• culture,  ethics,  grief,  motherhood,  parenting,  politics,  racism,  writing

    I Thought We Were Going to Be Better by Now

    It’s been a heck of a week and so today I went and ate lunch in the break room, which is an unusual thing. 

    The going conversation was about TV competitions and we ended up talking about the women’s leagues of the UFC, which reminded me of the women who made an official ride of the Tour de France this year.  The did their own Tour de France, because in 2019, there is no women’s equivalent.  In the era of #MeToo and widely watched women’s soccer, that got some attention.

    “It was cool,” I said.  Then I paused.  “Except that they had to do it as a protest, of course. That’s not really cool, is it?”

    I’ve worked in networking and sysadmin for twenty years.  Once I would have told you what it is to be the only woman in the room everywhere you go.  That’s still mostly true. But there’s a second disparity now — my peers have gotten younger, while I, well, obviously, have stayed precisely the same age.  And that’s fortunate, because age discrimination is very real in my industry. 

    But anyway, I was the only woman in the room surrounded by much younger peers, sharing the perspective of a woman watching sports.  And it was only later that I realized how depressing it was, because the problems I was talking about in terms of representation, equality and fair pay were the exact same problems that I was talking about twenty years ago.

    And it’s just…it’s just that I thought we were going to be better by now.

    Perhaps we are.  In 1998, I would probably have been laughed at for having that conversation.  Women’s sports. Who would watch that?  But in 2019, it still wasn’t a serious concern for anyone except me.

    After all, I have a daughter.  Not one of them are parents yet.

    But televised sports are the least of it.  The #MeToo movement really got to me.  I’m glad it happened, but the horrifying thing was how many men really had no idea how common sexual harassment and assault are.  Many of the men that I love — that I have been telling my stories of assault and harassment to — responded with surprise.

    Really?  It’s all of you?  I knew it happened but….all of you?

    Yes.  It’s all of us.  Every woman you know has been harassed, every woman you know has been assaulted to some degree.  For me, it began in earnest when I was 12 and mostly tapered down when I got a car at 18.  It was solved for me when I stopped existing in public quite so much.

    Is the world safer today?  Perhaps in some ways, but it’s not because we’ve solved the problem.  It’s because, at least in the U.S., we’ve locked our children away.  They can’t even ride a bike down the street without a parent three feet away.  We have an entire generation of incarcerated children, jailed for their own protection, who never get to experience the independence and freedom that roaming unsupervised creates.

    And of course, they still aren’t protected from their peers.

    My mother marched for the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 70s.  She passed in December of 2007, still disappointed to be living in a country where we could not guarantee equal civil rights to men and women.  In the world she grew up in, women could not legally take out a credit card without a man signing for it.  Sexual harassment at work was legal.  Abortions were not.  

    In 2015, when I took maternity leave, it would have been perfectly legal for my employer to fire me.  They didn’t, thank goodness, but women who work for companies with fewer than 50 employees are not covered by the FMLA.  That is still true today.  And of course, we still haven’t passed the ERA – nearly a century after it was introduced.  The Lily Ledbetter act of 2009 — extending the statue of limitations in unequal pay lawsuits — was actually controversial.

    It’s just that I thought…we were going to be better by now.  That is the truth that I was sold as an 80s child.  I was promised that I would be able to have the same opportunities, that I could go and be anything that a man could.  And maybe we’re getting closer, but it’s hard not to lose hope, in a time when we have #MeToo but also a strong conservative movement that’s dedicated to making sure that the ladies are available to do all the unpaid labor of home and hearth.  Abortion rights are back on the table. I try not to fear for the reversal of laws that protect my right to work, but it doesn’t take a large leap of the imagination to see them as next.  

