What Do You Do?

My wonderfully woke husband recently posted this picture on his Facebook page, along with the explanation quoted below it.

Jackson Katz

Men ask why women are so pissed off, even guys with wives and daughters. Jackson Katz, a prominent social researcher, illustrates why. He’s done it with hundreds of audiences:

“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other.

“Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’

“Then I ask the women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.”

Yup. I do the vast majority of these things. It’s second nature to me. I don’t even think about it. It’s what I have to do, as a woman, to walk safely through this world.

It never occurred to me that men don’t think about these things. It never really entered my mind how off balance this world is. It makes me kind of sick to my stomach in retrospect.

And then I remembered a couple of incidents that make a lot more sense to me now.

Once I was on a first date with a really nice guy and he was doing his best to impress me. We were having fun in downtown Jacksonville, and to get from one place to another, we decided to take a shortcut through an alley. (It was really more of a pedestrian walkway, paved with cobblestones and very well lit, but deserted.) I’d been through it a thousand times. But this time when we were halfway through, a scary guy entered from the other end. I stopped dead and started backing up. My date kept going and engaged the guy in conversation. He was begging for money. I think my date was trying to show me he was a compassionate person, and so he gave the guy some money, but by then I had backed out of the alley entirely. He came and apologized to me. He said he hadn’t even thought of the fact that the situation was unsafe, and he shouldn’t have put me in it. Yup. He never had to think of things like that when he was on his own.

Another time, I was riding bikes with my boyfriend through our small town, and we decided to go into the local convenience store, as we had many times before. But this time I could hear drunken shouting inside. Again, I stopped dead. I said, “Uh… not a good idea. Not safe.” But my boyfriend was thirsty, so he went anyway. I rode off and went home, where I have an arsenal of strategically placed innocent-looking items that I can use as weapons if need be. A much safer place to be than in the presence of an outraged drunken stranger. When my boyfriend got back he asked me why I had left without him. I said I wasn’t safe. He was truly baffled.

I would love to have the luxury of being baffled. Unfortunately, I’m too busy trying not to be in harm’s way. That’s the way it is. If more men saw that, it would make life easier for us women. I’m not expecting to be taken care of. In fact, I don’t want to be treated like a hothouse flower. But if I do ask you for help, or if I signal that you’re putting me in a situation, then please, take it seriously. That’s really the least you can do while I’m doing everything else on the list above, don’t you think?

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In Spite Of, Not Because Of

So many good things came from the Christine Blasey Ford hearing. She started a long overdue national discussion about abuse and, even more basically, about what it means to be a woman in this world. This genie will never be put back into the bottle, and I think our culture will be all the better for it. Being heard provides an opportunity for healing.

Believe it or not, I’m a very quiet person. Because of that, it’s assumed, I hope correctly, that I’m a good listener. Therefore, people tend to confide in me. So I have heard a lot of amazing stories of survival over the years.

These stories have left me with two lasting impressions. 1) We live in a world that is a great deal more violent and abusive than most people realize or care to admit, and 2) I will always be fascinated by people’s ability to survive and even thrive in spite of the many obstacles that are thrown in their paths.

I know a woman whose mother tried to kill her on multiple occasions. I know a woman whose parents attempted to beat the gay out of her. I know a woman who was sexually abused at an extremely young age by a never-ending series of her mother’s boyfriends. I know many people who have been beaten up for simply being who they are. I know a man who was so severely tortured by his alcoholic father that to this day he is afraid of his own shadow.

I’ve learned of knives being held to throats. Legs broken and improperly healed. Humiliations and punishments beyond your worst nightmares.

Every one of these people survived in spite of, not because of, the people around them. Those people should have been supporting them and raising them up in life, not beating them down. The fact that abusers seem to flourish in this society is an outrage.

