“You Push Back Too Much.”

I was told that at work the other day. Have you ever noticed that men are rarely told such things? When’s the last time a man was told,

  • You’re being hysterical.

  • You’re rocking the boat.

  • You’re overreacting.

  • You have strong opinions.

  • Just shut up and take it.

  • I’ll tell you when you can speak.

  • You’re taking things too seriously.

  • You’re too emotional.

Men are allowed to defend themselves. Their anger is tolerated. They can interrupt. They can explain. Their opinions are welcomed. It is assumed that they’re intelligent, rational, and have earned their confidence.

No matter the injustice that is dumped upon the head of a woman, she is expected to be quiet. She is always getting just what she deserves. She was asking for it. She is mentally off for being angry or upset about poor treatment.

Just for having the nerve to defend myself, I’ve gotten all that push back and then some. And I’m the one who pushes? I’m so pissed off right now. But that’s probably because I’m a girl. Perhaps I should just lie back and think of England.

Anger

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This Ain’t No Meritocracy

Who amongst us, here in America, was not fed the American Dream with our mother’s milk? “Work hard, young man, and you’ll get ahead.” “You can do anything if you set your mind to it.” “Succeed in school and you’ll succeed in life.” “There’s a piece of the pie waiting for you. You just have to reach out and take it.” “Slow and steady wins the race.”

In a word, bullshit.

The more I think about this, the more outraged I become. America isn’t a meritocracy. Most of us are not going to get out of this country as much as we put in. Even though we hate to really see it, this is a very highly class-structured society. It’s very hard to break out of your class and claw your way into the next one. When it happens, it’s the exception, not the rule.

Yes, we love to hear those rags-to-riches stories. We’re highly susceptible to Ponzi schemes and get rich quick scenarios because, hey, this is America, and we’re all supposed to get rich quick! How come I’m not walking on one of those gold-paved streets everyone promises us are just around the corner? Perhaps because I’m too busy trying to avoid the potholes, here.

I’ve been working since I was 10 years old. I graduated at the top of my class every single time. Using the American Dream yardstick, I ought to be a gajillionaire. But no. I’ve only managed to poke my head into the middle class in my early 50’s, and even now, I’m one major medical catastrophe away from bankruptcy, as are most of us.

My mother assumed I’d be the CEO of a fortune 500 company by the time I was 25. She totally overlooked the fact that I would have been miserable in that atmosphere, and I would have felt like an imposter for my whole life. Yes, I wound up doing much better than she ever had, but when you set the bar that low, it’s not that hard to jump over. She worked hard all her life, and she passed her work ethic on to her children. She was also desperately poor all her life.

Much of my success, I’m sorry to admit, has had to do with dumb luck. Being born white. Choosing a partner with similar goals and aspirations who understands the value of teamwork. Being in the right place at the right time. Moving from a right to work state to a union state. Having a loved one who was willing to loan me money at critical points in my life. Being able-bodied and intelligent.

Capitalism, as a system, is not designed to benefit the vast majority of us. In order for it to work, most of us have to be content to be cogs in a giant wheel that then rolls over the top of us with annoying frequency. There has to be a lower class. There are roadblocks in place to make sure you stay in it. Substandard schools, crippling student loans, expensive health care that keeps you just sick enough to be compliant, glass ceilings, unequal pay, good ol’ boys clubs, and only being able to get ahead based on who you know are all part of the bigger picture. There have to be a certain number of people desperate enough to do the dirty jobs. It never pays to examine too closely what it takes to make this economic sausage of ours. Not if you want to maintain any sense of contentment.

And because we all buy in to the American Dream, most of us, whether we realize it or not, walk around feeling like a failure. If the American Dream really works, the theory goes, then I must have done something wrong to not be a part of it. I didn’t study hard enough. I didn’t please my boss enough to get that promotion. I picked the wrong major in college. I didn’t put in enough hours. I didn’t socialize with the right people. I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough, white enough, male enough, strong enough. I shouldn’t have had children so soon. I should have saved more money. I didn’t buy the right stock. I don’t properly manage my time.

We are all so busy pursuing the almighty dollar that many of us harbor deep resentment and frustration because we don’t feel that we have meaningful jobs. We’re making widgets on an assembly line so that other widget makers can buy those widgets. Job satisfaction is at an all-time low.

There are ways that we can get off this treadmill of ours. First of all, we need to stop this love affair we seem to have with Capitalism. It has gotten us nowhere. Next, we need to stop voting for politicians that simply exist to prop up the 1 percent. We also need to stop teaching our children that money will buy them happiness, and that the only measure of their worth is the size of their bank accounts.

