Minefield

 

I’ve been more than a little hesitant to broach this subject, but I feel compelled to say something about it; given all the attention it’s gotten lately, it just feels wrong to stay silent. So, here goes.

Abortion. There, I said it. Of all the hot-button topics there are, this one may be historically the hottest.

And it’s front and center these days, with states from Michigan to Texas and Alaska to Alabama crafting new legislation to abolish it, feeling emboldened by the conservative Supreme Court to challenge the landmark Roe v Wade decision from 1973, which protected a woman’s right to privacy in regards to abortion.

Just check out the anti-abortion measures being considered in several states or, in the case of Alabama, already signed into law. By a female governor. (!!) Punishment not only for the woman who has the procedure, but for the doctor who performs it. Severe punishment.

(By the way, where’s the punishment for the guy who impregnated her to begin with? It does take two, you know.)

 

Let me be clear: I’m not here to debate the morality of abortion, itself. Whether I believe it’s right or wrong is irrelevant. I’m taking issue with the choice to have it done being taken from the woman. That just makes no sense to me. It’s her decision, nobody else’s. Certainly not the state’s.

And it’s incredibly naive for anyone to believe that making abortion illegal is gonna put a stop to it.

Anyway, that’s as much as I’ll say about it. If a woman is facing the decision of whether or not to abort, let’s offer her education, counseling, spiritual guidance, whatever, but leave the final decision to her. Don’t legislate it.

I know some of you will agree with me and some of you won’t, but I’m gonna say what I feel. You’re welcome to do the same. Thanks for your time.

 

The Siren’s Song

 

Note: I’m telling this story from a heterosexual viewpoint, because I am one, but I feel pretty certain it’s basically the same, regardless of your sexual preference.

 

This one is tough to write. It makes me uncomfortable, but I’m hoping it leads to a bigger conversation I think is worth having.

When you’re a guy, the pull of pornography is a strong one.

It starts even before puberty, the looking at “nasty pictures” of naked girls. It’s not about stimulation then, it’s about just being naughty. It’s in our teenage years that the motivation behind looking at them changes.

Now they’re stimulating. Now they’re exciting. And they’re naughty.

Those pictures, along with our now hormone-fueled brains, inform the way we look at every nubile female in our line of sight. What were once germ-infested, alien life forms suddenly become objects of overwhelming, insatiable lust.

And we tend to look at them that way for the rest of our lives.

As if that’s not bad enough, porn is the gasoline we sometimes like to throw on that fire.

And, I believe, is what has gotten us to where we are in our attitude about women, which has produced this whole culture of sexual assault.

 

Because the appeal of porn for guys, of course, is the vicarious thrill of having any woman, anytime, anywhere, for any sexual encounter. And since society largely finds porn to be, at the very least, distasteful, there is the additional appeal of engaging in something forbidden, taboo. We all like to be bad sometimes, don’t we?

Well, is it any stretch to think that if some guy watched enough of that, it would carry over into how he viewed women in real life? How he treated them? How he regarded them sexually? No doubt, he would feel justified in having any woman he damn well wanted.

Because, as far as he’s concerned, they all want it. Even the ones who say no.

And that’s what sexual assault is about. Not the actual sex. It’s about the feeling of power, of control.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying every guy who looks at porn wants to go out and rape a bunch of women. But, it’s not tough to see how one behavior can lead to another. In fact, there’s plenty of research to suggest that sexual objectification of women often leads to aggressive behavior toward them.

And yet, women who are sexually assaulted are seldom believed, often grilled and, in one instance, mocked by the President of the United States, of all people. Society seems to have this twisted idea that the woman must have asked for it, in her manner, in her wardrobe, something. Why is it so hard to believe she could be telling the truth?

Does our culture now view women to generally be horny, sex-crazed sluts who want it all the time, even when they say they don’t?

And what part has pornography played in shaping that view?

