I Voted

“I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.”
-Jo March, Little Women (1994 film)

I wasn’t surprised to find out that my least favorite blogger is against a woman’s right to vote, but that didn’t keep me from feeling disappointed by it. Even though it’s been nearly 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, there are still people in the United States that think those of the female persuasion should not cast ballots of their own. I suppose that’s not a huge surprise given the diverse society we live in, but you almost never hear those folks expressing their wildly outdated opinions anywhere that the general public can hear them. Kind of like racism in the days before our current disgrace of a president. We all knew racists existed before he came on the political scene, but they were keeping their mouths shut to avoid derision. It’s sad how times have changed and empowered racists in the last few years. But I digress. Actually, the digression isn’t as off-topic as I would like. Around the 2016 election there was a scary and disheartening hashtag permeating social media – #RepealThe19th. Men (and maybe women too) who recognized that Trump would be elected president by a landslide if only males voted figured that one way to achieve their desired outcome was to float the idea of rescinding women’s suffrage. Pretty despicable by 21st century standards, but Trump tends to bring out the worst in people. Speaking of which, here’s what my least favorite blogger had to say about women voting a week before the 2018 midterm election.

“What are my thoughts on women voting? I have been asked this frequently. I am not a fan at all. Women overwhelmingly vote Democrat. They vote for big government to take care of them which means higher taxes and more laws and regulations which means less freedoms. They vote for free health care and abortions. They vote for leftist policies which are highly destructive to the family and culture.”
-My least favorite blogger, 10/29/18

So her initial gripe is that women vote Democratic, as if it’s a sin to disagree with her personal beliefs. Heaven forbid that we use the brains that God gave us and come to our own conclusions! Turns out my least favorite blogger does indeed vote, but only the way her husband tells her to. Thinking for yourself is just too much of a destructive feminist principle, I guess. Believe it or not, I don’t need a man to tell me my own mind, thank you very much. Even when I was married I didn’t consult my husband before heading to my polling place. We might not have had the greatest relationship, but he did trust me to make my own decisions in that area! Another one of this lady’s objections to women’s suffrage is that females vote for “free health care and abortions.” This is both an oversimplification and a gross inaccuracy at the same time. I don’t know anyone who believes that there is such a thing as “free” healthcare. We’re not stupid; of course we know that our taxes pay for anything subsidized by the government. What we’re striving for is more affordable coverage for everyone, especially for those who aren’t lucky enough to be covered through their employer or privileged enough to pay for it out of their own pockets. And although Jesus would most definitely be a proponent of caring for the sick and the poor, somehow my least favorite blogger disagrees with attempts to actually do so. And while we’re at it, let me say one last thing – absolutely no one is pro-abortion! Instead we Democrats are pro-choice, meaning that a woman should always have the safe and legal option of ending a pregnancy if that is her decision. Abortions are never taken lightly, even if opponents insist that they are, and often terminating a pregnancy is the hardest, most gut-wrenching decision a woman or a couple will ever make. Taking that option away would be a step backwards for this country. Bodily autonomy is something that males have enjoyed since the beginning of human history, but it is something females are still trying to achieve for themselves. We have come a long way, but there are still inequalities that need to be reconciled. This is one of the reasons I vote!

In conclusion, the United States government was founded with the concept of the separation of church and state, and women were granted the right to vote via the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. If someone wishes to abstain from voting for any reason (religious or otherwise), that is their choice. However, no one has the power to enforce their beliefs in a manner that prevents me from casting my ballot and voting for any candidate I want. As an American woman who wants to have a say in the governing of my country I mailed in my ballot for the 2018 midterm election back in October. I did my civic duty and made my voice heard. What a concept!

