Our World

Done with Make-up

  20160911_100047
About a month ago, I stopped wearing make-up. It wasn’t as if I threw away an array of bottles and tubes, and then rethought my look and retooled my morning routine. Nope, I threw out one tube of mascara, one blush compact, one eye shadow compact with eight shades of brown and beige, and one green eye shadow compact. It wasn’t even done as a protest against make-up (kind of obvious with the number of items I had; anyway, I had already made that protest in my teens) and how we women are made to think that we cannot be without adjustments and alterations. My act was to prevent even more chemicals seeping into my body. In the month since that act, I have become surprisingly relaxed and comfortable about my appearance—and this from a woman who had already been pretty relaxed. (What a joy to be middle-aged!)

I’ve stopped leaning into the mirror to critique myself. I’m not looking to find what needs to be hidden (except the “occasional” chin hair to be plucked), even with my minimal tools, or to declare the dullness of my looks, casting a pall upon my mood even before my day has started. Nope. I’m not looking for—and, of course, finding—signs of age, stress, lackluster features, a general discontent reflected back at me. Getting rid of make-up has helped me to stop worrying about interpreting my visual self and then to, seamlessly, infuriatingly, depressingly, impute that upon my internal, unseen self. And, if I’m not worrying about how I look, then I’m not worrying about what other people think about how I look, and so I can simply prepare myself for my day.

That ease has transferred to my clothing. As my make-up was utilitarian, so too are the clothes in my closet. Thinking back on this past month, I find that I have focused more on how I want to feel, and, logically, the weather, rather than on how I want to present myself. I’ve cut myself loose from external guidelines and expectations, and it’s been darn good. It’s as if I’m living my internal life externally.

Perhaps this has been my reaction to the election: my discomfort with the world and this pervasive sense of doom and uncertainty have led me to strip away the non-essentials. Perhaps a world that seems focused on the external, the barely thought, the quick assessment and denigration of others, is one in which I can protest simply by centering within and honoring myself, and use that as a deep base from which to face those perceptions. Perhaps this is a way to not allow the ugliness in; to protect myself from words and demeanors that degrade. Perhaps this non-compliance with a norm is a step in undermining its weight—I will not allow external entities to evaluate me.

This is the way forward.

This protective action that, for me, seems to be a proclamation against the misogynists and people who “simply” think men are more/better than women. I continue to stand against their misguided interpretation of strength, independence, interdependence, and what it means to be beautiful.

And I call out to women and men to join me. Each woman should take a step in/out that affirms that she will not be defined or sidelined. And each man should look in/out for echoes of thoughts and actions that belie a paternalistic interpretation.

It’s absurd that we’re still at a point where pernicious, belittling attitudes toward women hold sway. It’s absurd that men still let themselves be bridled by a confidence that is not theirs, but on which they ride.

It’s time to cast aside prohibitive stereotypes and embrace feminism, for it seems that our well-being and that of our world depends on it.

Yes, all that from not wearing make-up. 


Hanukkah, or Defying a Government that Oppresses You

20161219_140112

 

Potato latkes and jelly donuts might be the oil-soaked foods of Hanukkah celebrations with a hefty side of chicken soup and brisket, and dreidel may be the game of choice (who doesn’t want to win chocolate gelt), but in essence this festival of lights (WOOHOO!, the oil lasted eight days instead of one which enabled the temple desecrated by the Romans to be rededicated nice and pure again) is another Jewish holiday that celebrates the Jews surviving an attempt to suppress us and our religion, and if that didn’t work, well, then, let’s try to kill all the Jews. It’s a We Survived holiday!

At around 168 BCE, the Jews survived this onslaught brought about by the Syrian-Greeks and their Roman overlords.

And then there’s Purim, when we survived the ancient Persians. Let’s send gifts of food, eat hat- or ear-shaped cookies to celebrate the defeat of a very bad bad-guy, Haman (noisemaker noises here), and drink too much in celebration of surviving!

And there’s Passover, when we survived the ancient Egyptians. Let’s recount the miraculous slavery-to-freedom story and then eat plain matzah, matzah balls, and fried matzah for eight days in celebration of getting out!

Then there are the non-celebrated cycles of expulsions and pogroms from here, there, and everywhere. Existence itself is the bittersweet celebration. Thank goodness for heavy post-survival recipes from pre-assault days to dull the memories!

We live. We suffer. We pray. We rebel, we refuse, we relocate. We survive. We thank God. We eat.

It’s a horrible cycle that had seemed as if it was coming to an end. It seemed that, somehow, people had risen above the visceral hatreds—after the ultimate display of hatred—that stoke the dank recesses of the soul. Yeah, no.

But I’m not thinking only about antisemitism now, now in this time of rising anger against any “other” (including, of course, why not, the Jews) but rather of the stokers who live to incite and reap (what? what do they reap?). I’m thinking of how we can heed history as it has been forced upon Jews and how we can help understand how not to be crushed by history.

Emperor. King. Pharaoh. President. Sovereign. Tsar.

They have all taken power from us, the hands that feed them. We, the human trampoline, from which they yield so much fun fun fun in the guise of power and property.

Can we Jews be a lesson to the world about the everlasting survival from—and, unfortunately, of—Fear and Hate in their tightly wound package that explodes to suppress all resistance to the complacent uniformity it demands so as to filter out and renounce respect and compassion—and with it the hope for something more than timorous survival. Because that’s what I see here: the rise to power of those who serve no one but the self, as opposed to those who find power within the communion of people for the good of all. This Them versus Us is the rise of I KNOWers versus We THINKers.

Why can’t the lesson from the cycle be to try to prevent the pain of survival? Why not try with all our concerted efforts to prevent the destruction from which, we pray, survive?

I refuse to cede mind or future to people whose passion is acquisition of control and usurpation of rights. This is not tikkun olam, improving/repairing the world, this is destroying the world—what entity could sanction or reward that? They want to take away education, healthcare, financial security, clean air and water, freedom of speech and religion, a woman’s sovereignty over her body. This is not disagreement, this is attempting to supplant my right to live—to breathe freely (physically and psychically). We must try to prevent the need to rise up from the ashes; we need to thrust against plans and ideas that mangle bodies and souls. We must be the true majority: the People who believe in and live with compassion. We need to call on and out all supposed leaders, demanding that they refuse to compromise or placate or play the politics game on our backs. This is not wait and see, this is learning from history that rulers do not share unless forced to.

I don’t want a special treat (I envision, though, a long-cooking stew with a dollop of bitter cream and a garnish of crumbled Bugles) and game (find the hidden treasure, only to find it composed of things the other players took from you and each other during previous rounds) to celebrate survival. No, I want our voices rising and our votes cast from now until this travesty has been declared an impotent failure and a sign of all that is wrong, and then to keep calling out until we are the government that is of, for, and by we, the people whose concerns are for each of us and not the feigned righteousness of a few.

The Woman’s March on Washington on January 21 is a start. I’m going and will be helping out. I hope to see you there: Women's March on Washington. And if you can’t make it to DC, think about joining a local march. Voices rising!


Sharers and Shearers

Animas River

I have no plan; it seems, though, that this is the time to join with others who are planning to resist and resist and resist. I will sign petitions and send emails. I will gather to stand for our rights not to be trampled under the feet of the arrogant. I will be part of wells of justice that counter walls of hatred. I will not be undermined by wallets stacked with bills of perversion. I will share what comes from my place of strength. These are my intentions.

In the middle of the night I awaken with my jaws clenched. I am trying to understand, but I ache and cry tears of fear and disgust.

These are my pronouncements.

I am proud to be a woman who cares about other women and their ability to support themselves, and take care of themselves and their children.

I am proud to be Jewish, raised on a foundation of working to make the world better and safer for Jews and all oppressed people.

I am proud to have come from New York City, where we respect each other and understand that we have bonds that join us and create interdependence even if they are forged in the steamy subways of summer.

I am proud to be part of the tide that has turned Northern Virginia from red to blue—still—and where the immigrant population has made this a restaurant haven where we appreciate new flavors and ways of interpreting the world.

I am proud to teach in a school were students generally see differences, not as dividing lines between people but as something to respect and be curious about.

Call me a bleeding-heart liberal. Call me an out-of-touch coaster.

SO

I feel for people with no plans or prospects.

I feel for people who want the past to be the present.

I feel for people who agonize over the choices women make for their bodies.

I feel for people who are discomforted by same-sex love and gender fluidity.

I feel for people who rage over their lost foothold on the societal totem pole.

SO

It’s hard to care when in return your ideals get trammeled.

BUT

Right now I have no desire to understand or excuse people who live lives distorted by anger, shame, demands, or bitterness and won’t accept another person’s reality. It should not be you or me, there should be an overlapping space of compassion where support is understood to be better than destruction.

Perhaps I cannot accept a worldview in which people are only concerned about themselves.

I don’t want to comfort myself by saying this seems to be a battle in the eternal war between the sharers and the shearers (together with those who serve the shearers even when they themselves are being sheared).

This is my call and cry to myself, to those who sing in my choir, and to those who have not heeded our songs.

No to hindering and bullying. No to oppression and suppression.

This is my constructive call to action to honor each person’s desire for fulfillment and purpose. This is my plan.


Pins, Shields, and Smiles

20161023_151751

 

I speak for myself.

My thoughts are mine.

My rants are mine.

My interpretations are mine.

Long may they remain so.

I am still too upset to listen to other people’s verbal rants; I can only focus on hearing my anguish anger mortification. This election is beyond my capacity to make positive assumptions about someone else’s mind and experiences. There is no pass into sympathy or understanding for people who would prefer that millions of us would shrivel, body and mind, and vanish from this country (earth?) to make it more pleasant for themselves. Those who voted for tboy are terrorists since their goal is to scare people with their insults, chants, messages, symbols, and acts of hate and intolerance. –

I must breathe and think, and act.

I’m still hopeful that each vote cast will count and Hillary will become president.

I’m not sure what to do.

It’s as though time stands still. How is it that the election was almost a month ago? How is it that I have learned of so many self-serving hypocrites intent on harming so many people in such a short amount of time from their lofty perches atop piles of our money? 

I’m unable to focus my contemplations on my singular life. There is no safety and comfort in keeping to myself—there is the maw of history that must be confronted and shut so we are not swallowed into yet another evil cycle of death by discrimination. Had we really thought that we finally transcended this historical cycle?

The day after the election a student wrote “Rape Won.”

Three weeks after the election and the rape she referred to—the rape of women’s bodies by a misogynist who has never suffered the consequences of his actions—has expanded to feel as if the world we are stepping into is one suffused with the violence of attack and invasion. Rape of body and soul and hope.

But it must not be so. We must resist and fight and light the paths around us. But what of the prevalence of date rape: of people we know attacking us, taking advantage of us, abusing us, violating all that we are. How do we get them to hear our cries if they were so easily tantalized by the slick poison of tboy?

How is it that people are talking about the economy?

How does that matter?

How does your wallet matter when people are carelessly, brazenly demeaned and treated with disdain, as if their bodies and minds are not worthy of concern and care?

When we learn of the reasons for World War II, we can understand the economic pressures, but not when we learn of the Holocaust. There is no explaining the ravages of ancestral hate.

When people try to understand terrorism they like to point out the paucity of hope and means that shapes people. But enough studies have been done to show that to be a lie. Perhaps there is always this battle of good and evil because the scales of fear (of losing what one has/is/perceives) are easier to tilt than it is to uphold the weight of compassion. Yet that is where action needs to take place—not against those intent on holding our heads under water, but to support those dog paddling alongside us in the same pool of bile.

It is a fight for, by going against.

