Thursday, March 09, 2017

Stories of Sexism and Violence

There is a blog that I posted last year and again this year when it showed up in my memories for the day. The author grew up in Montreal, Canada. Except for a few early years in Texas, I grew up in California and then Oregon. I should feel a kinship with this woman on the other side of the continent, in another country, and I do. Our experiences are eerily familiar. And this horrifies me. It is disturbing that two women so far apart can have the same feelings, been preyed upon in the same manner. It means that our experiences aren't limited to a geographical area. Or a certain type of man. Or a period in time. They are rampant. They happen every day to every one of us. And there is no end soon in sight.

As I read her words again, I started to recall my own stories. The ones that are non-fiction. Those that haunt me. These are just some of them.

I'm four or five. Young. My class is on a field trip at the police station. There is a large carpet depicting roads and street signs. There is a tricycle on the carpet meant to be a vehicle. I want to "drive" the streets so I raise my hand. The police man chooses me. He says, "My, you're a pretty little girl." I can "drive" and show the other kids how to use the traffic signs, but first I must kiss him on the cheek. I don't really want to "drive" after that.

I'm five. My parents are divorced and my dad has custody but he works so his family friend watches me during the day. Her son is my age. He wants to show me his penis. I don't really care to, but he makes it sound like I really want to. Only he wants to see what I have. I do it just so we can move on and play. It happens a few times and one day his mom catches us and beats the shit out of me.

In sixth grade there is a boy who torments me relentlessly. He snaps my bra and when I get mad, he tells our teacher that I told him to "keep his black hands off of me." I am both humiliated that my teacher, who I respect more than almost anyone, knows that I now wear a bra and that someone touched me without my permission. I am devastated that he thinks I blamed it on the color of his skin when the thought never occurred to me and I cry like my heart is broken. Because it is.

I'm 12 and a family member hugs me but his hand lands between my legs. I pull away in disgust and he acts innocent. "What? What's wrong?" This happens intermittently and semi-regularly until I am 17. He shoves his tongue in my mouth, grabs a breast. I stop him every time and leave the room, but I don't tell anyone because I'm the one that feels ashamed. I don't tell my mom until after I'm married and I think the only reason I forgive him now is because he's old and frail and can't hurt me anymore.

I'm 18. My boyfriend is arguing with me for no reason, we work together in a store at the mall. I turn to leave and he grabs me, turns me around, and shoves me against the door. It's a metal door with a bar in the middle. I try to hit him but he has my arms pinned. As recognition at what he's done spreads across his face, he tells me with fat tears how sorry he is and that I must be so worried about what will happen next time. I tell him that a next time means he'll never see me again. He never touches me like that again, but he breaks things. He breaks my windshield and then his on separate occasions. When I'm 21 and I drive from Oregon back to college in Southern California, I decide to stay with my roommate and her mom in their hotel. I'm tired and tired of being in the car so I deny his invitation to go to his place. His invitation turns into a demand and then a threat. I hear a bottle break in the sink as he threatens to kill himself and I hang up. I end the relationship a few days later.

I'm 22 and engaged. We live together. I weigh maybe 96 pounds but I've always had a little belly. He tells me I'm fat. When he gets home from work he asks if I worked out, saying, "You were home all day. What else do you have to do?" I cry and wish I could be really fat so he'd have something real to complain about.

Years later when we're getting divorced, he tells me he will find someone young, blond, and thin. I am 10 years younger than him at 26 and still weigh under 110 pounds.

I'm a single mom and I work in an insurance office.  When I first start, the owner tells a male co-worker to tell a female co-worker to to tell me to wear a bra with more padding. The office is always freezing. There is an underwriter who asks inappropriate and personal questions when I make changes to my own policies. I tell my boss and he laughs it off. When I bring up sexual harassment and tell him I will do something if he doesn't, he finally calls the underwriter's supervisor. There continue to be comments on how I dress.

I'm in my 30's and live with a boyfriend. I go home at my lunch hour and the husband of his friend is working construction in our neighborhood. He follows me to the mailbox and grins, saying I should invite him over for lunch sometime. At a party with other friends, he walks behind me and rubs his whole front against my back. The room isn't that crowded.

