Monday, October 16, 2017

Me too--My Eight Word Response

Lately on FB, there has been a new trend going around.  People, mostly women, have been posting "Me too" as a status if they experienced sexual harassment or assault.  The idea is to draw awareness to the problem and hopefully show that it's incredibly more widespread than most people's comfort levels would like to admit.
However, like all "awareness" campaigns, this one has had a bit of backlash.  First off is "what about teh menz," usually uttered by guys who have never been assaulted, but are pissed off that they're being left out of the spotlight.  The answer to that is easy and straightforward.  If a man has experienced sexual assault, please feel free to post "me too."  You have my utmost sympathy.  No one should ever have to experience sexual abuse. The first person I saw post this statement was a transgendered male.  I'm on your side, guys.
Then there are those who say, "why are women bitching about harmless catcalling and compliments?  Grow up!"  You are putting the "ass" in "assumption."  Most women who post, I'm sorry to say, have experienced far worse than a few catcalls.
But the worst response has got to be the "virtue" response.  The "guess I'm just not pretty enough to rape, huh?" response.  Unfortunately, this comes from women.  The variants on this are "where are my dick pics?" or "if you just (fill in the blank: dressed modestly, stayed out of the frat party/nightclub/bar, didn't drink so much/at all, didn't have that manicure/nose job/breast implants, didn't go to his suite, blah blah or blah), then this never would have happened to you."  A demonstration can be found here.  This is called the "just world" fallacy, and it makes me see every shade of red.  Because the only thing that separates rape victims from those who haven't been raped is bad luck, and nothing more.
I posted "me too," and have written about my experiences.  Like Ms. Bialyk, I decided to develop my mind instead of my looks, finishing college at 19 without ever going near a frat house.  I'm not pretty (there's a reason my FB profile picture hasn't looked like me in years), dress very modestly, and spent several years as a religious fundamentalist.  I even covered my hair.  None of that protected me.  I was at home and stone cold sober, wearing no makeup and plain, cheap clothes.  That didn't protect me either.
When I have the spoons, I usually end up screaming profanity at the person expressing this viewpoint while hoping they never find out for themselves how wrong they are.  But usually I don't.  So I give my basic eight word answer: Long skirt.  Turtleneck sweater.  Covered hair.  Raped anyway.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A playground for the rich

Once again, as the mayoral election draws near, the hand-wringing begins.  Rents in NYC are just too damn high.  Our current mayor has done very little to alleviate this issue.  The "housing lottery" system is a joke, and most units in the lottery are too costly for anyone making less than $60,000 per year.  The solution, for many people, is simple.  "If you can't afford NYC, just leave!"
Challenge accepted.
Let's set the bar for minimum income at $70,000 for a single earner.  On this salary, a basic apartment, transportation, food, clothing, and a few luxuries are attainable.  Anyone who can't meet that threshold has to find a cheaper city to live in.
Great plan.  New York is now a city without waiters.  There are no busing staff to clear your table, nor are there many cooks below the rank of head chef.  There are no housekeepers or custodians.  Certainly no store clerks.  That's going to put a damper on all the hotels, restaurants and stores so crucial to NYC's bustling tourism industry.  Continuing on to the performing arts scene, that would let out most theater staff and box office staff, as well as every performer and member of the crew of every show not on Broadway or at Lincoln Center.  So I guess nobody will want to see a show.
OK, so you don't really need restaurants, theaters or hotels.  And with online shopping, do we really need stores anymore?  Well, let's look at the things people actually need to survive in a city.  There are no new teachers, social workers, firefighters or police officers, and no EMTs period.  No traffic cops or 911 dispatchers.  No nurses below the rank of RN.  And that custodial shortage extends to the places we actually use, including hospitals and schools.  Speaking of schools, we've just gotten rid of all the para-educators who work with disabled students, as well as specialty instructors.  At the collegiate level, getting classes will be even harder because there are no adjunct professors anymore (as in the people who teach the bulk of college classes while scraping by on poverty-level wages).  There are no cabdrivers or maintenance workers.  And I hope that you weren't planning a remodel, because your contractor doesn't have a construction crew anymore.  Your nanny has also quit on you, as has your gardener and cleaning lady.  And if you hired a home health aide for your aging parent, that person has just left the city as well.
Going into the office, all of the financial industry will grind to a halt because the administrative staff has gone.  No receptionists.  No assistants scheduling meetings and drafting contracts.  No bookkeeping staff.  Sure, technology could handle most of it, but does a stockbroker handling billions in trade every week even have the time to manage his own calendar?
In our court system, there would be no legal aid attorneys.  No new hires in the district attorney's office either.  Clerks at every level of government would be gone, from the sanitation department to the DMV.  Gone would be paralegals and legal researchers.  And I hope you don't plan on spending the day in a city park, because the groundskeepers aren't there either.
You can't build a city solely for people of means.  It's the working people who not only keep the city running, but make it what it is.  They not only need a decent home, they deserve it.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The other side of the "MRA Narrative"