I will wear my Jewish star (which in Hebrew means David’s shield) to show that I will not censor myself nor will I be intimidated so easily. I will also wear my safety pin (which I got from a bowl on a stone fence—inviting people to take so that they can announce themselves as safe spaces), and my Statue of Liberty pin (which I received at a synagogue, to indicate my welcome to immigrants, as our ancestors had once been immigrants). But I will probably forget to move them from on jacket to another. I know, though, that a pin is metal; it is not my heart. What I need to do is look into people’s eyes, and nod, and say hello. This is time to find and give comfort in reaching out to others who fear for their present and future, and not just retreat inward.

Now is the time to say lalalalalalalala over hate and the haters, and to say hello to those who may be fearful or anxious—again, still, or for the first time. A step. An action. No sign-up or donation required (but those too). It seems like a start. It should have been a continuation, but aren’t we always learning. Connection is the antidote to derision.

 


Allergies and Analogies

Ball in tree

 

I can finally open my right eye, but little pustules keep appearing on my arms, while the weeping ones give me hope that this plant v. Laura battle will eventually end. My face feels like a mask of dry, itchy skin pressing down, suppressing the breathing of my pores, sealing me in. Time and steroids and lotions and ice packs and antihistimines are doing their work, and it has only been four days, but this feeling of being incased within myself is haunting, disturbing. There are layers of me, but this outer layer presses down and in so doing takes control. There is no escaping the discomfort of feeling so aware of my irritated skin.

 

And while I focus on battling this invasion of poison ivy, I think about racism, poisonous racism, and I wonder if hate is a person’s poisoned outer layer or is it his interior, awash with receptors to toxins that permeate the outer layer.

 

We are told that we are not born with hate, that it is something learned, then why are we so darned good at hating—as if we are born to it? Perhaps there is a gene that enables us to transition from hate-free to hate-full. What could there possibly be within the supple limbs of a child, the contours of a lock of hair, the radiance of a smile that makes hate natural? Is hate a lack of spirit? Is someone who hates a person who is afraid of anything new, different, not the norm that he was raised within? Is it not so much a taught capacity, a learning, but rather a reflection of fear, an inability to survive—to trust—anything outside the known boundaries?

 

Is hate a poison that is always within, waiting to protect the self with a shell that scratches at those who come near? Are too many of us too innately the survivalist dependent on the tribal, afraid, innately, to test the self against / to present the self to the unknowns of people who are not like me? Do they need guns and weapons and manifestos because looking into someone’s heart might profoundly reveal that there was never a reason to stand separate.

 

My face feels unfamiliar to me. The skin that I obsessively moisturize is bumpy and tingles with an itchy dryness that cannot be moisturized away. I press ice to it, numbing the irritation.

 

The battle of good and evil.

 

The clash between love and hate.

 

This interminable space that separates fear from acceptance.

 

Summer. Another season.

 

Last night there was a pounding storm. Now there is oppressive sun and heat. And still my skin. And still to contemplate hate.

 

It must be deep inside: the sand that an oyster uses to create a pearl must be for us a switch that turns the self into a representation, a weapon. Could it be that in the interior of self we are so far removed from any degree of intelligence that we are only that ancient instinct for survival and all that does not mirror us is a danger? Is that a place where rationality dissolves and we seep back into the past beyond memory?

 

Perhaps hate, racial hate, hate of the other, anti-Semitism, actually shows that we humans have progressed from the dawn of pre-time because there are those among us who don’t differentiate and label and shun and pummel. Maybe the only thing positive about a murderous racial rampage is that the murderers and their apologists are over there, in the thicket of instincts, but there are those of us who cry in pain and sorrow and deep regret that we could not reach into that shell of hate to help them see that other is another word for neighbor. 


Alone Is a Plateau

Poops Dec 2014

Poops

It’s not as if I walk around naked all the time (though I could since the cemetery across the way is full of lonely people and its neighboring church seems to advocate extremely part-time practice) nor do I only have empties (of potato chip bags, that is) in the garbage, but not worrying about how someone else views my habits or needing to mesh mine with someone else’s has become my definition of contentment. Sure, I miss the opportunity to flesh out the anxieties of the day with someone and I miss seeing someone light up when I come home, but my mother, who lives in Florida, can usually listen for a few minutes before going back to herself, and Poops exuberantly welcomes me home, every single time I walk through the door. So I have backup.

 

It’s been about a year and a half since younger daughter went to college, which began my living alone stage that initially felt far more lonely than lovely. Before that there was home with mother, father, brother; then there were roommates in various configurations; and then there was husband and daughters; then, five and a half years ago (two years after the divorce) the house finally sold and older daughter went to college, so there was younger daughter on her custody schedule; then daughter and boyfriend; then daughter full-time since another great romantic story didn’t work out and boyfriend left, and my ex disappeared; and now there’s me. Well, me and Poops. It took a while to overcome the feeling that I should be tending to someone, that I am a failure for having failed at all my important relationships (when you’re down, your daughters going far far away to college reflects on you negatively), and to finally settle down into me and not being apologetic or ashamed of that. What is a “should” home configuration anyway?

 

At work my days are spent tending to others. I calculated that each work day I interact with at least 100 people, where some pay attention to every single thing I say, and others only notice the oh-no’s that slip when you talk for a living. That’s a lot of watching my mind-mouth interaction. And what I read in my spare time is generally about how abysmal our world is and has been, or about the people who try to make sense of that abysmal world record, or about the people who try to make it less abysmal, so I’ve got a weight on me that never leaves.

 

What does it mean to be alone? It doesn’t mean lonely because I don’t feel isolated (except on Saturday nights when I’m in bed by nine and fully awake at midnight, and maybe, too, on Sunday mornings when I would love to eat breakfast at a diner but even I will not expose myself that much because what could possibly say lonely more than eating breakfast alone while all around you are couples and families?). It does mean that I have the opportunity to live in the undulating rhythm of my mind and needs. It means that I can care about what I care about. But it also means that I have no one to blame for not accomplishing what I thought I should accomplish. There is no blame-game safety net. That isn’t such a bad thing because it also means that I force myself to whittle down into realistic goals, both lofty and nappy (as in napping).

 

To be alone is not to be without people because that is a decision to be made on an on-going basis, but it does mean that I need to be satisfied with myself since I cannot fill my mind with the la-la-la-la of other people’s doings and thinkings. No meals to anticipate other people wanting. No soothing of disjointed egos and moods. No driving to be done. No coordinating and planning and scheduling. It is to live in the moment gauging only what I need, and that is liberating and unnerving because there is still a part of me that finds fulfillment in being a carpet to walk upon.

 

Alone. It means to recognize another aspect of my identity. I am a woman, mother, writer, teacher: I am Jewish, a New Yorker, Virginian, American, Israeli; I am alone.

 

It has taken a while, but I feel strength in that designation. It is a sign of being a cope-er.

 

Alone is a plateau. One that stretches in an undulating path of self-directed wanderings.


The Heart of an Irrelevant Lady

Palm Springs, November 2014

Palm Springs, Thanksgiving 2014

While the country roils from murderous racism and white impunity, and around the world anti-Semitism becomes de rigueur for the open-hearted and those who would cut out those open hearts from the core of their own murderous racism, and as increasingly thicker catalogs for clothes and make-up arrive for younger daughter, I’m spending my time in high-chat mode. Since no one’s calling my friends and me to solve the problems of the world, we might as well contemplate the meaning of our little lives.

 

One friend wonders what will fulfill her now that her sons are heading off to college and she’s heading into far too many years at the same organization; another friend grasps out and in for tools to make her and her fiancé’s relationship a success rather than a contentious prequel to divorce two; another friend has begun to resemble Don Quixote as she battles to be recognized beyond the gates of nepotism; while another is within the gates, but battling the whiny wall of bureaucracy and the entitled student.

 

Amidst that cacophony there are the illnesses that have crept in. There is the friend, the woman who less than a year ago I envied for her large, lovely home; successful, devoted husband; adoring sons still at home; international travel with family and friends; a retirement full of purpose; who has been laid very, very low by cancer. There is the woman who told me that her husband, the successful engineer, now spends his time at home unable to make a cup of coffee, with a Keurig, because of early on-set Alzheimer’s. And there is the student whose depression has created a hollow-seeming child.

 

Oh, woe woe woe.

 

But woe is not me in the sense that I suffer within my situational pain, rather woe is within my chain of connection, and that is an essential link in the chain of self, especially since I have uncovered that within my singleness there is the almost teenage connection to friends, but I am in a post-boy phase and so can focus on what is being told without demanding to be heard.

 

Is there always a cycle of pain, where we each have our turn at the wheel while others wait patiently for their turn?

 

It’s a sad thing to know that the prick is always felt by someone.

 

I am not an “it’s for a reason” or an “it will make you stronger” person. There is no flip side, rather there is the undulating movement of lives that rise and fall. There is no repose, there is the appreciation of what was, what is, what will be, never knowing what is better or best, just going through the cycle of self because that is the story to be lived.

 

Amidst the essential pain within each small life, the violent tragedies that stun and subdue appear so purposeless, so petty. How can hate be of more value than a morning kiss? Why does one person’s mind get to conquer another’s body? Why does the arrogance that quells get the upper hand on the respect that fosters?

 

Questions that have no answer in history, which, I guess, is the answer.

 

Pebbles of compassion.

 

Who I am and who I am and who I am needs to push past the never-ending truth of a world built on greed and power, and simply commit to its own spiral that threads together concern for and encouragement of friends, and that spark of dignity that drills beneath the layers of resentment and commits to believing in the undergirding of humanity wherein my circle is limitless and where my powerlessness is a power. The power of living a life pretending that it is more than mine, that it is part of an “ours” that can change the trajectory of imposed tragedies. A real life of pretend, where the illusion is that no one is irrelevant, and the message is that despair is solitary while empathy is communal.

 

Sitting around the table talking our little talks will not quell the seeping hatred, but it will quiet the fear that I huddle alone in my horror and dismay, and that is no insignificant feat. Within that comfort is the power to resist passivity and to propel my pebble of self into the ocean, creating the barest of ripples, which, at the most basic level, is a barrier. As a barrier protects, it also pushes against. These friendships are a force on the tiniest of scales and the most impactful. There is nothing small about talk that protects and emboldens.  


On Being Jewish in Virginia on November 16, 2014

Since May and the killing of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium it seems that everything I’ve read has been about antisemitism somewhere, everywhere, in the world. Except here, but I won’t be surprised if it arrives. Well, that’s not quite true since it did arrive a few years ago in the form of a swastika drawn onto a desk in my classroom as well as the memorable phrase, “F- this Jew.” So, no, I won’t be surprised when it arrives. I will be horrified and dismayed, again.

 

There was also the shocking tableau in school a few years ago of an Asian girl calling her Asian friend a Jew because she bent down to pick up a coin that was on the ground. Why not pick it up?

 

And then there was the one-date guy whose memorable comment about Jews needing to atone for killing Jesus was definitely a here-now comment. Come to think of it, just a couple of weeks ago a friend of a friend, upon hearing about the relationship-ending comment, said, “Well, they did.” Yes, here. Yet, when I told that to younger daughter, she said that a friend’s sister who went to a Catholic high school in this area was taught that it’s not true. So here and not here.

 

But, honestly, reading about antisemitism was so much “nicer” when it was just in my historical reading, and not my newspaper reading.

 

It makes you—me—wonder, what’s wrong with the world that it needs to hate people who didn’t take your guy as their guy? Do we really all have to accept the same truths? And even their guys don’t have the same guys and truths, so, really, what’s a person to do? What have we Jews done except survive (minus those who, horrifically, didn’t survive) the laws and restrictions that were placed in front of us? Could someone please give us the most well-deserved medal for putting up with the tantrums of tyrants and not coming out with hatred on our breath, but still, unbelievably, committed to improving the world (tikkun olam). Still hoping, impressively, that the world would become a moral and ethical place, putting to an end the constant spark-less spark to stab and shoot and run over Jews, and then blame the Jews themselves because they exist(ed).

