the toxic hierarchy of female suffering

the toxic hierarchy of female suffering

Trigger alert: involves in depth discussion of pregnancy loss and sexual assault

Women tend to organize themselves into hierarchies.  This is not a terribly surprising observation; after all, the forming of hierarchies is a human characteristic.  Chickens have a pecking order, humans have hierarchies. Unlike chickens, humans have the unusual ability to belong to several hierarchies all at the same time.  It’s often quite a juggling act, managing your positions in the various hierarchies.  Any given person you encounter may be simultaneously above you on one hierarchy, while beneath you on another. Understanding the subtleties of hierarchies and your place within them can tell us how much consideration we need to give another, how much respect they’re due, how much weight to give their opinion, and how much of those things to expect from them in return.

I find that women, even highly accomplished, entirely enlightened women, don’t always or even usually organize based on achievement or success as men tend to do.   I suspect this is at least in part because women are socialized from a very early age not to brag or take (outward) pride in their accomplishments. In fact, the woman who’s perceived as TOO accomplished is often quietly despised by other women.   Women’s hierarchies are generally built around other aspects of personality instead.  We organize based on who’s the nicest, the hardest working, the most generous, the best mom, the most fashionable (not expensively dressed, but fashionable…two different things!) rather than who can deadlift the most weight or who has the fanciest car or who picked up the most boys at the bar last month.

One socially accepted way women form up into hierarchies is on the basis of who has it the worst.  Since suffering is something none of us have earned and all of us could experience at any time, ranking based on pain means women can shuffle ourselves into a hierarchy without rewarding the super high achievers more than they have already been rewarded by the universe, or punishing those who can’t compete in terms of money or intellect or beauty more than they’ve already been punished by life.

Suffering crosses all economic lines and knows no political party or social class. Using suffering as a metric, we women, who generally despise braggarts and arrogance, can sort things out without violating that intensive socialization we received from the cradle – good girls don’t ever mention the things they’re really good at, and good girls always downplay their accomplishments.  Suffering requires no skillset, no well-padded bank account, no delicate features.  Suffering is an accomplishment anyone can attain, thus it’s an ideal way for women to organize into layers of power.

That’s right.  Women attain social currency, even power, through suffering.  

It ain’t pretty, but it’s real.

I have frequently observed this hierarchy in action on fertility websites where I’ve spent many hours over the course of my childbearing years. The woman who has a stillbirth is “above” the woman who had a miscarriage at 10 weeks’ gestation who is “above” the woman who had a chemical pregnancy (a pregnancy that ended shortly after getting a positive pregnancy test.)  By “above” I mean she is more worthy of consideration, she gets extra attention, extra love and care, her opinions on the subjects of loss and pregnancy carry more weight than others’ do. She’s not a queen among women or anything, but there is definitely a kind of special status that is bestowed upon her.

While certainly no one seeks out that status deliberately, once it’s thrust upon you, it would be next to impossible to turn down.  Others WILL treat you differently because they know that you’ve suffered and there’s no getting around it. They put you on the hierarchy whether you want to be there or not.  Minimizing your pain and denying the kindness and consideration others wish to shower you with, not only irritates people (no one likes their kindnesses declined) but also makes you look rather monstrous. Don’t you hurt?  Don’t you care?  People DO wonder and do judge each other’s grief.  So you take your place on the hierarchy, oftentimes begrudgingly, because you have to prove to other people that yes, you hurt, and yes, you care, and yes, you grieve.

This hierarchy of suffering seems fairly obvious, though, right??   While pregnancy loss always is  deserving of sympathy, surely a woman who carried a baby for 9 long months only to lose it just before or during the birth, who still has to go through labor to deliver a dead child and then return home to a beautiful nursery full of baby clothes and toys with empty arms, is in need of more intensive emotional support than a woman who one day got a positive pregnancy test and the very next day got her period.  These two things both suck, but they are not the same, not even close to it. It’s not even rational to entertain the idea that they are in any way equivalent.

But it is in the nature of hierarchies and human beings that sometimes, people who are lower on the hierarchy, want to be higher.   Even when the hierarchy is based on negative experiences, there’s something in us that desires, even if only subconsciously, the benefits that come with higher status.  This occasionally ends up as a very odd state of affairs where some women will behave as if a chemical pregnancy is equal on the hierarchy to a later miscarriage or even a stillbirth, mourning the “loss” as publicly (if you can truly call a positive pregnancy test one day and a period the next, a loss) and passionately as if they had a child who was ripped away from their arms. 

In this hierarchy of suffering, the temptation to make your losses sound a little worse, a little more painful than they really were, is nearly irresistible.  I know this because I’ve succumbed to it myself.  I’ve played up early losses that really didn’t bother me that much because I didn’t want people to think I was a heartless monster who didn’t care about the baby that was no longer in my womb (I cared, of course, I just didn’t feel like I had truly lost a child).  Later on, I found much to my surprise and dismay, that in some ways I enjoyed the attention and status I got from it.  Stranger still, once I began entertaining the notion that my suffering was deserving of more empathy than it probably really was, I began experiencing sorrow commensurate with a greater loss.  Over time, the more I thought about my losses, the more upset I became.  I went into mourning, retroactively, over things that really hadn’t made me that sad at the time.  

Now, please understand, I don’t doubt that many women who have had a chemical pregnancy are very very sad over it.  It is truly a painful experience, especially if you’ve been trying to conceive for some time.  It is only natural to hurt over it, to cry over it, to get angry and shake your fist at the sky over it.  But a chemical pregnancy is in NO WAY akin to what a woman who has had a miscarriage at 12 weeks or 20 weeks or loses a baby during labor experiences.  It is not even rational to equate the two.  Yet some women will act as if their small hurt is worthy of the same consideration as an unimaginable one, and years later will still talk about their loss of a “baby” that existed only for a couple of days. I don’t doubt their turmoil is real, but based on my own experience, I wonder how much comes from the actual loss itself and how much of it is self-inflicted.  When they tell themselves again and again, I’ve had a miscarriage, I’ve lost a child, their spirit responds accordingly.  

To further complicate matters, recall that women often secretly resent the high achievers.  In our toxic hierarchy of female suffering, all too often, women who’ve had stillbirths are treated almost like that girl who everyone secretly hated because she was gorgeous, a straight A student, class president, and captain of the basketball team.  Who does she think she is, anyway, being above me on the hierarchy?  People aren’t mean to women who have had late-term losses of course; they would never express that ugly sentiment openly, or even consciously engage it in their mind.  But they just don’t seem to know what to do with these women who have suffered so greatly.

Their fellow women often end up inadvertently ostracizing them.  For not only do we subconsciously fear the idea that their misfortune might be contagious and keep them at arm’s length for that reason (as we do with everyone who experiences suffering that seems too great to bear), not only do we not know the right things to say and feel awkward and embarrassed and don’t reach out when we should, but on some level we loathe their being above us on the hierarchy.  Not deliberately, but it’s there, just a hint of jealousy that others have done the math and found their suffering to be worse than ours. Even when it IS worse than ours by all objective measure.

Of late, I feel like the #metoo movement has devolved into a similarly perverse hierarchy of toxic suffering.  I think we all instinctively realize that being raped by a stranger is by any objective measure worse than a guy grabbing your ass on the subway.  Acquaintance rape is worse than an unwanted but thankfully brief pass made by a boss.  We’d all probably rather hang out with Aziz Ansari than Louis CK, and Louis CK than Harvey Weinstein…even though none of us want to hang out with Louis CK OR Aziz Ansari.  Sexual aggression is never acceptable, but not all aggressive actions are the same in terms of trauma inflicted. There’s a hierarchy here and it is rational that there is a hierarchy because these experiences are simply not equivalent to each other.  

Yet minor injuries are still injuries.  Of course they cause us pain.  It is only natural to hurt, to cry, to get angry and shake your fist at the sky even over what most would consider a relatively slight offense.  None of these experiences, even the briefest ones, we’d wish on our worst enemy, but it’s simply not rational to insist that a minuscule and momentary violation of sexual consent by an otherwise well-meaning man is in any way equivalent to being grabbed off the street and held captive by a stranger who brutalizes you.  They are not equivalent events any more than a stillbirth and a chemical pregnancy are.

The victims of all sexual harm, great or small, deserve our sympathy.  Be they gaping wounds or hangnails, we should be able to talk about them openly if we wish to, and create awareness of them (just like with pregnancy loss).  We should be able to come together in sisterhood to demand that the little hurts are stopped right alongside the big ones. But I fear that within our sisterhood, we have begun to incentivize pain – the more pain you’re in, the higher your “worth”.  We have turned #metoo into a toxic hierarchy in which we wish to keep the victims of the worst sexual violence at a distance because they remind us that it can happen to us, while simultaneously jockeying for a better position on the hierarchy.  In this climate, the women in the most pain, who have suffered the most grievous wrongs, are being drowned out by a flood of voices many of which are conflating temporary annoyances and awkward moments with violent and sadistic sex crimes.

In a hierarchy based around suffering, the tendency to make our experience sound a little worse, a little more traumatic, is very tempting. There’s a reward – sympathy, attention, respect. In a very real way, it’s getting to the point where you earn your stripes as a woman by sharing a #metoo story. (All women have numerous #metoo stories – men, please think on this.  This article is in no way meant to let you off the hook for bad behavior.)

I feel the urge too.  I really do. Looking back on my life through a #metoo lens I see several unpleasant but thankfully brief experiences in a more sinister light than I did at the time I experienced them.  It’s quite peculiar because even as I do this, I find myself minimizing some terrifying and serious events that occurred.  I think I do this because I perceive them as too embarrassing to share.  I minimize anything with gray areas, anything I feel somehow complicit in, things I worry people might hold against me in some way.  I was drunk, we were in a relationship, I wasn’t assertive enough, I shouldn’t have been out walking alone. I find myself instead revisiting things that didn’t even particularly bother me at the time they happened and dwelling on those instead.  Not only because of “awareness”, not only because I now realize that some things that I thought were normal, acceptable, a by-product of being a woman that you just had to put up with, were actually wrongs. It’s partially that, but it’s not only that. If it was just an increased level of awareness, I’d be talking about the serious things too.  But I don’t.  I push them away, deny them.  I barely even think of them.

The only conclusion I can draw is that on some level I want to be on the hierarchy.  But I want to be on the hierarchy only for things I feel don’t reflect badly upon me in any way.  For things I won’t be judged over. So I focus on the random and momentary events in which I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and keep the really bad things to myself. Because I want to appear both wronged but also entirely innocent, and the really bad things always have some component of self-blame involved.

That seems to me to be a step backwards, a step away from awareness and openness towards a world where women are still keeping secrets, still feeling shame, still blaming themselves and analyzing their behavior to figure out did I lead him on? was this my fault? how could I have prevented this? Even as everyone dissects microaggressions down to the subatomic level, the heaviest burden of sexual assault still falls onto the victims. And the worst perpetrators end up hiding in plain sight, protected by our silence.  Same as it ever was.

Suddenly everyone has a story to tell about how their lives are ruined over a guy that tried to kiss them in 1993, a guy who asked for their phone number on a bus, a guy who looked a little too long or hooted as they walked past on the street.  But the problem is, once you start buying into the idea that every disagreeable sexual experience no matter how small or short-lived, was a violation, a crime, that you are a victim, that the man who wronged you is irredeemably evil, that all men are evil, you WILL start experiencing the emotions to go with it.  Terror and a pervasive sense of victimhood will color everything in your life. The men who wronged you in virtually all cases will never be held accountable, but you will find yourself awash in negative emotions over things that barely even upset you when they happened.

It’s like giving yourself a life sentence for a crime someone else committed.   

When you start telling yourself I was assaulted, I am damaged, I will never recover from this! your spirit listens and you will find yourself beset with feelings that you maybe never had at the time.  Pop psychologists will tell us it’s because we didn’t allow ourselves to feel at the time. We “blocked” our emotions until it was “safe” to experience them. But I believe in many cases, it’s because we didn’t view ourselves as victims.  It’s the sudden sense of victimization that creates the surge of emotion months or even years later. That conviction that something horrible happened. But did something HORRIBLE really happen?  Or merely awkward and unpleasant?  Are we mentally rewriting our script and recasting ourselves as victims because that’s what others are doing and we don’t want to be left out?  

It is a trap that’s very easy to fall into. But if you weren’t deeply upset about something that happened at the time, consider the possibility that you may be psyching yourself up in the here and now to have huge feelings over something that barely even upset you when it occurred. And if you are talking about small things even as you keep the large ones to yourself, is this really freeing you at all?  Or are you still hiding your real pain while exploiting the little things so you can earn your #metoo stripes, like I did?

Straight talk – women are not fragile, easily broken creatures.  I promise. Women have endless reserves of strength and endurance in the face of suffering that most of us never even (thankfully) have to tap into in this modern world.  People – most people who have ever lived, male or female, but especially female – have experienced loss and pain and adversity that most of us living First World today cannot even really imagine.  And yet they rose above those things. They recovered from them. They were NOT destroyed. They lived their lives not as victim but as survivor.

