Blanket Fort Reflection (Running 12 months back)


Driving one hundred fifty miles a day
The dog kept me company along the way.
Daughter unconscious in the hospital:
no iron, no potassium, no life.
Mom: pacemaker, nicked heart, she might not survive.
Daughter planned surgery.
Apply for PhD.
Daughter emergency surgery.
Accepted: Trinity.
Work gets tense. PhD fades away.
The dog sleeps on my feet. Content just to be.
I’m suddenly unemployed.
Empty rooms, broken dreams. Sleeping dog.
Politics gets too weird—especially if you’re not a ten.
Write a book. Haunting characters
fill all the space. Magic horses to
help me fly away. My lovebird dies.
The dog licks my cheek, nuzzles by my side.
Grab ’em by the pussy men take control
Memories flood–so long ago–just yesterday.
64 million friends and neighbors
believe the bastard, and now rape’s ok.
Stamp of approval. Panic attacks.
I get a job, then two, three.
Now four. Hollow Christmas
Empty New Year’s. Government falls
Education fails. Trinity calls.
Magic horses scream into the growing
void inside my soul.
The dog collapses. He begs for my strength.
I cradle his fears: give back what I’ve gotten.
The littlest parrot is buried by the cedar.
The dog recovers. The magic of medicine.
Son’s heart is under attack—CICU—watch him sleep.
Just twenty-four, how’s that fair? Zero days of work missed.
A darkened parking lot, a drunk with a knife–
Thank God for knees and Fuck You boots.
The dog greets me at the door. He doesn’t judge—
He leads the way to every room, makes sure I’m safe.
Safe. Write it out. Explore the past. Invaded again: inbox full.
The stolen seat—59 Tomahawks
Panic rises. Frozen. Alone.
Breathe, just breathe. Breathe in, breathe out.
Count the heartbeats. Work, just work—
Must walk to the car in the darkened lot: knife in hand.
The news is bad: the dog might die…
I’ll be in my blanket fort.
Not wanting to care about my dying country
sick or injured friends, broke or broken kids,
working late, or rapists around the corner.
But I do.
 
And the dog might die.
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Grandma Said (old poem)


 

Your Grand-daddy told you--

not to work on Sunday --

that it’s a sin.


My Grandma said to

find pleasure in all that I do

and nothing will be work.


Your Grand-daddy told you --

that God’s curse on Cain --

is the Black man’s bane.


My Grandma said to

judge each man for who he is

and not for what I see.


Your Grand-daddy told you--

that life is hard

and happiness is impossible to find.


My Grandma said to

chase my dreams because

it’s the chase, not the catch, that makes us happy.


Your Grand-daddy told you --

women take care of men --

answer their every need, it’s their job.


My Grandma said to

find a man who’ll respect me

for exactly who I am.


Your Grand-daddy told you --

to be a good boy -- obey the rules --

always do what you’re told.


My Grandma  said to

do what’s right -- if the rules don’t work

then fight to change them.


Your Grand-daddy told you --

his word was law --

and now he’s gone, so who do you listen to?


My Grandma said --

she’d be gone one day

but if I looked inside I’d always find my way.


My Grandma said there’d be men like you

who’d want me to be something I’m not.

Grandma said to stand my ground. . .


What did your Grand-daddy tell you to do?

 

Girling


It takes more to be a woman in the world than it does a man. Everyone knows that. Right? It just does. I was out with a friend recently and she said the first thing she asked our boss about me was is she pretty? It made me sad. Not is she smart? Will she be a good fit? But is she pretty.

He told her that I was. And now I wonder if that’s what got me the job. I’m pretty enough.

Years ago, while working someplace else, I remember the boss saying to me, we can’t hire that woman (about a random applicant), she’s not pretty enough—and she’s too old. It didn’t matter that the applicant had years of experience, a stellar reputation, glowing recommendations. She wasn’t attractive enough. She wasn’t young enough. Her piercing blue eyes haunt me. Oh, sure, sure, laws have been in place to stop this practice. But then people just lie. She wasn’t a good fit. Or in a right to work state, like Virginia, just nope, sorry.