 

Ugh.

 

It’s so hard to think about this rationally, when there are people who accept as acceptable blank hatred or institutional hatred or taught hatred or systemic hatred. That hatred creates spaces where Jews are not allowed to breathe, never mind utter a sacred word.

 

What is it that perpetuates insanity?

 

Did Adam and Eve leave Eden so that the theory of perpetual hatred could be tested? Could we just say that yes, hate is as ingrained in the human soul as the need for approval, and move on to discover, let’s say, the healing power of a compassionate smile?

 

Or maybe we really do need to put all young men on a few islands, with no social media devices, preventing their wise elders from teaching them to the test of hate, and then we all could continue on our merry way to save the earth from our much too big footsteps.

 

A gloom has seeped into me, relentless in its hold, pushing me to consider what I can do to push back. At the same time, I still need to live life as if my job and my maintenance of self and home are all that matters.

 

That was a few days ago.

 

The last couple of days gave me a moment’s reprieve from the closed circle of hate and despair.

 

A student I had a few years ago came by to tell me how well he’s doing in his current English class, and to thank me for having taught him. That student is Palestinian.

 

And a Muslim student who is from the same area of New York that I am from, and who is covered except for her face, smiled with appreciation when I spoke a few words in Hebrew at the prompting of some of her classmates.

 

That is the cycle as it should be.

 

The eternal shame of humanity is that we are only human when we break bread with one another, for when we are in a group we come into the mass that becomes the mob, and within that momentum we lose the remembrance of ever having a heart that beat for a friend’s pain or our own. That mob mentality can take hold of us even when we are staring out the window in solitude. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe venomous hate supersedes all other emotions in its pull on the heart and mind. Maybe the irrationality of the seemingly ever-present antisemitism is in my trying to understand it as if it is a research question to be answered and, once answered, shelved. But it is not.

 

Perhaps the real shame is that elders abuse their young by teaching hatred so intensely as to stultify generations.

 

Perhaps the shame is that it’s so easy to manipulate people to hate.

 

Perhaps it is thinking that there is a purpose beyond breaking bread.

 

A conundrum.

 

Why are we born with hearts that constantly need to be filled with something?

 

Why do we want to look in the mirror as we walk down the street?

 

As I sit here hour upon hour, with thoughts that feel at times like the prayer of the non-practioner, I go in and out of hot flashes. One moment my sweatshirt is zipped up and the next the heat rises, uncontrolled and intense, and I unzip, and then just as suddenly it leaves, and I zip up again. It is a crazy way to be. I know how I should feel, but that doesn’t mean anything when the hot flash takes over.

 

Is that what it feels like to hate: to have your innards taken over, to lose control of yourself to something beyond yourself? Is there something tempting in the totality of loss and gain in that process that enables people to prefer the heat of self-denial to the preservation of self?

 

At some point in the next few years my hot flashes will end, and I will (hopefully) regain control of my thermostat. What can I say of hate? Let it burn up like the crumbs at the bottom of an oven: the cinder all that is left to represent the harm of hate, and the uselessness of preserving it as if it has a value other than to darken and embitter.  


The Elegance of Falling

Red Hook Brooklyn

Red Hook, Brooklyn. A gritty/dangerous to gritty/semi-gentrified neighborhood. (IKEA to the left)

It turns out that I broke my shoulder going to the bathroom. A friend said that I need a better story, but I’m sticking to it. As I told him, it’s in the banality of life that I find what to write about; thus, this fall fits right in.

I landed so hard on my left shoulder that, as the doctor put it, “There’s a break where the ice cream part of the shoulder meets the cone part.” A less metaphorical friend said, “It’s the socket.” I need to be in a sling for a few weeks, with limited use of my left arm. Luckily, I’m ambidextrous and my writing these days is done with a keyboard and not with a pen tensely held in my left hand. Luckily, too, I use my right hand to write on the board, so systems are somewhat ready for school days. The orthopedist told that my threshold for pain is high, which, ridiculously, feels like an accomplishment. It is not bad, as things go.

I’m using this down time effectively, in a balanced way. On the negative side: making myself feel bad about my lack of summer accomplishments and how my weight has stabilized at too high a number (according to the scale at the doctor’s office and pants shopping) even after drastically cutting down (home-based) carbs. On the positive side: reading. You would think that a writer and English teacher would let herself relax into reading, terming it an accomplishment and a worthy activity, but I don’t; the exception being if the book brings to life a dark moment in history. I’m on a roll with novels about children during World War II. So that works. Now that the end of summer is fast approaching, I’m letting in a little yearning to read about yearning before it’s too late. (When I was in New York, my sister-in-law showed me the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey and breathlessly explained the story, thinking that it would entice me. It didn’t.)

I’m also balancing the inner reflection part of summer by watching Robin Williams clips and reading about Gaza, Israel, anti-Semitism, Yezidis, Iraq, Syria, Michael Brown, Ferguson, Ebola, and thinking about the deaths of my three acquaintances. My, how this summer has just breezed along! Are summers always so intense, so tragic? As Shakespeare put it:

The day is hot, the [Capulets] are abroad.

And if we meet we shall not 'scape a brawl,

For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

(Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 1, lines 2-4)

Why is it so hard to overcome evil, sweat or not?

For years I have been reading about anti-Semitism, striving to understand it. But how do you comprehend incessant, violent hatred even if it masquerades as something intellectual or religious or economic or racial? It seems to me that it persists as proof that evil exists and will always need to be fought and defeated. It is not for one generation to create a golden brick road for all of us to prance upon; no, each generation needs to determine if theirs is a generation that will skip along caring or at least tolerating each other, or will their generation tug at that war of good and evil, or will theirs let the evil spill and spread like oil on water.

At a certain point the unendingness of anti-Semitism and oppression and attempts at genocide, of one group being so offended by the existence of another group that it seeks its destruction, is too hard to process. But there is no alternative. If anything, this summer has taught me that we all live with so much pain that perhaps it is this personal-power that can contend with the dehumanizing group-power of hate. From pain surely comes hate, but so, too, may it be the source of empathy, of seeing that we are tied to others by more commonalities than we were aware.

This summer I fell and broke a bone. I don’t devalue my pain compared to other people’s (well, not too much); it does give me a point of partnership. But did I really need it? What does it take to be a good person in a world that constantly veers toward evil? In a car you can adjust the alignment. If only it were so simple.

During a class at the Holocaust Museum a few years ago I learned the concept of the four types of people: victim, perpetrator, rescuer, and bystander. The bystander has been vilified as letting the evil of the world roll on and on. But I wonder if the bystander should be so negatively interpreted. Do I, a seemingly passive person, not act to propel the positive forces of my understanding of life? Do I not live, in my teeny footsteps, as if I am part of a wave that strives for whirled peas (world peace)?

I remember reading that some Holocaust survivors said that they thought their mental rebellions counted as just that, rebellion. I also read about inmates in labor camps de-bombing the bombs they were supposed to be making for Nazi Germany. I wonder if the force of internal resistance is more than we think, and if believing in it, we end up doing more active resistance and insistence. Aren’t we more motivated to push ourselves, to be ourselves, when we aren’t cowering in self-doubt? Isn’t it better to be underwhelmed and, thus, capable, than overwhelmed and non-propelled?

Years ago my daughters laughed at me for being the bag lady when I went to the supermarket. Now I save 5 cents with each bag I bring. I used to have to search for Fair Trade coffee, now it’s available in Costco.

The anguish felt when witnessing pain is the core strength within humanity that has any chance at defeating, even momentarily, the ever-burgeoning cancer of hate. It is not to feel that my pain is not serious enough, my input is not worthy enough, my giving is not valuable enough; it is to live knowing that my compassion is to be trusted as a guide propelling me from pain, into pain, to attempt to banish pain.   


The Thickness of Life

Fuzzy pink plant detail

The thickness of life is overwhelming in how it integrates itself into the thinness of life. As I sit, perpetually vacillating between my sense of purpose that compels me to focus on doing something of worth and my summer vacation slant toward reading for pleasure, I read about the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians, and I read condemnations of Israelis and Palestinians, and I listen to speeches about the destruction of neighborhoods and the destruction of the world, leaving myself little room to escape into any semblance of soothing isolation.

Instead of making a decision, I call my mother to book plane tickets for her visit here next week. During the call she recounts her latest troubles with a friend. I don’t discount her as I generally do, but accept that people, at all phases of organizational structure, don’t always get along: one may try and one may be trying, one may push and one may stop yielding.

A few minutes after we hang up, she emails, telling me that her friend’s daughter (who has been in a hospice for weeks) just passed away. The cycle of violence reverts to the cycle of life. She is the third person I know or know of who has died in the past two months, two from cancer and one by choking. They were in their 40s and 50s. Two daughters and a son. Two mothers and a father.

All deaths are tangible; all life is tangible.

Tears roll down my face as I think of this woman, these acquaintances. Then, in a transition unnecessary of explanation, I think of my daughters.

There is such a sadness that accompanies life that it’s hard to believe there’s a purpose, and it’s hard not to believe there’s a purpose. One foot goes in front of the other whether we are full of pain or joy. One person battles cancer, another battles a spouse. One perches amidst challenges, another retreats from challengers. It’s all the same. There is the forest and there are the trees. There is spring and there is fall. What ties each generation to our floating castle in the sky? What do I fear and what do I cherish—at this moment?

The reality beyond the infinitesimal turning of the wheel makes me realize that so much of life feels that it is lived while held under water. Life as a paddle wheel. Is there ever enough laughter before submersion into pain (of self or empathy)?

But as I live through this cycle time-beyond-counting, I realize that its value is in understanding that we are not alone. At each moment of experience we can psychically wave to someone in the midst of a parallel experience, perhaps endlessly waving. This comfort is not in numbers, but in compassion that goes out and comes in, providing shelter sturdier than walls. Is that the point? To value the connections we cannot see, to live as though each experience is a shared experience, to trust that our hearts beat for each other. To believe that compassion is the true world order and to live as if it was in spite of the push downward. 

Fuzzy pink plant


Prayer and Powerlessness

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

I finally realized why people close their eyes, quiet their nerves, still themselves, and pray. It’s not that I didn’t understand that people pray to ask/plead for something tangible; you know, just say the word “get” and you have a full prayer session. As in: get good grades, get a job, get a raise, get rich, get well, get married, get pregnant, get whatever it is that is craved—at that moment. That has never appealed to me as a concept or activity. I cannot imagine a God who is so concerned with the minutiae of my life to listen to my pleas and heed them. Besides, wouldn’t the positive answer to my pleading result in someone else losing out? Every day people get sick, some are cured and some are not. So who gets which lottery-prayer ticket? My interpretation of the big guy, and this can come from a minute of reading the obituary page, is not that he has his heart set on granting our wishes, but that he’s a hands-off kind of guy. We live, we die. It is our job to use the time and capacities that we have to lead a life that does not lead to a sorrowful soliloquy in the end.

But it hit me today that praying is wishful thinking done while supplicating the self, thinking that a bit of humility can go a long way.

Prayer is an activity for the helpless who acknowledge that they are helpless. We see winds and waters and wars befell them/us, and there is nothing we can to do stop their descent. We are helpless in the face of force and forces. But it is too painful to live knowing that your life only fills your stomach, that it cannot protect someone from the onslaught, that the power of our deeds cannot stop aggressions and nature’s movements. The horror of being one person is to be aware of being one person. There are many quotes, though, that claim we all have the capability to change the world, but how many of us go out and become the change we want to see? So what do we have left? We have the cries of our hearts, the tears of minds, the sorrow of our souls. We have our humanity expressed. We have our thoughts meditations prayers.