We often criticize our foremothers for staying silent.  Some would call that complicity. But I don’t, not any more.  I understand why they didn’t talk about this stuff.  Because I didn’t talk about this stuff either until I was empowered by the actions of others and even now I keep the truly awful to myself.  Because I don’t want to be judged.  Those ladies of the past did not stay silent because they weren’t as strong and brave as we are (hint – coming forward in a world full of people who are also coming forward and all of you met with thunderous applause, is not as strong and brave as people are telling us that it is) They weren’t weaklings or cowards.  They just didn’t want to be held hostage to their pain forever – a sentiment I completely understand. They didn’t want to go through their life as “that girl who the bad thing happened to” because that would simply compound their suffering.  

So don’t now decide to hold YOURSELF hostage to your own pain forever!

Every human being is wronged countless times over the course of their lives.  But a minor wrong done doesn’t destroy you. Don’t allow another person’s bad behavior to ruin sex for you, to ruin love for you, to make you afraid of everyone and everything forever.  Don’t be in such a hurry to claim your place in the toxic hierarchy of women’s suffering that you end up defining yourself by something that someone else did to you for the rest of your life.  

 

a (kind of) defense of Brett Kavanaugh

a (kind of) defense of Brett Kavanaugh

if you’re related to me and thinking about reading this essay, it contains some personal information that you may be happier not knowing about and some contemplation regarding events in my childhood that you may be happier not hearing.

The week the Kavanaugh allegations exploded I happened to watch The Breakfast Club.  I hadn’t seen it for years and for some reason I felt nostalgic.  As I watched, found myself rather shocked by the level of sexual aggression in it.  I hadn’t remembered it that way. Molly Ringwald herself has written about it here: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/what-about-the-breakfast-club-molly-ringwald-metoo-john-hughes-pretty-in-pink

I am slightly younger than Brett Kavanaugh but definitely came of age during the same period in American history.  My parents, apparently asleep at the wheel as so many suburban parents were during that time, allowed me to watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Caddyshack, and Porky’s among other, similar fare, when I was in the 6th to 7th grade.  I watched these movies alone or with friends, repeatedly, no adult present to decipher the raunchy humor and sexual situations.  I watched Animal House and Meatballs when my age was still measured in single digits.

This was considered normal at the time.  No one thought anything of it. We talked about the movies incessantly, referenced them constantly, tried to behave as crazily and rebelliously as we could get away with because we were inspired by what we’d seen on the screen.  We became obsessed with drinking and sex, obsessions that lasted all through our high school years.* Our yearbooks were heavily laden with inside jokes and sexual innuendo most of which we barely even understood and would never have done. 

We bragged (lied) about going to keggers, too.  Kids couldn’t even GET kegs – we mostly stole alcohol from our parents or got it from the occasional sketchy 21 year old.  We loved to talk about “keggers” and “spodie odie” and doing Jello shots and getting Everclear from Oregon even though we’d never actually had any of those things.  (I later found out to my very great dismay that it is best to stay away from Everclear from Oregon.)

My parents…well, at least my mother and stepfather, I’m quite sure my dad would have had an entirely different opinion had he known…didn’t really care as long as I didn’t get caught.  If I was caught I was punished in a “wink wink, nudge nudge” kind of way. My mom was happy whenever I showed any signs of being a normal kid rather than an irredeemable social failure. And my stepdad was a partier too, he understood.  Plus I guess I was otherwise a “good kid”.

I’m sure Brett Kavanaugh’s parents felt much the same.   

This was my metric for normal behavior – that teenagers ran around and partied hardy and drank massive amounts of alcohol and the boys were always horny and cool girls put out and that adults pretty much turned a blind eye.  When I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High as an adult I was mightily surprised to realize it was actually casting teen sexuality and drug use in a fairly negative light but that wasn’t how we interpreted it.  Not at all. We interpreted it as an endorsement and none of the adults in my world said otherwise. My mom walked in once while a friend and I were watching the poolhouse scene where two teenagers are having graphic and impersonal sex, and she said “Ugh!  Why is he still wearing socks??”

It was considered normal at the time.  No one thought anything of it.

I also rewatched Meatballs recently.  I recall preferring Meatballs to other, similar movies because it was much more of a kid movie and well, I was a kid.  I have such fond childhood memories of Meatballs that I almost let my kids watch it with me (luckily, it was late and they’d been super obnoxious that day so I sent em to bed instead.)  Then this happened. https://youtu.be/q85fsxWYG6A  I watched this movie literally a dozen times as a child if not more, and never once picked up on how utterly messed up this scene is.** Bill Murray’s character practically attempts to rape a woman as she pleads with him to stop and actually calls – even screams – for help.  And later on she becomes his girlfriend. That’s what I thought normal was. That’s what I thought sex was. That’s how I thought boys showed you that they liked you. No one told me any different.

I wonder how many times Brett Kavanaugh watched Meatballs?

 I lost my virginity at 15 because I thought that’s what cool girls were supposed to do.  I couldn’t understand why no one wanted to be my boyfriend after I let them have sex with me.  I tried it several times but much to my surprise, nobody ever wanted to be my boyfriend. Nobody ever fell in love with me.  I concluded that it had to be because there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I was inherently unlovable and probably repulsive.  Because every movie and TV show and even Judy Blume herself told me that I was supposed to have sex with boys. That was what boys wanted and that was what girls were supposed to do and afterwards, the boy would love you and you’d live happily ever after, or at least go to the prom.  I didn’t want sex, I didn’t really even get the point of sex. I wanted a boyfriend. I wanted someone to validate me as lovable and not repulsive. I thought sex was the way to get a boyfriend, and I thought a boyfriend was the way to get validation. That was the message I had internalized and the long-term consequences of that message have made me very unhappy over the course of my life.  Despite being entirely consensual, the actions I undertook as a girl and young woman due to that belief have caused me real emotional trauma. It’s taken me decades to fully set that message aside and I probably never will get over the trauma.

I suspect Brett Kavanaugh had internalized a similar message – that he was supposed to try to get sex from girls because sex with girls was portrayed in every movie we ever watched as the highest accomplishment any teenage boy could attain.  A boy that didn’t try to get sex from girls was a loser because trying to get sex from girls was what boys were supposed to do and if the girl was cool she’d do it with you. Spiking the punch was what awesome non-loser people did at parties (punch was created by God to be spiked, we all knew that) not because you were trying to make girls incapacitated to take advantage of them, but so the adults didn’t know you were drinking their bottle of old forgotten vodka you’d stolen from the back of the liquor cabinet.  

Boys didn’t have to trick or force girls into getting drunk, because girls wanted to get drunk. Everyone wanted to be shitfaced drunk and hopefully make out with someone they liked, that was the whole point of a party. Being drunk was not only fun and exciting, it greased the wheels of social and sexual interactions that you had no idea how to manage and had tons of anxiety about. You went to parties to get drunk and maybe meet someone who liked you so you could suck face (remember when “suck face” was a thing?) and maybe even more than that if you were a cool girl.  No one was at a party for polite conversation or a game of Uno, not even if you went to a Catholic school.

I bet Brett Kavanaugh’s party-dude motivations were a lot like mine.  He wanted to be validated and everything he had seen and heard was telling him that getting sex was the only way to be a man.  Wrestling with girls who didn’t seem to be that into it and were struggling and telling you to stop and even calling for help was totally cool because Bill Murray did it in Meatballs and that girl ended up as his girlfriend in the end so it had to be ok.  Right? Wrestling around with girls like that was just one of the ways that cool guys like Bill Murray got sex.

And that brings me back to The Breakfast Club.  If you haven’t watched The Breakfast Club, one of the main characters is a troubled hooligan by the name of Bender (Judd Nelson), who  sexually harasses Molly Ringwald (playing a character named Claire, a rich spoiled girl). While hiding under a table, Bender looks up Claire’s skirt without permission and it’s implied but not shown that he touches her in some intimate fashion.  Bender says that Claire is uptight and repressed and she needs to embrace her sexuality. He claims that he’s actually trying to help her by pointing this out. This was a recurring theme in the 70’s and 80’s – the uptight, sexually repressed woman, the man who helps her loosen up with his magical penis power, and the happily ever after.

In the end, we find out that John Bender is an abused child and his antisocial, boorish behavior is all because he was shown by the adults around him that kind of behavior is ok.  The reason he’s acting out is because of his pain. The adults around him didn’t protect him and didn’t teach him right from wrong. The adults modeled bad behavior for him and it’s really all he knows.  You can’t blame him for being an asshole and a bad guy, because being an asshole and a bad guy is what he was taught by adults and he is still a child and not fully responsible for his behavior. Bender is not irredeemably damned by being a 17 year old who acts badly, even criminally.  Yet John Bender is a decent guy, underneath. It may take some time, some maturity, and some understanding from others but by the end of the movie we fully believe he will overcome those early negative lessons he received from the world around him, and become a good man, worthy of Claire’s earring, and maybe even her love.  

The subtext of The Breakfast Club is that we’re all taught a lot of things by culture and our parents but part of growing up is that we start to see past those things towards deeper truths.  One of those deeper truths is that we’re all fucked up and figuring it out as we go. We’re all victims of childhood circumstance, born into a certain time and place and culture, to people who may or may not have our best interests at heart and who are themselves all fucked up and figuring it out as they go.  Adulthood means we have to learn to set aside messages that are toxic and unlearn lessons that we totally got an A++ on when we were young.

John Bender was 17.  It was all he knew. Brett Kavanaugh was 17.  It was all he knew. And I know that it was all Brett Kavanaugh knew because it was all I knew when I grew up at about the same time, in the same sort of place.  When I was 17 I concluded that a set of entirely screwed up norms and rules was 100% true because I had watched some movies. When I was 17 I thought movies seemed like a pretty decent way to figure out how the world worked because nobody else was paying any attention to me anyway.  But I was a child and I had a child’s understanding of such things. Just like with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, things that were meant to be commentary, even criticism, I took as endorsement.  Things that were meant to be humor, as outrageous behavior that no person should ever really do, I took as endorsement.  And nobody ever bothered to tell me any different.  As I became an adult, I learned differently and became a different and hopefully better person.  I would not want to be held accountable as a 48 year old woman for what I did at 17. Would you? Would any of us?  

Thus I have a really hard time reconciling 17 year old Jimmy Bennett as an innocent victim of Asia Argento while simultaneously envisioning 17 year old Brett Kavanaugh as the sinister ringleader of a gang rape squad.  Either 17 is old enough to be fully in control of one’s sexual choices or it isn’t. My experience is, that it isn’t, particularly for boys, who have been shown to have trouble with impulse control, particularly when alcohol is involved.  https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/11/why-teenagers-are-so-impulsive.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/you-illuminated/201006/your-brain-alcohol  I think we’d be very hard-pressed to find any boy who came of age in the 70’s and 80’s who didn’t engage in some questionable alcohol-fueled sexual behavior that everyone thought was perfectly normal, even developmentally appropriate at that time.  Brett Kavanaugh did not get drunk and hold a girl down at a party this year or last year or ten years ago. This was 35 years ago, a different time and place. He was a teenager, a child still, and not responsible for his actions. When you know better, you do better, and barring any new information that comes to light, Brett Kavanaugh has seemed to mature into a decent and law-abiding adult.

As the days go by, I keep thinking that this just has to be the part of the movie where everyone comes to their senses and  thinks “My God, what are we doing here? Going through the high school yearbook of someone who’s entire adult life has been so respectable that they’re under serious consideration to sit on the Supreme Court?”  It’s absolutely repellent to me that people are going through their political opponents’ high school yearbooks looking for dirt. It turns my stomach. And this has nothing to do with Dr. Ford’s allegations, either.  The same thing was done to Neil Gorsuch https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/neil-gorsuchs-fascism-forever-club/ and it made my skin crawl then, too.  I’ve seen recent reports from Stephen Miller’s 3rd grade teacher about his behavior as an 8 year old https://www.theroot.com/stephen-millers-3rd-grade-teacher-confirms-long-held-sp-1829658154 and it disgusts me.

Children are off limits.  Whether it’s Barron Trump or Chelsea Clinton or yes, even young Brett Kavanaugh, children should be off limits.  Childhood should be a time free from the need to present a squeaky clean image to the media. We will be destroying the best parts of childhood in a very real way if we allow this repellent trend to continue on.  Being a teenager is a time of trying on identities and not always getting things right. When I was 17 I had a Chinese Communist hat because I thought communism was super cool and I wanted everyone to know I was a rebel.  Now I know that Chinese Communism killed 100 million people and I feel massively ashamed for ever wearing that hat. There were kids at my school who escaped from the communists in Vietnam on boats and helicopters, leaving friends and family behind to face prison or death, and there I was trotting around the halls in that ridiculous hat.  

When I was 17, I was absolutely unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court.   But what happened when I was 17 was a lifetime ago. 

Is it right or reasonable that people can be tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion decades after the fact for childhood behavior?  For emulating things so widely accepted as normal at the time that they were shown in movies watched by millions of impressionable young people – like binge drinking and yes, even things that we now consider to be sexual assault but didn’t then.  I say this not to minimize the seriousness of what may have happened to Dr. Ford. I say it because at the time, if authority figures would not have seen a boy and a girl wrestling on a bed as sex assault, how can we now retroactively expect a drunk teenager to have seen it that way?  How can we draw conclusions about a person’s character on this basis? I cannot make any sense of the hypocrisy of people many of whom have done the exact same things that Brett Kavanaugh is accused of now, if not far worse, many of whom have pointed fingers at prudish, Puritanical Christians for disapproving of unsupervised coed teenagers and excessive drinking, sitting in judgement over the behavior of a teen boy 35 years ago.