I love reading feminist articles.  However, the comment section is usually something to be avoided for the sake of my blood pressure.  Usually, the comments are from men telling the same story--evil, castrating feminist bitches take a man who gives them everything for a ride, then after a few years walk out with the kids and the house.  I've heard this story so often that I call it the "MRA Narrative."  And it's bad for my blood pressure because I lived it.
When I was 24 years old, I married Mr. X, who was 55 at the time.  Now, I know where this is going.  Hot babe snaps up old guy with a fat wallet.  Well, not really.  For years, I was the girl who couldn't get a date.  I'm socially awkward and not very pretty, and so I was the one being "friendzoned."  Also, in college, I was always too young.  I was 17 my freshman year (which made me "jail bait" in California) and 19 when I graduated (which meant I couldn't go anyplace that served alcohol).  I turned 20, and for a short time, started attracting male attention.  It didn't last very long.  I joined a fundamentalist group on the promise of family, community, and, most of all, acceptance.  Add in that in 2003-2005, it was obvious to me that our economy was built on a house of cards.  So I wanted that package.  A spouse, a job, and definitely children.
It was in this context that I met Mr. X.  After moving to Brooklyn, I heard about the occasional BT that someone wanted to set me up with.  Somehow those guys never materialized.  So I moved into the world of "older singles"-- and I mean older.  As in some of them had kids my age.  It became obvious that these men were the only ones who would ever date me.  The men I dated ranged in age from 40-62.  I was all of 24.  I knew even then that I had two things going for me.  One, I was young enough to bear children (although "young" didn't mean "attractive").  Two, I was the novelty act.  Within six months, I would be just one of the crowd, and forgotten.  So I married Mr. X.  He made a comfortable living, fed stray cats, gave people rides, and gave me a job.  And I didn't exactly have a lot of other options.
Within two months, I was pregnant, and our first child was born a month before our first anniversary.  In the early weeks, he was an attentive father to our daughter, but soon became unavailable.  When we moved into our newly renovated house, I had to set everything up while taking care of a five-month-old, including assembling a computer desk.  The only "help" I received came from neighborhood children.  One of the schools offered me a teaching job.  Mr. X convinced me not to take it.  Over time, my place in the household shifted.  I was there to serve him, bear his children, and provide sex on demand.  When our second daughter was born, I came home from the hospital two days before Rosh Hashanah. As tired as I was, and with a newborn and a toddler to care for, I had to set up the bassinet, unpack baby clothes, and still prepare all the holiday meals with no assistance.  His one concession to my condition was not inviting guests that year.  After that, I decided no more children, but Mr. X didn't want me on birth control.  I snuck myself onto an IUD because I knew he couldn't fool with it.  After five years, the narrative shifted from "I will care for you so you never have to work" to "I have to take care of you because you aren't capable of working."  After six years, he told me that a wife was "a cook in the kitchen, a laundress in the laundry room, and a whore in the bedroom."  After seven years, he began sexually assaulting me and punching walls.  I walked out and filed a restraining order.  He violated it numerous times.  All the time, he insisted that he had "treated me like a queen."
Now we come to the divorce.  This is the part where I get "his" kids, his house and his money, right?  I don't think so.  Despite an indicated report from Children's Services that he would get drunk and pass out while the children were in his care, he got ten days of visitation per month, half their school vacations, and half the holidays.  He kept the house and the business.  And, because he worked for cash, there was no way to establish his real income.  I got three years of alimony, child support, and a $20,000 settlement that has never materialized.  Hardly taken to the cleaners.
So, please keep in mind that for every story about the "evil feminist," there is a real live woman who may have been through hell.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

