To All Women Who Still Don’t Need Feminism

So some idiot posted a meme on Facebook that compares life “before feminism” with “life after feminism.” It goes something like this:

• Before feminism, women were long-haired, modest, happy, moral, faithful creatures who had boyfriends, “normal lives” and the willingness to raise a “family.”

• Since feminism, women have become shrill, confrontational shrews who are angry inside, hate men, are always on the lookout for oppression (that’s a bad thing?) and “won’t raise a family.”

As Hanna would say, “let’s unpack that.”

The definition of “feminism” isn’t, as some would have you believe, “man-hating, non-deodorant using, non-leg hair shaving Lesbian.” What “feminism” actually means is, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” In 2017, most young women take it as a given that they are equal to their male counterparts, and that they will enjoy the same opportunities as men in all aspects of their lives, both personal and professional. Although wage discrepancies, sexism, and sexual harassment continue to present obstacles to women in the workforce (think Roger Ailes or Harvey Weinstein of late), and despite the ongoing dearth of women holding leadership positions in the corporate and governmental sectors of our country, things are better for women than ever before.

You know why?

Because of feminism.

In case you think that the world you live in has always been this way, consider all the things women didn’t used to be able to do:

• Control their own finances, own property in their own name, initiate a lawsuit, or receive an inheritance in their own right (this was not true in all states until 1900);
• Vote (1920)
• Be free from legal beatings by their husband (1920)
• Marry a foreigner but keep their own citizenship (1922)
• Have legal access to birth control (1960)
• Have equal access to job listings (1968)
• Have the right to be paid the same as men for the same work (1970)
• Be free from discrimination in public schools on the basis of gender, including in school athletics, financial aid, career counseling, and admission practices (1972)
• Apply to pretty much any college in the US (1970’s…but Harvard didn’t admit women until 1977)
• Get a credit card in their own name (1974)
• Have the right to work without discrimination due to pregnancy (1978)
• Be appointed to the United States Supreme Court (1981)
• Sue in civil court for sexual harassment in the workplace (1986)
• Prosecute marital rape in all 50 states (1993)
• File a complaint about pay discrimination (2009)

What’s that, you say? It was legal for men to beat their wives all the way up to 1920, and to rape their wives as recently as 1993? Why, that’s crazy!

Yes, it is. Happily for the women of America, there were suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Fuller, and Lucy Stone, who won their sisters the right to vote. Then there were the “second wave feminists,” such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir, who wondered why women’s roles, even in the 1950’s and 1960’s, continued to be largely confined to homemaking and childrearing, and who suggested that perhaps women were capable of more, if more was what they wanted. In the 1990’s, Naomi Wolf asked whether it was okay to objectify women as sex objects, and women such as Roxanne Gay continue to challenge societal norms about what constitutes feminine beauty.

These days, most young women assume it is their birthright to seek the education, training, or vocational skills they need in order to pursue the career of their choice, even if it’s not in the fields of education or nursing. In 2017, women can determine for themselves whether or not they wish to marry, have children, end unhappy marriages, or wed another woman. They can serve as leaders of community, charitable, youth, civic, or political organizations. In short, they can pretty much have it all, whether they want it or not.

None of that would have happened without feminism, and if you’re a women who has a college degree, a professional career, or a car titled in your own name, it’s because of feminism – trust me, the recognition of those rights wasn’t the result of men waking up one day and saying, “hey, let’s do something for the little ladies out there.” Indeed, most of the progress noted herein was the result of women who fought, were vilified and repudiated, and, in some cases, even died so that women could enjoy the same opportunities as men. To recap, if you have a checking account, graduated from a private college, or have ever purchased any form of birth control, it’s because of a feminist.

So before you start maligning “feminism” as being anti-men, anti-family, or anti-anything other than “equality of treatment between males and females,” stop and ask yourself, “would I want to be a women in 1850’s America?” Unless you can answer that question, “Yes, absolutely! Sign me up for a life largely selected for me exclusively by men, one consisting pretty much of non-stop child-bearing, child-rearing, and domestic servitude, with no hope of self-actualization or an individual identity,” then you owe a debt of gratitude to a feminist. If you’re too mean-spirited or self-satisfied to admit it, then may you be instantly transmogrified into a pioneer woman – and not the kind who has a show on The Food Network.

The truth is, we ALL need feminism, whether we are willing to acknowledge that fact or not. I am, and if you call me a feminist, I’ll say “thank you.”

You should, too.

Rape Liars

Scene I:

Woman: I was raped.
Man: Really?
Woman: Yeah. It was awful.
Man: Were you wearing something slutty? Were you drinking? Were you walking alone somewhere at night? Were you on a date and fooling around with the guy?
Woman: Why would you ask me that?
Man: So I can figure out if you’re telling the truth.
Woman: Well, I just told you what happened.
Man: Yeah, I need some evidence.
Woman: Why would I lie about that?
Man: To get attention and money. Also because some women have sex with a guy and then regret it but don’t want to admit it.

Scene II:

Man: Some asshole hit my car!
Woman: Really?
Man: Yeah. It was awful.
Woman: Was it a flashy car? Were you in a bad section of town? Did you do something to provoke someone? Are you sure you didn’t just back into something?
Man: Why would you ask me that?
Woman: So I can figure out if you’re telling the truth.
Man: Well, I just told you what happened.
Woman: Yeah, but I need some evidence.
Man: Why would I lie about that?
Woman: To commit insurance fraud. Also, because some guys are shitty drivers but don’t want to admit it.

