Because the writer chose to not give the audience more details as to why Joanna walked out on her marriage besides that she was “bored” and felt “suffocated”. It gave very little narrative about what their marriage was like, they let the audience’s imagination wander. He chose not to depict the nitty gritty parts of the marriage which could drive one to leave, he took the convenient way out and just regurgitated what the feminists were saying at the time, that marriage and family obligations can be suffocating and boring and as women, we yearn for more. We see Joanna feeling “bored” and “suffocated”, she has a semi-nervous breakdown, leaves her family, goes to California, gets some therapy and a job of her own, recovers from the breakdown and comes back to claim her son, which apparently is the “unthinkable” part to Corman. A woman coming back to claim her child. As a result of certain omissions, the audience (male and female) cannot make a clear judgement on exactly why she would leave such a cute, mop haired little boy behind and seek greener pastures on the other side of the country. It leads the audience to only one conclusion – and that she’s selfish and unfit to be a mother.

This movie only reinforces the idea that women are held to a higher moral or ethical standard. And that for every action a woman takes, she must have a moral or ethical justification –  in the case of Joanna, she must a victim of some sort of abuse at the hands of her husband before she’s allowed to leave the yoke of her marriage and come claim her son. The movie went out of its way to portray Joanna as an irresponsible and immature mother and Ted as the heroic father who steps up to the plate when his wife leaves them. But where was he 7 years before?

After the movie wrapped, the director Robert Benton decided to re-shoot the ending with different dialogue. Meryl Streep by this time had married her husband Don Gummer and was pregnant with their first child,

[The pregnancy was] [n]ot enough to show, but enough that Joanna’s choice—a harbinger of Sophie’s—suddenly seemed unconscionable. She told Benton, “I could never have done this role now.”

Whatever happened to actors not judging the characters they play?

 

Nora Ephron: Everything is Copy (2016)

[He was] “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind”. -Heartburn

Boom. Just when you think there could be no worse insult to a philandering man who is indiscriminate with his sexual conquests than “he’ll screw anything that moves”, Nora Ephron comes up with a better zinger, being “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind”. A Venetian blind doesn’t move unless you make it, which conjures up an image which is wholly unflattering.

Every time I read a Nora Ephron essay, book or watch one of her movies and I see or hear a witty line she created, I have two reactions. The first is to laugh, out loud, always, without fail. The second is ‘why didn’t I write that myself.’ Nothing proves that point more than the Venetian blind allegory. While Woody Allen can at times be too neurotic and self-indulgent in his phobias and hypochondria, Nora Ephron rarely crossed that line from witty observation to self-indulgent narcissism.

Everything is Copy is directed by her son Jacob Bernstein, who interviews all the important people in his mother’s life and got their input and insight on a woman who put all her stuff out there for public consumption but when it came to her final battle, her illness with leukemia, it was kept a secret until her final breath was drawn. This is in direct contradiction to her life’s mantra, passed down by her mother, Phoebe Ephron: “Everything is Copy”. Everything. You fall down face first in the middle of a fancy restaurant on a date in your ball gown and high heels with your legs splayed out barely risking your modesty? No problem, write about it. You tell the joke the way you want it to be told. You become the heroine of the joke and not its victim. This was her life’s philosophy outside of her writing career. You control your destiny by the way you choose to tell your story.

My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next. – Nora Ephron

Her mother was from the generation which it made your life more bearable if you convert the tragedies in comedies. To understand Nora Ephron, one must understand the family whence she came. Nora Ephron was the eldest of four girls to Harry and Phoebe Ephron. Phoebe Ephron was one of the first women to consistently work as a screenwriter in Hollywood. According to Nora, she “had it all” before the phrase “having it all” was invented. Her mother was an intellectual, smart, funny, witty, an equal writing partner to their father, she raised children (with help – that was the whole point of becoming successful according to the acerbic Phoebe), she had a successful screenwriting career and earned good money. A rare feat in the 1940s and ’50s. And for Phoebe Ephron, she took “everything is copy” literally and she was dead serious about it. Your mother is drunk and fell down the stairs, use it. Your parents went from successful Hollywood screenwriters to being reclusive alcoholics – it’s perfectly good copy, use it. “Pick over the carcass” she’d tell her daughters.

One of Nora’s sisters Hallie Ephron recalled a story from her childhood: she really liked a mother of one of her friends, because her mother worked, she assumed everyone’s mother worked, so she asked her mother, “what does Mrs. _____ do?” Her mother’s response? “She does her nails.” And whoosh, in one fell swoop, Phoebe Ephron wiped the floors with that poor woman whose only crime was to not have a profession outside of the home. Nora’s other sister and often her writing partner Delia Ephron recalled the love story of their parents. After the first date, when Harry Ephron proposed marriage to Phoebe, her response was “let me read your work first.” All the girls loved that story and they loved telling it. The Ephrons were different and they were proud of it. Before coming to Hollywood, Harry Ephron was a playwright in New York, but he wasn’t successful, his plays weren’t selling. Phoebe Ephron got fed up and decided to write a play with her husband. It became a hit and on the back of that hit, they moved to Hollywood to have more lucrative screenwriting careers. Phoebe Ephron was proud of the fact that she helped make her husband’s work a hit and she wasn’t shy about it either. She owned it and demanded acknowledgement for it.

Sadly, the Ephrons succumbed to alcoholism. Nora and her sisters were not sure if it was because the work dried up then they drifted into alcoholism or was it the alcoholism which caused the work to dry up. Between the sisters, they believe that there were multiple vicious cycles at work which caused the premature demise of their parents, especially Phoebe Ephron. Phoebe Ephron, as a result of her alcoholism, became bedridden and delusional, her body wasting away to just a shadow of her former self. But even in her bedridden hallucinational state, in the rare moments when she was lucid, she told Nora, “You are a reporter, take notes.” Phoebe Ephron died in 1971, at the age of 57. The cause of death is cirrhosis of the liver, but the immediate cause of death was overdose of sleeping pills, administered by their father. Harry Ephron could no longer bear to see his wife like that anymore. Nora felt that this detail was too intimate and personal to make it into copy, but her youngest sister Amy Ephron didn’t think so. This was included in one of her novels.

Even after the death of their beloved eldest sister, you can see the sibling rivalry just bubbling underneath. Nora was the daughter that got the best of everything. She came of age when their parents were in their prime, professionally and health wise. Their mother read to Nora the most, which helped made Nora the writer that she was. She was the closest to Nora. She spent the most time conversing and imparting her own brand of wisdom and humor to Nora. She also read to Delia and Hallie some but by the time poor little Amy came along, their family’s fortunes were a shadow of its former grandeur. There were no more fun dinner parties and children’s birthday parties at the Ephron household. There was fear, uncertainty, the dark cloud of alcoholism brought on by their parents. Nora was 14 years old when their parents’ decline began, her youngest sister Amy was only 3 years old. Amy said as a result of what happened to their parents, each sister, in her own way, vowed to be survivors, no matter what. They will not crumble like their parents did. Amy and Delia both said they became resourceful because there was no other choice. None of the four sisters developed addiction issues, each one vowed and carried out in their own way on how they will be survivors. Nothing will take them down.

The book and subsequent movie Heartburn was what brought Nora Ephron into mainstream popular culture. Prior to that she was working as a journalist and essayist. She was very successful as an essayist, but her renown was confined to the New York literary and journalism circle. Heartburn is a very very thinly veiled account at the demise of her second marriage to Carl Bernstein. Carl Bernstein, prior to his manifestation as the unfaithful husband Mark in heartburn who was capable of “having sex with a Venetian blind”, was THE Carl Bernstein of the Watergate reporting. He and Bob Woodward, with their thorough and exhaustive investigating, brought down the president of the United States. They won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting and Bernstein was riding a career high. He was well liked, well loved and well regarded amongst his peers.

Carl and Nora met at a mutual friend’s party. They fell passionately in love and got married. Nora even made the move to Washington DC as that is where Carl was based. She hated DC, calling it as a place where “ideas went to die.” But armed with love and youthful enthusiasm, she went with her man. They settled in a beautiful house in the DC suburbs and the first of her two sons, Jacob, came soon after. When Jacob was a toddler, she got pregnant again with her second son Max. It was when she was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with Max she found out her husband had been having an affair with their mutual friend Margaret Jay, a British politician. She was enraged. She decided right then and there they would divorce. There would be none of that new-age crap of talking it over and giving the marriage a post mortem to see where they had gone wrong. It was very clear who is in the wrong, Carl Bernstein. And Nora Ephron, as a feminist, will not allow herself to be crapped on like that, even if she were barefoot and pregnant and she has another toddler to take care of. She called her friend Liz Smith to put out the announcement that they are to divorce. She moved back to New York and stayed with a friend for a few months, had her baby and then she got to work on her typewriter and wrote her roman a clef Heartburn. It was in that book she described Mark, the faithless husband (or aka Carl Bernstein) as a cheater, who was terrible at cheating as he charged everything to their credit card instead of using cash. And she reserved the worst vitriol for ‘Thelma’ – the mistress (aka Margaret Jay).

…Thelma Rice a fairly tall person, with a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs, never mind her feet, which are sort of splayed.

Thelma’s face also resembled a “giraffe”.

When she wrote this book, she achieved many aims. Firstly, the money, she needed money as she was now supporting two little children. Secondly, for all the women who had been scorned and publicly cuckolded, she gave them a voice and their revenge. Thirdly, She took revenge on her ex-husband, who went from a well respected journalist who exposed Watergate to someone who can’t keep it in his pants, who is capable of fornicating with a Venetian blind and threw her overboard for someone who looked like a giraffe. The best part of all of this, it was funny. It was funny in a very cruel way. You can’t help but laugh even though you feel really bad for laughing. Even a sympathetic reader will cringe at the book and that was its intended effect. Did Carl Bernstein or even Margaret Jay deserve this public excoriating? Probably not, but Nora Ephron gave zero fucks. She started the ‘I Give Zero Fucks’ club with that book. When the movie came out, there was a debate raging on who was the worse parent. Carl for cheating his pregnant wife or Nora for telling her children exactly what he’d done and making a public mockery of her children’s father. Again, she gave zero fucks what people thought.

Whereas some women burned their husband’s clothes, boiled their mistress’s pet bunny, emptied his bank account, she went one step further: she used her poison pen and wrote all of this down for posterity. Carl Bernstein became a laughingstock. He knew people whispered about him when he attended prestigious conferences and he hated it. Especially when he found out a Hollywood film was going to be made starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep as the leads with Mike Nichols directing, he laid down his demands for the terms of their divorce. ‘Mark’ or Carl Bernstein is to only be portrayed as a dedicated and loving father and he wanted joint custody of the boys. Nora Ephron agreed to those terms and the movie was made. The movie wasn’t a hit like the book was but it set Nora on the path to becoming a screenwriter and movie director.

Heartburn also served another purpose and that is to avenge the betrayal of her mother, Phoebe Ephron. In the declining years of the Ephrons’ marriage, Henry Ephron began having affairs. Phoebe knew about it but he did the typical gas-lighting game. Making her seem drunk, paranoid and crazy and that she was imagining all of this and making it up. Even the children were convinced their mother was crazy and she’d had too much to drink. Hallie said in the film, “it was so cruel of him to not admit it”, so that her mom seemed like the one that’s crazy. I think, in no small part, writing this book, she also tried to avenge her mother for being betrayed by her father.

Nora Ephron was a feminist, she identified as one but she wasn’t a feminist that checked any boxes. She found the bra-burning feminists too serious and boring. They’ve got to lighten up and just take it easy. But she was also strongly opposed to the Helen Gurley Brown’s type of feminism, which is for women to present a facade of confidence at all times and a woman must look after herself. If she wants to attract and keep a man, she better do what’s necessary. She was something in between. Feminism with a sense of humor. Nora Ephron had anxiety about her breast size, she wanted that great rack but she’s not willing to degrade herself to go get it. She wants to be seen as pretty and smart, not just smart “In my sex fantasy, no one loved me for my mind.”

In the end a truce was reached with her ex-husband Carl Bernstein. They were able to functionally co-parent and both Jacob and Max Bernstein are close to their father. She married for a third time to Nicholas Pileggi (screenwriter for Goodfellas and Casino) and it was a long and happy marriage which lasted until her death. He was the kind of man she always wanted, faithful, kind and supported her in all of her endeavors. In her last book of essays, I Remember Nothing, though made no mention of her illness, she made a list of things she would miss if she were to die and at the top was her two boys, her husband Nick and a slew of other things and in true Nora Ephron fashion ended it with “pie.”

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

 

 

The Appeal of Hillary Rodham Clinton

If Bill Clinton wasn’t a former president of the United States, his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) the possible Democratic Party presidential nominee will be like the millions of women who came before and after her, and that is she has the misfortune of having a husband who is both feckless and unreliable. Bill Clinton is unreliable in the two departments which matter the most: you can’t rely on him to keep his pants up and firmly zipped and for most of his political career until he became the President of the United States, his income was abysmal. His salary as the governor of Arkansas was $35,000 a year plus another $19,000 public relations fund appropriated for the governor, which brings it to a grand total of $54,000. Hillary Clinton on the other hand consistently earned over $150,000 as an attorney while her husband was governor of Arkansas – and she was also a mother to a very young Chelsea. This is the story of many women in America. The details may be different, not all have high powered careers as corporate attorneys or are Ivy League educated, but the story is the same. Women have to shoulder the burden of family alongside a husband who is less-than-helpful on a good day. This is where many women personally connect with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While Bill Clinton may have been a devoted father to Chelsea, the fact that he spent so much of his free time chasing other women for sex shows that his priority is not his family. If he prioritized his family first (regardless of what’s going on personally with his wife), he will have no time for Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and countless others we don’t know about.

Women are not damsels in distress. We don’t all want a knight in a shining armor riding in on a white horse to save the day. He doesn’t exist. To expect that of a man is not only being misogynistic and sexist to ourselves, but it’s also unfair to men. It’s unfair pressure for them to attain something which almost no man except in fairytale stories have achieved. It would be the same as men wishing they have wives who are always understanding, loving, never nags, never complains, love them as they are at all times, and finds them to be faultless. Oh and don’t forget the beer and blowjobs too. No. Women just want a man who is reliable. Reliable to not embarrass her and if he’s not able to bring home enough bacon due to circumstances out of his control, then show up for the marriage in other ways. It’s not too much to ask.

HRC became the First Lady when I was thirteen years old. I was just becoming aware of myself and who I wanted to become. What kind of woman I wanted to become. My parents were already divorced by then and my mother raised me as a single mother with very minimal contribution (financial and otherwise) from my father. Long stretches would pass before I would see my father, it was only when I became an adult I resumed frequent contact with my father. During my teenage years, he was no help in the parenting department either. My mother could not call him and discuss any problem she was having with me (and there were many) and expect him to step in and help, even if from another state or country. What I saw as my mother’s emotional coldness and aloofness was actually emotional strain. Keep our heads above water, keeping us firmly in the middle-class so that I’d have a chance at succeeding. So that I don’t end up getting pregnant, doing drugs or falling in with the wrong crowd where the trajectory of my life will totally change for the worse with very little chance to reverse. I saw in HRC what I could be: a woman who hustles, regardless of what her husband is doing or not doing, regardless if she has a husband or not. It’s irrelevant.

I liked that HRC was no bullshit and unapologetic about wanting to “fulfill her profession”. She didn’t stay home and bake cookies and that was liberating. I am glad she said it out loud. In the 1990s, women who worked did so guiltily, because they felt that they should be at home baking cookies and hosting afternoon tea. Even if they loved working out of the home and pulling in a paycheck bigger than their husbands, they feigned guilt so that the patriarchy will get off their backs. If a woman’s place isn’t in the home anymore, then her heart should be firmly planted in the kitchen. Though I never articulated it out loud, being raised by a single mother (with the help of extended family) made me realize that men are ultimately unreliable. And that one day, no matter what, it will be up to me to keep the ship going. I am not wide off the mark either, divorce rate in this country is still hovering at 50% so the chances of being divorced with children to support is well within the range of possibility. Most women don’t wish to be divorced and raise children on their own, they don’t desire it, but to not plan for this very possible eventuality is foolhardy. The economy in developed nations have changed as well. Very few families can survive on just one income unless they are the 1% or shill for the 1% (i.e. corporate lawyers, consultants, financial advisors etc.).

When Bill Clinton became president, HRC, for reasons which are obvious could no longer work as a corporate lawyer. She had to move to the White House, settle in with Chelsea and her role as the nation’s First Lady. Their finances should be better by this stage, but no, the shady dealings of the Clintons’ pre-White House days followed them to the White House. They became targets of right, which is in part a witch-hunt and in part their own doing. They had to fend off investigation after investigation, which means astronomical amount of attorney’s fees, something even the much higher salary of the US Presidency can’t cover. And who could forget the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the mother of all embarrassments. Besides being humiliated by her husband on the international stage, more legal bills mounted as a result of the impeachment hearings.

HRC was heavily criticized when she said: “We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt.” It’s the truth and I don’t understand why everyone got their panties all in a wad over it. She made this comment in defense of her accepting large speaker’s for her speaking engagements. And since Bill Clinton was still shaking off the Monica Lewinsky scandal when he left the White House, Hillary was the more popular of the two. So, like a grown woman, she put her big girl pants on and got to work. Chelsea was still in college when they left the White House and she was attending Stanford University, not a cheap school. What’s more, her husband will have Secret Service protection for the rest of his life should he choose to (as do HRC), he will also have a very comfortable pension and health benefits afforded to a former president. So, even if he never made another dime in his life again and live frugally, he’ll be just fine. Besides, no one will let a former president, especially a popular one, live below the dignity which should be afforded him. So someone will come to his rescue should it ever come to that. What about his wife? What has she gotten out of their eight years in the White House? Embarrassment, public humiliation, heartache and the icing on top, no money and in debt. Worse than nothing.

Since her husband got elected to public office, HRC’s career in the public eye has been skewered and excoriated. In the more sexist days of the ’90s, she was accused of being unfeminine. No one felt sorry for her when her husband stepped out on her, some even went so far to say she deserved it. Some mused if she was really a lesbian. Maybe if she stayed home and and cooked, baked cookies and hosted tea parties her husband just might behave better. People must have forgotten the story about the leopard and its spots. She got shit from everybody. Even feminists, the group of women she’s most identified with. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit the headlines, people expected HRC to walk away from her husband and her marriage, like a good feminist should. I felt the same at the time, though I was just 17 and knew absolutely nothing about what being married is like, yet I made a judgement about her.

