Q: “Is it ever OK not to believe?”

In this world of Political Correctness, is it ever ok to have a non-PC opinion? To voice that opinion? Or is that something that you keep hidden because of the perceived wrongness of it? Specifically, with the recent bombardment of sexual assault accusations, I’ve noticed a tone of disbelief surrounding the allegations. Many comments read as – not victim shaming- but victim disbelief. For example – Kevin Spacey’s accuser waited nearly 30 years to come forward – How much of his statements have to be taken with a grain of salt? Is it ever ok to not 100% believe the victim? To have serious questions about their story?

If someone’s first reaction to a story about sexual assault is disbelief, I feel that the more important question is “why are you struggling to believe this person?” I think asking these kinds of questions of oneself is important and in the end, much more difficult than questioning a person that we don’t even know.

I’m not saying that every single person who has ever said they were sexually assaulted was telling the truth. I would say that by a huge margin most are. I would also say that letting a handful of bad seeds impact the perception of the prevalence of sexual assault – and why victims wait so long to come out – kinda sucks.

I get having a questioning mind and wanting to know the truth. But we’re not the authority on their story. We don’t know anything about their experience. And offering ourselves into the conversation as some kind of faux-testimonial to that experience really, just… again, kinda sucks. 

If we start building this scale of believability we trap ourselves in little boxes of who is an acceptable victim. They have to report to these specific authorities, in this specific time. They have to look a certain way. Be of a certain socio-economic status. They must be beautiful and interesting. People must look at them and think the story they are telling is believable. It’s fucked up to judge a story on these characteristics.

And, of course, the issue of men being sexually assaulted is another thing entirely that we have barely tapped into. It is difficult to have this conversation alongside the issue of men-assualting-women because when we’re discussing power dynamics and gender equity, this is often where the conversation begins. Both conversations are important to have and they intersect at multiple places.

I can completely understand why a person who had been assaulted by a man, especially a man of significant social status, would not immediately come forward. Would you want to become famous for calling out a powerful man? To detail your assault publicly, risk coming out in the open with that story, and have no one believe you? Have it derail your life, your safety, your career? How difficult it is to face that head on? How it could impact your family? It’s easy to make assumptions and judgments when you haven’t been there. But that situation, true or not, isn’t a game to pick at. There are people who get paid to seriously ask these questions. They get paid to make their best (often terrible) determination of what happened. I’m not that person. Most of us probably aren’t.

In the end, I think it’s always better to step back and listen. Not only is it more constructive, but it’s also a more effective way to express compassion in a world that is seriously and deeply lacking it.

And, in the process, do what you can to support the people who are helping end sexual assault & sexual violence. A quick google will lead you to all kinds of organizations near wherever you are.

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Representation Matters

My Heroes Were Women

When I was a kid, my heroes were women. I loved Nala from the Lion King because she had spirit. I loved Jasmine from Aladdin because she knew she wanted to be free from her father and the palace. But their stories were shadowed by the male narrative. Young feminist me may have been able to surmise deeper meaning, but that’s not how those movies were marketed. They’re about the male story. They’re named after the male protagonists.

Even movies like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty indicate that the male holds the power. The prince presents the shoe and saves princess. The prince uses his sword to rescue the princess. I never saw these women as weak. Sometimes it felt like the male role had been written in later. A young girl scrubbing floors could just as easily learn how to battle, study code in her free time, start a bakery, or find any other way to be self-sufficient in her freedom. Simba could have enjoyed the freedom in the forest, choosing not to fulfill his duty as King. I’m pretty sure Nala could have figured it out. But that doesn’t really fit with the masculinity narrative.

In 2017, there isn’t much tiptoeing around. Moana is about a woman. It’s named after a woman. And a man doesn’t save her. She saves a man. The same could be said for Wonder Woman.

Sometimes to achieve equality you have to start with finding some semblance of equity. That means giving women more opportunity to make up for the historical and systemic lack of equality. More movies. Bridge the gap. Break the ceiling. Let it in.