Survivors are my heroes. They have a depth of character that people who have had the good fortune of waltzing through life unscathed will never achieve. But I’ve come to believe that depth of character wasn’t brought out by the abuse. I think it was always there, deep inside. Humans have this uncanny ability to default to incredible if given half a chance.

So, if survivors are already awesome, imagine how much more they could have been without the toxicity that was injected into their lives. What gifts has this hostile world deprived itself of? What are we missing? How much further could this society have evolved without all the harm that it inflicts upon itself? What an incredible waste.

Something to think about.

Michael Paul Miller The Calling
The Calling, by Michael Paul Miller

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Support vs. Supremacy

Do you feel like an outcast? Do you feel abnormal? Do you have social anxiety? Are you lonely? Misunderstood? Having trouble fitting in? Do you have a health issue, or a fetish or an addiction? Can’t get a job? In a toxic relationship? Do you want help?

Odds are quite good that there’s a support group out there for you. Thank God for support groups. I highly recommend them. Having the camaraderie of like-minded people, who are working together toward self-improvement, is priceless.

A good support group will discuss the issue at hand. It will help individuals talk about their struggles with said issue, and also allow them to brainstorm possible solutions. It will celebrate triumphs and parse failures to redirect people toward a more positive path. The ultimate goal is to get you into a better headspace, and help you build a better life for yourself.

Self-improvement isn’t easy. It takes work. It requires commitment. There are no shortcuts.

Unfortunately, in this era of social media, it’s easy to think that there are shortcuts. For every support group out there, there’s an online forum for people who want to stay right in their toxic place. Want to remain an anorexic? There are plenty of people just like you who will be more than willing to encourage your march toward death. Don’t want to face your fear? You can simply hide in your house and interact with a wide network of people who are doing the exact same thing. Do you prefer to blame others rather than make changes yourself? You will always be able to find people who will join you in casting blame, spewing hatred, and inciting violence.

But how’s that working for you? Being allowed to vent your bile with people who agree with you might feel good at first, but has it solved your issue? Are you happier, healthier, more functional now than you were before? Or are you simply more angry?

Let’s take, for example, your basic Incel group. There are many reasons why one might be involuntarily celibate. If your self-esteem is poor, if you feel ugly or awkward or socially-inept, if you’re isolated or depressed, you could benefit from a group of others who are going through the same thing. You could learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. You could learn that you’re maybe a lot more normal than you first realized, and that would do wonders for your self-image. A group like that, with the goal of helping you find ways to form a healthy romantic relationship, would be ideal. Unfortunately that’s not what on-line Incel groups do.

Incel groups place the blame on others. It’s the fault of women that you’re not getting laid. Yeah. You’re just fine the way you are. Its them. They are shallow and only go for muscular, gorgeous men. Because of that, you are not getting the sex you’re entitled to. That attitude rapidly devolves into misogyny, and then you get people encouraging violence. They celebrate mass killers. They encourage rape and spousal abuse. They say they’d feel soooo much better if someone threw acid into women’s faces.

But the thing is, how does that solve your problem? Do you think that attitude or behavior is going to bring you love? Because I’m here to tell you that you could be the most gorgeous man on the planet, but I’m not going to find you attractive if you want to throw acid in my face. And I’m fairly certain I’m in the majority, there.

Incel groups are also based on a lot of false premises. Most women aren’t looking specifically for muscular men. In fact, a lot of us find extreme muscles kinda gross. We all have different tastes. The fact that many men, who are fat or not well endowed or deformed or have scars, still manage to find love, will tell you that most women aren’t as shallow as these Incel groups would like you to believe. We are looking for love, too. (In fact, the way these groups insult the physical attributes of women, and only prize the “gorgeous”,  “unattainable” ones, show that the members are the shallow ones, not the women.)

And, uh, by the way, no one is “entitled” to sex. Healthy sex is a mutually given gift that is shared between people who respect, admire, and love one another. Love. Not hate. Equality. Not superiority or entitlement.

