#metoo

I was 13. My freshmen science teacher touched me under the guise of ‘tickling’ when we were alone in the classroom.  I didn’t have words for it. I felt weird and bad and ashamed.  This is the first time I’ve told anyone.  It still makes me feel weird.

I haven’t thought of this for years…. but now, the dam of silence is breaking.  This damn dam has protected men who harass and abuse others with impunity for far too long. Like the glass ceiling, there are new cracks, but it is far from shattered.

Our culture has enabled powerful and important men to sexually harass and victimize others without reproach or consequences.  For decades, the women that spoke out were marginalized, ignored, mocked, and retaliated against.  Many women made the difficult choice to suffer in silence, rather than run the very real risk of public humiliation, character assassination and/or career suicide by speaking out.  

Even if she is believed, women victims are/were often blamed: She was too friendly, she wasn’t friendly enough, she was a slut, she was a bitch, she was in the wrong place, she wore the wrong clothes, etc.  In the 9th grade, I didn’t even know that telling someone was an option.

In contrast, entitled perpetrators  often receive no more than a sly wink or a slap on the wrist with comments along the lines of “boys will be boys” or “she was asking for it”; or “it was just locker room talk’. The more famous or rich the pervy perp, the more likely they will avoid consequences for their actions.  As #45 (not MY president) famously stated “When you’re famous, you can do anything”.

But lately, there seems to be a slight shift in the narrative, which I have dubbed the Harvey Weinstein Effect.  (I’m not entirely sure if that should be ‘affect’ or ‘effect’ – there are a couple people on the planet that know the difference – but I am not one of them).  The ultimate fall of Harvey Weinstein has let lose a floodgate of pent up accusations from women who have been empowered and emboldened that they may (now) be taken seriously.

Now that the dam has sprung a leak, the accusations are rushing out — reflecting a tsunami of suffering that has been pent up over the years.  Victims who were previously silenced by the near-certainty of harsh backlash, are now more likely to speak their truth.

It is a start.

Doggie Duty

A couple weeks ago Dan and I were asked to babysit– not for the grand-girls; but for my son’s dog–Nibbler.  My Ben and his wife, Jess, were mere days away from a long-scheduled and much-anticipated vacation, when their dopey dog managed to injure his leg, requiring several stitches.   Kennels won’t take injured pups, so they were forced to either find other accommodations for him or cancel their vacation — which would have been a MAJOR (and expensive) bummer.

Readers of this blog (there are least three of you… I should know, I gave birth to you), are aware that we have our own pup (Cleo),  and that we frequently rent out our spare room as part of AirB&B.   In their previous encounters Cleo and Nibbler had not gotten along particularly well, and we were fully booked with AirB&B guests for the week in question. So, we were a little apprehensive.

But –As I reminded Dan:  Moms are the ones you SHOULD be able to call when you are slightly desperate–Moms will do whatever they can to help out in a pinch.  Its in the job description. So, of course, we agreed to take Nibbler.

They dropped off Nibbler on Friday evening, and flew to Mexico early Saturday, with plans to pick him up the following Saturday evening. After some initial posturing and excessive barking, Cleo and Nibs got along   well. Nibbler was surprisingly affectionate, although Cleo got quite jealous of the attention we paid to him, and vice-versa.

Nibbler’s owners were very well-prepared and provided his bed, treats, medicine, portioned-out meals and a hard-plastic ‘cone of shame’ in case Nibbler showed signs of messing with his leg, and need to be restrained.  Nibbler did  not show any indication that his leg was bothering him the first day and we did not make him wear the cone.  This turned out to be a big mistake.   By Sunday night Nibbler had nibbled his stitches out and completely re-opened a nasty wound on his leg.

Three hours and $300 later, Nibbler had a freshly sewn up leg and his temporary caretakers had a renewed commitment to making him wear the ‘cone of shame’ anytime that he wasn’t closely supervised.

The hard-plastic cone surrounded his head, in order to keep him from gnawing on his extremities; but it effectively widened Nibbler’s normally narrow head significantly.  He clumsily crashed into walls, doors, and the backs of everyone’s legs–including those of our patient AirB&B guest.