The wrong direction

“If rape becomes legal under my proposal, a girl will protect her body in the same manner that she protects her purse and smartphone. If rape becomes legal, a girl will not enter an impaired state of mind where she can’t resist being dragged off to a bedroom with a man who she is unsure of — she’ll scream, yell, or kick at his attempt while bystanders are still around. If rape becomes legal, she will never be unchaperoned with a man she doesn’t want to sleep with. After several months of advertising this law throughout the land, rape would be virtually eliminated on the first day it is applied.”
-Roosh V, “How to Stop Rape”

Back in 2015 the man who wrote this (who makes a living telling men how to pick up and have sex with women all over the world, by the way) proposed making rape legal in private property. So if a man takes advantage of a woman in his own house or in hers there would be no repercussions. (Or vice versa. I acknowledge that there are women who rape men as well.) First of all, have you ever read something so disgusting? I could devote an entire post to describing how much I despise this jerk for writing such a sexist, misogynistic, backwards “article” dripping with male privilege, but instead I want to make one particular point. The major fallacy in this dude’s hypothesis is that rape happens because women aren’t vigilant enough. Obviously he’s not female or he’d know that his underlying premise couldn’t be more wrong. Women already go to unbelievable lengths to safeguard our bodies and our property. Let me tell you a story about what happened to me this spring, which I briefly mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

On my way home from boot camp I stopped by the grocery store. It was about 9 PM so it was dark, and there were very few cars in the parking lot that late. Seal Beach is a sleepy little town at heart so things get quiet early around here. After I made my purchases I walked out of the store to head back to my car. I looked both ways as I went outside and I immediately noticed that there was a man standing to the right of the door. This fact by itself wasn’t cause for alarm, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw that he started following me. I recognized the possible danger right away because women have learned to observe our public surroundings in order to ensure our safety. That’s why I wasn’t oblivious of the risk I was facing simply walking 50 feet to my car. I increased my pace and got to my car as quickly as I could, climbed inside (unceremoniously tossing my bag of groceries onto the passenger seat), and locked the doors. My heart was racing. My potential assailant walked around the car to stand right next to my driver’s side window and wave at me. He was obviously targeting me or else he would have just kept walking. In all likelihood he was simply a homeless man wanting a handout, but after scaring the crap out of me I didn’t give him the chance to ask. I reversed my little SUV out of its parking space like I was in “The Fast and the Furious” and got the hell out of there. It was a terrifying situation, but luckily I didn’t experience any negative consequences. Other women in similar situations are not so lucky.

I don’t know how I could have possibly been any more vigilant. Not to mention how ridiculous it is to place all of the responsibility on my shoulders in this scenario. As I read in this article on Odyssey, “And, why is it the woman’s job to constantly be on high alert? Why can there be no push for rape to stop, so that she can live without fear?” Bingo. That’s the objective of the #metoo movement. To shift the blame from the victims to the perpetrators, where it rightly belongs, so that women feel safe to come forward and make reports when they are attacked. That’s the direction our society needs to go in order to achieve true gender equality. It’s sad, but we still haven’t achieved a culture where males are consistently held accountable for their despicable actions towards females. If a woman is sexually harassed or raped by a man he should be punished for the act, and the victim shouldn’t have her life ruined for coming forward and telling authorities. However, Roosh V is advocating taking our country in the wrong direction – back towards the end of the spectrum where a man can do no wrong. We cannot allow this to happen. Listen to women when they tell their personal stories, believe women when they say they have been victimized, and don’t let their claims get be swept under the rug!

Sacrifices

“In order to want to get married and have children, young women must be willing to sacrifice their time, energy, and maybe even their gifts, and most young women don’t seem to want to do these things. They also must learn to be a help meet to their husband and serve him by learning to have a meek and quiet spirit if they marry. They must learn to sacrifice their body, time, and energy to raise godly offspring which is difficult. Yes, marrying and bearing children requires a lot of sacrifice that many young women have no desire to do these days, sadly. (It’s heartbreaking to me.) Instead, they would rather sacrifice their time, money, and energy for a career that may keep them from marrying and raising their children, if they do have children.”
-My least favorite blogger, 9/13/18

