To the Critics of #MeToo and #IBelieveYou

I’ve seen a lot of reactions to the #MeToo campaign over the last couple of days. Some were heartwarming, some heartbreaking, and others filled me with white-hot rage. Two days ago, I posted my own #MeToo on my facebook with a strange mixture of emotions I’ve yet to pick apart. I’ve seen two family members, and some very dear friends post their own, my heart breaking with every new post. My heart swelled seeing men reply to their friends and family with #IBelieveYou, and was shook again when I saw male acquaintances bravely admit #MeToo.

And then there are the ones who somehow manage to make something already unbearable to begin with even more ugly.

Not only were there the predictable victim-blamers, men throwing angry tantrums about divisiveness between the sexes, and people trying to demean what it is these people were saying, but there were women–who had moments before cried #MeToo!–invalidating men who joined the movement with their own stories of abuse. I don’t know which one pisses me off more.

 

“If we can’t step back and take in the ENTIRE picture—which may or may not resemble our own personal struggle—then we will NEVER find a solution.”

 

So here is my opinion on the subject, broken down by each horrible response I have seen so far:

 

“This is an issue of men preying on women! Men, sit your ass down!” or “I get that men can be abused, too. Or that women can be the abusers. But this is a largely MEN attacking WOMEN problem!”

 

#MeToo is for SURVIVORS of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. Survivors—not men, not women. It was originally created in 2007 by Tarana Burke, founder of Just Be Inc. as a succinct and powerful way for survivors of abuse to connect with one another, and has evolved into a battle cry over the last week.

This is about people, of any demographic, making their voice heard as loudly as they are comfortable. This isn’t just about men attacking women. The larger issue, which includes all sets, is the predatory preying on the victims. People hurting people, and that pain being considered “the norm.” If we can’t step back and take in the ENTIRE picture–which may or may not resemble our own personal struggle–then we will NEVER find a solution.

 

“This whole movement is STUPID. What the Hell do you think you are going to achieve by posting two words on your facebook page? Do something WORTHWHILE!”

 

This is a perfect example demeaning or dismissing the victims. You have no idea how many years it took some of these people to share that they were hurt. For many, this is the very first proclamation from a childhood of sexual abuse. This is the first time they are letting go of the shame, the guilt, and the fear. They are finding support through recognizing each other.

For others, they have shouted from the rooftops what they had gone through and no one ever believed them. How many years of second-guessing, of shouldering blame for something they had no control over, do you think some of these people suffered? By telling the man or woman who responds to their cry with #IBelieveYou that their support is useless not only demeans them, but it also belittles the overwhelming relief that survivor felt by FINALLY hearing those words.

The hope is that, with a wall of #MeToo’s pouring into people’s newsfeed, it will stop being some far-off epidemic. We can finally see just how close it hits to home. It will no longer be some intangible issue that couldn’t possibly effect my little world. Not only that, but the more people that post it, the more likely it will cajole that one victim into speaking up. You never know how many predators will finally be outed.

 

“The whole ‘Casting Couch’ trope has been a fixture of Hollywood for decades. Why start screaming and crying about it NOW?” or “They knew what they were getting into in that business. They should have found another career if they didn’t like it.”

 

God give me strength on this one…

 

“We should NEVER accept sexual abuse and harassment as being a ‘risk of being in the business’.”

 

Let’s just pretend you aren’t assuming this ONLY happens in show business or to young, naive actresses.

Imagine you are working your dream job, whatever it may be. It’s what you’ve worked your entire life towards. Thousands of dollars in school, classes, resources. Exhausting hours, long commutes, starting from the bottom and clawing your way up, fighting to prove yourself over and over again until finally you land and interview at the company you’ve had your eye on since you decided you wanted to be in that field. Except, when you finally start the interview with your future boss, they aren’t really interested in how hard you worked, your experience, or your ability to do the job. They want something from you if you want the job, a job thousands of others have gotten because of what was on their resumes rather than what was on their bodies. They dangle this job in front of you because they have the power and they know you would do just about anything for the break you’ve been fighting for.

Would you give up everything you lived for or just lie back and take it? If you were young and desperate and did what you had to do, would you not feel shame or disgust for what they put you through? Do they, then, get to just continue their predatory ways because you didn’t speak up right away?