 

So, back to my original point:

As I said at the beginning, pornography has a strong attraction to guys, like the sirens of Greek mythology, whose seductive singing from the shoreline lured many a sailor to certain shipwreck on the rocks. There’s probably not a man alive – myself included – who hasn’t, at some point succumbed to its attraction. And no matter how much they tell themselves that it’s demeaning, and degrading, and disrespectful of the women in their lives, the sirens remain in their ears.

Not that men are totally helpless. Self-control does still exist. But when even some mainstream advertisements skate right on the edge of soft-core porn, and push their products using objectified images of women; when pornography is so much more accessible on cable TV and the Internet; when, besides topless and nude bars, we now have these chains of “breastaurants”, intentionally staffed with curvaceous women in deliberately revealing outfits…

It sure does make resistance tougher, you know?

Now, just as an aside, if porn is used by couples to help/enhance their sex life, as long as both partners are on the same page about it, that’s different. Where porn becomes harmful, as it does in many relationships, is when it’s a secret, when one partner is unaware of the other’s indulgence. Because, if and when the secret comes out, it makes for serious strife, damaging the relationship badly, perhaps irreparably.

I apologize; I got a bit long-winded. But, as I said at the outset, I think this is something we need to talk about if we’re going to bring change to our culture that is more respectful of women.

And, I feel pretty safe in saying, unfortunately, that’s gonna be a slow process. So, we need to get started right away.

 

“WAP2”

 

As I’ve said before on this blog, I believe that it’s time that we men do a serious reassessment of how we look at, and talk about, and treat women.

Apparently, judging by their recent ad that generated so much controversy, Gillette feels the same way. I salute them for putting the message out there, that men can be better than they are in several ways, including their behavior towards women. I hope more companies follow suit.

Guys, you know we’ve always excused our treatment of women with a shrug, a smile and a Whaddya expect? We’re guys!

Well, if you’ve been paying attention the last couple of years, you’ve surely noticed that women are up to here with that. They’ve made it very clear the way it’s always been will no longer be tolerated. And they are taking a stand for the respect that is due them in both their professional and personal relationships.

So, I just want you to know, ladies: I’ve been listening, and I am trying to change my mindset, but it’s an almost 60-year-old mindset, and the process is slow.

Because, man, I see a lot of beautiful women where I work, and it’s easy to look at them just as bodies, and not as complete people, with actual lives. And not just at work either. At the mall, at the fast food restaurant, anywhere there are women, basically.

So, to help me, I’ve created this little acronym, WAP2, to remind me that Women Are People, Too. I haven’t fully absorbed this lesson yet, but maybe, at some point, I’ll get there. I’m about as far away from perfect as it gets, believe me, but I am trying to make some improvements here and there.

Like the Nobel laureate Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a-changin’.” For the better, in this case. Women are finding the courage to speak out against men’s disgraceful, demeaning treatment of them, and it’s been a long time coming.

Fellas, time for us to act like men, not boys. Men respect women. Remember, WAP2.

To the Young Men and Women of America, From the GOP

One of my favorite blogs is called Stuff That Needs to Be Said, by John Pavlovitz. (https://www.johnpavlovitz.com) I want to share his latest post with you, in light of Thursday’s drama regarding Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh: 

 

Warning: The following may be triggering for survivors of abuse.)

To Young Men and Women of America,

Have you heard us?
Is our message getting through?

We’ve been talking to you this week, trying to make sure you understand who we are, what kind of America we’re building here, the future nation we’re dreaming of.

We think we’ve been clear and compelling in our declarations, and we’ve done our best not to leave any ambiguity as to our hearts or our plans or our intentions.

We think our tirades and our condescension and our insults and our sneering tantrums have spoken eloquently about us and about you.

We hope Lindsey and Donald and Chuck and Orrin and Mitch and Brett and Susan have made a strong case—but if not, let us be more explicit in these moments, so there can be no confusion. After all, November is coming and we want you to be certain…

To the Young Men of America,

You can do whatever you want to young women.

You can disregard their humanity,
force yourself on them physically,
ignore their pleas to stop,
proceed without consent,
hurt them,

humiliate them,
indulge your urges,
treat them as property,
and silence, slander, and intimidate them after the fact.

You can do this as often as you like, to as many young girls as opportunity and your desires allow.

