No More Ms. Nice Guy

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Aghast. That’s the only word for it

Let’s be clear: I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, so I have not been bombarded with news morning till night as I can be at home. Frankly, I’ve found that life is so much more fun without a steady stream of politics, violence and natural and manmade disasters that I rarely indulge beyond my beloved daily newspaper. Which has a crossword puzzle, I might add.

And yet, even in Central Europe, the onslaught of stories of men caught doing what seems to be very natural — abusing, harassing and otherwise misbehaving toward women — has woken me from my nap. That makes me very cranky.

Fox News — a mutually exclusive pairing of words if ever there was one — seems to be leading the parade. I just watched a montage of comments male hosts have made, on air, to their female counterparts. Apparently these guys were raised by wolves who had been cut from the pack. I’ve seen more respect toward women among street people. To think that any self-respecting journalist would tell a co-anchor on a news show that she was “hot in leather” is something I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it.

Then there’s the wannabe 4-star general who just got outed by a pissed off girlfriend after an 11-year affair. And no one knew? That’s surely a fiction someone’s  promoting to cover his ass (I am making a statistical assumption that it’s a he). Someone knew; someone always knows. Other than the principals, of course.

Can I add these most recent examples to the ongoing list that includes David Petraeus, Roger Ailes (or should I just add him to the rest of the Fox troglodytes?), Bill Cosby, John Edwards, yes, even our beloved Bill Clinton? These instances are simply easy to reach off the top of my head; the specific list is so long, I don’t even know where to start. Oh, how about the Stanford swimmer who thought it was just fine to rape an unconscious woman? Or the judge who saw nothing wrong with slapping his wrists? Or whoever thought to let him out early? Really?

What is it that gives these, and apparently most, men the idea that women are simply to be played with, fawned over, debased, casually ignored and, in cases too numerous to count, treated as chattel, violated, beaten and killed? I single out for special inclusion on this list those men who believe that women’s reproductive systems are public property, to be regulated and treated as someone’s religious battlefield.

You’d think there was some kind of conspiracy against women. Oh right, there is. It’s called the patriarchal culture. The one that has kept men in charge of everything. Particularly women. For nearly all of human history. (See my July 31 blog, “It’s About Damn Time.”) But the grip that men, particularly white men in this culture, have on things is slipping, and it’s scaring them to death. What will happen if they can’t control everything? We’re about to find out.

If I were certain white men, I’d be scared shitless someone would slit my throat in the middle of the night. Not that I’m advocating violence of any kind. Hardly; violence never solves anything, even though guys think it does. I understand, and often experience, the rage that comes with being seen and treated as property, as a toy, as a being whose only real function is sexual, either as an avenue to male pleasure or as a womb.

That’s the only way I can wrap my head around the abominable behavior too many men exhibit toward women, even — especially — in public. Were little boys taught that because they were boys, they could behave essentially without boundaries, that the world would think it just fine as long as they got rich, won the game, earned the trophy — succeeded? I know I was taught from day one that I had to be very conscious of my actions, that my job was to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself or discomfort anyone else. Clearly, the men in my examples were not given the same operating manual as I.

I know it’s at least part of the reason that, even though men and women can behave the same, the world judges that behavior very differently. In men, ambition is good; in women it’s “uppity.” In men, leadership is expected; in women it’s being aggressive. Men without makeup are just guys; women are ugly (tired, washed out, plain = look bad). Again, I could go on.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. Of the whole gender farce. Of pretending that men really do know more, can do more, are better at. . . name anything but feats of physical strength. And watching women’s weightlifters and wrestlers, that is about to be added to the list. It’s ridiculous. My experience is that women are at worst the equals of men. In my experience, most women are really much stronger, smarter, more adept, more flexible, funnier and wiser than most men. We have to be, because we do almost everything. As the saying goes, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but backward and in heels.

Male CEOs have one job, being CEO. They have vice presidents and assistants doing everything else. Female CEOs, unless they are single and without living family, have several jobs. Sure, they have the same cadre of minions to take care of the business that male CEOs have, but who handles their personal lives? They have to run the company, satisfying the board and shareholders. And still they have to take care of family and the myriad other things that women just do because that’s their job. Men are not expected, as a function of their gender, to fret about day care or meal planning or where their parents are going to spend their final years. Men can — and usually do — have hobbies. But life and death, quality of life issues are rarely if ever, on their to-do lists.

Men in the military can be soldiers, or sailors or Marines or whatever. They don’t also (often) have to  protect themselves from their fellow soldiers. Female soldiers do, all the time. In combat women have not one enemy, but two. There’s the bad guy, and then there’s the guy in the next foxhole who “just needs a little relief” from the stress. Hello, GI Jane.

