Curbing Male Violence

Have you ever noticed that people always talk about the number of women who were raped each year, rather than the number of men who were rapists each year? Why is that? I think it’s because, whether we care to admit it or not, there’s a twisted bias in the world that if women get raped, they’ve somehow asked for it. When it comes to violence against women, it’s the women who get to “own” the crime as well as the statistics.

It has been ever thus. Women are expected to limit their freedoms to curb male violence. If you don’t want to get assaulted, ladies, you should avoid going out at night. You shouldn’t be in that parking garage. You shouldn’t dress like that. Don’t take male-oriented jobs. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Be quiet. Never travel alone.

I genuinely believe that more is not done to curb male violence precisely because that violence helps keep us women in our place. I’d call it a disgusting trend, but a trend implies that change occasionally happens. This is more aptly described as a disgusting culture.

Sadly, the focus on the victim rather than the perpetrator isn’t going to change if we sit back and wait for the men to make the changes. Women need to speak out to adjust the focus to the ones committing the crimes. We need to raise our boys to understand that violence is never okay. I also wish more women would take self defense classes. We are not, nor do we ever have to be, helpless.

And yes, I know that men are raped, too, and that most men are not violent. But every woman I know has been the victim of some form of violence, abuse, or harrassment or another, so you do the math. It’s time to claim our freedoms and make these criminals sweat.

To show you how pervasive the culture of having women own victimhood really is, I must confess that I almost included a picture of a woman as a victim here, rather than one taking charge. Shame on me.

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Oh No You Don’t

I just read an article entitled, “Georgia Bill Would Criminalize Giving Water to Voters Waiting in Long Lines.” It brought me right back to standing in line to vote in Florida, year after year, in the blistering heat, on black pavement, for hours. It was brutal. I’ve gotten spoiled here in Washington State, where I can vote by mail.

Here’s the thing that I will never understand about politicians and voter suppression. If you push for these dirty tricks, you are saying, loud and clear, that you believe that the only way you can win an election is by cheating. That’s not a good look.

You have so many weapons in your voter suppression arsenal. Limiting hours at voting locations. Preventing voting by mail. Gerrymandering your district. Claiming that your tactics are only to prevent voter fraud, which has been proven time and time again to be virtually nonexistent. Requiring extensive paperwork in order to get a Voter ID. Prohibiting former felons from voting. Making the polls difficult to find or get to. And the list goes on and on and on. And on.

Yes, I get it. You’re hungry for power, and you’re willing to obtain that power by any means necessary. But the more people you alienate from the voting process, the fewer people who will want to vote for your party. What does it feel like, to shoot yourself in the foot like that?

Put roadblocks between me and the voting booth? Oh, hell no. That motivates me. I’ll crawl naked through ground glass to vote if I have to. Especially if it means I get to vote against someone who is promoting voter suppression laws. Make it as hard as you want to. I’ll still find a way to vote, and I’ll help others be able to vote, too.

Nothing will stop me from demonstrating my patriotism by voting. By trying to stop me, all you’re doing is pissing me off. And you won’t like me when I’m pissed off.

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

Have We Lost All Humanity?

This is my dear friend Carole.

Normally, she doesn’t look like this. Normally, her outer beauty isn’t this battered and bruised. You can still see the inner beauty, though, shining through her eyes. Look closely. Note her intelligence, her sense of humor, and her indomitable spirit. In her late 70’s, she still has a zest for life that I’ve come to love and admire since we first became friends through my blog about 8 years ago.

I’ll let her describe how she came to look like this.

“On Monday about 1PM it was bright and sunny, a beautiful day. I stopped just across the FL/GA line to get gas. I was thinking about the good times I had had with my family at Disney, and wishing I had a few more days with them.

“Well, the pump wouldn’t give me a receipt, so I headed inside to get a copy. Returning to my car, I lost my footing on the curb, and down I went. In slow-mo, I saw the sidewalk coming up to kiss me, and I heard the sickening sound of a hard-boiled egg being crushed on the counter, but it was my nose. PAIN unimaginable.

“There were 3 or 4 people pumping gas. I lay there maybe 2 minutes, checking mentally each part of my body to make sure nothing was broken, and if I was bleeding. Not one person made a move to see if they could help or even ask, “Are you okay?”

“So I went inside and the two employees asked all the right questions, offered any assistance and generally made me feel better. I hung around for an hour to make sure I wasn’t going to risk my life or anyone else’s life, then headed home.