When she didn’t leave her husband, the narrative changed. She suddenly became this calculating bitch. A modern day Lady Macbeth. The ONLY possible reason left for her to remain with that love cheat is for political reasons. She wants to be the president herself one day and she needs him. That’s what this whole unholy union is about, she wants the top prize for herself. Some speculated that it’s payback for poor old Slick Willy, she will make the rest of his life miserable and he will for the first time in all their years together, put on the good husband act and go out there and stump for her. It’s her turn and he better fall in line or else.

I am not an expert on their relationship nor do I want to know anymore than the public has already been subjected to. But for the public to blindly assume that she remained with her husband only for her political career is about the worst kind of sexism I’ve ever seen. It assumes that she cannot forge a political career or a career of any kind without him. She must be Hillary Rodham Clinton in order for her to get her foot in the door anywhere. Hillary Rodham isn’t good enough. It assumes that all the years she spent as the family’s breadwinner was not of her own merit but because she was Mrs. Clinton, even when the name Clinton had no cache attached to it yet, when they were back in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was Hillary Rodham who got into Wellesley on her own merit. It was Hillary Rodham who got into Yale Law School on her own merit. It was also Hillary Rodham who hustled and earned the bacon while her husband pursued a career in politics. She didn’t need Bill Clinton to help her achieve any of these things for her.

What about shared history? How about the shared pain of being persecuted by the Washington right wing? How about Chelsea, their only child? Of wanting to keep their family in tact for her? How about *gasp* love?  Or even if she wanted him around for her future political career, what is so wrong with that? She supported him unconditionally. She didn’t embarrass him with her own peccadilloes, why can’t the favor be returned? A lot goes into a long term relationship. Sometimes the easiest thing is to run to the courthouse and file papers and get this whole sorry saga over with. The easiest thing is not always the best thing or the right thing. The Clintons are grown ups, they know what’s best for them and their marriage. One worthy irony to point out though, the Clintons’ marriage was depicted as the dysfunctional one, the Gores’ on the other hand was the paragon of what a healthy and loving marriage looked like. The Gores’ were loving and tactile in public, there were no scandals in their marriage and they had 4 children which are the product of this loving marriage. Imagine everyone’s shock when the Gores’ announced their separation a few years ago? The Clintons’, ironically, are still very much together.

Many women are still defined by their marriage, or more specifically, who they are married to. Everything she does or doesn’t do is related to her marriage in one way or another. And it’s not a bad thing or good thing, it’s just how life worked out for some women. Hillary Clinton is obviously her own woman. I do not get the notion that if she weren’t married to Bill Clinton she wouldn’t have achieved what she has.

After the Clintons’ left the White House, they spent a lot of time refilling the Clinton coffers. And they went about it pretty ruthlessly. They took on high paying speaking gigs and got offered huge advances for writing their memoirs. HRC did so without shame. She worked with anyone who would pay what she asked and good for her. I would have done the same. The pressure of having no money while a woman has children cannot be underestimated. It’s the worst kind of stress a mother can experience. So I can appreciate her aggression in the pursuit of financial security. But, and this is a big but – if HRC wants to fill her family coffers by any means necessary, then she should give up running for public office, especially the nomination for the presidency of the United States.

I’ve withdrawn my political support for HRC, as I find her to be tainted politically. She’s too entangled with the monied elite in this country for her to govern objectively and I no longer trust her political judgements. I dislike her hawkish stance in foreign policy matters. She’s become as trigger happy as her fellow Republicans. She will always be a woman I admire greatly. She was my first feminist role model in which I could see myself modeling my life after. I could be married and not be defined by my marriage, or by being a Mrs. Somebody. I could be married, be a mother and still operate as my own entity or operate as a joint entity if I choose. The writings of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir informed my feminist consciousness, but they weren’t exactly women I could emulate my life after. They were too far removed from my generation. HRC has taken many blows in the form of public opinion about everything. How she speaks, her tone of voice, the volume of her voice, her emotions, her lack of emotions, her style (or lack of one), her looks, her age everything but the issues. And if I am totally honest, I don’t know how Bill Clinton is still with the living, I wouldn’t be able to exercise so much self control, but I suppose there are worse fates than death when you’ve humiliated your wife over and over.

She can be a good role model to women, but I don’t think she’s good as my president. As much as I want a woman to ascend to the highest office in the land, I cannot support Hillary Rodham Clinton in that endeavor.

What Happened Miss Simone (2015)

NIINA SIMONE

What happened to Miss Simone? The short answer is heartbreak. Unrelenting, persistent, soul-shattering heartbreak.

What Happened Miss Simone attempts to allow Nina Simone to tell her story in the first person. A lot of the voice over is from archival footage of video recording, tape recordings and personal diaries of Nina Simone from while she was alive.

For someone as dynamic as Nina Simone, no one can tell her story but herself. Her life was blighted by thwarted dreams and unending series of disappointments and heartbreaks from those she trusted the most.

She was not supposed to be a jazz and soul singer. She was supposed to be a classical concert pianist. Had she been born white, that’s what she would have become. She was classical piano prodigy when she was a child. She was so talented that her mother’s white employer paid for Nina to take classical piano lessons with Muriel Mazzanovich. When she became good enough to host recitals, all the money she earned from those events were put into a trust for her future tuition for music conservatories. She got into Juilliard, but she only had enough tuition to attend for one and a half years. When she applied for a scholarship to attend the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she was rejected. When she realized that she was rejected on the account of her race and not talent, she was heartbroken. She never got over that. She wanted to be the first black classical pianist to play Carnegie Hall now those dreams are dashed.

To support herself and her family, she began working at dive bars in the Philadelphia area. She worked long hours every night playing the piano. She played whatever she knew how to play, from jazz to classical pieces. One day the owner of the bar said she had to sing and play the piano or else she will have to leave her position. She needed that job, so she began singing jazz, blues and soul music. She’s never had any training as a singer nor a songwriter, but she could do both on a whim. This is the culmination of the years of rigorous classical piano training.

During this time she met and married her husband Andrew Stroud, who also became her agent and business manager. He was a former New York Police Department detective and a brute. He was abusive to her, beat her when she was pregnant with their only child Lisa, he abused her in public, raped her and belittled her. She said “he protected me from everyone except himself.” He was a good agent and manager but shitty husband and poor excuse of a human being. He treated her like a commodity rather than a human being. Her earnings afforded them a luxurious lifestyle and he didn’t care how much he was working her.

She became well known and was offered record contracts and television appearances. When she finally did get to play at Carnegie Hall, it was bittersweet. She wanted to play Carnegie Hall as a classical pianist and not a jazz and soul singer. Her first love was classical piano and it was reflected in her music. She always sang with piano accompaniment and it almost seems as the piano playing is the main act and her singing is the supporting act. She was singing just so can sit down and play the piano.

Like all people born and raised in the Jim Crow south, racism was a deeply wounding and oppressive fact of life for black people. Nina Simone was no different than others but the “secrecy” surrounding it all bothered her deeply. The fact you couldn’t even discuss it in their homes, this huge elephant that exists in their society yet you can’t confront it or even discuss it. You had to pretend it wasn’t there. To talk about it or confront it meant you were going to go confront it with white people and that can get your whole family killed. So, when the Civil Rights Movement came along, she was all in. She wrote songs which served as anthems for the Civil Rights Movement, such as ‘Mississippi Goddamn’. As her political activism increased, her contemporary musical output decreased.

The Civil Rights Movement became her purpose in life. She lent her musical talents to a cause greater than herself and it gave her life meaning. Since her dreams of being a concert pianist was taken from  her on the account of race, the Civil Rights Movement was a way to redress that. Her husband Andrew Shroud opposed it because it attracted controversy and her lucrative contracts started to dry up. On this point she stood up to him. Needless to say their home life suffered even more. Andrew Stroud is truly an appalling excuse of a human being. He brutalized and abused this woman, sought to screw his only daughter out of her mother’s legacy and inheritance yet he has no qualms about showing his face on camera and expressed zero remorse or guilt about what he had done to his wife.

Nina Simone was no non-violence activist, she was a black nationalist, along the same vein of Malcolm X and she told Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so. She walked up to him and told him that she didn’t believe in nonviolence, she believed in taking back black power by all means necessary. When Dr. King and Malcolm X were assassinated, it became too much for her. This was another heartbreak, she believed the Civil Rights Movement has died with their assassinations. She left the country, first she went to Barbados, then she went to live in Liberia and those were the happiest years of her life. When she needed to go back to work to earn a living, she moved to France and began working in dive bars for hundreds of dollars a night only.

In the backdrop of most of her adult life, she had violent mood swings and episodes of depression. As she got older, it became more unmanageable, she was diagnosed as bipolar in the 1980s and put on medication. While the medication stabilized her moods and helped with her overall mental state, as time wore on, it affected her piano playing and singing ability. Being on medication allowed her to tour in Europe and earn a living, she was able to end her life in a dignified manner. She was no longer rich and famous, but she kept her integrity and she never compromised her principles for fame. By aligning herself with the Black Nationalist movement severely harmed her career and earning prospects and she knew it but she didn’t care.

After she left her husband in the early ’70s and after the death of her Civil Rights heroes, she went into a downward spiral. The torment that was hidden in her heart revealed itself. All of that anger, hurt, rejection, rage she felt towards society, towards her former husband, she took it out on her only child. She brutalized and abused her only child the way her former husband and society brutalized her. She turned into that monster she sought to run away from and that’s a true shame. After one beating so bad in Liberia, Lisa Simone Kelly chose to take a one way flight back to New York to her father and never lived with her mother again. She was just 14 years old. Mother and daughter never truly reconciled. The wounds were too deep. Lisa Simone Kelly is also a singer, actress and performer. She has come to an accept her mother as she was and appreciate her immense talent but you can tell she cannot bring herself to say she loved her mother. The damage was too much. The last zinger from Lisa Simone Kelly is telling:

“I have been married 18 years, I have a good relationship with my children and I hope I’ll get to die with a smile on my face surrounded by my family. My mother never got that. She passed away still in search of comfort and love. Perhaps if she had them, she might, in the end, have known peace.”

The film is full of archival footage of Nina Simone’s performances and interviews. I learned that I knew many of her songs but I didn’t know it was she who sang and wrote them. She had exiled herself from the United States from 1970s and onwards, the music industry all but forgotten her or relegated her to the dusty shelves of the great artists of yesteryear.

Two days before she died on April 21, 2003, Curtis Institute of Music, the school that turned her down for a scholarship on the account of her skin color, gave her an honorary degree. If they had done what they were supposed to do 50 years prior, we would have been deprived of one of the best singer songwriters of our times but Nina Simone would have had a chance at becoming a fulfilled and happy person.

 

Dr. Luke v. Kesha (and other female recording artists)

feminist
Joyce Stevens – on IWD in 1975

Sony Records has just announced, rather abruptly,  it will end Dr. Luke’s (aka Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald) contract one year early. Many believe that it has to do with the the backlash from Kesha’s allegations and a possible long protracted legal case against Dr. Luke alleging rape by way of drugging, abuse, manipulation and control against her and her work. Since Kesha lost her request for an injunction to be freed from her contract with Dr. Luke until her case for the rape allegations is resolved, many recording artists, especially prominent recording artists have come out in support. High profile singers like Adele, who is also signed to Sony, dedicated her British Music Award (UK’s Grammy equivalent) in support of Kesha. Taylor Swift gave $250,000 to Kesha to help her with her finances in this bruising court battle. Lady Gaga, who is a personal friend of Kesha’s posted many pictures of them sharing hugs and solidarity together have rocked the patriarchal music establishment. Many other artists, many of whom didn’t know Kesha have come out in support on social media with the hashtag #FreeKesha.

What’s happening to Kesha is nothing new for female recording artists. Kesha, like so many before her, decided to make a deal with the devil, if they do everything their record company or producers ask of them, and if the record that result becomes a success, then for the next albums they get to do what they like, work with who they like and create whatever songs they like. Pink, Christina Aguilera and many others have claimed to use this strategy to their benefit. Many artists have kept quiet about this unholy arrangement, some see it as a necessary evil or trade off to superstardom, fame, success and artistic freedom.

It’s long been suspected that there’s much more that goes behind the scenes than just producers and record companies controlling the image and songs of the artists, there is something far more sinister going on which no one, certainly not the artists themselves have disclosed. Many have alleged or hinted at inappropriate sexual advances by record producers and record label executives long after the fact, but none have gone so far to bring a lawsuit against a powerful, well liked and successful producer such as Dr. Luke.

The terms of the contract is complicated, Dr. Luke’s company Kemosabe Records is signed to Sony, and Kesha is signed to Dr. Luke’s company so they both technically are signed under Sony, except Kesha is exclusively signed to Kemosabe Records and her records are to be produced under the supervision of Kemosabe Records but released and distributed by Sony Records. The agreement Sony had with Kesha is that she is free to work with any record producer she likes if she doesn’t want anything to do with Dr. Luke but she cannot break the contract with Dr. Luke, which translates to Dr. Luke will still have exclusive rights and control over Kesha’s music. And now that she’s aired their dirty linen, he can make life difficult for her and cut off her career and financial lifeline. Lena Dunham explains it better in her essay for support of Kesha from her newsletter Lenny:

Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family. The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?

So, this is the current plight of Kesha. It’s unclear what Sony’s early termination of Dr. Luke’s contract has any impact on the contract between Kesha and Dr. Luke or what would happen to that contract should Dr. Luke be found liable for the charges alleged in Kesha’s lawsuit against him. Sony Records didn’t have any intention of terminating Dr. Luke’s contract until these last few days. I think the reason is Kelly Clarkson gave an interview about her experience with Dr. Luke and had this to say:

[S]he (Kelly Clarkson) was displeased with the producer’s character. “Unfortunately, when you have that poor of character – so many artists don’t like you and don’t like working with you – that’s not normal. I get along with everyone I work with, but he’s just not a good guy for me,” Clarkson said of Luke. “Obviously, he’s a talented dude. He just lied a lot. I’ve run into a couple of really bad situations. Musically, it’s been really hard for me because he will just lie to people. And it’s like, ‘What?’ And it makes the artist look bad.” Clarkson continued, “He’s kind of difficult to work with; kind of demeaning.”


Before I go into the reasons of why the words of Kelly Clarkson lent credibility to the allegations against Dr. Luke – I first like to call bullshit on all of the sudden outpouring of support for Kesha from the other artists and the press.

Please allow me to explain.

I don’t mean to be indelicate when I say this but Kesha when rated amongst her peers, is a second rate pop star. It’s fair to say that she has neither the vocal skills of Adele nor the charisma and marketability of Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. And Kesha’s brand of music is peculiar to say the least, she’s not really a vocalist nor is she strictly a rapper. When she does rap, it’s not done in the manner of how traditional rap is done. I suppose Dr. Luke wanted to market her as a white Nicki Minaj, who raps and sings on the same track. The image of Kesha that was introduced to the public is one of trailer trash chic, she has greasy hair in her music videos and looks in need of a good wash. She is said to be a competent songwriter herself, but under the control of her then mentor Dr. Luke, her creativity was stifled. When Kesha was putting out records and touring, she was routinely mocked by media for her image, her inability to sing, and the bizarre way she used to spell her name, the ‘S’ in her name is represented with a $ sign (Ke$ha). She was also very open and free with her sexual expression and candid about her sexual experiences. She boasts a close relationship with her fans and is not immune to doing strange things and posting them all over social media to stay relevant. In other words, she is your typical millennial pop star. The line between her true reality and one that she puts out for the public see is blurred. Many didn’t understand her and prior to her filing the lawsuit, it’s safe to say, her ‘girl squad’ was quite sparse. Out of all of her current new supporters, perhaps only Lady Gaga was a personal friend of hers prior to this event.

Even when Kesha filed her lawsuit against her former Mentor Dr. Luke, there wasn’t that much noise made. Dr. Luke categorically and vehemently denied the claims and said this was his former protege’s attempt at trying to get out of her contract that she signed, where she was bound for 10 years and must make a minimum of 6 albums under Dr. Luke’s label. Kesha entered an eating disorder facility to get treatment last year. She emerged a more sophisticated girl and dropped the bizarre $ from her name. She got serious about the lawsuit against Dr. Luke and when the more excruciating details of the verbal abuse, mental manipulation and rape came out, people took notice. And by people, I mean members of the media and her peers. Climatically, when her injunction was denied on February 19th, as Kesha was weeping in the back of the courtroom with her mother beside her, social media went into overdrive with the hashtag #FreeKesha.

Kesha who was at best dismissed as an artist or at worst mocked for her musical style (or lack of one), especially by the press, and she is now suddenly everyone’s cause celebre. Kesha became the poster girl for how a music industry abuses its artists, especially female artists. She became a symbol of a woman who is oppressed by the patriarchy. Kesha was close to the point of being chewed up and spit out and before that happened, she filed a lawsuit against her abuser to stand up for herself. She must know the chances of winning a lawsuit or even damages is slim to none. As in most sexual assault situations, it is largely a he-said she-said scenario. Besides her mother, there was no one to witness the verbal abuse and putdowns. No one besides her mother saw Kesha curled up in a ball in the corner of the room sobbing. Lastly, Dr. Luke is a powerful and wealthy white man, he’s worked with a lot of current artists and has made huge amounts of money for himself and the record labels he produces for, so the scale obviously balances in his direction. Kesha is now celebrated for her bravery and courage to speak out against a brutal contract system against artists.

Also, any possible doubts about Kesha’s claims against Dr. Luke also evaporated. Kesha’s natural candidness about her sexual preferences and experiences, yet she failed to disclose such a serious allegation against Dr. Luke is something that’s perhaps not spoken about openly but definitely in the back of people’s minds. While her peers, most of whom would consider themselves progressive feminists, believe Kesha but many probably wonder if Dr. Luke and Kesha had a consensual sexual relationship at one point during the 10 years they worked together, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. The fact that they may have had a sexual relationship doesn’t discredit her claims or in anyway minimizes them, but when you are trying to prove a timeline of events in court, it would matter greatly when an alleged sexual relationship began or ended. Dr. Luke maintains that he’s never had a sexual relationship with Kesha, she was like his “little sister”.