I’m sure no one is surprised that this was written by my least favorite blogger. Yep, I continue to read her posts periodically in order to find inspiration (more like irritation) for my own writing. An unlikely spot for a feminist to find writing prompts! Funny enough, in the post I grabbed this excerpt from she used an image of the space shuttle to represent “women’s trajectory towards worldly success.” It’s like my least favorite blogger wrote this with me in mind. Well, here’s my response. Are you out of your freakin’ mind, lady? Why must women sacrifice the gifts that God gave them just to get married and have families? Men don’t have to do this. They are allowed, or rather encouraged, to use the full extent of their talents out in the world to earn money and support their loved ones. But for some reason fundamentalist Christian women are taught to ignore their innate abilities to submit to a man and raise as many children as that man desires. This is an archaic way of thinking, not just in 2018, but for at least the last century. Why would God give females intelligence, skills, and passions if he wanted us to ignore them? Why aren’t we simply born with the bare minimum needed to be wives, housekeepers, and mothers? Because not all women are meant to walk the same narrow path! To prove this you don’t even need to look outside the Bible for all of the examples you could ever need. Of course, everyone has to make sacrifices during their lifetimes, but there is no reason that women need to set aside everything that makes them unique in order to have a man put a ring on her finger. Fortunately, even among the usual comments praising my least favorite blogger for her assertions, I found plenty of other women who objected to the restrictions laid out in her blog post. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • 9/11/18: “Sometimes God’s plan doesn’t include marriage or it’s not in the time frame of early 20s. I’m certain that God wouldn’t advocate for simply marrying someone just to stay home and not be in the workforce, instead of waiting on God’s best. You can’t claim to speak for God and say that everyone who’s not married is simply seeking their own way…God designed us with different gifts and talents, hence there is no cookie cutter age for a life plan of marriage.”
  • 9/13/18: “If your only message as an older women is to tell younger women their only calling is to serve a husband and bear children than you’re putting your own God in a box. What he calls a woman to do is between Him and her.”
  • 10/1/18: “Only God can tell an individual what His will is for them, so nobody can possibly know what God has planned for someone else’s life. Not all women are called to the same thing. God does not call every woman to marriage and kids, and I can definitely see how it would be off-putting to many women for you to say that you know exactly what God wants them to do with their lives. You can’t know God’s will for anyone but yourself.”

Luckily I know that my least favorite blogger has no way to enforce her beliefs upon every woman of childbearing age. Ladies who disagree with her can rest assured that they won’t be locked inside their homes with only a mop and bucket to pass the time. Nothing can force them to use their brains only for keeping their houses clean and their husbands happy. In this day and age females have nearly limitless options so never let anyone tell you otherwise!

Follow your instincts

Earlier this year a woman posted in the Seal Beach Facebook group to warn residents that her daughter had been followed down Main Street and into several different shops by a man she didn’t know. Her instincts told her that there was something off about the situation so she pretended to take a photo of the man, causing him to quickly flee the scene. Fortunately for this young woman the story has a benign, although unsettling, ending. And most of the folks in the Seal Beach FB group agreed that she was lucky and had handled the situation well. For the most part, our little town is incredibly safe and I have rarely been fearful for my security. But to reiterate that dangerous situations still happen, even in our sleepy beach community, I told a condensed version of a story where a man followed me in the grocery store parking lot late one night. (I’ll expound on this is a separate post.) Here is how the FB comment section unraveled afterwards. (Note: Last names have been removed, and I have edited the comments somewhat to keep the narrative as brief and to-the-point as possible.) The bottom line is, follow your instincts and believe women when they say they have been targeted!