May each person be granted the ability to live a life unobstructed.

May hate dissipate and reconfigure into respect.

May there be peace.

---

I used to think that the one action we, the helpless, have is study. Instead of giving in or mouthing words of desire, you learn, seeking to unearth and understand meanings beneath actions. But is knowledge power? Or at least knowledge that is unaccessed, with no outlet except lamentations of the mind? How does it help to know that you are still stymied—that you are endlessly a heart that beats but has no engine to run but the self? Ah, knowledge can spawn the imagination, but it can also defeat the imagination when it expands without a vessel to receive it.

--- 

In 2001, a year after we returned from Israel, and four months after I lost my job because the high-tech company that relocated us from Israel to Virginia went bust, I began my master’s program in Conflict Studies. It was a way of learning and, I thought, to become more than a citizen, more than a person who tearfully reads the newspaper, but has some input, some value. Alas, I am still an idle sitter. I have even less strength than a person who prays, because I have become complacent in my inactivity. What is a person’s worth if she unvalues herself?

As I have evaluated my sitting over the years, I have cursed my personality, but that no longer soothes my guilt, my sense of weakness. I am determined to be more than a vessel of words wishing in the void, I am determined to find a beat to my heart that is outside of myself. A beat that validates, to myself, the breaths I take. For as I wonder about the existence of the great judge in the sky, I know that the judge within me receives no prayers, only the consensus of fulfillment in purpose.


This Week in the War on Women: July 12, 2014

This is cross posted at Daily Kos: This Week in the War on Women.

 

SCOTUS, Hobby Lobby, and the Push for “Not My Boss’s Business” Act

Senators Mark Udall and Patty Murray's bill, “The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act,” clarifies that the law the Supreme Court based their decision on — The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — cannot be used to allow for-profit corporations to limit any legal health care service.”

“The men and women who went to work for Hobby Lobby signed up to work at a craft store, not a religious organization,” Udall said.”

http://www.coloradoindependent.com/148213/udall-talks-not-my-bosss-business-act

 

Senators Speak Out: Now Let’s Hope There’s Action

“It is a horrible decision,” Reid said, adding that he was “disappointed” in Chief Justice John Roberts and felt the justice had “misdirected” senators during his confirmation hearings about whether he supported constitutional privacy rights.”

“As the author of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I can say with absolute certainty the Supreme Court got the Hobby Lobby case dead wrong,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). The point of the law was to protect the religious freedoms of individuals from government interference, Schumer said, and people who are born into or convert to a religion are nothing like for-profit corporations that form voluntarily and benefit from the marketplace under U.S. laws.”

“Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called Hobby Lobby a “direct violation” of the right to privacy granted by the Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which struck down laws prohibiting the sale of birth control.”

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/07/10/reid-hobby-lobby-bill-taken-next-week/

 

All You Wish You Didn’t Need to Know about the Hobby Lobby Case

Think about It: “Until Hobby Lobby, religious liberty was a shield, not a sword. It protected minority religious practices from majority tyranny. Hobby Lobby, however, has opened the door to companies opting out of all kinds of laws: anti-discrimination laws, the Affordable Care Act, you name it.”

http://lilith.org/blog/2014/07/your-guide-to-the-hobby-lobby-case-and-its-crushing-consequences/

A HL Quote Roundup

Including: "Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will." -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on the elegantly referred to “Not My Boss’s Business” Act

http://go.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?abbr=daily2_&page=NewsArticle&id=45005

 

They’re Not Done: Next Term the Boys of SCOTUS Will Decide how Pregnant Women Work

“The Court will consider the case of Peggy Young, a part-time delivery driver for UPS whose discrimination claim puts a spotlight on the vulnerabilities many workers face if they become pregnant.”

“Three-quarters of women entering the labor force will be pregnant on the job at some point in their lives, and issues of workplace accommodations for pregnant workers increasingly affect low-wage women workers. So this is a big case, and one that no matter the ruling will have a wide reach. It’s also a case that wades into issues of gender stereotyping, gender-neutral leave policies, and cultural assumptions about mothers’ and fathers’ “differential attachments to the labor force” including the way a cultural reverence for pregnancy and new mothers contributes to instances of pregnancy discrimination. These are murky waters for the conservatives on the Roberts Court.”

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/07/07/roberts-court-takes-issue-accommodating-pregnant-workers/

 

ENDA (Employment Protection Bill) Suffers from Right’s Rights to more Rights

“A number of high profile LGBT rights groups have announced they cannot support the current version of the employment protection bill known as ENDA. Why are they doing this, and where do we go from here?”

“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was among the first groups to announce it was formally dropping its support for the bill. ENDA (the Employment Non Discrimination Act) was originally was designed to end anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace. ENDA legislation passed the US Senate in November last year but it came with a major compromise. Chiefly, the language appears to allow broad religious exemptions that would mean businesses who claim to have sincerely held religious beliefs could still discriminate against LGBT employees and make hiring, firing and promotion decisions solely on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“Many groups had already raised serious concerns about this aspect of the legislation, and then came the Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby” decision. While that case dealt narrowly with an exemption based upon religious beliefs, the Religious Right has seized upon it as a window of opportunity for carving out exemptions from LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and ordinances. The Task Force seems to think the ENDA loophole, teamed with this appetite to undermine civil rights laws, creates a similarly dangerous precedent.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/lgbt-groups-are-turning-their-backs-on-enda-but-why.html#ixzz37GO1M3k0

 

Can Bubble Zones Protect a Woman’s Right to Healthcare?

“In many states and municipalities court challenges are being initiated against the zones, but in others the cities themselves have made the decision just to fend off potential lawsuits. That isn’t working, however, and the mass of litigation, even where it is unnecessary, and the threats of even more lawsuits in the face of new proposals makes it clear that with one victory behind them, anti-abortion activists intend to use their clout as a group to ensure no new protections are put in place.”

“The reason for both of these facts are the same. Religious Right legal teams that step forward to offer to represent the states that pass unconstitutional bills also represent the anti-abortion activists that challenge what few protections patients do receive when they try to access a clinic. By virtue of their endless legal battles, they essentially frighten challengers out of litigation with the threat of crippling legal costs.”

“In other words, the end of abortion access may just come about not via overturning Roe v. Wade, but at the hands of hundreds of expensive lawsuits.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/how-abortion-opponents-plan-to-stop-new-buffer-zones.html#ixzz37G4pW0yZ

“Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, protesters stepping into the buffer zones may already be scaring patients away from their appointments. Since the ruling, one Planned Parenthood clinic in Massachusetts told the Los Angeles Times that the clinic had "more no-shows for the week than usual."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/09/abortion-clinic-buffer-zo_n_5571516.html

 

Women as Built-in Healthcare Providers

“At the beginning of July, 26-year-old Mallory Loyola gave birth to a baby girl. Two days later, the state of Tennessee charged her with assault. Loyola is the first woman to be arrested under a new law in Tennessee that allows the state to criminally charge mothers for potentially causing harm to their fetuses by using drugs.”

“This view of pregnant women essentially means that as soon as you’re carrying a fertilized egg, you’ve lost your medical privacy and your right to make medical decisions,” Paltrow pointed out. “But all matters concerning pregnancy are health care matters. Pregnancy, like other health issues, should be addressed through the public health system and not through the criminal punishment system or the civil child welfare system.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/tennessee-arrests-first-mother-under-its-new-pregnancy-criminalization-law.html#ixzz37GHTUTpN

 

State’s Rights?

“A new law just took effect in Georgia that bans coverage of abortion in health plans purchased in the state health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These health insurance policies can now only cover abortion "in the case of medical emergency,"but not in cases of incest or rape.”

http://www.feminist.org/news/newsbyte/uswirestory.asp?id=15075

 

Retro while Pretending to Be Hip

“Tech behemoth Apple has had a few run-ins with casual sexism over the past few years. After Siri was introduced, it soon became clear that the software had trouble finding abortion clinics, but was very capable of finding escort services. A writer at Jezebel noted that her iPhone will not autocorrect a misspelling of "vagina," no matter how clear it is that that’s the word she intended. Now it’s come to light that Apple will not engrave the words “clit” or “vagina” on their products. (But don’t worry, bros. “Dick” and “penis” are still A-OK.)”

“Apple’s policy against engraving “vagina” and “clit” but it’s apparent ease with words like “dick” and “penis” are an extension of this attitude. The lesson here is that men’s sexuality is normal and should be celebrated while women’s sexuality is abnormal and shameful. Apple’s engraving policy may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a symptom of one of the biggest battles we have to fight.”

http://www.care2.com/causes/apples-vagina-ban-is-a-bigger-deal-than-you-think.html#ixzz37Fp5a6uB

 

Rape: For Goodness’s Sake, Teach Your Sons to Just Say NO!

A Young Victim of Drugging and Rape Speaks Out

Enough already with the drugging of girls and raping them. What the heck is going on. Is it so hard to raise a boy to be respectful of women? I don’t know what is a starker example of the War on Women than the drugging, raping, and media-harassing of young women. What a pitiful group of people we have in our midst.

“In an incident that shares several elements with the infamous Steubenville rape case that made national headlines last year, a 16-year-old girl from Texas says that photos of her unconscious body went viral online after she was drugged and raped at a party with her fellow high schoolers. But the victim isn’t backing down. She’s speaking out about what happened to her, telling her story to local press and asking to be identified as Jada.”

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/07/10/3458564/rape-viral-social-media-jada/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/online-trolls-target-alleged-rape-victim-jada-by-copying-how-she-appeared-in-video-of-attack-9601525.html

 

Schools and Colleges: Let’s Make them Safe Places

I don’t have many memories of high school (I’ve blocked out the isolation and boredom), but I do remember a history teacher saying, during class, that he would like to have sex with me, on a pretty regular basis. I didn’t say anything to anyone at school or to my parents. Who expected anyone to do anything back in the day? But that day really needs to come to an end.  

“The American Association of University Women had already documented the problem of harassment for teens. Fifty six percent of middle- and high-school female teens were sexual harassed during the previous year, found a 2011 report by the Washington-based group. In an earlier study it found that 83 percent of female teens faced harassment throughout their teen years at school and only 9 percent of young women reported harassment to school faculty.”

“More than half of students surveyed in the American Association of University Women's 2011 report want a system put in place where they can report sexual harassment incidents anonymously, the study also found.”

“Most students are afraid to report sexual harassment because they fear that they will experience further bullying, said Narcisse in a phone interview. "Most people think their life is going to be in danger. People that get harassed by kids in school think that if they say something they're going to get bullied or beat up."

http://womensenews.org/story/education/140708/teens-say-school-sex-harassment-goes-unpunished#.U8EzgpRdWSo

 

Harvard Stands Up for Women, Sort of

“Harvard should be praised for its new sexual assault policy. Released last week, the policy stands as the death knell of the Campus SaVE Act, a federal law enacted last year that weakens Title IX, the 1970s law that guarantees women safe and equal access to education.”

“Harvard will apply a "preponderance of the evidence" standard when determining whether an incident occurred. In the past, students reporting sexual assault faced a much more demanding standard of "clear and convincing evidence," which devalued women's worth on campus by declaring a credible victim's word inherently insufficient to merit sanctions against an offender. Under the new rule, the word of a woman will properly be accorded the same value as that of any student reporting or defending against any type of civil rights violence or harassment on campus.”

“Harvard will also define violence against women in accordance with civil rights laws that use terms such as "unwelcome" and "offensive."

