Rebecca Solnit is my new BFF

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Mansplaining is genius.  I love her writing – her focus.  Since my blog is Mindfulness at 70, I find her commitment to mindfulness exemplary.  She is always looking and listening and monitoring how she really feels about what she sees and hears.  She is a watchdog for feminists and environmentalists; she is a very interesting person.

She is, of course, not my real BFF.  I just wish I could spend some time with her.  I read her current posts and have read some of her books.  I don’t agree with everything, but her opinions are always thoughtful and grounded in fact and observation.  She seems to have lived an interesting life full of unique and common experiences.  She’s an intellectual with a lot of street cred.

I really got into Ms Solnit when I stumbled across “mansplaining”.  I’ve been railing against it since I was 10 years old and now I had a great name for it.  Men always taking the floor and explaining (in many wrong ways) to women in all aspects of life.  Hogging all the comments in a meeting, forcing Elizabeth Warren to shut-up in the US Senate, interrupting women.  The list goes on and on.

This “mansplaining” is, of course another embodiment of aggression against women.  It is not physical and it does not involve sexual violation — yet it is part of the culture’s categorization of women.  We are second.  The man needs the job more than you.  She would not shut up and listen.  She was asking for it.  All part of the on-going war to keep women in their place.

Can “mansplaining” be that much of a problem when we have so many incidents of sexually inappropriate behavior and sexual violence?  Yes, it all comes from the same place.  Men are entitled to behave this way.  To speak this way, to touch this way.  To demand they remain in charge. To hang onto power.

Solnit states,  Are people finally making the connection between sexual misconduct and men’s perpetual domination of most professional spaces. I do hope that sometime someone who’s having a high-profile creep masturbate at her takes out her camera-phone and makes the career-killing humiliating video or even livestreams it. The perps do this to prove that they’re powerful and she’s powerless, powerless too often even to get people to listen and believe. That they are invulnerable and beyond accountability, and too often they have been right.

I hope we are making the connection and that we concentrate on overall equality rather than punishing individual “famous” men who transgress.  We need , we must, do better.

 

 

 

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THE PUSSY HATS OF THE WOMEN’S MARCH What the hell is wrong here?

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Aren’t we Cute?

We recently witnessed a movement that is just plain pathetic. Millions of women and a few men have protested Donald Trump’s election with demonstrations whose trademark was the Pink Pussy Hat. HUH?

This failure to take women’s minds seriously, by large numbers of women who seem happy to confirm the most demeaning feminine stereotypes, is truly mind-boggling. The “inventors” nee promoters of this lame piece of apparell call it a “strong visual statement”. You bet. But what is it saying?

Although I realize  that these hats are meant to be ironic, their use as a symbol is reinforcing the same crap about women that has been spouted for millennia — women are other and are defined by their biology and hormones is misguided.  It is another acceptance of the old mansplaining admonition — “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about this, honey. It is just too difficult for you.”

If we want equality, shouldn’t we jetison this kind of thinking? If we want equality why must we turn every real, honest protest into something cute and tied to crafts? So many women who couldn’t make it to any march felt connected because they knited pink pussy hats for the marchers. Really? How about getting these women involved in truly meaningful ways, like voting and putting pressure on legislatures. Feel connected with your brain and your voice, not your knitting.

Of course, I am anti-crafts. Mostly because I have very little skill with my hands, but also because these activities scream “women’s work”. Yes, I know some men knit, but women’s reliance on busy work with their hands has been the hallmark of misplaced power. Women’s work is never done because so much of it is make work and silly stuff.

I like buying decorative items for my home and by body as much as the next woman, but dear god, it doesn’t define me. My intellect and my beliefs are what define me. My voice should be heard as much as any other person.

Then too, the Pussy Hats look like little cats with ears, but also are pink and suggestive of a woman’s labia. Perhaps it is time to drop the vagina as a protest symbol. Women aren’t supposed to be speaking to themselves in these protests. We are Way past raising awareness — or should be. Women are demanding power equal to men not because we have vaginas but because it does not matter that we have vaginas.

