Thursday, December 7, 2017

Roy Moore's Family Values of Pedophilia?

I'm trying to reframe my opinion of Al Franken.

Did you ever meet someone famous and find you were disappointed in the human being in front of you? Disenfranchised? Disconnected with the golden image you had of them? And then they were human.

That's how I feel about Al Franken right now. I wanted to continue to like him, but when the woman described how he allegedly put his arm around her waist and grabbed a hunk of her flesh, it made me groan out loud.

It sounded less invasive than what Roy Moore did with the teenage girls, but still.

Ugh.

The story no longer sounded like it was about a man who was maybe socially awkward and trying to be funny. It sounded like a man who understood his power to take hold of what wasn't his, especially when the cameras were rolling.

Everybody knows that Al Franken is the martyr here, intended to shame the Republicans into getting rid of Roy Moore, a pedophile if you believe his accusers. And I most certainly believe them. He was banned from going into the mall. That doesn't happen to a man unless he's a total creep.

Al Franken's actions were nothing compared to those of Donald Trump. Trump walked into beauty contest changing rooms where teenage girls stood naked. He bragged about grabbing women by the crotch. There are a dozen or more women who accused Trump of assaulting them. I believe those women too.

I so badly want to continue to respect Al Franken. I still respect that he apologized when the first woman came forward. I do.

Years ago, when I was the only female engineer in a department of eighty engineers, I got a lot of attention, some of it unwanted. Generally, this company was a good one. Generally, the men behaved honorably. I met my husband at this job.

Yet, I had to argue that they shouldn't have nudes posted on the wall of the workshop. Suddenly, the formerly friendly technicians didn't like me as much as they had before. I argued that I didn't want to see the naked photos when I needed to go in there to get something done.

That didn't work.

I argued that they wouldn't want their daughters to have to look at photos like that at their jobs.

That didn't work.

The photos finally came down when I posted a Chippendales calendar next to the nudes. The men argued with me, said they didn't want to look at naked men while they did their jobs.

"These men aren't even nude," I said. "Those women are nude, spread-eagle. Do you want me to find photos of men who are actually naked and tape them up on the wall next to yours? I don't. And I don't want to have to look at these when I need to work in here."

The technicians went all surly and quiet. I argued to the technician's bosses, my bosses and finally, the photos came down.

These weren't bad men. They were married, had children, behaved fairly well in my company. They didn't grab my crotch or walk into the ladies bathroom. But they wanted that lab to be a place where I couldn't come in, especially if I was going to make a fuss about the pictures they'd taped to the walls. I had to go into the workshop to get my own work done, so staying out wasn't an option.

Eventually, we got along fine, but I was always going to be that girl who changed the atmosphere of their lab, who made them act like they would in their living rooms instead of their locker rooms. I made that lab a public space.

These men were simply socially awkward, not quite getting the gist of my perspective until I turned the tables on them. They eventually got over it and we had a fine relationship. When I needed someone to build something for me on the lathe, especially since I told them it looked like so much fun to operate, they relented and let go of their resentment. They got to explaining how they did their jobs, what an artform it was.

I wonder if Al Franken's movement through time hasn't been similar. Were we talking about something he did in the eighties, the nineties? Those days, certain behaviors, unwanted kissing, squeezing someone's waist, were more acceptable, not good, but not the worst thing that happened to us women.

And what about Roy Moore? There has never been a time in my lifetime when a thirty-two year old man was allowed to trick teenage girls into getting into his car so he could pressure them into having sex. And I've never lived through a time when reaching out and just grabbing a woman's crotch was acceptable, even if he was famous as Trump said in the Access Hollywood tape.

So yes, I believe that Al Franken was pushing the limits. If he'd done that to me as a young girl, I'd have wrestled to get away from him. I might have said, "Cut it out, won't you?" Or my opinion of the funny guy would have become tainted like it did with his accusers.

But you have to admit that there is a difference in the level of abuse between what Al Franken did and what Roy Moore and Donald Trump did. It's a significant difference.

I may not like Al Franken as much as I once did, but I am sure that he's being hacked down into the 'no tolerance' zone as a message to the GOP.