All this aside, what I found equally strange is the lack of people coming to Dr. Luke’s aid, besides members of his family. One argument could be made that people don’t want to be seen as defending an alleged rapist, especially if even any small part of Kesha’s allegations turns out to be true, it would look bad. But, if I had a friend who was being accused of rape and lots of horrible things, and I know for a fact that he isn’t that type of person or he didn’t commit those heinous acts and I am confident in such a way that I will risk my reputation to defend him because I know he’s innocent, I will defend him. Where are his friends? Where are the guys? Bro code, anyone? Their silence is more deafening than Kesha’s allegations against him.

Until now, Sony has been relatively silent as the courts have made their decision. Sony is in a difficult position as it has a reputation and a multi-billion dollar business to maintain. They must make a calculation to see if all of this Dr. Luke hassle is worth it. For two weeks after the denial of Kesha’s injunction, Sony appeared to be satisfied with the current state of things, there were no whispers of Sony letting Dr. Luke go, he was still a valuable commodity. But when Kelly Clarkson made her feelings known to the public about how she felt about Dr. Luke, in the next couple of days, Sony announces its decision.

Lady Gaga, Adele and Taylor Swift do not work with Dr. Luke and perhaps do not know Dr. Luke personally, but Kelly Clarkson does. Though Clarkson was very clear that nothing untoward happened, she asserts that Dr. Luke is not an honest person with integrity and she didn’t enjoy working with him. And Kelly Clarkson is a girl that can get along with everyone, she’ll find a way to get along with her adversaries to get business done.

Not to be indelicate here again, but unlike her peers, Kelly Clarkson didn’t become famous by trading on her looks. She’s a sweet looking girl but it’s fair to say, she doesn’t mind her waistline that much. She had a baby about 2 years ago and she kept most of the weight on and was happy with it, she told Ellen on the The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she loves her wine and so her waistline stays and is quite unbothered by it. She’s now pregnant again and is happy as punch with herself. She has no problem letting it all hang out. Kelly Clarkson is always a vocalist and artist first and the external stuff is just that, external. Though she can’t be called ‘difficult’ to work with, she’s no pushover either. When Clive Davis’s memoirs came out and some misinformation was printed, she was quick to correct those misinformation, much to the embarrassment of Clive Davis and the record label:

“So I just heard Clive Davis is releasing a memoir and spreading false information about me and my music,” she writes. “I refuse to be bullied and I just have to clear up his memory lapses and misinformation for myself and for my fans. It feels like a violation. Growing up is awesome because you learn you don’t have to cower to anyone — even Clive Davis.”

Because Kelly Clarkson’s words are more substantive and specific to the times she was blackmailed into working with Dr. Luke (or else the label wouldn’t put out the records), and she’s only worked with Dr. Luke on two or three songs, they are seen as credible. She said he’s “lied” and “demeaned” her and went out of his way to make her look bad, which is also similar to what Kesha is alleging in her lawsuit. Therefore a pattern of behavior is established, by another woman no less but a woman who had no close mentor and mentee relationship with Dr. Luke. And in the pecking order of the pop music world, Kelly Clarkson still outranks Kesha, therefore, her words lend weight to Kesha’s allegations.

If Kesha refuses to record any new music while Dr. Luke still owns her contract or if she agrees to record but Dr. Luke chooses to sabotage her and not release her material the way she wants it, and Dr. Luke won’t budge and release her from her contract, it’s very likely that this is the end of Kesha’s career. The terms of her contract prohibits her from working with anyone else until she’s fully complied with the contract. Sony and Dr. Luke claims that they’ve spent $60 million dollars on Kesha and her career, they will not let her off so easily. I like to know just how $60 million was spent on an artist who’s put out three albums only.

Kesha should tread very carefully at her sudden newfound ‘friends’, especially her new supporters from the same press that just a couple of years ago was mocking her. She is very vulnerable right now. Though their sentiments are sincere and their current support admirable, it still begs the question, where were they before? It would be a shame to be used again, even for the advancement of feminism.

The Poverty of Time 

Bill and Melinda Gates release a letter every year through their foundation The Gates Foundation detailing their goals and wishes for the coming year and what they hope to see for the future their philanthropic endeavors.  There is an annual letter by Melinda Gate’s called ‘More Time’.

‘More Time’ addresses the amount of unpaid work (chores, child care, elderly care) women across the globe do in order to keep their households running. There’s not one country in the world where women do less unpaid work than men. Naturally, the disparity between the developed and third world is big but overall, women do more unpaid work than men.

Melinda Gates describes this as taking time away from women who could be doing other things besides chores and caregiving:

Economists call it opportunity cost: the other things women could be doing if they didn’t spend so much time on mundane tasks. What amazing goals would you accomplish with an extra hour every day? Or, in the case of girls in many poor countries, an extra five or more?

These chores could be done by anyone but almost every country in the world, including Europe and United States, it has been arbitrarily assigned to women. The reasons are given varied: women are just naturally better at caregiving and housekeeping (no they aren’t, anyone can learn to be caregivers and keep a house), women don’t mind or some even like doing these things (again, no, it’s something that someone has to do and since the dawn of man, the chore has just fell to women), and some women mind very much about doing such chores. I don’t think any sane person (man or woman) would say “I just love washing dishes, I can’t wait to do them every night” or “I just love doing laundry — sorting through everyone’s dirty clothes, wash them in the appropriate cycle, then dry it, fold it, put it back in its original place just so they can wear it again and strewn it on the floor” – sounds like fun.

Women in developed countries at least have the luxury of modern appliances to help us with these chores. Women in developing and third world countries have to walk for miles to haul water from a well everyday just to do their washing and cooking. And all of this is done by women (washing, cooking, cleaning, child rearing). The water bucket weighs about 40 lbs minimum, but it’s done by women. Just by the sheer physical strength it requires, one would think this particular chore is more suitable for men. But that’s all beside the point, the point is it can be done by anyone and chores shouldn’t be gender specific.

Melissa Gates addressed this long suppressed issue and brought it out into the open is a vindication to me. I am not crazy for feeling the way I do, which is I fucking hate chores and I find them a fucking pointless, waste of time. This is one side of the lives of women which society and the world just assumes that it’s our burden. Especially those of us who choose to have children and raise a family, this is the price we pay. Our time being stolen from us, not by our children, because they are vulnerable need care but by the patriarchy. If we complain, we are seen as ungrateful mothers and wives. We are accused of not willing to lay in the bed we made. We are accused of being terrible mothers because we find the task of child rearing and housekeeping impossibly boring and tedious at times. And I want to clarify, it’s the physical act of child rearing and housework that is boring and tedious, not the children. There is a difference.

Even in Western societies there is still huge stigma and taboo surrounding women who openly admit that looking after home and children can be boring and soul draining. It indirectly implies that one finds their children boring or that one regrets having children, no, it doesn’t mean any of that. It means women are fucking tired of doing all the boring shit at home that needs doing in order to make the home run smoothly. And it’s not cool that men duck out when they sense some boring chore that needs doing coming on.

Social Darwinists, anthropologists and sociologists can find a myriad of reasons why how this came to be. Where across every continent, race, ethnic group and religion, women are stuck with the majority of the caregiving and chores. But I’d argue all of that was arbitrary, even from the caveman days. The only real job a man can’t do is nursing and rearing of a newly born baby and it’s for obvious biological reasons. Women were assigned work (unpaid) at home solely based on her gender and biological function and men were assigned the hunting and gathering role because they’d rather do that than sit at home with screaming cave-babies. In fact, one member in the animal kingdom has the opposite arrangement: the lions. Lionesses are the hunters because they don’t have a mane so they can camouflage better, and the male lions look after the young while their harem goes out hunting and brings home the food. If the lionesses run into trouble, the male lions come to their rescue by scaring away the agitators with his roar and physical size.

There’s always a stereotype which children, especially very young children, while are adorable, can be screaming, wailing pains in the arses. Family and strangers alike smile politely when one of our precious snowflakes is having a toddler meltdown. The men or the fathers quietly shuffle out of the room before anyone notices them, runs outside, smokes a cigarette or grabs a beer from the fridge and hides until the chaos has died down and it’s usually their mothers who stay behind and soothe their wailing children. It’s assumed that women or mothers know what their children need more than the men, that women know why a child is having a Mount Vesuvius sized fit so it’s best they sort it out. Newsflash: mothers are just as clueless as to why our children are having a meltdown. Especially children who aren’t able to communicate effectively yet. We are not preternaturally more patient because we are women, we are patient with our offspring because we’ve no choice. Our duty as mothers summons us to be our best selves. There’s no logical reason why a man can’t soothe a screaming child. There’s no reason why a man can’t drop everything he’s doing and attend to the needs of his child right then and there.

I became a mother four years ago when my oldest was born. It was the first time in my adult life where I didn’t know what I did all day even though I was on my feet and was exhausted. My days and nights blurred together yet my laundry wasn’t done, my house is in disorder and meals are prepared half-heartedly, yet I was always on my feet all day. I realized that while I tended to the physical needs of my child, I had no time to just ‘be’ with her. I had no time just to cuddle and make funny sounds or just watch her sleep – one of the most pleasurable things in life. When I was done feeding her, I had to be off doing something else. When I was off doing that something else, my husband got to spend the precious quality time I wanted to with her. My exhaustion was such that I skipped meals just so I don’t have to prepare and cook that meal, eat that meal and then put away the dishes after that meal. I munched on snacks and fruits and told my husband to do the same or order takeout. I was given the side-eye judgement. He, like the majority of men in this world, felt that all of the above mentioned was my jurisdiction. The boring shit that nobody likes to do is my job.

In most American households, men tend to do the more physical tasks such as landscaping, fixing things around the home, changing light-bulbs, fixing pipes etc., but these are not daily chores that require doing. And most men enjoy or do not mind tinkering with their tools around the house or in the garage. In fact, some prefer it because they can be left alone. A better way would be for the husband to teach his wife how to do these more technical chores. We are not adverse to picking up a power tool if we are taught how to operate it safely. Why do chores have to be pigeonholed by gender?

There were times I wondered if all of that was necessary? Yes, new parenthood is exhaustion itself but is it that exhausting where I prefer to skip meals just so it’s one less thing I’ve got to do (and it’s the only thing I can skip where it doesn’t affect my child)? Did it need to come to that? Probably not had the extra pairs of hands I had around the house been more helpful. Needless to say, these early days of motherhood, all of my other hobbies and things I do for leisure were put on hold.

If I had the option of ‘escaping’ to my career and hiring others to do the housekeeping part of my chores, I’d do so in a heartbeat. I can focus on my career and caring for my children. The money I pay for someone else to do housekeeping is time I can spend with my children. When you’ve been on your feet all day, the last thing you want to do is read a storybook at night to your children, you want to crash into bed and sleep and that’s more of a loss to my children than whether their washing got done or not.

The domestic battles and balance will not be restored until this issue of who does what and why is brought out into the open and discussed. Women, do not enjoy the mess, screaming children, the lack of sleep, constant interruption of thoughts and thought process by inquisitive children more than men. Mothers, very much like their own quiet and space. We also would like to nip out and pour ourselves a glass of wine while the little children fuss. It would be far better if both parents stayed and calmed the children and then both go to the kitchen and grab that beer together.

No one is suggesting that people are to be paid for doing domestic chores and caregiving, but the acknowledgment that this is unpaid work, where our time is taken without compensation and ways can be introduced to cut down unpaid work will be tremendously helpful. Since most of these tasks needs to be done by someone anyways, why not divide and share them equitably?

My Life So Far – By Jane Fonda About Her Mother, Frances Fonda

The biographical details of the lives of celebrities or actors are usually known to everyone before they release their book, who they slept with, what drugs they did, who’s husband or wife they fornicated with. After a while, they all begin to sound the same. With the small incestuous Hollywood social circle, it’s very possible that they’ve all bedded each other at one point or another.

I couldn’t tell you what movies Jane Fonda was in except ‘Barbarella’, an American incarnation of Brigitte Bardot, the ex-wife of Jane Fonda’s then husband, the director of the film, Roger Vadim. I know she won two Oscars but I couldn’t tell you for which movies and why and if she was really any good in them. I can’t say I am a huge fan of Jane Fonda ‘work’ besides her work for victims of sexual abuse. The last movie I saw her in was ‘Monster-In-Law’ where she played, well, what the title of the movie suggests.

I read Jane Fonda’s book for one section only. It’s the section where she talks about her mother, Frances Ford Seymour Fonda. I came upon an excerpt of this chapter where Jane Fonda for the first time talks about her mother in depth for the first time. For a woman who lost her mother at 12 years old, but didn’t begin to grieve her until she was in her mid-forties, her words about her long departed mother are powerful. The image she had of her mother was so different from the actual person because by the time she knew her mother, Frances Ford Seymour Fonda had already suffered decades of mental illness and trauma. Jane Fonda never knew her mother in her prime even though Frances died at only age 42. The effect of reading a sixty year old woman’s tribute to a mother whom she lost at 12 years old, and speaking in a voice of a child while she was already a grandmother, touched me deeply. Jane Fonda was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and was financially well off her whole life and she’s blessed in this regard, but nothing can prepare a young girl from her mother being taken from her. For all of her money and privilege, she needed a mother who was able to guide her.

The relationship between a little girl and her father are often expounded on. It’s the first relationship a girl has with a man, and depending how that relationship (or lack of) goes, it usually determines the kind of man that little girl eventually marries or dates. The mother-daughter relationship is equally complex but in different ways. As daughters, we expect more from our mothers than our fathers. We instinctively expect her to set a good example for us (the same goes for a boy and his father), especially how she encounters hardship and adversities in her life. Does she roll over and let people walk all over her. Does she degrade herself for the affections of a man, does she stand up to men and society at large when her personhood is trampled on. Daughters are far more forgiving of their father’s mistakes than that of their mothers (and as sons are of their mothers). The single most influence a person has on a child is their same sex parent. Despite the loving and more relaxed mother-son and father-daughter relationships, we model our lives and behaviors after our same sex parent. For most of Jane Fonda’s childhood, her mother was absent due to her mental illnesses and the effects of her mental illnesses. She was physically there but her mind was gone, buried under the haze of heavy medications and mental suffering.

Fonda tells the story of her mother Frances in flash black. She first talks about the woman she knew in her childhood until she died on her forty-second birthday by slashing her throat with a razor in a sanitarium. Jane Fonda was born on December 21, 1937, the United States entered World War II in 1941, her father, the actor Henry Fonda chose to enlist in the war even though he was over thirty-five years old and had dependents when World War II broke out. He was not required to do so but chose to anyways. Jane knew at this point that something was very wrong in her parents marriage and her father enlisting was his way of getting away from her mother and the shackles of family life, which by this time included her younger brother, the actor Peter Fonda. Her mother Frances was under no illusion her marriage was rosy either. When her husband was away, Frances Fonda had an affair with a musician, it was a volatile affair and it eventually ended before her husband returned home from the warfront. One of the few advices Jane remembers her mother giving her is “never marry a musician”. She remembered this piece of advice not because it was some unique sage advice but because her mother rarely gave her any advice about anything. When her father returned home, their family life continued and she also noticed her dad ceased to find her mother attractive anymore (Frances Fonda was an exceptionally attractive woman).

After Henry Fonda returned home from the war, the whole family moved to Connecticut because he got the main part on a long running Broadway play Mister Roberts. The family settled into a routine where Henry escaped to New York City during the week and came home on weekends to Connecticut to spend time with his family, an event which Jane describes as forced and unnatural – to say that Henry Fonda was not a natural father would be an understatement:

I suppose it was just that Mother, Peter and I weren’t all that interesting. When he’d visit us I could sense he didn’t really want to be there. But Dad had been an Eagle Scout, and the commitment to doing one’s duty was embedded in his DNA. I wish the Scouts had taught how him to make it seem less like a duty.

During this time, as the Fondas’ marriage disintegrated to the point of no return and so did Frances Fonda’s mental health. If she was not staying in a sanitarium, she was on heavy medication which rendered her catatonic and unable to engage with her children. Something was very wrong in the Fonda household yet no one would talk about “it”, not even her maternal grandmother who lived with them at the time.

One of my most vivid memories of that time was sitting in silence at the dinner table in that spooky house on the hill—Peter, Grandma, Mother, and me. Through the window I could see the gray March landscape. Mother, at the head of the table, was crying silently into her food. It was spinach and Spam. We ate a lot of canned food in those days, as though the war and food rationing were still going on. I used to wonder about this, but now I know that Mother was terrified of running out of money and not receiving anything from Dad in the divorce.

No one said anything about the fact that Mother was crying. Maybe we feared that if one of us put words to what we saw and heard, life would implode into an unfathomable sadness so heavy the air wouldn’t bear it. Not even after we left the table was anything said. Grandma never took us aside to explain what was happening. Perhaps if “it” was not named, “it” would not exist”

This woman is weeping into her dinner and her own mother couldn’t comfort her daughter. Perhaps they were called ‘The Silent Generation’ for a reason.

When Henry Fonda asked for a divorce (he already had his new wife waiting in the wings), he let it be known that he wasn’t in the generous mood to pay for large a alimony and child support. Upon hearing this, Frances Fonda became even more distressed and anxious and wondered how she was going to provide for her children for the rest of her life. Despite all their problems, she also loved her husband and didn’t want a divorce (“If she [Frances Fonda] could love the right way–selflessly, with understanding and no anger–perhaps Dad would come back to her”). She had a full mental breakdown and had to be put into a straightjacket and was hauled off to the sanitarium again. Before she left, one morning, while Jane was on her way out to school, her mother pulled her to one side and told her if anyone asks about the divorce, “tell them you already know”. That was the extent of the conversation about the “divorce”. Her younger brother Peter was not told at all.