And yet women succeed as CEOs despite the double workload. They do it because women have always had to do it. No matter their level of success in the world, no matter what they make (or most often don’t), women have managed because that is what they do. Excellently in most cases. If a woman were to fail, the board would be perfectly justified in never hiring a female CEO again, right? Funny, men fail all the time but the boards just keep hiring men all the time. What’s up with that?

Frankly, to my view, if survival of the human race had been left up to men, we’d be extinct. We’re heading there now. Yet men have the gall to treat women so abysmally my mouth drops open at their chutzpah.

No more. I won’t put up with being treated badly, and I intend to challenge any male I see treating another woman badly. We have to start making a stink. Being nice has not had the intended results.

I need to enlist men who agree me. I know you’re out there, I’ve met many of you and you have friends. I need you to challenge these cavemen. Even if every confrontation I have results in permanently changed male behavior (when pigs fly), the problem is just too big and the behavior too entrenched to change how things are very quickly. Men who are inclined to bad behavior will pay attention to another man before he’d listen to a woman telling him he needs to shape up.

Good men have to challenge this endemic behavior in their fellows.  I suggest we start with the wannabe Troglodyte in Chief.

We can’t afford to give these assholes a pass any longer. To let them off leads them to believe their behavior is in any way acceptable. They need to made pariahs until they learn to behave as human beings.

We can’t afford to meet the challenges of the future hamstrung because half the people we need to solve our problem are tied and gagged and kept in the basement, barefoot and pregnant.

It’s time. No more Ms. Nice Guy

It’s about damn time

Give Mother the vote


There is no way to downplay it. Tuesday, July 26, 2016 is now etched into the American consciousness because a woman is a major party nominee for president of the United States. Moreover, it’s etched into the hearts of millions of American women. This, as He Who Shall Not Be Named would say, is yuge.

It’s about damn time.

It’s only been 95 years since U.S. women have been granted the right to vote. Only. It only took us 145 years from the founding of the nation to get that. Only. The vote came only after women seeking the vote — women, the weaker sex, to be protected because we are so frail — were treated as harshly as any civil rights demonstrators of the ‘60s and ‘70s. While there are many examples in the history books, I refer specifically to Nov. 15, 1917, after a group of women picketed the White House in support of a woman’s right to vote. Thirty-three suffragists were jailed at the Occoquan, Va., Workhouse. That was bad enough, seeing as how these “girls” were only exercising First Amendment rights. The superintendent of the workhouse, W.H. Whittaker, then let loose 40 of his guards to brutalize these 33 women. They beat, kicked, dragged, choked, terrorized and humiliated them. (Source: Barbara Leaming, Katherine Hepburn (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 182. via Liana Laverentz’s blog, Nov. 2, 2010). The White House, specifically Woodrow Wilson, sought to have Alice Paul, an outspoken ringleader, declared mentally incompetent. Silence via the sanatorium. The psychiatrist called in to commit her refused, saying “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.” Would that we knew his name and could honor him.

There’s more ugliness in the historical record to underscore that we American women have been more than patient in our quest for equal rights. But that’s not my point, which is that it’s about damn time men stepped aside and let women get things back in balance before it’s too late.

Men have been in charge nearly forever. There was a brief period in human prehistory, called the Neolithic period, in which women set the tone. Everyone rightly figured out that, because women had babies, they had the inside track to human survival. If women were the source of life, in neolithic thinking, then what makes Mama happy makes everyone happy. While it was a matriarchal society, women weren’t superior to men. Each gender had its function, and there was no need for coercion to keep it that way. It actually did work best when women raised the kids and the men hunted and brought the game home. At the heart of it all was the understanding that Mama made it all come alive. Women were the spiritual heart of these ancient cultures. They were the spiritual leaders. They were the healers. The teachers. Too many archeological relics of fertility goddesses exist throughout the world to ignore that. I’d like to think one holdover of those ancient times is the notion that we live on Mother Earth, and that Mother Nature is still in charge.

For more information on this, read The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler. She has written a lot about men and women, about partnership, about the future. But this book set the stage by explaining how it all got so screwed up in the first place.

Basically, men who weren’t down with this whole fertility culture thing figured out a couple of things: They were bigger and stronger and could take anything they wanted. Women didn’t need to be revered to keep popping out babies, they simply needed to be kept barefoot and pregnant. Oh, and fed. Starving women can’t produce offspring. These guys couldn’t see any farther than the end of their cave entrance, and began to act as if what they owned was all that mattered. Thus was born the primacy of private property and the necessity for women’s sexual suppression. If they kept the same female nearby, she tended to have babies that looked a lot like them. If they let her run free, they never knew whose face might show up on the other side of the fire.