We will have your back (providing you are white, wealthy, and one day vote Republican.)

We will marshal our every resource of finance and position and privilege in protecting and defending you.

You will receive sanctuary in our midst, regardless of the horrors you are responsible for or the recklessness and brazenness of your conduct.

We will help you in any way we can, to malign your accuser’s character, destroy their credibility, and embarrass them further.

We will blame alcohol or her memory or her behavior in the past.
We will talk about your viciousness in ways designed to make it seem commonplace.
We will paint you in as flattering a portrait as we can, so that you actually come out looking like the victim, so that the accusations are actually a help.
We will have no loyalty to the truth or to goodness or decency, if such things pose a threat to either your narrative or our prosperity.
We’ll use the invaluable resource of the Evangelical Church to even make supporting you, part of God’s will.

If no other option is available, we will simply ignore what you’ve done. (After all we installed a President that way.)

We will never allow the violence you make young women endure, to prevent you from having opportunity and advancement and success. 

We can promise you that.

And to Young Women of America,

You don’t matter.

Not your trauma or your pain,
not the innocence you lose,
not the damage you sustain,
not the scars you are marked by,
not the nightmares you are haunted by,
not the peace you no longer find, 
not the confidence that leaves you,
not the fear that is ever present,
not the shame that you cannot shake,
not the silence you are imprisoned by.

We simply do not see you as valuable—at least not as valuable as the status quo we’re protecting or the legislation we’re coveting or the religion we’re perpetuating or the votes we’re needing.

You are the acceptable collateral damage of our misogyny and entitlement.

Your body, your emotional health, and your sense of safety—simply aren’t worth more than a Supreme Court seat.

Of course, should a pregnancy somehow be created by your violation, we will vigorously demand that you be forced to carry it, even if it exacerbates your pain and magnifies your despair. After all, we urgently need to perpetuate the appearance that we are pro-life—just not your life.

We can imagine this is less than ideal for you, but we hope you understand that this is how it has always been, and we are counting on you to indulge us one last time, and we appreciate your cooperation. 

So, young men and women of America, we hope you see us with clarity.
We hope that in these days, we are exposing ourselves fully.
We hope you know who we are now.

We’ll see you in November.

Sincerely,

The Republican Party of 2018

 

If you are a survivor and you need help, or if you want to find out how you can be an advocate for survivors, here are some places to start:

RAINN
National Sexual Assault Hotline
EROC (End Rape on Campus)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Safe Horizon
INCITE (For Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of Color)
On Eagle’s Wings Ministries
Human Rights Campaign (LGBTQ)
NCLR Nation Center for Lesbian Rights 
Not Alone
Safe Helpline (Victim support for members of Military)

Here’s to the Women

 

I am strong, I am invincible, I am Woman. – Helen Reddy

Girls just wanna have fun. – Cyndi Lauper

 

Today is International Women’s Day! Women of the world, I celebrate you all!

According to the International Women’s Day website, “International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

You have certainly achieved much in our history, and for that, you should be proud. However, the mountain you’re climbing, as you well know, is very high, very steep, and very treacherous.

Some men, with their cultures, their religions, their double standards, their smug condescension, their supreme arrogance and horrifying violence do everything they can to break your spirit, to break your will.

And still, you continue the fight; for respect, for equality, for your rightful place in this world, a world to which many of you deliver our next generation. And you love and care for those children the best you can, in the face of any adversity or hardship.

And you laugh and you sing and you dance and you hurt and you cry and you mourn and, most of all, you love.

Oh, yeah; you inspire, as well.

Be proud of who you are, today, women. We men could learn so much from you, if we would just freakin’ admit it.

I admit it. I’m just a little slow to learn, sometimes.

But you have my admiration and respect, today and every day.

Bless you all.

All Aboard?

 

We’re gonna keep this train a-rollin’
We ain’t gonna break down on this highway
We could sit here waitin’, worried, wonderin’
Wishin’ we were somewhere other than right here
But we’re right here

“Keep This Train A’Rollin’”, Doobie Brothers

 

Well, we are right here, aren’t we?