The question now is, which school will do Harvard one-step better? Which school will be bold enough to assume bragging rights as the first school in the nation to embrace an iron-clad prohibition on violence against women with explicit directives guaranteeing fully equitable substantive AND procedural redress of gender-based civil-rights violations – at the exact same table of justice with victims of civil rights violations based on race and national origin? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lower-tiered school to truthfully declare itself a "better" school than Harvard. Let the bragging-rights war begin!

http://womensenews.org/story/law/140708/sexual-assault-harvard-takes-big-step-forward#.U8Ezh5RdWSo

 

The Cycle of Invisibility Continues

“The nominees for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards were announced on Thursday and women were 26 percent of the nominees. Out of a total 1406 nominated across 72 non-performance categories, women were nominated 369 times, while men were nominated 1037 times.”

http://www.womensmediacenter.com/blog/entry/women-make-up-only-26-of-nominees-for-66th-primetime-emmy-awards

But, Laverne Cox was the first openly-transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black.

http://samuel-warde.com/2014/07/laverne-cox-first-openly-transgender-actress-nominated-emmy/

 

Pushing Back: Saying No to Our Bosses

Planned Parenthood Action

I dissent. Religious freedom means that every person should be allowed to follow her own conscience, whether she owns a company or works for an hourly wage. Women earn health care coverage the same way they earn a paycheck -- and they shouldn't have it taken away because of the personal views of their employers.

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

Mom’s Rising: Tell Congress to Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference! 

http://action.momsrising.org/sign/HobbyLobbyFix/?akid=5604.2023200.y6dLpV&rd=1&t=4

And, most critically: VOTE IN NOVEMBER! Let’s bring government to the people and not keep handing it to the corporations. 

 


The Pain of Dating

Grey heron

Grey heron that lives in the pond near my home. 

Last Saturday night’s first date managed to be boring in a pleasing way because it clarified that there doesn’t need to be a second date to know that there is no potential. I understand and accept that we’re all basically dull, but some people manage to ignite a spark that brings out your very own somnolent spark, and, my, then there is charm and passion and potential. That, of course, is why I keep going on these first dates.

What set this date apart was when we veered into the banality of his anti-Semitism. One moment he was saying that he has no desire to travel to Israel, and then he was saying, “Jews should atone for killing God.” I’m sure my face reflected the surprise and horror that I felt. My saying “Jews didn’t kill Jesus, the Romans did,” was not met with a silly me, of course they didn’t sort of “taking it back” comment from him. I attempted a mini-lesson, but when I broached the idea that even if they had, it happened more than 2000 years ago, so why continue punishing Jews now was met with incredulity, which transitioned to shock when I stated that I didn’t think Jesus was God, but a Jewish guy who wanted to shake things up. It was as if it was the first time he had ever heard that someone didn’t believe in Jesus. A bit like what it was for me to hear such blatant anti-Semitism spoken right at me—and for him not to even realize that he had said something offensive,  

It’s odd, isn’t it, that we know that other people have different ideas and beliefs than we do, but when we’re confronted with them in the guise of the person you had been sharing a meal with it becomes a wall instead of an abstract idea.

He stopped my explanations by stating that he has his beliefs and I have mine, and that’s that.

When I told a friend what he said, she suggested that I use this opportunity to instruct him about the repugnance of his comment and that it is not a matter of opinion, but of bigotry. I spent a day considering what to say to him; in the end, I opted for simply stating that I found his comment about Jews to be offensive—that it was anti-Semitic. His response? None.

It’s not just the arrogance of his ignorance that got to me, but the settledness that his beliefs are facts. From the little I know of this man, I know that he didn’t read anything to come up with this idea, that, surely, he accepted what some pastors have preached. So the ball of blame rolls up. What is the point to preach this? What is the point to purposefully incite animosity and hatred toward Jews? Are we not allowed to not believe in your guys in peace?

Dating is supposed to be about romance, but I’m finding less hand-holding than general sadness. We middle-aged people who are still or again looking for love are, to varying degrees, bitter and forlorn. For goodness’ sakes, 52 years in and I haven’t found the face I want to see when I close my eyes. We all tell each other that it doesn’t matter, that we are content with our lives, and we are. But then why do we look at picture after picture and read profile after profile hoping to find a match, a mate, someone who will relieve us from continually realizing that, for all we have done and all we have given, we are alone. Alone is not bad, and often I revel in the wonder of aloneness of weekends when I don’t have to talk to anyone or do anything that I don’t want to, and the aloneness of weekdays when I can come home from work and retreat into myself after a day of teaching, but the unceasing nature of it bogs down my ebullience.

I will try to learn my lesson: I will adhere to my red flags. With this man I ignored my red flag of profiles that are too lengthy. That would not have warned me about his anti-Semitism, but I would have prevented myself from having been exposed to it. At least I know that the lengthy profile red flag does, indeed, point to a self-absorbed person. 


This Week in the War on Women (February 1)

This is cross-posted at DailyKos.

 

A WAY WITH WORDS (AND THOUGHTS)

They WON! Rand Paul Version

One of the first things that an English teacher tries to get her students to do when analyzing literature is to have her students understand that characters are not versions of themselves nor are they people to be judged against their/their parent’s moral base so that they can expand their understanding of the world. But, I guess, ophthalmologists don’t need to see into the heart the way, say, a cardiologist would. Thanks to Atticus, in To Kill a Mockingbird, for stating it so eloquently; “‘First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”

And now Rand Paul on The War on Women: “This whole sort of war on women thing, I’m scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won,” the Tea Party Republican told Meet the Press, according to Think Progress. “You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85% of the young people there are women. Law school, 60% are women. In med school, 55%. My younger sister is an OB-GYN with six kids and doing great. I don’t see so much that women are downtrodden. I see women rising up and doing great things. In fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women are outcompeting the men in our world [...] The women in my family are doing great. That’s what I see in all the statistics coming out. I have, you know, young women in my office that are the leading intellectual lights of our office. So I don’t really see this, that there’s some sort of war on women that’s, you know, keeping women down.”

So there it is, a man who is supposed to represent the men and women of Kentucky, and the men and women of the United States is so insightful (or was that insular?) that he can base all his understanding on those supposedly downtrodden by looking at the wonderfully accomplished women in his family who, surely, had a hell of a time making ends meet and dealing with the snowball of racism. Yup. Rand knows.

But he has more insights, this man who sees so very deeply, in the same interview he “suggested that President Bill Clinton was responsible for the “war on women” because he had an affair with an intern while he was in office during the 1990s.” Thankfully, I can’t really understand this for anything other than grabbing for words that can fill airtime and approximate thought, and to do a “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything I say sticks to you” kind of deflection. You would think that a man who seems concerned about men violating women would surely have voted for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2013. Alas, he didn’t.

LIBIDO! LIBIDO! LIBIDO! Send them back to the kitchen. Huckabee Mumbles

I don’t think that we should forget Mr. Huckabee’s quote too quickly because he has now become the momentary Republican frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nominee and he has, apparently, made lots of money by being insulting, paternalistic, and downright thoughtfree—and proud of it. One more time:

"If the Democrats want to insult women by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," he said. "Let us take this discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be."

Apparently the ladies in red think that this makes sense.

“Wednesday's poll indicated that Republican women weren't bothered by what he said either. With 16 percent support, Huckabee was the top choice among female GOP voters.”

I’m trying to think about when my libido controlled my reproductive system, but I can’t. Oh, I don’t have sex. But wait, even when I did, did having a contraceptive control it? I don’t get it. Maybe I should consult Todd Akins’ Guide to Lady Parts. I really wish these women would reach into the intuition that we ladies are supposed to have and vote with it, and not the act-then-ask response that gentlemen are known for.

It is upsetting to learn that he is making money from being an old-school chauvinist who doesn’t even pretend that we are living in the 21st century. I guess us ladies really have won the War on Women and are retreating to the bedroom and kitchen, just like we should.

 

WANTING TO BABYMAKE AND NOT WANTING TO

Surrogacy is Demeaning?

And here I thought that the ability and desire to bring a baby into the world was supposed to be a beautiful thing. Turns out if your parts don’t work right, you should be punished some more, nevermind scientific advances.

This craziness didn’t pass, but the thing about these crazy ideas, they tend to be tried repeatedly until they manage to slip it in. And now, for the latest creativity in monitoring lady parts, oh so publicly, from the forward-thinking state of Kansas: “On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, state senator Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook introduced a bill that would ban surrogacy in the state and had two women get sonograms in front of her fellow legislators.”

The quote of the moment: “Surrogacy undermines the dignity of women, children and human reproduction,” said Jennifer Lahl, a pediatric nurse who is now president of the California-based Center for Bioethics and Culture. “Consider deeply what is at stake for the dignity of women and what is in truly the best interest of the children.”

I’m sorry. I just don’t get what world these people live in. Is this somehow tied to their perception that only good women get pregnant naturally and that no good could possibly come from a child not raised by biological parents. These throwbacks should not be able to so hypocritally call their institutions names such as “Bioethics and Culture” when they don’t understand ethics and they ain’t got no culture.  

Read more.

 

Drip Drip Drip Theory of Attempting to Pass Anti-Abortion Laws Pours Forth

Updates from Louisiana, Indiana, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, South Dakota, North Carolina, and the politics of how anti-abortion you need to be to win office in Wisconsin and Georgia. Just consider this a list of states women of childbearing age might not want to live in. And beating back the drumbeat, Colorado has again defeated a personhood bill that would outlaw all abortions. As my daughter (who is in college in Colorado) said to me a few years ago in her lovely naiveté, “If they don’t want an abortion, they shouldn’t get one.” Ah, if sense and being in someone else’s shoes had a chance to make inroads into these people’s “moral” compass.   

Read more. 

 

And the Big Boys: HR7 ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion’ Bill Passed

Setting priorities (this was voted on Tuesday): “With action yet to be taken on the long-delayed passage of an agriculture bill or the restoration of emergency unemployment insurance benefits to the 1.3 million out-of-work Americans who lost that lifeline in December, the Republican majority on the House Committee on Rules set the stage on Monday for a Tuesday floor vote on HR 7, a sweeping anti-choice bill packaged—deceptively, say opponents—as a piece of taxpayer-protection legislation.”

In her testimony on Monday, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, asserted that HR 7 is “an obvious step toward banning private health insurance coverage of key women’s health benefits.”

“But, said DeGette and other members of Congress—all Democrats—who testified against the bill, HR 7 goes much further than the Hyde Amendment, by prohibiting anyone who qualifies for a tax credit for purchase of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act from purchasing a plan that covers abortion without forfeiting the subsidy.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) “More than six times in this committee I’ve related that when I was in college, three women had botched abortions, and one with a coat hanger. And those deaths of those three college students that I went to school with sear in my memory every time we bring this subject up.” Who’s protecting the sanctity of life?

Read more

 

REALLY? A Picture to Prove that there Is a War on Women

Picture in words: Four White Men in Suits

“Even Fox News host Bret Baier had to admit that choosing four guys to discuss the "war on women" was "not the best booking of this panel."

If you can’t even think of inviting a woman to talk about women, we definitely have a problem. It’s beyond policies that discriminate against women, and it’s beyond the confusing workings of our lady parts and libido, this is about women being discounted and a nasty push to put us back in the kitchen and bedroom. Admittedly, some of us like those two places, but we also think that being in the boardroom and briefing room could add flair to dishes that are served.

Read more. 

 

So What’s on the President’s Mind: Excerpt from SOTU Address about Women

“You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment.

“Women deserve equal pay for equal work.

“You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. This year let's all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

“Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they're not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we don't resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That's what America's all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

I want to hear about opportunities for more women to be visible in their bright suits in the statehouses across the country, and universities, and corporations, and with produced screenplays, and scripts, and directing movies and plays, and with published books, and in interviewers and interviewees seats. I want all the girls in this country to have the opportunities that the president’s daughters will have.

 

WE MADE IT: GOOD NEWS

Time to Move Back to New York City?