Butterfly Dream WallpaperIt gives one pause. Even as an ardent feminist, I have learned that to survive I must girl. I must play the game. I’m not good at games. Well, some games I am—I made it to a level 20 wizard (chaotic-neutral) before my fellow D&D-ers (all male) insisted I could no longer play, I could be Dungeon Master instead. Rule: don’t dis the smart girl, the fantasy writer, and not let her play, and then let her play god. Yeah. I only got to do that once, none of them survived the first cave. Bastards. Dragons can be your friends; especially if you are a fantasy-writing-dungeon-master for a bunch of man-boys. It’s not girling well, but being a woman. A woman knows when to girl and when to not.

Every girl who ever played a video game knows what it’s like to play with the boys. The rules are different. A girl can’t be part of the boys’ club. She has to be shamed, whored, harassed. Blamed somehow for being good. Ostracized.

Life-games are very similar—I have to girl to be successful. Polished, painted nails, make-up, hair gymnastics (for me it’s that—my hair is as fiercely independent as I am, some days more so), jewelry, heels, low cut tops, push-up bras, pants or skirts that fit in all the right places. I have to demure—which in woman-speak means I need to bite my tongue. Don’t cuss. Cussing is a guy thing (don’t tell Helen Miren, she’s my hero, because fuck that). I have to drop my eyes, not seem too assertive, not too competitive, not too manly. Be sweet. My dad, who may have been a bit of a misogynist (with a feminist wife and three daughters, he was mostly quiet about it), used to say to me, “Mel, you have to dial it back. I think you have too much testosterone. Women aren’t supposed to be brilliant or assertive. Your job is to look good. And you do, so maybe take some estrogen or something. Be pleasing. Smile at the boys, let them win. Be a girl.”

Hmm.

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I did one of those goofy tests on Facebook recently, a gender test. It pegged me as “casually feminine.” I’m ok with that. I’m casual about it. I’ve dabbled at other things. I, apparently, have too much testosterone to be completely feminine—which in my mind makes me a woman, not a girl. Even Facebook knows. I don’t let the boys win; you have to earn that shit. I don’t submissively drop my eyes. I don’t submit. I’ll not, like a good girl, go gently into that good night (and if the night was indeed good, I won’t have any rage left, will I?). But I will rage against the dying of the light, even though my words have forked lightning.

I’ve learned that certain girl-things appeal to me as a woman. I like looking good; it gives me power. It gives me the room. I like heels and jewelry. I like that I can change my face with a shadow here and a highlight there. Glasses with tint, glasses without. I can change the whole tone of a conversation by simply holding the ear piece in my mouth. It’s provocative. I can’t see shit, but that’s not really the point. I like being provocative; tongue on glasses/phallic symbol (because everything in the boys’ club is a phallic symbol), bat my eyes—and then nail them with smart. Of course, then, and only then, does a woman demure. Peace dragons in caves who will kill you with their kindness—it’s a girl thing. Yeah, I don’t think those boys ever played D&D again. All they had to do to get by her was give her a hug…but nope out with the phallic-symbol swords (see there it is again)! Death to all dragons. Roll high! – or, you know, use a healing roll rather than a damaging one. She hugged them all to death. I feel, in retrospect, that she too was casually feminine. She girled them.

Girling is a dangero18033224_10210902523693859_387652621658276167_nus job if you take yourself too seriously. It’s good to have a dragon or two in your corner, or at least glasses with an earpiece you can suck on whilst staring demurely into the middle distance. In order to girl successfully, you have to be a woman, secure in who you are, indoctrinated into and completely rejecting the system of good ol’ boys rule, or rather boys rule the world at all. It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable with that gir
l/woman.