I'm pretty sure that the GOP isn't going to get the message. What happened to all their family values? Huh?

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, December 4, 2017

Procrastinating the Next Story

I've really struggled with how to keep moving forward with the resistance after I published my book. The stories that needed to be told were hard, left me completely vulnerable, my #MeToo stories.

My #MeToo stories are the only way I learned compassion for W. Kamau Bell after I read about being a tall black man harrassed in the United States, for Michael Eric Dyson when he was put face-down on the pavement by a police officer while his wife and child watched. He had a broken tail light. And I still had to work to make the connection so I could feel compassion for them. A lot of other courageous women telling their stories helped me make that connection. I didn't want to make that connection. I wanted to keep sleeping, cover the lid back over all that shame and pain. I didn't want to see the struggle for black America because if I could feel their pain, I would have to acknowledge my own.

My #MeToo stories are full of shame. Brene Brown would having something to say about that, wouldn't she? I cringe when I read a woman's story and the comments are all the same things that people said to me when I told them my anguish over being harassed. It was awful. What was I wearing? Had I flirted with this man? How much did I have to drink? What did I do to deserve the treatment I got? Why didn't I say anything sooner?

Those questions shut me the hell up for more than thirty-four years. Yes, I said thirty-four. Some of the stories I've barely told my husband, my shame ran so deep. The thought of having all those stories bound into one book seems exhausting, excruciating, completely vulnerable.

Yet, I keep coming back to these stories when I think of how to #resist. I know that for the current poser in the White House, misogyny is one of my primary reasons for fighting against him, that along with his continual debasement of the office, his disregard for ethics and morality, and the way he seems to want to crush the Constitution.

But there are many people much more qualified than I am to argue the Constitution. As for ethics and morality, I think my stories touch on what allowed a man like Trump to enter the Oval Office along with the help he needed from Putin. People like Trump run companies, become bosses, are allowed to run rampant in school hallways, grabbing and assaulting people as they go.

So, I'm going to try to find a little courage to tell my stories about being harassed in the United States. Like with Michael Eric Dyson's story, it might help to open our culture up to change just to hear what happened, how many times these things happened.

Can you tell I'm nervous? I'm really nervous. This could be a total catastrophe, laying myself bare for any old troll to torture me. With my book, I've already been called pathetic for thinking Trump is a problem, promiscuous because Planned Parenthood helped me when I was a young woman, and one guy insulted my hair but he blocked me before I could respond to tell him that comments about my ugly hair didn't constitute a good argument for having Trump in the White House.

Despite these comments, I'm still standing. So, I'll get right on it. Really, I will.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Distract and Slash

I hate when I've been sick and a week later, I'm beginning to feel better. I hate that part the most. I get up and take a shower but get all sweaty and gross at the effort. Then, I dry off and go back to bed. I get bored watching television, so I pick up a book, a good book, but my eyes are t0o sore to read and my mind too scrambled. I turn the television back on and check the news. I can watch the news, right?

No, Trump has done another cruel thing and everyone is all up in arms about it.

"What?" I ask the news. "Did you think he'd changed overnight? What makes you think he'd become kind today? Why are you even watching him?"

The news doesn't answer me. It just drones on and on about Trump's cruelty without realizing that it has been duped into watching the reality show again. Trump may not know how the government works, but he knows reality TV. He knows he'll get ratings with the racist comments to the Navaho code talkers.

He got the ratings last night, right?

The news gave him what he wanted and in the meantime, what important but less glamorous part of the government has been dismantled? Is Bannon still running the show from outside the show? God, who is orchestrating this meltdown?

I'm not talking about Trump's arrogant comments.

I'm talking about the Consumer Protection Agency. Laurence Tribe gets it. He said, "Both this threatening process and dispatching Mulvaney to gut the Consumer Protection Agency are integral parts of  Bannon's nihilist agenda: DISMANTLE THE WHOLE DAMN GOVERNMENT BRICK BY BRICK."

Distract and slash. Over and over, that's what this administration has done. Distract and slash. Did you hear Trump endorse a pedophile? Pruitt redefined the level that is considered safe for tolerable air pollution. Distract and slash.