And we’re all witness to the infancy of a historical revolution.

Ladies, I’m looking at you.

A distant voice is calling, growing in volume and intensity. It’s the voice of millions of women – of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations – standing together to say emphatically, “TIME’S UP!

Women are speaking out against sexual harassment from powerful men, finally revealing secrets they’ve kept for years under threat of swift and severe consequences.

Women are speaking out against pay inequities at work, along with other forms of discrimination they experience on a regular basis.

Women are speaking out against the body shaming culture that denies their right to simply be themselves, and be happy with that.

Oh, yeah, the revolution is happening. This train is a-rollin’.

And I’m on board.

 

This week’s Grammy Awards ceremony gave us two definitive moments in that revolution.

First, there was artist Janelle Monae, issuing a clarion call for the just treatment of women in the music industry, holding out an olive branch in an ironclad fist with the unequivocal declaration, “We come in peace, but we mean business.”

Immediately following that was recording artist Kesha who, backed by an all-female chorus, delivered a devastating performance of “Praying”, an anthem for every woman who has endured the worst kind of treatment, only to emerge victorious.

Mind you, this follows on the heels of Oprah Winfrey’s energizing speech at the Golden Globe Awards earlier this year, which was inspired by the #Me Too movement, which itself emerged from the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Put coal on the fire, and the train gains steam.

 

Now:

You fellows that have terrifying visions of armies of militant, man-hating bitches marching down our street, ready to castrate every male they see, like so many bulls down on the farm:

Honestly, get over yourselves.

If you feel threatened, welcome to their world.

Women aren’t looking for dominance. They’re not looking for supremacy. They’re simply asking to be treated with respect. Aretha was right all those years ago.

 

When I was a lad, pop singer Helen Reddy released “I Am Woman “, a confident, self-assured statement which became a huge hit song, and was adopted as the anthem of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The lyrics remain amazingly relevant, I think:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again
Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong

(Strong)
I am invincible
(Invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

From the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the 19th century, all the way to the present, the struggle for women has been long and arduous; at times, disheartening, at times, rewarding. After all, just two years ago, a woman was nominated for President of the United States.

If there’s one thing you should take from that, guys, it’s this:

They ain’t givin’ up.

The train is a-rollin’. Get on board.

 

 

 

 

My Old School

 
College football teams should make news headlines for winning games and competing for national championships.

Not for this.

According to Phillip Erickson, of the Waco Tribune-Herald, “Baylor University on Tuesday night was served with a seventh Title IX lawsuit, which alleges as many as eight football players drugged a student and took turns raping her in 2012.”

This, mind you, is on the heels of a nine-month investigation by Pepper Hamilton, LLP, of Philadelphia, into allegations of sexual assault at Baylor.

Where I went to college.

Erickson’s report is chock full of vile, repugnant details, but let me just bring up a couple for your consideration:

“According to the suit, the football team had a system of hazing freshman recruits by having them bring freshman females to parties to be drugged and gang-raped, “or in the words of the football players, ‘trains’ would be run on the girls.””

Let that soak in a minute. Part of a freshman football player’s initiation to the team involved being part of a gang rape. With a woman that he brought!

Has the gravity of that hit you yet?

Let’s continue:

“Considered a bonding experience by the players, according to the suit, the rapes also were photographed and videotaped, and the plaintiff confirmed that at least one 21-second videotape of two Baylor students being gang- raped by football players had circulated.”

A bonding experience!!

Guys, you really feel closer as teammates after raping a drugged woman together?

The report goes on to say the alleged victim and her mother met with an assistant coach from the team, gave him the names of the players involved, and never heard from him again. She was subsequently harassed by several players via text messages, discouraged by the school from taking any action, required to still attend classes with two of the players, and burglarized by members of the football team. (The items were later returned with the understanding no charges would be filed.)

Oh, and there was this:

The head football coach, Art Briles, had this to say after learning the names of the players involved: “Those are some bad dudes…why was she around those guys?” (italics mine)

Hear that, ladies? That’s why this girl was gang raped; she was around the wrong people! Never mind that she was brought to them! Even around males of questionable character, it still must be her fault somehow.