I don’t care if it’s acting, medicine, education, law, or just a babysitting gig. No one has the right to exert power over someone like that. We should NEVER accept sexual abuse and harassment as being a “risk  of being in the business.” To suggest such only lets survivors know that you aren’t someone they can run to for help when these situations arise. Because that is what we are hearing when you say that. We hear you saying what we went through is not a big deal. Which is the very reason many of us take years to come forward—if ever.

Why are we all screaming now? Because we didn’t always have a platform from which to let our voices be heard. Back when the “Casting Couch trope” began, there was no Facebook or Twitter. There were no readily available outlets that allowed us to speak up on a large scale, to find support in one another, and to let us visibly see that we aren’t as alone as we were years ago. We can find one another, we can find help, and healing can finally begin.

 

“If they aren’t willing to name their attackers, then their voice is useless.”

 

Some victims still won’t be able to speak up. Some will remain silent because they still fear the consequences. My heart goes out to them. They are still allowed to count themselves as survivors. If they have the strength to let people know, “Hey, me too,” and not call out their attacker by name, guess what? That doesn’t invalidate them. Who are you to decide which survivor is worth their story and which one isn’t?

Yes, it would be a better world if everyone was strong enough to lay it all out there but this is reality. Some are still very much in their abuser’s lives. Some have close family who have grown up from whatever kind of kid they were when they assaulted or harassed them. Some are too kind to destroy people’s lives, even when those people have hurt them. There is no end to the reasoning behind not naming your attacker, and I for one am not going to harass someone over it or make them feel small because they can’t bring themselves to. They’ve already gone through that once (or more,) I refuse to add to their pain.

 

#MeToo can effect anyone of any gender, orientation, class, or creed. Just because it happens to a male, or a rich person, or a polyamorous person doesn’t make it any less life-altering. Whether or not you have personally experienced sexual assault, your life is likely to have been affected by it. If your girlfriend is afraid to walk put the trash to the curb at night, or your husband is twitchy when it comes to being intimate, if your once-outgoing children shut down out of nowhere, talk to them. Ask them questions. If you find out the worst, will you tell them it’s a risk of being small and helpless? If even ONE predator suffers the consequences of their actions as a result of this movement, I will call that a good day. And even more importantly, tell them #IBelieveYou.

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Tired

I’m tired of the ugly.

Ugliness has infected this world, spreading its vile toxicity to every man, woman, and—yes—even child. Its firm, sticky fingers clutch at us and linger on through our daily lives, sucking away our energy, our strength, and our compassion.

We cannot work without it weighing us down. We cannot commute without it sliding into our ears, burrowing under our skin. We cannot live without it stealing each breath we fight for.

I’m so tired.

I’m tired of fighting with strangers, fighting with family, fighting with friends, fighting with myself. I’m exhausted from resisting and fatigued when I can’t resist any longer.

The world was not supposed to be like this. We were not supposed to be this way. We are one people. One people, yes, but with many facets. It’s the facets of a diamond that make it shine with brilliance, and yet, as people, we sling mud on the facets sitting opposite ourselves, doing whatever we can to dull its shine, to make what should be beautiful…

…ugly.

I already feel ugly, I don’t need your help.

I feel ugly in my skin, I feel ugly in my heart, and I feel ugly in my head. I try to be strong, but I am weak. I try to be kind, but sometimes I’m biased and unyielding. I try to understand, but my stubbornness and my inherent need to be right, OUR inherit need to be right, still tries to stir the embers of that oh-so-easy fire of contempt for anyone that thinks differently than we do—

It’s hard to go against your instinct. Especially when you have no idea WHY it’s instinct.

It’s programming coursing through your veins, signaling in your brain with microscopic ones and zeroes, telling you that this is what is right. And when you fight against that, when you try to reprogram yourself, when you question the coding and the syntax your consciousness was built on, it makes you… tired.

Well, I’m tired. Bone-deep.

I’m tired of watching my friends fight with friends. “Opinions that are like assholes: Everyone has one, but no one really wants to see yours. We don’t discuss those unpleasant things in polite company, so please pull your pants back up, and wash your hands.”

I’m tired of finding hair-thin cracks in previously solid families, caused by opposing politics hacking away at it. “Libtard!” C-RACK! “Cuntservative!” C-RACK!