  • Lauren: “I had a man follow me out to my car in the Pavilions parking lot one night. Fortunately I saw him and got in my car quickly and locked the door. He stood next to my driver’s side window and waved at me. I believe he was just asking for a handout, but I didn’t give him a chance to say anything. Once I got home I called the store and told them about the situation.”
  • Josh: “Personally, I’d rather enjoy life and deal with situations as they arise and not be on constant alert, believing everything is a threat. Terrorism works because the actual harm is statistically small (3k people died in 9/11; 35k people die every year in car accidents alone), but the emotional reaction ruins people’s lives, ruins entire economies. Bad things happen, but not very often, statistically, and media that implies that bad things happen all the time is, in my view, salacious and manipulative.”
  • Lauren: “Unfortunately as women we have to be vigilant or we are vulnerable. Take a look at the comment I made just before yours. I was not a victim because I was alert, recognized the situation, and got myself to a safe place. Others are not so lucky.”
  • Judi: “It’s easy to feel this way when you’re a man. You have no idea what it’s like to be a woman – we have to be ever vigilant and aware. That’s not to say we have to live in fear and paranoia, but for us, the threats are very real. Sex trafficking aside (which is also an increasingly growing threat) – 1 in 4 (or more likely 1 in 3) women are sexually assaulted in their lives. Don’t deny or diminish our experience as women, you really have no idea.”
  • Josh: “You should become aware of any sudden increase in immediate physical risk to you (or your family). But that is not the same as ‘increased vigilance,’ which I am thoroughly against. Increasing vigilance decreases the threshold for threat detection. This might seem safer, but you pay for it. First, you live a more stressed life. Second, you run a higher risk of false positives. If everyone becomes hyper vigilant, society as a whole suffers. Seriously, if you want to actually minimize your risk of harm and not just make yourself stressed: be extra careful crossing the street and never ever drink before driving.”
  • Lisa: “Josh, first of all, I’d like to address your lack of grace. This was a warning, which is a reminder to be ‘more aware.’ Your comments have intruded and quite honestly lacked any compassion to this topic. Secondly, because you’re a man does indeed make it feel ‘minimized’ by you. Obviously you have a right to feel the way you do and have your judgements but because the nature of this awareness is scary – is not the right time to blast your thoughts of ‘mass hysteria.’ Sir, I have been prey to this type of situation and also was a victim of a mass shooting! There is no harm in saying keep your eyes, and ears open, and look for your exits. If you disagree, then give grace and get off the thread. This I guess, doesn’t apply to you.”
  • Lauren: “Josh, you have every right to live your life in whatever way you wish. And so do we. The fact is that you cannot understand the female experience if you aren’t one. I don’t live my life in fear, especially in Seal Beach, but I am still aware of my surroundings. And it has served me well.”
  • Josh: “I will not raise my daughter to live in fear. You are welcome to do as you like, of course. Sharing my view is no more or less intrusive than you sharing yours. Cheers and may reason prevail over emotion.”
  • Lauren: “And may real-life experiences open our eyes to what is actually going on around us.”
  • Judi: “Josh – I do actually understand what you’re saying and to some extent, I can agree on certain points, but you’re off base to not acknowledge that sex-trafficking and also generalized threats to women and children are very real. You may be able to assess risks based on statistics and even empathize with a person’s experiences in life, but that doesn’t give you the authority to speak to the experiences of women in the same way I – as a white woman – can’t speak to the experiences of a black man navigating life in our society. There’s a difference between being aware, knowing our individual risks, and being smart about how we handle those vs. living in fear. I’ll opt everyday for the first two for myself and to teach that to my children. My husband and I were discussing this recently when we parked at the mall. We parked in a not-well lit structure at dusk. I told him that if I were alone, I never would have parked there knowing I’d be returning to my car after dark. That really gave him pause and he said he’s never given any thought to where he was parking based on lighting or the time of day. Exercising caution about where I park and teaching my daughters to do the same is being aware of our risk and being smart – not living in fear. There’s a difference there that you don’t seem to be delineating between. Why wouldn’t I want to become aware of a sudden physical risk (one that may cause me harm), as you suggested, than use extra vigilance and take precautions to not end up in that situation in the first place?”
  • Mark: “Josh, big difference between ‘situational awareness’ and being ‘paranoid.’ I would suggest you get up to speed with human trafficking numbers. The vast majority are young women, and it’s a lot more than 100. California, Texas, and New York have the highest numbers. San Francisco and San Diego top the cities in CA. It’s real, and it’s getting worse.”