Tips for Trump: Things Not to Say to the First Lady of France (or Any Other Woman, for That Matter)

July 17, 2017

So, you’re just back from Paris, Mr. President. Quite a whirlwind trip, there! What a lovely parade, and so moving to see American and French soldiers marching together to celebrate Bastille Day. When you saluted the American military participants? That was a nice moment.

But that thing you said to Brigitte Macron? Umm…maybe not so much.

So, I know you meant well. I know you thought you were paying her a compliment when you said, upon meeting her for the first time ever, “You’re in such good shape … beautiful!” I know you think that this is exactly what every woman wants to hear when she meets a man for the first time.

Yeah, it’s not.

Hey, could you put your phone away? This is important.

What you said was inappropriate, and not just because of your history of being, well, sort of an asshole when it comes to women. It was clumsy and weird and creepy and sort of suggests that you’re still living in the 1950’s. Which, okay, in many cases, you are.

But to focus on the matter at hand, for the last 100 years or so, women have been trying to communicate an essential truth to men. They’ve tried to say it in a lot of ways, in a hundred different languages, and in a variety of media, but what it comes down to is this:

What I look like isn’t who I am.

Let’s say that together, Mr. President: “What I look like isn’t who I am.”

Now, it’s true that most women – indeed, most people – attempt to present their physical selves in a pleasant and appealing manner. Many women, and even some men, are flattered when someone provides feedback that suggests a positive assessment of one’s physical appearance.

Most women, however, tend to feel uncomfortable when such an assessment is made within the context of a business setting, or at a casual social function that is not a date, at the library, watching or participating in a sporting event, picking up the dry cleaning, test-driving a car, donating blood, getting your teeth cleaned, attending church, standing in line to vote, buying groceries…oh, and meeting your husband’s professional counterpart at a public event celebrating your country’s independence day.

In fact, probably the only circumstances in which it’s perfectly appropriate and even a nice idea to compliment a woman’s physical appearance is when it’s your significant other, but even then, you should also remind her that it’s her formidable intelligence, determination, and creativity that really get you going.

Now, you may not know this (because it doesn’t appear as though the women with whom you’ve chosen to share your life were particularly interested in the cultivation of their intellect, personal growth, or independence while they were with you), so you may need to do some further reading.

Yeah, I know, you don’t like to read.

Okay. Well, maybe we can do it this way. Here is a brief survey of the seminal literature on feminism in a format that even you can read and digest:

  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir (1959): Tracks the role of women throughout history and the extent to which they have been suppressed and dominated by men largely by virtue of their ability to bear children.
  • The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan (1963): Talks about how suburban housewives in the 1960’s were frustrated that the roles available to them were limited to wife and mother.
  • Sexual Politics, Kate Millett (1969): Discusses how male-dominated culture has produced writers and literary works that are degrading to women as well as the tyranny of sexual stereotypes.
  • The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf (1991): Explores the growing social prominence of women and society’s demands for them to conform to specific standards of beauty.
  • Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit (2014): Defines and demonstrates the concept of “mansplaining,” in which men attempt to explain to women topics they believe women do not understand, particularly when dealing with areas that are traditionally within the exclusive purview of women (such as the menstrual cycle, which, since the beginning of time, no biological male has ever experienced).

To review:

Men have been treating women like crap for a while, and we don’t like it. We are not here solely to procreate or to serve as sexual playthings or eye candy, whether or not you think we are pretty/sexy/hot enough to make us desirable to you for that purpose. You should treat women with the same level of respect and professionalism as men, and commenting on a woman’s appearance should be avoided.

See? That was easy!

Now, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what you said to Madame Macron last week and examine:

You said, “You’re in such good shape…beautiful!”

Here’s why that was maybe the wrong thing to say:

1.  As we have discussed, you should treat women with the same level of respect and professionalism as men. If you wouldn’t tell a man he was in such good shape and beautiful, you shouldn’t say it to a woman.

2.  Commenting on a woman’s appearance should be avoided. (Yeah, I know I already said that, but it’s worth repeating).

3.  Your comment did not just suggest that Madame Macron is an attractive woman (“…beautiful!”), which, on its own might not have been so awful (though still wildly inappropriate). It also brought her body into the conversation (“You’re in such good shape”), as in, you have a good body, which turns what could have been a relatively innocent comment (“you look nice”) into something undeniably sexual in nature. For example, a father might say to his daughter, “you look beautiful today, sweetie!” and that would be okay, but he would NOT say, “you’re in such good shape, sweetie!” Well, okay, maybe YOU would – and, indeed, you basically HAVE – but most non-creepy weird fathers draw the line at making assessments of their daughter’s bodies. You might want to think about that, too.

4.  Finally, and not to get too personal, but geez, your wife was RIGHT THERE! I mean, show some class, guy!

You may be scratching your head and saying, “wait, I’m not allowed to talk to women about their periods, or their face lifts, and I’m not supposed to shove them against the wall and start making out with them…good Lord, what’s a man to do???”

I’m glad you asked.

Here are several things you might have said to Madame Macron – and, hey, if you want, I can make them generic so you can use them the next time you meet with Prime Minister May or Chancellor Merkel, or President Coleiro Preca (Malta), President Grabar-Kitarovic (Croatia), President Simonetta (Switzerland), President Kopacz (Poland), Prime Miniter Straujuma (Latvia), Prime Minister Bratusek (Slovenia), Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark), Prime Minister Solberg (Norway), Prime Minister Siber (Cyprus), President Jahjaga (Kosovo), President Grybauskaite (Lithuania), Prime Minister Simpson Miller (Jamaica),Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad and Tobago), President Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina), President Rousseff (Brazil), President Bachelet (Chile), President Geun-hye (South Korea), Prime Minister Wajed (Bangladesh), President Samba-Panza (Central African Republic), President Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia), or Prime Minister Toure (Senegal).  (Damn, that’s an awful lot of female world leaders.  I wonder when we’ll get one?)