Incel groups are not about support. They’re about male supremacy. That gets you nowhere. Believing others are inferior isn’t going to render you more popular with them.

If you really want to improve your life, look at the people you associate with. Are they trying to help you improve? Are they a positive force, or are they toxic? Are they encouraging anger or violence? That isn’t going to do you any good.

To be clear: groups that marinate in negativity become extremists, gangs, and/or terrorists. You can do better than that. Everyone has felt like an outcast at some point. I guarantee it. But I know there’s awesomeness within you. You just have to nurture it to make it grow.

Hate is the wrong path. Take the high road. It may take some effort to get up there, but in the end, you’ll be all the better for it. Onward and upward!

https _2.bp.blogspot.com_-hDlp3Ou1Iuw_UQz1dYGU57I_AAAAAAAALwQ_ulE8WKTtjgE_s1600_Divorced+Praying+Mantis+Support+Group
The right group for you is out there. I promise.

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Score One for Nature!

I’m not a violent person. I don’t even believe in the death penalty. But when I stumbled across this article about three rhino poachers getting killed by a pride of lions, I have to say that I was kind of pleased by the justice that Mother Nature meted out.

Even if it were true (and it’s most definitely not) that rhino horns held medicinal properties, that doesn’t give you the right to kill them. And if you are stupid enough to break into a game PRESERVE full of wild animals to commit this crime, you certainly can’t blame the lions for viewing you as a delicious midnight snack. You were about to do what you do, so they did what they do. Fair’s fair.

You were committing a crime. You were in a place where you had no right to be. Nature stepped up, leaving nothing but your shoes and your gloves and one skull behind, along with the nefarious weapons you planned to use to commit your atrocity.

Sometimes justice balances the scale in unexpected ways. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I didn’t believe so firmly in karma, I’d probably implode under the sheer weight of my righteous indignation. Fortunately, a little of that weight was lifted this time around.

Lions

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What I Thought America Meant

When I was little, I was taught that I lived in the greatest country in the entire world. I thought we set the best example, and that based on that example, other countries would aspire to be better, and someday the whole world would be just as wonderful as we were.

Everyone would be free. There would be no war. Every individual would have equal opportunities. The world would be one big safe, happy, teddy bear of a place. I was so proud. I felt so lucky to be an American.

To me, America meant generosity, compassion, justice, safety, equality, freedom, dedication, love, and integrity.

If you had told me back then that I’d become increasingly ashamed over time, I’d have been pretty darned disappointed. Disgusted is the word, actually. And even horrified every once in a while. (Simply because I can’t work up the energy to maintain horror for long periods.)

How must the rest of the planet view us when we say things like domestic and gang violence are no longer valid reasons for asylum? What happened to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”?

And when did we become okay with children being yanked away from their parents? Do we think those traumatized children will grow up admiring us for that? Do we think those children deserve punishment? Guilt by association?

We were supposed to be the poster child for human rights. Are we? When our president shakes hands with Kim Jong-Un, the worst human rights abuser currently alive, and says he’ll “probably have a very good relationship” with him, it doesn’t do much for that image.

I also thought we’d be the saviors of the world. But we are one of its worst polluters, biggest consumers, and we live in a culture of selfishness and waste. We can’t even hold on to our national parks, which is an embarrassment, because we were the first country to even conceive of them. The planet cries out for us to take climate change seriously, even as some of them are sinking into the sea, and instead of setting an example, we back out of the Paris Accord.

Apparently we value the profits of gun manufacturers more than the lives of our children. We allow the very worst of our law enforcement officers to become murderers without any real consequences. We step over our homeless veterans in the streets. And we don’t seem to think anyone has a right to health care.

We elected a man who brags about grabbing pussies, thinks that white supremacy is acceptable, and uses Twitter to lie without remorse. We take great strides to make it difficult to vote, but that’s probably a waste of energy when no one can seem to be bothered to do so anyway. We spend more time keeping up with the Kardashians than we do with the real current events that actually impact our day to day lives.

