But just in case your history is foggy, it was a phrase used in a debate on October 16, 2012 by Mitt Romney when responding to a question on how he sought to create a gender-balanced cabinet. It was not so much about whether or not he did try to recruit women. It became about the objectifying women to “figures” that could be put into binders.
Perhaps that had an effect on his prospects for election. I’m not sure. He didn’t win. For a variety of reasons. President Obama had been doing a good job, and the economy had turned around since 2008. So there were myriad reasons Mitt Romney did not succeed.
And yet: 4 years after that, we elected a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.
I know and realize that Hillary made a lot of mistakes in her campaign. I also believe that her “like-ability” was in question, and I believe that a lot of misogyny, both real and internalized, affected her odds of election. As I have already written, all candidates running for office are deeply flawed.
However, there are a record number of women running for office in 2018 who have been galvanized by the obvious misogyny of the current administration. Our sense of decency and fairness has been violated. Some might say “binders full of women” are stepping forward.
The recent result of the Supreme Court appointment of Justice Kavanaugh just rubbed salt into the wound for so many of us. I hope that voters keep in mind the flawed nature of our power structure as they go to the polls on Tuesday. Electing different people sends a message to our misogynist President and the party that still supports him.
I understand that some people do not plan to vote at all on Tuesday. I have already talked with an individual who believes the 2-party system is broken so he does not plan to vote. I feel very sad about that. And I believe this is the reason we have ended up with the leadership we have right now.
Please make a plan to vote on Tuesday, if you have not already voted absentee, or in early voting as some states allow. I am not going to tell you how to cast your vote. That is up to you. But when 40% or more of the country is not voting, it is much easier to ignore “we the people.”
That is a dangerous state for our democracy. Even if you think some candidates are flawed, show up and be counted. We need you. All of you. Do not drop out of your duty as a citizen.
Reader Warning: the following blog contains profanity and may not be suitable for young audiences. I will try to keep it to a minimum. Or maybe I am just not able to do that. So f*ck it.
My first response to reading Christine Blasey Ford’s opening statement (from a post at NPR News) to the Senate is: WHAT THE F*CK?!?
I have a strong sense of deja-vu in learning her story. This is a reputable woman who has much to lose by coming forward. I admire her courage deeply. She reminds me so much of Anita Hill, and of course the story echoes in all consciousness of women everywhere.
The #MeToo movement happened because way too many women have suffered either sexual assault and some point in their lives or sexual harassment in the workplace.
This has got to STOP.
Apparently Americans are divided along gender lines about whether they believe Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh, based on polls conducted Sept 22 to 24. But I am pretty convinced that when her public statement is read, and people learn her story, that attitude may shift.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has two Master’s degrees and a PhD. From her background and the context of her story, it is clear she has absolutely nothing to gain from coming forward with her story. The reason she came forward (and did so anonymously at first) was she felt like it was her civic duty.
Indeed, we must expect exemplary behavior from our Supreme Court Justices, or anyone in a position of such importance. Character is clearly an important part of the selection process, or one would hope the Senate would have that opinion.
What I am hearing from some of the Senators during the questioning process really disturbs me. One of them seemed to imply that a little “innocent” fun when men are teenagers is nothing that should derail someone’s career.
When will the “boys will be boys” excuse going away? And what is the impact if we dismiss this type of behavior, to someone who denies it and never apologized nor saw it as wrong?T hat is when I lost it and started screaming at my radio! What happened to Dr. Ford is was not innocent fun. It was a near rape. It was sexual assault. What will it say to teenage boys in the world and world if we call that a little “innocent fun?” Wow. No. Just NO! On so many levels.
Unfortunately I didn’t note the name of the Senator who asked that particular question. I would cite it here. Shame on him. What is clear to me is the role of male privilege in our power structures. Women are done with this. An unprecedented number of women have filed to run for office in 2018, 390 for the House of Representatives. This is not unrelated to the election of a “harasser in chief” who does not even deserve the title of President.
Anita Hill suffered and fortunately recovered and was able to go on to become a professor of sociology, law and gender studies at Brandeis. Hill believes that the current hearing cannot be “fair and thorough” and she told NPR that the hearing cannot provide enough information to reach a conclusion.
Where will we end up in the process of these hearings?
This remains to be seen.