“Now, gender equity in the workplace is one step closer in New York City, as a law has gone into effect that prevents companies from refusing to make accommodations for pregnant workers or workers who have recently given birth. Unless an employer can prove an “undue hardship” by making physical allowances for pregnant or recently pregnant employees, any refusal to make accommodations can leave that employer open to charges of discrimination, just as they would be for discriminating against any employee with a short term or permanent disability.”

“New York City joins the New Jersey, where Republican Governor Chris Christie has signed a similar bill into law, and Maryland, where the act went into effect in October. A federal version hasn’t been passed due to opposition from Republican members of the House, but 90 percent of voters polled have said they would be in favor of a such a bill.”

Read more. 

About Time Initiative: Trying to Protect College Women

My daughter said that her friends in colleges in Virginia, especially the esteemed University of Virginia, felt oppressed by the overwhelming feeling of the potential of sexual violence on their campuses within their first weeks of school.

“Obama planned to sign a presidential memorandum Wednesday creating a task force to protect students from sexual assault, with a new White House report declaring that no one in America is more at risk of being raped or assaulted than college women. The report, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," says that 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted at college but that only 12 percent of student victims report the assault.”

It’s the drinking and it’s freedom from parental constraints. But isn’t it ultimately about “boys will be boys”? Let’s hope this initiative will prevent some young women from being haunted throughout their lives from the memory of a college rape.  

Read more. 

 

A Very Sad Moment of Sanity

“A Texas hospital removed a pregnant brain-dead woman from life support on Sunday in line with a court order obtained by her husband who argued the fetus she was carrying was withering inside her lifeless body, the family's lawyers said.”

I hope that the sanity continues to the hospital bill: stick it to the hospital and stick it to the legislature that passed this horrific law.

May Marlise Munoz rest in peace, and may her family recover from this horrific violation of the sanctity of life and family.

Read more. 


Winter Break 2013

January morning 2013

January morning

 

Winter break is ending. My five am alarm has been set. I am ready to get back to work, back to my students, back to the flow of my working self and life. I did not “do” anything during this break, nor did I do the work stuff that I was determined to accomplish. I barely left the apartment, except for two trips to DC, and to walk Poops (who will remember this break because it is when he lost his masculinity), but except for not seeing my older daughter, I feel at steady.

Over these two weeks, a friend told me that her future mother-in-law passed away suddenly, another friend told me that two of her relatives are suffering as they continue to battle breast cancer, another friend told me that a friend of hers, who she just went ice skating with, recently had a double mastectomy.

Another friend wrote an essay that reflects her deep internal pain at the suffering of so many people in the world because of the brutality of wars and conflicts and racism and sexism and anti-gay agendas and general hatred of the other.

So much pain, it makes me stumble. That stumble, though, is a part of groundedness. At a certain point, after going through my own pain, there is no way to return to a bubbled existence. You are pulled so deep into yourself as you suffer and exist in your pit, that when you exit it, you are pulled so far out of yourself because you realize that to live means to be a balance of yourself and those who make up your life—in both deep and barely existent connections. There is no cocoon, there is only open air: the inhalations and exhalations of pain tempered by the connections of being.

Stumbling with pain, mine, yours, ours, seems to be a sign of honest existence. Steel tempered by fire, but the steel never hardens; it is always pliable, bent by tears of pain and joy.

A new year, a new beginning. A cycle of endings and beginnings. In school, it is the middle of the year. Beginning. Middle. End. Something to look forward to, and something to recall, and something to get through. But most certainly, a knowledge that this cannot be wasted because too many of us fight to continue the cycle and it is up to us to honor that, because we get as we give, tear upon tear.  


This Week in the War on Women: December 28

This is cross-posted at DailyKos.

This morning, while taking my dog for a leisurely half-hour walk, I listened to Weekend Edition on NPR. In that half hour, the only female voice I heard was the show’s host, Linda Wertheimer. Apparently there are no female writers, movie reviewers, or chefs who can talk about books to read over the holidays, new favorite movies to watch, or foods to eat on New Year’s Day to combat the impact of having imbibed too much the previous night. Which brings me to what I perceive as one of the worst things about the War on Women: the insidious nature of women being invisible. If we are not heard, we cannot be listened to, and things will not be changed.

I teach in a high school, and in the almost ten years I have been teaching, there have always been two male assistant principals and two female assistant principals, so why, have the three principals only been male? We can lean in so far that the Leaning Tower of Pisa looks straight, but it is not just on us to break those barriers. The ole boys’ club is not just about country club membership, it’s about being more comfortable with those like you and assumptions that die hard. (Why are tough women still considered Bs?)

The existence of the War on Women impacts all of us, and its end depends on all of us. One of the things that stands out to me in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is that he states that the oppressed are oppressed as well, and that “they [white people] have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.” This is about having a society that gives every one of us a chance, and not a society where we have to prove ourselves to the white men who hold all the keys.  

 

INVISIBLE WOMEN

Invisible in the Boardroom

For Women, It's Not a Glass Ceiling but a Plugged Pipeline

“The direct, in-your-face gender discrimination of the past has faded, but bias hasn't vanished. It's just gone underground and is growing. Under a veneer of "progress," what we call the new soft war on women is gaining momentum, based on stubborn stereotypes about what women can't do.”

“It's just that the stereotypes we all have in our heads about what men and women can or can't do are incredibly deep-rooted.”

Invisible in Stories about Poverty

As Ruth Rosen notes in her article, “The Republican War on Women”: “So why have women disappeared from a fierce national debate over who deserves food assistance? I’m not actually sure. Perhaps it is because so many adult women, like men, now work in the labour force and are viewed as individuals who should take care of themselves. Perhaps it is because Republicans find women’s appetite, as opposed to that of children, an embarrassment, hinting of sexual desire. Perhaps it is because this is part of the Republican war on women’s reproductive freedom: a single mother with children is somehow guilty of bringing on her own poverty.”

“Republicans may view single mothers as sinful parasites who don’t deserve food assistance. But behind every hungry child, teenager and elderly person is a hungry mother who is exhausted from trying to keep her family together. Women who receive food assistance are neither invisible nor undeserving. They are working-class heroes who work hard -often at several minimal wage jobs - to keep their families nourished and together.” 

Invisible in the Movies—and doing something about it

“The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the only research-based organization working behind-the scenes in the entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female portrayals for children’s entertainment.”

Invisible in Government—and doing something about it

Emily’s List “envisions a world where women are equally represented at all levels of government, and achieve the highest leadership positions with our legislative and executive bodies; the influence of women office holders leads to the adoption of a host of progressive public policies to ensure that women have equal opportunities at home, in the workplace, and in the public sphere; our community of millions of engaged women and men ensure that the voice of women is heard and their power is celebrated.”

Shout Out to Wendy Davis running for Governor in Texas

 

PREGNANT LADY OBSESSION:

Wishing We Were Invisible, or Why do they only care about us when we’re pregnant?

Michigan ‘Rape Insurance’ Bill Punishes Women For Being Women

This boggles the mind.

“Last week, the Michigan legislature passed the “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” which bans private insurance companies from covering abortion services in the state and will force women to purchase additional insurance if they want abortion care to be covered by their health insurance. The bill contains no exception for cases of rape or incest, and you cannot purchase the rider once you are pregnant. It must be purchased prior to a possible pregnancy.”

“These attacks on abortion rights, whether they are TRAP laws that disguise themselves as protecting women’s safety or misleading fetal pain laws that use junk science to chip away at Roe v. Wade, are at their core about punishing women simply for being women. Laws like this reveal the deep contempt for women and reproductive freedom that underwrites the anti-abortion movement. It isn’t about protecting life; it’s about punishing women.”

Is Religion Really Your Guiding Principal If You Only Care About Pregnant Ladies?

“The lawsuit is similar to one filed in Oklahoma City last year by Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which calls itself a "biblically founded business." That lawsuit also challenges the mandate that employers provide coverage for the morning-after pill and similar drugs. In July, a federal judge granted a temporary exemption to the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain, a ruling the government has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Fetus vs. Womb

In Texas a fetus has more rights than a woman, oh, I mean, wombn.

“With pregnant wife unresponsive on life support, husband hopes to fulfill her wishes. Keeping a brain dead woman alive against the wishes of her husband and family because, in Texas, the rights of a fetus override all other rights.”

“Marlise was taken to the emergency room at JPS in the early morning of Nov. 26. Later in the day, the family was informed by doctors that they would provide any life-saving measures because she was pregnant. The family was told the hospital was taking that measure because of state law in Texas' Health and Safety Code. "Section 166.049 Pregnant Patients. A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient," the code reads.”

http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/tarrant/With-pregnant-wife-unresponsive-on-life-support-husband-hopes-to-fulfil-her-wishes-236654371.html

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/12/23/texas-law-forces-hospital-family-to-keep-pregnant-woman-on-life-support-against-her-will/

So We’re All Just People Living on the Same Planet

“A major problem is the lack of consistent work in the field, a point stressed to me in 2005 – during an earlier outbreak of brain-gender difference stories – by Professor Steve Jones, a geneticist at University College London, and author of Y: The Descent of Men. "Researching my book, I discovered there was no consensus at all about the science [of gender and brain structure]," he told me. "There were studies that said completely contradictory things about male and female brains. That means you can pick whatever study you like and build a thesis around it. The whole field is like that. It is very subjective. That doesn't mean there are no differences between the brains of the sexes, but we should take care not to exaggerate them."

“This study contains some important data but it has been badly overhyped and the authors must take some of the blame," says Professor Dorothy Bishop, of Oxford University. "They talk as if there is a typical male and a typical female brain – they even provide a diagram – but they ignore the fact that there is a great deal of variation within the sexes in terms of brain structure. You simply cannot say there is a male brain and a female brain.”

“In fact, Verma's results showed that the neuronal connectivity differences between the sexes increased with the age of her subjects. Such a finding is entirely consistent with the idea that cultural factors are driving changes in the brain's wiring. The longer we live, the more our intellectual biases are exaggerated and intensified by our culture, with cumulative effects on our neurons. In other words, the intellectual differences we observe between the sexes are not the result of different genetic birthrights but are a consequence of what we expect a boy or a girl to be.”

Body Image

Can we please stop pitting women against each other as if the world was black and white and that we’re not all walking Venn diagrams with lots and lots of overlapping.

It’s Hard to Stand Up When No One Is there to Help

Why Don't Women Report Their Attackers? “A new study finds that only seven percent of women worldwide report gender-based violence against them.”

While experts agree that, for those working in the field, this information is not surprising, the study’s value cannot be overlooked, for it demonstrates through high-quality research how vastly underreported this crime is. The numbers are compelling, and they lay bare not only how many victims continue to suffer in silence and obscurity, but also the inadequacy of many of the systems meant to protect women from such violence.

“You don’t go to the police until it is a life or death matter, really” she said. “When you think you are literally trying to save your life and the lives of your children.” That is often because formal sources like the police or medical providers can be unsupportive and insensitive to women who come to them for help, experts say. This may explain the extremely low reporting rates in India, lowest of all the countries compared, where less than one percent of women came forward to report violence to any formal source.

“We’ve done a good job now at bringing out the prevalence and incidence and a lot of the health and social and economic impacts that violence has had on women and communities and men,” she said. “But we are really kind of at the beginning of the research on understanding which interventions are most promising.”

Summing up the Year at The Progressive

In short, their top five stories: abortion x 3, rape insurance (surely that’s an oxymoron gone bad), and the one good news story that Obamacare covers birth control without a copay. (I had my annual gynecological exam a few weeks ago and there was no copay. WooHoo!)

May we all have a good new year, and may we all find a way to combat this relentless War on Women so that soon my 18-year-old daughter will be right when she tells me that I’m living in history when I tell her about the inequalities and travesties that women have to deal with just because they are women.

