Category Archives: Paula Persists

#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.

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.

 

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.

 

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?

 

Ding, Dong the Bill is Dead

I dedicate this reposting to Republican Senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.  They are American Heros!

(Sung to the tune of Ding, Dong! The witch is dead–from the Wizard of Oz)

Ding, Dong! The Bill is dead. Which old bill? The Trump Care Bill!
Ding, dong! The wicked bill is dead.

Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Bill is dead. It’s gone where the Crap bills go,
Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Bill is dead!

As a legally registered voter, in the country that we all love
I welcome this failure most regally.
But we’ve got to verify it legally, to see
To see?
If the GOP; Is morally, ethic’lly,
Spiritually, politically,
Positively, absolutely
Undeniably and dangerously inept

As a pundit, I must opine, I thoroughly examined them;
And the GOP’s not just inept, they are really most sincerely Indept

Then this is a day of celebration for all who Care.
Yes, let the joyous news be spread ; The wicked bad BILL for now is dead!

 

Our National Shame

Today I watched the chilling dash cam video of the Philandro Castile shooting.   I will be haunted for a long time by the image of his girlfriend’s young daughter slowly emerging from that car after seeing Philandro shot 7 times.  He was shot as he reached into his pocket to retrieve his driver’s license, per the police officer’s request.  While he was en route to the hospital, where he would die of his injuries; his girlfriend was (unbelievably) put into handcuffs and held in the back of a squad car.

Last week the jury acquitted the police officer, just as juries have acquitted a long sequence of police officers  for killing black men  and women.  But, This happened in Minnesota, not Missouri or Alabama. Minnesota for god’s sake.  It makes me ashamed.

Black. Lives. Matter.  As a white woman, I hesitate to co-opt that phrase; but I do so respectfully, to make the point that we are all diminished when men like Philandro Castile are executed for what appears to be ‘the crime’ of being black in America.  The history of race in America is incredibly complex–but there can be no doubt that implicit bias is alive and well in every state of the union, not ‘just’ the south.

Black and brown mothers and fathers all over American face the challenge of sitting their children down to have THE talk; a talk I didn’t need to have with MY children; THE talk about being deferential to the police at all times–how to speak (politely) and how to move (slowly); knowing the likelihood of a brown or black child being stopped and questioned is much higher than that of their white friends; and knowing that sometimes, even if their child does nothing wrong, the result can still be tragic.

Racism in America is one of our greatest national shames, manifesting itself in large and small ways in the pattern of our lives.  I see it at work, with a striking imbalance between the demographics of our technical teams and the all-white faces at the leadership level.  My home state of Wisconsin has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) gaps in high school graduation between black and white students.

In her excellent book, The New Jim Crow,  Michelle Alexander demonstrates that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. This effectively strips the right to vote from a large percentage of African Americans, who have been convicted of even minor drug charges.

I had hoped that having a black president for 8 years would have made a difference, but I was naive. Our current administration is a backlash –from those who felt threatened and disenfranchised by that very hope.  Make America Great Again is a thinly veiled slogan for white supremacy, contributing to a culture of white entitlement and acceptance of violence against minorities.

America cannot be truly great unless and until we address the blight of racism.

Lordy, I hope there are tapes

We are living in surreal times, where truth is treated as a variable and negotiable commodity. The D is unable to distinguish between what he believes (and wishes) to be true, and what is factually and historically accurate.  Unfortunately, his version of the truth is given credence by the gravitas of his position,  and by sheer hubris.  Our communication landscape is shifting:  He that dominates the conversation tends to be most effective, regardless of logic or facts.

I recently read an excellent  VOX Post that posits that the problem is NOT that Trump is lying (although he is); but that he is crowding out the truth by dominating and driving the conversation.   The article explains that liars try to replace the truth, which is hard; whereas bullshitters have the easier task of drawing so much attention to themselves that the truth becomes a backstory.  The media is forced to focus on the bullshit, and the truth is drowned out.  