“I accidentally missed a turn in Atlanta and couldn’t find my way back on the interstate. I stopped at a Jiffy store to ask for directions and the man started smiling real big. By the time he got the directions out of his mouth, he was choking, trying not to get out a full blown belly laugh.

“Back on the road home, after driving about 10 hours, I pulled into a hotel. I spoke to someone through a teller window to ask for the cheapest rate. She had this big smirk. $89.99.  I said, “That’s your cheapest price?” So I drove all the way home.

“I got home at 1:45 am. I am assuming that all the people’s reactions to me were because they thought that I was an abused woman on the run.”

Personally, I’m horrified to know that multiple people left my dear friend lying on the pavement and no one did a thing to help her up or check on her.

Recently, my husband and I saw a woman fall in a parking lot and we stopped our car to get out and see if she was okay. My husband helped her up, brushed her off, and made sure she was not in need of an ambulance before we left. Isn’t that what a normal, decent person would do? And yet I’ll never forget that 20 years ago my 92-year-old neighbor once lay on the sidewalk with a broken wrist for two hours as numerous people walked right past her.

So the fact that no one went to Carole’s aid isn’t that unusual. People just can’t seem to be bothered to do the right thing anymore. It sickens me. And the idea that people found her condition funny, that there was no empathy for her situation whatsoever, disgusts me to the very marrow of my being.

Is there no compassion left in this world? Don’t we give a fig about our fellow man anymore? What has caused such a lack of humanity? How do we get it back?

I’m ashamed of the human race right now.

By the way, Carole says she’s feeling much better. I’m glad to hear it. But it should have gone much differently. Lest we forget, we all fall down sometimes.


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He Had a Bad Day?

I just read an article entitled “Outrage After Georgia Cop Suggests Atlanta Mass Shooter Acted Because He Had a ‘Bad Day’”, and it has thrown me into a recurring fit that is brought on when people in this country refuse to see violent white males for what they are.

No, I am not saying that all white males are violent. Far from it. But when one is violent in this country, such as this guy who killed 8 people, by virtue of being white he’s not called a domestic terrorist. No. He’s not even called a nut job. He’s called, at worst, misunderstood or frustrated or both.

If a black guy or a Muslim had killed those people, there would have been riots in the streets, calling for the guy’s head on a pike. There would have been racial backlash of epic proportions. Heads would roll.

Instead, this guy, who apparently has shown no remorse whatsoever, is given a free pass because he had a bad day. Poor guy. Give him a break. It was only 8 people, and 6 of them were Asian women, so they don’t really count. (Insert sound of my head exploding here.)

For all our sakes, I hope no one ever short sheets his bed, or he might blow up a freakin’ building. Because, you know, bad day…

End of rant.

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Deborah Doane Dempsey

In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d tell you about an amazing woman who has broken quite a few glass ceilings. Her name is Deborah Doane Dempsey. She was the first woman to graduate from a US maritime academy back in 1976. She graduated as the valedictorian of her class in the Maine Maritime Academy. In 1994, she was awarded an honorary PhD from that same academy.

She was also the first woman to receive a merchant marine unlimited masters license, and would be the first woman to sail as such. She was the first American woman to command a cargo ship on international voyages. She was the only woman captain to earn a US Navy Meritorious Public Service Award during the Persian Gulf War.

In 1998 she published a book about her amazing life entitled, Captain’s a Woman. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely on my outrageously long “to be read” list. It has great reviews.

In 2007, she became a Columbia River Bar Pilot, which is not for the feint of heart. The picture below is of her climbing up the side of a ship in inclement weather to pilot them in. Those can be some rough and vengeful seas.

Captain Dempsey takes great pride in paying her dues and earning the respect of her coworkers by being good at what she does. She is a hard working woman in a rough and tumble career. I think she’s an inspiration.

I know what it’s like to work in a male oriented career. They don’t make it easy for you. It takes guts. But don’t ever let someone use your gender as a way to hold you back. We can do anything men can do, and with a little integrity, determination, strength, and confidence, we can often do it even better.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Do you enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!

Let Your Riches Flow

Most people agree that the filthy rich ought to pay their fair share of taxes. And yet these despicable few still manage to cling to just enough political power to thwart our efforts. It’s obscene.

If you’re a billionaire, it’s not like you’re cuddling up to your money in front of a warm fire, with hot buttered rum. It’s remote from you. You don’t have a personal relationship with it. It’s usually never even converted into cash. It’s just numbers. And no matter how extravagant your lifestyle is, you clearly don’t need all that money to survive, or you wouldn’t be a billionaire for long. It would disappear like the puff of smoke it actually is.