I believe her

“In an effort to preserve my sanity I have been using Facebook mostly for photos lately, but today I have to say something. What kind of message are we sending to the females in this country by putting a man on the Supreme Court who has been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct (at the very least) by multiple women? How many young girls are watching this unfold and deciding that they will never report sexual assault because of how Kavanaugh’s accuser was treated? How many young boys are realizing that they can get away with bad behavior because a judge on the highest court in the land was given a free pass and a guaranteed job for life? This is a step backwards for our country. Maybe several steps. It makes me sick.”
My 10/6/18 Facebook post

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that on October 6th Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. This was in spite of the fact that he had been accused of sexual assault by three different women, one of whom was brave enough to publicly identify herself and testify in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing after the judge’s nomination. For hours Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was grilled by Senators and prosecutors about the details of a night back in 1982 when she says a drunk Kavanaugh trapped her on a bed with his body, groped her, tried to undress her, and covered her mouth with his hand so she couldn’t scream for help. They were both high schoolers at the time. The two boys in the room laughed while a helpless Christine was terrified that she was going to be raped or accidentally asphyxiated. Very fortunately luck was on her side and she was able to escape the assault without more severe physical consequences, but not before she suffered deep emotional scars that would affect her for life.

A lot of people (mostly Republicans who were eager to get Kavanaugh’s position on the Supreme Court secured) dispute this accusation, especially since the event happened so long ago, but Dr. Ford took a polygraph in August and she was determined to be telling the truth. As a woman who has been taken advantage of by men, and who knows a number of ladies who have been raped, I believe sexual assault reports. Or at least take them very seriously until there is evidence to the contrary. In our patriarchal society males have a majority of the power and can get away with all sorts of nefarious deeds with minimal consequences. And sexual crimes are rarely prosecuted even if they are reported to the police in a timely manner. Even with physical proof gathered by a rape kit, or even eyewitnesses, it usually becomes a “he said, she said” situation where a rapist can lie and go free. All the while, the victim who was injured, both in body and soul, has every aspect their behavior during the assault, as well as their life in general, raked across the coals in order to discredit them. The deck is stacked against them from the start. I came across this comment on a blog post that disputes this ridiculous practice.

“When somebody says their car got stolen, nobody says ‘Well, let’s wait until we have all the facts’ or ‘Well, you really shouldn’t have parked it in a bad part of town or ‘You’re not just saying that because you wrapped it around a telephone pole while you were drunk, are you?’ But when a woman comes forward and says she got raped, she gets hit with ‘Did you scream?’, ‘What were you wearing?’, ‘Did you come on to him?, ‘Oh, come on now, he’s a pillar of the community, he wouldn’t do that!’, or ‘You’re not just saying that to get him in trouble, are you?’ Or, more likely, most of the above.”
-Blog comment from A Guide to Sexual Assault Claims for Bible Belt Evangelicals

And we still wonder why women don’t report sexual assault! Because more often than not, nothing happens to our assailants even when we do! This needs to change. We need to believe women when they tell someone they were raped or attacked. We need to take all accusations seriously even if they seem unlikely. We need to make sure that there is no backlash against the victims (unless they make a false report, of course). We need to ensure that adequate consequences for sexually aggressive behavior are levied on the men that use women against their will for their own selfish pleasure. This should not be a partisan issue. Everyone, both Republican and Democrat, should find rape repulsive and want it stopped. Unfortunately the behavior of certain groups makes me think otherwise. They would rather protect their “chosen one” rather than force him to admit that he acted like less than a gentleman when he was younger. Heaven forbid he have to take responsibility for his actions. And since the Senate disregarded Dr. Ford’s testimony and (narrowly) voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court he doesn’t have to. Tragic.

P.S. In situations such as this you’ll hear the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” a lot, especially by the deniers However, that concept only applies in criminal trials. Brett Kavanaugh’s wasn’t applying for a job at a fast food restaurant – he was nominated to fill a lifetime position on the highest court in the land. His personal life was as free to be scrutinized as his professional life.

Deserved to die?