It was during this last stay at the sanitarium that Frances Fonda decided that this was it. She pretended to get better so that she would be allow day visits home to see her family. In March of 1950, she went home to see her children one last time, accompanied by a nurse from the sanitarium. She called for the children to come down to see her, only Peter went to see his mother as he missed her desperately, Jane (probably sensing something was amiss) refused to go see her. Her mother left without saying goodbye to her. Frances also was able to go to her bedroom and sneak a razor into her purse to bring back to the sanitarium. On the day of her forty-second birthday, she slashed her throat with the razor she snuck from home and died at the sanitarium. She left behind six notes in total: one for the nurse (to go get the doctor and not go in the bathroom – how very considerate of Frances), one for her doctor (“Dr. Bennett, you’ve done everything possible for me. I’m sorry, but this is the best way out.”), one for her mother, one for Jane and one for Peter. She had nothing to say to her husband. When Jane heard her mother died (of a heart attack) she was heartbroken but didn’t dare show it for fear of upsetting her father. She also thought it was her fault because she refused to come see her mother when she came home for the last time. It wasn’t until months later, a classmate at her school passed around the tabloid of the day which said Henry Fonda’s wife died of suicide by slashing her own throat in a mental institution did she then find out the truth. As ever the protective big sister, she was more worried about Peter once he found out (he didn’t find out how his mother died until years later). She was devastated but she felt she couldn’t show it. She stuffed that grief down until she was in her forties.

With the exception of her maternal grandmother who stayed behind after France’s death, they were not allowed to talk about their mother with their father. No one is to discuss with Henry Fonda the passing of his wife or even talk about her. The subject was off limits. While Peter cried every night in his room, Jane felt she needed to be the brave one and suck it up. When Christmas of 1950 came, Peter Fonda, a boy of eleven, made presents to give to his mother and cried all Christmas Day.

“Peter had filled an entire wingback chair with presents for Mother and a letter he’d written her. Looking back it is so sad and terribly poignant, an eleven-year-old boy needing to let his mother know he loved and missed her and wanted people to acknowledge her. But, oh God, nothing he could have done could have made that Christmas Day any worse. I was furious with Peter and sided with Dad, who seemed to see Peter’s behavior as a play for sympathy. What a thought!”

No one dared to go give this small boy a hug for fear of angering the almighty and good Henry Fonda. No one even dared mention Frances Fonda. She was here, then she was gone and that was it. Every time I read this passage in her book it makes me cry. How a vulnerable small boy, who needed his mother, who missed his mother and no one could even give him a cuddle. The Fonda children grew up and life went on as though nothing had happened. Henry Fonda married and jilted a few more wives and Jane and Peter Fonda each forged successful careers of their own. For the rest of her life, she never talked about her mother with Henry Fonda again.

For Jane Fonda, her mother’s ghost never left her. Her mother never left her. She tried to forget her and she couldn’t. Growing up, Jane Fonda thought of her mother as a helpless victim, a weakling, unlike the strong Henry Fonda. Her mother couldn’t overcome her troubles. As a child, she distinctly remembers deliberately turning away (physically and emotionally) from her mother as her mother got deeper and deeper into her mental illness. Like animal instinct, as she felt her mother abandon her physically and emotionally, she, in turn, abandoned her mother emotionally as well. When Jane turned forty she decided to reach out to her mother’s surviving friends. She wanted to purge old ghosts and she wanted to know once and for all exactly who Frances Ford Seymour Fonda was. What she learned was astonishing. “She was an icon, always at the center of things, and boy, did she love life!”, said her best friend Laura Clark, an Arden gown model whom Frances befriended by offering her a cup of tea after a long shift of modelling (models in those days stood for hours on their feet modeling dresses for customers). That conversation became a lifelong friendship. Her mother was the life of the party. She was the best friend anyone could have. She was also incredibly ‘resourceful’. If you needed birth control you called Frances, if you needed a good and discreet doctor who performed good abortions you called Frances, nothing shocked her. If you had friend drama and needed advice on how to sort it out where everyone leaves happy, you asked Frances. Frances’s friends also described her as having a “modern outlook on life”, which means she dabbled in affairs prior to and after her marriage to Henry Fonda and didn’t have hang ups about sex and such things. Frances was fun, a good bundle of energy to be around. Frances loved giving parties and loved having company over at her house (Jane Fonda also realized this is where she got this trait from). Frances Fonda was generous, when she became a wealthy widow (when her first husband died), she subsidized her siblings and often helped her friends who needed money and it’s not trifle amounts for groceries or what not, she set them up in apartments, paid deposits etc. Frances Fonda was not the sad pathetic nervous wreck of a woman Jane knew as a child (and she says she got this impression from her father, because that’s what he thought of her), Frances was a woman who owned herself and her pleasures, the life of the party, a fully functioning human being. Her suicide was a devastating blow to her friends and they tried to reach out to Jane Fonda for over 20 years so they could talk to her about her mother, but Jane was having none of it. To identify with her mother, according to the Fonda Creed, was to espouse weakness.

To find out all the pieces of the puzzle, Jane Fonda requested to see her mother’s medical records from the last sanitarium she stay and subsequently died at. When she got the brown envelope in the mail she was shaking. She opened it and there it was, in her mother’s type hand, 8 single spaced pages, with her written corrections and additions on the margins, the details of Frances Fonda’s life poured out. She learned her mother was sexually abused when she was eight years old until she was a teen by a piano tuner who came to tune the family’s piano. France’s father was an alcoholic and probably suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and as a result lost his job in Manhattan and they had to move to rural Canada bordering with New York state. France’s father was also physically abusive to the children and her mother being many years younger than her father and had a large number of children with to look after with no help. Frances also had a younger sister who was born with severe epilepsy and in order to keep her safe, France’s mother trained the little girl to hang on to her mother’s dress at all times. In short, her parents did not have the resources financial or otherwise to look after their large brood of children. Frances was very resentful that her father had all these children but couldn’t adequately support or educate them. When her father died from alcoholism, a relative rescued them from penury and brought them back to Manhattan, Frances was able to go to secretary school and learn a trade. She told a friend that she is going to become a secretary to a Wall Street millionaire and then marry him. That’s exactly what she did, she married for the first time at 20 years old to a much older man, she had a daughter by him also called Frances (nicknamed ‘Pan’) and three years after the birth of Pan, he died; leaving her a wealthy widow. She met Henry Fonda a few years after the death of her first husband and they married and had Jane and Peter Fonda. Since her early twenties she began to suffer from bouts of severe depression and anxiety. She was later diagnosed as being bi-polar after the birth of her third child Peter. Psychiatric treatment was crude and medieval in the 1930s and 40s and she was often subjected electroshock treatment, ice baths and confined to a foam padded room. The medications she was given were basically tranquilizers which rendered her catatonic and not able to function. The self-hatred which stemmed from the sexual abuse she suffered as a child caused her to obsessively get plastic surgery to ‘fix’ herself, even though she was an exceptionally beautiful woman with golden blond hair, slanting blue eyes and peachy skin – she needed no surgery. She was the center of attraction everywhere she went, both in looks and personality. But her self-hatred was such that she used multiple plastic surgery procedures and was promiscuous which resulted in many abortions (prior to her re-marriage to Henry Fonda) to mutilate her body. Behind the beautiful woman was a broken girl suffering from trauma, from untreated, unacknowledged sexual abuse.  Jane Fonda does not reveal if her grandmother knew if her mother was sexually abused as a child. The assumption is no one knew but her doctors.

After Jane Fonda was done reading her mother’s medical files, she began sobbing, deep guttural sobs that came from the depth of her soul. She sobbed for days, she couldn’t get out of bed. She imagined her mother as a frightened little girl to a frightened woman and no one was there to protect her. She finally understood her mother and the troubles of her mother. Even though she was a privileged wealthy white woman, she could not be protected from the worst evil of society. Frances fought her battles in her own way, by being a good friend, tried to be a good mother and tried to create a financially secure household for her children as she believed she was sexually abused because the Seymours were dependent on the largess of relatives and friends and it opened them up to predators. It’s worthy to note, despite her fears of being broke, when she died in 1950, she had over $600,000 to her name which was split evenly between her three children. Like many people who cannot provide the emotional stability and unconditional love in life, she made sure their futures were secure.

Her book ‘My Life So Far’ was dedicated to her Mother, the beautiful and vivacious woman she never knew in her full prime in life. To honor her mother’s life and suffering, Jane Fonda is heavily involved in rape prevention and treatment of rape and sexual assault. On Jane Fonda’s website she pays tribute to her mother:

My mother was sexually abused as a young girl, long before people knew the life-long damage it causes or that there are ways to heal the wounds–the worst of which are not what happens physically but what is done to the identity, the emotions, the brain of the victim, particularly if the person is not believed, not understood, not heard.

[…]

I want to tell anyone reading this blog who is a victim of trauma, including veterans of combat, that to seek treatment is the brave thing to do. As Dr Judith Herman says, accepting help is an act of profound courage. It shows strength not weakness, initiative, not passivity. “Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.”

I wish my mother could have told and been believed.

As for the husbands she married, no, she never married any musicians. She married Roger Vadim first, a womanizer and inveterate gambler who gambled away her whole inheritance, the one left to her by her mother. She then married a leftist political activist Tom Hayden, who was against capitalism and everything America was about in the 1960s, but he had no problem putting Jane to work making cheesy workout videos and taking all her hard earned money to fund himself (at times girlfriends on the side) and his political causes. She lastly married Ted Turner, the former CEO of CNN, a considerable upgrade in the money department from the previous two husbands, but he was a philanderer and a misogynist and she left him as well. Surprisingly, she was able to maintain excellent relationships with all three of her ex-husbands, they all say wonderful things about her (and she about them). She showed up to Roger Vadim’s funeral linking arms with all of his ex-wives and paramours and that is a chip off of Frances’s old block, the ability to navigate complicated personalities and situations and everyone coming out a winner.

Bill Cosby’s Day in Court

So the charade has begun. Bill Cosby showed up to court to answer his charges in his trademark jumper. For added effect, he brought a cane with him and he had his attorney help him get in and out of the courtroom. His message is simple: “you are picking on a frail old man who has done nothing but good for the black community and you are out to ruin my reputation and character in the twilight of my life. Shame on you.” He was released on $1 million bail and he had to surrender his passport. And of course he was defiant, his attorney released this statement:

“Make no mistake, we intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law.”

Bill Cosby’s attorney also alleges political motivation for bringing these charges. The current DA is seeking reelection and he needs a big win or a high profile case. The statute of limitations on this allegation is about to run out so it’s the last chance at holding Bill Cosby accountable for his actions. Regardless if this is the case, if it is politically motivated or not, or if there’s really not enough evidence or not, Bill Cosby’s worst nightmare has come true.

Bill Cosby was finally charged with sexual assault by a Pennsylvania DA twelve years after the alleged event took place. For most of his accusers, the statute of limitations have run out for them to bring charges against Cosby. The victim in this case is a former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. Ms. Constand alleges that Cosby tried to incapacitate her in his Pennsylvania home with pills and alcohol and subsequently sexually assaulted her in her altered state. It may serve as little comfort to the other victims but at least, for this victim, the DA found sufficient evidence to bring charges. Whether it will result in a conviction or not, it is still too early to tell.

Bill Cosby was a well respected veteran of television, a pioneer, he broke racial barriers. He was an educator and specifically for the black community, he was their role model, a guiding light, an inspiration. He offered support to black children when needed and he also scolded them in his unique patrician tone when he felt they needed a scolding. Nobody wanted to see this man go down in flames like this in the fourth quarter of his life. No one. Regardless if one was a fan or not, no one wanted to see him go out like this. I was a fan of ‘The Cosby Show’ and while it’s too much on the vanilla side for me, I enjoyed some of Bill Cosby’s stand up comedy as well. And I respected him and what he stood for. Had these rape allegations not come to light and if the opportunity arose, I would have no problem letting my children meet him, in public or in private.

If I am to be honest, when the first allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby first came out, I had my reservations. Not because of his stature in the black community, not because he was a well liked, much admired television producer and pioneer. Not because he was a powerful man and therefore impenetrable. Not because his image as a squeaky clean family man. I am not so naive to think with all of his fame and wealth he wouldn’t step out on his wife here and there, but that’s between the Cosbys and not the public. He wasn’t perfect, but there’s a very firm line in the sand between having consensual extramarital affairs and drugging and raping unsuspecting women. It is very serious to accuse a man of rape or committing acts of sexual assault. It has the potential to destroy a man’s reputation and ruin his career for the rest of his life if he is innocent. And unless there is incontrovertible proof to the contrary, I will withhold my judgement. This does not mean the accusers’ claims are to be dismissed or minimized, far from it. If any woman feels she’s been drugged and raped, she needs to get law enforcement involved and start an investigation and get justice. But as an informed member of the public, until he is proven or until he admits he is guilty, he should be given the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to clear his name in the court of law or even in the court of public opinion.

However, when almost everyone of his accusers start describing the same type of scenario of how they were assaulted, which was they were plied with pills and alcohol to render them semi-conscious and unable to give or deny consent, alarm bells were raised for me. Most of these accusers did not know each other, they were not of the same social circles and the assaults spanned decades, but their stories are eerily similar, it must be true, Bill Cosby is a serial rapist and predator. There are also famous women like former models Angie Dickinson and Beverly Johnson who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault.

Then news began to slowly filter out of how much hush money he has paid over the years to women who accused him of sexual assault. In fact, he even had a separate bank account which his wife Camille didn’t know about, for the sole purpose of paying off women he’s assaulted. Many details of the depositions he gave shed light into his real character, and it’s not the strict but lovable father everyone knows him to be on television and in his personal life. Bill Cosby was and is a sick, twisted, demented rapist who preyed on vulnerable women. He used his position and took advantage of vulnerable women who looked to him for guidance but instead he drugged and raped them. Some of his choice responses in his deposition regarding Andrea Constand can be seen here.

In his depositions he admitted to having Quaaludes handy and he did hand out Quaaludes to women but he maintains it’s for partying as it was the party drug of choice and not with the intent of incapacitating them. He also considers himself a “decent reader” of women and their sexual desires (yuck). He maintains that all of these incidents are just extramarital dalliances and when he was done with one woman he’d move on to the next. They are not calculated sexual assaults.

The black community initially came out in full force in support of Cosby, some to their own detriment. It was viewed as an attempt by the media to bring down a powerful and well respected black man. And since most of his accusers are white, it was seen as suspect from the history of the old Jim Crow days where white women routinely falsely accused black men of rape. Whoopi Goldberg defended Bill Cosby until she couldn’t, tarnishing her reputation in the process. Raven-Symone was given her first job by Bill Cosby at three years old, she wasn’t as vociferous in her defense but she found it hard to criticize Cosby without knowing all the facts, which in Raven-Symone’s case is understandable. Damon Wayans, in a crude, foul-mouthed rant on a morning radio interview defended Bill Cosby from these allegations and called some of the women “un-rapeable”. Wayans says it was the 80s, everyone did Quaaludes and had permissive sex regardless of marital status. The singer Jill Scott also defended Cosby via Twitter until the transcripts of his deposition was made public.

I can understand the support he received from the black community. I would do the same. Bill Cosby was larger than life to a lot of people. He broke open barriers for them and his was a message of positivity, achieving greatness and attaining success through education. Cosby used his platform to help his community and he did it with humor. But none of it matters if he is a rapist. All of the celebrities who openly defended Cosby except for Damon Wayans have all withdrawn their support.

Damon Wayan’s “un-rapeable” comment is very central to the current rape culture. There is this belief amongst some rapists, especially among famous and influential men, and that is, they do not need to go rape women, women throw themselves at them. To accuse the likes of Bill Cosby of rape is ridiculous. Bill Cosby doesn’t need to rape women, women get in line to go to bed with him. This has been the narrative every time a famous or influential man is accused of rape.

One of the most famous rape cases of the 1990s is the Dr. William Kennedy Smith rape trial. His attorney, Roy Black, successfully put the victim on trial instead. The sexual peccadilloes of the victim Patricia Bowman was on trial instead of his client – the good respected doctor from one of America’s most famous families. The fact that three other women made similar accusations against Dr. William Kennedy Smith, their testimony was successfully kept out of court by Roy Black. Like Bill Cosby, Dr. William Kennedy Smith put on a show for the media and the jurors. He was referred to as “Will Smith”, the famous middle name ‘Kennedy’, the maiden name of his mother Jean, was deliberately left out. Though flushed with wealth, they arrived in court everyday in a beat up 1989 Mercury and the defendant dressed very modestly. He was made to look like a choir boy. The parade of other Kennedy relatives who showed up to show solidarity and support all came in nondescript rental cars, they left their fancy cars in the driveway of their Palm Beach mansion. Prior to and for the duration of the trial, none of the Kennedys was seen out and about at Palm Beach parties or fancy eateries. They presented themselves as low-key, family oriented people who wouldn’t get caught up with something so lurid as rape allegations. This finely choreographed charade of piety and family devotion became the blueprint for all high profile rape cases.

Our justice system puts the burden of proof on the prosecution. All defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Should I ever be accused of a crime, I would fully expect my accuser to prove it and I wouldn’t do anything to help him. I would hire the best attorney I can find to fight the charges. Everyone is entitled to this right. Every defendant has the right to face their accuser in open court. Even in rape cases, if a woman (or man) is accusing someone of rape and she has chosen to come forward and allow the DA to bring charges, let her face and name be known to the public (unless she is a minor) in order to seek justice for herself, she has to be prepared to face her perpetrator in court. After all, whether he gets convicted or not will depend on her testimony. The defense attorney also has a right to question her version of events. The defense attorney’s job is to be an advocate for the defendant, he has an obligation to defend his client to the best of his ability and he will do what he needs to do to fulfill that obligation. However, it is the job of the prosecutor to protect the dignity of the victim. He cannot let the defense attorney steamroll the victim. The prosecutor is charged with representing “the people”. When a rape victim’s personal life and sex life is put on trial instead of the accused, the prosecutor needs to step in and protect the victim. To allow rape victims to be slut shamed on the stand in the name of justice is the same as raping her all over again. And this is what has been happening in rape trials. The victim is on trial. The victim has to prove she didn’t cause herself to be raped. The burden of proof fell to the victim to prove that she was raped. The scope of questioning about the victim and her personal life needs to be restricted. What she did with her boyfriend when she was 18 years old has no bearing on the current rape allegation.