The news keeps falling for it. We keep falling for it. We're watching the left hand wave in the air while the right hand drops the coin into a pocket.

I may be sick with this stupid cold, my mind too scrambled to read very far in a new book, but I can still see that the new Trump reality show hasn't been canceled, not yet. And because Trump's great business acumen is to bankrupt and dissolve businesses, he's worked that plan for our government in the same way or somebody in his administration has. When they're done, our coffers will have been emptied out.

"When did all our government resources disappear?" we will ask while the echo of Trump's voice still resonates in our ears.

Distract and slash.

Thank you for listening, jules


Sunday, November 19, 2017

There Would Be Hangings

Define how Al Franken is different than Roy Moore?

Al Franken is a little different, isn't he? He acknowledged his mistake. He apologized publicly. His victim accepted his apology. Roy Moore is totally unapologetic. He said all of the women were liars. I have a lot more respect for the way Al Franken handled his issue that I do for Roy Moore. I have NO respect for Roy Moore. Children. Roy Moore assaulted children, allegedly. I believe the women. I really do.

What about Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein? And Trump? With all these people being held accountable, will anyone hold Trump to account? Ever?

All of it nauseates me. I suffered both harassment and discrimination back in the seventies, eighties, and by the time I hit the nineties, I had learned to fight back and ignore a lot.  By then, I had kicked two men in the crotch and elbowed one so hard in the chest he said I might have broken a rib. I told him to go to a hospital and explain what he'd done to the nursing staff there. He didn't go. I didn't break a rib. It got easier after that, when I knew it was okay for me to fight back.

No. I'm not going to tell you what happened.

During my corporate career, I felt I deserved hazard pay because I was a woman. It was a relief to get out of the technology when I did, a total fucking relief. I never would have thought that mainstream life hadn't progressed while I was at home raising my son, while I volunteered in class, while I sat at my computer and wrote. I believed that harassment and discrimination had been exposed and now only occurred in pockets of forgotten society, backwoods creeps.

You know, I really don't want to write this. It makes me sick to my stomach, all of it.

Yet here we are, asking to hear sordid details. That nauseates me. The titillation of details. We still demand that women are either lying, seeking political revenge, or not telling her story soon enough to save other girls.

Sorry, Kevin Spacey's victims were boys. Fucker. They're all fuckers.

It's funny how people go on and on about how these perpetrators lost their jobs, but I want these fuckers to go to jail. I know it's hard to verify an occurrence beyond a shadow of a doubt in court when only two people were in the room, or the car. But I want them to suffer more than monetary loss, especially the ones who desecrated children. There is a special place in hell for people who assault children.

I believe in the death penalty. I know I shouldn't, but I do. I think sexual assault is right up there with serial killing, especially when children are involved. I don't understand how Roy Moore and Kevin Spacey aren't the main characters at a hanging. Maybe it's a good thing I wasn't born during the days of the wild West. In my world, there would be hangings.

Thank you for listening, jules


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mixed Gratitude for #MeToo


I don't really want to have to tell my harassment stories. I have many of them. But every time I tell one of those stories, it feels as though I'm required to strip naked and walk through the streets in order to make my point. Guys have asked me what I was wearing. Women asked how much I had to drink. The first time I tried to tell one of those stories, I could see the guys who tried to picture it in their minds, a titillation, with the younger, sweeter, prettier me as the star. Now, thirty-three years later, I see people cringe, doubt, shudder at the thought of this old woman, this wrinkled, tired, angry woman being the object of harassment. They can't imagine it being true.

Don't get me wrong-the #MeToo revolution is a long time coming and I'm grateful for it even if it's hard to speak out. There's a gratitude for your Thanksgiving table, the #MeToo revolution.

Can you imagine that conversation?

Mom has just put the turkey on the table. The scene is classic. The food is gorgeous. Your brothers and sisters sit there, even your Trump-loving brother-in-law-TLBIL is what you call him privately with your husband. You can barely look at TLBIL while he goes on and on about the ignorant libtards in this country as if none of them sit around the table with him. Right now, he's talking about how Mary was a teenager and Joseph was a thirty-two year old man and that makes Roy Moore okay in his eyes. If he could only go to Alabama and vote for that good Christian man, he would. Why should a perfectly good representative suffer for what happened thirty years ago, dammit.