I don’t know if Brett Kavanaugh is telling the truth.  I don’t know if Christine Blasey-Ford is telling the truth.  I think it’s entirely possible that either or both are innocently misremembering events, and that time has blunted both their memories to such an extent that neither accurately remembers what happened.   What I do know is this – we cannot start holding adults responsible for bad behavior – that they cannot be criminally charged with now,  and wouldn’t have been criminally charged with at that time – that they might have done as children. Especially when the rules were different when they were children.  Especially when they were children in a world in which the adults had temporarily abdicated responsibility and left a generation of kids trying to piece the world together with the assistance of National Lampoon and Black Label Beer.

Especially especially when they were children a long time ago and have lived their adult lives as an otherwise decent person.  We understand this principle when it comes to Jean Valjean or Red from The Shawshank Redemption.  A person can do something wrong, even criminal, when young and go on to live a productive life, to be a credit to society in some fashion.  And at some point justice is no longer served by punishing them for a crime long ago.  At some point, punishing a person for a long-ago crime crosses the line into revenge. As an adult, by all accounts, Brett Kavanaugh has been a credit to society.

If the things we did when we were 17 are now fair game for criticism, even censure, what army of saints are we going to find to serve in public office?  Who will we find who has a clean enough history? Mike Pence, maybe, but most people interpret Pence’s choirboy image as a sign that he’s a warped and abnormal human being.  Far more likely is that people will just become better at hiding peccadilloes, covering things up, paying people off, driving their sins even deeper underground. Parents will need to become even more helicopter-y than they already are, because apparently these things really do go on your permanent record.  In addition to fighting to get toddlers into Ivy-League preschools, we’ll all have to hire publicists, handlers, and social media managers for our 10 year olds (and of course, only the very rich will have the money for all this). Our nation will end up being led by prim, prissy, goody-two-shoes who’ve never fully lived, or by incredibly wealthy people whose entire lives have been so micromanaged that we have no idea the type of leaders they’d become.  Or maybe and probably most likely, by people who are so good at burying secrets that we can never know what kind of person they even are.

Like they said in The Breakfast Club “We’re all pretty bizarre.  Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.”   Do we really want to be governed by bizarre people who are just really good at hiding how bizarre they actually are?

Maybe instead of setting the behavioral bar so high no one can cross it, it’s better to acknowledge that we’re all human and all make mistakes in our childhoods.  Unless those mistakes have been officially added to the public record at the time, or are part of a larger pattern that continued into adulthood, we need to let those potential mistakes go.  Let’s just stick with the public record and behavior of our adult politicians because only adults are fully responsible for their behavior. Let them show us how they will lead and in the case of judges, rule, and let the stuff they did as teenagers stay in the past where it belongs.

*I had a Peechee I used for years – well into high school – upon which I had drawn a giant, grinning penis man wearing a top hat and a monocle.  My friends and I would pat him for luck before important tests. He was named Ralph (whatever Kavanaugh’s inner circle meant by “Ralph”, to us, “Ralph” meant penis a la Judy Blume’s book Forever which prominently featured a penis named Ralph).   I still have it.

 **What’s worse is that it even looks to me like the actress is uncomfortable with it, like maybe beloved Bill Murray was taking things way too far and going off script with some of it.

 

conservatism and feminism both end in -ism

conservatism and feminism both end in -ism

Hey, that’s the tagline of my blog!  See what I did there??

One of the questions I’ve hoped to explore more fully in this blog is this: can you be both a conservative and a feminist.

Yes.  Yes you can.

There, that was easy.

But srlsly tho.  Why is it even a question?  Why couldn’t a person be both a conservative and a feminist?  Why can’t those things coexist within one person? Why do feminists have to be only liberal?  Is feminism really linked inextricably to liberalism?

I looked up feminism in the dictionary: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.”  That doesn’t seem in any way partisan. To me, it only makes sense for feminism to be independent of political ideology.  After all, women have a set of commonalities and needs that differ from those of other groups and have mutual political and cultural goals that grow out of those commonalities and needs.  

Why can’t people seem to wrap their heads around that?  

Women have things in common, what a shocker.  Men have things in common. Children have things in common.   Parents have things in common. Americans have things in common.  Canadians have things in common. Various groups of all stripes and sorts have things in common.  Conservatives have things in common and liberals have things in common. I’m sure we could sit and draw up a supercomplicated Venn diagram to illustrate the ways in which specific qualities apply to more than one group.  It is only natural various groups might wish to form advocacy groups to lobby for their individual needs/wants even if they happen to belong to other groups at the same time that have different, even conflicting needs/wants.

There are absolutely things that would overlap between the conservative circle and the women circle in that Venn diagram.  There are goals both political and cultural that women have, all women, across the political spectrum, that require advocacy.

You know that old expression “the squeaky wheel gets the grease?”  Well, it’s true. Nothing in this world gets accomplished by sitting quietly, politely, and awaiting notice. I have found in life that sitting in a ladylike fashion hoping silently for fair treatment generally ends with me being treated like a pack mule – only with fewer carrots. Thus, women across the political spectrum, by virtue of their shared needs, are in need of some type of organized group that says “hey, we’re going to be treated a certain way in the eyes of the law and the government and that’s not open for negotiation because we’re a force to be reckoned with.”  And sometimes an advocacy group becomes a movement. Hence, feminism.

I believe the difference between conservatives and liberals boils down to one simple fundamental difference in mindset, and that this difference sheds light on the conservative/feminism question.

Conservatism is founded on the principle that humans possess a relatively unchanging fundamental nature and that the job of humanity is to discover the best way to live in that nature for maximum happiness, prosperity, and all the rest of that delightful shit for the benefit of everyone.  Like dogs, cats, bunny rabbits, and Komodo dragons, humans universally are a particular set of behaviors and we have to take those behaviors into account when designing our laws and governments and workplaces and families and sexual relationships.

Obviously, conservatives have not always gotten it right.  Historically, they’ve absolutely come up with ways to live and govern that didn’t bestow max happiness and prosperity equally upon everyone – but overall, that’s what modern day conservatives are going for (whether they really know that or not).  It doesn’t matter if you’re a fundamentalist Christian and believe that God created Man in his image or if you’re an atheist and believe that that natural selection has shaped the human genome in a certain way, conservatives believe humans are a thing and that thing doesn’t change at least within our lifetimes, and so we gotsta take human nature into account when building a society and creating the rules that govern that society.

Now liberals, on the other hand, don’t believe this.  They’re blank slaters – they think humans can be improved and should be improved and if only they can figure out how to do that, that humans will change faster than Lady Gaga changes her outfit.  Liberals believe that if they have a college degree (which, they totally DO) and some fucking compliance then utopia could become a reality. They want to use the hand of government not as a carefully designed tool to moderate and mitigate human foibles, but as a carefully designed tool to improve upon human nature itself.  

Liberals believe in alchemy, human alchemy, transforming a “person” (just a social construct anyway) into something else, something they believe will be better, eventually, maybe, after breaking a few eggs, and they believe that changing the fundamental structure of society as a whole is a means to that end. They believe that government exists to change society, culture, and human nature because there is no human nature and so culture and society are simply things that the government should be able to fiddle around with in order to accomplish this utopian dream.

If they only had the right kind of carrot and the right kind of stick, liberals believe they could turn that pack mule not only into a thoroughbred racehorse, but into a flying car.  Conservatives believe that mules will always be mules and so when constructing a flying car one needs to take the actual shape and size of the mule into account when designing it even when it makes the car look a little clunkier and less aesthetically pleasing for those who care about such things.  Maybe it gets a little worse gas mileage. Maybe it’s slightly less efficient. Maybe it wasn’t designed by Elon Musk and doesn’t have the “cool” factor liberals seem to prize so highly. It’s still better than building a flying car to fit a Komodo dragon when a mule is gonna flying the damn thing.

I happen to fall into the conservative category and I believe that humans are a certain way and nothing you can do will ever ever ever change that (well, maybe by waiting a million years or so).  I want a culture and government and laws based in the reality of human behavior instead of a fantasy about what human beings “should” be. So I find liberal efforts to change humanity not just wrong but actually rather evil, since a lot of that changing seems to take place at the end of a gun.  I don’t mean to say liberals, the individuals, are evil, but their idea of using the law and the culture as a brickbat to actually, legitimately try to change human nature – a nature I believe to be set in stone by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and/or God – I find that to be an evil concept.

Because you can put a lion into a zoo but you aren’t ever going to make it into anything but a lion.  It’s not going to turn into a porpoise because you put it in an aquarium. It’s just going to drown. It’s not going to turn into a guinea pig because you feed it celery.  It’s just going to starve. Lions need a certain kind of environment just like humans need a certain kind of environment and it’s incumbent upon those who are running the zoo to figure out what environment is best for lions to live in, and provide it to them so they can live the best and happiest lion life they can lead.  

The female lions in the zoo have certain innate needs; some are the same as the male lions, but not all of them are, and in fact the female lions and their cubs (because can we be real here? Children fall into the female sphere, and only a liberal would pretend otherwise) may even need extra protection from the male lions.

This seems relatively simple until you realize that the lions are actually running the zoo and so you’re putting one lion in charge of the other lion and so you have to take that into account when designing your zoo.  Lion nature being what it is, if you don’t build some sort of safeguard into the system, you’re going to end up with the lion zookeeper keeping all the best meat for themself while feeding the other lions celery.  We certainly don’t want the lion zookeeper thinking “well why CAN’T lions be porpoises?” and launching into a grand campaign to acclimate lions gradually to watery environments (starting first with the lion zookeepers’ political enemies).   And the lion zookeeper can’t expect male lions to act any differently than male lions act, ruling over the pride with threat of violence towards the lionesses and their cubs, doing little work and taking all the benefits despite that, and constantly fighting with the other male lions. But you can’t blame or punish the male lions for that, because they’re male lions, it is in their nature, and the lionesses kind of like them that way anyway.  You just have to acknowledge that their nature is real, it is not their fault and nor is it going to be easy for them to overcome it, and take all of that into consideration, that’s all.

When designing our lion habitat, a balance must be struck between respecting the lion’s (both male and female lions, since their needs and natures do not identically mesh) inherent nature as a bloodthirsty, selfish killing machine while at the same time limiting harm to other lions and respecting their inherent natures too.  Because the whole point of our zoo is to allow the most lions – male, female, weak, strong, old, young – to thrive at their most happiest lion level. It can’t be a habitat where the lion zookeepers make impossible promises that they cannot keep in which all lions will have perfect lives because utopia isn’t an option and utopia generally ends up looking like whatever suits the bosses best.  https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/peoples-commune-canteens-china?utm_medium=atlas-page&utm_source=facebook.com But it could be a habitat where lions can be lions and do lion things with as much freedom as it’s possible for them have while still not indulging that lion nature to the furthest degree and ending up in a terrible world where everyone is killing each other all the time.

For me, that’s what the small government conservativism I subscribe to is all about.  My right to swing my fist (or paw) ends before it hits the other guy’s face (or muzzle).  And as women, sometimes we need to team up to prevent any flying fists, both literal and figurative, from heading our way.  And for me, that’s what feminism is all about.  Since we’re littler and have historically had less money and power, and maybe, just maybe because there are some innate human quirks that make people (both men and women) fall into gender-based patterns that aren’t best for maximizing women’s happiness and potential, we gals need to stick together to advocate for ourselves both legally and in the culture as a whole.  (fun fact – you do not always need to use the force of law to advocate for yourself!)

You can be both a conservative and a feminist.  For reals.  You can both believe that humans have a fundamental set nature that needs to be respected and protected and allowed for, while still acknowledging that male human needs and female human needs do not identically mesh and sometimes female human needs ought to be advocated for and male urges need to be mitigated.  It is ridiculous to say that just because I’m a conservative, that I’m somehow not still a woman, that I don’t want and deserve the right to vote and to own property and to not get raped by a stranger for wearing a miniskirt or beaten up by my husband and to be able to protect my children from those who would do them harm (even if that IS my husband).  

Just because I don’t agree with some (ok, most) feminists on the social engineering stuff, just because I don’t agree that lions can be turned into porpoises if only you spray them gently with sprinklers while shaming them viciously on Lionfacebook whenever they move to a dry corner, that doesn’t mean that I favor nature, red in tooth and claw, where women and children are property and men get to make all the decisions in society because they have more muscles.  Because not only would that world suck (even for the men!) the fact is, the lions are running the zoo here. Great caution must be taken to ensure that the lion zookeepers aren’t using their power for their own benefit at the expense of others. The female lions have got to have input into the way the zoo is run so they can advocate for themselves and their children. Otherwise we end up with a system where the people making decisions are the strong and powerful people because humans have a nature and that’s one of the pitfalls of human nature – the strong and powerful will gravitate to positions of leadership and absolute power corrupts absolutely.   But at the same time this doesn’t mean that the female lionesses are always right and it certainly doesn’t mean they are incorruptible, either.  Strong and powerful people can sometimes look a lot more like Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi than Lou Ferrigno and Larry the Cable Guy, believe it or not.