It is unclear if Bill Cosby’s charges will result in a conviction. The one thing working against his victim is she accepted a confidential settlement from Bill Cosby. This usually means money was exchanged for her silence and Cosby admits no wrongdoing. Any half decent defense attorney will rip her to shreds on that point alone, her motives and credibility will be called into question. Andrea Constands tried to bring charges against Cosby in 2005 but the DA then deemed there wasn’t enough evidence. However, this current DA is confident in bringing charges because new evidence came to light and he’s confident about this case.

Rape cases are notoriously difficult to prove, especially when the parties involved knew each other previously. It’s far easier to charge and convict someone of a rape if he raped a stranger (i.e. jumping out of the bushes or breaking into her home). It would just be a question of matching the DNA to crime scene and assessing the victim’s injuries. But if the parties knew each other and was at one time friendly with one another, trying to prove rape can be a very difficult task. Also, it boils down to ‘he said she said’ where the credibility of the victim will be under the microscope. If they don’t attempt to slut shame her then they will find instances where she was less than honest. Also, because Ms. Constand was drugged, her recollection of exactly what happened may be hazy.

There’s a reason why rape and sexual assault is one of the least prosecuted crimes. It’s a crime where forensic evidence is scant. It’s a crime which relies on the credibility and recollection of the victim and during trauma and distress, it’s very easy to confuse the sequence of events. Most rape victims speak about intentionally blacking out when the rape is occurring, she would imagine herself somewhere else, anywhere but here because it’s too traumatic, so to expect rape victims to remember the sequence of events prior to and after she was raped is not realistic. Any discrepancies will be pounced on by defense attorneys, that’s their ‘reasonable doubt’. Lastly, there’s the shame of being a rape victim. If there is anything worse than being raped is everyone knowing you got raped. When a woman is raped, she is no longer just Ms. or Mrs. so-and-so, she is Ms. or Mrs. ______ and a victim of rape.

Bill Cosby is finished. His legacy is forever tarnished. All of his career and artistic achievements will forever be shadowed by the rape allegations regardless if it ends in a conviction or not. He is Bill Cosby the rapist. Not Bill Cosby the television pioneer, the stand up comedian and educator.

Reblogged Content: Things my mother never did.

This post hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a punch to the gut. This is what happens when dreams and goals are deferred indefinitely.

I am at that crossroads of being a mother and deferring my own dreams and goals. Many days sort of blend together like Groundhog Day. Some days are brutal, especially when my kids don’t listen to a goddamned thing I say. I feel more like their help than their mother.

But I don’t want this to be my daughter after I am gone. I don’t want her to carry my burden because I didn’t deal with it. I don’t want to project my issues onto her. I am responsible for living my best life, for making my dreams come true.

But here’s the thing about dreams. They don’t die quietly. Hers certainly didn’t. They tortured her with visions of a life un-lived and she stuffed them down and pushed them aside and put everyone else’s needs before her own and she drank to dull the sharp edges of pain and longing.

This is also why I write a blog no one reads. I always wanted to be a writer in some capacity, even a failed one, I always wanted to write. I don’t know if I am a good writer or not, just like I didn’t know if I was going to be an exceptional mother, except that I would figure it out when the opportunity presented itself.

When someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the first answer that popped in my head is ‘writer’, so I know that is the right answer. Writing this blog is me being accountable for and executing my dreams and goals.

I don’t want my daughter to go “shopping for the best therapist” in town when I am gone, because I projected all of my shit onto her.

Source: Things my mother never did.

Being Fat and Female

There is nothing more cruel than fate designating a woman to be fat. Being a fat woman, in the eyes of society, immediately renders you second class. Fat women are reviled and pitied in equal measure. Being a fat woman renders you a second class citizen. Being fat means you are only allowed the leftovers in life. Being fat diminishes all of your other achievements. ‘She’s got a law degree from Harvard but what a shame that she’s fat’. ‘Only if she weren’t fat, she’d be so pretty.’ Karl Lagerfeld lamented about how much prettier the singer Adele would be if she were only ‘a little’ less fat and when he was called out for fat-shaming Adele, he was incredulous as he meant it as a compliment, after all, he said she was pretty. Being fat renders all of your other achievements pointless. At least for fat men, if they have enough other compensating factors, being fat can be and usually is overlooked. He doesn’t even have to be rich. A fat man with a degree from a good college, a stable job, good credit, comes from a good family and all around nice guy, he can most likely get the girl of his dreams. But not for the fat girl. Being skinny is the compensating factor for her other flaws. If she’s got nothing else going for her, at least she’s skinny. The sitcom ‘King of Queens’ will never happen for a fat girl. A fat girl will never get a hot, good looking guy of her dreams. A fat girl will end up more like the sitcom ‘Mike and Molly’, where Mike and Molly are both fat and they spend all their waking hours trying not to be fat.

The feminist movement have tried its best to be inclusive of women of all different backgrounds: poor, rich, white, minority, educated, uneducated, high-earning, low-wage earning, young, old, straight women, sex workers, lesbians, genderqueer, cisgender and transgender women, but there is one category we are uncomfortable talking about because it’s so sensitive. And that is fat women. Yes. F-A-T. It’s uncomfortable typing the word ‘fat’ and even more uncomfortable saying it. We have invented other words to circumvent the word fat: overweight, obese, heavy, husky, curvy, round, rotund, anything, because saying the word ‘fat’ is so cringing to say and type. You almost feel dirty writing it.

In this era of people trying to be inclusive of everyone and everything (regardless if deserving or not, but as an open and enlightened society, we’ve told ourselves that we need to be tolerant of anyone and everyone, even the intolerable) yet we leave out fat people. Especially fat women. The feelings and needs of fat women can be ignored, disregarded and not even register on the radar of society for the sole reason that she’s fat, therefore she’s not worthy of being seen or heard.

Denigrating and insulting fat people is the last taboo that is allowed and tolerated. The conversation sort of changed in the last twenty years moving away from aesthetics to health. Instead of calling people fat, we use the medical term obese. Or if we want to be really technical, they are either clinically obese or if they are really really fat, we call them morbidly obese. But it all boils down to the same thing and that is they are all fat, just varying degrees of fat. We talk about the obesity epidemic, how much obese people are costing the healthcare system (not more than smokers, chronic drinkers and drug users but they don’t get all the hate). Kids in school now are fatter than ever, juvenile Type 2 diabetes rates have soared in recent years, especially among the working poor. The talking heads and health experts intone that children are fat today because their parents are most probably fat and don’t know how to feed their children properly. So on top of being poor, uneducated, stupid, bottom of the scrap heap, they are now draining the healthcare system because they are ‘unhealthy’ (another code word for fat). People who are poor are assumed to be stupid, because, as the Republicans will tell you, they are poor because they are too lazy or too stupid to pull themselves ahead. This country is the Land of Opportunity, you will get ahead if you work hard enough. You’ve got to be stupid to let your kids get fat like you too.

Millions of dollars have been spent on studying the ‘obesity epidemic’ and the results of all those studies say pretty much the same thing. When you consume more calories than you burn off, you get fat. So, if you like to eat, join the gym or engage in more physical activity. If you don’t like to go to the gym, then moderate your eating. The diet industry is a billion dollar industry and yet obesity rates are still through the roof.

But if you look deeper, just like everything else, how fat you get has very much to do with your socio-economic background. Middle to high income earners who can afford fancy grains (brown rice, quinoa, teff or couscous), fresh fruits and vegetables have an easier time controlling their weight than those who are at bottom of the economic scale. You will never see children of millionaires and billionaires fat even though they live in the lap of luxury and have access to the finest and richest foods. Even something so basic like food and nutrition has been drawn into this ugly class war. Food conglomerates have found ways to sell consumers processed food at the cheapest price possible. These processed foods are loaded with chemicals, sugar and sodium, some of them have been deemed addictive in some way. When people are too poor, they stop reading labels, they just need to feed their families and if you can get Campbell’s Soup at 2 for $1.00, then that’s what the kids are having for dinner.

In inner city and urban areas, fresh meat, seafood and produce are scarce, also known as ‘food deserts’. Many big grocery store chains don’t want to invest in inner city areas due to security issues, crime, vandalism and the question of affordability by the residents in inner city areas, especially if a substantial number of residents are on public assistance.

But a study by economists at the University of California and Michigan State shows that little progress has been made in pinpointing the real reasons that some areas become food deserts. And some possible causes are more insidious than you’d expect.

It only seems logical that if a neighborhood grocery store shuts down, another one should be allowed to move into the abandoned space. But the anti-competitive policy of deed restrictions often prevent that from happening, which leaves the neighborhood without convenient access to groceries.

In other words Deed Restriction. Safeway and Walmart have been known to use this tactic and leave their former storefronts empty but unavailable for sale or lease. Without access to fresh groceries, inner city residents are left with greasy fast food restaurants for their meals, which contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Like everything else in America, even something so essential and basic as access to food has been commercialized and stratified. Fancy supermarkets with organic foods and produce are what the middle and upper class people consume, and the greasy, processed packaged foods are what inner city folks consume. Inner city folks eat Jif’s peanut butter, but the middle and upper class people eat freshly ground organic nut butters where the sole ingredient is the nut which Whole Foods Market and its competitors have on offer for their customers. They would never dream of eating peanut butter out of a prepackaged jar. One would never see a Whole Foods Market opening in inner city of Chicago. They are lucky to get a Ralph’s and hope the Ralph’s stay open long enough for the residents to benefit.

When a woman is fat, she is denied her womanhood. She is denied her sexuality, her femininity and her basic personhood. Being fat makes you not fuckable, undesirable, and he must need a bag over his head in order to go to bed with you. There must be something so grossly wrong with you where you cannot control your weight. Fat women are bullied senseless first by their families, then by schoolyard bullies and taunted by boys. Fat women are more likely to be unemployed as well. Nobody wants to be seen with the fat girl.

If you are the fat girl you can only adopt two personas, the sweet fat girl or the funny fat girl. If you are the smart fat girl you be bullied for being smart and fat. If you are the opinionated and outspoken fat girl, you will be accused of thinking you are the cute skinny girl when you are just fat. The skinny girl can repeat the same words the fat girl just said but somehow coming from the mouth of the skinny girl, it sounds better. Just like in the boardroom, when a man and woman essentially express the same opinion, everyone will go with the man’s version. The woman was just nagging.

Without getting to know the person, society assumes the worst from fat people. To allow yourself to become so fat, you must not take pride in your appearance, you must be lazy. You probably smell and you are most definitely a slob. Fat girls have tried to overcompensate for their fatness by being overly nice. They become doormats for the popular skinny girls. They become doormats for their boyfriends who treat them like trash or have a fetish for fat girls, after all, society tells them, they are lucky to even have a boyfriend. And if you are so unfortunate to be fat, you must get a good personality real fast. There is nothing more revolting to society than a fat girl who is loud, opinionated and outspoken. Just think how few people came to Rosie O’Donnell’s defense when Donald Trump publicly bullied her about her weight. She was treated as if she deserved what she got, for opening her big fat mouth about Donald Trump.

Fellow blogger, Cute Girl with a Banjo’s mother was a proud overweight woman who spoke her mind:

I began to notice how many people looked at my mother with contempt. I observed their posture, and the looks on their faces when they spoke to her. They hated her. Even when she was being nice (which she mostly was), she seemed to rub people the wrong way. Especially men. It always seemed to me that most men couldn’t stand my mother. After all, she had a triple whammy of “unlikable” traits: she was fat, outspoken and female.

This issue of weight is personal to me because I was always made to be aware of my weight growing up. I grew up in a family of skinny women on both sides of  my family. I was skinny but curvy, which to my mother’s side of the family was ‘fat’ because of my developed chest and hips. My mother’s family comprised of small skinny Chinese women who are 100 lbs soaking wet. But I was proud of my figure because it was admired by westerners and by western standards I was thin. And in my not-so-good moments, I rubbed into the noses of my thin, flat chested family members. I was 5’8″ and 120 lbs at my best weight. And I maintained this weight without dieting. I had a few things in my favor, from the ages of 6 to 18, I was a vegetarian. I also didn’t suffer from a sweet tooth and I didn’t like carbonated drinks, so that naturally kept about 30 lbs off. I ate as I pleased but I knew how moderate and I rarely overate. I wasn’t an emotional eater. I ate when I got hungry and stopped when I was three-quarters full.

My father had a pathological hatred for fat people, especially fat women. This is a fact I am very embarrassed to talk about but it’s true and were he alive today, he wouldn’t hesitate to admit it. And God rest his soul, but his fat-phobia irritated me to no end. He disliked one of my cousins for no other reason than she’s been overweight for most of her adult life. He didn’t even care to know his niece because he was so revolted by the fat. This cousin also happens to be the daughter of the brother with whom he had a bad falling out with, but when we spoke of her, he only thought of her weight and it disgusted him. It also made me think, should I be unfortunate enough to inherit the fat gene, he wouldn’t love me as much. Knowing my dear old dad, this was a very strong possibility. It wasn’t an issue we discussed much because of its sensitive nature. I was just glad I wasn’t fat. I had enough problems already, I didn’t need those daddy issues.

Since I had my second child two years ago, there are thirty stubborn pounds which just won’t leave my body. Granted, I haven’t increased my activity level simply because there’s not enough time but I am keeping to a healthy diet. I assumed my body will bounce back postpartum because I was the girl who could eat whatever I wanted. But it didn’t happen that way. Even with my extra postpartum weight, I am nowhere near the fat category but I find myself feeling badly about my weight, which was something I never felt before. I feel as though my best days are behind me all because of this extra thirty pounds (it’s ridiculous, I know). I am still determined to lose it, but it’s just not coming off the way I expect it to.

My obsession with my inability to lose my extra postpartum weight has forced me to confront my own issues with fat-phobia. What is it about my extra thirty pounds, which really just renders me more curvy than before that is bothering me so much? Am I worried about belonging to the ‘fat’ tribe? To no longer be seen as the skinny girl? Did I subconsciously adopt the numbers on the scale as part of my identity?

And what is society’s disgust with fat people? And why does the feminist movement always skirt around this very sensitive topic. Since the medical profession got involved and gave it a medical diagnosis – obesity, feminists have left this very sensitive subject in the hands of capable doctors but it’s just a way to not deal with the problem of the poor treatment of fat women.

If the numbers on a scale are just that, numbers and nothing more. And if the reason one woman is heavier or lighter than the next woman is nothing more than genetics or lifestyle choice, we would not have such an emotional response to our weight. But the numbers on the scale are not just numbers. Those numbers represent a major part of our identity. It represents where our pecking order in society is. It represents whether we are considered desirable or not, whether we are worthy or not, whether we deserved to be loved for who we are as we are, not after we’ve lost x number of pounds.

Talking about all of this here has made me extremely uncomfortable, especially because I have never been fat before (outside of my pregnancies). And as such I don’t feel I have a right to speak about this very sensitive issue, even if I am advocating for equal treatment for fat people.

A common retort by non-fat men and women alike are, if you don’t want to be mistreated for being fat, then just lose weight. This is bigoted, unfair and wrong as fat people shouldn’t be bullied for their weight to begin with, regardless of the reason why they are fat. And as I have personal experience, losing excess weight is not so easy.

Having said all this, it doesn’t diminish the obesity crisis. It is a crisis. But is a crisis manufactured and prolonged by food poverty, the inaccessibility to fresh and unprocessed foods and fetishizing healthy eating. Healthy eating has become a dominion of the upper classes. Eating fancy, exotic, healthy and ‘clean’ diets has become a ‘lifestyle’ choice of the upper classes, thereby driving up the prices and easy access to fresh food and produce. Encouraging people to keep their weight at healthy levels is necessary and needs to be done, but it can’t be accomplished by shaming fat people to lose weight. Shaming people into doing anything has never worked. Also, what’s never discussed is, being thin does not automatically equal healthy. There are plenty of unhealthy thin people out there, people who smoke, do drugs, drink to excess, eat unhealthily as well but it doesn’t translate to weight gain, where is the boiling scorn for those people who are draining the healthcare system?

Catholic and Pro-Choice

I am a practicing Catholic. Being a Catholic is part of who I am. I subscribe to the Church’s message of hope, love, mercy, kindness and social justice. I like to think I try my best to practice these teachings in my daily interactions. And in the places where I’ve failed, I should try harder.

I also believe in the sanctity of life. I believe life begins at conception and ends with the last draw of natural breath. I believe life is the most precious thing and needs to be preserved, during any stage, at any age, with equal consideration to the health and wellbeing of all parties (mother and child). I am always moved to tears to see premature babies in the NICU, hooked up to tubes and machines, struggling for every breath, living in the incubator with the hope that they can exit this man-made cocoon and join its parents. It is equally moving to see mothers and fathers make the ultimate sacrifice for their children at the drop of a hat.

Life should be treated with the respect it deserves. And this includes people in which society has discarded: criminals, gangsters, serial rapists, child molesters, the scums of the earth, members of the LGBTQ community, poor and disenfranchised people, all of these people’s lives are important, not just unborn children and cute cuddly babies. The Catholic church deems all human life important regardless what they’ve done or who they’ve become. For the most hardened of criminals or people, as long as they still have breath in their body, there is a chance for reform and redemption. My confirmation priest worked with juvenile delinquents, he has personally seen people transform before him, with his quiet guidance, counsel and non-judgement, some people can and do change. When people change and when they know they’ve been forgiven, you can literally see a weight come off of their shoulders.

So, in a perfect world, where ideal circumstances always prevail, abortion should not have to happen. Forget about politics, the law, medical science or religion; in a perfect world, abortion does not need to happen. Period.

I am pro-choice. And I am Catholic.

I am not a simpleton. We do not live in a perfect world and circumstances are far from ideal for the majority of women in this world. Sometimes, a woman being with child, besides being an inconvenience due to circumstance, can be dangerous and perilous to her physical person. In parts of the world where young girls are trafficked and sold, where child bride practices are rampant, it can be unsafe, dangerous and perhaps deadly for a physically immature young girl to have a baby. A ten year old girl is not fit to have a child, the fact that she got pregnant doesn’t mean she’s physically ready and able to have a child. For people (such as Mike Huckabee) to believe just because she’s able to get pregnant (she was raped by her step-father), therefore, she must be physically fit to carry a child to term and deliver said baby from the hips of a ten year old child, is ignorance and misogyny of the first order. To disregard the human rights and wellbeing of a ten year old girl (also a child) in favor of her unborn child is barbarous and depraved.