Dad, at the head of the table, hushes everyone by holding up his carving knife as if in toast. Then, Mom sits down and reminds him that you all haven't gone around the table with your gratitudes yet.

"The food will get cold," he mutters.

Your baby sister, the loudmouth, the rabble-rouser, the militant feminist who's always going at it with TLBIL over equal pay for women, starts first, always clockwise around the table ending with Dad.

"I'm grateful for the #MeToo revolution in which our society has finally begun to believe that if a woman dances naked on the table, she still has the right to say no to sex. Okay, I'll say it. When I worked at the cafe, my manager Al, got me cornered in the walk-in refrigerator and pulled out his-"

"Please!" your father interjects, "can we just have a nice Thanksgiving here?"

"No Dad," your sister replies, "because the patriarchy won't allow it, won't allow women access to contraceptives, won't allow women rights to our own bodies, won't allow us to tell our horrific stories about men who abused us, won't allow us to say no, to wear whatever the fuck we please without expecting to get assaulted for it."

"Well, if a woman wears a miniskirt up to her crotch, then she deserves what's coming at it." TLBIL says.

"Can we just have-"

"No Dad," your sister goes on, "because it's time for people to listen to women's stories. It's time for you, yes you, to finally listen to what I went through every day I had to work at that lousy place. I needed the money. I didn't want to wear that stupid short skirt they forced me to wear. I didn't want to have to always watch to see where Al was when I needed to go into the walk-in or anywhere else he might corner me. And hell, I didn't need you telling me that I'd never work in town again if I kept talking about it. You should have protected me, Dad. You should have sent the police to arrest that man the day I came home and tried to tell you that story. Instead, you asked me if I'd been flirting with him, fucking flirting. You told me not to get in a room alone with him. How was I supposed do that when he was my boss and told me there'd be a mandatory meeting at 7pm and I was the only one who showed up because I was the only one he told? You said I needed to keep quiet or I'd get into more trouble. Do you know how many girls Al has cornered in that walk-in refrigerator, Dad? Do you? Do you know how many girls were assaulted because you wouldn't let me tell my story when it happened ten years ago? Huh?"

And at that, your sister slams her hands on the table, bouncing the silverware, pushes the heavy chair back, and runs out of the room. Thanksgiving is over and we are grateful.

Maybe it's time for all of us to have a Thanksgiving conversation like that. Maybe that's what we're doing with all these god-awful stories, clearing the air, finally, and for a good reason. Maybe in a year or two, we can actually be grateful that this nasty part of our history, the repression and abuse of women at the hands of vile men who don't respect our boundaries, is finally something we look on as a part of our nation's growth toward a more equal society.

It's hard to speak out. I know. I have stories that will curl your toes. But I have to tell you this-on Thanksgiving, I will be truly grateful that we, as powerful women, are finally beginning to shout out our stories whether you men want to believe them or not.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ding Dong The Witch is Dead

I needed to get a lot of work done last night but Mike turned on the news at nine and I was hooked. I tried to resist. I really did.

One time when I was a kid, The Wizard of Oz came on television on a Sunday night.

"Have you done your homework?" Daddy asked.

"Not yet. I have a spelling test," I said, "but the witch is dead and they're on the yellow brick road."

"You go upstairs and study," he said, "now!"

The volume went up for the 'now' and I suddenly had tears in my eyes.

I went upstairs and got the mimeographed list of spelling words and began to copy them over and over.

I didn't even hear when the kitchen door opened. Maybe I didn't want to hear. I still sobbed. I didn't look up when Daddy sat down on the bar stool next to me. My favorite part, if I only had a brain, was over. I'd missed it.

This was before video. People didn't just go sit down to Netflix, Amazon Prime movies, CDs, or even videos. People either went to the movie theater, to the drive-in, or sat at home and hoped a good movie came on one of the four channels that tuned in on TV. The Wizard of Oz only came on once a year.

Daddy didn't say anything at first and I kept copying my list. I kept crying. I couldn't help myself.