We also need to prioritize activism over complacency, critical thinking over passivity, collectivism over isolation, unity over division, strength in numbers over every man for himself. We need to start demanding a better world instead of hoping for the best. We need to hold people and corporations accountable rather than assuming they have our best interests at heart. It’s not about me (or you for that matter), it’s about us. We need to stop being divided and conquered.

More than anything, though, we need to dismantle this myth of meritocracy. It pits us against one another. It requires that most of us lose so that some can win. It’s a soul-sucking fantasy.

It’s why so many of us are angry.

Meritocracy

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Tomorrow, In Mexico, A Day Without Women

Femicide. It’s a word I’d never heard until a friend of mine in Mexico introduced me to it. It seems that violence against women is an ever-increasing trend in that country. In fact, according to this article, they averaged three femicides a day in 2019 and one in three Mexican women is a victim of sexual harassment or violence. That’s horrifying and unacceptable.

As is typical of most governments these days, the Mexican government doesn’t seem to be taking women’s issues seriously at all. So there has been an outcry on social media asking women in that country to “disappear” for a day. Don’t go to work, don’t go to school, don’t go out at all. Women comprise 52 percent of the population, 50 percent of the students, and 40 percent of the work force, so this could potentially have a huge impact on the country.

According to the New York Times, this day was sparked, in particular, by two recent femicides that rocked the nation. (Brace yourself.):

Ingrid Escamilla, 25, a Mexico City resident, was stabbed, skinned and disemboweled. Her body was found on Feb. 9, and photos of her mutilated body were leaked to tabloids, which published the images on their front pages, adding to the public outrage.

On Feb. 11, Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett, 7, was abducted from her primary school in Mexico City and her body was discovered wrapped in a plastic bag next to a construction site on the outskirts of the capital.

If enough women participate in this day without women, it could cost the Mexican economy 1.37 billion. (I’m unsure if that’s pesos or dollars. The Times didn’t specify. Still, it’s a lot.)

Protest today, March 8th, International Women’s Day. Take to the streets, if you feel safe doing so with COVID-19 lurking about. (I know the Women’s March here in Seattle has been cancelled, and even though that’s understandable, it saddens me.) Then drop out tomorrow. Let them see that they can’t survive without you.

Please join me in standing in solidarity with the Women of Mexico in their efforts to feel safe in their own land. Every woman, every human being, deserves that basic human right.

#UNDÍASINNOSOTRAS, (A Day Without Us).

26604243856_47d7a1a9c0_z

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One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor you can receive from this country. According to Wikipedia, it’s supposed to be given to people who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

In the past it has been given to an auspicious list of people, including Mother Teresa, Georgia o’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Martha Graham, Sidney Poitier, James Stewart, John Steinbeck, Elie Wiesel, Aaron Copland, Aretha Franklin, David McCullough, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Jonas Salk, Bill Gates, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, Gloria Steinem, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Desmond Tutu, Margaret Mead, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Sally Ride, Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, and Billie Jean King.

Yes, there have been controversial awards. No one will ever agree completely upon whom such honors should be bestowed. But I’m still nauseous after the most recent one was given at Trump’s State of the Union Address.

Rush Limbaugh? Seriously? The man who compared Presedent Obama to a monkey and coined the term Feminazis? This divisive, hateful, racist purveyor of misinformation? Here are some of the lies he has spread:

  • The existence of gorillas disproves the theory of evolution.

  • A recent decrease in hurricanes disproves climate change.

  • He claimed President Obama wanted to mandate circumcision.

  • He called Sandra Fluke a slut for wanting insurance coverage for contraception.

  • He said soldiers who opposed the Iraq War were phonies.

  • He claimed that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster was created by environmentalists.

  • He stated the Adam Lanza did the mass shooting at Sandy Hook due to the Mayan calendar.

Entire books have been written about the lies this man has told and the problems he has caused. To have this unrepentant racist wear the Presidential Medal of Honor around his neck spits in the eye of every former recipient. Especially during African American History Month.

But then, having someone as president who talks about grabbing pussies and who strong-arms allies at war in order to get them to sway American elections spits in the eye of everyone who has been president, too, and he’s the one who decides who gets the award, so what do I expect?

Next, he’ll give one posthumously to Charles Manson, for getting all of us to put dead bolts on our doors.

PresMedalFreedom

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Ding Dong! Avon Calling!