Most mothers are willing to sacrifice themselves for their children (unborn or not). Mothers will endure untold physical pain and discomfort if that is what’s best for her unborn child. So, in cases where a decision needs to be made between  mother or unborn child, the focus of the medical team should be placed more on the mother and not the unborn child. The unborn child already has an advocate in its mother. The mother has no advocate.

So if a ten year old gets pregnant as a result of a rape, then an abortion needs to happen. If a child bride who was sold so her family won’t starve and her pregnancy is presenting mortal harm to her physical person, the pregnancy should be terminated if she wishes. If a pregnant woman is wheeled into the emergency room and she’s got uncontrollable bleeding and the only way to stop it is to terminate her pregnancy or deliver her child early, it should be done without hemming and hawing and deliberating about the ‘rights’ of the unborn child and consulting the lawyers and state laws (I am talking to you Texas). Of course, if the mother is conscious, it is to be done with her consent.

Most women in the world do not have the choice to become pregnant when they wish. They have very little to no control over their reproductive cycles. In third world and some developing countries, young girls and women are still routinely trafficked and sold. Many women are married against their wishes, sometimes when they are just children. Quality maternity care is often rare to non-existent in some parts of the world. Many women still risk their lives during labor and delivery. Safe and legal abortions needs to be readily available for all women, especially in times of medical emergencies. A medical emergency is when the mother is in physical danger and the only way to stop the emergency, when all other efforts have failed, is to terminate the pregnancy or early delivery of baby if she’s in later stages of her pregnancy. It is not what the church or a conservative pro-life doctor considers as a medical emergency.

I have been pregnant three times in my life, one resulted in a miscarriage, two healthy children were born and I am beyond blessed. What’s more, all three of my pregnancies were planned. I am one of the few lucky and privileged women where the possibility of getting an abortion did not factor into my childbearing years. Since I became an adult, I had the resources to be in full control of my reproductive cycle because I could always access contraceptives. What a woman does with her body is one of the most controversial debates which is still ongoing today. Just how much control should a woman have over her own body? When is permissible to override her decision about her body? (The answers are total control and never).

There is also an emotional aspect too. For every aborted child, there is a couple desperate to have a child of their own. For every woman who is suffering from infertility and has endured multiple painful miscarriages and failed fertility treatments, there is another teenage mother about to deliver her child or another woman about to give birth to yet another unplanned baby. For every woman (guilty as charged) who is complaining about the tedium, rigors and boredom of childrearing, there is another woman desperate for a baby of her own. The Universe works in mysterious ways in which we do not understand. Life is unfair, most people know and accept that, but when applied to sensitive issues such as pregnancy, childbearing, infertility and abortion, the lines get blurred.

Society, or patriarchal institutions rather, was always able to control women through our bodies. Pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing renders us vulnerable and totally dependent on the father of the children. More vulnerable than say an unmarried woman or a woman who’s passed her childbearing years. Childbearing and childrearing kept women chained and tied to their homes and and the inability to control how many children a woman wants to have makes that chain even more unbreakable. Women and their children are often derisively described as the ‘ball and chain’ of her husband, but the real ball and chain is the inability to control what happens to our bodies. Throughout history, until the invention and wide distribution and use of contraceptives, childbearing was a double edged sword. A woman must have children with her husband to maintain her position in society or at least in her social group, but if she has too many children, her health, wellbeing and family economics can be threatened. The key was always for women to be able to effectively control how many children she wants to have. Only this will shift the balance from men to women.

The one glaring in truth which the Catholic church and right-wing, misogynist conservatives refuse to acknowledge is having more children than you can support contributes to long term, entrenched, generational poverty. One way of reducing poverty everywhere, not just the developing and third world countries is to  make female contraceptives available and accessible to all women who wish to use it. This not political positioning, it’s not flouting religious dogma, it’s common sense. It’s basic math. When a family has more children than the parent or parents can support with their income, poverty arises and women bear most of the brunt of this poverty.

All life is precious. All life is deserving and worthy of having the basic necessities met. No one deserves to live in squalor and deprivation. No woman or young girl deserves to die due to a high risk pregnancy and nothing was done about it in the name of her ‘unborn child’. This is not valuing life, this is desecrating the life of a woman, a child, a mother (if she already has other children) or a future mother. Sometimes we are forced to make tough choices in life, we are forced to choose between no-good options and hope for the best. In the case of a mother and her unborn child, especially if the child is not yet viable outside of the uterus, the choice is obvious. You choose life. The life of the mother. Risking the life of a woman for the unborn child, especially when the baby is not yet viable, is devaluing and debasing the life of the mother.

Idle, Depressed and Addicted: The Plight of Middle Aged White People

When the research published by Princeton University came out, which says whites between the ages of 45-55, with a high school education or less are dying of drug overdoses, alcoholism and suicide probably linked to depression, underemployment (or unemployment) and the general feeling of malaise amongst the American white working class, shockwaves were felt amongst the social scientists. After all, this was a phenomena only in America, other middle aged white people in developed nations are living longer and better. However, upon closer examination of the research data, it’s further revealed that working class women with lower education levels are dying at higher rates than their male counterparts. This is the real shock, because throughout most of human history, with all risk factors considered, women almost always outlive men across every social strata. The reasoning is women by nature are caretakers and so they visit the doctors sooner rather than later when they feel they’ve a health issue and women engage in less dangerous and risky activities than men, which can contribute to premature death. Prior to advancements in modern medicine, the biggest health risk to a woman is childbirth, as it can go spectacularly well or its exact opposite.

The economy has been brutal for those who are not academically inclined or entrepreneurial. Americans who do not wish to or cannot afford to go to college (even that’s no guarantee anymore) and are not entrepreneurial by nature do not have factory jobs to fall back on anymore. Those factories have upped and relocated to Mexico, China, South East Asia where corporations don’t have to deal with unions. In the 2008 recession, whatever was left of the car-making industry died too. So, the old creed of having a ‘strong pair of hands’ and good work ethic won’t help working class folks anymore. This may not mean much for those of us who live in major metropolitan areas on the East and West coasts, but factory work was a lifeline for those who live in the Midwest and the South.

I do not fall into these demographics, I am a late Gen X, we have our own problems but as of right now, premature death from prolonged abuse of drugs and alcohol isn’t one of them (yet). Late Gen X and Millennials still have the benefit of youth and the vigor which comes with youth to push through our obstacles before we grow tired and weary.

I attribute a lot the drinking and drugging the pain away to the changing American economic landscape and in particular our ethos of hard work.

The concept of hard work, industry and strong work ethic is the ethos of Americanism. America was built on these concepts. If one isn’t hardworking they are deemed useless. We don’t have to all become millionaires but we all must work hard in our chosen field to the best of our ability and if we are lucky, we can amass more wealth than our parents or grandparents, or in a word, upward mobility. For any self-respecting American this is a must. And our country for a long time benefited from this ethos, some would argue it’s how our nation was built. We stood out from our European peers in our willingness to work harder and longer without complaint. We expected to earn our living and not have one handed to us. There is no ‘la dolce vita’, stop and smell the roses here in America, that’s for losers. The fact that a whole self-help movement sprung up just to encourage people to stop and smell the roses is evident we are seriously lacking in enjoying the simplicities of life.

This concept is great if work is plenty, such as the post World War II boom years until Reaganomics. But what if there aren’t jobs available for everyone who is able bodied and wishes to work? Temp agencies are now testing people for math and writing skills for a retail job at Macy’s, who knows, Walmart might require a physics degree next in order to be employed with them and earning just above minimum wage. It would be one thing if these low wage, low status jobs led to higher wage, higher prestige jobs, but they don’t, they are dead end jobs to nowhere. Is it dignified to ask someone of a certain age to work these low wage low status jobs, competing with younger high school or college graduates? And to expect them to do these jobs without complaint or resentment, to expect them to answer to a manager who is half their age and is still living in their mother’s basement? Does anyone in their forties or fifties want to work at Walmart or a fast food job if they’ve other choices?

The Republicans are telling Americans it’s the obligation of any out-of -work person to take any job that’s available, regardless if it’s light years away from their skills set or previous experience. For example, out-of-work accountants who refuse to work at McDonalds and would rather continue to collect Unemployment Benefits (which is totally within their rights to do so) in hopes of finding a job that’s in keeping with their skills and experience are now in the Republican’s category of new losers (after the welfare queen and food stamp bum).

For all the jobs that were lost, no effort has been made to replace them (in quantity and wages). No Democrat or Republican administration has put in serious effort into retraining workers who’ve lost their jobs, especially if the job loss was due to factories shutting down, which is no fault of their own. The ‘they can go back to school and get a new degree’ is nonsense. What if they have children to feed and a mortgage to pay right now, do you really expect them to go back to school, rack up student loan debt without any possible guarantee of a more lucrative job only to end up more indebted, especially if they go to these for profit colleges.

Especially for economically deprived areas, in absence of well paying, skilled factory jobs, the only jobs which are available are low paying, customer service, fast food and other light industrial work, which offer no job security nor benefits. Does society expect someone 45-55 years old, who have been gainfully employed until recent years to be satisfied with this type of work and wage until their retiring days? A lot of people in this age group probably have children, besides the inability to adequately provide for their family, there’s also an element of shame. No parent wants to admit to their children they can’t provide the the lifestyle they were accustomed to, or to tell their children all the little extra creature comforts (playing basketball, piano lessons, dance lessons, the accoutrements of middle class life) is no more because mommy and daddy can no longer afford it. In fact, mommy and daddy have trouble affording the basics. This alone is enough to drive people to despair.

The alarming rate of white women, middle aged, high school and below education dying at alarming rates, I’d argue feminism has failed them. The feminist movement was started by middle class women with education and some means who sought to include all women in their struggle for equal rights. However, the modern feminist movement are headed by people like Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ellen Pao, all of whom are well educated, have advanced degrees, high earning, high status women. And the other side of the feminism movement is headed by minority and Black Lives Matter activists, who seek to include all minority and marginalized women (transgender, sex-workers) in their fight for equal rights. The one group, a rather silent group who are left behind are white women who are not high earning, who do not have advanced degrees and are at the bottom of the economic heap. These women are assumed to be coasting by on white privilege alone.

It’s not reasonable to tell a woman working at Taco Bell to ‘lean-in’ at board meetings. First of all, there are no board meetings. Second, if she complains about her wage theft and being made to work many overtime hours unpaid, she’d get fired or hours reduced and now with employers making employees sign employment contracts which contain arbitration agreements, workers have less rights than ever. This is not to dismiss the sexism and discrimination high earning women face, but the feminist movement failed to recognize the needs of the low wage, lower educated women.

The feminist movement with respect to the men, we’ve pushed men who’ve no use to us aside. Some of us have lost compassion, patience and tolerance for men who are down on their luck and are very quick to toss them aside when they are of no more use to us. Meaning, if the men cannot provide (through job loss) but are unwilling to step up and help with childcare to the standard we demand. And because of job loss and are unable to find gainful employment again begins drinking too much or abusing drugs, most women today have no patience for this sort of thing. Many women have multi-tasking down to an art, we’ve learned to adapt to our surroundings quickly, many of us survive on less sleep, less leisure time, less ‘me’ time and though we realizing how taxing it is, we demand the same from our significant other. Also, childcare and parenting is a hot button topic amongst couples now, and many women have no problem moving on from marriages and relationships if they find themselves incompatible in the parenting department with their significant other. The view that we should compromise for the sake of the family is no longer as prevalent as women begin earning more money. 

The reasons why middle aged, low wage, lower educated white people are dying at alarming rates are many and varied and to find one main reason and apply that reason across the board would be absurd. But most of society’s ills can be traced to, according to Sir William Beveridge, the creator of the modern welfare state in Great Britain, the ‘Five Giant Evils’ of ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’. And I’d argue the last one, ‘idleness’ is the most evil of them all. When one is idle, all the other ‘evils’ follow it, but when one is occupied, be it with a job, parental duties, hobbies, community service, volunteer work, it takes care of the ‘want’, ‘ignorance’ and ‘squalor’.

Perhaps for America, it’s time to move away from the notion that one must be in the process of being upwardly mobile to deserve respect from society. There’s nothing wrong with having a lack of strong ambition. Not everyone is born ambitious with the need to conquer the world. There is respectability and dignity in earning a decent living, being happy with that and enjoying the time off when one isn’t working. Must we convince everyone, in order to be considered successful by any measure, we must work down to our bones and chase the next promotion? Must our whole identity be tied to what we do for a living? Isn’t being a good friend, loyal companion, animal lover, good parent, good daughter or son and all around good person enough? It ought to be.

 

Germaine Greer – The Feminist Who Won’t Back Down (Nor Should She)

Feminist and author Germaine Greer kicked up a shitstorm when she said she does not believe a transgendered woman is a real woman. She makes clear that this view is her personal view and it’s an opinion, her own opinion, which last she checked, she was still allowed to have one, even if it runs contrary to political correctness.

I am not here to debate whether her statement is correct or not. I am not a gender expert and I’ve had the privilege of being a heterosexual cisgender woman. As Ms. Greer said said, it’s an opinion, her own opinion, derived of her own mind and she’s free to have this opinion without apologizing or being abused by the public for it. Ms. Greer is an easy target. She made her name on being a radical feminist and is equally unapologetic about that as well. Her views are left of crazy at times but she is using hyperbole to illustrate the everyday misogyny a woman faces, where a woman doesn’t even know she’s being misogynized. In her view, fighting for equal rights starts with the small trifles everyday. The catcalls, the snide remarks a woman gets (from both sexes) when she’s near that time of month. The assumptions made about a woman when she’s on her period, when she’s pregnant or menopausal are all unacceptable. After all we don’t discuss men and their personalities with respect to their receding hairline, their expanding waistline, the age where certain functions south of the border loses its agility or any other physical changes. So why is it acceptable to make assumptions about women at certain transitions in their lives? Why is it acceptable to make fun of women and their physical appearance as they age, after they have children or any other naturally occurring changes?

Germaine Greer didn’t state her opinion on transgendered women out of bigotry. She made her opinion based on what she thinks makes a woman which includes her life lived from birth to adulthood as a woman. It’s her belief that one cannot be a ‘man’ for most of his life, enjoy the benefits and privileges of being a ‘man’; granted he may be tortured inside due to gender identity crisis, but as far as society is concerned he is still a man and is afforded the respect a man gets and the minute he transitions into a woman she gets to enjoy some sort of hero status for being ‘authentic’ or ‘brave’ and overshadow all the other women who were born women and lived their whole lives as women and suffered the misogyny that comes with being a woman. This is not an unreasonable point to argue. It’s not a popular view given today’s intellectually challenged and emotionally incontinent population, but it’s valid and worthy of debate.

Greer was to give a lecture at Cardiff University about women and power but due to the uproar her comments about transgendered women caused, there is a petition going around demanding her lecture be canceled. The BBC made a rather misguided attempt to interview her to get her to apologized for her comments, not only did she not apologize, she didn’t back down and no matter how the interviewer reframed the question to bait her, she never bit.

The trend these days is when people have too much to drink or is having a particularly opinionated day, they tweet, blog or say something on their mind, their truth but perhaps not totally politically correct. The other twits on Twitter or elsewhere have nothing better to do and attack the position of the ‘offensive’ tweet, comment or blog, all assumed identities hidden behind a computer screen. And the person that made the original statement goes into overdrive to backtrack, clarify and elaborate what they really meant to begin with and then followed with an apology: ‘If anyone was offended, it was not my intention, I am sorry’. It’s like a pathetic bad Hollywood script. If that’s how you feel about something, then own it. If it’s not palatable to be said out loud then don’t get loose fingers or lips and tweet, blog or say it. If you said it and you did not misspeak and that’s your truth then own it too. In other words, grow a pair, own your thoughts, own your beliefs. Since when did people become so soft spined, where they worry about the opinion of the twits that are tweeting?

Ms. Greer basically told everyone they can fuck off. She won’t be giving the lecture after all, since all everyone wants to talk about is transgendered issues (not an area she’s ever talked or written much about) and Caitlyn Jenner, which she has choice words for. Bravo to her. She told the BBC reporter, she’s 76 years old, she doesn’t need this shit, to be abused by the public for expressing her opinion. She stated clearly she’s not transphobic, nor is she encouraging or spreading transphobia by stating her opinion that a transgendered woman in her view isn’t a real woman. For those that say she’s inciting transphobic hatred and violence, she told them to get a life. She has total respect for transgender people and will always address them with the correct pronouns.

In her opinion, to be a woman, one must experience the highs and lows of being a woman from birth to adulthood. You don’t get to enjoy your status as a privileged male, getting glory, accolades awards in sports as a male (paging the former Bruce Jenner) and then you transition to a woman and you are suddenly inundated with awards for ‘being a woman’, when she’s only been a woman for ten minutes. What about all the other women who’ve been women their whole lives, doing work on behalf of other women or humanity for most of their lives. Where are her awards for bravery and authenticity? Where are her accolades?

This Caitlyn Jenner thing, it’s getting fucking old. She gets more comments about her surgically enhanced looks than anything she’s really accomplished as a woman. Besides bringing transgender awareness to the public, which is very noble and very important, but again, she’s doing it for ten minutes, her achievements as a woman still remains to be seen. It’s not so easy to become a ‘woman’ as I am sure Caitlyn Jenner is all too aware now. All those surgeries she underwent was probably the easy part.

There are scores of men and women who do the difficult work of bringing transgender awareness to the public, educating parents and family members, providing counseling and guidance to transgendered children, what are their names? Where are their awards? Where are their accolades and magazine covers?

Feminism and Catholicism

Feminism and Catholicism, a very incongruous concept. Chalk and cheese. Oil and water. Fundamentally incompatible.

I consider myself to be both.

The role of women as prescribed by the Catholic church is the secondary role of caregiving, mother, nurse or if you are called to any holy orders a nun. How we are to express ourselves is limited. Sexual expression is limited to the confines of marriage only. Women are to hold themselves to a higher standard when compared to men. Women are made to be responsible for sustaining our marriages, our children, the happiness of our family, whereas men are also responsible, but there is more leniency towards the men.