A while back an article was brought to my attention about Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student who was murdered while out jogging over the summer. This wasn’t a straightforward, fact-based news story detailing the tragic death of a promising young woman, but an opinion piece by a judgemental “Christian” woman calling herself The Thinking Housewife who suggested that Mollie was at least partially responsible for her own death. Yep, she pointed an accusatory finger at the girl who was abducted, killed, and dumped in a corn field. Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this is ludicrous. The author of this blog post speculated that Mollie was a target for a man to murder simply due to her clothing choices and their effect on her attacker’s impressionable male brain. Here it is in her own words.

“Feminism is also to blame for her death. A society that says female modesty and restraint are oppressive does not protect young women from potential predators. No amount of feminist social engineering can change the facts of nature. A woman who jogs in skimpy clothes on country roads — or even in the city — is a serious temptation to a small criminal element. Jogging in revealing clothes – or even just jogging alone – is dangerous. Safety depends on modesty and restraint.”
The Reckless Female Jogger

This is blatant victim blaming. Heaven forbid some “ladies man” has to control not only his lustful thoughts, but his violent sexual tendencies in the presence of an attractive woman. From the news reports I’ve read, Mollie’s alleged murder got angry when she rejected his advances, and his response was to attack and kill her. First of all, females running outside (or inside, even) are not doing so for the benefit of onlookers! Believe it or not, we exercise for our own health and well-being and not as a pretense to beguile the opposite sex. Additionally, society has convinced men that they are entitled to the attention of any woman they want just for having a penis. We ladies are supposed to be flattered, bat our eyelashes, and thank our lucky stars when a member of the male species deems us worthy of their consideration. These are lessons that we all need to unlearn.

As you can see in the above photo, the members of my running group don’t wear anything remotely provocative. Some of the ladies are in great shape, but the rest of us aren’t quite so fit (including myself!). Still, even though I don’t look like a fitness model, I wear tight shorts or pants when I run (because if I didn’t I would have serious problems with chafing), and I wear fairly close-fitting shirts too (because otherwise the fabric would move against my skin and cause rashes in terrible places). No, I don’t run in short-shorts or an exposed sports bra, but my outfit still wouldn’t be considered “modest” enough for The Thinking Housewife. According to her, if some man approached me with ill intent it would be at least partially my fault for enticing him with my provocative clothing choices. How dare I wear an outfit that’s appropriate for my current activity! I have been on the receiving end of unwanted attention while running, and I’ve responded in the most rational way possible – I flipped the bird at those jerks. But I’ve been one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been physically assaulted – not because of my outfit, but because I was extremely fortunate. What a woman is wearing rarely has any impact on a man’s bad behavior, and implying otherwise does a disservice to both sexes.

Offended vs. offensive

In case you were wondering if there was any resolution to the issue in my last post, the McGaugh Elementary principal apologized in an email to school families on Thursday. From what the online article quotes, it sounded like a half-hearted apology to me. One those that basically says, “I’m sorry if I offended you,” where the inclusion of the word “if” means that the author isn’t really admitting fault. Instead, the blame is put on others for being offended. This seriously pisses me off, but it’s not up to me to forgive her. That’s for the families and the school district to decide.

As a follow-up to my previous blog post I thought I’d address a similar situation – one that involves me this time. In February 2017 I posted a statement on my Facebook wall after a shocking interaction with a friend that left me nearly speechless. In one afternoon this friend managed to make derogatory statements about blacks, transgender people, immigrants, ComicCon attendees, and the homeless. I didn’t even know it was possible to display that level of insensitivity in a single day. In general I don’t think it’s my job to try and change people’s opinions, no matter how different they are from mine, but in this instance I could only hold my tongue for so long. After she attacked homeless people for “checking out of society” I finally challenged her views. It didn’t really make a difference, but I couldn’t just passively listen to her stream of ignorance any longer. I was so upset that when I got home I posted something vague about it on Facebook. Here’s what happened next. (Note: Other than my own, the names have been changed to avoid further conflict.)