If that title brings on waves of nostalgia, you are of a certain age. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, when women were still expected to stay home, and more and more men were leaving them high and dry, often becoming an Avon Lady was a desperate woman’s most viable career option. My mother found herself on that bandwagon, and therefore went from door to door, hawking lipstick.

All the hard bits happened while I was at school. I never heard her complain about being an Avon Lady. I even remember her winning a couple of awards. She certainly loved to talk to people, so that was right up her alley. But her efforts, however heartfelt, weren’t enough to keep the financial wolves from our door for very long.

Still, as a small child, I admired her. I thought what she did was really exciting. Learning about all the products, and going out there with all her colorful samples, convincing people to buy things. I could never be that persuasive.

That business model came about at a perfect time in our nation’s history. It was a time when you could knock on a stranger’s door and they would invite you in. It was also a time when, more often than not, the woman of the house would be at home when you arrived, and probably was thrilled to talk to someone over the age of 5.

My mother was also stunningly beautiful. I’m sure that a number of ladies bought her products simply because they hoped that they would somehow look like her. (Heaven knows I always wished I looked like her.) But then, too, she was a divorcee at a time when that just wasn’t done, so I suspect many people considered her to be an exotic and slightly dangerous and unpredictable animal that just might prey on husbands. (I could have told them that that was not her style.)

She would sometimes practice her sales pitches on me. That was fun. I felt like the center of attention. And I’d get to help her fill her orders when the shipments came in, seeing the products before anyone else did. I felt special.

I remember, in particular, being fascinated by the cologne bottles that came in the shapes of cars. I would slide them across the table, “Vroom! Vroom!” before they went into the customer’s bags.

Typical me, being drawn to the cars more than to the makeup and jewelry. You’d think she’d have taught me to apply makeup, but in fairness I never expressed an interest. I don’t know how to do it to this day.

I wish my mom were alive so I could ask her if she actually said, “Avon Calling!” when she rang the doorbells. If someone did that today, they’d be laughed off the front stoop, if anyone were home. But it was a different time. I bet she did, though. And I bet the women on the other side of the door would be glad to hear her.

Alas, the days of Avon Ladies are long gone. By the time I hit my teens, people were leaving Avon catalogs at the local salons and such, with their name, address ad phone number stamped on the back, and you’d contact them via your rotary phone. Now, of course, you can buy products online without the human interaction at all.

Even though I don’t buy makeup, this makes me a little sad. Now, if you want the personal touch, you have to order pizza. Somehow that just isn’t the same.

Avon Car

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Expectations of Opportunity

I know a young man who was offered a job. He hadn’t been job hunting, mind you. He already had a job. No, he was approached. And when they told him the salary, he said, “I think I should get 10 grand more a year.” And they gave it to him. He works there still.

What blows me away is that it would have never occurred to me to tell a potential employer that I was worth 10 grand more a year. Even if I believed I deserved it, the thought of asking would never have crossed my mind. I was never taught that such a possibility existed.

I think that is what separates the wheat from the chaff of humanity. Some people are taught to expect, even demand, opportunities. The rest of us are taught to keep our heads down and be grateful for whatever it is we happen to get.

Women, minorities, the underprivileged, none of us are taught to ask for 10 grand more out of life. None of us are taught that we have negotiable value. And most of us don’t even realize that there’s another way to be.

It kind of makes you wonder what other opportunities never get presented to us, simply because we don’t think to ask.

Opportunity

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The Day My Mother Cut Off My Hair

When I was about 9 years old, I lived in such a dysfunctional atmosphere that I was prone to dissociation. I was profoundly depressed, so I learned to “go somewhere else” inside my head. I had a rich inner life, because my outer one, in a nutshell, sucked.

One day I was abruptly wrenched from that world, though, when my mother cut off about 12 inches of my hair. I screamed. I cried. But the damage was already done.

She said to me, “I told you and told you that if you didn’t wash your hair properly, this was going to happen.”

The thing is, I have no memory of her giving me that warning. None. I remember being shocked when she said that.

Maybe she did warn me. Maybe I was somewhere else at the time. There’s no way for me to know.

In my profound depression, it wouldn’t surprise me if I wasn’t taking particularly good care of myself. Looking back at this as an adult, you’d think this might have been a red flag that called for some sort of intervention on her part, rather than an opportunity to violate my body in such a horrifying way, but no.

Please understand what hair is to a girl with low self-esteem. It’s something to hide behind. It’s practically all you have. When someone chops it all off without your permission, it leaves you exposed, vulnerable, and feeling completely out of control.