"You need to get a good education. You know that, right?"

"Yeah," I replied.

That night, I became a lifelong student, always trying to put work before fun, always trying to stay on top of what I needed to know, what I needed to do, always trying.

So last night, when I stopped working for a bit, I knew I needed to keep at it. I tried to put my ear buds in and focus, but the power of the news was just too strong.

I got up from my computer and sat on the couch next to Mike.

There he was, a still photo of Bob Mueller. Indictments. Surprise guilty pleas. It was so exciting that a couple of times, I jumped off the couch so I could dance around the room.

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

Well, he's not dead yet, but he wasn't tweeting about the great witch hunt or the fake news last night. They even said he was up in the White House residence fuming over the news.

It was awesome.

It's not over yet, but finally, after midnight, Chris Hayes or one of his commentators said that Trump wasn't quite finished but that his administration was crippled. That was so great! Bob Mueller was on the job.

"That was just the opening salvo," someone said. I got up and danced again.

Who could sleep? It was too compelling. Finally, the evidence of collusion with Russia was provable. They had the means. They might be able to go all the way up to the top, Trump.

It was awesome.

But today is Halloween and last night I needed to get at least a little sleep. A little. Mike and I man the Halloween table for the church tonight. I need to get ready, tent, lights, coffee urn for the hot chocolate. Nick wanted me to do a puking pumpkin, but I didn't get the ingredients. I'll have enough to accomplish just handing out hot chocolate and candy.

I didn't have time to stay up all night to watch the news.

It was hard to go to bed. It was hard to fall asleep. I sat in bed and read from Hillary Clinton's book, What Happened for a little while.

"Oh Hillary," I whispered, "you just won't believe what happened."

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hifalutin

I'm just about finished reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

I almost put the book down after fifty or so pages. You've heard that adage, that for any book you should sample one hundred pages minus your age. Vance's book wouldn't have cut it by that standard. I didn't actually like it nor did I see the inherent value so many others had placed in it by page fifty. I hadn't gotten comfortable with his awkward style of writing, going from vaguely set family stories to statistics about the region. I kept reading because there was something that niggled in the back of my mind when I went past the fifty page mark, something familiar.

I hoped Vance would get to the point, would teach me something about my own roots. So I kept reading.

I'm from Indiana yet I don't come from a home like the one that Vance describes. I grew up in a college town, Bloomington. I was friends with the professor's kids. My father was an engineer so I didn't struggle to become the first of my family to get into college. In fact, my father, an uncle, my sister, and my brother preceded me.

But Vance's descriptions of hillbillies hit me in the gut. He eventually explained to me something I had struggled to understand my entire life. Why was I so uncomfortable going back home to visit and why did I feel so awkward going into situations above my station. I was, ultimately, from hillbilly roots.

Only two of my grandparents completed high school. My grandmothers both quit and had children before they were seventeen. Not one of them went to college. Yet, I was lucky enough to have two grandparents who were great readers, who became educated through the public library. That was probably my saving grace, probably what gave my father the impetus, with a wife, a child, and one on the way, to go to college, and to graduate. The rest of us flowed from his example. He made sure we understood that an education could change our lives.

Bloomington, Indiana lives on a great cultural divide. To the north lies Indianapolis and Chicago, both heavily urban influences. Even the culture brought from around the world to Indiana University shifted Bloomington squarely into that Northern mindset. South of Bloomington to Kentucky lies a whole lot of nothing, people might say, corn and soybean fields, toxic strip pits abandoned by coal companies, and then the Ohio river border with Kentucky. Oh, I know I'm missing some wonderful places, but bear with me. I'm talking about the impression I always had about Southern Indiana, about what outsiders thought of Southern Indiana.

I grew up speaking a bit of the Indiana twang. Don't ask me to pronounce hydrangea or peony. That accent rolls all the way north to the suburbs of Chicago where it shifts. But just outside of Bloomington city limits and south to the region where my cousins and grandparents lived, the accent sounded indistinguishable from Kentuckian. Go further south all the way to Georgia and it's still the same only stronger. That vocal divide, even as a child, put me on edge.