This rings true, and is dismaying for those of us that grew up with a certain sense of fairness and justice– that working hard, doing your homework and being ‘right’ matters.  Today, the bullies are in control , and we  seem to have shifted to a new level of intellectual laziness from which we may never recover.  We hear and heed the loudest  and most belligerent voices: voices that drown out those of the more well-informed nerds, scientists and rule-followers, who have done their homework and anchor their arguments to facts.

This shift of attention from facts to belligerent bullshit is particularly detrimental  and disenfranchising to women.  It is virtually impossible for a woman to be assertive, let alone dominate a conversation, without being shut down and/or tagged with any one of the many derogatory labels we have for strong women (relatively kind examples are ‘bossy’, ‘nasty’ or ‘unlikable’).   Nevertheless, we persist.

Most schools have a no-tolerance approach to bullying, but those policies aren’t effective if the principal is the biggest bully on campus.  It begs the question: How do we wrestle the microphone away from the bully-in-chief?

Even if the White House DOES turn over tapes of The D’s conversations in the Oval Office; and even if those tapes paint him as a huge liar – will it matter?  Lordy, I hope so. 

Circle Breathing

I had coffee with a friend last weekend.  We compared notes regarding our respective acts of rabble-rousing and resistance. My friend is a mostly-retired psychiatrist (in other words, she is WAY smarter than me); who had not been expecting to expend her early retirement energy in active political resistance; yet, here she is.  Here we are.

She and I are aligned in philosophies and have a shared sense of dread, grief, and horror regarding the current administration.   For us, this sensation is both a catalyst to action and a burden–a burden that often takes residence in our guts and minds, like an OCD virus that threatens our sense of inner peace and causes bouts of crankiness that are sometimes directed at innocent nearby targets, such as our husbands.

The past couple weeks have been a good opportunity to take a mental break.  The D is doing an excellent job of exposing his own incompetence and blinding narcissism–without any help from myself, his many detractors or the ‘fake’ media.   In my friend’s words:  “he is doing our job for us”.

The D’s  firing of FBI Director Comey is a clear obstruction of justice; the initial reason given was Comey’s revelation of newly discovered Hillary emails in the late days of the 2016 campaign; a laughable and ironic justification from The D regarding an act that he previously praised, and one that most likely tilted the balance of election in his direction.  On the heels of that debacle, The D shared classified intelligence with his Russian BFFs during a cozy photo op (for Russian press only). That may be one traitorous act too many, even in the eyes of Republican cronies — time will tell.

There is a rumor that several Republican’s are considering withdrawing support from The D  in a belated attempt to restore their integrity–or at least a facade of integrity.  This may be a window of opportunity for them to actually hear what their constituents are saying during the current Congressional break.

Ultimately, The D’s cluelessness and blinding narcissism will be the primary reasons for his seemingly inevitable downfall.  The House of Cards is starting to crumble; the cracks in the orange veneer are getting more obvious.  As much as I’ve enjoyed a week or two ‘off’, watching events play out; I/we cannot return to the not-my-problem complacency that allowed the D to be elected in the first place.

I used to sing in a choir.  For long-sustained notes, we used a technique called ‘circle-breathing’: each chorister sneaks a breath at a different time, so that the audience hears one seamless long-sustained note, without a perceptable break.  Circle-breathing depends on teamwork, recognizing that each individual needs to occasionally catch their breath.

To my persistent friends–take a breath when you need to and protest loudly when you are able.  Collectively, our voice is unbroken and undeterred.

 

 

 

Spiraling

Well, well.  We may finally be getting an answer to the question I posed just a few days ago: Is there any act that is too outrageous, unlawful, unconstitutional, self-serving, embarrassing or cruel  for Trump to be held accountable by the Republican’ts?

Given recent events, we are seeing the faintest glimmer of hope that a few Republican’s are being reintroduced to their spines:  the edges of the dark cloak of loyalty are starting to fray.   Mere obstruction of justice (firing of Comey) wasn’t compelling enough:  But–the casual sharing of highly classified information, for purposes of self-aggrandizement, to his Russian buddies just may just have crossed a line that even the Republicans won’t (or can’t) defend.

This post is short – by the time I press publish, there will no doubt be new plot twists and revelations to consider.  You just can’t make this stuff up.