I'm at a dinner with about 10 other people and an executive of our company who is in town for some meeting. He goes on and on about his toddler and his wife and how much he loves her. As people start to leave, he slides around the booth and puts his hand on my thigh while he whispers his room number in my ear. I tell him I won't be needing it. Several months later I'm in a car full of co-workers and my manager on our way to a conference. I tell this story and everyone is repulsed. Several months more go by and I get pulled into the HR office because a rumor is going around about that incident. I confirm that it happened and that, because men are constantly inappropriate and I would probably never see him again, I didn't feel the need to report it. However, my manager gets called out for not reporting it when he heard the story months before. Soon after I'm put on a performance review and the HR manager tells me she thinks it's a retaliation and to keep her informed if my manager says anything out of bounds.

I'm over 40. My boyfriend gets mad when I buy a pair of shoes in a color he doesn't like. When we argue, I tell him he needs to leave but he continues on and on until I hyperventilate. He tells me that my ear piercings look trashy. That I'm book smart but have no common sense. That I'm beautiful but, but, but...

I'm 45 and have recently ended a relationship. It was a mutual breakup with no animosity. A few weeks later he texts me, he's at his company Christmas party in my neighborhood and asks if he can stop by. I assume we're adults and can be friends. He shows up having had more to drink than I thought and continues to work his way through my bottle of whiskey. I tell him he's going to have to leave because I'm tired and need to sleep. He asks, over and over and over, why he can't stay in my bed because he has so many times before. I finally go to my room and lock my door and he leaves. I haven't seen him since.

I'm in a bar, walking through a crowd, at a concert, .....
..... a man puts his hand on my thigh.
..... a man rubs up against me.
..... a man "accidentally" grazes my breast.
..... a man gets offended and angry when I decline his interest. I'm a bitch, a dyke, ugly.....

These are just the stories that stand out. There are other moments. Other experiences. Too numerous to mention, too many to remember.

This is how men and women aren't equal. This is why we so often don't report harassment, abuse, coercion, rape. It happens ever day in small, seemingly innocuous ways and in ways we can't believe someone gets away with it. If I call out this one, another one will do something else tomorrow. And we still are blamed for what we wear, what we say, the time of day, the places we go.

I'm too tired by it all right now to even contemplate a solution.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Choices, Consequences, and Prevention

Last night I inadvertently posted something inflammatory on Facebook. It was meant to express my dismay at discovering how many men my age have young children and how, as a single woman, my preference is not to date those men. My post was taken as a stance against women who choose to have children later in life. Over and over the comments expressed were, "I had my child later - I wanted it that way" or "That was how it happened for me, what's wrong with it?" There is nothing wrong with it. We should have the choice as women to have children at whatever age we feel is appropriate for us and for our families. The general response was a resounding MY body, MY choice.

And THAT, when we are talking about reproduction, is really what it should come down to. Choice. Have a child at 20, or 30, or 45. It is and should be a personal choice. On the flip side, NOT having a child should also be a choice and this is where it gets sticky.

I promise you that no woman wants to have an abortion. Who would put that on their bucket list? But the conversation is always about limiting, restricting, or banning abortion. And this is not where the conversation should start. Once we solve what happens well before a woman is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, maybe we'll stop having this debate.

There is sometimes talk about expanding sex education, but even that comes later. The talks start with young children. Girls and boys both. Parents, tell your children from the start that they own their bodies. When you think pushing a child towards an older person and saying, "Give grandpa a hug" is harmless, it's not. At very young ages you are telling children when they do and don't own their bodies. Maybe grandpa stinks. Maybe your child has sensory/touch sensitivities. There are a myriad of reasons children don't want to show affection to adults and it's not rude for them not to. It is our job to protect our children from predators and taking away control in a a seemingly-innocent situation is failure from the start.

One of the most important things we can do is to use proper terminology. Penis. Vagina. Vulva. Using silly, cutesy names undermines a child's authority in a couple of ways. I once heard a story that I regularly tell my customers at my parties. A young girl told every adult she met that her uncle pet her kitty. Okay. That's nice. How cute. NO. NOT cute. Her "kitty" was not a cat. This child was being abused and asking anyone she could find for help. Their inability to understand her because she used improper terminology told her both that what her uncle was doing was okay and that she had no right to ask for help. Additionally, when a child uses the right words, grown-up words, he or she is taken seriously by adults. It demonstrates that they are very clear and knowledgeable about what is happening.