  • Lauren: I’ll preface this with the fact that I’m a liberal and a feminist, but I’ve had all the intolerance I can stand. I just don’t understand how inclusiveness, sensitivity, and avoiding offense can be a bad thing.
  • George: Taken from Reddit – “There’s nothing wrong with being offended by something.
    There is a problem with not being able to personally deal with your own feelings of offense, and trying to regulate/control other people so that you won’t be offended. It’s selfish, bigoted, and myopic. As they say; offense is taken, not given.”
  • Jane: Translation – “I want to be able to do whatever I want, and if anybody holds me accountable, I would like to pretend it is because they suck, not because I am sometimes wrong, or because being a human who has social relationships with other humans necessarily means sometimes being told I messed up and apologizing.” Seriously, George, this quote is bizarre. If you were walking down the street and someone punched you in the face, would you be wrong to say, “What the hell, man?!” Being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. is repulsive, hurtful and preventable, and it’s actually peak fragility to think one must never get pushback about it.

Some people don’t seem understand that there’s a difference between “offended” and “offensive.” I am not a member of any of the groups that my friend disparaged that day so I wasn’t directly offended by what she said, but her comments were undoubtedly offensive to blacks, transgender people, immigrants, ComicCon attendees (nerds like me, actually), and the homeless. Just because a person’s insulting statements don’t apply to anyone in their audience doesn’t mean that they aren’t still insults. I wasn’t to blame for objecting to my friend’s comments, but that’s what George’s response above would have you believe. I used to be married to a man who blamed me for everything so this behavior of making the opposing party the one at fault isn’t anything new. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. Never feel like you are “selfish, bigoted, or myopic,” as George said, because you call out someone for offensive things they say. We have to continue to challenge abhorrent views and behaviors or humankind will never make progress. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Subtext is important

It’s an extraordinary day when the daily post from my least favorite blogger isn’t the thing that gets me the most riled up (although today she wrote about the “sin” of obesity so it was a close call). Nope, today it was something from my own little community that disturbed me the most. When I woke up this morning I saw a thread in the Seal Beach Facebook group regarding law enforcement and news crew activity at the local elementary school. Fortunately it wasn’t something life-threatening like a shooting or a hostage situation. Thank goodness! After reading the associated article on the Orange County Register I learned that the McGaugh Elementary School principal posted something contentious on her personal Facebook wall regarding the Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. Yep, another social media scandal. We can’t seem to learn from even the very recent past when it comes to these situations. Here’s an excerpt from the OC Register article.

Along with thousands of other people around the country expressing similar viewpoints, Roni Burns-Ellis turned to Facebook Tuesday, Sept. 4, to condemn Nike for featuring controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an ad. But as principal of McGaugh Elementary in Seal Beach, Burns-Ellis drew her own controversy. Above her photo of a Nike T-shirt cut into pieces, Burns-Ellis wrote on her personal Facebook page: “My newest rag! When Nike signs an anti-American thug to represent their brand, I will not support, wear, purchase or endorse their product.”

I added the bolding myself because that is the root of the problem. After reading the principal’s FB post, a Seal Beach resident went to the school administration’s office to complain about her use of a racist term to describe Kaepernick. This woman is in a position of leadership over not just adults, but also children. It’s understandable that parents would be alarmed by racist views expressed by such leadership, right? The elementary school has students of many colors and backgrounds so the principal’s FB post is not just generally offensive, but directly offensive to black students and their families. Seems straightforward to be, but unfortunately not to everyone. The main dispute in the Seal Beach FB page thread was over whether “thug” is in fact a racist term. So many people cited the bland dictionary definition to prove that race was not an implication in the principal’s use of the word. The shortsightedness of this argument is astounding. Unfortunately, there are untold numbers of words that have meanings beyond than the ones in a large, dusty, probably outdated volume. How many times have you had to consult Urban Dictionary to ascertain the current usage of a word or phrase? (I am old and out of touch so I use Urban Dictionary a lot!) We are all aware that calling a person of color an ape, baboon, or monkey is overtly racist, especially due to a few high-profile cases this year, but you won’t find words explicitly defining those terms as racist in your home dictionary. I found an NPR article that explained it better than I ever could – “One of the things that Americans have a whole lot of trouble with…is that words never keep their meanings over time. A word is a thing on the move. A word is a process. And that’s what’s so confusing about the N-word. And that’s what’s so confusing now about this word, thug. Any discussion where we pretend that it only means one thing is just going to lead to dissension and confusion.” The bottom line is that subtext is lost on folks who willfully ignore it. Luckily there was one encouraging comment from a woman in the FB thread.