The end of the Neolithic era some 5,000 years ago ushered in a male-dominant culture that persists to this day. With few exceptions since that first caveman clubbing, men have had a stranglehold on the pursestrings, the weapons, the property, the reproductive rights, the theology and the bully pulpit of the human race.

How’s that working for us?

We are in danger, as at no other time in human history, of polluting our planet so badly it will no longer sustain life. We already know we are in the midst of the Sixth Big Extinction. Are we so vain as to think somehow humans are exempt? The oceans are becoming toxic. The topsoil is so degraded it drifts in the wind from one continent to another, having no substance to give it purchase anywhere and no nutrients to give the food it grows. We pump billions of gallons of water from the ground and then are shocked when vast caverns collapse because they have nothing supporting them. We mine precious minerals to make gadgets of wonder but cannot figure out how to dispose of our creations without creating massive environmental wastelands. Some of us don’t even think it matters. We dredge out of the ground pure carbon from the rotted remains of prehistoric jungles, burn it and then wonder why our atmosphere is heating up. Like any child caught doing something it shouldn’t, we deny responsibility for the mess we created, saying it’s just Mother Nature’s cycles. Sorry boys, can’t have it both ways.

By nearly all measures of human existence, we are in trouble. That’s what we get for having one set of brains run everything. It has to stop or we’re done for. Frankly, I’m not ready to let that happen.

I am no man hater. Men and women each have functions in creating the kind of world that supports human life and also makes it worth living. Bricks and mortar. Paper and ink. You get the point. That only happens when men and women work together, celebrating each other’s unique gifts and using them to benefit us all. Right now, most men don’t know how to play nicely with girls. Some do; they’re already busy doing the work.

I am an imbalance hater. We’ve had one way of thinking in charge for too long. Everything is out of balance. It’s time to give women a go. If we weren’t in such dire straits, I’d suggest men and women work on things together, play to each other’s strengths. But we need to drag these stampeding horses back from the cliff. We don’t have time to vote on who should hold the reins or who should jump on the back of the team to stop them. And if sometimes we make mistakes? Men have made plenty of mistakes. It’s time we ladies had a go.

Right now, guys, go play a few rounds of golf. We’ll call when we’re ready. Oh, and dinner? We might get around to it, but maybe you should just grab something. Better yet, have it ready when we get home.

A smart, compassionate, tough woman for President of the United States? It’s about damn time.

Continue reading “It’s about damn time”

101 Days

As the temperature refuses to dip much below 90, it’s hard to picture Nov. 8. It’s too far away to get worked up about. And yet, we have only 101 days left to decide what kind of America we want to wake up in on Nov. 9.

We have seen two people, both of whom are seeking the same office, give us their visions of the country and the road ahead. Donald Trump sees an America that is hobbling and needs a crutch. He sees a country challenged by outside forces and asks us to cower behind walls. And he would declare himself our national savior. Had there been no Declaration of Independence or Constitution, his vision still would have been of an America not worth the ink its map is printed on. But because of the ideals on which this country was founded, his strongman approach repudiates everything we have stood for. His America is not mine.

I have spoken to seemingly normal people who say they love their country and yet think that’s just what we need;  someone who will break through the political gridlock by dint of dictate. Who will sweep our problems aside with a command.  That is the kind of thinking that allowed Adolf Hitler to come to power. I am dumbfounded that people who say they love this country and are old enough to remember World War II can in good conscience go there.

The other candidate, a woman for the first time in our history, painted a portrait of a great yet still flawed country. Hillary Clinton reached out to those who feel they have been overlooked and disrespected. She offered concrete ideas for getting them back in the game. She honored those who have served us, in the military, in the safety forces, as teachers, as doctors, as anyone whose chosen career is dedicated to making other lives better. By uttering the national motto, E pluribus unum, she included those who reject her. It takes all of us to do this job of forming a more perfect union, she told us.

So now to the campaign. It will be ugly, inspiring, hard to watch and harder to say away from. I live in Ohio and dread the avalanche of door hangers, robocalls, junk mail flyers and all the other political detritus that will be thrust in my face because I live in a swing state. We are  small but mighty, us swing states. I suspect a majority of campaign budgets will be spent on us.

The difference in this election is that not only will I vote — Americans who sit out elections lose their claim to their birthright as citizens — but I will work my heart out. This could be the election that comes down to one vote in one precinct in my humble hometown. If the election goes to the unthinkable, and I know that there was any chance I might have been able to do something but failed to act, I will be a long time finding ways to forgive myself.