Nibbler’s tummy was upset from his medications, and he wasn’t eating his kibble; so I cooked up a batch of rice and chicken…. essentially spoiling the crap out of both doggies for the rest of Nibbler’s stay.

On the final morning of his stay, the very agile Nibbler somehow managed to rip open a couple of his stitches, necessitating several anxious phone calls and yet another trip to the vet.  Luckily, this time, the damage was minimal, and a couple staples fixed him up.

We were all relieved when Ben and Jess arrived late Saturday night from a successful and relaxing vacation to collect their ecstatic canine companion — there is nothing quite like the joy of a pup reunited with his forever family.

I hear that Nibs has healed nicely from the safer environs of his own home, and Cleo has sadly returned to her diet of kibble.

 

Regulation and Rights

The Las Vegas shooting is at the top of tragic news this week, which effectively distracted us from the D’s continued systemic dismantling of reproductive and other human rights.  This week saw directives and legislation further restricting abortion, birth control and LGBT protections.

Is my uterus really more dangerous than an AK-47? The GOP continues to regulate and control our collective uteri with righteous and religious fervor, while staunchly defending the right for any and all Americans to amass semi-automatic weaponry; weaponry designed for purpose of killing.  What about our right to feel safe while going to a movie, going to a concert or going to school?

Posts on Social Media suggest we should store guns in our vaginas; at which time they would immediately be subject to strict regulation.  (There’s nothing the GOP hates more than an unregulated, rebel pussy.) The GOP seem to believe that while anyone and everyone is responsible enough to own an AK-47; women are not responsible enough to manage our own reproductive organs (or to bare our arms in congress–but I digress).

Other social media posts suggest that prospective gun-owners should go through the same hoops that a young woman is required to endure when seeking an abortion.  If someone is truly ‘pro-life’ it seems that they would be a staunch advocate for restrictions on owning a semi-automatic weapon whose sole purpose is to kill.

One doesn’t have to search far to find the hypocrisy of lawmakers that deny reproductive freedoms to others, while quietly paying for  birth control and/or abortions to cover their own indiscretions.  Just this week, a staunch opponent of reproductive rights, Tim Murphy, was found to have encouraged his mistress to get an abortion.  See more at: Murphy Story

Joan Chittesh, author and Catholic nun summed up the hypocrisy well:

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

This weekend, Dan and I saw The Battle of the Sexes movie–a dramatization of the real-life tennis match between self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs and tennis / feminist phemon, Billy Jean King.  The match took place in 1972, and it served as a reminder that not so long ago it was acceptable to publicly describe women as weak and inferior, and to mock female athletes.   I remember that match, and I remember that time.

We owe a debt to Billie Jean, and others that  braved public ridicule and worse to speak up against the the blatant misogeny of the day.  While strides have been made since that time, we are currently experiencing a rolling back of hard-fought progress for women and other oppressed groups.  How will we respond?

I  hope and pray for the day that my own grand-daughters will look back at this time and be shocked by the culture of hate and divisiveness — a culture that (hopefully) contrasts with their future reality.  I hope they will be proud of how we, their parents and grandparents, responded to the current crisis of human rights.  After all, our generation of voters made this mess–we need to do our best to clean it up.

Fight or Flight

2017 has delivered a series of unexpected blows against women in general and against my own expectations to be treated with equality and respect in the workplace.

The first blow may have been the harshest.  The election of Donald Trump scalded my soul and my sensibilities. The grief over not electing our first female POTUS was overshadowed by horror over who was elected—an odious man who campaigned on a platform of fear, hate and division.  His election has served to embolden not only the neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but others with sexist or racist views, that may have been previously ‘under wraps’.

The second blow was more personal.  I had been successfully performing a new leadership role at work for several months.  The division underwent a reorg in spring, and the hiring director chose to give the  position (a promotion) to a young man with much less experience or qualifications.  I was shocked—as were many others, including the young man who ‘won’ the position.

After some soul-searching, I filed a grievance with HR, which eventually resulted in management retracting the offer to the young man (who did not have the minimum years of experience), and offering the position to me.  My new boss was the director who had made the decision to offer the job to someone else, and she was clearly embarrassed by the whole situation.