Here are things you can say instead (I used a lot of exclamation points, because you seem to like those):

  • Good morning, Madame Prime Minister! How nice to meet you!
  • I am very much looking forward to our meeting this afternoon, Madame President!
  • What a beautiful country is [insert name of country here], and how excited am I to be here!
  • I bring the well wishes and friendship of the people of the United States, even those who did not vote for me, which is only about seven, but them as well!
  • You are totally smokin’ hot, Madame President! (THAT WAS A TEST TO SEE IF YOU WERE PAYING ATTENTION!)
  • I am very intrigued by the policies you have implemented in [insert name of country here] to advance the cause of equal pay in the workplace, mandatory maternity leave, and universal medical care! (Admittedly, there are only a handful of places where this would be appropriate, seeing as how most of the countries whose leaders you will be meeting have already adopted those policies).
  • Welcome to the White House, Madame Prime Minister. I look forward to our hour-long joint press conference where we will both give responsive answers to all media outlets!
  • I can’t wait to have some croissant/falafel/pad thai/hakarl/fasolada/bulgogi/poutin/pho! I hear it’s incredible!

So, now you’re good to go. You can handle any situation. Keep these simple tips in mind, and you’ll be prepared for anything. Well, okay, not anything. Or even most things. Or, really, anything at all, except how to properly greet a woman you’ve never met before, but, hey, it beats grabbing them by the pussy.Go in peace, Mr. President.

More Sheryl, Less Ivanka

April 28, 2017

So Ivanka Trump was invited by Angela Merkel to attend the W20 Summit in Berlin, where the First Daughter was booed by audience members after describing her father – that pillar of orange-flavored feminist goodness – as “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.” Ivanka responded to those boos with protestations that His Royal Highness, the Viscount Ermine of Fatback, had always been nice to HER, which is sort of like saying that the serial killer next door is a tremendous champion of people not being murdered simply on the basis that he never locked me in a basement and then ate me for dinner.

But Ivanka is a Trump through and through, and she understands the importance of family loyalty, even as it pertains to the guy who famously said he’d like to date her, has agreed that it’s okay for others to refer to her as a “piece of a**,” and once stated publicly that their greatest commonality was their mutual enjoyment of sex. All of which is really creepy, since he’s, like, her DAD and all.

So I’m not really surprised that Ivanka’s defending Custard McPumpkin Sludge of Horny Hound Mews, even though doing so significantly decreases whatever credibility she may have had in her own right as a designer of made-in-China shoes and – let’s be honest – a line of jewelry that’s sort of tacky.

What IS surprising is that Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel – you know, that lady with the graduate degree in quantum physics? – actually invited Ivanka to participate in the W20 Summit based upon her ostensible accomplishments as a handbag designer (an occupation, it should be noted, that also counts among its member by Jerry Seinfeld’s ex-girlfriend, Shoshanna Lonstein and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky).

It’s not even a little bit depressing that Merkel overlooked women like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, or Ursual Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp., or Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, or Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft….I could go on. Despite the White Male Patriarchy that firmly remains, even in 2017, as the backdrop against which all American business and governmental affairs are conducted, it appears that there are, in fact, at least a FEW women who might have been BETTER choices than Princess Lightweight von TrustFund to represent our country at an international conference where women leaders explored issues such as gender gaps in the labor force, female entrepreneurship, and greater inclusion of women in STEM occupations. Yeah, I’m sure Sheryl Sandberg, who’s just written a terrific book on grieving and previously exhorted women to “Lean In” and demand their seat – and voice – at the professional table, had nothing meaningful to say on any of those topics.

But Angela Merkel invited Ivanka instead.

Ivanka Trump is an easy target, to be sure: How convenient her privilege, family money, and name recognition as the sole explanation for the unexpected level of success she has achieved at a relatively tender age (and that was before Trump supporters starting buying her merch as a show of solidarity with the man who financed those endeavors), especially given the lack of any evidence of formidible intelligence, talent, or sweat.

It’s also fun to hate Ivanka for always looking perfect, even 30 seconds after giving birth. The majority of us women who clean our own toilets and wipe our kid’s butts and noses often feel – justifiably, I think – some level of resentment that this woman, who can jet off to an international women’s summit on another continent without having to worry about who’s going to get the kids to school or make sure they have clean underpants, is always so well-coiffed, her makeup just so, and dressed so as to leave no question that there’s not an ounce of fat or a single stretch mark on her buff physique, notwithstanding three pregnancies. Yeah, she’s easy to hate, even though she’s sort of likeable, especially in comparison to (1) her father; (2) her brothers (the older ones, anyway); and (3) everyone else in the Trump Administration.

I would have expected more from Merkel, however, and I’m dismayed that, according to conventional wisdom, Merkel invited Ivanka to the W20 (instead of, say, Virginia Rometti, the CEO of IBM, or Sheri McCoy, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson and current CEO of Avon) because of the potential access such an invitation may later provide her for networking with President Pillsbury Q. Squeezebottom. Which also raises the question, why does Angela Merkel need ANY access to Frothy O’Sandwich Hands? She seems to be doing just fine without the smarmy comments and “I’m not gonna shake your hand and you can’t make me” nonsense of King Toddler McNeedaNap. There’s a possibility that Ivanka was invited so as to bring attention to the work of W20, but if that was the reason, maybe just invite Oprah Winfrey, or Emma Watson, or Beyonce, even? Same amount of publicity, greater intellectual heft, fewer boos.