What I know is that we need to denounce this kind of behavior. Unequivocally, and no matter what the result is of any investigation. We cannot say or even imply that this behavior is acceptable. Ever.
This post is a re-blog of an original I wrote in December, 2017, with some editing. On Thursdays I aim to review and edit some previously shared content to give myself more practice on the editing side. Thanks for your patience as I build my skills and allow myself to re-examine some favorite themes.
After my peaceful and grateful post yesterday, I dove into a few blogs based on some recommendations by WordPress. I read about women as superheroes, and encountered some powerful writing about racism and privilege in America. It hit me pretty hard, but the point landed, this idea that white people of this country built their foundation on treating black people as sub-human.
It is difficult to talk about this, to acknowledge it and to understand what it is like to be cast as the “other” when we are part of the dominant culture. As a pale Latina, I pass as white every day. And yet, part of me strongly identifies with this Otherness. When Philando Castile was killed in Falcon Heights, Minnesota in July 2016, I was in shock. This is not supposed to happen here, I thought.
But it happens everywhere. People are mistreated merely because of their darker skin or for their gender. Assumptions are made, and are reinforced. Political campaigns barely veil their “dog whistles” that appeal to the base, racist beliefs of their base.
There is a powerful dialogue from On Being with Krista Tippet, with Junot Diaz that keeps coming back to me on Radical Hope. One passage that keeps coming back to me as an empowering framework for re-considering how we view the body.
“I would remind us that, coming from a reality where our oppression was ineluctably linked to our bodies — that we had, for centuries, no rights to our bodies and that all of the traditional pleasures and all of the traditional freedoms of human agency were forbidden to those of us of African descent in the New World, for a long period of time — the body, in such a murderous regime, under such nightmarish conditions, becomes chapel, cathedral, dogma. It becomes nearly everything…
…for people like us, for people who come out of the African Diaspora in the New World, simply to fall in love, when you have historically been denied love, the right to just connect to the body which you have chosen and that has chosen you, means that an act of love is not only revolutionary, it’s not only transcendent, but it is the deific. It is Godlike. It is a taste of the omnipotent.”
I see parallels here in how slave ownership reflects a framework in which ownership of the body is central. It is a means of control and it is a means of denying basic humanity to people based on color.
I also see the ownership of body as a tool from a woman’s perspective and a feminist one. From our cultural lens, we have transcended a period when it was legal to own the bodies of African Americans. I also recently learned that early in our history, the practice of enslaving Native Americans occurred though was not explicitly legalized in the same way. (Listen to Hidden Brain’s “An American Secret” to learn more.)
Conceptually, I believe our patriarchy claims “ownership” of women’s bodies in a similar but more subtle way. Through creating laws to regulate women’s health, and their choices and ownership over their decisions about their bodies, we legalize yet another form of slavery. By judging appearance and “scoring” women on a scales of beauty or attractiveness, our media participate in this denigration of women’s bodies.
Recent disclosures of male authority figures using coercion and manipulation of women’s bodies against their will has shown the pervasiveness of this idea: women are routinely denied full access and ownership to their bodies. Women are “owned” and traded, consumed and marketed as commodities, products, objects that can be served up at will.
As I have come to a better relationship with my own body in my yoga and meditation practices, I now see how “radical” it is to reclaim our bodies. For those women (or men) who have endured assault or other violations of the body, there can be a numbness or a disassociation with parts of ourselves. Even for those of us who have not endured physical violence, the objectification of women’s bodies in so much of our daily media have taken their toll.
We disown parts of ourselves, perhaps our hunger, or our sexuality, as an attempt to distance ourselves from what is portrayed as dirty or distasteful. This is not a coincidence, nor is it a benign reality. Listening and attending to our bodies is a powerful tool. Disconnecting from the body separates us from our truth.
Churches that advise us to transcend the “carnal” and embrace the spiritual do us a disservice. For when we separate the body from the spirit or the soul, we disconnect what makes us whole as people. Sadly, this is more of a lived reality for women than for men in our current ethos.
What I would like to suggest is a radical and necessary step is for women to reclaim ownership of our bodies, in both real and symbolic ways. I see this not only as a personal and a wellness imperative, but as a political act. This is certainly not a new idea. Back in the 60’s and 70’s when the women’s liberation movement was at its height, this was certainly one of the goals.