Feminism is the opposite of all of that. And the church I belong to and love very much have often spoken about a ‘feminist conspiracy’ to bring down the church. Very Adam and Eve like narrative, really old and so untrue. The attacks on American nuns doing God’s work by helping the poor were charged with anti-church practices because they didn’t advocate the pro-life message strong enough, instead they chose to focus on anti-poverty. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that having excessive children in which you cannot provide for is one of the the direct causes of poverty. The nuns didn’t hand out birth control pills, give them addresses to abortion clinics or even advocate any sort of non-church approved natural family planning, they simply chose to focus on the reasons why they are in poverty and try to alleviate it, and if it happens to be, as is usually the case, having excessive amount of children then they would find ways to discourage that. A full investigation was ordered by the Vatican to look into the activities of these nuns. To their credit, they didn’t bow down to the pressure, they continued doing God’s work and the investigation was later dismissed with no sanctions against the nuns. If I were the Vatican I would focus on trying to get pedophile priests out of the priesthood but before that, teach them to keep thy hands to thyselves and pants firmly zipped up. It would be a good place to start.

The main reason why I remain a Catholic today is because of all the amazing women and selfless men of the church who do God’s work and not just stand at the pulpit and preach in their ornate robes (though that’s nice too, I love Mass rites). They get in the trenches go to godforsaken places and do the work often at great personal danger to themselves. When I meet these people and hear of their stories, their selfless sacrifice for creature comforts of the world to tend to the downtrodden and fight for social justice, I know there is, too, a place for me in this big corrupt organization known as the Catholic Church. My views may be more progressive than the average nun but because I hold the same beliefs of mercy, justice, salvation and redemption, this is the church for me.

In every big, powerful and wealthy organization, there is bound to be corruption and in the case of the Catholic church, it’s no different. The Catholic church is unique in the sense that it’s powerbase is run exclusively by men, much older men who’s never worked a day in the real world, who have never been married, do not know what it’s like to run a family, manage a career and support the household finances and yet they make themselves the moral authority on these things. As much as I have loved all of the local parish priests I’ve known throughout my life, they would be the last people I would go to for marital advice or any sort of advice that involves my day-to-day life. That’s not to say they can’t offer insight or wisdom on my everyday struggles and provide spiritual counseling, but to expect sound concrete advice from a priest who has lived under the protection of the Catholic church, that’s like extracting blood from a turnip.

Catholic nuns also are not married and most haven’t worked in the real world, but because they deliver babies, take care of the sick, look after people who can’t look after themselves, they have intimate access to see what it’s like for a struggling family in ways others can’t. They see what it’s like first hand when a family has too many children in which they can’t support, so it would follow that their views on the church’s strict doctrine against contraception and avoidance of pregnancy is not as rigid than their fellow priests.

All that being said, the church will not amend its views now or anytime soon regarding the progressive issues of our society today.

Same Sex Marriage – never going to happen. The current pope or any future pope will never, under any circumstance, stand at the papal balcony in the Vatican, host a mass marriage ceremony after Christmas mass, offer apologies to all of the persecuted homosexuals and sing kumbaya. It will never happen and it shouldn’t happen. If it’s the church’s view that same-sex marriage or homosexual relations isn’t allowed, they should be allowed to express that view. I know many gay practicing catholics, who live a gay lifestyle have no problem waltzing up the altar to receive his or her communion and at the same time, they also respect their church’s position on the subject.

Abortion – except in the case where a mother’s life is threatened, will never be tolerated. Life begins at conception and ends at natural death. I find this to be true and reasonable. The church will not change its views on that even if it makes women who’ve had abortions (for whatever reason) feel shameful. The church’s stance on abortion isn’t about shaming women, it’s about protecting life, all lives, including the old and infirm, people on death row – not just cute little unborn babies, the church values all lives, including that serial killer sitting on death row (Republican Party – take note). Once we (the human race) start to decide whose life is more valuable and why then we are on a slippery slope. This is however the church’s stance, a religious stance. This should not ever spillover to the secular government. I am a firm believer of separation of church and state. The church has a right to believe and teach what it wants to teach, as long as their followers do not object, but it has no right to influence public policy and laws to suit its own teachings. They can get their message out in many platforms without having to influence our lawmakers and change our laws.

On the issue of abortion, there’s no black and white. Each individual woman choose abortion for many different reasons, each reason is personal and painful and it’s a private matter. The bottom line is abortion needs to be legal, safe and accessible for those that need it. Period. End of Story.

There’s no need for the Catholic church or any church to get their panties in a wad about the abortion issue because, last I checked, they aren’t offering abortion services. No one is forcing them to offer abortion services. They don’t even offer information about artificial contraception. So, they are in no way violating their religious beliefs. If they are afraid that people who work in Planned Parenthood will go to hell for the 3% of abortions they carry out each year and feel the need to save their souls, they should look inward and save their own souls, or do what they do best, pray for all the ugly sinners.

Divorce and subsequent remarriage – the church is finally budging on this issue. Divorce in the Western world is at 50% and they are budging because they are losing members to divorce. If I were the pope and I took a business perspective, this is bad for business and I would try to amend the prohibitive cost and rules around getting an annulment.

The sex thing – according to church doctrine, sex is only between and husband and wife (yeah right), any other form of sex is fornication or adultery. Though not directly addressed, even the antediluvian cardinals in the Vatican know that many people are having sex everywhere and anywhere without regard to their relationship status. Frankly, anything the Catholic church has to say about sex and how it’s done will be greeted with a collective universal yawn. Next. They’ve lost all credibility on this issue. Look in your own backyard, clean up your house first. Next.

Women priests – my views are more complicated about this issue. The suggestion of having women priests is to provide a counterbalance to all the testosterone on top of the Catholic hierarchy. If men and women came together to make decisions about the church, then the church would be more equal, less corrupt and would serve its followers better.

This sounds good in theory and on paper, but difficult to implement. To create a woman priesthood ministry, new cannon and laws would have to be written to accommodate women priests, this alone could take decades. New seminaries would have to be built and new processes and procedures would have to be enacted quickly to accommodate women wishing to join the priesthood. And then there’s issue of whether Catholics around the world, especially in developing and Thirld World countries where most new converts are won, will accept women priests as most Third World countries are patriarchal societies.

If the goal is to introduce gender balance and equality in the top echelon and decisionmaking levels of the Vatican, so that not all major decisions are made by geriatric priests, another solution to that could be to create a leadership organization amongst the holy orders so that nuns can be elected or appointed to leadership positions, whose authority is the same as the local parish, bishop and cardinal. The church could elevate the position of women from caretaking roles to leadership and decision making roles.

The Vatican is racking its brain to solve the pedophile priest problem without reducing the number of existing priests and seminarian recruits, as there is already a worldwide priest shortage. There is only one solution. All priests that have been accused of improper sexual conduct involving a minor needs to be investigated as soon as possible and during the investigation, that priest needs to be suspended until he is cleared of the allegations. If the allegations turn out to be true, he needs to lose his robes. The end. People who are prone to pedophilia cannot, under any circumstance be around children, and most definitely cannot be in a position of moral authority. He needs to go get treatment, seek help get away from the parish. He needs to be disrobed. End of. It’s not that hard. It doesn’t require decades deliberation, Vatican meetings and empty apologies. He just needs to go.

Having married priests may not necessarily solve the problem as pedophiles come in all manners. And the Vatican’s assertion that the pedophiles are homosexuals are just wrong and offensive. A homosexual does not equal pedophile. They are two separate things. The reason why the priesthood attracts so many pedophile is the culture of secrecy. A priest instead of being reported to the police, he’s reported to his archdiocese and he can always wiggle his way out of the accusations. He can disappear for awhile and reappear at another parish and it goes on and on until the allegations become too much and the church cannot hide it anymore. If the church had a more transparent policy of dealing with improper conduct from its clergy, it would not draw so much ire and criticism from the secular world.

Finally, the role of women, laywomen in particular needs to evolve beyond the wife and mother model, as so eloquently put by Gina Messina-Dysert in her piece, The Francis Blindspot. She says though pope Francis has talked about expanding the role of women in the church, there’s been little action and like all good Catholic boys, romanticizes the role of motherhood:

There are clear issues with such a romanticizing.  To begin with, there are many women who are unable to bear children, or who are not called to the role of motherhood.  What does this mean for these women?  Are their lives less important?

There are women regardless of the ability to have a child choose not to. They choose to put their passions into other equally fulfilling things besides motherhood. Women today besides being mothers fulfill a multitude of other roles, entrepreneurs, CEOs, the loving aunt, high achieving career woman, a go getter, all of which don’t involve the use of her uterus. This should be celebrated by the church as well.

The church likes to promote this earth mother image of a woman. If she’s not yet a mother, it should be her ultimate goal. As Messina-Dysert points out,

Addressing reproductive health and wellness is critical to the pope’s goal of prioritizing the needs of those living in poverty. Data demonstrate that two-thirds of low wage jobs are held by women.  In addition, women are more likely to head single parent households.  Family structure and poverty are deeply intertwined with nearly 40% of single mothers impoverished.  Women disproportionately cover the costs of contraception spending approximately 70% more than men each year. Lack of healthcare and high costs of contraception contribute to a lack of reproductive health services for women. As a result, women living below the poverty line are five times more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy which leads to significant consequences for childbearing outcomes.

The church’s position against using contraception was always confusing to me, since nowhere in the Bible discusses anything against limiting family size. The Bible does encourage people go forth and ‘multiply’ but this was written in antiquity, where the life expectancy of women is 40 if she’s lucky with high infant mortality rate and the concept of birth control or limiting one’s family size wasn’t even discussed. Yet they take that supposition and insert it into the 21st century where contraception is abundantly available and cost effective. Children are a gift from God, if under the right circumstances, no parent wants to bring a child into poverty and instability. When a family is struggling under the weight of too many offspring and the ability to adequately feed, house, clothe and educate said children, it’s a strain on everyone. It causes social problems, of which the church isn’t interested in solving. In Third World countries, where contraceptives should be handed out like candy to alleviate poverty and spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but instead to preach traditional Catholic values to already impoverished populations is cynical and irresponsible, especially when contraceptives are now cost effective and easily available.

As the world population becomes more enlightened by the ‘facts of life’ and the realization that excessive childbearing leads to a life of  unnecessary poverty, lack and suffering, of which women take most of the brunt. These outmoded and outdated teachings of the church will be wholly rejected, even in developing and Third World countries. Throughout history, women have bore the brunt of childrearing and the poverty that result if the family doesn’t have enough resources to raise those children properly. It’s the woman that sacrifices her education, her career, her earning years to care for those children. It’s not rocket science, too many children but not enough income or earning potential will lead to poverty and a life of unnecessary suffering, which no God wants.

To most rational thinking people, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. No life is harmed, no life is destroyed, only prevented. Prevention is far far better than the alternatives, abortion or a child born to extreme poverty, all because of some outdated church doctrine.

For those that preach against providing contraceptive access to all women regardless of income level should then be prepared to raise a child that are born to women due to lack of contraceptives. So far, no one has been willing to take on that burden.

Slaughter’s Husband Speaks

Three years ago Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former director of policy planning for the State Department under Secretary Hillary Clinton, wrote a piece for The Atlantic called ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’. It was published soon after she left the State Department and returned to her position as a tenured law professor at Princeton University. The reason she gave then was per Princeton University’s policy, if she left her post for more than two years then her tenure would be revoked, therefore she had to leave her ‘dream job’ at the State Department.

While this was technically the truth, the real truth however, the one that was not disclosed publicly at the time which is her older son was going off the rails at school and her husband, who had been the main caregiver since she began her job at the State Department could not resolve the situation on his own, a ‘maternal’ influence was needed. In plain speak, her children needed their mommy (she has 2 sons), and like millions of women in America (and elsewhere), she had to give up her dream job, the job that she worked her whole life for, to tend to the needs of her family. As for the Princeton situation, I am sure if she wanted, Mrs. Clinton could have easily placed a call to the president of Princeton to ask them to keep Slaughter’s position as a tenured law professor open until her services were no longer needed at the State Department. I don’t think Princeton University would object to this request.

I read her piece when it came out three years ago. It was well thought out, well nuanced and well written. It was clear she had been thinking about her situation and the choices she was forced to make for some time and when the tidal wave of strong emotions passed, she was able to commit her thoughts to paper. She was honest but in a polite, politically correct way, taking great care to not incite gender stereotypes and societal expectations of gender roles. She also acknowledged her own privilege of being a high earning and well educated woman and admitted that she could only speak to her own demographic, which is white, upper-class, well educated professional with far more resources at her disposal than a regular working class or middle class woman.

The op-ed was a long read, in an attempt to be inclusive and account for all scenarios and situations. But she could have shortened the length by half if she simply said, ‘had I been a man, I wouldn’t have had to make this choice, it would have been my wife’s responsibility to sort out the situation with my son. She would have done it without me asking. I would have had the privilege to continue in a career that I worked my whole life for. Such is the reality in the American workforce today.’ I would even go so far to say that had Anne-Marie Slaughter been a man, she wouldn’t have even been made aware of the seriousness of the situation with her son, she would have found out about it after the fact, when it was more or less resolved. Because most wives know better than to bother their husbands with these problems however serious, especially if their husbands hold very important job titles. They would have only gone to their husbands with children problems only as the last resort and she’s at the end of the rope and all of her own options are exhausted.

The truth is no amount of social engineering and the re-programming of how people think about gender roles will change the basic biological functions and reflexes of men and women. Women are not ‘better’ at being caregivers in the technical sense (i.e. cleaning, wiping, rearing and soothing children) than men but that women are better at managing the frustration and tedium at doing these thankless chores day in and day out. Women have been doing these thankless tasks since the existence of human history, women can manage the feelings of frustration and ennui better. Men on the other hand are not the same, they love their children as much as their wives do, but to task a man with taking on the bulk of child care is counterproductive.

Men are socialized to be ambitious, to be providers and breadwinners, even in this feminized age. Though stay-at-home dad numbers are on the rise, there is very little support for stay-at-home dads or the ‘lead parent’ as Anne-Marie Slaughter’s husband Andrew Moravcsik calls it. As long as men still out earn women for doing the same work, when decision time comes on who’s staying home with baby or who will change jobs or career paths to accommodate the new baby, the most logical and economical solution would be the person that earns the least, and unfortunately, that’s usually the woman.

Next, there are still very strong stigmas and taboos surrounding the whole parenting versus work issue. Men who work backbreaking hours are seen as heroic, trying to provide for his family, regardless if the reason for the long hours are due to necessity or his personal ambition. If a woman does the same, she’s seen as an uncaring and selfish mother, leaving others to raise her children for her and to assuage her ‘guilt’ and satisfy the masses, she would have go about her working days with a pained expression so that others know just how much she’d rather be with her children but can’t, she would have to explain her choices for the remainder of her working life. There is still an expectation of martyrdom that surrounds parenting, for men, it’s sacrificing their disposable income and time with hanging out with his buddies in favor of screaming children. For women, she’s to sacrifice her career and personal ambitions and desires until her children are of an acceptable age where they don’t require her daily attention and care. People who do not conform to these norms are stigmatized. But I would argue that the woman suffers more. Trading an intellectually stimulating job and earning your own money to caring for small children and depending on a man to meet your daily needs is a huge blow (especially the latter).

One of the most difficult things for me transitioning from working mother to stay at home mother is the loss of economic independence. I wanted to be a full time mother until my children are in school, but giving up my monthly paycheck was the harder than I realized, much harder than giving up my independence, sleep or free time. Since I was 20 years old, I have always worked and earned my own paycheck, to suddenly lose that was a huge blow to my confidence. It took me a long time to come to terms with that.

Anne-Marie Slaughter in her original op-ed sang heroic praises about her husband being the main caregiver while she was working in Washington working for the State Department. It’s not that he doesn’t deserve it, he does, but she was giving him praise for the same sacrifices that women do everyday without much acknowledgement. And in doing so, she’s also shortchanging herself for her contribution to her family. She was honest about her feelings of guilt when her sons needed her and she just couldn’t be there. The pressure was immense, knowing that her older son was doing poorly but could not be there to guide him.

Another uncomfortable truth is not many men like to be overshadowed by their wives. They want their wives to be successful, to be fulfilled, happy and reach their maximum career potential, but not so much where they are known as the husband of so-and-so. In Anne-Marie Slaughter’s husband’s response to the piece she wrote three years ago, he says:

From the beginning, Anne-Marie’s jobs at Harvard and Princeton imposed greater demands than mine, because she entered the university-administration track early on; she also accepted more outside leadership roles. And, as we learned, intense jobs tend to beget even more intense jobs—a phenomenon that, in Anne-Marie’s case, led to a deanship at Princeton, followed by one of the highest positions at the State Department, followed by the leadership of a major nonprofit.

Andrew Moravcsik is not as ambitious as his wife and he was happy being a tenure professor and at the same time he encouraged his wife’s ambition and goals. It worth pointing out that his view is not the norm amongst men, millennials or not. Society still has certain expectations of men, one being able to make something of himself. Men are still judged by the size of their paychecks and their occupation. Their worthiness is still determined by their willingness and ability to provide for a family. Moreover, most women still choose their spouse based on their earning potential, despite what Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter advocate – finding a husband who is supportive of your goals, including picking up the child care slack at home. Women will still choose their husbands based on his future earning potential, especially if a woman is planning on having children.

This sort of egalitarian marriage that Slaughter and Sandberg advocate can really only exist in their demographic. It would require that both spouses have advanced degrees and thus have a lot of employment and career options open to them. Their advice, however well meaning, do not apply to the average couple out there, trying to survive on two incomes and possibly downsizing to one income when children come along.

Slaughter is correct in pointing out the work-life balance dilemma could only be achieved by good public policy that benefit working families. Flexible working time for moms and dads are essential and must be supported by companies of all sizes. Prior to her job at the State Department, Slaughter and her husband had the perfect flex time jobs, they each could take turns taking time off. She never thought about a work-life balance until she began working in the State Department. She said her boss (Hillary Clinton) was great, but she was still a boss. You had to report to work by a certain time and leave at a certain time. It was then she realized she took her tenure position at Princeton University for granted.

