Sunday, September 30, 2018

Anger is passive. Rage is a trigger for action

If you are angry today, or if you have been angry for a while, and you’re wondering whether you’re allowed to be as angry as you feel, let me say: Yes. Yes, you are allowed. You are, in fact, compelled.

If you’ve been feeling a new rage at the flaws of this country, and if your anger is making you want to change your life in order to change the world, then I have something incredibly important to say: Don’t forget how this feels.

Tell a friend, write it down, explain it to your children now, so they will remember. And don’t let anyone persuade you it wasn’t right, or it was weird, or it was some quirky stage in your life when you went all political — remember that, honey, that year you went crazy? No. No. Don’t let it ever become that. Because people will try.  

Thus writes Rebecca Traister in the New York Times.

As someone who's been angry about politics for more years than I can count, I've been told more than once that anger is toxic, that it eats away at your health, that it hurts no one but the self.  But there's anger, and there's anger.  There's the anger you feel at your husband because you're working 14-hour days and he can't seem to remember that you asked him to make a vet appointment for the cat because you're in meetings all day.  Or more trivially, that he never puts the toilet seat down (solution to that one:  always check).  That's the kind of anger that you kind of have put into perspective, lest it REALLLY give you health problems.  The anger at the driver that cut you off.  Anger at the flight attendant who fat-shamed you.  Those are the kinds of fleeting angers that maybe we do need to let go of.

But then there's institutional anger, such as we're seeing now. It flares up every now and then and then fades.  So let's stop talking about anger and start talking about rage.  Because anger is a feeling.  Rage is a trigger for action.  There is no better example of rage --> action than the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School kids.  They too are victims of trauma caused by toxic masculinity, but within 24 hours after the event that changed their lives, they managed to channel their grief and anger into a rage that has not abated even though the hip-hop stars and celebrities have gone home.

I've become skeptical of marches.  500,000 people marched in New York City in 2002 and we went to war in Iraq anyway.  How many millions of women and our allies marched in cities across the country after Trump's inauguration.  And what was the end result?  You can argue that it was a trigger for more women -- progressive women --  running for office, and that is a valid point.  But it remains to be seen how many of them will actually win, and even if they do, how many will be kneecapped by the Democratic Party in order to perpetuate the sternly worded statement --> dire e-mails --> corporate money --> consultant coffers --> failure cycle that has characterized the Democratic Party every election since 1980, except when a figure like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama comes along who's so charismatic that it supersedes everything else.

Marches make us feel good, sort of the way blogging used to.  It makes us feel like we're part of something BIG, something that's going to Really Do Something This Time.  So we put on the pussy hats and we march and we chant and we yell and listen to famous people speak and take selfies with them while they march.  We enjoy the free concert and  we feel really exhilarated by the solidarity -- and then we go home and nothing changes. 

Last spring we had the March For Our Lives -- another massive, multi-city march put together by a bunch of raging teenagers.  And we marched.  We chanted and we yelled and enjoyed the free concert and felt really exhilarated by the solidarity -- and then we went home and now at least 63 school shootings have taken place in 2018, including the Parkland shooting.  And aside from a ban on bump stocks signed by Rick Scott, who is trying to get to the Senate, nothing has changed.  And Joe Manchin has to use a gun in an ad about health care to show his penis-symbol bona fides in a state the residents of which care more about what other women do with their genitals than their own economic situation. 

We will know more about whether anything has changed after the election next month.  But in the mean time, nearly two years after the women's march, here we are, with a woman who was sexually assaulted when she was fifteen being called a skank and a whore and a liar, and a preppy, possibly alcoholic fratboy, who was no doubt told from the day he was born that he was special and entitled to everything he wanted, throwing a tantrum on national television because a woman no less might stand in the way of his getting what he regards as his DUE -- a lifetime appointment on the highest court in this country.  It took two women screaming at Jeff Flake to even get a delay long enough to look at the long anecdotal trail of appalling behavior towards women of this Court nominee, pushed forward by a president with his own well-known record of appalling behavior towards women.  But don't kid yourself.  Flake, along with Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and yes, the aforementioned Joe Manchin, will vote for this guy.   Because a six figure government paycheck and benefits that most Americans no longer have is just too sweet to risk on doing the right thing for this country's women.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Blogrolling In Our Time for Sunday, September 16

I've been reading Jim Wright's posts on Facebook for a while, so say hello to Stonekettle Station.