So what makes you cling to it so incredibly tightly? Why is it never enough for you? Why can’t you ever stop being afraid?

The ultra rich don’t seem to realize that the spending of money can bring joy. (And yes, you might say that some of them are philanthropists, but they send out less than one percent of what they should be paying in taxes, and donate a lot less of their income than the average poor person does.

If I had a billion dollars sitting around gathering dust, I could end homelessness in my county, which includes Seattle. That would transform this city. And no one would go to bed hungry in this area ever again. That would feel a lot better than the anxiety brought on by greed.

In essence, humanity is a closed system. When your money leaves you, it doesn’t just disappear. It’s just somewhere else. Your goal, if you want a happy life, is to make sure that, when your money goes elsewhere, as much of it as possible is doing some good. Is it repairing a bridge so it doesn’t collapse? Is it paying the heating bill for a family? Is it helping clean up the planet? Is it allowing someone to be educated? Is it providing vaccines to those in need? Is it helping someone start a business to raise their family up from the pit of poverty?

Doing these things has a ripple effect. It reduces crime when you allow people to be less desperate. Educating children leads to adults who are more apt to do good themselves. Allowing people to be safe and healthy and clothed reduces the hate and greed and violence in the world. And that, in turn, impacts all of us.

Needless to say, I’m a firm believer in the flow of money. It’s meant to be liquid. If you pay people a living wage, they’re able to participate in the economy. When you stop grinding down the poor, their strength and abilities empower us all.

Yeah, yeah, I’m looking at the world through rose colored glasses. But I’ve seen all of this with my own eyes. It really matters.

I have been making microloans through for 15 years. I’ve so far loaned $2,425.00, and I haven’t even felt it. Yes, that is a painful amount of money to me, but I haven’t felt it because it’s been the same $25 dollars, over and over and over again.

Here’s how it works. I make a $25 dollar loan to someone in a financially depressed country. Maybe 10 other people join me. That’s not that much to any of us, but to the person it’s going to, it can mean the world. It might be more than they usually earn in a year. It can mean the difference between safe drinking water and constant illness. It can mean they can start a business that will sustain them and allow their kids to go to school so that someday they’ll do even better.

And here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) I’ve been lucky so far, and the money has always been paid back. I’ve lent that $25 dollars 92 times, and like water, it has flowed back to me like the tide, so I have been able to loan it out again, to someone else. That money isn’t an object that gathers dust. It continues to do good, over and over and over again, even though it’s only 25 dollars to me.

I have helped people in 70 different countries. And I mostly loan to women, because I feel that women are held back more, and deserve a break from this cruel world. Lifting women up makes me feel good.

So my 25 dollars has been to Fiji, and Vietnam, and Burkina Faso, and Guatemala. It’s been to Palestine and Thailand and Nigeria and Colombia. It’s seen Madagascar and Tongo and Egypt and Haiti. It has started businesses and built wells and been to markets and farms and it has raised roofs. It has done good, and has caused me no hardship. None at all.

If we all did this, the world would be a much better place. And the people that are most capable of doing these things are the very people who aren’t doing so. It makes me sad.

I’d like to invite you to join me and make a microloan through Kiva. You can find them here.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Soylent Green? Maybe Not!

My whole life, I’ve been warned about the impending doom of the population explosion. Movies like Soylent Green, where human beings were such a cheap commodity that they were scooped up into dump trucks when they rioted for food, didn’t help. I was expecting starvation, overcrowding, wars, pollution, misery, and death.

This threat of decreasing nature, increasing growth is one of the many reasons I chose to be childfree. I have absolutely no regrets about that to this day. (Sorry to disappoint the hundreds of people who said, “You’ll change your mind,” over the course of my life.)

But I just read an article that gives me renewed hope for the planet, if not for humanity. Entitled “As birth rates fall, animals prowl in our abandoned ‘ghost villages’”, it gives a projection of the future that many of us could never have imagined. It seems that our population growth has slowed and will soon be in decline.

A lot of that has to do with women becoming more educated and empowered and having more access to birth control and delaying marriages. According to the article, in order to maintain population stability, each woman has to average 2.1 children. But in many places, this is no longer happening. Not even close.