As children grow, we need to repeat these lessons. I am going to focus on young women solely for the reason that the vast majority of rape crimes are committed by men against women, but understand it can happen to young men too. We need to raise our daughters so that they understand they have a choice and that they are worthy. That attention from a cute boy is nice, but not validation of who they are as a person. This makes it easier for her to say "no" when a boy tries to convince her to go farther than she's comfortable with. It makes it easier for her to have a conversation and dialogue about what her boundaries are and, if she's then rejected in favor of another girl, she won't be as likely to feel that she should have given in.

And this, years later, is where sex education comes in. Certain groups of people are just terrified of sex and any mention of it and are convinced that teaching children about body parts is wrong. It's not. Our vaginas and penises aren't any dirtier than our legs or elbows. If I have a headache, someone will offer me aspirin. If I have a pain in my breast, I should be able to talk about that and get aid just the same. If we don't talk to our kids about sex, they'll get the information somewhere else. Most likely it will be the wrong information. Myths about what will and won't cause pregnancy. Boys telling girls what they think will get her to change her mind. Information is power, arm your children with it.

Birth control is a tricky one as a parent. I know. I've been there. Offering it feels like giving permission. As adults with experience, we know that 16 is SO young, too young. They aren't mentally or emotionally ready for the consequences. You can do everything perfectly up to this point and then hormones happen. Teenagers are walking hormones. Again, information is just a necessity. Arming a kid with birth control isn't encouragement or permission for sex. It's offering a choice in the event that those hormones take over. Just because you have it doesn't mean you have to use it.

Teaching respect for self and others simultaneously teaches respect for life. Let's change the conversation and start it earlier before we demonize women for making choices they'd rather not face. Provide the messages of prevention earlier and we might not have the need for the really tough, divisive arguments later.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Story About a Story

I have loved Laurie Anderson since high school. I'm not sure how I even became aware of her at that age. She's an experimental performance artist and I was into Duran Duran and Wham! back then. I go years without listening to her though, and then when I do, I fall in love all over again. Her latest album (which is a soundtrack of her film), Heart of a Dog, is layered with music but is mostly spoken. Her voice is beautiful and mesmerizing and the theme surrounds the life and death of her dog, Lola Belle. Which, that piece alone, makes it interesting and easy for me to relate to. But it's interspersed with stories of her fascinating and incredibly interesting life. I can't believe I've never named her as someone I'd like to have dinner with because I would, very very much.

I shared a piece from the album with a friend, who then introduced me to Max Richter. I sat and listened to three instrumental albums right in a row immediately. I realized how absolutely beautiful music is, and in so many forms. Some of what I listened to was heartbreakingly sad, but that made it so much more lovely.

These last few months have been dark and I fear it will only get darker. I've been teetering on the edge of my own Great Depression and I have to keep moving, moving. Stopping my whirlwind of activity and scheduling of my time means I might just topple over into an emotional abyss. The depression is there and the negativity I see everywhere with our current climate is overwhelming.

J and I had a conversation yesterday about how easy it is to hate what is happening, what is being said, done, and the people saying it. And it is. It is so easy. But I can't do it. I just can't, because it will drag me down into that quicksand of depression that I might not be able to pull myself out of next time. So I told her that we have to focus on the positive, the good, and the good that is the majority. The hate makes the most noise, it's easy to be distracted. It does take work to bypass it, but it has to be done.

So last night, when I was losing myself in the melodies, I was reminded of the ways that I find beauty every day. Music. The obvious sunset. The look of love and adoration in my dog's eyes and her trust in me. My daughter, a life I had the absolute privilege of creating and being a part of. Friendships and unforgettable memories with friends. The women I meet in my business who share intimate parts of themselves with me. The most beautiful things are intangible, but they also make us who we are.