Now, a lot of people have realized this truth along the way, that you an be a feminist and a conservative and tried to come up with fancy new terms for it like “womanism” or “femaleism” and all I can say to that is UGH.  Look, the English language is full of words that have more than one meaning like “salad” or “set” or “crane” and our clever human brains are capable of using one word to mean different things all of which have nuance to them depending on the context.  “Feminism” is a fine word and will suffice. But we as conservative feminists do need to advocate for a subset of feminism where we can exist and advocate for women’s rights and children’s rights.  We need to exist as feminists without everyone assuming that just because we believe women and children  (perhaps maybe even including children who are unborn) should have rights that exceed that of pack mules, just because we want to be respected by the culture and by the law as fully actualized individuals, this doesn’t mean that we therefore buy into every cockamamie idea that underlies the liberal philosophy.  They’re two totally different things and much of what liberals claim feminism is, is actually, actively BAD for women!

The feminism circle in our Venn Diagram DOES NOT exist solely within the liberal circle.  Feminism is not Lesotho. And really, isn’t it pretty damn sexist to assume that feminism can only exist under the protective umbrella of liberalism?  That women can’t think for themselves and have viewpoints that are different from this other social movement? That women might prefer freedom and not having Mommy Government telling us what to do with our bodies in every arena but sex and abortion (am I the only one who doesn’t get that, like, at all?  “Your body, your choice” with abortion, but you damn well better not drink a 32 ounce soda or smoke cigarettes because that is BAD for you and we all need to live to be 108 years old because human life is so totally precious and everything).

Liberals do NOT have the answers.  In fact, I think they have precisely NONE of the answers.  Maybe they did at one time but not any more because the things they used to believe in, like freedom and tolerance and having a sense of humor and stickin’ it to the Man, they seem to have forgotten about now that they have become the Man themselves.  (and if you self-ID as a feminist and a liberal because of things that happened in the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s, you may want to go take a closer look at what the hardcore liberals are really saying nowadays because it may not be what you thought it was).  

Social engineering and victim mentality and political correctness and Nannystatism are creating a society and a culture that I HATE. Honestly, I think all of us hate it, it’s that some people are so committed to liberalism as a religion that they have lost the ability to see clearly the cause and effect here.  Without hyperbole I can say that cultural norms and valuable legal standards that protect not only men but women and women’s children (shockingly, some women’s children ARE men!  AAAA they’re already inside the house!!) are being destroyed left and right…or should I say, left and left, since the left is the driving force behind it.

Don’t celebrate, feminist friends. When things go wrong, when the ties that bind us disintegrate, it is the most vulnerable who pay the highest price.  Women will foot the bill, they always do. Our civil rights will evaporate before anyone else’s and they’ll take the longest to come back again.

It is a critical PART of my feminism to stand against liberalism because it is better for women.  Women will be safer and better off in a small-government conservative world than in a liberal one.  Conservatism isn’t perfect; historically conservatives have absolutely gotten things wrong.  Conservatives must do better in the future at protecting EVERYONE’s rights, not only the strong and powerful.  But we can’t do that if liberals continue taking a battle axe to legal protections, civil liberties, and cultural norms that exist for the benefit and protection of all people – women, minorities, LGBTQ, children – out of a misguided attempt to turn lions into pussycats. 

It’s not going to work, it can never work, because humans are a thing and that thing is not going to change for a very, very long time.  We have to make laws for the world as it is, not a world we can imagine in our minds.  So not only is it possible to be a feminist and a conservative, it’s a necessity.

 

      

a tale of two twitties

a tale of two twitties

Context.  Context matters.  Context explains the larger meaning of the things we see and hear and brings into focus events too faraway to see clearly.  Context changes a hero into a war criminal and an ice cube to a something that can sink the Titanic. Context lets us hear an honest whisper through the hum of a million lies.

We live in a post-context reality.  Not post-truth like the pundits claim, but post-context. We could easily judge the truth of things we read and hear if only we could put them in context.  But context takes time and the news cycle happens fast – too fast for the average person keep up with. Offhand remarks are replayed in a loop, their context long ago forgotten. Tweets written in a moment live on forever in infamy.   Viral stories become runaway trains. And since we’re drowning in information who has the time to go back and thoroughly investigate the origin story of something potentially inflammatory?  Chumps, that’s who. People with no lives who have nothing better to do with their days. It’s so much easier to just hop on the bandwagon and let the flames of outrage burn higher.

When Kevin Williamson got fired from The Atlantic, I thought it was crap.  I wrote about it here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2018/07/19/we-need-to-talk-about-kevin/  But at the same time, my knee jerk reaction is that it was questionable and concerning policy for the New York Times to hire Sarah Jeong given her tweet history.  

I try pretty hard to keep a fair and balanced viewpoint.  I don’t think I live in a bubble and I don’t believe I am a rabid partisan, either.  Because I do try to hold myself to a higher standard, I really wanted to unravel the logic underlying my knee jerk feelz to see if I was onto something or if I was just a hypocrite.  And in doing so, I have concluded that the difference between Kevin Williamson and Sarah Jeong is context. The context is big and unruly and very likely impossible to unravel in one innocent lil thinkpiece.  But I’ll try, because in our divided nation, context matters more than any of us have realized.

There’s an expression that I really like.  It’s this: “Two buttheads met and they butted heads.”   Meaning that sometimes in life, two jerks or groups of jerks have a head-on collision and there’s a really huge explosion in which both parties were at fault and no one walks away from the flames unscathed putting on their cool sunglasses while a rock soundtrack plays in the background.  Sometimes there are no innocent victims. Sometimes, everyone implodes and everyone deserves it. Sometimes, two buttheads just kinda…butt heads. And let me just get that out of the way now. I think Kevin Williamson was an immensely unhelpful douche for saying what he said and I think Sarah Jeong was also an immensely unhelpful douche for saying what she said.  They’re both guilty of pot-stirring when the pot is bubbling along just fine without their input, thanks ever so.

BUT.  It is entirely possible to find people basically assholes but at the same time believe that they have the right to exist and say whatever they want.  It is also possible to not like what these people have to say, and yet still choose to listen to their assholery, or at least coexist with it, because words don’t kill people.  Additionally, places of employment should not have to feel obligated to hire or fire people who have expressed problematic viewpoints.  Again, one can think that these places of employment are right or wrong to do so, even as we defend overall their right to employ who they wish.  Our opinions on any or all of these things may – indeed WILL – vary due to circumstances.  Because context. Different situations have different context and context matters.  

In one corner, we have Kevin Williamson, who has said some controversial stuff but worst of all, the realio-trulio dealbreaker was that on two known occasions in 2014, one Tweet and one podcast https://www.vox.com/2018/4/5/17202182/the-atlantic-kevin-williamson-twitter-abortion-death-penalty said that even though he didn’t really believe in the death penalty, if abortion was made illegal, it would be murder, and thus would be subject to the death penalty.   Hanging, he said, would be too good for them. Ok. He’s an offensive guy. He’s certainly offended me before https://atomicfeminist.com/2017/10/25/hit-the-road-joad/

I don’t find the things Kevin says to be always or even usually helpful to the greater dialogue but he has made me think about some things that I hadn’t thought about before.  

Then we have Sarah Jeong, who has said all this stuff.   Please read this entire thread, because context matters. https://twitter.com/nickmon1112/status/1025437806775226368?lang=en  Jeong is clearly making a concerted effort to be consistently and openly offensive over a period of several years.  This is not an offhand, spur of the moment remark she let slip a couple of times years ago, this is hundreds of tweets over a long period of time, this is an argument she is deliberately constructing for public consumption.  And you can tell me all about how this was countertrolling, sarcasm, etc etc etc, that there was a larger point she was making, and I actually fully agree. I see and understand what she was going for with all that and many of her larger points weren’t wrong.   Just like the writing of Kevin Williamson, the tweets of Sarah Jeong made me think about things in ways I hadn’t thought of before. I don’t find the way she said them to be particularly helpful to the larger cultural debate, but I did certainly think after reading these tweets in a way I hadn’t before. 

The issue is not what Sarah Jeong said.  Full stop. The issue is context. The issue is conflating one tweet and an offhand remark in a podcast with YEARS of tweets and deriding anyone who dares to say “ya know, these things really aren’t quite the same thing at all” as hypocritical.  But Williamson and Jeong aren’t the same thing and it seems extremely duplicitous when people say that they are. The contexts were totally different, and given that kajillions of people then went out and wrote pretty involved thinkpieces passionately defending Sarah Jeong because racism and explaining the greater context of her tweets (when the Scooby Gang unmasked the villain, it was pesky Old Man White Supremacy the entire time!) ya can’t tell me that most of the people sounding off on this don’t understand the notion of context.  

So that leaves me wondering if hypocrisy has been weaponized just like everything else and I am sad to conclude that yeah, it kinda has.

But that’s a thinkpiece for a different day.  Today is about two buttheads butting heads and the greater context in which that occurred.  Am I correct in thinking that what happened to Kevin (where he was punished for free speech) was kinda shitty and what happened with Sarah (where she wasn’t) is kinda troubling?  Can I have those two opinions at the same time without being a huge hypocrite – not using the weaponized definition of hypocrite where everyone on the right is one and no one on the left is, but using my own definition of hypocrisy?  

I’m totally ok with what Sarah Jeong, private citizen, was saying on Twitter.  I’m not saying that she should be banned from society, and I’m 100% NOT saying our girl SJ shouldn’t work somewhere in media making an exorbitant amount of money.  But the New York Times is not just any online magazine. The New York Times is supposed to be America’s pre-eminent news source. I have a golden vision of journalism as a force of good in my heart and mind and the New York Times is enthroned at the top of the pantheon as a wise and fair source of daily news for all America.  

The Atlantic is also there in that pantheon as well – it’s actually my fave news source and I read it most days, far more often than I read the NYT.  But The Atlantic isn’t a daily paper where people go to get their day’s news. The Atlantic is a news magazine, an amalgam of writers from a lot of different schools of thought – like one big editorial page.  The Atlantic is made up of lots of people with lots of opinions and worldviews and backgrounds putting out a unified product. Those of us who read it know that going in and don’t expect a lack of bias from their writers. In fact, the bias is kind of the point; you’re reading editorials and not straight news.  Kevin Williamson at The Atlantic seems more natural a fit than Sarah Jeong at the New York Times. And Jeong is not just a writer at the NYT, she was hired to be on the EDITORIAL BOARD. That means she decides what news is fit to print!

It just seems sort of bizarre that anyone with a history of aggressively giving offense to an entire group of people and expressing opinions that seem at least to me, extreme, regardless of how she intended them, should be hired by a media outlet that is supposed to be unbiased, fair, trustworthy.   A media outlet that is supposed to be fully committed to giving America real news and truth and yes, accurate context, in a world in which those things seem to be under attack from all comers. The NYT is supposed to be fighting off fake news and truthiness like Neo in the middle of an army of Agent Smiths.  In that light, hiring Sarah Jeong seems kinda like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse, doesn’t it??  Journalists and public figures have been dragged on Twitter and even fired from allegedly “unbiased” media outlets for far, far less egregious statements than Jeong’s (when they were on the incorrect side of the liberal agenda, that is). And it has happened so often I’m not even going to go dig up links because either you’ve seen this happen repeatedly or else you’re not paying attention because your mind is already made up and wouldn’t read the links anyway.

Isn’t bias in journalism bad?  I mean that’s the story I’ve heard – Fox News is like SUPER bad because they are partisan and partisanship in journalism is like, the worst and stuff, and so Fox News should be more neutral, you know, more like the New York Times.  Except for that pesky notion that a lot of people, even eminently reasonable ones like me don’t really find the New York Times to be neutral in that “journalists should be neutral” kinda way. That’s why it’s so easy for Donald Trump to get people cheering when he criticizes them – because many already perceive the NYT to be heavily biased.  It’s not exactly like they’re the Switzerland of newspapers, come on.  

It feels very weird to me when a group of people are telling me out of one side of their mouths that bias in journalism is this terrible thing because Fox News and then the very next second one of the most prestigious newspapers, like, in human history, goes out of their way to hire someone – to their editorial board! – who is clearly uberbiased.

Democracy dies in darkness, people.  The truth is more important now than ever!  And by the way, white people stink like wet dogs.  Y u no respect my authority?

Almost feels as if someone realized “ok wow these rightwing whackjobs are trying to beat us at our game, now they’re all like pretending to get offended by so-called racist shit now, GAWD, don’t they know it’s impossible to be racist against white people, ok, whatever, guess they’re not accepting our always-changing definition of the word racism, FFS, so let’s drop the pretense that we aren’t totally biased and go balls deep in it now.”  Since that last sentence was a fun trainwreck that I don’t want to delete, I’ll rephrase: Since some mostly conservative people no longer blindly, silently accept the double standard where it’s fine for everyone else to be perpetually offended except for them, and are actually calling leftists out on their hate speech, the NYT (supposed to be unbiased) has decided to embrace its bias with both arms, both legs, and a prehensile tail. And I’m supposed to hold this up against a dude who said a couple times, with a lot of hemming and hawing, his opinion on something.  A dude who was actually HIRED to write a certain viewpoint by the Atlantic, a mag whose whole entire genie gig entails having a lot of writers of a lot of different viewpoints. Srsly?

