Me Too

A family member recently was, as she put it, “disappointed” that I was not horrified by the allegations against Joe Biden. I understand why she felt that way, considering the fact that I am what the media calls “a survivor”. It was long ago and far away during my early childhood, and was curtailed around eleven or twelve. Obviously when the Me Too movement began I cheered for the ladies (and gentlemen) who were out there trying to right a centuries old wrong. The idea of adding my voice to the movement was in the back of my mind for quite awhile, until Al Franken was forced out of the Senate because once, as a comedian, he created a crass, juvenile joke picture that, rightly, offended the lady involved. I said offended. It was not rape, physical abuse, or an act of pedophilia. There is not a man over 50 who has not said something or done something, at some point in their lives, that offended, bothered or hurt a female. That statement is made based on the fact that our culture not only allowed it, but often blamed the woman, joked about her, or dismissed the recipient as an object for males to target. Perspective is a necessity in this day and age of #MeToo.

Many years ago my daughter, a young woman at that time, participated in an equestrian clinic with a well admired clinician from Sweden. He was a lovely, elderly man who was knowledgeable, kind and empathetic. He had a habit of putting his arm around the ladies shoulders as he was talking to them. His wife was present, and it was in full view of the class. One of the participants complained to some of the group about this habit, and how uneasy it made her feel. I remember my very astute daughter, also a recipient of this gesture, telling me that it did not disturb her because he was old, Swedish ( was a former member of the Swedish military), and it did not bother his wife. Raised in a different time, a particular culture, and not clandestine…truly if you feel imposed upon just quietly say “I’m sorry, I have personal space issues and prefer not to be touched”.  I have known women who automatically put an arm around friends’ shoulders, professors who 110514429.thbmake a like gesture to a student they are counseling, even police and healthcare workers when someone is in a moment of stress.

That is not to say that some persons, both men and women, might use such a gesture as an intro to further encroachment. It is up to the recipient to judge for themselves and react in the way that serves their purpose without diminishing the other person, because you could be wrong in your judgement of intent! The point is, an arm around your shoulder is not harassment in and of itself. A silly picture where the subject is more than fully clothed, asleep, and he is not touching her, a crew of male workers whistling as you walk by, or even a simple  “wow, you look beautiful today,”  may be annoying, but are not life changing, personality crashing, horrific events.

Enter Joe Biden.  He is an old man who grew out of a culture that was greatly paternalistic toward women. One way to show a protective spirit toward the female was to put one’s arm around them. Yuck, maybe, but life changing?  Think about being a victim of pedophilia and compare the two.  Ask survivors of violent rape, intoxicated rape with fraternity brothers watching, or even someone subtly forced into “servicing” a boss who has the power to promote or fire. Those are life changing and traumatizing events.

Okay, sniffing the hair is creepy, but does it really affect your life? The other side of the

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Joe Biden

Joe coin is this: he will pick good people around him, and listen to them. He has promised to choose a female running mate. He understands how important our allies are.  He believes in science. He understands the climate is changing for the worse (except at the moment, the virus seems to be cleaning up parts of mother earth)!

Of course the elephant in the room is the one complaint of actual physical encroachment. First, compare that to “the Donald’s” twenty plus women, ranging from minor incidents to actual rape. Second, regardless of the “MeToo” movement one must consider the source. Journalists have researched the lady quite heavily: she has made accusations against other men along the way, she has changed her story multiple times, she was praising Biden up until he started his run for the presidency, and in the cesspool of Washington D.C…where rumor and leaking are rampant…no one could find so much as a hint that such an event had occurred. This, in spite of her claim to have issued a formal complaint against him, which she now says did not mention the sexual harassment…she thinks…she would need to see it again to remember what she actually said.

Joe Biden was not my choice for president.   We had a chance to elect the most qualified person ever to run, and the electoral college blew it. We had an opportunity

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President Trump (Photo by Michael Reynolds for EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.)

this time to choose a female candidate from among multiple entrants, and instead chose an elderly, white, paternalistic male to run against an elderly, white (orange?) misogynistic, narcissistic male who refuses to pay vendors and is willing to watch people in “blue” states die rather than send aid. (By the way, there are many Republicans in those states.) So many opined the choices they had in 2016, seeing it as between a reality show host with a checkered background (but popular…could have a beer with!) and a highly qualified, but “unlikable”, woman…who now gets standing ovations wherever she goes! Now we are down to reality TV, “grab a pussy” person against grandpa…my choice would have to be grandpa.

While reading an article from The Washington Post I was struck by a quote gleaned from a guest column that Alyssa Milano –  actress, #MeToo activist, and Biden supporter – did for Deadline, which covers Hollywood and entertainment.

“How do progressive women choose between the p—y grabber in chief who has done so much damage to our country and a man who has allegations made against him?” Milano wrote .

She added, “Believing women was never about ‘Believe all women no matter what they say,’ it was about changing the culture of NOT believing women by default.”

Hear hear, there is a woman who gets it!