I’m tired of being afraid that THIS unpopular opinion or THAT political view will throw my otherwise perfectly-perfect marriage onto a runaway train towards Divorce.

Don’t question the status quo. Don’t upset the nature of things. Don’t stand. Don’t kneel. Speak up. Keep quiet. Right. Wrong. Yes. No. Left. Right.

Humans are not elastic—we can only stretch and bend so much before we break. Humans are not play doh—you can’t shape someone else to your preferred specifications.

Humans… are human.

We are different, and stubborn, and fallible, and right, and wrong, and ugly when we feel threatened and uglier when we feel superior. We have opinions that don’t always mesh, we have histories that others can only speculate and empathize with but never, ever, truly comprehend. We are argumentative, and infuriating, and mean well, and some of us just want to watch the world burn.

But mostly, we are just tired.

I know I am.

 

 

32nd #Birthday: When Everyone Just Quits Trying?

Let me start this post by saying I am not really a birthday kinda gal. In fact, the only reason I know mine is coming up is because my husband asked me his usual, “What do you want for your birthday?” question. There were two years where I actually forgot my own birthday: One I only figured out the day before because of my work schedule, the other I realized the day of because someone wished me a Happy Birthday.

I don’t know when or why the lack of give-a-damns about the day came about; I just know that eventually, when people started giving me the old “Oooohh someone has a birthday coming up” grin and wink, it would take me a few minutes to realize they were talking about me. It was like I had a finite number of fucks to give on the subject, and each year I spent one of my fucks to blow out the birthday candles.

I think the last time I cared was on birthday number 25, and really that was only because I was excited about the super delicious Costco sheet cake my family bought for me. Not even joking, that shit was delicious.

 

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Probably how I am going to be kidnapped one day.

 

Now, because it drives my husband insane that I can never tell him what I want for my manufacturing-date celebration, I figured I would at least try to help him out a little and browse the web for ideas. What DO you give the woman who has no fucking clue what she wants? I typed “gifts for 32 year old women” hoping to find something that was mature yet fun enough to pique my interest. Because, let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken but I can still cluck with the rest of the hen house.

 

It was like I had a finite number of fucks to give on the subject, and each year I spent one of my fucks blowing out the birthday candles.

 

What… the fuck, guys.

Now I know I’ve quit caring about my own birthday—I mean it happens when you got a bushel of crotchfruit to buy gifts for every year… twice. You stop thinking about what you want for yourself when you have to worry about everyone else—but holy damn. When did 30 mean death of creativity, fun, or adventure? Here are some of the gifts suggested for your 32 year old wife/sister/daughter/friend:

 

A floral phone case.

 

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Show how much you care for your wife by giving her a girly-enough-to-puke phone case that she could have probably bought for herself because, you know, it’s a phone case. In fact, she probably saw this at the store, snorted, and passed it up for the durable Otterbox because she knows she’s a klutz, but now she has to smile and pretend to like it because you tried your best.

If you are dead set on giving her something for her phone, I guarantee she would be way more excited if you payed for a month of service, or an iTunes gift card. Or even an Audible membership/credits because, let me tell you, I burn through books on my phone and they are not cheap.

 

 

Cord Organizer.

 

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…. Really? If she needs a cord organizer, chances are pretty good she won’t actually USE the thing, so it will likely just decay at the bottom of her purse.

If she’s the type to get really irked at cords, maybe get her those Bluetooth headphones she’s been drooling over, assuming she hasn’t gone wireless already. Or, if you want to do something with organization because she’s a mess—er—because she is too busy kicking ass and can’t get anyone to cooperate with helping out at home, maybe pay for a housecleaning or organizing service for the house. She will be speechless, I promise.

 

 

Colorful measuring spoons.

 

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Okay so, while these are kinda cute… do they really scream Happy Birthday to you? Yay! You were born! Here is a little reminder that your entire life’s meaning is to cook until you die, and as an added bonus we get to play “will one more item fit in the utensil drawer?!” And I know, I hear you already. “Well my wife doesn’t do all the cooking! I help out, too, because I am super husband!” Which begs the question, if it’s something that is going to be used constantly by everyone in the house, does that really make it her gift? Or just a nice addition to community property?