I do know some men who have mastered the art of girling. It’s a relaxed, I’m-comfortable-in-my-skin sort of look. They cut their eyes at you, melt you at twenty paces with a smile. They ooze sexy. But they’re few and far between (I have a short list of such men, I’d name them, but I’m guessing you can too). I think women girl better because we’ve been trained to use the wiles we have, use our sensuality to make our way in the world. Men, or man-boys, are trained not to. That makes me sad. I am allowed to accentuate all that is provocative about me physically and intellectually. Men are expected to fight their way to the top. If I have learned nothing else in my life, I have learned that to girl well you have to have a dragon inside, you have to be willing to be casually feminine—and that puts you on top. Consciously girling is to be comfortable in your own skin, comfortable enough to play with the presentation. It is to know how to own your dragon. I think I like that definition, maybe I’ll submit it to Meriam-Webster.

 

 

Don’t Read the Comments!


The blog the other day had many hits, some very encouraging comments sent to me, likes on Facebook and Twitter. But all of the actual comments to the post were venomous, misogynistic, and full of errors (grammatical and factual). I chose, after much deliberation, to not publish them. Sadly, the people who like posts rarely make public comments. My comments section is moderated because the internet makes people with baseless commentary brave, and I’ll not have it.

But they keep spinning in my head. So, first of all, if you are an ignorant sexist this is likely not a good blog for you to read. Let’s just start with that. But, onward…

  1. A man cannot make statements about his daughter’s sex appeal without, at very least, raising eyebrows. Joking or not. Someone with less money would have been investigated by Social Services. The statement, made publically, is the epitome of sexism and sexual harassment. And if you don’t think it is, reassess your values. Now.
  2. Again symbolizing the epitome of sexist behavior, one thing all of the negative posts had in common was blaming Hillary for Bill’s infidelities. That’s not how it works. I don’t even understand how it’s an issue. Their marriage was on the rocks; they worked it through. To imply that a woman cannot be a feminist if she remains involved with a man whose fidelity is called into question is to suggest, in a nation in which the divorce rate exceeds fifty percent, is to suggest that feminism does not exist. Just like millions of other couples in this country, they worked it through. She was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. How dare you reduce her public service to her husband’s affairs! How dare you – Each of you, Trump supporters all – how dare you insinuate anything about Hillary’s ability to serve based on the sexual actions of a man in her life; whilst Mr. Trump cheated on his first wife with his second, then on his second with his third. That’s how sexism, misogyny—and even harassment work: It’s ok for the man, he is showing sexual prowess, the women are at fault… How dare you! It is not a political talking point. Again, perhaps this isn’t the blog you should be reading. And to those of you who spouted God… Let he who is without sin cast the first stone… But for the sake of clarity, let’s lay out the facts of Mr. Clinton’s affairs:
    1. Clinton has admitted to two affairs, Gennifer Flowers, and Monika Lewinsky.
    2. Several women have, indeed, brought suit against President Clinton—all of them had recanted, or they were rebuked by the court system as insubstantial.
    3. Bill and Hillary have worked it through, and what happens behind their closed door is none of my business. Nor is it any of yours.
  3. Innuendo does not an argument make. Words like “suspicious,” “crooked,” “dirty dealing,” “shady,” carry no weight. They imply no factual evidence. GET. THE. FACTS. Has she been convicted of a crime? In all of her years of public service? No.
  4. Lastly, and central to each of these responses was that because Hillary defended a rapist she cannot be a feminist. I would, first of all, like to point out, you have no clue how our legal system works. Did Hillary represent a rapist? Yes, she did. She was his court appointed lawyer. And her obligation to the court, to her client, and to the ethic upon which our legal system is built was to give him the best defense possible. She, by all accounts, begged to be removed from the case. Begged. My heart breaks for the little girl who was raped – and for the young attorney who was forced to defend her attacker. Again, we can discuss why a woman was chosen and the misogynistic nature of our culture, but dead horse and all that. One could infer from this story that Hillary (yes that’s right with 2 ls—of the 11 hate-filled responses, not one had her name spelled right) is a woman who believes in the U.S. judicial system, and is willing to set aside her personal belief to support it: “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you” – it’s a thing in our system. She did the duty required of her. If lawyers simply refused this part of their obligation, our legal systems would be in shambles. It is because of this very principle that I am not a lawyer–I chose rhetoric over law, because it is a standard to which I was afraid I could not hold myself–and it is a requirement of the job. So just stop!