(Ladies, does that surprise you? I think I know the answer.)

 

Erickson’s report also describes the total institutional failure of the university in handling this incident, references another lawsuit, alleging 52 acts of rape (fiftytwo!) by no fewer than 31 players, and updates the status of some of the players in the legal system. There is no update on the victim, other than as the plaintiff in this lawsuit. To the school’s credit, it has taken, and is taking, important steps to assure a safer environment there for all its female students. Perhaps someday, I can look on my alma mater with pride again.

But not today. Definitely not today.

How did it ever come to this?, you wonder.

Well, the fact is, my brothers, it all comes down to how we view and treat women. Period.

I honestly don’t know how but, guys, we have got to have a major attitude adjustment in this matter.

We have got to understand, women aren’t just sex toys. They’re not college hazing props, or a “bonding experience.” They’re not a bunch of filthy sluts, just waiting for a much deserved pounding.

They’re people, guys. They’re human beings. They are entitled to respect, and dignity, and equality.

And, none of them – I mean, none of them! – ever “asks for it.”

So, fellas, let’s hold each other accountable. You hear one of your buddies talking $#!t about a woman, call him on it. Yeah, you’ll probably catch all kinds of grief for it, but this is the time for, to borrow a movie title, A Few Good Men.

Change has to start somewhere, guys. Look in your heart and start there.

A Word, Guys

NOTE: This post deals with an important subject, but the more genteel among you may find some of the wording a bit coarse, for which I apologize. It’s strictly in the service of making a point.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth living in.

“Land of Confusion”, Genesis

Songwriters
RUTHERFORD, MICHAEL/COLLINS, PHIL/BANKS, TONY

Published By
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, IMAGEM U.S. LLC

 

Well, fellas, I guess I’ll have to turn in my Man Card. Because you’re not going to like at all what I tell you next, and once you read it, you’ll probably be ready to vote me right off the island.

But, I really can’t help but say it. Sorry. Actually, not sorry.

We all, each of us (including me), need to take a very serious look at how we view, think about, and talk about women.

This year seems to have been a particularly bad one for men in the news. To wit:

A college athlete recently convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster was released from prison after serving three months of a six-month sentence, a sentence handed down by a sympathetic male judge. Oh, and in the apple-doesn’t-fall-far-from-the-tree department, the defendant’s father pled to the judge to keep his son out of jail, arguing he had already paid a steep price for (his words), “twenty minutes of action.”

My alma mater is still being investigated for, as it has been characterized, the culture of rape it allowed on its campus, particularly with regard to male athletes. The administration denied a sexual assault problem even existed on campus, and is accused of trying to repress, or even retaliate against, victims’ testimony alleging otherwise.

And a candidate for President of the United States has been heard bragging about how, because he’s a star, he is entitled to his disgusting treatment of women. By now, most everyone knows the lurid details, so there is no need to repeat them here. He later dismissed these boasts as simply “locker room talk.”

And now, he faces an ever lengthening line of women coming forward to reveal their past experiences as victims of this animal’s continued pattern of sexual harassment. He now threatens all of them with lawsuits.

We’re talking about somebody’s wife. Somebody’s girlfriend. Somebody’s sister. Somebody’s mom.

Somebody’s precious daughter.

You fellas out there with a teenage daughter, how do you suppose this landscape looks to her?

Women are people, guys. They have minds and souls. They have heartaches and headaches. They have bills and deadlines. They have wishes and hopes and dreams and victories and defeats and joy and pain and confusion and all the rest of life. They are human.

Yes, they can be quite attractive; no argument there. But…

They are not merely objects that exist in the world solely for our inspection and critique. They are not just a bunch of filthy sluts, parading around in provocative clothing which might as well include, “I’M ASKING FOR IT!” on the front, in big letters. They aren’t pieces of property for us to just capriciously go and take.

They’re not just tits and ass.

So, let’s quit talking about them as if they were.