If you think cooking is the path to her heart, try taking her to a cooking class for couples. Or plan way ahead and save up so that you can spend the week of her birthday taking her to restaurants featuring exotic foods from all over the globe. You know, something that isn’t McDonald’s or Applebees that she doesn’t get to indulge in regularly. Make it a foodie adventure.

 

A Paperweight.

 

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You have GOT to be kidding me, right? If this is how you think your wife feels, maybe you should ask yourself if there might be another reason there isn’t enough wine. And then you might ask yourself if you really want to arm her with a blunt object perfectly sized for throwing.

If it’s the quote thing that caught your eye, then maybe try to tap into your romantic side and start the month out by slipping her hand-written quotes that remind you of her every day. Yes, I know, this takes a lot of planning but come on. Think of her smile when she sees these little surprises and knows you think about her as more than just a bed heater, personal chef, and TV remote arch nemesis. And here is an added bonus… this costs next to NOTHING. Thoughtful and frugal, my two favorite things.

And the last one because we will be here forever if I keep going:

 

Coasters.

 

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Yes, they actually suggested buying a woman 4 coasters for her birthday. Unless these coasters come with a magically endless refill of wine, tea, or whiskey, you just gave me yet another projectile weapon. There really are no words for this one. I mean, really guys? You look at someone you love and think, “she deserves coasters!”

At this point, there are no “comparable” alternatives. If you cannot think of anything better than a coaster, just don’t even try shopping for her. Hand her some cash or a gift card and drop her ass off at her favorite store. It might be the mall, it might be Target. Just let her do her thing. Coasters, guys. Really?

Now I know there are going to be some people whose first reaction to this blog will be, “You are so materialistic! At least they tried! Get over yourself!” To those people, I will point your attention back to the beginning of this rant. I honestly could get nothing and I would be indifferent to it. But I felt like I needed to help my fellow ladies out because sometimes a woman just likes to feel as though someone gets them. And if you notice, I had suggestions that were affordable or even free for the most part. It doesn’t have to break the bank.

 

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Just make sure the gift is appropriate for the recipient, guys.

 

It’s not about how cheap the gift is, it’s solely about knowing the person you are giving the gift to. By the products suggested in the article, I would think these women receiving them are dead inside, gentrified, no fun, and maybe just flat out broke and can’t buy any of these type of things themselves (I mean, baby oil? Really?) And that’s okay if that’s the case, but I wouldn’t label these as gifts to symbolize the celebration of their existence. If you wanna get them some cool coasters, do it just ’cause you think they’d like them. I’m not saying these aren’t nice things, but… you are supposed to step it up a notch for a birthday. C’mon.

Most women want to know they are seen and heard. That you want to experience things with them. Give them an adventure. Give them something they’ve been drooling over. Give them romance. Show you get them as individuals. Don’t just toss them a 5oz bottle of Beauty Blender cleaner. What?

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Having Daughters Is Nothing Like I Expected

Since I was a little girl, about 12-years-old, I knew I was going to have a daughter. There was no doubt about it. I would grow up, get married, and become a mother. I didn’t know how many children I would have, but I knew that I would definitely have a daughter. I want to say when I did just that it was everything I hoped for, but in all honesty it was nothing like I expected.

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I knew that I would dress up my sweet little girl in ribbons and curls and cute little pink skirts. I never thought I’d be telling my daughter that she couldn’t wear her favorite dress to the park because there are predators out there that loiter around the swings watching and as fun as it is to jump from the swing and tumble on the ground, he might see her undies.

I remember people showing their kids embarrassing toddler pictures, which almost always included a bath pic or a nakie-baby pic. I was shocked when it became “bad” to share these precious—and usually hilarious—moments of their childhood because it was suddenly considered obscene. I was even more surprised when I eventually understood that some perverts found something less-than-innocent in these pictures and that they eventually stole those precious keepsakes from me because, God forbid, you actually have possession of one then you are automatically considered a “sicko”.

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I knew I’d want to take her swimming or watch her play in the sprinkler in the front yard, but I didn’t know I’d end up making her wear a pair of shorts over her swimsuit because someone at the pool was gawking at her just a little too hard. I didn’t expect to have to pass on the ultra-cute ruffled two-pieces because a grown man might think her tummy showing meant she was inviting his disgusting thoughts.