Nah.  It’s not the same thing.  Stop trying to tell me it’s the same thing.  Because I know the context and you aren’t fooling me. 

Let’s talk about what Kevin Williamson actually even said.  He said that he was torn on capital punishment but IF one wanted to make abortion illegal, one would have to treat it like any other homicide.  And he also said “hanging’s too good for them” which seems shocking until one understands that Williamson was an unwanted baby, given up for adoption, frequently told as a boy by his adoptive mother that he should have been aborted.  He has wondered publicly if abortion had been legal at the time of his birth, if he would have even been born. Kevin Williamson is entitled to have a complicated, yes even messy opinion on the issue of abortion, just as much as Sarah Jeong is entitled to have a complicated, yes even messy opinion on racism.  

The FACT is, if we as a nation would choose to make abortion illegal, we would have to come to terms with the need for punishment, which we may not be ok with.  Kevin Williamson’s OPINION – at least his opinion he expressed twice in 2014 – is that in the case of women who have abortions, “hanging’s too good for them”. I’ve used that expression a few times, like about people who abuse animals, for instance.  I did not literally mean that I wanted people who have harmed animals to be rounded up and hanged. I wasn’t building a gallows in my backyard or encouraging people to go out and round up animal abusers. I just read a liberal acquaintance publicly calling for people who enabled sex offenders like Larry Nassar, to be hanged – not even the sex offenders themselves, but enablers.  And amazingly, I did not dial 911 to report my acquaintance for making threats.

“Hanging’s too good for them” is a fucking expression, people. It’s a thing people say to reflect their opinion that something someone has done is really, really bad. Not a call to arms, not a demand for public policy, an expression like “Are you working hard or are you hardly working?”

I mean really – when someone asks “How’s it hanging” you don’t immediately assume OMG this person is literally suggesting I am hanging Cousin It, do you?

Williamson wasn’t saying that women who have had abortions should be rounded up and hanged, he wasn’t saying that the death penalty was a good idea – he actually said he was “squishy” on it, if I recall his exact words.  He wasn’t even saying that abortion should be illegal. He was saying that IF we were to take that step, here’s the logical followthrough of taking that step, and I think that is a valuable point to make. Particularly to conservatives who often call (IMO) quite recklessly for abortion to be made illegal without thinking through what a world with illegal abortion would actually look like.

Contrary to popular belief, one can be both adamantly pro-life and have a reasonable and realistic view of the lengths it would take to make abortion illegal.  Williamson wrote thoughtfully and reasonably about the subject here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kevin-williamson-the-punishment-i-favor-for-abortion/2018/04/25/5001c6cc-48c5-11e8-8b5a-3b1697adcc2a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b1d61f91e012  I am not a fan of abortion either, but would never make it illegal due to the costs to civil liberties and I’ve written about that here: https://ordinary-times.com/2017/04/18/the-tomiknockers/  It is clear to me Kevin Williamson has done quite a lot of deep thinking about this topic and he has a very nuanced opinion on it.  When you look at his statement in the context of his personal history and other things he’s written, not to mention simple good sense, it comes off not as the call to action that some were disengenuously claiming it to be, but as far more a message (warning) to conservatives. 

Above all else, what Kevin Williamson is, is an internal critic of conservatism. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/04/a-dissent-concerning-kevin-williamson/484052/

Williamson’s deeper message, for those who would bother to listen instead of running off to don The Handmaid’s Tale cosplay outfits, is that conservatives cannot have it both ways.  Conservatives can’t call for abortion to be criminalized without first wrestling with the consequences – real, actual, living breathing women would have to be punished for having abortions to the furthest extent of the law.  His point was valid and valuable; beyond that, both corporal punishment and abortion rights are freely debated political topics that a political journalist really ought to be able to express opinions on, even unpopular ones, because they’re being actively debated in the public sphere.

Most of Jeong’s statements had literally NOTHING to do with valid political discourse. Williamson at the least was discussing real political subjects that politicians and journalists have debated openly in the public sphere for decades – the death penalty and criminalizing abortion. Williamson was discussing serious issues that politicians may or may not enact into laws that will then be enforced.  Jeong was saying she takes joy in being mean to elderly white men and that white people should live underground like goblins.

Kevin Williamson was engaging in political speech.  Sarah Jeong was engaging in divisive personal attacks against an entire race of people in the guise of humor. She can say whatever the hell she would like on a variety of topics; she doesn’t need to limit herself to political issues, of course.  And of course, the New York Times can hire her despite her having said those things. God bless America. But it is not the same thing as Kevin Williamson because of the context.  So that leaves me wondering how can millions of people call ME a hypocrite for thinking it’s bad form for a journalist to be fired for having an opinion on a legitimate political topic while defending derogatory statements (and again, there were hundreds of them, dating back years) that have nothing whatever to do with political issues?

Thus I have concluded I am not a hypocrite. A journalist who is expressing unpopular opinions on actual topics in the political sphere deserves to be treated with at the least, equal regard to someone who may call themselves a journalist but is deliberately trying to troll and offend.  If you believe in free speech, free discourse, and the concept of a pluralistic society I simply believe you have got to respect ALL speech, period, end of story.

Gobs of people came forth to write thinkpieces full of mental gymnastics defending Sarah Jeong.  Here’s one of many: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/3/17648566/sarah-jeong-new-york-times-twitter-andrew-sullivan  Thoughtfulness and sympathetic reads don’t seem to be in short supply for Sarah’s POV, even among people I genuinely like and respect, and it’s really quite concerning to me that the same people who would bend over backwards to defend Jeong’s freedom of speech, and the NYT’s right to hire whoever they want, seem to have that sympathy dry up completely when it’s someone whose politics they happen to disagree with.

Now some would say that we are living in desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures.  We have a madman in charge of the nation and maybe, just maybe things like fairness and freedom of speech have to be less important than #resisting and so sticking up for the dubious rights of loudmouth blowhards like Kevin Williamson simply has to take a back seat for a while.  Every day I am told by people who know these things, like the New York Times for instance, that things are worse than ever in this country and Trump’s rhetoric is to blame.  Here’s one article of many. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/the-trump-effect-how-hateful-rhetoric-is-affecting-americas-children-123427/  All of us, including precious, precious children, are being harmed by Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric.  Because Trump is normalizing hatespeech and disrespect!

Why, Trump is even attacking the sacred media itself! At the end of July, July 20 to be exact, the owner of the Gray Lady (that’s the New York Times, y’all) implored that vile villainous venomspewer Trump to stuff a sock in his antimedia blather before someone actually got HURT by his naughty naughty words.  Here’s an article from July 29 about it. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-trump-media-20180729-story.html  By the first of August, the NYT had hired Sarah Jeong.  https://www.nytco.com/sarah-jeong-joins-the-timess-editorial-board/  

Anyone else got whiplash?

So let me get this straight.  Trump is bad because his words are inflammatory and inflammatory speech could inspire hatred and trigger action, right?  Trump is bad because his words could have a ripple effect that could normalize rudeness and eat away at civility, right? But Sarah Jeong wrote inflammatory things for YEARS and yet the most prestigious newspaper in the country hiring her was ok because…why exactly again? Can someone please explain to me how these two viewpoints can coexist in any way unless there is a huge double standard for liberals vs. conservatives?  If inflammatory words from respected authority figures can truly inspire hatred and trigger action, if they can truly destroy the very fabric of our peaceful society by normalizing rudeness and ugly language, why is it ok for inflammatory words – indeed, real hate speech – to be tolerated, nay, ENDORSED, by the New York Times?

Again, and againandagainandagainandagain what these supposed bastions of truth and honesty are showing me is that where the New York Times is concerned, anything is fine when it’s done by the left. Perpetual outrage, getting journalists fired over speech that falls well within the realm of the political, defending the most heinous and outrageously extreme language – all totally kewl coming from left of the aisle.  All while clucking their tongues and rending their clothes over the right’s rhetoric.

Isn’t Sarah Jeong – even if, as she says, that she was just countertrolling – normalizing anti-white-people rhetoric?  It sure seems like it to me. I believe fully in free speech but I do have to agree that the more people in positions of authority talk in inflammatory and derogatory ways, the more it spreads to everyone else.  So if Trump’s vicious verbal diarrhea is bad on July 20, how can you defend Sarah Jeong on August 1 with any credibility at all?

And ya wonder why crowds cheer when Donald Trump lambastes the media.  They cheer because this IS bias plain and simple and it is freaking obvious and the mass denial coming from millions of people on the left given the larger context is absolutely terrifying.  Leftists are telling us – and not only right wing whackaroos, but just normal everyday people like me who would prefer to not pay any attention to politics – that the rules don’t apply to those on the left, they apply only to those on the right, all the while pretending that the rules are fair and the playing field is level and the sky is green and up is down.  We are told that the concerns of conservatives are “fever dreams”, mass hallucinations brought on by one too many Alex Jones shows, there is no persecution going on here, no double standard, nope nu-uh none whatsoever and a woman who wrote hundreds of disgusting and in my opinion, downright frightening tweets over the course of years has the God-given right to sit on the editorial board of the most prestigious, respected newspaper in American history.   All this is somehow absolutely a-ok and I should continue to fully respect and trust that newspaper and further, I should believe that any division in our nation is solely because of Trump.

Hey media fucktards, a recap – YOU got Donald Trump elected firstly by giving him tons and tons and TONS of free publicity whilst simultaneously running down, even publicly humiliating all the legit Republican candidates because you thought Hillary would easily defeat Trump.  But that wasn’t the only way you created Trump. No, no. You created, elevated, and elected Trump by scaring millions of American people about the intentions of the left. That’s right, people out here in the Heartland are terrified of the liberal movement right now.  People on the right, and even in the center, are scared by the left’s behavior and rhetoric (and if you don’t get why, please go reread Sarah Jeong’s tweets). So when we look at our beloved American journalistic institutions like the Atlantic and the New York Times and see them embracing leftist extremism while simultaneously practicing censorship of people who they politically disagree with, it’s concerning.  Highly concerning. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to see it, either, and when people I otherwise like and respect go all perplexed and say “I simply cannot see what anyone on the right could possibly have to be scared about” in this environment, that only troubles my troubled mind even more so.

Because it feels to me like this is a concerted effort to wage a surreptitious war against the right. Sarah Jeong is just another data point that this is fer realz, that this cold slithery feeling I have in the pit of my belly when I think about the future is entirely justified.  Scared people tend to circle the wagons and start embracing aggressive tactics and strongman-types. It isn’t because they want to, it isn’t that they necessarily agree with the strongman on everything all the time. It is because they feel that they have to, because if one side is secretly sharpening pitchforks and lighting torches while the other side is off chasing butterflies with their John McCain memorial butterfly net, that’s an imbalance of power and intentions that can’t be rationally ignored.  

The weirdest, mind-bogglingest we’re-living-in-crazyland thing about all this is that many liberal women claim to be scared that Kevin Williamson and guys (and gals, because in my pretty extensive experience in this arena, women are more pro-life than even the pro-lifeiest of men) like him really, truly have plans to hang women who have had abortions (or put gays in concentration camps or whatever the phantasmagorical phreakout of the week is) even though there’s no evidence that anyone ever intended to do that – like literally, none whatsoever – and plenty of evidence to the contrary.  All this while simultaneously telling me to ignore the NYT hiring someone…for their editorial board…who has hundreds of tweets over several years saying I should be “cancelled”, that I shouldn’t breed, that my opinions are like a dog’s urine on a fire hydrant, that my sons should be killed, and lots of other really awful things because it was all just a big ol’ trolly joke or something maybe I guess.

I’m not laughing.

This context thing.  It matters. U guys want to play this game where when the context suits you, it’s all about the context, and when it doesn’t, it’s forgotten.

But I cannot reconcile in my heart and mind on the one hand watching millions of people having a hysterical meltdown after a free and fair election, rioting in the streets, burning people in effigy, pretending that The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games are coming true because they selected a terrible candidate who ran a bad campaign and barely even lost despite all that, with what is actively happening to conservatives all across America right now this very minute.  Conservative journalists like Kevin Williamson are fired for something they said 2 times, years ago. Neil Gorsuch was criticized for something that was in his high school yearbook and held accountable for things that his mother had said 70 years ago. Lather, rinse, repeat. All the while liberals are excused for years of truly awful tweets, blog posts, and frequent associations with actually-evil people. And these things are happening with the full collusion of the entertainment industry, the vast majority of people in education, and worst of all, the media.  Even the sacred New York Times, supposed to be the gatekeepers of truth and reason and rationality are all-in now, aren’t they? I don’t see how anyone can deny it any more – the media has picked a side. That cannot mean anything good.

So the people defending Sarah Jeong, telling me “move along, there’s nothing to see here”  – again, even people who I like and respect – these people are either liars or they are delusional and I don’t know which option is more terrifying.  But it is TERRIFYING. You are terrifying me, liberals. And scared people circle the wagons. Stop making me circle the wagons because I don’t even LIKE most of the people you are forcing me to circle the wagons with.  You are forcing me to circle the wagons with groups who really are wretched hives of scum and villainy.