I’m disappointed in Angela Merkel and unsurprised by Ivanka, but I am at least a little bit encouraged that the women who DID attend W20 called out Princess Fairy Dust and Pink-Iced Cupcakes for shilling for her creepy, disturbing father and trying to pass him off as a champion for women and families, when even bacteria, asparagus ferns, and mold spores know that he is neither.

The bottom line is, we don’t need to pay attention to Ivanka Trump, whether as window dressing at what was supposed to be a gathering of serious women, or as an apologist for the dryer lint that currently sits in the Oval Office. Ivanka Trump, minus her money and looks, has no greater pretense to be at the W20 Summit than any of the rest of us (in fact, she’s probably got less). We need to showcase women who set a standard of excellence, innovation, leadership, and courage, and Ivanka Trump is none of those things – not by a long shot. What she’s good at – trying to make her despicable father appear more palatable and less, well, despicable – isn’t worth entertaining, and none of us should be giving her any further opportunities to spout her dubious claims that the leader of the free world isn’t a misogynistic racist who would rather the poor, sick, and powerless just die already.

Angela Merkel, and all women who are in a position to elevate other deserving women, should keep that in mind the next time they’re writing out the guest list. Next time, ask Sheryl Sandberg what she’s got to say, and I doubt there will be any boos.

Things I Learned Today About Sexual Assault and The People Who Taught Me

October 14, 2016
1. Men don’t rape women unless they’re pretty. (Source: Current Republican Presidential Nominee [hereinafter “RPN”])
2. It’s okay to assault women if you’re in the private sector, but not if you’re in the public sector. (Pete Hoekstra, RPN Campaign Co-Chair, Michigan)
3. If you don’t vote for the RPN, more women will be assaulted. (Michelle Bachman, Former Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota)
4. You couldn’t grope a woman in the First Class section of an airplane in the 1980’s because planes with movable armrests didn’t exist back then (except for the ones that did)(Katrina Pierson, RPN Spokeswoman).
5. If a woman doesn’t immediately report a sexual assault, it probably didn’t happen. (Joe Scarborough)
6. Women who DO report sexual assaults are obviously “just looking to get some free publicity.” (Hope Hicks, RPN Spokeswoman). Because all women want to share that sort of humiliation, and that’s exactly the kind of publicity people actively seek out.
7. IF a woman reports a sexual assault, you should tweet her phone number to as many people as you can so they can harrass her even further. (Lou Dobbs, Fox News)
8. Every person who makes accusations of sexual assault should be heard. Unless you’ve made them against the current RPN. (Kayleigh McEnany, RPN Spokeswoman)
9. Telling a 10-year-old girl that you’ll be dating her in 10 years, when you’re a 46-year-old man, is completely normal. (Curt Schilling)
10. You’re not allowed to judge someone for their despicable comments about sexually assaulting women unless you are “without sin.” (Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani)
11. If a man hasn’t assaulted YOU, then there’s no way that he could have assaulted anyone else. (Kellyanne Conway, RPN’s Campaign Manager)
12. The RPN wouldn’t be such a disgusting pig if all those liberals hadn’t promoted the sexual revolution, which has devalued women. (Jeffrey Lord, National Spokesman for RPN’s Campaign)
13. If you can’t handle being sexually harassed in the workplace, you don’t belong there, and you should be a kindergarten teacher. (RPN’s son and namesake )
14. The correct answer to any question about RPN’S hot mic comments is: “We have to defeat ISIS and reduce the national debt, and Obama has ruined this country.” (RPN’s running mate). Sort of like the answer to the question, “should dogs be allowed to vote?” (Answer: Obviously) is, “eating carbs after 6 will sabotage your weight loss program.”
It’s been a very educational day.

Curt Schilling is an Idiot

October 26, 2016

Curt Schilling says that the Republican Party presidential nominee’s comments about wanting to date underage girls is no big deal, http://thehill.com/…/300924-curt-schilling-defends-trump-af…, and he doesn’t have a problem with his candidate’s now-infamous hot mic comments because they were made “over 11 year ago” and because he (Curt) “is bigger than those remarks and we have all said stupid things throughout our lives.” https://www.facebook.com/curt.schilling.56?pnref=story. This from the same man whose first reaction to sexually malicious tweets about his 17-year-old daughter was, “I’m going to get in the car and go kill somebody,” the same man who would “rather kill [the guys who posted the tweets] than speak to them,” the same man who claims to believe that “no woman should be subjected to the abuse that his teenaged daughter faced,” the same man who said, “if you’re a young lady and being harassed, first of all it’s against the law. As a young lady and a human, no one, anywhere, ever, is allowed to talk to you that way.” http://usatodayhss.com/…/curt-schilling-this-wasnt-a-mistak…. So, what have we learned? It’s okay to ogle 10-year-old girls, or to make jokes about dating them “in a few years,” or to grope women, or to joke about grabbing them by their genitalia – unless it’s your daughter. Well, Curt, those 12 women your candidate assaulted, that 10-year-old-girl he wants to date, those young women at the Miss Teen USA pageant he walked in on while they were getting dressed—they’re ALL someone’s daughter. Just because they’re not yours doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.

Mean What you Say

November 10, 2016

“I wanted a change from business as usual in Washington.”
“I voted for the candidate who represented Republican values.”
“I voted for the lesser of two evils.”