We have become fat and bloated by our laziness and greed. We flaunt our hate. We exaggerate our fear. We demonize education and journalism. We are not who we said we would be.

I once told a cousin that America is an experiment. You’d think I had peed in his Post Toasties. How dare I say that?

Well, Cuz, do you still think we are solid as a rock, unchanging, and will last forever? Do you really think that this thing we have become has staying power, above all other regimes that have come and gone throughout history? Are we a shining example of the best of humanity? Have we reached some bright pinnacle? Should everyone want to be just like us?

I wish I could be that little girl again, with the star spangled banner eyes. I wish I was full of optimism and hope for this country’s future. I wish I still thought I was one of the good guys.

But I have to ask: Are we becoming our best selves? Because if we can’t do better than this, if we don’t want to do better than this, then there’s really no hope. And that scares me.

Flag

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Mean World Syndrome

People alive today have access to more news and entertainment than any human being in the history of the planet. If anything major happens in the world, we are all able to find out about it almost instantly. We’ve come a long way from the days when a hurricane could hit Long Island without any advanced warning for its residents. Surely that’s to our benefit, right?

Yes and no. We also have more access to misinformation and exaggeration, and our ability to think critically does not seem to be keeping apace. That means that many of us believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. This is called mean world syndrome, and it’s a serious problem.

If you don’t believe that your attitudes are shaped by the media, then you haven’t been paying attention. Without its influence, there’s no way that someone so deranged and unqualified could be in the White House. Without it, none of us would feel the need to keep up with the Kardashians. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt that need. But then, I don’t have a TV in my house, either.)

If it’s any comfort at all, according to this Public Radio International article, the world is a much safer pace than it used to be. War deaths have dramatically decreased. We just hear about them more often. We all work fewer hours each week. There is less poverty and homicide, and more democracy than ever before.

And this article from Psychology Today also states that violence against women and children has decreased worldwide. We are more likely to die of old age than in a hail of bullets.

And, lest we forget, the average life expectancy for the residents of this planet is now up in the 70’s, as opposed to age 48 back in 1950. That’s pretty remarkable, don’t you think? So stop what you’re doing, look about you, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Odds are pretty good that you won’t encounter any lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.

dorothy

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Violence Radius

A friend just sent me a link to an article about a man who had been stabbed to death in a park in Florida. I was horrified. For 27 years I owned a house not more than 50 yards from the scene of the crime. If I had still been living there, I could very well have been sitting on my front porch as the murder was taking place, and I’d have had an unobstructed view. That’s a little too close for comfort.

We live in a violent world. All violence is horrifying, but I think most of us have a filter these days. If we reacted in equal measure to all violent acts, we’d be unable to cope. Therefore, we tend to feel much more strongly about brutality when it’s more personal.

Location plays a big part in our filter. If it’s close to home, or to a place we used to frequent, that’s particularly sobering. It’s perfectly natural to think, “That could have been me.”

Familiarity is also a factor. If the victim was someone we know or love, or even feel like we know by dint of them being a public figure, then of course the situation will have extra shock value. There’s a reason why homeless people die every day and it never makes the papers. We don’t know them, so we don’t “have to” care.

And then there’s the relatability issue. We like our wars to be very far away, on foreign soil, where the people don’t look, talk, or act like us. It’s much easier to not have to think of it that way. On some level, it’s so different from our day to day lives that it can almost be considered science fiction. Terrorist attacks on our own soil, on the other hand, are enough to have us all gibbering over our morning coffee.

There really needs to be some sort of happy medium. It’s too much to take on board every violent act that we hear about. But on the other hand, it’s important to realize that every savage act is one savage act too many.

Still, the fact that I have spent countless hours on the park bench where that man bled out, and the very block where I once lived was blocked off by crime scene tape, has me rattled.

Willowbranch
The bench in question.

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