And that brings me to my final point.   

One of the main criticisms regarding the public dragging of Sarah Jeong is that the people who dug up the dirt on her were sketchy dudes like Mike Cernovitch and the Gateway Pundit.  They were biased, they were slanted, they hate liberals, they wanted to bring her down. They found out she had gotten hired by the NYT and went out and rummaged through her old tweets looking for filth and they found an ample supply.

That’s pretty creepy, I agree.  Those guys are sleazeballs for sure.  Seems to be happening a lot lately, though, doesn’t it?  Scungy sewer rats going through the ancient dregs of everyone’s online lives trying to find things to damn them with??  I don’t like that trend, not at all, no matter who it happens to.  It’s ugly.

But that’s exactly what happened to Kevin Williamson too.  Because I have a memory that lasts longer than a news cycle, I recall very clearly that there was already a fever pitch of outrage coming from the left BEFORE they had any dirt on the guy.  They were already calling for him to be fired. They were already calling for people to cancel their subscriptions. People WERE canceling their subscriptions. A LOT of people were calling for Kevin Williamson to be fired BEFORE they’d even uncovered his two problematic statements on abortion.  And the liberal equivalents of Cernovitch and Gateway Pundit went and dug up the abortion quotes and off to the races we went.

True story – The Atlantic hired Williamson because they felt that they lacked conservative representation.  Because after getting blindsided when Hillary lost, they were trying to be more inclusive of non-liberal viewpoints (remember how that was a thing for about 5 minutes there?) I think that’s noble and admirable.  But liberals were outraged by that. BEFORE the abortion quote.  They were outraged that The Atlantic hired a conservative who was not a tame lion. They went after the guy till they found something they could get him with and then they got him. Because they could not even tolerate knowing a conservative (internal conservative critic, mind you) held a position on any “respectable” mainstream news magazine.  They drove Kevin Williamson off The Atlantic not because of what he said 2 times 4 years ago but because of who he was, because conservatives are not welcome and conservative thought is not allowed. If they hadn’t gotten rid of him over the abortion stuff, they’d have found something else.  The movement to eliminate Williamson was already well underway when the dumpster divers uncovered the abortion quotes.

Mike Cernovitch and the Gateway Pundit, scumbags though they certainly are, simply responded in kind and looked up Sarah Jeong’s own tweets. Can you even blame them? Why should conservatives be expected to fight with both hands tied behind their backs? Why do liberals get to utilize this type of sleazy tactic but when conservatives do it, it’s different somehow?  The context is that liberals get to do stuff that conservatives don’t and it is not fair. Either it’s ok for everyone or it’s ok for no one. If you say otherwise, hell-LO, you’re a hypocrite.

Look, the “let’s go back and find contextless dirt we can use against everyone we don’t like” crap is like unleashing a fucking Kraken, all right?  It’s a bull in a china shop, it’s using a shotgun to kill a mosquito, it’s getting Bin Laden by nuking Pakistan, it’s like shaving your legs with a flamethrower.  Yeah, maybe you get the guy you’re going after but the fire is gonna get away from you and it’s gonna burn down everything. And now yippee, wahoo, idiots, you’ve torn down the social norms that prevent those dirty trick tactics from being used against YOU.  The argument that the Cernovitch Kraken trying to bring down Jeong is somehow worse than the JessicaValenti Kraken that brought down Kevin Williamson is completely deceptive nonsense and again, just shines this sinister light o’context yet again onto the entire Williamson-Jeong debacle.  

The context matters.  There are two sets of rules, one for conservatives and one for liberals.  Liberals make the rules and enforce the rules, and conservatives are only allowed to have free speech and journalistic freedom within the rules that the liberals create.  Conservatives are second class citizens and liberals think it is right and fair and just that conservatives are second class citizens because conservatives are stoopid dum inbred racist hicks and liberals are sainted highly evolved angels who have only the purest most selfless instincts and can do no wrong. (#cancelwhitepeople #killallmen)

The context matters.  In this system, conservatives should exist at the pleasure of liberals; liberals should get to decide what conservatives get to speak and where they should speak and if you’re a conservative that liberals don’t think should get to have a voice, like Mike Cernovitch (who yeah, probably shouldn’t) or Kevin Williamson (who definitely should), you don’t get one.  Liberals can do what they want and say what they want no matter how hateful or vicious or ugly and conservatives have no recourse. Because when conservatives say anything to call this state of affairs out, they’re called hypocrites or liars or overly sensitive or delusional because liberals like to pretend that this context doesn’t exist.

But the context matters.

 

 

Brigitte Joneses For A Baby

Brigitte Joneses For A Baby

Brigitte Nielsen, a Danish actress best known for co-starring in Rocky 4 (while being briefly married to Sylvester Stallone) recently had a baby.   The interesting thing to most people is that she is 54 years old. The interesting thing to me is that it’s Nielsen’s first daughter after 4 sons.

As one might expect in this social media fish bowl in which we swim, the troglodytes of the Internet feel perfectly entitled to sound off on Nielsen’s decision to bring a child into the world.   She’s too old, they say. The way she conceived is “unnatural” – she had frozen her own eggs over a decade ago and had been trying to conceive with them ever since. She has four children already – adults! – and she should be satisfied with that; asking for more than she already has is greedy.  She will surely die or be infirm and unable to raise the child “properly”. She’s doing this for her own selfish reasons and not for the good of her child.

The reason why I find the maternal longings of a D-list actress of interest is that I too had a girl after 4 boys.  Like Nielsen, my oldest son was an adult when my daughter was born. Like Nielsen, I was in an age group that is considered “too old” – 42, definitely an age many would consider too late to be bringing a new life into the world.  After all, the media likes to drum it into people’s heads again and again…having a baby over 40 is unacceptably perilous for both mother and baby. I am sure that many people thought I was making a terrible selfish decision, although no one ever said it to my face.

They did say other things to my face, though.  While mothers of more than 2 are often criticized, and older mothers are always criticized (it feels that way, anyway), there seems to be a special level of vitriol reserved for women who have sons and still want a daughter, particularly if they have the temerity to try for one.  The very idea that any woman might want to continue having children until she has a particular gender is presented as being borne from some sort of monstrous desire, and worst of all is when a woman wants a daughter. I suppose this is because trying for a son is usually painted as something a woman does for someone else – her husband, her family, her culture – and so a woman trying for a son is seen as selfless, giving, generous.  A woman who admits to wanting a daughter, on the other hand, is either an egomaniac who wants a “mini-me” or a rabid feminist who plans to use her daughter as a political pawn.

But that isn’t reality.  I wanted a daughter in the way I imagine a person who has lived in the mountains their entire life wants to see the ocean.   Not because I was trying to make myself over again or to score social justice points, but because I wanted to see her and know her.  Her, not me. My longing for a daughter had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with my sons. I was and am happy with myself and beyond ecstatic with my sons.  I didn’t need a daughter to complete me or to make my family whole.  

I just wanted her.  

It is entirely possible to adore living in the mountains or in the desert and be utterly unable to imagine living anywhere else, but still have a strong desire to see the ocean, to watch the waves break, to know what it’s like to walk in the sand and dabble your toes in the foam.  Some people don’t want to see the ocean and that’s ok. Some have seen it already and didn’t think it was that big a thing, certainly not worth turning their lives upside down for. Others have lived there for years and are used to the view. But others want to see the ocean.  Sometimes a silly little want grows into a longing that takes hold and won’t let go.  That’s how it was for me, wanting a daughter.  It was an experience that I really hoped to have.  I’d dreamt of her since I was a tiny little girl myself.   And I found that I just couldn’t walk away without her, not unless I tried everything in my power to turn my imaginary girl real.

We live in a time of celebrating experience.   People make bucket lists and delight in accumulating life experiences as if they were merit badges.  People take risks and make sacrifices in exchange for experience all the time. Some people climb Mount Everest or go on a safari or skydive.  Some people think smaller and go to Napa Valley to drink too much wine, or to Disneyland, or to see the lights of Broadway. People want things and some of the things people want are not important to anyone but they themselves.  Just like Brigitte, I wanted a daughter for no great or noble reason – I simply wanted her.  Her existence was important to me.  I was willing to take some risks and make some sacrifices for that. My desire for that experience is no more wrong than the person who decides they need to see Paris before they die.

Some would say my desire for an experience does not outweigh my daughter’s need for a young and sprightly mother who can turn cartwheels down steps and will live another 70 years in order to do lots of babysitting for future generations.  But how many of us really have a child in an ideal situation, anyway?? Children are born into situations far worse than Brigitte’s or my daughters’ all the time. Situations of poverty, of abuse, of neglect, in countries torn apart by war, in families torn apart by all manner of terrible things.  Situations in which they are not particularly wanted or not wanted at all. Having a child young is no guarantee of success and having a child older is no guarantee of disaster. My mother had me when she was young but then divorced and started a new family, relegating me to a kind of second-class status within our family (I’m not faulting her, not at all, my parents are wonderful people who raised me well.  My point is simply that youth is no guarantee of a child always getting everything they think they need.)  If our daughters are loved and cared for, and were so hoped for and dreamed about, what difference does it make if we will live another 20 years or another 50?

Because that much is true – the odds are pretty good that Brigitte and I will both live another 20 years at the least, long enough to raise our girls.  Something no one tells you about turning 40 or even 50 is that most of us still have another 20-30 years of good solid living within us, if not more.   Shockingly, my life did not stop when I turned 40 the way women’s magazines had led me to expect that it would. I didn’t crumble into dust and suddenly require a Life Alert button. I still have hopes and dreams and plenty of hours in my day to care for this small entity who has come my way.  Most women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s are not sick or unhealthy. I am not physically fragile. Even though I have a chronic illness I have ample energy to take care of my children, work full time, and run a household. The joy my daughter and my other children bring me only helps to recharge my batteries at the end of every day.

There are no guarantees, of course, but none of us have a guarantee in life.  If Brigitte and I have provided for our daughter’s futures no matter what life has in store for us, 20 years is really just as good as 50, and if we’re lucky enough to have 30 or 40 instead, even better.  20 years is more than enough time to raise a child to adulthood. Beyond that point, it is your child’s life to do with as they will. Life is a gift we give to them, not a project we are doing that requires us to be hands on every second of every day from now till forever.  No one ever tells a man in his 40’s or even in his 50’s, “don’t start that project, Bill, what happens if you DIE before you finish it?” Are we all supposed to go through our lives never doing anything if we may die before it’s done?  Are 25-year-olds the only people who are allowed to plan for an unknown future?

Children are different, some may say.  Children aren’t a stamp collection or restoring a hot rod or sailing around the world.  Children simply need their mothers.  The expectation for mothers is that we will dedicate the rest of our lives to micromanaging our children’s existence from birth till age 70 at which point we will die and somehow they’ll have to muddle through without us.  But in reality most people are quite competent as young adults and don’t even want their mother meddling in their business when they’re 25, 35, 45. Even at 15, a needy, overly involved mother is an unwelcome thing. NO ONE wants their mother all wrapped up in their lives forever and ever.  Our children don’t need us in perpetuity the way people say that they do. Why would anyone build our lives around an expectation that is silly? Why would we base our decisions on a fiction that our daughters will need us desperately until they are 105 years old?

My hope is that by the time I shuffle off this mortal coil, my daughter will not need me any more.  By that point, I plan for her to be able to stand on her own and take care of herself.  I’ve already gotten her to age 6, and that’s quite an accomplishment. We have had more time together than many mothers and daughters have been fortunate enough to have.  I hope with every fiber of my being to be here till she’s a fully capable adult because I’ve found I love it here at the ocean and I want to watch the waves break for many more years to come.  I want very much to see the woman that she will become and to hold her children in my arms.  But I may not get that wish granted to me, and Brigitte Nielsen may not get that wish granted to her.

Nevertheless, our daughters will still be ok. When people ask “what will happen when you’re old and die and your daughter needs you?” the truth is, death happens even to mothers, even to younger women than me, and in fact it used to happen far more often than it does now.   People muddle through. Mothers are meant to give their children a start in life, not to be here until the conclusion.

I wish Brigitte every happiness with her daughter.

  

           

If Kirk ran Hollywood…

If Kirk ran Hollywood…

 

Sorry, fellow Trekkies, I mean Kirk Cameron, not James T.

What if Kirk Cameron ran Hollywood?

Record scratch.  

What?  Hold up, there!  Kirk Cameron running HOLLYWOOD!?!  That’s like a fate worse than death or something.

I know, right?  But let’s play a little game where Kirk Cameron is somehow made Dictator of Hollywood.   

For those who are not fully up to speed on the illustrious career of Kirk Cameron, he’s the kid actor from Growing Pains that grew up and became super religious, or maybe he was all along, not really sure about the timeline there.  Anyway, he left mainstream acting and now focuses on evangelism and making Christian-themed movies. And more power to him.  This is not a Kirk Cameron bash. I like living in a world where people of varying philosophies and mindsets can provide diverse choices in entertainment.

So let’s imagine a world where Kirk and his Christian compatriots were put in charge of the movies you watch, the tv shows, the music, the books and magazines…pretty much everything comin’ at ya from the squeaky clean mind of Mr. Kirk Cameron.   Call it a thought experiment.