While we feel that some of our rights are being stripped away during what is most likely to become an infamous period of history, we still have beauty. Friendships and memories and love are things that can't be taken from us. The beauty we find and that we must look for and hold onto is what will sustain and strengthen us. I believe this, not only because I have to, but because it is what's true. The greater truth is in love.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Empowerment and Epiphanies

Starting one's own business is always daunting. Even more so when that business involves selling sex toys and becoming the "dildo lady." I started my Pure Romance business three years ago, largely for fun and product discounts. I wasn't interested in building a team or giving up my IT income. I wanted to make some new friends and I was promised cheese. (I'll do most anything for cheese.) After meeting other team members and going to trainings, my motivation changed. I started to want more. I wanted to offer more. To more women. So I did.

My business has changed a lot in the last three years and I love it. I've learned how to deal with the looks and the sometimes abrasive questions.

"Oh, it's one of those parties?"
"I'm just not that open about those things."
"I think sex is private."
"Let's face it, it just boils down to selling sex toys."

The last from my sister. While my friends were supportive from the start, my family was not. Which was okay. I wasn't doing it for approval and I'd been to enough parties to know what really happened and how tasteful they are. I figured they'd come around.

My business has introduced me to people I wouldn't otherwise meet. I've made friends across the country. I was able to go on a cruise to Mexico. I worry much less when I need car repair or new tires. I've been able to use party profits to donate to my favorite causes. My confidence grew. I've learned to let go of trying to do things perfectly. This year I'm close to doubling my sales from last year.

While all of those things are wonderful and reason enough for me to continue to grow my business, I've had some recent experiences that have validated that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. My Why, my reason for doing what I do, has changed a few times. The Pure Romance motto is 'Educate. Empower. Entertain.' I have those words in my head at each party and many times as I'm doing business chores. What I've heard from my customers shows me how I'm following that direction and those values.

One customer is very recently divorced and it wasn't pretty. I met her a year ago at a party and she was my hostess at a party over the summer. She called me while I was at national training to order a brand new product and later contacted me with feedback about her purchase. She loved it, and I was glad, but I was touched when she said that the only area of her life going well was the one involving me. Her sex life was better since meeting me than in the 11 years of her marriage. If a woman going through a divorce doesn't need a little self-esteem boost, I don't know who does. I also know that she voted differently than I did but checked in on me the day after the election, offering an ear or a shoulder in my sadness. This is the definition of women supporting and empowering each other.

I did a party this past Saturday with several repeat customers. I like to do a question and answer at the end of my demonstration to give my customers a chance to ask what they want to know about my business. Why I started. What it's like. How we get training. One of the girls asked what has been the most exciting aspect on my journey and my response was knowing when my business started to grow noticeably. How I don't go more than a few days without hearing from a customer with a question or a comment. This year has been really exciting in that way.

We talked a bit about the stigma of sex and parties and the business. I shared how knowing that I am in a place to help women is invaluable. And that's when another of the girls shared something that just gave me chills. She said that since she has been attending parties, she sees herself differently. Where she used to base her value on a man's assessment of whether or not she was attractive, she now dismisses that in favor of how SHE feels about herself. That she's just fine the way she is. That she doesn't have sex randomly with men in hotels. That her self-esteem was improved and her negative thoughts about herself have changed because of what I do. And, I'm sure, because of what she gets from the other women who share their stories at my parties.

And that - that is what I'm most excited about. Because it's SO important that as women we feel strong and capable and smart and desired and, moreover, that feeling comes from inside us. Knowing that I'm able to make a difference and to also keep these women safe from random sex quiets the naysayers, even if only in my head. And it's not because I lecture them. It's because I have products and a platform from which to tell them the truth.

This is what will keep me going. When a party gets canceled, when I fall short of my goals, when I feel like I didn't get the right message across. I know that these women's lives have changed. I know they now have a better foundation for self. I know they are learning to love themselves. It's what I want for all of  us. And it's how I know I'm doing just what I should be and I will continue as long as I can make a difference.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Anti-Climatic History

Last week I voted. For the first time in my country's history, there is a woman running for president. And I voted for her.

I thought I would feel so proud. I thought I'd feel like a part of a greater sisterhood. I thought I'd feel like I'd really Done Something. Something Important. I've seen the posts from other women, I've used the same hashtags. Yesterday I saw a video of a woman crying because she was, finally, able to vote for a woman for president. I read the article about the 102-year-old woman who voted for her. We, as women, are participating in history in a way we never have before. I thought I would feel the way these women did. But I didn't.