Even my own personal weight struggle has been a process of coming to terms with loving and appreciating my own body. I recognize the ways in which I appropriated the body hatred that was rampant around me. It is a bad habit, this criticism of our body, diminishing the instrument of joy we have been given. But it is a habit that can be changed. Accepting and embracing our bodies and our feelings is a tool for empowerment. It is the place we must begin for full political and personal agency.
This Saturday Share will be a little different, as I feel compelled to share a poem this time rather than a blog. This poem has haunted me since I heard it read by Liz Gilbert last weekend during our workshop on creative living, when it sent chills down my spine.
It is entitled Breaking Surface, and I linked to it and copied the text below with attribution and tremendous respect for Mark Nepo. The bold type is mine.
Let no one keep you from your journey, no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won’t let one life be enough, no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up, no voice that tells you in the night
it can’t be done.
Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.
You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass. Your soul, the shore of a promise too great to be ignored.
Yesterday I read a line from a book by Sue Monk Kidd’s “Dance of the Dissident Daughter” that gave me a chill. It describes something about the transition state where I am in life right now and it summed up my feeling so perfectly.
When you can’t go forward and you can’t go backward and you can’t stay where you are without killing off what is deep and vital in yourself, you are on the edge of creation (page 100).
I took a deep breath when I read those words. Yes! Yes! She is describing how I feel right now. This was the end of her chapter on “Awakening” where she describes her journey out of a patriarchal understanding of her world and her religion into something deeper and mysterious.
There are times in our life when we may recognize there is something deep and mysterious calling to us. We sense that we are less of a “fit” with our old lives, and the systems in which we play a role. We know we will make a change of radical proportions, but we seek to understand the implications in our lives.
We begin to understand that wisdom is not something “out there” that we must find, or receive from someone else. Wisdom is here, inside of us, calling to us as though from an ancient source. When we begin to access that source, it has powerful consequences.
For so long, with images of God portrayed as a masculine figure in the sky, and religions that ordain men and not women, we as women begin to shrink from our own wisdom. We forget to question how patriarchy and dominant religion are entwined. In many indigenous spiritual traditions there are divine feminine and divine masculine figures. They coexist together, yin and yang energy.
To me, that is a more natural sense of divine presence. When I feel disconnected from source, I realize I have cut off my feminine wisdom that exists within my heart and my soul. Perfectly understandable, I suppose. The culture might radically change if we honored both masculine and feminine qualities, in a divine dance, rather than always viewing one as “in charge.”
Even that very model, as a hierarchy rather than a partnership, as top-down rather than in a network form, seems artificial and constructed to me. As a scientist, always questioning what nature might reveal to us if we were to pay attention to her, I realize my spirituality is undergoing profound change. Paying attention to this inner wisdom rather than subscribing to a “Father knows best” world means taking responsibility for my life.
Nobody else can tell me where my soul needs to go. But I know at a fundamental level, paying attention to her is what I must to do honor what is deep and vital in myself. In time, she will reveal what is next. There is no hurry, but I am ready to listen.
I speculated with my husband a few weeks ago about why the #MeToo campaign has really gained traction now, finally, after all these decades of bad behavior. I have a theory that so many women of my generation watched what happened to Anita Hill, and said, “shit, that is NOT worth it” and remained silent.
There are factors like “social proof” in terms of watching other women reporting harassment and abuse, and having nothing happen. Or worse, you see how coming forward hurts others careers when speak up, so you decide it will not help your career to report.
But then when the Harasser in Chief took office, there was a cascade of old trauma that came to the fore, and women started to think, why NOT now? If we cannot lash out at the most powerful predator, at least let us expose the ones that are within reach. That was my theory, anyway. I also saw a possible tipping point after the Harvey Weinstein story really took hold, an unleashing of all these incidents that could no longer be joked about or contained.
When I listened to the Hidden Brain podcast entitled “Why Now?” published on February 5, 2018, I was happy to note there is an actual term for this concept from social science called “horizontal action.” It originates from the concept of “horizontal violence” where it has been found that in colonial regimes, when people cannot lash out against the ruler, they lash out against people in their own lives.