Most people, even many Christians, would agree that would an unpleasant state of affairs.  You’d probably feel supremely bored by the product that Kirk Cameron’s Hollywood churned out, if not actively repressed by it.  Entertainment would likely become mind-numbingly homogenous, representing only the evangelical Christian worldview, promoting only evangelical-approved values.  Kirk’s Hollywood would not feature a wide array of viewpoints and life experiences in their final product. Filmmakers and authors could tell their vanilla-flavored tales a thousand slightly different ways using ever-more-advanced CGI techniques but the audience would be left unentertained, unfulfilled.  

Everything would be mundane and predictable since the same theme was simply echoing over and over again.  And if you were from any culture other than fundamental Christianity, you wouldn’t be able to relate to what was on screen. You’d know in your heart and gut that there were millions of perspectives that were being ignored, billions of stories left untold.   Even if you were from the dominant culture, maybe you’d still want more variety. Maybe you’d thirst for something thought-provoking, something that challenged your preconceptions and taught you something you didn’t know before.  Maybe you’d long for a story that came at you from a slightly different angle, showed you a viewpoint you hadn’t considered, made you think hard about what it means to be a human being. 

But you wouldn’t get it.  The products of Kirk Cameron’s Hollywood would not shed new light on the human condition.  They wouldn’t be art, they would be propaganda.

Over time, you might even come to resent mainstream entertainment. So preachy. So dogmatic. So smug and self-congratulatory.  Even when you agreed with the moral of the story, you would resent the heavyhandedness with which it was told.  Art would no longer be used to criticize, to illustrate absurdities of politics and culture. It would only be used to lecture and chastise and preach to the converted. You’d come to crave realness, authenticity, anything other than more of the same. But it would never stop because Kirk and the friends of Kirk run Hollywood.  Every show, every movie, every book – all Kirk, all the time. There’d be no getting away from it.  Eventually you wouldn’t even be able to read a cooking magazine or watch the sports scores on ESPN without encountering gross proselytizing.   Not even a lowly taco salad recipe would be free of the testifyin’.  Kirk would not approve of anything that did not strictly push his evangelical agenda.

Having even the most positive of messages shoved in your face repeatedly would be irritating for all but rabid zealots.  You’d start finding yourself rolling your eyes at “thou shalt not kill” not because you disagree with the principle but because you’re so. fricking. sick. of it.

A while back I decided I was gonna watch Downton Abbey.  I turned it on and it seemed interesting, I generally like that kind of thing, but I could just tell that somebody was gonna turn out to be gay.  Now, please understand, I’m PRO gay rights. I support gay marriage. I think there should absolutely be more stories told about the specific experience of gay people and more stories where characters are gay and it’s not a plot point or an issue or a big deal, but just because people are gay and art reflects life.  I would watch those movies.  I do not and never would favor Kirk Cameron’s sanitized Hollywood where homosexuality is excised from the human experience. But – and I’m not particularly proud of having done this, but I share in the interest of being forthright – I decided to stop watching the show because it was just so damn distracting.  “Is it going to be those two?  Or those two?  Or maybe even those two?”  It was like watching someone operate off a PC-approved checklist instead of telling a story. I wasn’t offended by the concept, I was BORED by the execution. It was boring waiting for the reveal and even more boring that I could immediately foresee every single plot development that would grow out of the revelation. So predictable that even I, pro gay rights person, roll my eyes at the plot twist. My politics haven’t changed, but I’m. so. fricking. sick. of it.

It’s gone well beyond being beaten over the head by the point.  The point is chasing me around the house as if I’m Jamie Lee Curtis and it’s Michael Myers and the point now wants to stab me to death with itself just to be sure I really, REALLY, get it.

I get it, I promise.  I got it like 35 years ago, dudes.  As soon as I heard about the concept, I got it.  I’m with u. I’m just fricking sick of the same handful of moral points being shouted at me again and again and again.  I’m sick of entertainment feeling less like joy, less like relaxation and more like dodging a flock of Hare Krishnas at an airport.  I don’t want any of your damn pamphlets, please just let me worry about my own soul.

I’m sick of boring greedy amoral businessmen.  I’m sick of boring heroic environmental activists trying to uncover boring pollution.  I’m sick of boring blue collar dads who like sports ignoring their boring nerdy sons until their boring nerdy sons somehow save the day using their nerd abilities.  I’m sick of boring noble women who are held back by the nonsensical sexist machinations of boring inferior male coworkers. I’m sick of boring crooked government agents being brought down by someone getting a super important envelope to a boring crusading reporter.  I’m sick of boring corrupt police officers taking boring bribes and boring corrupt soldiers covering up boring war crimes. I’m sick of boring housewives who feel repressed till they have magic boring sex with some boring dude. I’m sick of boring dudes who feel depressed till they have magic boring sex with some boring manicpixiedreamgirl.  I’m sick of scary boring scientists screwing something up and creating some boring monster or disease that then other boring scientists have to defeat using unscary boring science. I’m sick of boring country people who have boring abusive parents but rise above it by moving to the boring city and embracing boring careers in entertainment or the arts.   And I’m so, so, SO superduperly sick of boring cartoon animals and boring spandexed superheroes as generic stand-ins for some oppressed group, going through the motions of a thinly veiled, boring morality play.

I’M BORED.

It’s all so preachy and dull and predictable.   Even though I AGREE with the overall philosophy, the execution is so heavyhanded and cookiecutterish I can’t even stand to watch it any more.  It’s always the same few stories told from the same perspective, the same good guys and the same bad guys, making the same handful of ethical points again and again, never asking a single new question or sharing even a slightly different perspective.  I always know how the hero’s journey will end and I know every single beat we’ll hit along the way, and I don’t think about the story at all once it’s over. Hell, I don’t even think about the story when I’m watching. No new questions are raised in my mind.  The tales I hear and read and see don’t stick with me. They’re like cotton candy, melting away as soon as they hit my brain, leaving nothing behind but a slight, vague sensation of stickiness and a bad taste in my mouth.

I long for programming that does or says something unexpected and unique, for works of art that inspire me to think about something I haven’t thought about before or that I have thought about before but maybe just not in that particular way.  I need some complexity, complexity of plot, complexity of story, complexity of character, moral complexity; I’m dying for some shades of gray here.

For me, the entertainment industry in 2018 is little different than if Kirk Cameron was put in charge of Hollywood.  Even if you agreed with Kirk in theory…stealing, bad…killing, bad…dishonoring mom and pop, bad…loving thy neighbor, good…there’s just something in human nature that resents being preached to.  There’s something in human nature that resents being preached to constantly still more.  Enough already.  We get it. We got it.  What else d’you got?

Most already know about the “the Code” (aka the Production Code, the Hays Code, a few other incarnations along the way) – a set of moral guidelines that Hollywood studios had to follow in one form or the other, from the 1920’s till well into the 60s, when the last vestiges fell away.  Great movies like Casablanca and Some Like It Hot notoriously ran afoul of the Code. While we look back on the Code today mostly as a Puritanical approach to keeping movies squeaky clean in the sex department, it also encompassed political and moral censorship. Movies couldn’t show criticism towards members of the clergy, police officers, other countries, public figures, and could not depict anyone disrespecting the flag.  They couldn’t show prostitution, homosexuality, interracial relationships, and were never supposed to portray criminals in a sympathetic light. Negative portrayals of race, color, or creed were also forbidden.

Kirk Cameron would probably like the Code.  Honestly, the Code wasn’t entirely wrong; there are elements of the ethics underlying the Code I tend to agree with.  But most of us look back on the entire notion and snort derisively because we can so easily see how a blanket dictum led to movies being overly tame, unrepresentative of our nation’s diversity, and lacking insight into the human condition.  It’s undeniable that the existence of the Code prevented some hard questions from being asked via art. It had a huge chilling effect on what movies could have been, what stories might have been told, what truths may have been revealed. You can see it in the movies produced in the late 50’s to early 60’s, as the Code fell apart – the quality of the storytelling grew exponentially. 

If a movie can’t show a guy doing drugs, you can’t portray the harm drug use caused or the ripple effect that it had on his entire life as Preminger did in The Man With the Golden Arm (1955).  If you can’t show extramarital sex, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) wouldn’t have had much of a plot. Even though there are many wonderful movies from the 30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s (many of which challenged the dictums of the Code) it’s clear that the death of the Code improved movies as an art form.  I can’t help but wonder how many secret truths we will never know about the way people of that era really lived and thought and felt because the Code didn’t allow their stories to be told.

And yet we’ve now fallen into our own version of the Code; it may not be formally codified but it exists all the same.  It is simply not allowed to make movies, television shows, or yes, sadly, even books anymore, in which certain moral viewpoints are expressed.  Even briefly, even if you are not advocating them, even if you have a higher purpose for doing so.  Even if you are showing those moral viewpoints only to damn them. Even if their inclusion was germane to the plot and was (or at least attempting to be) thought provoking, challenging, and artistic, the risks of censure are so high that most writers, directors, and actors don’t even take the chance.  Too much is at stake. 

Many people believe that the heyday of movie making was the late 60’s to early 70’s.  The Code was no more, but political correctness had not yet taken hold. Some of the greatest movies ever made were produced during that time period – movies that asked hard questions about real issues, movies that portrayed human beings as flawed beings rather than angels or demons.  I’d like to return to that time again, because I value art and I value storytelling.

But mostly because I’m bored.  I don’t want Kirk Cameron in charge of Hollywood.  I don’t want the liberal equivalent of Kirk Cameron in charge of Hollywood either.  I want artists in charge of Hollywood. And art is messy and imperfect and sometimes makes people uncomfortable.  Art is not made by consensus, committee, or focus group; it’s made by individuals that sometimes will get things wrong – ethically wrong.  But art may reveal more in its wrongness than a perfect and pure religious allegory ever could. Art asks questions polite people may not want to even consider and pushes envelopes right off the edge of the desk sometimes. Art should not tell people what they want to hear a thousand slightly different ways using ever-more-advanced CGI techniques to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers.  Art is SUPPOSED to ruffle feathers.

Telling people that what they believe is unequivocally right again and again (even when what they believe is true and just and good) is not art, it’s propaganda.       

    

I want to be kissed by a scoundrel.

I want to be kissed by a scoundrel.

I am told Han Solo is problematic.

https://mic.com/articles/186792/does-the-best-star-wars-movie-hold-up-in-the-metoo-era-lets-ask-han-solo#.A2Tfj8OXP

Some authors even go so far as to blame Han for male confusion regarding sex assault.  

http://www.cracked.com/blog/how-men-are-trained-to-think-sexual-assault-no-big-deal/

Since day one, my fear regarding the #metoo movement is that will devolve into strictures not on male sexuality but on female.  I worry that in the name of protecting women from sexual violence, women’s ability to embrace their sexuality as it IS, not as others think it should be, will be diminished and controlled.  I’ve already seen several social media proclamations about what women always like or never like from people who seem otherwise fully reasonable in matters of sexuality and feminism.  Some male feminist allies claim that because (other) men are animals women need to be constantly shielded (by said male allies) from (other) men’s gross and sweaty aggression because women are sexless bastions of purity and are helpless, passive victims who have no ability to defend themselves in the demanding presence of peniskind.   Women shouldn’t even have to think about penises because their brains are too dainty.

The implication is that this shielding process needs to occur BEFORE the fact; that women should never have to endure any act, no matter how brief, no matter how G-rated, that they didn’t strictly initiate because they lack the wherewithal to do so without being forever ruined by the encounter.  Fielding the occasional unwanted romantic overture will surely break the exquisite, inscrutable Faberge eggs that are female minds and thus women need to be kept under the control (thumbs) of the good men who would never do such a thing. It all feels very weird and backwards and Victorian to me.  This concept that women are born victims who need to be constantly protected from sex, never allowed to get into situations that are too challenging for them to handle because they don’t have the strength or the skills – it rubs me the wrong way. And entirely without my consent!

Applying this logic to the Han Problem, as a decent, righteous man, Luke should have ensured that Leia was bundled offworld into the care of robot nuns who would have protected her virtue and made sure that her lips remained unsullied by smuggler saliva.  Right? She would have rather kissed a Wookie, she said as much! And as for what Leia may have wanted but not clearly stated, well, her safety simply had to come first.

The fact of the matter is, I want to be kissed by a scoundrel.  I pretty much have my whole life, starting with when I was 10 years old and sitting in a dark movie theater – a very protected child, mind you, who had not yet internalized any misogyny (that came later).  I don’t know what chemical cascade happened in my heart and mind but Han kissing Leia was the single greatest thing I had ever seen. Even though I didn’t know why I knew, I knew that somehow, someday, that was gonna happen to me.  I hoped so anyway. The first available scoundrel I came across was going to kiss me. I wasn’t going to kiss him, oh no, because that wasn’t how things were supposed to work. I would entice him with my princess-ish charms like spaceship repair, blaster accuracy, and exotic hairstyling, and he would kiss me, and I would like it a super lot.

So these dudes suddenly coming out of the woodwork to explain how creeptasticaly problematic the Han-Leia relationship is feels an awful like people mansplaining my own sexuality to me.  Remember mansplaining? It’s bad. Don’t do it. Because I am telling you as a woman that Han kissing Leia was not creepy, it was perfect and wonderful and even now I still think that with every fiber of my being even though I know that I am supposed to think otherwise and that I should not be admitting this terrible humiliating secret to my closest friends let alone writing a thinkpiece on it that might actually be read by somebody someday.