Not everyone will work. Not everyone sees the stark, frightening  choice we are facing. It is there nonetheless. We are Americans. We say we believe in freedom, justice, fair play, equality of opportunity. We have a chance to put our vote where our mouths are.

101 days. And counting.

Resistance is futile

2016-07-19 12.08.15I keep getting emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and from a variety of groups. While each missive has its own take on the campaign or on a particular issue, there is one disturbingly consistent theme running through them all: Fight Against (Insert Cause Here). Somehow, these folks believe, and ask us to join them in demonstrating, that anger and resistance will help their cause.

From this Cranky Little Old White Lady’s standpoint, that’s all wrong. Fighting is the last thing we need to do.

For one thing, I have spent the past three days in downtown Cleveland. I had a great time. I met some wonderful people. And some who insisted not only in telling me that I was wrong, but in letting me know in very graphic terms exactly what the cost of my wrongdoing would be. Sure didn’t make me want to stop my wickedness and join them. Hate isn’t my turn-on.

Buddha said it best 3,000 years ago: That which you resist persists. It’s a variation on “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.” Mother Teresa said she would never attend an anti-war rally, but she would show up at a peace rally.

Isometric exercises involve pushing one part of the body against another or against something immovable in the expectation that stronger muscles will result. In this case, that which you resist becomes stronger. I’ve read of experiments with kids where each was handed one end of a piece of rope. With no prompting from adults, these kids somehow intuited that the object of holding the rope was to pull against the other person. The minute one kid pulls, the other automatically resists. And vice versa. Voila: With no encouragement, two people who don’t know each other will try to vanquish the other. How to end it? Drop the rope.

That’s all well and good, you say, but we’re talking about REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF here. The Future of our Democracy. The. End. Of. Civilization. As. We. Know. It.

I get it. I am no less worried than you about what’s going on in this country. That’s why I started this blog. However, I am more worried about falling into a mind set that plays into the hands of those we wish to weaken.

Two things come to mind: First, it keeps us thinking negatively. That’s not a place I want my mind to dwell. Those who would steal our beloved country have scads more practice at thinking and planning and anticipating “The Fight” than we do. Going toe-to-toe only plays into their hands, and our equipment isn’t up to snuff.

Second, and more important, is that such thinking feeds bad juju. Science is becoming clearer that thoughts are things. The ideas and energy we put into the world will turn up again in some way. If we dwell on negative ideas, those ideas will continue to manifest. And the reverse is true: If we focus on positive thoughts, good things will show up. That’s not being Pollyanna, that’s being scientific.

Are there alternatives to fighting? Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela. Jesus. These great spiritual figures taught us that love, and only love can, conquer hate. It was, at least for a time, a very effective way to protest the Vietnam War and, I believe, contributed to its end. (Of course, exposure of the lies that underpinned that war helped.) Does it work? Indians are independent. We have the Civil Rights Act (for a time longer, at least). Apartheid is ended, and Nelson Mandela is a beloved world figure because he found a way to move people ahead without violence.

I’m not saying there wasn’t violence involved in those pivotal epochs. Ask Jesus. He knows about violence. Still, those monumental events were not ended by war. Their leaders did not lead armed forces. They led people armed with ideas: Freedom. Justice. Peace. Love.

Thousands lost their lives in those struggles. That’s what happens when power is confronted with weapons the powerful do not have. They resort to violence because that is what they know best.

Some of us may not come out of this unscathed. I’d like to think my little white head would keep someone from taking violent exception to my words and actions, but there are no guarantees. And after what I’ve seen in Cleveland this week, there are some who would delight in making an example of this cranky little old white lady. Still, I understand that reaching beyond personal comfort zones into the realm of the soul can make a person feel vulnerable. And for many people, that’s a dangerous place to be. To them, a good offense becomes a great defense.

I have not forgotten World Wars I or II. My dad and uncle both were Marines in the Pacific. In that case, I believe Germans and Italians saw the dangers posed by Hitler and Mussolini but most of them just couldn’t believe these people were as dangerous as they turned out to be. And so things went too far. Once the killing began, there was no choice. A soldier either kills or is killed. In this case,  we had to meet violence with violence.

I don’t have the answer to the glut of mass shootings. I do know that carrying more guns is not the solution.

I am asking anyone who shares my view that a Trump presidency would be a global disaster to please stop fighting. It’s not about what we are against, it is about what we are for. Search your heart and then work for that. Start talking with people. Find a way to have someone tell you his/her story. Sit down and search for commonality rather than difference. Show your humanity to that person and become human in their eyes. It could win a heart. If we win enough hearts, we can do this thing.