 

 

 


No Space in My Alcove of Humility

Tree outside my bedroom windowTree outside my bedroom window; losing leaves everyday.

Sometimes you get confirmation that what you are doing is right and you are strong enough to accept that gift for what it’s worth rather than crawl into your alcove of humility.

The other night, together with two people from my new synagogue, we led a creative writing session with some teenagers, all girls, in a transitional group home. We sat around the kitchen table (always the place to be) and did a free write, and read and discussed a poem, and then watched some music videos that they suggested. We also (shocker) snacked.

My confidence in my teaching ability in a classroom setting propelled me into this new setting with the confidence that I could conduct a lesson, but I was unsure if I could connect to the teens there or if I could get them to care about trying to express themselves in words on paper or out loud. I dreaded the curtness of antagonism and dismissiveness. Neither came. They immediately got to the free write that I used to get things started, and they kept at it long after one of the other leaders transitioned to doodles.

The girl who was sitting to my left was called out. She was taken by the police. The other girls got completely still, then they said something about her not having gone to school. 

Unexpectently, they wanted to share their free writes. One girl wanted to show off her rap, but then they all wanted to share. And they wanted us to share, which transitioned us into a group of people stumbling with expression, rather than a hierarchy of us and them.

Then, the girl sitting to my right left suddenly, overwhelmed, it seemed, with remembrances and feelings brought on by the thoughts she expressed in her free write. After that, the girl who had been so full of her own attitude, sat down next to me, where the other girl who had been overcome had been sitting. Such a little thing, such a powerful feeling of honest connectivity—at least that’s how I interpret it, and I’m sticking to that.

Then, as we read the poem, "Still I Rise," by Maya Angelou, I told them to focus on asking questions that the poem raises rather than to charge forward with finding clarity of meaning. One girl related how one of the stanzas perfectly reflected what she had experienced that day in court, having been made to feel that she had been “cut by eyes.” And for another the phrase, “I dance like I've got diamonds/ At the meeting of my thighs?” made her think of sex abuse. I told them how I thought of that line as empowering women. Just goes to show that we are always students of each other’s minds and experiences. It also reminded her of a singer who sings about the abuse she suffered from her father, and so we segued into listening to those songs. We all acknowledged, without acknowledging, that writing is a powerful way to challenge the victim narrative.  

At the end of the session, each girl was eager to receive a journal and a pen. One girl wanted my pen that said “Trust Women,” and I was so happy to give it to her. I had cherished that pen, but now I cherish the thought of her having it—of her using it. Another girl wanted to keep the purple teacher pen that I had given to her because she likes purple. And so do I and we both smiled at the happiness of purple.

Then we left.

I will definitely be back next month. There will be different teens there dealing with the lives that they have been handed and which they have handed to themselves, and it might not be as fulfilling as this first time was, but that is not the point, the point is to keep showing up and trying to be a drop in a bucket. So I guess it is about humility, but a humility that comes from strength and not unease. 


This Week in the War on Women (October 26)

This is cross-posted at DailyKos.

 

WOMAN AS VESSEL DEPARTMENT

“Case Explores Rights of Fetus Versus Mother”

I get that the authorities really really really care about fetuses, because, God, but how come we women don’t get the God protection? You know, I’m fed up with trying to understand these bullies because there is nothing honorable about them and no bible thumping with prove otherwise (besides, my bible is a scroll). Honestly, Get Your Compassion Out Of Our Wombs!

“JACKSON, Wis. — Alicia Beltran cried with fear and disbelief when county sheriffs surrounded her home on July 18 and took her in handcuffs to a holding cell.

“She was 14 weeks pregnant and thought she had done the right thing when, at a prenatal checkup, she described a pill addiction the previous year and said she had ended it on her own — something later verified by a urine test. But now an apparently skeptical doctor and a social worker accused her of endangering her unborn child because she had refused to accept their order to start on an anti-addiction drug.

“Ms. Beltran, 28, was taken in shackles before a family court commissioner who, she says, brushed aside her pleas for a lawyer. To her astonishment, the court had already appointed a legal guardian for the fetus.” (highlighting mine)

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/us/case-explores-rights-of-fetus-versus-mother.html?hp&_r=0

 

WOMEN WHO ARE TOO OLD TO BE PERT AND BOUNCY DEPARTMENT

San Diego, which brought us creepy Mayor Bob Filner, now offers Matthew Tucker, who fires the ladies who he doesn’t enjoy looking at because they’re too darn old.

“SAN DIEGO — A former employee of the North County Transit District has sued the public transportation agency, claiming its executive director, Matthew Tucker, illegally targeted employees -- specifically, older female employees -- for layoffs, then retaliated when his decisions were questioned.”

“Heidi Rockey, a former grants specialist who resigned from NCTD in July 2012, told inewsourceTucker made a habit of firing, laying off or demoting women over 40.”

And there you have it: “According to sources who were either the subject of the statements or witnessed the actions firsthand, Tucker frequently referred to older female employees as “grandma”; asked if they had enough energy to do their jobs; suggested they dye their hair to look younger; and repeatedly said younger women were “easier on the eyes” than their predecessors.”

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/oct/23/war-women-over-40-lawsuit-claims-sex-gender-bias-n/

http://inewsource.org/war-on-women-over-40-linked/

 

WOMEN BEING PUSHED BACK INTO THE KITCHEN DEPARTMENT

“The war on voting is a war on women” in Texas and Beyond

“The assault on voting rights is a naked attempt to suppress the votes of minorities, students, the elderly, and the poor. But don’t be fooled. This War on Voting is an essential part of the War on Women.”

“What is not commonly known, however, is that women are among those most affected by voter ID laws. In one survey, 66% of women voters had an ID that reflected their current name, according to the Brennan Center. The other 34% of women would have to present both a birth certificate and proof of marriage, divorce, or name change in order to vote, a task that is particularly onerous for elderly women and costly for poor women who may have to pay to access these records.”

Lesson Learned? Don’t change your name when you get married. That will show them!

And get out and vote, always, because this is an endless war against our rights.

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/the-war-voting-war-women

Same story covered on the Rachel Maddow Show.

“And yet, state Republicans approved a discriminatory voter-ID law anyway. As Ari Berman explained, the law is off to a rough start: ‘Based on Texas’s own data, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters don’t have the government-issued ID needed to cast a ballot, with Hispanics 46 to 120 percent more likely than whites to lack an ID. But a much larger segment of the electorate, particularly women, will be impacted by the requirement that a voter’s ID be ‘substantially similar’ to their name on the voter registration rolls. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of all women have citizenship documents that do not match their current legal name.’”

Unbelievable. Texas has a law that forces a women to change her name on her official Texas state ID card, speaking about major control issues. So instead of having a middle name and a maiden name, on a Texas ID card, your maiden name becomes your middle name. How the heck did that get passed? But, because of this name change, many women won’t be able to vote because none of their other documents that they need to further prove who they are, have their name written that way—because it’s not their name. So, Texas gets to rename just about every married woman in the state—and screw them at the same time.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/when-the-war-voting-meets-the-war-women

 

ENDLESSLY RECURRING DEPARTMENT: GIRL RAPED. BOY CHARGED. CHARGES DROPPED. GIRL HARASSED.

How the hell does this keep on happening? Why do boys deserve protection but not girls?

“I'M DAISY COLEMAN, THE TEENAGER AT THE CENTER OF THE MARYVILLE RAPE MEDIA STORM, AND THIS IS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED”

“You may have heard my story, thanks to Anonymous who trended #justice4daisy. I'm not done fighting yet.”

Wisdom from Daisy: “I not only survived, I didn't give up. I've been told that a special prosecutor is going to reopen the case now. This is a victory, not just for me, but for every girl.

“I just hope more men will take a lesson from my brothers.

“They look out for women. They don't prey on them.”

http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/daisy-coleman-maryville-rape

“One way to think about Daisy and Paige’s choice to come forward is that they are trusting in the transparency of good journalism and, yes, the Internet. Before their story ran in the Star, the girls were the targets of vicious victim-blaming in their town. Locally, their names had been shredded. Now that the lens for their story has widened beyond Maryville, they’re getting the support they didn’t before. Daisy wrote about how “#justice4Daisy has trended on the Internet, and pressure has come down hard on the authorities who thought they could hide what really happened.” She’s right: The county prosecutor has called in a special prosecutor to reopen the case.”

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/10/21/daisy_coleman_and_paige_parkhurst_alleged_maryville_rape_victims_tell_their.html

Information also here:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/maryville-rape-case-sparks-courthouse-rally-article-1.1493960

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/22/daisy-coleman-rape-case_n_4145104.html

http://www.dailykos.com/blog/This%20Week%20in%20the%20War%20on%20Women

 

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT WHY THIS MAY BE HAPPENING

The conversational rage this week, at least at Slate, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, seems to be that young women should not drink to excess because this may lead to their being raped. Is this news? Do we not know this even as we know that no matter how drunk, no woman asks to be raped, AND THE BLAME IS ON THE RAPIST.

The New York Times, in its Room for Debate section, examined this question: “With studies finding an association between binge drinking and rape on college campuses, is there anything wrong with telling women not to get blind drunk?”

Some of the voices:

“But, until that change fully takes hold, women remain vulnerable to forms of sexual violence against which the criminal law does not adequately protect them. Since that is so, it is essential – in some spaces, at some times, for some audiences – to make sure that women are told how to protect themselves.” Anne M. Coughlin is the Lewis F. Powell Jr. professor of law at the University of Virginia.

“Calling for young women to become teetotalers as a solution to the problem of rape on college campuses is not only old advice, but also wrongheaded and dangerous.”
Mychal Denzel Smith
 is Knobler fellow at The Nation Institute.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/10/23/young-women-drinking-and-rape

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/10/sexual_assault_and_drinking_teach_women_the_connection.html

Apparently this was the article that got it started: College Women: Stop Getting Drunk. It’s closely associated with sexual assault. And yet we’re reluctant to tell women to stop doing it.” by Emily Yoffe

“The young woman laments the whole campus landscape of alcohol-soaked hookup sex. ‘Women are encouraged to do it, which ignores all the risks for us,’ she says. ‘You get embarrassed and ashamed, so you try to make light of it. Then women get violated and degraded, and they accept it. Who does this culture benefit? Alcohol predators. It doesn’t liberate anybody.’”

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/10/sexual_assault_and_drinking_teach_women_the_connection.single.html

And Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post, in Thursday’s column notes, “The message of Emily Yoffe’s Slate article about binge drinking and sexual assault on college campuses was as important as it was obvious: The best step that young women can take to protect themselves is to stop drinking to excess.”

“Young women everywhere — not to mention their mothers — ought to be thanking Yoffe. Instead, she’s being pilloried.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ruth-marcus-missing-the-point-on-binge-drinking/2013/10/24/56c8a70a-3ce0-11e3-a94f-b58017bfee6c_story.html

 

GEE, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN DEPARTMENT

154,000 Fewer Women Held Jobs in September; Female Participation in Labor Force Matches 24-Year Low

“In September, according to BLS, the labor force participation rate for women was 57.1 percent, down from 57.3 percent in August and 57.4 percent in July. The female labor force participation rate had also dropped to 57.1 percent this March.”

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/154000-fewer-women-held-jobs-september-female-participation-labor

 

PETITION: CONCEALER SHOULD NOT CAUSE CANCER

“Revlon--one of the biggest cosmetics manufacturers in the country--is running ads promoting their support for breast cancer awareness while selling products to women that actually contain cancer-causing chemicals!”

Sign the petition: http://act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/revlon_toxic_chemicals/


This Week in the War on Women (August 24)

This is cross-posted at Daily Kos.

 

WAY PAST INSANITY

High School Virginity Check: Coming to a school near you?