These are some of the things I’ve heard and read in the last few days as those who supported Trump attempt to explain their decision. As an initial matter, I’m not sure that anyone should be required to defend why they voted for one candidate over the other, but given the current climate, it’s not surprising that some of the electorate feel compelled to provide a rational basis for their choice. And that’s fine.

In the last week, I’ve read two blogs by young college women, both of whom supported Trump. The first, “Dear Hillary, I really hope you do not become the first female president,” http://www.loneconservative.com/?p=365 is a barely literate, severely fact-challenged pastiche of Clinton myths and faulty assumptions, and it deserves no one’s time or attention. It left me nauseous and contemplating my own wishful retort: “Dear Summer Marie, I really hope you never hold any position in which you regularly interact with young people.”

The second, “I am not a racist,” by Cassie Hewlett, https://cassandrahewlett.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/i-am/, is better. It’s well-written and shows some insight and maturity, most importantly as to the point that not all Trump supporters are hateful, mean-spirited trolls looking to deport anyone who wasn’t born in this country, or to end marriage equality. Cassie, like many, explains that she voted for Mr. Trump because she supports small businesses, free trade, and a stronger foreign policy – nothing wrong with that. Cassie also points out that as a Republican on an American college campus, she spent most of yesterday surrounded by Dems in Mourning, which made her fear being ostracized if she were to express her happiness at the election results – that’s not cool, either.

But I have to take issue with Cassie, and with those otherwise rational and thoughtful people who voted for the human equivalent of Cheez-Whiz, because their choice for president addresses none of the stated reasons for why they picked him in the first place.

First up, change. A lot of Americans are really, really frustrated with the partisan-generated gridlock that has plagued our country ever since Senate Majority Leader and Perennial Turtle Impersonator Mitch McConnell voiced his intention to make Barack Obama a one-term president by opposing every single piece of legislation that wasn’t sponsored by a Republican. That frustration was evident in the Republican party’s nomination of Trump himself last Srping, and in the mass adulation of my candidate of choice, Bernie Sanders.

If you examine the results of the 2016 Congressional elections, however – and I did – it’s obvious that change was not, in fact, the driving factor in most voters’ election choices: Of the 472 Congressional races, incumbents ran in 424 of them, and 416 of those incumbents won re-election. Because 66 Senators were not up for re-election, 482 of the 538 members of the new Congress will be incumbents – that’s a whopping 90%. Does that sound like a mandate for change to you?

Next, a return to Republican values. The GOP has long been the party of strong foreign policy, a free market, and small business. It’s the party of people who were born in a log cabin they built themselves, people who aren’t looking for a handout, people who made their money the old-fashioned way, by sheer dint of hard work and determination. Those are fine values.

But in President-Elect Trump, we will have a commander in chief with no foreign policy experience – that is, none. Nada. Zilch. A man who, despite his many business ventures appears to have been far less successful than his gold-plated personal narrative would suggest. A man who has filed for bankruptcy more than once, who has presided over numerous entrepreneurial failures, and who is notable for stiffing small businesses for fees for services rendered and goods sold. And as for pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps? Not so much – you can’t call yourself a self-starter when your first business venture was funded by $1 million you got from your dad.

There’s also the legitimate criticism that Trump is a Democrat in sheep’s clothing, a man who is secretly pro-choice, has no use for Christianity or any other religion, for that matter; a man who at one time said he agreed that the rich should pay more in taxes. From 2001 to 2009, he actually was a registered Democrat (as are most of his children), and he has donated to the campaigns of many Democratic candidates for public office.

Now, none of those things should be shocking or upsetting to those of us who bleed blue – and it’s the potential that he may turn out to be more moderate than his campaign dogma would suggest that gives me a small glimmer of hope. But Trump as the personification of Republican ideals? No. If Republicans had wanted someone who truly was, they had sixteen other candidates to choose from. They chose Trump.

Finally, the “lesser of two evils” defense. The flaw with this argument is that while Trump may be evil (although I think that may be too strong a word), Hillary is not. She is flawed, she was perhaps the single-worst candidate the Democratic Party could have selected, and she did little to correct the public perception of her as a dishonest and obfuscating career politician. But she isn’t evil.

What she is, is a woman who is careful in her pronouncements (with the exception, perhaps, of the “basket of deplorable” comment). She demonstrated rigid message discipline, refused to react to repeated low-blow attempts to throw her off her game (think Donald Trump bringing along Bill Clinton’s accusers to the second debate, for example), and she was relentless in her preparation. There was a lack of transparency that concerned many, and the nagging sense that a whiff of scandal seems to follow her wherever she goes.

But whatever her shortcomings or lapses in judgment, she did not make statements that lead many groups to believe that, if she were to become our leader, they would be marginalized. She did not reduce women to objects of sexual gratification. She did not suggest that Mexicans are criminals and that those of Mexican descent cannot be counted upon to discharge their professional duties with integrity and neutrality. She did not threaten to ban an entire group of people from entering our country based upon their religion. She gave no one in this country – save the rich – any reason to fear that their way of life might be in jeopardy.

And this is probably the single-most important thing that Trump supporters do not understand. They do not comprehend the impact of Trump’s statements on the groups to whom they were directed. For her part, Cassie Hewlett credits her parents for raising their kids “closer to the city so that we did not grow up sheltered and ignorant of the diverse world around us,” and for not being told that she “could not date or befriend someone because of their race, ethnicity, or gender identity.” I guess the Hewletts are to be commended for their forward-thinking child-rearing philosophy, and yet inherent in same is the appreciation that ignorance is the natural consequence of the very sort of isolation that Donald Trump now seeks achieve.