It has taken me several months to embrace Hillary. I saw all the articles on all of her misdeeds. All of the questions about her integrity. I was disappointed that our first female presidential candidate was so bogged down in controversy. I wanted her to be someone we could be Proud of.

And then I read dozens of pieces that delved into the controversies and the reasons for them. Word after word, sentence after sentence, discredited what I had read previously. Article after article pointed out the fact that, because she is a woman, Hillary is facing far more scrutiny than a man would in the same position. From women and men alike. Just think, if Laura Bush had been nominated, how many lies would have been told about her fatal car accident? If it were one of her daughters, every drink she'd ever had would be measured. We already know the hateful things that have been said about Michelle Obama. The woman can't wear a sleeveless dress without negative comments.

When the conventions started, I watched those of both candidates. I watched what people said about them, I listened the their nomination acceptance speeches. I've watched the debates and kept myself as informed as possible without sending myself into a deep depression. I've ignored, for the most part, strictly liberal news sources, trying to find the real truth in between all of the words, words, words.

What I found, beyond that fact that women are put under a microscope on a daily basis, is that Hillary is someone I can be proud of voting for. Is she a little too polished because she's a politician? Sure. We're not going to get around that. But she's been put through the wringer and she's come out with her head held high. She's composed, she's unflappable. She doesn't give up. And, after all this time, she's become relatable. She goes to work when she's sick. She's a mother. She's been wronged by her man and yet she weathered that with as much grace as she could. The woman must be utterly exhausted and yet she keeps going because she believes in us. In us as women, in us as members of this country, and in us as just people.

I don't know, you guys. I guess this election has just taken it out of me. I'm tired of fighting for people to see what sexism is. I'm tired of women getting ahead only to be torn down. I'm tired of rapists going free. I'm tired of men being excused for bad behavior and "locker room talk" because "boys will be boys." I'm so deeply afraid that we have made it this far and that the rug will be swept out from under our feet at the last second. Maybe I've seen so much hatred in this country in the last few months that I don't really believe we'll be allowed to progress further.

I wish I felt differently, I really do.

We have less than a week now to find out what kind of country we are. What kind of people, what kind of women. I hope with every fiber of my being that it's something we can be proud of. I hope I can look my sisters in the eye and say, "We did it. Finally."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Necessary Choices

I wasn't going to say anything. There are other stories that are heartbreaking and realer than real. I don't feel like I have anything significant to add to the conversation. But other people are talking. And they're talking without having the proper information. Words like "murder" and "selfish" are being thrown around so I'm going to share my story. Take from it what you will.

I was 25 when I got pregnant. I was married. My pregnancy was planned and very much wanted. I was so excited and so elated that I broke the three-month rule. I told my friends, my mom, I called my grandparents. When I gloated to my doctor that I got pregnant the first month after I was off the pill, she gave me a blank look. I assumed she wasn't as impressed with my fertility as I was.

The first few weeks were uneventful. I had a checkup or two, the regular kind where my blood pressure was checked. I noticed other pregnant women and felt a kinship with them. I noticed tiny babies and started to dream about what mine would look like.

At 12 weeks we expected to hear the heartbeat. I went in on a Friday. There was no heartbeat. I was reassured that often the baby is positioned in such a way that the heartbeat can't be heard, but I saw the concern in my nurse's eyes. My doctor scheduled an ultrasound for the following Monday.

I spent that weekend praying and hoping and convincing myself that everything was okay. I ate a whole pizza. I slept a lot. I went to church and begged through the entire service that my baby be okay. That it be allowed to live.

During the ultrasound, the technician frowned. She rolled the wand across my belly and stared silently at the screen. She left to get the radiologist, a man I didn't know. He pressed the wand into my stomach, looked at the screen, stood up, and backed up to the door. "I can tell you now or I can let your doctor tell you," he said. Tell me what?? I looked at my then-husband for help. I knew it was bad and I didn't want this stranger to tell me, but I had to know.

The baby was dead. It had died at around nine weeks but wasn't expelled. It died and I didn't know. I didn't feel it. I never felt it.

I was sent to my doctor's office. They were ready for me, they took me back right away rather than having me sit in the waiting room next to pregnant women. Actively pregnant women with babies they could feel kicking. Babies that would be carried to term.