Birthrates are actually down to 0.84 children per woman in South Korea. They’re in extreme decline in Japan and Germany, too. It’s down to 1.65 children per woman in England and Wales, and 1.37 children per woman in Scotland. The birthrate is below sustainability in Thailand and Brazil, too. Iran is so freaked out by their birthrate that they are preventing their state clinics from giving vasectomies or handing out birth control.

The article goes on to say that our global population is now 7.67 billion, and at our current rate, we should hit our peak at 9.73 billion in 2064, and drop back down to 8.79 billion by 2100. It said that by that time, the populations of Spain, Italy, and Ukraine will be half of their current number, and China should be down by 48 percent.

This kind of decline will put a strain on economies, as the average age of populations goes up. There will eventually be more houses than people to put in them. That’s already the case in Japan. (Glad my dear husband isn’t a realtor there!)

As people are moving to the cities and more rural areas become abandoned, forests and wildlife are returning. Bears, wolves, lynx, and wolverines are rebounding. Wild boar and deer are also on the increase.

In Southern Spain, there are now more than 3,000 ghost towns up in the hills. The forest area has tripled in that country since the 1900’s. As there are fewer people to feed, there will be fewer farms, and those fields quickly become overgrown.

And this article makes no mention of the pandemic. As of this writing, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus page, 2,436,173 people have died so far worldwide. That does not even take into account the many more that go unreported. That actual figure could be as much as 4 times higher. Many of these are people who haven’t had children, and their nonexistent children certainly won’t be procreating, either. So how will that speed this process along? It’s too soon to tell, as it will get a lot worse before it gets better.

Setting aside (If that’s even possible…) the horror and tragedy that this pandemic is visiting upon us as we lose loved ones, personally, a planet with more wildlife and forests is quite appealing to me. We’ll figure out how to cope with the economic strain. We’ll have no choice.

Either way, I anticipate that the world is going to look a lot different 150 years from now. And I maintain that that’s not a bad thing. It sure beats Soylent Green.

Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!

Infantilizing Women

Someone on Facebook recently reminded me of something that has irritated me my whole life. Why are women’s underwear called panties? Do we wear socksies or shoesies? No. You will never hear me call my underwear panties. Ever.

There also used to be an annoying habit of making maternity clothing look like the expectant mother was a child herself, rather than like a professional, capable woman whose body just happens to be being contorted beyond reason. I remember a coworker 30 years ago coming in to work wearing a baby blue maternity shirt with a peter pan collar and candy cane piping. Ugh! Why? That seems to be a thing of the past, though, thank goodness.

And what woman hasn’t heard, “Don’t worry your pretty little head,” at least once in her life? What are we, five? Um… my head isn’t little. In fact, I often can’t find hats that are big enough for me.

And I don’t need to be mansplained. I am perfectly capable of arriving at facts without your help. I don’t need to be coddled or protected or advised or counseled. I get to go out at night, out into the big bad world all alone, simply because I’m the one who makes that decision. I’m probably much more astute about sussing out a dangerous situation than you are, because I’ve lived it.

I’m no more mentally or emotionally fragile than you are. When I get angry, I’m angry, not hysterical. My opinions are as valid as anyone else’s. I should be taken as seriously as you are. The fact that I need to explain this to you is the crux of the problem.

People who infantilize women are projecting their own immaturity upon others. But don’t worry your pretty little head about it. We’ll be just fine whether or not you wake the eff up.

Imagine. An adult who just happens to also be pregnant.

Do you enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!

Mary Eliza Mahoney

During a recent rainy, late night commute home, I found myself on a deserted street. It felt like I was the only person alive (or at least awake) on earth. I looked up just as a digital billboard, perched high above a used car lot, was changing images. Suddenly, looking down at me as a beautiful yet somber face of a woman in an old-fashioned nursing outfit. The caption said, “Mary Eliza Mahoney, First African American nurse.”

I was intrigued. This was the first I’d heard of this amazing woman. Her presence made me feel less alone on that cold, wet road. I still had a few miles to go to get home, but the whole drive I kept repeating Mary Eliza Mahoney, so I’d remember her name long enough to Google her. It’s a good name. A substantial name.

When I got to my nice, warm, dry house, I changed into my fuzzy jammies (“Mary Eliza Mahoney, Mary Eliza Mahoney…”) sat in my recliner with my snuggly dachshund ensconced on my lap, and I Googled. The first thing I learned was that there are very few images of Ms. Mahoney. The one below is the same one that was on the billboard. She looks so young, and so determined. Given that she was born in 1845, though, limited photographs are par for the course.