The third blow was my new boss’s choice to make my work life a living hell.  I was subjected to an unrelenting stream of criticism for things like making ‘too much’ eye contact in a meeting and responding to emails too quickly.  This took its toll on my physical and emotional health.

Prior to the reorg–I loved the job.  I loved the people.  But, the hostility was too much, I had to leave. This week, I started a different job at another company.

So… what is the universe trying to tell me?  Fight or flight?  Should I take flight and get out of the rat-race and retire?  (If so, the universe needs to dump a load of cash on me-quick!).  Or is it time to fight by ‘leaning in’ and speaking out against unfair practices in the workplace—particularly in regards to women.

I’ll be trying to come up with a catchy slogan like Women’s Careers Matter”, while I wait for the truckload of retirement cash to appear on my front lawn.

 

A Bittersweet Walk

The 2017 Madison NEDA Walk, to raise funds in the fight against eating disorders was Saturday; and we exceeded our fund raising goal, raising over $25,000.

Mother Nature smiled on us with a gorgeous late summer day.  We had great music by Beth Kille to set the tone for an energetic  morning.  Speakers included Dr. Brad Smith from Rogers Memorial Hospital and Flora Csontos from Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office.  We had over 200 walkers in attendance and despite some troublesome runaway balloons and a few other minor glitches, everything went really well.

This year we included a silent auction,  — including the sale of a football with signatures from all the Packers players and coaches!  I ended up bidding on and winning a few items myself – some of which may end up as Christmas presents, since I feel a little sheepish going into a business for which I personally solicited a gift certificate, and using the gift certificate on myself.  (Really – I PAID for it!)

The local news did not cover the event itself this year, but they did invite us to do an Interview live on the Friday 4:00 news.  I think we got our point across, but this clip also serves as a reminder that no one will ever accuse me of being particularly photogenic.

The walk was bittersweet for me, as my youngest daughter, Guzzy, is currently experiencing a dip in her own roller coaster recovery journey, and was too ill to attend.  It is a  reminder that we walk not only for those that are able to be present on a beautiful September morning; but we walk for those that have lost their battles, and those that are too ill to join us.

It is not enough, but it is something.

End of Summer Ponderings

I write this on Labor Day weekend:  a bittersweet time of year as parents, teachers and students bid a wistful farewell to summer vacation and gear up for another school year.

Dan and I have had a busy summer with home projects and a big birthday bash that I threw myself as I mark another decade of living.  After much labor and check writing our log home is newly scrubbed and stained, and our new deck was in place just in time to celebrate my entry to the old geezer club!

We had a nice turn-out of friends and family for my birthday bash; providing a needed and well-time reminder to me of how fortunate I am to have these people in my life.  A few of us lurched around the badmitton court as a sherrif’s car pulled up,looking for the owner of a car that had emitted some sort of electronic alarm .  Turns out, they were at the wrong house: but still–our our party was bad-ass enough for the cops to make an appearance!

The end of summer brings the US Open, which this year is missing many of its marquee men (including my petulant fav – Andy Murray) to injuries; leaving the field free for Roger and Rafa to renew their rivalry.  And, OMG – the American women are ROCKING the open!   Even with Serena out (having just given birth to her daughter);  there is a bumper crop of young American women keeping pace with big sis Venus into the second week.

My own tennis season has been frustrating — I have the third set tie-break blues, having lost too many close matches by the narrowest of margins. However, I am thankful to be healthy ‘enough’ to be out on the court swinging away… at my advanced age.

Today Dan and I are going on a sight-seeing airplane ride as my birthday gift:  the next logical follow-up to last year’s hot air balloon ride.  Today I am pondering whether my predilection for motion sickness is something that I have somehow ‘outgrown’ or if it has stuck with me into this new decade of life.  We shall soon find out.

For next year’s birthday, I’m going to ask for jewelry.

Are you outraged yet?

I just watched portions of today’s press conference with The D.   He continues to defend the actions of the white supremacists who brought their vile message of hate to Charlottesville last weekend. It is revolting.

This is not my President.   