This anatomical focus erases women’s experience. Women are a caste within society, not because they are the owners of a particular body part. The vast majority of women do indeed have vaginas, but they aren’t preoccupied by that fact day to day. Vagina possession doesn’t explain why Mary voices an idea in a meeting but the boss listens only when Jim repeats it. When Kate does the dishes again, it isn’t because Bob’s genitalia prevented him from loading the dishwasher. It certainly is not a reason to pay women 80% of what men earn.

Yes, reproduction and child-care-related issues, not to mention sexual assault and domestic abuse, disproportionately affect women, and often involve women’s genitals. But even the women’s issues with some relationship to female anatomy aren’t really about vaginas.

We want to be seen as more than possessing vaginas. Our personhood is equal to all others. Don’t see me as a pussy — Donald don’t grab us by the pussy! It is degrading at the very least.
And yet – across the National Mall a sea of pink pussy hats takes the guts out of a massive and important demonstration.

The tyrany of madison avenue and the obscession with branding and logos no doubt is part of what brought this on. And sorry to say that women after years of prom planning and sorority rush and wedding decor don’t seem to get going on a project unless they know what the decor is. I recall my days in non-profit fundraising where the volunteers would spend countless womanhours working on the centerpieces and neglect the necessary task of the fundraising banquet — selling tickets. No butts in seats = no funds raised. The decor/centerpieces are not the important element of a successful fundraiser.

Please remember the medium is a big part of the message. I don’t think those of us demanding female rights in the 70’s would have thought the Pussy Hats were cute. But then, of course, we had to burn our bras and treat all the guys to a little skin. All this gets attention – but what kind of attention?

Women’s equality is a deadly serious business. Many men today want to reverse the strides made by the women’s movement and take us back to the days of asking our husbands for everything from money to control of our own bodies. They want to own our bodies and aren’t even willing to give us appropriate health care.

Time to get really angry — not time to get cute!

I was delighted to see that the Pussy Hats are marked down at the Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale – yes these symbols are mass produced. Maybe a few others figured out how frivolous a statement a knitted Pussy Hat makes about one-half the population denied equality.

I Certainly Hope So!

WE SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT COMING — Women and the Election of Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s election to President of the United States has many demographic lessons that we need to learn.  But I think many, seemingly liberated women were blindsided by the number of their “sisters” who publicly criticized Trump but knew they would and DID  vote for him.

Women who read Romance novels and the most popular recently – 50 Shades of Gray and The Twilight Series  – BDSM and Vampires – are probably not wanting equality.  Those minimally educated (a Bachelor’s in something but I can’t remember exactly what, or a lot less), sweet, white girls 20’s – 30’s and their Moms who have made scrapbooking a zillion dollar faux creative industry are not about to accept the responsibility for freedom of choice.

They would rather let Daddy or Hubby tell them about those nasty political things.   And worry not, if I need an abortion, I’m sure I can get a quiet D & C from my family Dr.  No need for public programs here.  Besides I love babies and a few more will be fun.

The air heads won this election.  Air head women seem to always win with cleavage and giggles and short cheerleader skirts.  Some really savy women – like the foxes on FOX — manage to use all their assets, brains and subservience to get ahead.

I was raised without a father or even a father figure.  My dad died when I was 5.  I bemoaned this fact and whined about it in therapy for many years.  I thought that if I had had a big strong father who protected me, I would have been free to accomplish everything.  But really what happened was I did not learn to defer to a male authority figure.  Little did I know that never having that mythical safety net, I had learned to soar on my own.  Personal responsibility  equals personal freedom.