And here we go again

This time her name is Christine Blasey Ford.  This time she wasn't harassed on the job, she was sexually assaulted while in high school, by yet another man seeking to ascend to the high court partially so that he can reassert government (male) control over women's bodies.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.
While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
I don't know many women to whom something like this has NOT happened.  It happened to me.  I wrote about it any number of times at the old place, but for those who don't know, here it is:

It was the fall of 1974.  I was doing a lot of partying at frat houses at a nearby college.  I was never stumbling drunk, because in those days, most of what was available at frat houses was beer, and I really did not like beer.  But I would get tipsy enough to get flirtatious and when I got flirtatious I ended up in bed with people I might not have otherwise.  Or maybe I would.  After all, I was not one of the pretty girls to whom the guys flocked.  There was a boy at my school who had already branded me as "The Evil Troll" for no good reason at all. So yes, there was a certain amount of nihilism in what I was doing -- "If that's how the game is played, that's how I'll play it."  I was hanging around with other girls who were doing the same, so I did it too. 

I had met the boy in question the summer before at a bar my friends and I used to go to.  He was attractive, went to said nearby school, drove a cool sports car, and he offered to drive me home, which I accepted.  He drove me home, and was a perfect gentleman.  I don't remember if I went on a date with him, I might have.

I ran into him at a frat party that fall, and agreed to go to his room.  Had I been more savvy, or less nihilistic, I would have realized that a guy whose frat house bed is on a raised platform with a desk underneath, and at one end of the bed was a full bar, and along the wall was a high-end stereo system, was not just inviting me back to listen to music.  I might have had sex with him anyway.  But I stupidly climbed up into the loft bed, and the next thing I knew I was being held down, pinned by my shoulders, and told that I was either going to "put out" or my clothes would be torn off and thrown out the window.

He wasn't joking.  So, like most women who are assaulted, I put my mind someplace else until it was over.  I wasn't about to challenge him.  I knew someone who had gotten drunk the semester before, gone off with a guy she had a crush on, and woken up naked in a frat house bed.  All of her clothes were gone except her coat and shoes.  She walked back to our campus in the dead of winter wearing nothing but her coat.  I think the coat was dark green. 

I was not about to follow in her footsteps.

After it was over, I gathered up my clothes and drove back to campus.  I remember thinking "That was a really stupid thing to do."

I did run into the boy again, at another frat party -- the last one I ever went to, because I heard "whispers" when I walked into the room.  I remember walking up to the boy and smacking him HARD across the face (not an easy feat, he was about a foot taller than I was), then turning around and leaving.  As I left, I heard laughter and knew it was not directed at me.

I never went to a frat party again.

The following semester, I met someone at my school and was with him until I graduated.  He was a year behind me and I broke off with him after graduation.  The relationship had grown stale by that time and it was the best thing for both of us.

I went on to live a normal life, including a normal sex life.  I know that seems like TMI, but it's important.  I met Mr. Brilliant when I was 28, and the rest is history.

For me, it was an unfortunate incident partially caused by my own incaution, an incident from which I learned that the sleeping around I was doing was NOT satisfying, it was NOT empowering, and I was getting what in 1974 was known as "a reputation."  It may have been 1974, but it was a provincial area of Pennsylvania, and the "double standard after the fact" was in full flower.  I never thought of it as a sexual assault until much later.  I thought of it as something dumb that I did.  The thought of "pressing charges" would never have entered my mind, and if it did, what would have happened?  I went to the boy's room willingly, and that would have been all anyone needed to know. 

I've been hard on Certain Bloggers who decades later insist on defining themselves as "survivors of rape."  I have never, and still don't, define myself as a "survivor of rape."  I don't have "triggers" -- at least not about an incident that happened 44 years ago.  It really didn't affect my life all that much.  Perhaps I was just more resilient than some people, or perhaps even with my lousy self-esteem, I recognized that a jerk in a frat house didn't define me.  Or maybe it was the slap.  I don't know.  I don't care.

Now if I heard that the boy in question was a Supreme Court nominee, would I feel an obligation to come forward?  Hell yes.  Would I have the guts?  I don't know.  What I do know is that what happened to Christine Blasey when she was 15 happened to me, with a different perp, when I was 17.  And I'll bet it's happened to one hell of a lot of women. many of whom have gone on to put it aside and go on with their lives. 

I don't know how many girls/women that boy went on to assault because of his feeling of privilege, that he had a right to stick his dick into any woman who came to his room,  I suspect I was not the only one.  I also suspect that he went on to get married, have a career, have kids, coach his son's little league team, take his daughter to soccer practice.  Maybe he's still married.  Maybe he became a drunk and had affairs.  I don't know.  Here's what I do know:  I know that sexual assault is not the natural order of things.  I know that even then there were boys who recognized that no meant no and that a girl can go to your room to listen to music.  And that is why it matters.  That is why what Brett Kavanaugh did in high school matters. It also matters because this is a man who detailed graphic sexual questions he thought Bill Clinton should have to answer.  This is a man who has called contraceptives "abortion-inducing drugs."  This is a man who kept a 17-year-old girl from having an abortion EVEN AFTER she had fulfilled all the legal requirements.

I don't know if Brett Kavanaugh still assaults women.  But his documented track record sure tells me that he'd still like to.