(And I don’t want to hear about the male instinct to find a suitable mate for procreational purposes. Honestly, guys, when was the last time you checked out a woman and thought, “Boy, I’d sure like to have children with her!”)

Listen, I know how we’re wired;  I’m a guy. We are stimulated visually. We see all these shapely hourglass figures walking around, in their short skirts and high heels and low-cut tops and tight jeans and revealing swimsuits and on and on. I mean, we could see a woman in baggy sweats and the wheels still turn, don’t they? Imagining what she looks like underneath.

And then, we convince ourselves that every single one of them wants us. We smile at a woman, she smiles back, what are we thinking?

Oh, yeah, she’s into me!

Well, fellas, here’s the truth. Aside from being just plain delusional, that is disrespectful. It’s insulting. It’s demeaning.

And, if we’re around other guys at the time, it leads to talking about women in that same disrespectful, insulting, demeaning manner.

What kind of lover she must be. What we’d like to do with her, or have her do with us, given the chance.

Not to mention, the whole “bitches and ho’s” culture embraced by a segment of our society. I’m not even going there.

It’s against that backdrop that guys (not men; men don’t do this) feel entitled to do whatever the hell they want with women, up to and including rape.

And it has to stop.

I told you, you wouldn’t like this.

 

I’m not telling you any of this from up on some high horse. I’ve certainly done my share of looking at and talking about women. I’m not perfect, by any stretch. I just think I, and all the rest of us, should man up here and be more respectful.

So, am I saying, just look the other way? Never make eye contact, never smile, never say anything? Pretend they’re not even there?

Of course not.

But, ask yourself, guys, who was the last woman you looked at – who you didn’t already know – and thought of as anything other than a body?

Oh, they look at and talk about us that way, too? No excuse.

It’s just part of being a man? No excuse.

They secretly like it? They’re flattered by it?

Pretty sure that’s not true.

But, you know what? Let’s open the floor to everyone, here. Male or female, if you want to weigh in on this, I invite your feedback. Let’s hear from each other on this, and see if we can’t all learn something. (Let’s try to keep it somewhat civil, though, shall we?)

Because, it should be obvious to everyone at this time in our journey, something definitely has to change. And it’s up to us, guys, to play a significant part in fixing this problem. Because we created it.

Women everywhere are standing united to declare, “Enough is enough!”

I’m gonna stand with ’em. How about you, dude?

 

A Simple Proposal

From The Guardian, 8/10/16:

“A University of Colorado student convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman will not have to serve a prison sentence, a judge ruled on Wednesday with a decision that has sparked outrage from victims’ advocates and closely resembles the case of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

“A jury convicted Austin James Wilkerson, 22, of sexually assaulting a “helpless” woman on 15 March 2014 when prosecutors say he “isolated and raped the half-conscious victim” after he had told his friends at a St Patrick’s Day celebration that he was going to take care of her.

“Wilkerson – who eventually admitted that he “digitally and orally penetrated” the woman while he “wasn’t getting much of a response from her” – was potentially facing four to 12 years in state prison for the felony offense.

“The law, however, gives judges discretion to issue lighter sentences, and in Boulder County court on Wednesday, district judge Patrick Butler (italics mine) ruled that the former student should not serve any time in state prison. Instead, he ordered Wilkerson to serve two years of so-called “work release” and 20 years to life on probation…

“The attack and the light sentencing echo the high-profile assault case at Stanford University in northern California, which launched an international debate about sexual violence on college campuses and rape culture in America.

“Turner, who was convicted of multiple felonies, including assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, was sentenced to six months in county jail. Even though a jury determined that he had assaulted an unconscious woman by a dumpster after a fraternity party, Turner has continued to argue that the incident was consensual…

“The judge who issued the lenient sentence is now facing an intense recall campaign.”

The judge in the Turner case, just to remind you, was Aaron Persky.

I think I see the problem here, and I would like to offer the following solution:

All future rape trials should be presided over by a female judge.

Seems to me, the guy judges might be showing a little too much sympathy toward these poor, unfortunate young perverts.

Something to consider, anyway.