So it’s good that these girls can get an education, but my goodness, the disrespect shown to them is unimaginable. Disrespect, I don’t even know what word works here. The patriarchy always knows what’s best for everyone.

“A city on Indonesia's Sumatra Island will require female students to pass a virginity test for entering senior high school in an effort to reduce the rate of "negative acts," news reports said Tuesday.

“Muhammad Rasyid, chief of the Education Agency in the city of Prabumulih in South Sumatra Province, reportedly said the virginity test, which will be a response to the high rate of "adultery" and "prostitution" among female students, is slated to start next year.” 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/130820/indonesian-city-require-female-students-pass-virginity

 

Because Men always Know what God Thinks

The depravity is just incomprehensible. What is the point of religion if it only makes you fearful and full of hate?

“A cleric cut his wife into pieces on Wednesday for refusing to wear a veil and sending their children to school, police said.”

“He said he had been telling her to cover her face with a veil when she stepping outside, but she had not listened. He also wrote that he did not want to be responsible for her sins and thus killed her.”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/593466/cut-into-pieces-she-challenged-gods-orders/?utm_content=buffer191a0&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

 

VIOLENCE: The Kind Women Suffer From

Can’t a Girl Have Fun?

“Recently, the Guardian reported that women gamers who are threatened or targeted for abuse are often told by game companies that it’s their own fault for choosing a female name or avatar. One user reported that the CEO of a popular gaming company simply banned her from playing the game in which she’d been threatened because he was “tired of hearing about” her problems with other players.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/16/video-game-writer-leaves-company-after-threats-against-her-children/

 

The Double-Standard Lives On: And On And On In Social Media

“A 17-year-old was reportedly hospitalized after a photo of her performing oral sex on two different men went viral. Caroline Linton on a girl's public shaming—and her defenders.”

“Welcome to today’s reminder that it’s different for girls,” wrote Sarah Ditum in the New Statesman “A culture that hates women for having sex is one that simply hates women, and that is the grotty truth photographed at Slane.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/08/22/behind-slanegirl-young-girl-hospitalized-after-photographed-having-oral-sex.html

 

Victims of Domestic Abuse Afraid to Call the Police

It is absolutely incredible (in a very, very bad way) how things always manage to work themselves out to a woman’s detriment. So she can’t call the police for help because they will evict her from her apartment because she’s disrupting the neighborhood. How many times does a woman need to be punished because she is/was with a violent man? Is there never going to be compassion or logic in the way the law deals with women? 

“The nuisance laws are growing in popularity around the country. They are ostensibly enacted to enable landlords to weed out drug dealers and other disruptive tenants from rental properties and create “crime-free neighborhoods.” Unfortunately, they often end up placing victims of domestic violence and other crimes at the mercy of their abusers.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/17/police-tell-victims-call-911-and-youll-get-evicted-under-nuisance-laws/

 

Rape Culture at Work: Five Examples of How Employers Turn Women into Sex Objects 

1. ”A New Jersey judge ruled that casino waitresses can be fired for gaining weight.”

2. “A widely-used employee training manual tells women how to make sure they don’t lead men on.”

3. “Women at Merrill Lynch have been instructed to seduce their way to the top.”

Check out the other two here: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/08/22/2510031/rape-culture-at-work/

 

 

HARD TO BE A WOMAN DEPARTMENT

So How Does a Woman Lean In? Iranian Version

“That’s right, male officials in Iran have deemed Moradi simply too beautiful to hold public office. They even allege that she won her campaign based on her looks alone, calling her posters “vulgar and anti-religious.” To the contrary, her posters are in line with Islamic tradition. In the photograph in question, Moradi dons a hijab and hides all of her hair, as well as her skin other than her face.”

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/iranian-woman-declared-too-beautiful-to-be-a-politician.html#ixzz2cpPzBcNH


Some Games Are Just Too Complicated for Women (Hint: It involves a ball and scoring points, you know, complicated stuff)

I appreciate the apology, but my goodness, will the auto-pilot to sexism ever cease? “Alabama newspaper apologizes for saying women find football ‘confusing’ and ‘often vexing’”

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/alabama-paper-apologizes-women-find-football-confusing-article-1.1432259

 

Women Shortchanged In Retirement Earnings

An NPR interview (transcript also provided). Systemic change is needed. Once again: stop blaming individual women, even those who are the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This is a societal issue.

 “We're talking about the implications of the retirement-gender gap. And Paul, speaking to this gender gap specifically, what solves it? Is it bringing pay up to equal? If men and women are making the same amount, will then their retirement accounts have the same amount in them?

“SOLMAN: Well, not if, in fact, women leave the work force for longer periods of time than men, right? Even if they were making a hundred percent of what men make, if they had fewer years they'd have fewer years to accumulate income, they'd have a smaller pension and they'd have lower Social Security. So that by itself wouldn't change things unless you literally have men be house husbands to the exact same extent that women have been housewives, you know, over the years.”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=213822180&ft=1&f=1006&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=tw&utm_campaign=nprbusiness

 

ABORTION / CHOICE

Can They Ever Just Relax and Let People Get Medical Care?

“Well, if you’re watching Fox, you’d think it’s apocalyptic. Right wing radio host Mike Gallagher acted like there was nothing more outrageous than a public health clinic getting involved in a program that helps people get better access to health care. “I always try to anticipate what my friends on the left will possibly say to try to defend this egregious about-face,” he chuckled on Fox. The “about-face” is a reference to the overt lie underpinning this entire campaign against Planned Parenthood, which is the conservative claim that Obama somehow promised that Planned Parenthood as an entity would not get any federal funding under the Affordable Care Act. Obama made no such promise. He signed an executive order disallowing abortion to be covered in health care plans sold on the exchange, but signing people up for health care should not be equated with giving them abortions or even giving them plans that cover abortion. That’s like saying the Department of Motor Vehicles is casting your ballot for you by giving you the opportunity to register to vote—an outright and inflammatory lie.”

“Anti-choice activists object not just to abortion but to any reproductive technologies or sex education that makes it easier for people, women especially, to have sex without serious negative consequences.” (Emphasis added because it gets to the point so succinctly.) 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/08/21/the-right-s-new-attack-on-planned-parenthood-health-insurance-grants.html

 

Let’s See if You Can Play Fair

“Seven doctors who perform abortions in Wisconsin are applying for hospital admitting privileges as a way to show they cannot comply with a new state law (SB 206) that requires them to have the privileges, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.”

http://go.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=41610&security=3181&news_iv_ctrl=-1

 

North Dakota Showing the Way

“A North Dakota judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction against a state law (SB 2305) that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Bloomberg reports.”

http://go.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=41451&security=3161&news_iv_ctrl=3235

 

And Bingo! But Can They Listen to SCIENCE and DATA?

“An analysis of these documents shows that congressional Republicans will find no support for their arguments in favor of new restrictions on abortion care in the evidence presented by the states. In particular, to the extent that anti-choice advocates claim that women are being put at risk by abortion services, these documents—from the very state entities charged with overseeing and regulating abortion—show the contrary. They show that abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe.”

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/08/21/exclusive-results-of-congressional-fishing-expedition-show-abortion-is-already-highly-regulated-overwhelmingly-safe/

 

Using Tragedy for their Own Ends

“A tragedy, and Surovik was furious when she found out that while the other driver would be penalized for driving drunk, he wouldn’t be punished for causing her miscarriage. Her anger, and the terrible situation, has served as a perfect opportunity for the always-active anti-choice movement in Colorado, which seized upon it as an ideal excuse to advance yet another attempt at a fetal personhood law. Under such laws, a developing fetus is given rights similar to those of a fully developed person outside of the womb, despite the potentially dangerous implications of such measures.”

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/theyre-trying-to-bring-back-fetal-personhood-in-colorado.html#ixzz2cbVhLfgv

 

Abortion in Texas: The Game

Fundraising is underway to develop Choice: Texas, an interactive fiction game based on abortion access in the state of Texas.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/choice-texas-a-very-serious-game

According to the Kansas City Star, protesters from across the country, called the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders, converged on a crisis pregnancy center called – without a hint of irony – A Better Choice. They held signs that said “Fake Clinic” and “Stop Forced Motherhood” in front of the crisis pregnancy center, which happens to also share a parking lot with Operation Rescue, an anti-choice group known for their graphic protests of abortion clinics.”

“No one is doubting that anti-choice activists are well-organized and effective, but now pro-choice activists are fighting back. As long as they don’t start murdering people in cold blood, I say that it’s time to get loud.”

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/pro-choice-group-borrows-anti-choice-tactics-minus-the-shaming-and-intimidation.html#ixzz2cpP8JGMa

ACTION ITEMS & GOOD IN THE WORLD: WOMAN POWER

Unbelievable: In the YEAH! Department

“Birka Avenger: A Super-Hero in a Birka for Women’s Education in Pakistan”

Have a look at the clip and know that progress is being made for girls’ education where we don’t expect it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_d-NMni0n8

 

A Discovery that Makes So Much Sense

“The discovery in Peru of another tomb belonging to a pre-Hispanic priestess, the eighth in more than two decades, confirms that powerful women ruled this region 1,200 years ago, archeologists said.”

“This find makes it clear that women didn’t just run rituals in this area but governed here and were queens of Mochica society,” project director Luis Jaime Castillo told AFP.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/22/ancient-tomb-confirms-powerful-priestess-ruled-peru-long-ago/

 

Planned Parenthood Winning in Court

“The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court ruling that will prevent Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s administration from effectively defunding Planned Parenthood.”

“This marks the second time in less than a month that Planned Parenthood has defeated an attempt to limit access to its facilities. On July 30, the ACLU prevailed in its lawsuit on behalf Planned Parenthood of Indiana when Judge Tanya Walton Pratt decided that an Indiana law similar to the Arizona one violated the same free-choice-of-provider provision.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/22/court-strikes-down-arizona-law-defunding-planned-parenthood/

 

Too Touchy: Filner Resigns

I guess now he’ll have some time for real therapy, not the pretend days in hiding.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/bob-filner-resigning_n_3796018.html

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/San-Diego-Mayor-Bob-Filner-to-Resign-220675401.html

 

Hero Who Used Her Words

And this story proves the lie that only guns fight guns. NO WORDS DO. YOU GO GIRL! A tragedy was averted in Georgia by a compassionate, wise, patient woman: Antoinette Tuff.

http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/bookkeeper-at-georgia-elementary-school-talked-down-shooter?ref=fpb

Award the Presidential Citizens Medal to Antoinette Tuff of Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Atlanta, GA

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/award-presidential-citizens-medal-antoinette-tuff-ronald-e-mcnair-discovery-learning-academy-atlanta/B5Y0C5D0

 


Not Forgetting Gun Violence: Action Against the NRA

Protesting against the NRA August 2013
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23whenwillitend&src=typd

This is where I was tonight: outside of NRA headquarters in Virginia protesting the NRA and calling for background checks. The tee-shirts that you see in the picture had the names of the people killed at Virginia Tech and Newtown. The tee-shirt in front of me was a children’s small. It was for Allison, who was born on 07/03/2006 and killed on 12/14/2013; the number on the back of her shirt was 6, for her age. Devastating to look at the line of shirts that is a bare representation of the people who are killed by guns in this country every year.

Lots of people honked their horns in support of us as they drove by. One guy, who came out of the headquarters, yelled, “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?” And two men gave us the finger. Other than them, there were lots of thumbs up and honking—even from guys in pickup trucks.

Let’s all do what we can to support background checks, and other measures to staunch the flow of guns and the deaths and injuries and heartache that they sow.

Let us turn swords into ploughshares.

(The protest was a Day of Action to prevent gun violence organized by Organizing for Action and the local group Concerned Citizens Against Gun Violence.)