 

On Abortion

NOTE: This post may anger some people, including friends and relatives. Sadly, the trajectory our country is on demands that everyone needs to do what they can to support our democracy, its laws, values and standards of care for its citizens. Being only 3 months from turning into an octogenarian the one thing I can do is search my memories and raise my voice. If this post offends I am sorry, but it is one subject wherein I can offer a dose of reality about life for females in the forties and fifties.

OF CHILDHOOD, PEDOPHILIA, READING AND REBELLION

One of my very first memories is of my father taking me up the stairs to our attic and utilizing my tiny self to his purpose  (no, I will not go into graphic detail, not necessary, not the point). Up the stairs came my mother in search of us, and as she took in the scene before her she immediately burst into tears and ran back down the stairs. My father, of

 

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My parents

course, ran after Mom. I must have been around four at the time and the one emotion I

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vividly recall is puzzlement. I was doing what my father told me to, why were my parents angry? I am sure there were promises to never do anything like that again, a one-off only. Promises not kept, of course, and the abuse continued until my eleventh year.

 

I learned to read at a very early age and found in reading my escape. I would walk from my grandmother’s house in Seattle, past Big Rock at the top of the hill, and haunt the adult section of the public  library. I read about animals, death marches, slavery, and abortion stories. Abortions were illegal, rape was rarely adjudicated, and a single woman becoming pregnant was shameful no matter the circumstances. There were many young ladies who visited illegal abortionists, or worse, would take a coat hanger and attempt self abortion. As a very young girl in a perilous situation I was

 

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My young self

chilled by the images of young women who bled out on a basement floor or lay slumped on a wood table.

 

I remember dreading being alone in the house with my father. He would make me promise not to tell anyone, especially my mother. The trouble was I felt too uncertain, unhappy and ashamed to tell anyone. Sometime around my eleventh or twelfth year the inevitable happened, and realization set in that I could become pregnant if my father continued with his abuse. Strangely and ironically he had provided me with a thin, child friendly book on “becoming a woman” and how one gets pregnant. I did not, at that point, need the book to lay it all out for me, but it did confirm my fears.

One night my mother was out of the house for some reason and I found myself cornered in the bathroom. It suddenly all boiled up and I adamantly refused to do as he said. When he insisted I threatened to tell my mother, and at that he exploded, grabbed his belt and proceeded to beat me. Being a child I obviously cried and yelled…loudly! One other person in the house, in his bedroom, heard the commotion and later told my mother. Again a hullaballoo, a threat of divorce, and more promises. This time the promises were kept, possibly because the story was now out to some extent and I was obviously willing to fight back. Please don’t imagine my actions were courageous, I was aware of cause and effect and consequences because of my love of reading, curiosity to learn and access to reading materials.  My rebellion was governed by abject fear.

Could I have become pregnant? Of course. Would I have wanted an abortion? Absolutely.  An 11 or 12-year-old child is not mature enough physically or emotionally to carry a fetus to term without the probability of damaging her body or her mind to some extent. Add incest and rape to that mix and you would have a very disturbed young girl. Then of course she would give the child up for adoption and spend her life wondering if the child was happy, wanted to know who her birth parents were, etc. Or possibly her mother would say the child was hers and raise the baby as a sibling to the now damaged 12 year old.

Add to my own youthful fears the fact that years later my sister-in-law almost died from an ectopic pregnancy, was rushed to the hospital and saved by removing the fetus, and my philosophy on abortion rights became solidified. Pregnancies are not a walk in the park with a child attached to a rainbow at the park exit. Having gone through what would be considered an easy pregnancy and short, intense labor as an adult let me be witness to the fact that labor is about as painful as one can stand and carrying a child to term is not always easy on the mother to be.

I tend to agree that abortion should not be used as simple birth or sex control. The issue rests in the needs of rape victims, fetuses that expire in vitro but the woman is required to carry to term anyway, child incest victims or the woman’s life is endangered by going through childbirth. As has been a mantra from the past, “abortion should be safe legal and rare”.

I could easily have been one of those women, even as a child, bleeding my life out, because I knew even then I would not survive physically, emotionally or mentally if forced into carrying my fathers child. My rebellion saved me, but not all young girls have access to the information needed, the curiosity to discover facts and consequences, or the ability to fight back. Some abusing relatives are violent and prone to use force. The germ of my pro-choice leaning was born as a child of the 40’s and 50’s, but it was cemented through the tragic stories I heard throughout my adult years of the abuse suffered by girls and women while men (for the most part) determined the fate of these young ladies, and, until recently, society turned a blind eye.

What happened to me is long in the past, but it still lives in memory. I learned many words from my father a child should not know. I have very few memories of my normal childhood activities, whereas I have vivid memories of what I would like to forget. And yet, I was lucky. The sad, dreadful and very personal choice some women have to make, I was spared. Perhaps I was spared so that I could add my voice at this stage of my life to the chorus of women who wish to own their own bodies, and make their own life decisions. Perhaps we need a look backward at what it was like for women and girls 60 or 70 years ago…not as we saw on T.V., but as it was for real people. Perhaps we need to teach each other caring and empathy. Perhaps we need a little more love and understanding, and a little less “holier than thou”. Just, perhaps.