But, but, but he didn’t have her permission, they were on a spaceship in the middle of nowhere, blah blah blah, yeah I read that first article.  Look, we saw about 15 minutes of the entire Leia-Han relationship, ok? We don’t have a clue what transpired between them after the Death Star blew up, what happened at the afterparty the night Leia gave Han and Luke their medals, what happened for months on end on Yavin and on Hoth and on transport ships in between.  We didn’t see how Han may have comforted Leia when she was feeling low about Alderaan’s destruction, we didn’t see how many times they chatted and flirted and laughed together and all the subtle non-verbal communication going on between them that Han picked up on and we didn’t because we are imaginationless idiots writing thinkpieces for Mic magazine.

Leia did not feel threatened or in danger from Han.  NOTHING in her demeanor at any point in time in any of the movies indicates that she was scared of Han, like in a rapey way.  She seemed perfectly comfortable with him. She argued with him, insulted him, bossed him around, treated him like an inept servant.  From the moment they met she was busting his chops. She called him a scruffy nerf herder, for Porg’s sake. Later on she risked her life and her freedom to save him.  Han and Leia always had relationship of equals – maybe not even equals, really, since she was a princess and he was a lowly smuggler. He was kind of her employee, her underling, her minion, even.  She had a lot more power than he did, really, in pretty much every way. Cue the “Leia was actually sexually harassing Han” bit in 3, 2, 1…

Ok, so right before they kissed she was nervous.  Scared, even. That is true. Brave, strong Leia was scared.  But she wasn’t scared of HAN, duh, gawd, I cannot believe I have to explain this.   It is glaringly obvious to me anyway that it was because she was having some pretty intense feelz that she didn’t think she ought to be having.  Feelz can be scary. And she knew it too, that’s why she was so prickly and defensive every time Han got close to her. It wasn’t because she didn’t like him, it wasn’t because she thought he was a rapey bastard, it was because she liked him too much and that was a scary experience for her.  And Han knew it too, he saw right through the charade. It wasn’t because he was a predator that got his jollies off of forcing women to do stuff against their will, it was because Leia was putting on an act and he understood that. If Leia hadn’t actually liked Han, Han wouldn’t have made moves on her.  He didn’t make any moves on Mon Mothma, did he? No, he saved his scoundrel-y moves for the chick who he had (rightfully) perceived was into it.

But why was he so damn pushy over it?  Why didn’t he accept what Leia was saying at face value?  Well, obviously, because he was getting other messages from Leia that occurred in the many, many weeks, months and possibly even years between the events of Star Wars and the events of The Empire Strikes Back.  Just like how, oh, I don’t know, two adult humans in the actual world are probably sending all kinds of signals to each other that they both might detect and act upon without anyone stopping to blink and awkwardly clear their throats before drily stammering “By the by, I am finding myself interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with you, are you in any way interested in that possibility, no hard feelings if you aren’t, just tossing it out there for your consideration.”

Han realized that the reason why Leia didn’t think she ought to be having those feelz is because Leia (like virtually all women both fictional and real) was socialized to follow a certain set of respectability rules drummed into her bunned head starting when she was in her cradle back on Alderaan being rocked to sleep by robot nannies.  Leia (like virtually all women both fictional and real) had been socialized since Padme birthed her to sometimes follow society’s rules even when it wasn’t in her best interests to do so. Han further realized that Leia’s internalized rules did not involve getting it on with a sketchy, morally ambiguous smuggler very far beneath her in social status while a war was going on and both of them could die at any minute and an ill-fated romance could cause all kinds of trouble and heartache for everyone.  It doesn’t mean she didn’t want to, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t the best thing in the galaxy far, far away for her to do. And it for sure doesn’t mean she was getting rape-kissed. It simply means that Han picked up on some messages she was sending via other modes of communication that were louder than what she was saying verbally. It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening to her, it was that he was listening to some other things she was saying too.

I am – not unlike Leia – a defensive, prickly, highly strung woman.  And because of that I sometimes will take a swing at even people who have my best interests at heart, who care about me, who want to be on my side.  It’s not just romantic stuff either, it’s friends and family and well-intentioned strangers. Is that really very unusual? Who hasn’t made mistakes, missed opportunities, been afraid to take a chance on something that could have really been awesome if only you were brave enough to give it a whirl?   A good friend, a relative, someone who cares about you can sometimes point that out, give you a stirring pep talk about winning one for the Gipper or whoever, or in the case of truly good friends, very nearly even twist your arm and force you into making the leap. No one says a word when it’s your mom or your best friend spurring you on.  The idea that someone, a scoundrel, perhaps, could see through your protestations and breach your defenses and make you realize hey, there’s really something here, maybe I should take a closer look at this concept even though the good little girl in me is telling me not to is the stuff romance novels are made of.

I think this happens a lot and not only in the world of Han and Leia, but also in the worlds of Sam and Diane and Dave and Maddie and Veronica Mars and Logan and Billy Joel and whoever that complicated chick is that he wrote all his good songs about.  A woman believes that because of society’s rules, a man she wants is off limits to her. He’s low class. Unpredictable. Crazy. A downtown man. Like, so totally wrong for her! He’s a scoundrel maybe even. I think many women depend upon the scoundrels in their lives to take action in situations where said woman is scared (What if he rejects me? What will my friends say?) or is listening too hard to the unhelpful little voices in her head (I so totally should NOT be doing this! I’m such a slut) or is so intent on following the rules (I’m not supposed to kiss guys like this! He voted Trump probably!) that she loses sight of what she herself really wants. So she leaves the ball in his court whilst sending indirect, nonverbal encouragement as a passive way of getting what she wants without having to be the one who initiates it, without responsibility or remorse or risk of rejection. She sends the signals, he pursues or not and she allows herself to pretend she’s getting swept up in the moment if he makes a move. She never has to take a chance that he’s not into it, she never has to really REALLY make the decision to tell society’s rules to eff off until she knows he’s on the same page, and she never has to drop the pretense that she’s anything less than perfectly ladylike.  Because one thing most women agree upon regardless of girl power and slut walks, is that chasing men is like a super duperly big no-no.

Han and Leia was not a Pepe Le Pew situation where her lips said no, no but her eyes said yes, yes.  There was obvious, definite, 2-sided chemistry between Leia and Han. Theirs was a relationship of friends and comrades.    I think a LOT went on that we didn’t see onscreen. You send the signal and you wait. Leia knew.

I am unclear on how sending the signal and waiting is going to mesh with overt female consent for everything, even a tentative first kiss.  I don’t believe that ~most~ women are, overnight, going to feel comfy with making the first move towards initiating sexual contact with men.  There is a deeply ingrained cultural pressure upon women to follow a pretty narrow set of societal expectations in this arena, few of which involve being the pursuer.  There is even an argument to be made that these female preferences for pursue-ee status may be at least in part innate and not cultural. And I don’t think that ~most~ men are, overnight, going to feel comfy with women doing initiating relationships with them, either.  Men may want to pursue, may prefer it, may be programmed to do so culturally and/or innately, and we’ve heard enough jokes about desperate women chasing men to know or at least strongly suspect that many guys are put off by Sadie Hawkinses.

Truth – we can’t litigate and legislate romance because it’s all very shades-of-gray-y.  I am wary of blanket rules that seem to overly simplify a complicated issue that is probably best left to each individual couple to work out for themselves in any given moment.  We’re dealing with instincts and desires that run way down deep in places that most of us have never probed (er, so to speak) and personally I trust women to be able to navigate those waters for themselves.  

All throughout history, whenever society has acted on behalf of women for their own protection it has manifested itself sooner or later as less freedom for women.  I don’t see the consent issue as being any different. The “c” word gets dropped and all of a sudden we’re hearing…from MEN…about what women like and don’t like, about what women want and don’t want, about what women will willingly consent to and what they will not.  And apparently one of the things that men have decided that we delicate, wilting, crushably-fragile oh-so-feminine females simply cannot handle is being kissed by someone we’ve known and have interacted with for months without having issued a strict verbal invitation beforehand and without ever having sent any mixed signals.   Ok. Sure. Yes. That makes sense (no it doesn’t).

Heads up, dudes, YOU’RE the ones that can’t control yourselves, some of you.  Why don’t you let me decide what I like and want for myself? Because I want to be kissed by a scoundrel, I assure you that I do.

And I actually as I write all that, I think I understand the reason why good and decent men can’t let me decide for myself that I want is to be deeply and somewhat forcibly tongued by a man on the run from the Hutts.  It’s because blaming men’s bad behavior on Han Solo is easier than considering the possibility that maybe there’s something dark inside of themselves. Something that may need wrangling and taming; something that cannot be indulged even in a society of gross overindulgence.  Because I refuse to believe that men are that dumb! I do not and will not believe that most men truly cannot see the difference between someone who is into is and someone who isn’t, into it. I don’t believe for one single solitary parsec that most men cannot see a difference between Harvey Weinstein and Han Solo, that most men truly cannot see the difference between exposing yourself to a woman you barely know and kissing a woman with whom you’ve had a complicated monthslong interpersonal relationship fraught with sexual tension without asking “pretty please with sugar on top” first.

And while I suppose it is possible that a small percentage of men are indeed clueless idiots who are hopeless at reading body language and can’t tell the difference between a movie and real life, it seems far more plausible to me that a much higher percentage of men know exactly when a woman is into it and when she isn’t, it’s just that some of them kind of like it when a woman isn’t into it and wanna do it anyway.  

Thus the Han-made-me-do-it defense is not gonna fly with me.  “We men can’t control ourselves because we’re helpless buffoons…animals, really…easily dazzled by boobies, and such…we can’t control ourselves, so of course we can’t control ourselves, I mean even Han freaking Solo is a rapist, practically, and that’s what we watched growing up, you know, and um, lookit, also girls in bikinis provoke us, to insanity, practically, just to the left of insanity anyways, so maybe, possibly, if it isn’t too much to ask..if you could just give us a pass on the things that some of us did, because we are just dummm, you know, it’s, like, rape culture, I guess, and stuff, and we can’t help it.  Beer commercials. Just sayin, you probably ought to be wearing a burka.”

This entire argument is contingent upon a kiss that many, many women find romantic and appealing (it ain’t just me, chaps) being bad and why is it bad?  It’s bad only because it’s there. It’s bad because we all saw it growing up and that includes some guys who are looking for an easy way to excuse their own bad behavior and that of others so they aren’t guilty by association.  To blame it on Han Solo seems to me to be a huge dodge of responsibility, a sidestep, and what’s worse, it’s adding insult to injury. It’s compounding bad behavior by befouling something that was important to not only myself but to many women.  And I don’t think that’s right, to take something away from women in order to explain away or justify the bad behavior of men. Any more than it’s right to make women wear burkas to prevent men from raping them.

I am not entirely sure that replacing the occasional unwanted kiss – which women are NOT too fragile to be able to handle, mind you – with women not being able to get what they want from sex because the culture vultures have been too bluntly instrumental about what constitutes “consent”, is a good trade.  And now that you mention it, what’s so damn great about “consent” anyway? What does “consent” even really mean?  Because it’s not so cut and dry as people want to make it.  What if you only consent due to external pressures and societal expectation? Women have consented to all kinds of crazy ass shit over the years when they thought they were supposed to – and still are (Aziz Ansari, looking at you here).  I do not believe that swiping right for a shot to be treated as a Tinder cum dumpster by some dude you just met…loudly consenting all the while…is in any way more empowering than Han giving a seemingly reluctant Leia a kiss that she wasn’t quite sure she wanted but then she realized that she actually kind of did.   

In fact there’s a suspicious conspiracy theorist in me that is starting to think all this is a gambit, a ploy, a way for men to still get exactly what they want  – which is lots of fer-reaky sex with a rotating schedule of messed up girls whose self-esteems are in the toilet, without having to exert any effort as a romantic partners or limiting themselves in any way from the all-you-can-sex buffet.  Men want women to think they’ve held up their end of the bargain by talking super loudly about consent when what many of them are doing is treating women like they are disposable sexbots. Some men seem to want “consensual” sex with women to be like Lando Calrissian sexing up droids (a disturbing concept, since in the Star Wars universe droids seem self-aware, yet can be reprogrammed and have their memories wiped) http://eleven-thirtyeight.com/2018/06/droids-sex-and-consent-should-it-work/.  

These men want women programmed by the culture so we kinda feel like we can’t say no to anything (because the threat is, if you don’t consent to everything, there’s always someone else who will) even as they exclaim loudly that it’s ok to say no (just be aware it’s totally over if you don’t consent to everything, because if there’s no one else who will, there’s always Internet porn) and they want us to call that empowerment.  They want us to call that feminism!! So they equate a Han-Leia kiss between equals that turns into a relationship, with a grope from a stranger…with a proposition from a boss…with a Louis CK move…with a rape and somehow it’s all the same thing because if it’s all the same thing it not only makes the small things seem bigger but doesn’t it make the big things seem smaller?   

I mean it almost seems like they’re trying to float away with the rest of the garbage.