A vast majority of McGaugh’s military families are minorities. Military members who take off their uniform at the end of each day and step out into the civilian world, only to face discrimination because of the color of their skin. Minorities in the military are not safe from unjust treatment by people in positions of power. I hope all of you parents/community members reading this will take a step back and remember that behind a parent’s job title, there are people and families of color, including black husbands and sons like my very own, who benefit from people like Kaepernick speaking up for them. Calling a black man a “thug” just because you don’t agree with the way he’s exercising his freedoms as an American is racist. It truly is. Please remember that every single service member past and present, signed an oath to defend the constitution and the freedoms that it grants. I don’t pretend to speak for all military families, but I do know many local military families (and thousands across the country) share my sentiments. And I hope you all will help hold those who are supposed to advocate for all of their students, students of color included, accountable for not doing so.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! In a post back in May, I stated that “Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired.” Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequence! We’ll see how this plays out for the McGaugh Elementary School principal.

Shutting down hate

“In the past I don’t think I have expressed my opinions as freely as I should have. Before now I have felt intimidated by opinionated people and rarely did I oppose them for that reason. Everyone should be able to say what they think, but in a way that does not degrade any particular person for their beliefs.”
5/19/99 webpage post

I was reading my very first webpage post from 5/19/99 the other day and I was struck by the above excerpt. It’s remarkably wise for my immature and inexperienced twenty year-old self. I’m pretty sure I talked a big talk, but didn’t live up to it in real life. Even so, my thinking was on the right track at a young age. Unfortunately I met my ex-husband a couple of years later and over the course of our eleven year relationship I was groomed to keep any displeasure to myself. I’ve written about emotional abuse in my marriage before and this was another aspect of it. Anytime I expressed unhappiness I was somehow persuaded into thinking that everything was my fault and that I should fix the problem on my own (whether or not I caused it) and keep quiet about it. It was a real step backwards in my personal development. Eventually I came to the miraculous realization I that I didn’t need to live that way! I rescued myself from that toxic relationship and a lifetime of misery with someone who didn’t respect me.

Now that I’m older and finally free to be whoever I want I am relearning the same lessons that I did back in college. Not long ago there was an incident at work where I was compelled to shut down hate speech. Working closely with a lot of people I am fully aware that we all have differing opinions, and we are entitled to them, but there are lines that I am not willing to tolerate being crossed in my presence. So when I heard a co-worker expressing anti-Muslim sentiments there was no way I could let it go. In no uncertain terms I informed him that his conversation was not appropriate for work. I didn’t try to correct his views (although I consider them repulsive – I respect all religions while not being religious myself), but made sure that he knew that he should not be discussing them at our place of employment. I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking because he ignored me and kept talking. So I raised my voice and forcefully said, “I’m not kidding, that is not an appropriate topic of conversation at work.” (As a side note, internally I feared I was being bitchy. Thanks to society women are conditioned to be pleasant all the time or risk being considered bitches, but that didn’t stop me from standing my ground when he didn’t shut up.) So what was the response after my second admonition? “I thought this was a free country.” Seriously? This made me even angrier than the initial religion bashing. Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired. My blood was boiling at this point, but I had a job to do so I got back to it. Later that day I described the incident to a manager because I think all employees have an obligation to stop this despicable sort of discrimination. Fortunately management took my report seriously and the situation was quickly dealt with. Still, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It blows my mind that people walk around with so much hate. Our world would be a much more harmonious place without it.