And while a pixie cut may have looked cute on Twiggy in the 60’s, one glance at the photo of me below and you realize I wasn’t exactly rockin’ it in the 70’s. When you’re 9 and have no other thing to identify you as female, it’s devastating. I was mistaken for a boy for about a year. I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

I took to wearing a big, ridiculous looking floppy hat. But I couldn’t wear it at school. There, I wore things with flowers. I hate wearing things with flowers. It’s not who I am. But this hairstyle was not who I was, either.

When you’re a few short years away from puberty and already confused about who you are, the last thing you need is to have what little ability you have to express yourself wrenched away. I don’t know if this was the only contributing factor, but to this day, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

Please don’t do this to your daughters unless they want short hair themselves. There has to be another way. Communication would be a great starting point.

Very few photographs of me from that time still exist. Whenever I see them, I can see the pain in my eyes. I want to take that little girl in my arms and rock her and tell her how wonderful she is. Someone should have done that at the time. Nobody did. That was the crux of the problem.

1972 ish School Pic - Barb

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A Real Dog and Pony Show

It was early in the morning, and I had just gotten to work. My brain was in a bit of a fog, and I was just going through the motions. I had logged into the City of Seattle employee website to fill out my time sheet, when this image popped up.

Capture

I had to rub my eyes and stare at it for a minute. Were they serious? Clearly whoever put that training together had no idea what the term “Dog and Pony Show” really means.

If you google the definition of this phrase, and go to the most qualified of sources, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you find that it’s an elaborate or overblown affair or event, and that its first known use was in 1949. Innocuous enough, I suppose.

But if you go to Wikipedia, you learn that the term is typically “used in a pejorative sense to connote disdain, jocular lack of appreciation, or distrust of the message being presented or the efforts undertaken to present it.”

Now, why would the City of Seattle want to name a training about public engagement, designed to attract people who are “curious about training and managing digital communications” a Dog and Pony Show? It boggles the mind.

Oh, but it gets worse. Because this is NOT the only definition of a Dog and Pony Show. It’s certainly not the definition that I learned and cannot ever wash out of my head. This definition is crude. It’s about sexual exploitation. It’s so disgusting that I refuse to go into detail here. If you’re really interested, follow this link. But be advised that it’s not safe for work, and it’s definitely rated x. All of these definitions are gross, but scroll down to the very bottom one, which is by far the worst, and you’ll see the one that I was taught. Perhaps that’s because I spent the bulk of my life in a military town. Either way, yuck.

So anyway, that was what was going through my foggy head that morning when I saw that particular training on offer. At first I kind of scoffed at their ignorance, and planned to say nothing. Let the stuff hit the fan and sit back and watch. Because even the least innocuous, more official definition, with all its implications of incompetence and disdain, are very, very bad optics for the City of Seattle.

But as the day went on, it began to eat at me. Any woman in the know would be offended by the name of this training. They wouldn’t want to attend. And I’d certainly think less of any man who did so. The City of Seattle prides itself on its enlightenment and inclusiveness and its diversity, but this is not the first time (see my post entitled The Cubic Yard Test) that they’ve clearly demonstrated that they have a long, long, long way to go.

So I decided to contact the training department. In fairness, they were very polite, and said that the training was being sponsored by the Information Technology Department, and they would forward my concerns to them. Several days went by. The graphic remained on the employee website (where it still is as of this writing). Surely, I thought, more people were complaining about this.

But no. I came to work today to an e-mail from the IT department that said, basically, that the Urban Dictionary isn’t an official or credible dictionary source. Instead they provided sources that refer back to the pejorative definition mentioned above. As if that would be acceptable.

While I wouldn’t cite the Urban Dictionary in a master’s thesis, these definitions exist because some portion of the general population (read “unwashed masses” if you must) interprets these words in this manner. That, to me, would be enough to rethink the name of my training, especially when you are representing a public entity like the City of Seattle. But hey, that’s just me.

This is purely speculation, but they’re probably loathe to give up such a cool graphic. (I have to admit, it is really well done, and probably took more than a minute to design.) I’m sure they’ve got all their power point presentations in place and don’t want to change them. And they’re IT people who hate to be (rightly or wrongly) considered out of touch with popular culture. And no one wants to be  called out as foolish or wrongheaded in any way, so to heck with the small percentage of us who are shocked and appalled by their poorly researched idea.

So in the end, they’re absolutely right. This is a dog and pony show, indeed.

____________________________________________________

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The Creepy Concept of Covenant Marriage

Recently, I came across a disturbing little factoid. In 1997, the state of Louisiana passed Covenant Marriage into law. Arkansas and Arizona later jumped on the bandwagon. Thank goodness no other states have taken the bait.