When the pressure builds up and cannot blow the top off of a problem, it comes out sideways. Feminist studies professor Ashwini Tambe explains that “the election of Trump has served as a trigger, and it has provoked a great fury and impatience because he represents for many people the ultimate unpunished predator.” Horizontal action is a way that women have channeled in their lives their anger at the misogyny that has been building for far too long.
“It is so unbelievable that we have a president, who is the leader of the free world and does not care about the rights of women” (quote from the podcast). When someone who has bragged about kissing women and touching them against their will as though he owned them becomes our leader, we find ways to bring at men to account who committed other offenses.
This totally makes sense to me.
The podcast also describes other phenomena like “preference falsification” which blinds regimes to their citizen’s growing dissatisfaction. This describes how it seems surprising that the Wall came down, even when it looked like the Soviet Union may have been strong.
Please listen to this episode of Hidden Brain. I think it really helps to explain the psychology behind the secrecy of the abuse, and the reason many women stayed silent. We should not discount the trauma that shut people down who are in vulnerable circumstances.
We also need to keep speaking up and setting new norms around behavior, even though we may be perceived as “ugly” instead of polite. Women have been held back by centuries (perhaps millennia) of intimidation, oppression and violence.
It is time to hold men accountable and call out behavior that is wrong. At least, seeing how many women are doing this around us helps us know we are not alone. It is time to stop blaming victims for their inability to speak up earlier. We can all be a part of the solution to this problem now.
I love early mornings, when I sit with my coffee and write, sometimes with a cat on my lap, sometimes just with a few fresh ideas in my head. After a good night’s sleep, my mind is clear, and sometimes the remnants of a dream come forth. Very often I forget them right away, and that is okay. My subconscious lets me know when I need to remember them.
This morning I had fragments in my head of a song by Tori Amos that I have not hear in years, possibly decades: “Why do we crucify ourselves?” So that was fascinating. It is a good question though. Why indeed?
Isn’t it amazing how some music imprints itself upon us in a way we cannot explain. This particular album was introduced to me by my best friend in college. The Little Earthquakes album was a staple of our music mix in those days.
“I gotta have my suffering so I can have my cross…”
Yeah. I guess some of us were taught to use Jesus as an example of behavior we should follow. I am going to risk offending people in this post, and probably confess my beliefs here and how they have changed over the years.
I wholeheartedly embrace the example of Jesus as a spiritual teacher, perhaps even a savior in a way. But I always puzzled at people who are so self-sacrificing that they neglect their own self care. The Bible says that Jesus died for our sins, that his suffering was our redemption. So why do we insist on suffering more than needed?
Every human being suffers. It is part of our DNA. It is part of what helps us have empathy for others, the understanding of sadness, of grief, of anger, of any depth of emotion. And yet when we are young, some of us are told “don’t cry, it will be okay” or “honey, don’t be sad.”
It reflects possibly our parents’ inability to deal with their own emotions that they asked us not to express our own. Everyone has sadness, anger or loneliness at times in their life. It is okay. Nothing has gone wrong. These emotions help us to connect with ourselves, and with others, and to let us know when things may need to change in our lives.
Anger is how we SHOULD react to injustice. It is something that can motivate action, though not necessarily sustain it. And yet many of us were taught not to express anger, but to fear it. Or we were not shown that it was okay to be sad sometimes. But being angry or sad is part of the human condition, nothing that should shame us.
When we resist or deny our feelings, that is when they cause more suffering. Our feelings are like vibrations in the body. They come, they move through us, and they complete themselves. Probably no other practice has helped me understand this than yoga and meditation. Every emotional state is temporary. Many of these states are a result of our thoughts rather than anything external.
Simply by feeling our feelings, possibly naming and acknowledging them, we allow them to move through us. They can be a guide to let us know we should reach out to friends and connect with loved ones. They can help us know when we are moving toward danger or toward joy.
As more people develop emotional intelligence, they may learn to identify and embrace their emotions rather than “buffer” them away with alcohol, food, Netflix or other addictions. Instead of piling on the guilt and shame over feeling sad or angry, they can release this added suffering and feel more peace.
I certainly have not mastered this, and have had to deliberately practice feeling my feelings, and identifying the thoughts behind them. But it has allowed me to stop crucifying myself over mistakes, or my own shortcomings. That serves nobody. I am pretty sure Jesus would agree with me on this one, and allow me to forgive myself.