The kids at my public school who had the stronger Southern accent were looked down upon. Those kids were from the country, had no connection with the university. Teachers assumed that if I had that stronger Southern accent, that I was stupid, or at least ignorant. Even my parents tried to get us to pronounce our words without the heavier accent though it would have come naturally to them since they'd grown up with it themselves. We didn't say 'ain't' or 'nothin.' We pronounced the -ing on a word as if we could sing.

Yet, when we visited our grandparents and cousins, I was aware that we adopted the more Southern style of talking. It was just easier that way. It felt rude to pronounce the -ing like sing. I felt like an outsider in my family's presence when they said, "Y'all come on now." I didn't say y'all. I could copy their patterns of speech, but it felt rude, like I was making fun of them, but when I didn't shift it a little, I was an outsider. You'all was some kind of compromise I could make. I didn't say that at home or at school. So, during the week, I spoke one way and on the weekend with extended family, I spoke a different way. From a young age, I had to try to remember where I was.

When I was nineteen, I started a summer job at the Navy base about forty-five miles South of Bloomington. I had completed my first year at Purdue. I was going to be an engineer. On my first day at my new job, that title of engineering student backfired on me. My neutral accent backfired too. I realized that to fit in, I needed to adopt that drawl all the way down to the y'all. When I first spoke with my more newsworthy accent, they told me I was 'highfalutin,' too big for my britches. I was just some snot-nosed kid from the city come down there to tell them all how to do their jobs when they damned-well knew how to do their jobs already. And while I was at it, I needed to slow down my pace, both talking and working, because I was making them look bad.

Except for the engineers who ran the place, the people seemed proud that they hadn't gone to college, proud of their ignorance. They were even proud that they didn't read books. I didn't exactly know what to talk to people about if they didn't read books. I was a bookworm. Then, when I said that I was going to the East Coast for a week before I went back to college, that I was going to see New York City, they asked me why in hell I'd have any interest in a place like that. Some of them asked me why I even bothered going to college. They laughed at my pay scale, but we both knew I'd get a job when I was finished, that my pay would outstrip theirs in the first couple of years. I assumed they were just mad about it.

Yes, there was a divide.

Even now, when I go back to Indiana to visit, I find myself bringing on my old accent. I don't lay it on thick. But I think my mother is more comfortable with me when I hold it out for her hear, as if I hadn't really moved away, as if I weren't trying to tell her I was better because I had moved up and away.

I don't know for sure. She's never said any of it outright, but it's a feeling I get, that my neutral accent makes me an outsider even though I'd been born in Indiana and lived there the first twenty-two years of my life.

And then there was New York City. I lived near there in my twenties. I could make a whole room full of New Yorkers laugh with my twang and the way I pronounced certain words. Hyderangie, piney. I felt like I went from intelligent to stupid in that simple transition and back again when I dropped the accent.

Why couldn't a biomedical engineer from Indiana be just as intelligent with her homespun accent as without it?

Because people assume that accent is connected with ignorance. I know. I entertained them with it.

I never told the New Yorkers that I could also make a whole room full of Hoosiers laugh with my Brooklyn accent.

So J.D. Vance's book, when he began to describe being an outsider, hit home. When he got down to the social structure of planned ignorance, it hit me again. When he described feeling of a different class when he attended Yale, it hit me one more time. Three strikes and I was out.

Hillbilly Elegy is worth the read. Vance has an important message that was worth getting past the first fifty pages. The hard part, the solution to helping that group of rust-belt underemployed people, that will be harder to solve. I rubbed up against some of those people, the ones who seemed proud to be uneducated, proud as they explained that they could work the system to get unemployment, proud that they hadn't read a book in the past ten years.

I read recently that Amazon is looking for a second location. Some reporters suggested that they could rejuvenate a whole region if they put it squarely in the rust-belt. I wouldn't want to bring big business into an area where the people prided themselves on ignorance and laziness. I've lived both in the Pacific Northwest and in the rust-belt. I can tell you that an encounter between the two cultures would not prove a happy one. Amazon would be better off sticking within city limits.

Thanks to J.D. Vance, I now know why.

Thank you for listening, jules