CNN's "The Nineties" buries our gays

As someone fascinated by history, I got really into CNN's decade series.  I saw "The Sixties," "The Seventies," and "The Eighties," and looked forward to "The Nineties," if for no other reason than it was the first decade I could really remember.  The Soviet government fell when I was on winter break in fifth grade.  I saw the troops marching off to Iraq to battle Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Shield, and we had yellow ribbons in our classroom to support the troops.  I was glued to Law & Order and identified with Daria.  I was in ninth grade when the Alfred P. Murrah building was bombed and O.J. Simpson was acquitted.  I remember Waco, Bosnia, and Rwanda on the news.  My first year of college (don't try to do the math, it won't work), Bill Clinton was impeached.  I voted for the first time in the Democratic primary that nominated Al Gore.  And, yes, I probably danced the Macarena about a hundred times during the summer of 1996.
Which is why I found "The Nineties" so disappointing, mostly for what it left out.  Specifically, our country's extremely dynamic relationship with the gay community.  It was a time of great progress, but also a time of violence and hate crimes driven by homophobia.
By the early 1990s, the status of gays in America was changing.  People felt more comfortable "coming out," and no longer was AIDS the grisly threat it had been.  1994's pop psychology book Reviving Ophelia featured at least one lesbian teenager coming to terms with her identity.  Gay Americans were fighting in court for legal recognition of their partnerships and custody of their children.  Gay characters were shown in media, and the musical RENT featured a gay man, a lesbian, a bisexual woman, and Angel, whose identity (transgender or genderqueer) is still being debated by fans.  And Angel and Collins (the gay man) had the most loving, stable relationship of all the characters!  By the end of the decade, a few states had legalized same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships.
Unfortunately, progress is never linear.  Two well-publicized murders occurred during the 1990s in America's heartland.  Brandon Teena, a transgender man, was killed in 1993.  And, of course, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in a hate crime in 1998 because he was gay.
None of this gets even a nod.  Sure, the television episode mentions Ellen DeGeneres coming out, and the show Will and Grace.  But nothing else gets a nod.  The episode on civil rights focuses on the O.J. Simpson trial (which wasn't really about civil rights) but neglects to mention Matthew Shepard.  Nothing was mentioned about the changing legal or cultural status of the gay community.  However, it was one of the features of the decade that I remember the most vividly.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville and the government we deserve

Like so many Americans, I was horrified at the events that unfolded in Charlottesville over the weekend.  Less than a century after World War II, Nazi flags are flying in the United States.  A woman was killed by a white supremacist for the simple crime of disagreeing with him.
How did we get here?
After the end of Reconstruction, the Republican Party rallied around pro-business sentiments likely to be popular with the moneyed capitalists of the Northeast.  This was the world of the "Robber Barons," and they created a tale of two Americas.  Except that when the conditions of the working poor became impossible to ignore, they had to offer a token support of Progressivist ideas, or they would find themselves in homemade guillotines.  Through a confluence of events that we had little control over, including a world war that wiped out most of the world's infrastructure while leaving ours intact, and fifteen years of austerity driving demand for new goods, the United States enjoyed a couple of decades of prosperity.  The problem is that you can't run a country on rhetoric alone, and this was also a time when we were paranoid.  So instead of spreading the wealth, Eisenhower-style, we poured all our energies into an unwinnable war.  Enter Richard Nixon, who was about as far from Eisenhower as you could get.  This brought the economy into a slow slide starting in the 1970s.  However, the GOP can't just openly say, "give to the rich and screw the poor."  Look how well that "47%" remark worked for Mitt Romney.  So instead, the GOP played a long game of distraction.  It's not OUR fault that there are no jobs, rents are rising and healthcare and college are practically inaccessible.  Look over there!  It's those darn Millennials, with their lattes and avocado toast!  Or those baby boomers, who won't retire and are hoarding all the plum jobs!  Or the "welfare queens," those evil people with dark skin and funny accents who mooch off the government, steal jobs, and live likes royalty while you scrape by!  And we can't fund social programs, because if we cut military spending, all those bad people overseas who don't accept Jesus Christ and their lord and savior will bomb us back to the stone age and indoctrinate our children to hate Christmas!  And we CAN'T HAVE THAT!
Well, look where that thinking has gotten us.  A president with no political experience who is a genius at the art of the distraction, a Boy Scout jamboree straight out of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, and now a KKK/Nazi rally in Virginia, complete with torches.
However, I don't really blame the GOP for this.  They may have profited from hatred, but they didn't create it.  Hatred and fear have been there since before the settlers at Jamestown.  I blame the James Andrew Fields, Jr.'s and Cole Whites.  The Peter Cvjetanovics.  I blame every person who thought that marching in a city with a torch in one hand and a swastika in the other was a good idea.  And every person who chose not to condemn them (including you, Mr. President!)  Because, yes, you are that angry racist.  And since you keep talking about how your guy won the election, you have to figure out how to clean up the board without throwing the game away.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Reproduction issues--again