Cassie says that, as a result of the parenting she received, she’s not a racist, or homophobic, or sexist, and I believe her. She’s not likely to be swayed by Trump’s rhetoric, but not everyone was raised the way Cassie was. There are plenty of people – people who were raised in a sheltered, ignorant environment, people who do think it’s wrong to date or befriend someone who isn’t of the same race, ethnicity, or gender identity, and if we are to be a nation of equals, it’s critically important that our leaders take care that their words and actions do not alienate the very people they were elected to represent and govern. Prejudice and bigotry and anti-semitism do indeed exist in this country, and probably always will, but it is the job of every American who claims to strive for the equality imagined by our founding fathers to squash that kind of hatred when they see it, not to promote it.

But, because we now have a country in which our President-Elect has let it be known that Muslims are no longer welcome, can you be even remotely surprised by the anecdote I read on a CNN comments thread last night, in which a couple of hooligans in a pick-up taunted a Pakistani gentleman, minding his own business and gassing up his car the day after the election, jeering, “it’s time for you to go back to your own country now, Apu”?

I don’t believe all Trump voters are bad – I am related by birth or marriage to a number of them who I know to be otherwise good and loving people. What I do believe is that the life experience of most Trump voters is vastly different than those of the groups who now feel unwelcome and disconnected in a post-Trump presidency America, and that the assumptions and privilege that underpin the lives of most Trump supporters (and, indeed, my own) don’t permit any meaningful understanding of what it is like to be a racial, religious, or ethnic minority in this country.

Those who voted for Trump hoping that he would restore economic prosperity and a strong defense were able to disregard and quickly forget all the things he said that they didn’t like as the gristly part of a steak they are anxious to dig into. For blacks and Latinos, and Jews and Muslims, for those of Middle-Eastern descent, and those in the LGBTQ community, those statements can’t simply be set aside and ignored as the thoughtless, careless comments of an impulsive man given to hyperbole that they probably were. Those statements, many of which were made when he felt himself to be under attack, strike at the very fiber of who they are and whether they have a place in this country. That’s why Trump’s statements were so terribly damaging.

It’s time to move on, now, and move on we surely will. We are a resilient people who have a lot of cat videos and Instagram posts to get to, and we will heal. In the meantime, we have to find a way to peacefully co-exist in this country. As the main character in “LOST” used to say, “live together or die alone.” We have to try to understand, and accept, and love each other – all of us, every part of us; we have to try to see all the things we have in common and to rejoice in all the blessings we share as Americans. We are one nation, one country, one beautiful and magnificent and abundant land of freedom and opportunity. Let’s try to live in it together.

Why I’m Ambivalent About Hillary has Nothing to Do with Hillary

October 7, 2016

As the presidential election nears, the attacks on both candidates have grown more fierce and mean-spirited. I’ve read with dismay the many posts decrying the lack of fitness on both sides–not only because both candidates seem to fall far short of what we all probably would have hoped for, but also because I wonder how we are ever going to move past the vitriol and hatred once one of them is elected our president and commander in chief.

What probably surprises me the most about this election isn’t the unprecedented level of bizarre behavior and personal attacks, but, rather, the extent to which some women hate–and I mean, DESPISE–Hillary Clinton. People who I know to have made it a career of criticizing President Obama now post statements he made in 2008, when he was running against her for the Democratic nomination, in which he questioned whether she was the right person for the job–as though what he had to say then is now, suddenly worth listening to. And while I can appreciate that many dislike and disagree with her ideals, why is it that they abhor her?

I asked myself this question because I’ll be honest–I’ve never been a huge Hillary fan. I recall her sitting next to her husband during an interview on “60 Minutes” amidst his first presidential campaign saying, “I’m not one of those little women staying home baking cookies,” and there was a certain level of condescension in her tone I didn’t like.

Later, I wondered where she got off running for the senate when she’d never even held elected office before…were we supposed to vote for her simply because her husband had been president? Because that’s all I really knew about Hillary Clinton, other than she’d gone to a Seven Sisters college (like me), and was a lawyer (also like me).

You would think that a raving liberal feminist like me would have jumped on the Hillary Bandwagon a long time ago, and yet, she just rubbed me (and, apparently, a lot of women) the wrong way. Why? Why indeed.

Obviously, the lack of transparency is troubling, and it needlessly raises questions that distract from more important and relevant issues of policy and qualifications. Then, too, there have just been so many dumb mistakes that, while not illegal, have unnecessarily caused people to draw conclusions that probably aren’t accurate but are nonetheless understandable.

And that troubles me, because Hillary has squandered, to some extent, the promise of her tremendous intelligence, legendarily exhaustive preparation, and enormous passion to serve. But that’s not what bothered me the most.

I am embarrassed to admit this, but the thing I just couldn’t get past was that Hillary was so damned ambitious–my gosh, she really thought she could be president!–and she never, ever apologized for it. I realized that I hated Hillary for the same reason a lot of people love her opponent: Because hating what she represented made me feel better about all the things I’d never accomplished.

Hillary Clinton is not a perfect woman. She’s not the person I would have picked to be the first woman nominated by a major political party to run for the highest office in the land. I guess I’d like that person to be a bit more demure and a bit less obvious about just how very much she wants to be our next president. Which it would never have occurred to me to say about any other person who has ever had a serious shot at the presidency in the last 240 years. Because men are suppose to be bold and brash and possessed of the single-minded determination and self-confidence that it takes to be a great leader. Women, not so much.