Poor Hillary Clinton, a work horse of a politician, a forgiving and loving wife and mother, a serious person who cares about the course of history.  All those girls from high school and college who said she was a nerd and a wonk got her but good!  How dare you not punish Bill for his infidelities!  How dare you call me deplorable (figured it out after looking it up).  Hillary wants to make everyone’s lives better – better health care- better work opportunities – better education – more money through less middle class taxes.  She has many specific ways she wants to do this.  She really is a dedicated public servant.

Trump is a blow-hard and not even a real politician.  He is a philanderer and denigrates women.  He is dishonest about his business dealings.  He’s a bully with major overtones of racism and sexism.  He wants to Make America Great Again.  No specifics.  He just does .  And this seems more real to the populace than all the policies of Clinton.  Pie-in-the-Sky grandiose beats practical and detailed every time.

Women didn’t get the vote in the United States until 1920.  We thought ice would have a female president after almost 100 years.  Guess we were wrong.  We underestimated our own power – AGAIN.  Really, we threw our power away.  AGAIN.

My heart breaks for lost opportunities.  When my daughter asked for a quote to tell her posse of girls she has known since middle school (They seem to think of me as always having something pithy to say.)  I said “Well, since I’m age 70, I guess I won’t mind dying so much if this is what I will miss.”

I still have hopes that I will see real change for women and see real women change.  Throw off the chains of patriarchy and join all humanity in equality and responsibility.  Democracy demands this of all women — of all persons.

The women of ancient Greece had it right. Aristophanes in Lysistrata had insight into the gender wars in 411 BC.  No grabbing of pussy or getting any pussy at all unless you treat us — all of us — with respect.  His play was a comedy; time to get real girls!!

 

 

I Have Never Been Invisible and I Don’t want to start NOW.

Ok, you already know, I turned 70 this year and I’m trying to assess this situation.  So, I frequent some of the “senior” sites that discuss  “topics of interest” for my age group.  GAG!  The trouble with our demographics today is that there is a desire, nay an obsession, to pigeonhole everyone.  I even ran across a survey trying to find the appropriate word for old people.  Do we want to be seniors?   Seasoned?  Mature?  Trouble is, we  are all individuals?

When we say 70 is the new 50, what do we mean?  According to who? Whom?  I guess the marketers and advertising executives just have to know how to sell to every age group.  And I guess target marketing has some validity.  I don’t get a lot of ads for hip hop music, although I would love to get tickets for Hamilton in NYC (who wouldn’t?).  My clothing choices are usually “appropriate”, but I do drop in at Urban Outfitters and Forever 21.  It is fun to change it up; it keeps me alive.

I accept that there are some things that are generally applicable to a women in my age group.  But what is all this crap about getting to be over 70 and being invisible — and therefore being able to say and do what you want to.  Really?  Have ALL women baby boomers been holding back and being “good girls” all their lives?

People who know me will be smiling knowingly right now.   I know they won’t believe it when I say that until somewhat recently I didn’t have a view of myself as being particularly outspoken.  Ok, ok, somewhat.

An old high school friend said “I remember that you would not take any crap from any boys and told them what you thought.”  I guess I did; I guess I do.

Wherever it comes from, I have never been able to hold my tongue.  I ALWAYS have an opinion and I really need to express it.  This has gotten me into trouble and prevented me from reaching higher echelons in my work.  I had/have a strong sense of myself and I believe that I can and will get things done.  Where this comes from, I don’t know.

But I do know that my mother always cautioned me to be nicer – especially to boys – if I wanted to be popular.  I’ve always gotten this feedback about pushing too hard and knowing that I was/am right.

So, to the older women who now feel empowered to say what they think, I say, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG!  Indeed, all women need to ask why they defer and don’t rock the boat.  It is your boat too.  It is your life and your body and you need to truly own it.

This is feminism.  Accept no substitutes.  Be yourself.  You will attract others like yourself.

Lately I have been visited by a number of “old” friends, people I went to college with or worked with eons ago.  And my partner has commented ,” Your friends talk almost as much as you!”  Yes my friends tend to be mouthy broads and proud of it.