Being a parent is the greatest privilege there is and it’s one that is denied to many. But being a parent doesn’t mean we are obligated to leave behind every single part of ourselves just to tend to our children. We were our own people before we became someone’s mother or father. We had dreams, goals and ambitions that didn’t involve wiping their little noses. Loving and caring our children does not preclude us from feeling frustrated, unfulfilled or boredom. Feeling bored, angry, unfulfilled or restless does not mean we don’t love our children or we love them any less. Doing the same thing over and over again regardless how tired you feel can take a toll on anyone, especially something as thankless as childrearing. The whole debate needs to shift way from judgement of the choices of others to being supportive of whatever parenting road someone chooses. This is more effective than any social engineering or re-assigning of gender roles. Biological impulse is not something we (the human race) can easily control but we can choose to be supportive and open minded of the choices of others.

Rape is Rape, is Rape, is Rape. Period. No If Ands or Buts.

This is written in support all rape and sexual assault victims, which include sex crimes of any kind. I am sick and tired of the supposed ‘ambiguity’ that is being introduced into what is ‘rape’ and what constitutes ‘rape’ by the mainstream media, law enforcement, legal community, all to minimize the crime and shift the blame to the victims. Enough of that.

In the year 2015, there seems to be people out there who are confused about exactly what constitutes a rape. It’s baffling really. According to the online dictionary, dictionary.com, the definition of rape is as follows:

Unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by asex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.
The definition is pretty crystal clear and unambiguous to me, but apparently that’s not the case as now there are cases of rape not being ‘rape rape’ to quote Whoopi Goldberg because the woman was too drunk, too high from drugs, out of her mind on some other mind altering substance so if a woman consents to sex under those circumstances, it’s really not rape because she said yes even though she was out of it. So, I will attempt to clarify what is rape, in all conceivable circumstances so that there is no more confusion:
  • Bill Cosby, what you did was rape, it was disgusting. You drugged women so they would lose their inhibitions and you took advantage of them, but you were smart, you only drugged them enough so that they lose their inhibitions but not consciousness, so that if it ever came to light you can say they consented because they were awake. You used your star status and your moral standing in your community to abuse women. You are the worst kind. You stand there in your bully pulpit, wagging your finger at the African-American community, telling them what to do, how to behave, how to conduct their lives, but you are a moral cesspit. You are the biggest and the worst kind of hypocrite there is. And I don’t know what’s more sad, you or your African-American fans and friends such as Whoopi Goldberg defending you until it was indefensible, much to her detriment because they don’t want to see their hero, a pioneer in television, educator and uplifter of the Black community go down in flames in his twilight years, they wanted to preserve your dignity and you let them knowing what a disgusting piece of trash you are.
  • Roman Polanski, drugging a 13 year old (non-virgin as he pointed out – real classy to slut shame a 13 year old by the way) with champagne and quaaludes and then proceed to have sex and anal sex with her is rape. And Whoopi, this is ‘rape rape’, in the full definition of the word. I know that it is well known that you have a penchant for very young girls and it may be exotic and acceptable where you are from, but not here, not in the U.S. It’s not acceptable for a man in his 40s to have sex with a 13 year old. You are a criminal, you escaped charges in the U.S., your victim forgave you to save her own sanity, consider yourself lucky. Next time should you be so dumb to travel to another country that has extradition treaties with the U.S. and you get arrested and detained, quit bitching and complaining and man up and face your charges, or else, just stay in your chalet in France.
  • A random stranger invading your home raping you is rape, but the fact that you left a window or door open doesn’t mean you invited it or deserved it.
  • A random stranger jumping out of the bushes and assaults you is rape, but the fact that you walked by alone, in the dark by that area doesn’t make you responsible for your rape.
  • Getting attacked at a high crime neighborhood by delinquent youths and adults is rape, but just because you went there doesn’t mean you deserved it.
  • Getting sexually assaulted anywhere by anyone, under any circumstance is rape. Period. No, ifs, ands or buts.
  • Wearing revealing clothing is not an invitation for unconsented touching or rape.
  • Flirting with a man all night at a nightclub isn’t an automatic invitation to have sex.
  • Taking advantage of women who are too drunk to consent, too much under the influence of drugs or controlled substances to consent doesn’t just make you a rapist, it also makes you a monster.
  • Joining a sorority isn’t an invitation for frat boys and his friends to violate you, photograph or videotape the violation and then share it on social media for the world to see as you lay there unconscious being assaulted by pimply frat boys.
  • Being a prostitute doesn’t mean you get to be sexually assaulted by a john if you don’t want to do what he asks for and even after giving him his money back he still rapes and beats you black and blue. Being a prostitute doesn’t mean you are open season for sexual attacks.
  • Being a pole dancer doesn’t mean you are open for anything, including prostitution or escorting and it doesn’t mean you are ripe for a sexual assault either. Any person attempting touch or assault a pole dancer without her invitation or consent is assault and rape. Her giving you a lap dance with her hoohah directed right in your face doesn’t give you the permission to force yourself on her without her consent.
  • Being a married woman doesn’t mean your husband can rape you, and I don’t care what cultural custom or what cave from Afghanistan these people crawl out of (I mean the Taliban), but ‘raping’ your wife is not ok. No God would condone that.
  • And just because a girl had casual sex with a guy on a casual encounter it doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with his friend or friends. The friend or friends have no right to help himself to her if she doesn’t consent. That’s rape. It makes no difference that she slept with your friend just 30 minutes ago. It doesn’t mean she wants to sleep with you.
  • A large group of men and women partying together doesn’t automatically mean that some of the men will get lucky and any forcible action that causes him to get ‘lucky’ is rape. It makes no difference that everyone was just laughing and drinking and doing drugs together just a few minutes ago. And it makes no difference that perhaps touching, groping or petting was involved.
  • Just because a woman was a former prostitute or escort, it doesn’t mean any random man she meets can force himself on her, leave $100 on the nightstand and leave. That’s rape.
  • Forcing yourself on transgendered male or female, gay or lesbian or any other member to the LGBTQ community for the purpose of ‘setting them straight’ is rape and an act of monstrosity and human depravity.
  • Molesting, sexually violating or raping an elderly woman in a nursing home is rape, even if she’s past her sexual prime, it’s rape.
  • Molesting and raping children and minors, goes without saying, but I just want to throw that in there to clarify.
  • A woman walking down the street totally naked (assuming that it’s allowed and she’s not arrested) doesn’t invite you to grope, touch or attempt to sleep with her if she doesn’t consent to it.
  • Black and other minority women who are in police detention do not deserve to be physically, sexually and emotionally assaulted because of the power of the badge. That doesn’t make him the community’s finest, it makes him an insecure piece of shit who uses the power of his badge to control and abuse people because that’s how he gets anyone to listen to him, especially one of the opposite sex.
  • For men and women serving prison sentences long or short, do not deserve to be raped or be someone’s ‘bitch’ in prison or the ‘bitch’ of the prison guards or prison warden when your number is called. You do not automatically get to be sexually abused because you are serving a sentence for a crime. That’s an assault on the prisoner’s humanity and even they deserve some dignity.

For the likes of Bill Cosby, they should know that their massive wealth and fame won’t cover up their crimes anymore. No amount of hush money already paid out will stop women from speaking out about your crimes. Any court document, deposition and records can be easily unsealed under the Patriot Act, Freedom of Information Act or a wikileaks hacker, so don’t count on your powerful high dollar attorneys to seal your misdeeds. There’s no such thing anymore.

And Whoopi Goldberg, stop defending rapists, I understand that you hold these people in high regard for their talent and dedication to their craft and the are probably good friends of yours, but to defend rapists is a betrayal to women.

Representative Todd Akin, all of the rape scenarios I described above are all ‘legitimate’ rapes, I just wanted to loop you in as you seemed to be quite confused.

For the red blooded gentlemen out there, here are some tips to stay out of trouble. If a girl looks too good even for 18 years old, she’s probably not, get some ID verification of her age or don’t sleep with her, because when her parents find out, you will land in hot water, and parents always find out.

If a woman is too drunk, too drugged out of her mind, don’t sleep with her because she doesn’t know what she’s consenting to, and yes, you are a rapist if you sleep with a woman who can’t consent.

If a woman sleeps with your friend, it doesn’t mean she wants to sleep with you, so get over it. And don’t ever film or photograph a woman when she unconscious while you and your disgusting horde of friends are having your way with her. You wouldn’t treat a dog this way.

Lastly, no means no. Regardless of how the ‘no’ is said or intoned, with a smile, with a flirt. No means no. Besides, if a girl really wants to sleep with you, she’ll let you know it, you won’t have to guess. So, if you need to ask or wonder about it, it’s not a yes. Order an extra beer to nurse your hurt pride and ego, you’ll forget all about it the next day.

People who falsely accuse another of rape are are just as evil as the rapists themselves. To make a false rape claim not only destroys the reputation of a man, which he doesn’t deserve if he didn’t do it, but you are doing a huge disservice to the real rape victims who are desperately trying to get justice, to move past the stigma of being a rape victim. By crying false rape, you silence other real rape victims and shame on you.

Sexual assault is one of the least reported crimes with an even lesser conviction and punishment rate. Since the acquittal of William Kennedy Smith, where his attorney Roy Black successfully destroyed the credibility and testimony of his accuser, convinced the judge to disallow 3 other women who have accused William Kennedy Smith of sexual assault prior to ever take the stand, women are ever under a finer microscope when they accuse someone of rape. Their whole sexual history, every man they’ve ever spoken with, flirted with, kissed, fondled, allowed to fondle and slept with will be picked apart and analyzed in court to prove she doesn’t have a ‘pattern’ of behavior that makes her a slut. The victim of William Kennedy Smith, Patricia Bowman was the first case of slut shaming on a national level and it was allowed, in a Palm Beach courtroom, in one of the most wealthiest districts in America, in the year 1992, this actually happened.

While it is true our legal system lays the burden of proof on the prosecution when charging a defendant with a crime, it’s not on the victim to meet that proof. The rape victim doesn’t have to ‘prove’ that she is a ‘worthy’ victim because or in spite of sexual history. Her sexual history prior to the alleged rape incident doesn’t factor one bit into the charge.

Wealthy, powerful and influential men like to convince people that they don’t need to ‘force’ a woman to sleep with him, he has excesses of women throwing themselves at him, so the accuse him of rape or sexual assault is ridiculous and unfounded. This arrogant thinking and behavior has gone unchecked since antiquity until now, with the likes Bill Cosby, William Kennedy Smith and Mike Tyson. But we got their number, just like all those women Bill Cosby assaulted, they were not lying, he paid millions in hush money, so his wife wouldn’t find out, so the public doesn’t find out so that he can continue to be the anointed godfather and inspiration to millions of families. His 50 year marriage is a total sham not because he was unfaithful but because he was a predator.

Women’s rights are being attacked from every direction right now. The U.S. Senate is debating a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, it failed, thank goodness, it’s another assault on the dignity of women and their health. Women should be mad as hell about this, that some crusty old men in Washington, who’ve haven’t had to do anything for themselves in years, have a good salary, their pensions fully funded and paid for, their health insurance fully covered until their death, would try to cut a vital medical lifeline to women. Each and every single one of them should be outed and shamed. 

If I have missed anymore possible rape ‘scenarios’, please include them in comments.

No More Shame, Blame or Guilt.

2015 is a pivotal year for me. I decided to take stock of my life, my past failures and successes and examine where I went wrong. Things, events, thoughts that I pushed to the back of my mind because I was too embarrassed and too ashamed to think about them were excavated for post mortems. Some of these recollections would provoke a physical reaction that that awful feeling at the pit of my stomach, as if it’s happening all over again. It got so bad that I had to ‘pretend’ that some events never took place so that I wouldn’t think of them.

I examined why I have not excelled more in my life and why I haven’t achieved what I set out to do and why I always abandoned by goals mid way through them. I realized that my follow-through ratio was appalling and I was ashamed about that too. I was basically ashamed of everything that didn’t go right in my life and I always took the blame for it because I believed in total accountability of one’s actions. I didn’t do the victim thing where I blamed everyone and their grandma for my personal failings, I blamed me, the buck stops with me and that’s a mark of character. But as I took on the burden of shame, blame and guilt, it slowly consumed me over time. It’s one thing to accept blame and responsibility and move on but another to embody and become that shame, I was the latter. I became a shell of my former self because I was so overwhelmed by my feelings of shame and blame. It seeped into everything in my life, even in areas where it didn’t even seem applicable.

I begun to examine why I was so hard on myself, why I gave everyone else’s failings a pass except myself. Because I took the ‘personal responsibility’ thing so seriously, it hit me like a thunderbolt, that is why everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) had no problem sticking the blame to me for almost everything, whether it had to do with me or not. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because I gave off that energy, that energy of I’ll take the blame, I’ll take the responsibility whether I should or not, so other people had no problem doling it out to me. When I say people, I meant everyone from my family, friends, co-workers, bosses, random people, everyone, and it pissed me off.

But nothing pissed me off more than when I was suddenly made responsible for the stupidity and incompetence of others, especially at work. When I was training a new employee, when I told him specifically NOT to misplace a very important document, he threw it in the trash by mistake, it somehow became my fault because I didn’t take it from him and keep it on my desk, despite my repeated warnings of being very careful with that document. When the temp girl couldn’t locate the FedEx drop box so she stuffed FedEx parcels in the regular US Mail outgoing mailbox for the postman to pick up, and when it was discovered that the FedEx parcels didn’t make it to its intended location on time, I was blamed because I didn’t take her by the hand, walk her downstairs and show her where the FedEx drop box was, oh and by the way, it was in the same mailroom as the outgoing mailbox, a room that was 5×5 but she somehow didn’t see the big orange and purple letters that said ‘FedEx’ on it but she saw the small outgoing mail slot. This shit actually happened, you couldn’t make this up. People blaming me for their shit because I didn’t tell them. If you are a college grad and you can’t locate a FedEx drop box, there’s officially something not right there, it’s certifiable. So I became hyper-paranoid, I was more paranoid that my co-worker was going to screw up his work and it somehow being my fault than I was doing my own work.

The last three years were tough, I had to juggle new motherhood with full-time work and all the changing dynamics that came with that. The responsibilities that I had to juggle nearly broke me, and going on the same vein of shame, blame and guilt, on top of being a new mother, we were also living with an elderly relative of ours who depends on me for transportation as she didn’t drive. But with a new baby, full time work I wasn’t able to take care of her the way she wanted me to, and I was blamed for that too. Well, in that particular situation, it was more of shaming than blaming, I was shamed for not being a dutiful child and put up with bullshit. This last cycle of shame, blame and guilt sent me into the depths anxiety, depression and near physical collapse. I thought I was going to pass out one day in the kitchen while I was washing dishes, after a long work day, no sleep as I had an infant and doing more chores at night before I get to rest, I thought then, now will people lay off me, now that I am about to collapse on the floor in the middle of my kitchen? Of course they didn’t.

When my sole income wasn’t enough to support all of our expenses and we fell behind on bills, guess who got the blame? Yep, yours truly. It was as if I had a sign on my back that said ‘blame me’, ‘kick me’, ‘shit on me’. I was so angry at everyone, when did everyone’s problems become mine? Why am I responsible for everything? Until it hit me one day, because I permitted it. My guilt and my shame for ‘not being good enough right now, as I am’ had seeped through every aspect of my life. Because I felt badly about myself, so everyone else felt they had license to shit on me. Because I took the blame for things I shouldn’t to appear tough, accountable and to appease the feelings of others, I became target for everything that’s gone wrong. I was just existing through life, not feeling, not being mindful or even aware of myself, my feelings and what’s going on with me internally. I was also suffering from a long term, mild to moderate depression in which I took no treatment for.

How I felt about myself on the inside manifested my life on the outside. So, this year, I made no New Year’s Resolutions, those are pointless anyway. I just wanted to work on myself, to become mindful and aware again and to not be a walking cliche. I am determined to not be plagued by mediocrity and later on in life wonder what the hell happened to me? Why a smart and resourceful person such as myself led such a mediocre life? I have potential to do anything, I know that, I always knew that but why was it obscured by my negative thoughts? I couldn’t live with that. But I was in a psychological rut so deep that I didn’t even know how to dig my way out. I was existing on fumes day to day, taking care of my daughter, pregnant with my son and working full time yet I was totally lost and directionless. I am a mother, it’s my duty to guide my children, to set a good example to them, to show them how to live a fun, carefree and productive life, how the hell am I going to do that in this fucked up mental state. I had much work to do and I had better do it quick. Children are sponges and can absorb all kinds energy and vibes. I didn’t want my vibe to them to be a negative one. I don’t want them growing up saying ‘mommy loved us but she was sad’. I wrote in my previous post about how I wasn’t empowered enough as a young girl so it led to feelings of low self-esteem and willing to settle for anything. It took me so long to even figure out what I deserved in life.

The saddest part for me was when I realized that I didn’t even deserve respect. I let everyone walk all over me, my family, my husband even my kids (both are under 4 years old). And it’s not their fault, I let it happen. I never accepted myself as I am, right now, in this present state. I always told myself that I would accept myself ‘when I accomplish A, B or C’ never now, just as I am. So what could I expect from others?

To learn mindfulness, I had to do a series of guided meditations everyday. It was like I learned to breathe all over again, to listen to my breath, to be mindful of how I breathed. Before my breath was shallow and fast, as if always in a huge hurry to nowhere. Now they are drawn out and long and I’ve rediscovered my intuition, to learn to respect and trust my ‘gut’. It was always right, always, every time I ignored my gut, it came back to haunt me, without fail, every single time. And lastly, in one of my meditations and prayer sessions, I decided right then and there that I will never be enslaved to the emotions of shame, blame and guilt again, EVER. And all the past events that made me so ashamed, I decided right then and there no more. I will not feel shame and guilt for things that happened 20 years ago, regardless if I had any control over it or not. It’s over and done with and if I’ve hurt anyone with my actions, I apologized to them and sent them God’s love and light.

It’s not to say that I will not admit my mistakes and pass the buck, but it’s that when I make a mistake, I’d take accountability for it and move on and not let it linger in my consciousness. Like it’s done and over with, move on. I look forward to a new chapter in life, a chapter of achievement, wealth and abundance. I am going to find my higher purpose and calling and execute it with precision without anything holding me back.