I looked forward to going on outings with my daughter and visiting new places. It never really occurred to me that first I would have to teach her that it was safer to use the restroom with someone she knew; something in-grained into our female brains long before there was such a thing as a “transgender bathroom-issue”. That men often mock and tease us for “herding” without realizing they are the cause of it.

I knew I would want to take my daughter to the annual fair to see the pretty lights and ride the rides, but I didn’t expect I would find myself tying a rope from my belt loop to hers out of the growing fear and anxiety that someone might snatch her in the crowd. That people might point and laugh at us and some might even give me dirty looks for being that mom, but somehow that little length of rope would give me a sense of security and ease.

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I came to terms with the fact that, the older and more independent she got, the more she would want to play alone or be more adventurous. She’d want to ride her bike around the block, play in a friend’s yard, or go for a walk with friends. I was heartbroken when I realized I would have make her sacrifice most of her independence for safety, and shatter her understanding of the world around her by telling her about stranger danger and bad people. It broke my heart to watch her lose some of that trust in human beings. It completely destroyed me knowing that I had barely even touched on exactly how terrifying and bad the people in this world could be.

I expected my daughter would eventually have the puberty class, as we all did in school. It would be informative and embarrassing, and a little funny, but she would learn more about her body and what it does and why. What I wasn’t prepared for were special classes teaching her about good touches and bad touches, because 1 in 4 children are molested. That means of the 20 kids in my daughter’s class, 5 of her friends will have experienced “bad touching”.

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When I separated from her father, I knew to expect troubled times and difficulty with co-parenting. I knew there would be times when she was with me and she wanted to see daddy instead. I could barely bear it when I ended up having to keep the truth from her about her bio-dad, because the things he later did to another little girl are too terrible to burden her with, and now when she says she wants to meet her dad, it doubly hurts.

I hate to say it, but I even knew there might be a time or two where my daughter would get in trouble at school and I might even have to come and speak with the principal about it. She’s a kid. It’s a given. But I never dreamed I might be called out of work, missing a day’s pay, to meet with the principal because my daughter wore a tank top to school— which lacked proper air-conditioning—because her shoulders were “distracting” and “disruptive”. Meaning, because my little girl dressed for comfort on a very hot day, she’s not allowed to stay in school because of it, because her education isn’t as important as the boys who were somehow too distracted by her shoulders to focus on their studies (I can tell you, they really weren’t. Give our boys some credit).

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I dreaded, but expected, my daughter’s teenage firsts. First car, first phone, first date, first prom… All scary, but memorable, times. What I didn’t count on was that she’d have to walk in parking lots with pepper spray or self-defense training just to go to the store alone, that she’d be pressured into sending boys nude selfies and then find out at school the next day that everyone saw it, that she would have to be assertive when she said “No” to a boy because they don’t always listen the first, second, or third time, and even that I would have to worry that she knew she was worth more than her body and if he loved her, her boyfriend wouldn’t pressure her to give it to him.

Sending my daughter to college will be bittersweet, and I know I will have to trust in her to take care of herself and get her studies done. I just hope, when it comes time to put down work and go to play, that she remembers to go to parties with friends and watch each others backs, to never ever leave her drink unattended or accept an open drink from anyone, and to not get too drunk that she can’t defend herself because being a girl, she can’t do those inconsequential things like boys get to do.

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But I also knew I would have a son of my own, too. Someone I would raise to treat everyone with respect and to protect anyone that needs help. I just didn’t understand I would have to teach him to not look at girls like meat but to treat them like human beings and to love them rather than lust after them, that he should never ever take advantage of a girl who might have had too much to drink and instead get her to a safe place, that he needs to take responsibility for his own mistakes and not blame his inability to focus on what a girl is wearing, that he is not owed anything from the girl he is dating, and that he should focus on what a girl adds to his life rather than what she can give him for a night. I didn’t understand I would have to teach these things to my son because my daughters will forever be forced to deal with boys who weren’t taught the same by their mothers and fathers. But one day, he will have a daughter of his own and it will hit him as hard as it hit me. When that time comes, I hope he will have lived as the kind of boy he would want his own daughter to date.

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**Not every anecdote written here happened to my daughters. Some are examples of stories I’ve heard from other women, as well.