My doctor told me she was sorry. My nurse hugged me. They explained to me what would happen next. Laminaria was inserted; it's a type of seaweed product that causes contractions, which would make the next day's procedure easier. It would prep my body for what was to come. It hurt. I was also still in shock from the news and I couldn't process it all at the same time. I was sent home with extra-strength ibuprofen.

That night I laid on the couch and cried. My doctor said it wasn't my fault, but it felt like it. To the core of my being, I felt like I had failed. And not just me, not just my baby, but everyone around me.

The next day, the dilation and curettage, D & C for short, was performed by my doctor in the ER at our local hospital. It's one of the same procedures used during an early-term abortion. My mom and dad met me there, also heartbroken. I only know of two other times that my dad took time from work for anything I did, if that tells you how much this meant to us. Mom sat by me while I filled out insurance and consent forms. Her words, though well-meaning, cut into my heart. "You'll get pregnant again. I knew a woman when I was growing up who had five miscarriages in a row and then just as many children." I listened numbly as she cheerfully chattered on.

I cried throughout the procedure. I wasn't supposed to remember anything because of the anesthesia, but I do. I remember how kind my doctor was. How she told me she'd been through the same thing. How she put me first and only allowed my then-husband to stay in the room when he promised he wouldn't faint.

When it was over, the remains were sent to the lab and I was sent home. My parents walked with me to the car. I felt indescribably empty.

In the days and weeks after, I avoided everyone. This was in the days when the only contact I could have with the outside world in my house was the phone. I'm so glad social media didn't exist. I unplugged the phone and spent the long hours of each day in my bed, getting up and showering just before my husband got home. I talked to nobody. I slept and stared at the walls.

While my baby had no name, no sex, no recognizable form, and I never felt even a flutter, in those days I felt enormously lonely. In the weeks before I had imagined carrying this tiny person around with me. I loved that tiny, unknown person. And then it was gone. I was alone. I hated my body for betraying me. I hated the unfairness. The depth of my sorrow was lost on everyone around me because it just hadn't been tangible. At least it happened early, they said. At least.

That loss still lingers. It always will. I will forget it for months at a time and I can talk about it openly now. But there are unexpected moments - a song lyric, a scene in a movie, a line in a book - that will bring me nearly to my knees with the memory of that grief, that life that could have been.

Why tell you this? It was, after all, over 21 years ago.

I tell you because I want you to know what it was like to not have a choice. The decision was made for me and had been weeks before anything had to be done. We talk about choice like it's a good thing. And it is, but I'm grateful I didn't have a choice to make. I can't even fathom having to make a choice about a life in later stages of pregnancy. Having to make the choice between my life and my child's.

There are women who are asked to make that choice. They are kind, loving women who want to be and who are mothers. Who would do everything in their power to ensure the safety and health of their infant. There are fathers who are asked to participate in this choice. There are doctors who must knowingly end a life that is wanted. Nurses who assist and hold hands and treat everyone with all of the kindness they have.

I wish that these choices didn't have to be made. I wish that with all of my heart. But that doesn't change the fact that they do. I can't imagine being any of those people in that situation. I never want my own daughter to go through that kind of heartbreak.

But what I want even less is for anyone in any of these scenarios to be shamed by their choices. I don't want that choice to be taken away from anyone. These choices aren't made lightly. It's not folly, it's not freedom from an undesirable situation. The choice to end a wanted pregnancy where something goes horribly wrong is heart-wrenching. Let's not add to that pain. Let's not judge women who have to make decisions that we are so fortunate to not have to make.

Let's not take that choice away, hard as it is. Sometimes the alternative is so much worse and it's not for me to decide which side that weight falls on. It's not for our neighbors to decide and it's not for our government to decide.

I got sympathy because I had no choice. I wasn't anymore deserving of it than anyone with a choice. Let's honor that choice and love these women, these mothers and fathers. Let's help them through their heartbreak and their grief rather than condemning it.

And let's be so grateful every day that we aren't asked to make that choice.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Truth Is Ugly and It Hurts

Before I lose you in what I'm about to say, I want to make one thing very clear. Donald Trump should not be president. There is no way that I can support him, anything he has said, or his past behavior, and I can't imagine doing so in the future. If he fell off the face of the earth, I would heave a "yuge" sigh of relief and move along without looking back. 