These policies, if you opt into them, make marriage more difficult to get into, and a lot more difficult to get out of. For starters, according to Wikipedia, you have to attend premarital counseling sessions, which “emphasize the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage”, and you must sign a statement saying that the marriage is for life.

While I think premarital counseling is a great idea, I wonder who exactly is conducting these sessions. And I really would have a problem with having someone other than me and my spouse dictate what the nature, purpose and responsibilities of our marriage are to be. Marriage is what you make it. No two are alike.

And as for signing one’s life away, if you aren’t confident that the other person is going to try for a lifelong commitment unless they put it in writing, then you might want to reexamine how much you trust this person in the first place. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship. If you don’t have that, you’re building a castle on sand.

This is starting to sound like the equivalent of a homeowners’ association for relationships. I chafe at rules and regulations. I’ll pass.

Even worse are the restrictions placed on getting out of the marriage. In a covenant marriage, you are waiving your rights to a no-fault divorce. Before you can even consider divorce, you have to first go to counseling. You must also be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery, a felony, is a drug addict or a sexual predator, or that you’ve been living apart for at least a year (perhaps two, depending on the state.)

First of all, why bother with counseling if your spouse is involved in such heinous acts? Those things, as far as I’m concerned, are deal breakers.

And you notice there’s no provision for your husband punching you in the face and not being prosecuted for it, nor is there an option if your wife suddenly joins a cult. Your only recourse in those situations would be a long painful separation, and there’s no guarantee that the nut job in question would agree to being apart.

Life is messy. It can go south in many ways that are outside the bounds of these few legislative dicta. No one should have the right to define what you deem to be unsupportable.

Is it just me, or is it creepy and strange that these three super red states, full to the brim with conservatives who claim to want less government, not more, are all for these highly regulated covenant marriages? But then, this legislates religion and “family values”, and restricts the freedom of women even further, so yeah, I guess it makes sense.

Fortunately, these three states have not made covenant marriage mandatory, and less than 1 percent of the couples getting married each year in these places opt in to this foolishness. But still, it seems like a disturbing, backward trend, and it gives me the willies.

I love holding my husband’s hand, but I wouldn’t want to be handcuffed to it.

Business people handcuffed together

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All for Nothin’

I know someone who calls herself “Nothin’”. Actually, I only know her in passing. I wish I knew her better. I’d love to set her straight.

How do I know Nothin’? (Keep your smart aleck responses to that out of the comments section!) I’ve already confessed within the confines of this blog that I play Pokemon Go. Yeah, I know, it’s silly. But it’s also fun.

Many people are under the misapprehension that this is a game just for little kids, and that it’s about catching and killing monsters and fighting. First of all, no monsters are killed during the course of this game. No blood is shed. And while there are indeed battles, they’re more like jovial sports competitions. They barely raise your heart rate.

What I like most about the game, aside from collecting the unique monsters, is that you can make friends from all around the world, and exchange virtual postcards with them that you collect during your Pokemon travels. It’s fun to see pictures of graffiti in Spain or architecture in Indonesia or parks in Colombia. It’s fun to imagine what has brought these people to these places, and picture myself visiting these locations as well. I like to imagine what things people consider routine that I would find exotic.

When you play Pokemon Go, the first thing you do is get an avatar and choose a unique name. People can get very creative with these names. You also get to choose your gender and how your avatar dresses. But you don’t get to chat with other players.

Over time, though, you learn a little something about the person based on the superficial choices he or she makes. Nothin’ could be an adult or a child. She has chosen a female avatar, and she dresses that avatar very stylishly and conservatively. Her avatar is white, with blonde hair. She sends me postcards from Central Canada. She only plays maybe once or twice a week.

That’s all I know about her, other than the fact that of all the words she could have chosen to identify herself, she chose Nothin’. That breaks my heart. Man, I wish I could talk to her!

I hope she’s not severely depressed and crying out for help in such a way that none of us can ever respond. I hope she isn’t surrounded by people who are chipping away at her self-esteem. I hope she doesn’t feel inferior because she is female. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but the frustrating part is that I’ll never know what motivates Nothin’.

I wish I could write on the virtual postcards that I send to her. I would tell her that she is, in fact, something. I would tell her that I’m glad she exists. I would tell her that I like her style. I would tell her that I see her, and that she has value in this world. I would ask her to seek help and hold on.

Because nobody is nothin’.

you are awesome.

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