Let’s Take Stock

I read in the newspaper today that the representation of women has changed in stock photos. Ten years ago the photos look light and innocent. Women laying in beds, eating salads, looking mute and disinterested. Today they’re hiking, climbing, mixing chemicals, coding, standing in front of their women-owned businesses with tags like CEO. PRESIDENT. BOSS.

I didn’t see these images when I was a kid.

I imagined my heroes as the leaders of their own show. I had no misconceptions about their independence. But in some way, it was a kids fantasy. Taking what was given to me and making it what I wanted it to be.

I didn’t grow up having anyone tell me that I could be the boss of anything. I just got told that I could do anything. That’s abstract, that’s good parenting. But it comes from a generation that doesn’t see what we see now. The details of what you can do anything means. The struggle that you have to take on to do anything. The privilege some people have that makes it easier. The tools to make anything really happen. The books that line the shelves at Powells. CODING FOR KIDS with a little girl on the cover. The feeling of pride when, briefly, we really believed that we had a chance at the first female PRESIDENT. Hearing podcasts like GIRLBOSS and being members of movements like BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN.

I feel like I’m climbing the edge of a cliff wet and slick with the tears of everyone who came before me. Bare hands, red knuckles, blisters and sweat. But my kids are getting climbing gear!

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How to Read The News as a Modern Woman

  1. Subscribe to The Skimm!
  2. Light your inbox on fire. What are you doing. I googled “summarized news for women” and The Skimm is the first thing that came up. The tagline is “making it easier for you to be smarter” which is basically the equivalent of using a pink pen for her. Why can’t women actually read the fucking news?
  3. And furthermore, I know that you saw The Skimm come into your inbox this morning and you looked at it like “Oh, the news” and maybe you clicked on it but more likely you just archived it like you have for the past five months because it clogs up your inbox and reminds you of how little effort you’ve actually put into caring about the dumpster fire that is America.
  4. You have to start caring about this dumpster fire. This dumpster is yours. You know in some recipes where it says “add one tablespoon of cold water” ??? no one is telling you that you need to hold the firehose. Just do the political equivalent of adding one tablespoon of cold water to this hot mess.
  5. I mean, I don’t have anything against The Skimm personally aside from it dumbing down the news with the explicit purpose of making it easier for the “modern woman” to read. I get it. You’re busy and it makes it easy to stay informed when you have a million other things going on.
  6. But delete it anyways, and read the actual news.
  7. You’re going to need this. Here. It’s a kit to help. A box of tissues. Ibuprofen to help with the swelling. A dash button that when pressed will signal to amazon that you would please like to buy a copy of Ivanka Trumps “Women Who Work” book. You click it several times. You need kindling. Our Republican overlords are making you feel the deep bone chill, that same chill you haven’t felt since you saw 1984 in theatres for the first time with your grandfather. He’d seen the war. If he were alive now, he wouldn’t read The Skimm.
  8. Subscribe to an actual paper, or two, or three. Pick a mantra. Something like “mainstream media” or “fake news” or “alternative facts” – a mantra that reminds you that politicians have pretty successfully and fairly quickly convinced a large population of people that being raped is a preexisting condition.
  9. Your blood pressure is spiking. You start to think “oh god, I miss The Skimm.” Fill a glass with water. Tell yourself it’s empathy. This is also called a placebo. Drink it fast before you can talk yourself out of it. A lot of people voted for these miserable sacks of shit. A lot of people. And what’s more likely? That they’re all miserable sacks of shit too? Or that something is amiss. Something is so very amiss. Something has gone wrong. And they yearned so deeply for something that they believed that this fucking guy could give it to them. That’s a special, deep kind of yearning. The “I sold my soul because it was literally the only thing I had left to bargain with” kind of yearning. And in this case, empathy is important. Because they royally fucked over a lot of people. They thought that it was the right thing to do.
  10. Give yourself a break. Not the “I’m going to subscribe to an easy-reader news-newsletter because the news really stresses me out” break. But while you’re pouring over this hot mess, I dunno, get yourself a latte. Or a nap or something.  It’s a lot of work being a modern woman.
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