And yes, I researched the quotes made about, and by, Mr. Trump—and limited them to those which were clearly substantiated. You may choose an alternative narrative to mine – but you may not spew it here. I’ll not be called a c*unt, a bitch, or anything else on my blog. I’ll not publish uninformed opinions by anyone. Is that fair? Maybe not, but if you want to assert rhetoric based on prevarication rather than fact—and then support it with vitriol, you’ll not do it here. I’ll not descend into a pissing contest with small-handed individuals.

It has been said before, to me, don’t read the comments!

The Objectification Gateway


In the beginning, most cultures were matriarchal. Archeological digs support this, over and over again. Women signified birth, growth, regeneration, nurture.

And then something happened. I don’t know what, probably some war in some distant land in some distant time. And women became victims. They likely struggled to save their children, their homes, and their lives. But warriors ran rough-shod over them.

And the world changed.  Owning became more important than nurturing, power more important than family. And women, physically weaker, became objects, possessions. They were bought, sold, traded. Oh, sure, it was called a dowry, or brideprice—but it was the buying and selling of women.

In medieval Europe, as late as the 1600’s, rape was considered destruction of property—not an act of violence against a woman. Artemisia Gentileschi, a seventeenth century artist, was raped. She knew her attacker; the best she and her father could do was have him charged with destruction of property. Artemisia, not a virgin anymore, would have trouble finding a husband. Kind-a Neanderthal.

There are places in our world, in 2012, where women are still the property of their fathers, then husbands. Places where women are told what to wear, to whom they may speak, what to think. Places where it is unlawful to educate women. Look at the little girl from Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai. Shot because she was going to school and keeping a blog about equality. Shot! Oh, you say, that’s the Middle East. Things are different there. But human beings are human beings—we must come to the realization that we are all in this together (There is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here [Don Henley]). Pakistan is a U. S. ally. Ally—“A person who helps or cooperates with another; a supporter, an associate; a friend; Something which is similar to another thing in nature or characteristics, or placed near it in classification; Something which acts as an auxiliary or support to something else.” (OED) Pakistan is our ally; that puts it a whole lot closer to us than you may want to believe.

Women began a long journey back to, if not dominance, then equality. The right to vote cost lives. Cost lives! So, ladies, if you didn’t vote in the last election… think about that. In the most recent presidential election, women made up 53% of the electorate. Women have been considered a “special interest group” by both parties. In other words, side lined, marginalized, spoken to with condescension. 53%–a majority, no just a special interest…

The biggest argument I remember my parents having, some time in the 1960’s, was about money. My mother, a registered nurse, and hospital administrator, wanted to get a credit card in her own name. She was told by the credit card company that she had to have my father’s permission. Really? She didn’t need his income to qualify, just his permission, as though she were his possession, a special interest. Not an ally.

I have a student in my class, a young man, who insists upon calling me honey, or sweetheart, or darlin’. Hello? I am a college professor; I have more school under my belt than he has years alive. Don’t honey me! I have worked hard for the title of professor. Use it. Someone in the class said to me, “that’s just how he talks.” Just a boys being boys sort of thing. Calling me honey is derogatory – it puts me in my place in his world. It implies an intimacy on his terms—whether I like it or not. Sadly, he has yet to come to the realization, that my classroom is my world and my rules.