And so, the card carrying raving liberal feminist had to rethink a few things, like maybe it’s okay to be ambitious, and it’s okay to be confident, and you shouldn’t have to apologize for that, especially to other women.

I don’t purport to speak for any other woman out there, but I bet I’m not alone in my reasons for wishing that Hillary didn’t seem quite so much like a pushy broad fighting her way to the top. But you know, that’s often the way that a lot of “firsts” get there…after all, it’s not like the rich and powerful white guys just said to them, “hey, come on in and be the only non-white/male/ straight/Christian in our little club here…welcome!” Sometimes you have to be a little pushy so that those who follow you, don’t.

Dislike her for her politics, or because you think she lacks integrity and judgment (which would put her squarely on par with her opponent), but if you’re going to hate her, just be sure it’s for the right reason.

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Swimsuit Models and the Zombie Apocalypse

March 1, 2015

It’s been a long winter.  We’ve been hit with record cold and snow, and I think I speak for many when I say that those of us on the East Coast are pretty tired of school closings, Thinsulate gloves, and short, gray days that end at 4:30 p.m.  How lucky, then, that just as those of us who live in areas that have been blanketed by snow for the last six weeks are ready to stick our hands in a snow-blower set on “high,” the Girls of Winter have arrived.

I’m talking about the one-two punch of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and the Victoria’s Secret Bathing Suit Extravaganza Television Special.  There’s nothing like these two heaping spoonfuls of well-oiled boobs and butts set against a tropical backdrop of palm fronds and white sand beaches to take your mind off the fact that we will be wearing snowboots and heavy wool sweaters for the rest of our lives, and that the temperature is never going to rise above the freezing mark, ever.  Yes, just when you thought you might have to throw yourself in front of a snow plow, or plunge headfirst into a bucket of ice melt, the SI Swimsuit Edition and the VS Bikini Fashion show are here to drive away your dead-of-the-winter blues.  So, if you’re someone who likes looking at impossibly beautiful women (barely) wearing exceptionally tiny bikinis whilst frolicking in the aquamarine surf, this is good news indeed.  If you’re someone who’s kind of tired of the ceaseless objectification of women, however, not so much.

The SI swimsuit was the brainchild of some (male) editor at the magazine who, over fifty years ago, had a eureka moment when realized, simultaneously, that (1) nothing interesting happens in sports between the Super Bowl and the opening day of MLB baseball (because no one watches NBA basketball or NHL hockey – not anyone I would invite to my house for dinner, anyway) and (2) by the end of January, most Americans are so thoroughly sick and tired of winter that they will eat up anything that provides them some escape from the relentless dreariness of North America in winter.

So this genius – I think his name was Andre Laguerre—said to himself, “how about if we take photos of gorgeous women in bathing suits lounging around in places like Bali or the Caribbean or Mexico?”  Thus, a great idea was born, and every year since, we’ve been treated to an annual parade of beauties sporting the latest in swimwear and showing off their flawless figures.

Not to be outdone, Victoria’s Secret, that bastion of push-up bras and barely-there panties, the same retail genius that first gave us the television lingerie runway show in which supermodels wearing precipitously high heels and very little else (aside from angel wings – and someone is going to have to explain to me, using small words that my tiny female brain can comprehend, the connection between haloed celestial beings and thongs), decided to go high-octane.  This year, VS gave us a late Christmas present in the form of a glossy hour of television featuring supermodels in tropical locales sporting tiny triangles of lycra that barely cover the naughty bits network television isn’t allowed to show.

As between the two, SI is a little racier and has been known to show a nipple or from time to time (I’m thinking of the Cheryl Tiegs fishnet bathing suit that caused such a stir back in the seventies), but VS is perhaps a little sexier, what with the models rolling around in the sand and engaging in the kind of conversation that does little to intimidate the men to whom these sorts of productions are targeted.  But as tired as I, too, am of winter, as much as I, too, am in need of some sunshine and mindless distraction, I feel compelled to say, as I gaze at the lovely Hannah Davis (who, from what I can tell, apparently had to pee just as they were taking this year’s cover photo – why else would she be pulling down her bikini bottoms?), Really? Still? In 2015, we continue to do this?

I’ve been aware of the extent to which woman are objectified by our society since my first year at Mount Holyoke College.  It had not occurred to me prior to that time to question whether what I saw on the pages of fashion magazines or on television was normal or healthy, nor had I ever thought to ask who got to decide what constituted “beauty” or to get angry when the answer turned out to be, in most cases, men. But then I spent four years marinating in feminism and having my eyes opened to the rampant misogyny all around me, and by the time I graduated, I was pretty pissed.

But then I went to law school, and didn’t have time to be pissed anymore, and as I got older and had less time to ponder such questions, I stopped asking them and accepted that we’re all slaves to such societal pressures.

Then I had three daughters, and I got pissed all over again.  It started with Britney Spears in the late 90’s, bumping and grinding her barely legal body into the life of my three young daughters despite my best efforts to shield them from what I considered the antithesis of the kind of women I hoped to raise.  It didn’t end with Britney, and I’ve been fighting what feels like an uphill battle ever since.  Britney’s been replaced by plenty of other scantily clad, gyrating young women, and the fashion industry has continued to push frighteningly thin models upon us while Revlon and Cover Girl show us flawlessly complected beauties and L’Oreal depicts glossy, unfrizzy, even-toned tresses.