    And, to be honest, these worries are taking a backseat right now.  It feels like all of that can wait, because there are literal concentration camps within our borders.  Guantanamo Bay is terrible – we are supposed to believe in justice and fair trials – but what we are doing to our asylum seekers, who have done nothing but ask for help…

    I definitely thought were going to be better than that.  Until the last Presidential election, I was naively going along with the presumption that we all agreed that the Nazis were bad.  That Never Again, taught over and over again to every American child, really meant Never Again.  I don’t have faith in much, but I had a rock solid belief in that one.

    No longer.

    I admit that I, like many people, was ignorant about our immigration system.  I listened to the news about the Dreamers and their parents, but I was mostly confused by the nuances of the laws.  I’ve known a lot of undocumented people, because I’ve lived in cities with large immigrant populations all of my life. I married a former undocumented immigrant and I cried at his naturalization ceremony.  And I still didn’t fully realize that the people coming to our border and turning themselves in are doing it perfectly legally.

    And we are treating these brave and desperate people like animals.  We’re tearing their children away from them, separating families that have so little that they can carry it on their backs.  We’re throwing them into overheated metal cages and denying them basic necessities, like the room to lie down and rest.  We’re doing it while tearing down the authority of our democracy, while Nazis heed the dog whistle and come out of the woodwork and march in our cities.  They go to food festivals and shoot children for daring to exist in public. They run over protesters with cars.

    My writing has been a relief, because I am writing about the 18th century.  It was a pre-Nazi world.  They certainly knew the evils of war and starvation through poverty, but they didn’t know systematic genocide.  

    But we do. 

    We know what intolerance combined with power can do to the humanity of ordinary people.  And when our government goes after immigrants as economic scapegoats while refusing to secure our elections, it’s hard not to fear that by looking at the worst of our past that we are also looking at our future.

    Even when our government knew of the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps, we lowered our immigration quotas for Jews.  Does this sound familiar?

    My childhood promised me a better world, if I could just wait for our culture to evolve.  But we’ve gone backwards to such a frightening place, so quickly, that I am lost when I look forward. 

    What kind of world am I leaving to my daughter?

     

     

     

     

     

  • art,  culture,  travel

    Joseph, Oregon

    Mutton Buster by searchingbuddha
    Mutton Buster, a photo by searchingbuddha on Flickr.

    I have been off in the western mountains for the last week, doing a fair impersonation of frolicking in the wilderness. I have climbed mountains and swam in a mountain lake, hiked trails and gone to a rodeo. (Well. You know. When in Rome.)

    I bought a cowboy hat.

    I’ve been getting in touch with my western roots, which actually makes a fair amount of sense when I think about the fact that my entire family is from west of the Mississippi River. I am very definitely an East Coast person; I grew up in Maryland, then moved to Virginia, then New York. I like my humidity and small mountains, my crowds and people who say what they mean, even when they’re saying it mean.

    But big skies and mountain lakes are compelling. Joseph is an artist’s town; a place where it’s cheap enough to live that you can make a living doing art. It’s remote enough to be surrounded by beauty and wilderness. It makes me want to spin and knit and write novels. It’s an absolute inspiration, a refocusing on the things that I want to accomplish before I die.

    In other words, an absolutely excellent vacation. I’m ready to do it again…and why, yes, I *am* free on Tuesday.

  • amusement,  art,  culture,  family,  friends

    Visiting Time

    When I went to your town on the wide open shore,
    Oh I must confess, I was drawn, I was drawn to the ocean

    It is summer and we live by the ocean, which means that we’ve had a steady stream of visitors for the last month, which is an excellent thing indeed.  I’ve also been doing my share of visiting, having popped down to Virginia in the beginning of June to meet one very excellent baby.  I’m afraid I have fallen rather in love and have been compelled to knit and buy small things.

    This was followed with a far too short but excellent visit with a very old friend and a new friend, where we spent most of our time on the beach in both bad weather and good.  There are some friends that you can just pick up with after any amount of time away and the time spent together is so restful.  Too short, but incredibly wonderful.