I will stand with Charlottesville’s counter-protesters that risked their lives. I will stand against hate and intolerance along with my immigrant, LGBT, Jewish, Hispanic, Black and Muslim friends, family members and colleagues.   I will not turn my head aside and silently accept this kind of world for my beautiful Hispanic grand daughters.

Yet, I (and most of my colleagues and friends) live in a cocoon of white, middle-class privilege.  Many of us feel powerless to make a difference.  Today, a co-worker asked  “What can I do?”.   After pondering this much of the day, here is my suggested starter kit for white, middle-class fledgling activists:

Recognize and acknowledge the presence and power of white privilege.    Read Unpacking the backpack of white privilege or This essay if you want to learn more.

Be self-aware: take a close look at your own implicit biases – we all have them because we are human.  Be more aware of the lens you use to view the world, and where that lens may be ‘cracked’.

Pay attention to every-day micro and macro aggressions towards yourself and others.  It is likely that you have people in your life that exhibit their own implicit (or explicit) biases in unkind, thoughtless or hurtful ways.

Get out of your comfort zone to challenge  inappropriate or hurtful comments or other micro-aggressions that you encounter.  Call out the sexist or homophobic joke, the  racist reference, or the casual nasty remark about a woman’s body.

Find your voice and find your power.  Power is the ability to affect change, in yourself and others.  You are not powerless.

Get involved.  Volunteer in a homeless shelter, tutor someone, attend a march, organize a fund-raiser, volunteer for a political candidate, write  a blog, donate money,  join a group that is focused on resistance.  But …  DO something.

Be brave.  By taking a stand, you will risk ridicule and risk being misunderstood.  Yet, your best and most authentic self will stand up for what you know to be right, even when it is not easy.  Try being brave in small ways first; you may just surprise yourself!  

Finally, Be Kind.  Be the Change you want to see in the world.

 

Camping Caution

I am prepping to enter Monday’s Moth story slam, with the theme of ‘Caution”.   I will be reminiscing about one of my many adventures with Dan.  This is a preview of my entry.

A few years ago my husband, Dan, started a campaign to get me to like camping.    I’ve had some bad camping experiences before I met him;  and I am a huge fan of indoor plumbing.

Dan wanted to spend a week camping near Lake Superior, So, he decided we should go on a trial weekend camping trip, after which (according to his plan) I would be smitten by the camping bug.  Day 1 went well – but, by evening time, we had 42 mosquito bites, 36 of which were on my ankles.  In addition to being very tasty mosquito meat, I am extremely allergic, and didn’t sleep at all.  Day 2 brought a lot of rain—we quickly decamped and drove home amidst the deluge.

Needless to say, we rented a cabin for our longer vacation near lake Superior–  A beautiful, gorgeous cabin with a flush toilet and a solid roof over our heads.  We did many nature related activities such as hiking, canoeing and eating pasties.

Our canoe trip started out by visiting the canoe ‘guy’…  he had set up shop on the roadside in a trailer home.  In response to our knock on his door, he emerged amid a plume of herbal medicinal smoke—for which he assured us he had a prescription.  We hung out with the canoe dude for a while, before venturing out into the water… in a slightly impaired state.

We had a great time gently paddling through the water admiring the wildlife and beautiful vistas all around us – including a large family of ducks sunning themselves on a log.   We stopped at a sandbar for a rest and some lunch, before heading back down into the water.

We didn’t get far before someone passing us  asked if that was our backpack on the sandbar…. Upon closer inspection we realized we had left our backpack on dry land behind us…. we did the canoe equivalent of a   U-ey and went back to the sandbar.

What happens next is where Dan and I have a different recollection of events.  However, I am the one with the blog, so you will be hearing MY version –although Dan is happy to offer HIS version of events to anyone who asks.

I was at the front of the canoe, and as we arrived at the sandbar I stepped onto land and started heading towards our backpack, when I heard sounds of distress behind me… I turned around to see Dan, who had inexplicably managed to get tangled up in the branches of a dead tree that had fallen into the water near shore;  and he was slowly tipping over in the canoe, while emitting sounds of distress.   As I watched him tip over in slow motion, I yelled out:  “I will jump in and rescue you as soon as I quite laughing”!

In Dan’s version –   as I exited the canoe I pushed it backwards  into the current, carrying him directly into the  ‘punji sticks of death”:  which seems a tad over-dramatic to me.