At the end of this month, a law will go into effect in Arkansas that will disallow abortion unless the person who provided the other half of the fetus's DNA (otherwise known as the "father") consents.  And reproductive rights take a big step backwards.
Many people claim that since the child belongs to the father 50%, he should get a say in whether or not the fetus is brought to term.  But what is a man's contribution, really?  Men provide 23 chromosomes, so half of the child's DNA.  Women provide 23 chromosomes, plus an environment where the gametes fuse into a blastocyst, an incubation chamber for the developing fetus for 36-40 weeks, all of the developing fetus's nourishment, labor and delivery services during the baby's birth, and in many cases, nourishment in the form of breast milk for six months or longer.  Not exactly an even distribution of labor here, is it? 
Some men would argue that if the woman doesn't want the child, she should hand it off to the father.  But this discounts two factors.  The first, as mentioned above, is that there is no "child" to hand off without the pregnancy, labor and delivery all provided by the woman.  And let's not kid ourselves, pregnancy is not without risks.  Prior to the 19th century, complications during pregnancy and childbirth were the leading cause of death for women around the world.  Even now, pregnancy complications can include morning sickness, sciatica, gestational diabetes, ectopic pregnancy and pre-eclampsia (the latter two can be life threatening, even today).  One little gamete is nowhere near a 50% contribution.
The second is that pregnancy is often used as a means of control.  While there are many good men, good husbands and good fathers out there (if you're one of them, I should not have to explain that I'm Not Talking About You), there are also men who use both sex and pregnancy as a weapon.  It's called "reproductive coercion" and it's classified as a legitimate form of domestic violence.  In seven states, rapists can sue for visitation of any children conceived by their crime.  Even in long-term relationships, abusers have been known to sabotage birth control, prevent their partners from accessing it, and force them to carry children to term.  This puts women in a bind because the law now ties them to their abusers until the children reach the age of 18.  Abusers are granted visitation with their children (or in some cases, full custody--yes, it happens), and the former partner must continue to deal with the abusive partner during visitations, give the abuser say in the child's upbringing, live near the abuser to facilitate visitation, or even in some cases, pay child support to the abuser.  Or the victims stay with their partners, reasoning that the abuse only happens to them, and at least they are there to protect their children from the abusive parent.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Misogynistic dillweeds--a field guide

Recently, I heard about a breed of males called "Incels," or involuntary celibates.  In other words, a group of unpleasant man-children who couldn't get a woman to have sex with them if their lives depended on it.  They chalk up their unpopularity to women going for looks or money, not noticing that it's their attitude and unwillingness to own their behavior that women find off-putting.  (Not to mention the double standard--these men are also the first ones to insult a woman based on her appearance or weight.)
There are so many groups now of men like these, it's hard to keep track.  So, I've taken the liberty of preparing a field guide, based on my own experience and research on Reddit and We Hunted the Mammoth:
"Nice Guy": This man dates occasionally, but not often enough to suit his tastes.  The women he dates tend to lose interest quickly, and start to agree with him that he's not good enough.  Popularized the term "friendzone," and has fallen hard for the idea that if he just acts "Nice," the object of his desire will fall madly in love with him.  Frequently calls coupled men "assholes," as opposed to himself, as in the following: "Women just want to date assholes.  Why don't they ever go out with me?  I'm a Nice Guy."  (This same Nice Guy will castigate the object of his attention as a "bitch" or "slut" when she turns him down.)  Annoying, but relatively harmless.
Pick-Up Artist (PUA): To this man, women are objects to be won by charm.  If that doesn't work, there's always persuasion.  To these men, "no" means "I'm just being shy; keep trying."  Best not to deal with this one without backup.
Red Piller: This man is the Pick-Up Artist on 'roids.  Popularized the term "pump 'n dump."  Spends much time trying to establish himself as an Alpha, dominant over women.  Castigates men who treat women with respect as "betas" and "fuckboys."  To take the red pill means to treat feminism as a destructive force in society.  Avoid. 
Men's Rights Activist (MRA): This chap has either been through a divorce or knows someone who has.  Swears up and down that he treated his wife like a queen, but she may see it differently.  His ex-wife got tired of his bullshit and hired a competent divorce attorney, winning a greater than 50-50 share of time with the children (whom he didn't really pay any attention to until now because parenting is a woman's job, amirite?) plus child support and whatever maintenance the law allows.  Because he feels he owes his ex-wife nothing, he grouses about paying to anyone who will listen.  He will probably avoid women at this juncture, since in his mind, they're only after money.
Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW): These boys don't have a girlfriend, and often don't have a job, either.  This is of course, due to Teh Evul Feminists, who insist that women can do anything men can.  Believe MRA and Red Pill statements about women, often due to an inability to relate to women as people.  Have chosen to remove themselves from the dating game altogether because they aren't Fortune 500 CEOs with a hot trophy wife.  What they fail to understand is that they aren't really missed.
Incels: From "involuntary celibacy."  Incels are manchildren who, again, can't get a date (do I detect a running theme here?).  So, to make up for it, they want to put all the "sluts" (read, women who don't have sex with them) into a subservient role.  Loudly deride women for not staying in their "place," and espouse a hatred of women.  Idolize Elliot Rodgers, the guy who shot six women.  Handle with caution.