The Republican party has been blamed for creating this monster. There are the jokes about the decision they have made and how they have to carry it to term. There is some irony in this situation and there is truth in the theories. Members of this party have so staunchly defended anyone in their ranks that they have backed themselves into a corner with this one. And, while a lot of this is satisfying to members of other parties, and it's somewhat fascinating to watch a faction of the political system disintegrate before our eyes, the rest of us have to admit our own culpability. 

Yep, I'm saying it. We are all responsible for this mess. We, the collective "we." We, as an American society. We have contributed to the nastiness, the name-calling, the blaming, the inappropriate language and behavior. We sensationalized the death of a tiny pageant contestant and then we mourned when a princess was killed and thought that was the pinnacle, that we would change. We urged each other to change. To stop buying the gossip rags and watching the shows that titillated us with all things that were None of Our Business. But then we watched a "celebrity" sex tape and now we greedily await the next one. And the next. We made a celebrity out of a burping, farting family whose central star was named Honey Boo Boo. We watch eligible bachelors and bachelorettes choose among multiple suitors and judge their choices like Monday morning quarterbacks. We read gossip blogs and pick apart the choices people make while hiding behind our keyboards. We feel safe being harsh and mean to those we don't even know when using the mask of anonymity. 

We may not audibly and intentionally support Donald Trump, but we have condoned his gross behavior in a hundred other separate, seemingly innocent acts. The behaviors we have rewarded with our interest have culminated into the Pile of Yuck that is Donald Trump. 

Over the weekend I attended a book festival and got to introduce a couple of the authors during one of the sessions. Both authors had written women as the heroes of their novels and, maybe because of our current political and social climate, I asked if it is necessary that there be a Bad Man in a story in order to juxtapose the woman as the Good Heroine. Both authors, both female, said no, that the impetus for the heroines in their stories were other women and that women can be just as evil. Which brings me to another point. 

So many of us, including myself, wonder how on earth a woman can support Trump. Especially after the things we've heard him say again and again. I have wondered if their self-esteem is so low that they truly believe only a man can be president. However, like my authors said, women can be just as evil and even more so towards other women. I've heard women say out of one side of their mouths how they support their sisterhood while in the next breath they spew unwarranted and unnecessary criticism. I have, in an effort to pretend that rape couldn't happen to ME, questioned what a victim wore. As long as I didn't dress a certain way, or go to certain bars, or leave my house on a Tuesday at 9:17 p.m., the same thing couldn't happen to me. None of which really matters and only serves to distance myself from a woman who really needs help. 

As moms, we constantly vilify other moms for their choices. If she works too much, who is taking care of her children? Why is she so "cold" towards them? Won't they feel abandoned and why doesn't she understand how important her Role As a Woman is?? If she chooses to stay home with her children, she is flat and one-dimensional and should have other interests because her children won't be around forever and then she won't even know who she is. Don't her daughters deserve a better role model and how will her sons learn to respect women? 

Yes, we are all guilty. We have all had the same thoughts and said the same things as Trump. But now, when the sum total of all of this ugliness is held up to us in mirror-form, we recoil, we feel disgust, we feel shame. He says not only what he thinks, but what we have thought at one time or another. Part of why we hate him is because we hate that part of ourselves. 

So maybe this is a time for self-reflection. If we don't like what we see in the proverbial mirror, then maybe we change it. Maybe we say yes, I am guilty. Yes, I have said that and done that and wanted the wrong thing. We recognize those parts of ourselves and make a conscious decision to change. Instead of giving in to the baser parts of humanity, we take out the damaged parts and rebuild ourselves as something better. We stop feeding the beast with gossip and pre-judgments and criticism and hate. When we, all of us, or at the very minimum the majority of us, act from compassion and kindness and truth and careful thought, people like Donald Trump aren't allowed to exist. He isn't nourished by fairness and knowledge but lies and marginalization. 

I think, or rather strongly hope, that most of us are aware of just how dangerous it would be to elect Trump as our president. But I think it's just as dangerous to continue on as we have. Unless we take a real inventory of ourselves as a society and as individuals, this will just be a trial run. The next time we might not be so lucky. If we are, indeed, lucky now. 

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