Eventually, I stopped laughing, and Dan emerged from under the canoe.  We set the canoe upright, retrieved our bag, and headed back into the water;  retrieving more of our items that were now floating IN the water as we went. Once we were recombobulated,  Dan suggested that we go out into Lake Superior… That’s right, Dan wanted to go out into the cold depths of Lake Gitchigoonie…  right after capsizing our canoe in 18 inches of water.    Instead, we decided we’d had enough canoeing for the day – and stopped at a restaurant for a nice duck dinner.

 

As the D Turns

Our current administration is reminiscent of a soap-opera, complete with an ever-changing colorful cast of characters and over-the-top melodrama. The lead actor in this ultimate reality show thrives on the attention and chaos.

However, The D has had a rough couple of weeks.  Despite years of rhetoric blasting the Affordable Care Act, his Republican henchmen have been unable to agree on an alternative.   A bill that is cruel enough to satisfy the hard-core tea-partiers can’t get past the few Republican moderates that still have remnants of a spine.  One of their many kooky schemes was to deliberately pass a horrible bill, with a pre-agreement that the House would shoot it down.  They were going to kick a shit-can of a bill down the road with the hope that Paul Ryan’s House would rise above the stench.

The D’s bizarre policy-by-tweet approach is proving to be unsuccessful with top military brass, who were not consulted prior to The D’s s random tweet banning transgender troops.  The Brass have made it clear that tweets are not a substitute for actual policy, and have (bravely  and wisely) opted to take no action until and unless an actual command or policy emerges. On the bright side– It appears that the whole debacle has raised our awareness of the existence and bravery of our transgender troops.

It would be tough to screw up a speech to a bunch of wholesome Boy Scouts.  Yet, the D managed to blow it–bigly. It was a bizarre, curse-laced political and self-aggrandizing rant.  No merit badge for The D.

We should thank The D for one of the most entertaining episodes of his administration thus far–The Mooch!    Scaramucci’s pugnacious, confrontational  style stood out as over-the-top;  even among the colorful cast at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  Stephen Colbert had a field day with many Mooch quotes, including this “I don’t stab people in the back, I am more of a front-stabber”.

Sadly, for Colbert and his comic colleagues, The Mooch only lasted 10 days before getting ousted.  But stay tuned, who knows what the next episode of “as The D Turns” will bring?

 

Labels are shifty

I recently listened to a TED talk that included a story of a man who pretended to be mentally ill / crazy to get out of a criminal conviction.  The problem was that once he was in a mental institution, he could not convince anyone that he was sane.  Once he had a label of a mental illness, any attempts he made to defend himself were considered as further prove that he was manipulative and dangerous.  It was a vicious cycle.

We’ve probably all had the experience of someone jumping to an incorrect or incomplete conclusion about us –creating a label which becomes very hard to shake.  

When I am being honest with myself (something I frequently avoid), I recognize that I can be quick to label others.  Jumping to conclusions based on the imperfect sorting mechanism in my head is easier than really getting to know someone or having to consider an alternative point of view. 

Once we attribute a negative label to someone,  it can be really difficult to change that perception.  Our biases become self-sustaining as we find further evidence to support our initial conclusions.  Our brains love to accommodate our desire to prove ourselves right!  So — as the ‘crazy’ person desperately tries to prove they are sane — we see their desperation  as more evidence of their craziness.

Labels play out in family groups all the time:  a child may be labelled as a particular ‘type’:  The brain, the screw-up, the clumsy one, the lazy one, etc.   Labels at a young age influence a child’s emerging sense of self–for better or for worse.

From a business lens, these implicit biases result in the continued promotion and hiring of people who look, think and act similarly to existing leadership.   Yet, we know that inclusiveness and diversity make organizations stronger and that companies get stale through in-breeding. Leaders caught in the rip tide of the prevalent corporate culture, fail to recognize their implicit biases and the associated opportunity costs.

So, the next time that my loud-mouth, trouble-making co-worker gets on my nerves… I will ask him (or her) to go to lunch and talk about what is on their mind.  Maybe, just maybe, we will both be pleasantly surprised.