    Last weekend, my aunt came for a visit, where we went to see lots and lots of art in jewelry format.  The jewels were so scintillating that after two rooms, I actually had eyestrain.  I found the exhibit really inspiring from a knitting design perspective; I have some ideas in my head that will be hitting paper soon.  Then we took a day to wander up to Boston, taking the Port Jefferson ferry over to Connecticut, then stopping for lunch in Mystic.  I got to tourist Boston for the first time – despite morning thunderboomers and storms, we made it to Fenway Park (and I sat on the Green Monster) and walked quite a lot of the historic trail and waved at Sam Adams’ grave (why yes, that is my beer of choice) and went shopping at Quincy Market (where I proceeded to get overwhelmed by a cosmetic purchase, which you’d think I’d have gotten down pat by the age of thirty-one).  Dinner was excellent Vietnamese, which sent us off to sleep, only to awaken to a day at the Science Museum, which is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Lightning bolts and amazing ship models?  In one place?  Awesome.

    The social life continue this weekend with some more very dear friends coming up for a visit and barbeque and FIREWORKS IN THE BACKYARD.  We’re not all that patriotic, but we sure do like setting things on fire.  Just hopefully not ourselves.

  • art,  culture,  film

    Catching the Thieves

    I don’t often sit down to watch a movie, but when I have been watching movies lately, they’ve been from the In Technicolor! era. Recent watches have been For Love of Ivy, Arsenic and Old Lace, Sunset Boulevard and Mogambo. Tonight I’m watching To Catch a Thief. I’ve been enjoying the conventions of older movies, which seem to be much closer to their theatrical origins. The zoom-ins to newspapers that further the plot and the music (which seems to be the same in every movie) that point out when the romantic leads encounter each other are endearing. The clothes where men always wore suits and women were always in absolutely gorgeous ball gowns always make me wonder if that’s how it really was or if it’s just a Hollywood convention. Part of me appreciates a more formal world, even while I’m laughing at the sudden bursts of passion that cause Clark Gable to go marching over to a leading lady and push his face forcefully against hers. Is that a kiss? If so, I hope never to have one. Sorry Clark.

    Actors, is there a name for this old style of acting? The conventions are hilarious.

    Of course, the films that I’m watching are the ones that have survived through the years and have made it to DVD. I never studied film in school, other than one art history class that was a survey of Korean film. (A class in which I learned that Attack the Gas Station! is actually a remake.) I know very little about cinematography or film history. But still, I find I’m enjoying the look back at, what is to me, a very foreign time and place. It’s similar to when I watch foreign movies, where I only understand the cultural references because I’ve studied the time and place. And yet, I’ve been picking these movies because I want to understand the references of my own culture. Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Sidney Poitier, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner — all names I’ve known for years without faces. And now I’ve got the reference.

  • culture,  feminism,  introspection,  politics

    Womyns’ Communities

    An article on lesbian separatist communities that I found interesting.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about communities of women (of all sexual orientations) because of the novel I’m reading, The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. It is really, really good. It’s about a home for unwed mothers run by the Catholic church (and therefore nuns). There are, so far, two male characters and dozens of female characters. There are not a lot of books like that.

    Working in a practically all-male field as I do, I’ve found my need for companionship with other women has increased over the years. Women socialize very differently from men, which is really refreshing. We talk deeper, in a lot of ways, with more depth on a subject, but we discuss fewer subjects. However, finding women who want to talk about something other than the men in our lives has been challenging. I am as guilty of this as anyone – I find that I frequently am lost finding something else to talk about (and not having children does not help). To be fair, those relationships require a lot of time and effort and thought cycles. They require discussion and processing. But here we are, women together in a room – surely our life experiences have more to offer than just our romantic relationships? But how do you get past an entire culture that tells you otherwise – how do you bridge the gap for something more meaningful?

    I don’t know, but I try all the time. Perhaps these all female communities are on to something – I don’t know that I’d want to live in one all the time, but I would love to be able to visit.

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