Women have fought long and hard to be de-objectified; to have rape defined as a violent act, an invasion, and never legitimate; to have independent credit reports; to even keep their own names. Why are women so outraged by the comments of recent politicians? Artemisia Gentileschi, Malala Yousafzai, my mother, that’s why. Women continue to have to fight for control of their bodies, their medical choices, their pay scale!

What’s wrong with beauty pageants? That was the question on my Facebook wall.  All of the above. Pageants send the message that a woman must, above all else look good. She must be beautiful (whatever that means), obedient, quiet—demure. She must be ok with being called honey, and knowing that how she looked is why she could afford an education (about which I could write another whole essay!). I don’t know that it’s a “gateway” to objectification, but it certainly is a window that young women should not look through with rose colored glasses… It is a snapshot, flashback of the way women have been treated… Why don’t the judges just put for sale signs on the models?

I tried to reply to the Facebook post last night, but I was too angry. I was angry for every young girl who thinks auctioning her body to improve her mind is acceptable. I was angry about the patriarchal system that told her this was a viable plan. I’m angry at the women who continue to play the “I’m a pretty girl” card and expect something in return – women who think being smart is bad for them. Sarah Palin springs to mind in both instances. I was angry for all of the young girls denied education based upon gender. I was angry for all of the women who have risked their lives to make the world a better place for their daughters and granddaughters, only to be called honey, or not allowed credit without male permission. I was angry for every woman in America, where rape has been redefined. I was angry because in four hundred years we have not moved so very far from Artemisia.

 

 

Movie Review: Brave


Yesterday was the $5.50 movie Friday pilgrimage. We saw Brave. The original plan was to bring my granddaughters, Haliey and Elizabeth, but they are currently in the company of their mother, who doesn’t play nicely with others. So, I took Ian, ok, so he’s twenty and a guy—minor technicalities!

It was hot outside, and so the theater was busy. And we weren’t expecting much. I was there for the music, and the Celtic (Scottish) landscapes.  Both met expectation – even in the animation!

Brave tells a very different sort of Disney/Pixar story. It’s the story of a girl. I know, I know what you’re going to say, what about The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Snow White?

Pfft! I say. Those are stories about how a helpless, innocent/naive girl is saved, rescued, and elevated to a noble stature through a man. This movie has none of that. Merida doesn’t need, or want, the help of Prince Charming. Well, there isn’t really a Prince Charming, but there are plenty of Prince-Not-So-Charmings. Plenty.

The story begins with the traditional contrary princess, doing all sorts of traditional princessy things: being doted on by her father, having temper tantrums, being trained to be a perfect lady by her mom, the queen (who easily could have been Cinderella or Snow White)—so she can meet and marry Prince Charming.

But then there’s a twist. Merida isn’t interested in Prince Charming. She’s interested in being strong, riding horses, shooting a bow, being free. In an America that is witnessing a “war on women” this was refreshing.

The film was filled with a refreshing feminist commentary: girls can be strong. They can stay in touch with their intuitive side without sacrificing themselves. Girls can ride, and shoot, and still be able to acknowledge the fairies of the forest. A young woman can be balanced.

Even the witch, because every Princess movie has to have a witch, isn’t really scary in the traditional sense. She’s a little OCD, and sort of a one-horse-show. A one bear show. But there is no sense of evil around her. She’s more like the crazy cat, well bear, lady at the end of the road.

There’s no sense of evil around anyone. There are just circumstances, and emotions. I like it. And I like that, in the end, Merida teaches her mother that success can be had outside the box. I like the lesson. Be who you are, stand up for your rights; be brave. It is a lesson that young women need to hear. It is a lesson that older women need to remember having learned. Maybe it’s a lesson that will stick and my granddaughters will live in a world that offers equality. Perhaps, they won’t have to fight for equal pay, equal rights, and the power to make decisions about their own bodies…

Timely film. Well played Pixar. Well played.