She was born near Boston to freed slaves who had come up from North Carolina before the American Civil War, hoping to live somewhere with less racial discrimination. I suspect they instilled that strong desire in their child. She attended one of the first integrated schools in the country, through the 4th grade. She was 15 when the civil war started, and she saw the need and the value of nurses during that conflict. She decided at age 18 that she wanted to be a nurse. The war didn’t end until she was 20 years old. That part of history must have been extremely formative for her.

Her pursuit of nursing didn’t take a straight line, but you can tell that it always remained her goal. At 18, She got a job at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and worked there for 15 years. As a janitor. And a cook. And a maid. And a washerwoman. She worked 16 hours a day.

Finally she was able to become a nurse’s aide. Then, at the age of 33, she was admitted to a new program, the first in the nation, that that very hospital had started to train nurses. Although it was easier for African American women to pursue higher education in the North than in the South, it was still rare. It is expected that she was admitted to the program due to her 15 year relationship with that institution.

The 16 month program was grueling to say the least. She attended 12 hours of lectures a day, and got another 4 hours of hands on experience. Then she became a private duty nurse, in charge of six patients on the various wards. She got 1 to 4 dollars a week for that, a portion of which was returned to the hospital for tuition. Of the 44 women that started the program, they began dropping by the wayside one by one, including Mary’s sister. In the end, there were 4 graduates, and Mary was one of those. In 1879, she became the first African American registered nurse in the nation. I hope her parents lived to see that.

She decided to avoid public nursing, because there was a lot of discrimination there. Oddly enough, she preferred being a private nurse in the homes of wealthy white families. She developed an excellent reputation for being efficient, patient, and caring. At the time, many African American nurses were treated as though they were servants rather than trained professionals, so she tended to avoid the staff, eating alone in the kitchen.

As a successful nurse, her goal then became to abolish discrimination in nursing, and toward that end, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1909, and was the keynote speaker at their first convention. The association’s goal was to support and recognize the accomplishments of outstanding nurses, particularly those who were minorities.

After decades as a private nurse, she became the director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for black children, and remained so until 1912. She retired from nursing after 40 years, which is even more impressive when you consider that she didn’t graduate from nursing school until she was in her early 30’s.

In her retirement, she focused on women’s suffrage, and in 1920, she was one of the first women to register to vote in Boston. She died of breast cancer, after a 3 year battle, when she was 80. That was in 1926, a little over a year before my mother was born. (Ma would have turned 94 today. Waving skyward.)

Mary Eliza Mahoney was obviously a determined, goal-oriented, hard-working, strong, intelligent woman. I would have been proud to know her. There may not be many photographs of her, but she certainly has made her mark.

Sources for this article:

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There’s More to You Than Sexy

In another place and time, I had a friend whom I saw almost daily for two years. I liked her a lot, but we never got super close. I’m 30 years older than she is. And we only had the one daily thing in common.

I’m sure she’d have given me a ride to the bus stop if it was raining, but I doubt she’d invite me out to lunch. That kind of friend. You know the kind. We all have them.

We’ve kept in touch over Facebook, but I don’t think it would occur to either one of us to pay a visit if traveling through the other’s town. Which is fine. Best wishes all around, no doubt about it.

But sometimes I wish we had gotten closer so I could give her some advice. Did I mention she’s a gorgeous girl? Absolutely stunning. And her Facebook page is full of sexy pictures of her in leggy evening gowns and bathing suits and negligees.

It kind of makes me sad. Part of me thinks, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. She certainly has it. But I know her to be so much more than that. She is intelligent, funny, hard-working, dedicated to family, and extremely kind and capable. I have no doubt that she’ll be a success at whatever she chooses to take on.

But if you don’t know her and you look at the pictures she presents to the world, all that you see is sexy. And she has well over 2000 Facebook friends. I doubt most of them are there because they think she’s a brilliant conversationalist.

I hate the idea that she thinks that sexy is her most valuable commodity, because trust me, beauty fades. She most likely won’t have that slammin’ body for that much longer. If you consider your looks to be your trump card, your success will be fleeting. It’s important to nurture the beauty within.

I fear that with her primary focus being all about her surface, she’ll let her substance atrophy. The older she gets, and the more she has to rely on her character, her charm, her wits, and her life experience, I worry that she’ll be out of practice.

I look at her sexy pictures and what I see, first and foremost, is an extremely rough mid-life crisis in her future. And that’s so unnecessary. It’s hard to watch.

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