I’m somewhat reluctant to tackle this topic because it’s such well-traveled territory that I wonder if there are any points left to be made, and I guess that’s a good thing.  I’d argue, however, that if showing the top half of your vagina on the cover of a sports magazine is deemed an acceptable way to “market” bathing suits, not much has changed.  I mean, when you’re supposedly “modeling” something, isn’t the focus supposed to be the actual item of clothing, and not the orifice it was designed to cover?

It’s no secret that our culture perpetuates ridiculously unattainable standards for “feminine beauty” and that there are about 23 women in the entire country who come even sort of close to conforming to those standards, and then, only after hair, make-up, wardrobe stylist, and Photoshop have worked their collective magic.

We should know by now that none of us measure up to the absurd (not to mention narrow) ideals of perfection we see in magazines and on billboards, on television and red carpets.  Pick the most beautiful woman you can imagine, be she supermodel, actress, or reality television star, and I can probably hunt up, in under half an hour, some picture on the internet showing her without her make-up and in sweats, looking decidedly normal.  Give me an hour, and I can probably find one with pimples or cellulite.  Bottom line? Even the most perfect women aren’t so perfect.

And we all know that, or at least we should, and so one would hope (at least I do) that we, as a nation, would stop pretending that what the media portrays as the ideal of female physical perfection is realistic, or even desirable, so that we could focus on more important things, such as, how does one get a job as a koala wrangler, or, why all the sudden interest in zombies?  But here we are, almost thirty years since I graduated from college, and we’re still being sold the same bill of goods—that is, that unless you’re 5’10”, 115 pounds (more or less), with long, flowing locks, a lovely face, and a flat stomach, you’re pretty much a troll who might as well just put on a burka and accept your lot in life, which is to be unlovely and, therefore, unloved.

I want to be clear that I think these women are beautiful – my god, they’re gorgeous.  Would I like to look like Kate Upton, what, with my 4.0 GPA cup size? Of course I would.  I don’t begrudge these women their beauty.  And, to be perfectly clear, I have no problem with the naked female body (or the naked male body, for that matter).  As well, I have no issue with taking pride in one’s appearance or wanting to look one’s best—male or female.  I own more than a few lipsticks and eyeshadows, I like wearing heels, and I regularly pay a significant amount of cash to hide my gray roots.

But there is no denying that how we present ourselves is in large part guided by what society tells us is attractive, and that the reason most of us take pains to look our best is because of the extent to which we are evaluated solely based upon our appearance.  Thus, it becomes necessary to either accept this fact and do the best we can with what we have in the name of moving successfully through our professional and personal lives, or to take a militant stance by eschewing all the trappings of what magazine editors and the Fashion Police tell us is acceptable, consequences be damned.  Who even knows what we would wear, or how we would style our hair, or whether we would shave our armpits or pluck our eyebrows, if not for fashion magazines and cosmetic companies?  If there ever really was a zombie apocalypse (which, I understand, generally results in poor hygiene, a lack of beauty products and electricity, and the more pressing concern of not being fed on by the undead), I guess we’d have to throw aside all those notions about Botox and bikini waxing.  We’d probably be less attracted to Pilates abs and more intrigued by biceps toned in more honest pursuits – that is, wielding machetes and kicking zombie ass.

It’s sort of sad that it would have to come to that for us to rid ourselves of these deeply-entrenched notions of what is and is not beautiful.  I’m encouraged that, unlike in the 1980’s, when I was having my eyes opened at college, we’ve expanded our ideas about beauty to include women of color and, in some cases, women who weigh more than 120 pounds.  I guess it’s progress that “plus size” is no longer quite the fashion death sentence it once was, though many of the models who identify as such don’t look much different (to me, anyway) than most of the women I see in the course of a normal day.  I suppose I should take comfort when Huff Po features yet another article revealing how extensively Photoshop is used to create images that bear little relation to reality, and how about Keira Knightly, my personal hero, who recently agreed to pose topless only on the condition that her modest breasts not be enhanced, as they were in a poster for an upcoming movie.

So, yes, there’s room for a modicum of optimism that men and women in America may be less inclined to blindly accept whatever vision of female perfection the media tells us we ought to aspire to.  It troubles me, however, that SI and VS think that we, as a society, are so stupid (justifiably so, it turns out) that we are all willing to pretend that the Swimsuit Edition and VS television special are actually about swimwear fashion, when we all know perfectly well that both should come with a container of lotion and a box of tissues, because the people at whom they are targeted don’t wear (or buy) bikinis and wouldn’t even notice if every model in every edition was wearing the same swimsuit, year after year after year.  They’d never figure it out.

SI and VS will continue to foist these lean, long-limbed beauties on us for years to come, because sex sells.  For my part, I’ve tried to raise daughters who care more about their character than their appearance, and I’m hopeful that they will pass the same message along to their children—male or female.  I suppose I should be heartened that my oldest daughter was a bad-ass hockey player at college, that my middle daughter can control an 800-pound horse at a full gallop, and that my wee youngest is working on her black-belt in karate.  While I have to admit that I think my girls are just as beautiful as those SI and VS models, I’m more proud of the fact that in a zombie apocalypse, they, and women like them, would probably be running the show, that’s probably more important than looking good in a bikini.

I’m hopeful that in thirty years’ time, we’ll be laughing at the SI swimsuit edition and the VS bathing suit fashion show the same way we now chuckle over Barbie and those home ec books from the ‘50s where women are admonished to greet their husbands at the door with a martini and slippers, hot meal waiting on the table and children fresh-scrubbed and docile, but I doubt it.  I have a feeling that as long as there are men who like to look at scantily clad women, we’ll be treated to the SI S