I Call Bull-Sham on John Grisham

Posted on October 17, 2014

I took a Facebook break last week, something about the realization that logging on was a choice that consistently made me feel not good spurred the move. I did the same thing with the news (except for that one damn brown recluse spider story.)

I cannot remember what headline made me click over to see what exactly John Grisham had said about pedophiles, but I did click. I saw his face, familiar to me from so many book jackets in our house as I grew up. He was a pulpy author, but people didn’t tend to scoff too much if you had his book in your overnight bag. I read them.

 

I remembered his name in the context of the actors who played roles in his movies—Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman. His name has meant something. I was already reeling from the Stephen Collins scandal, a story that I did pursue, all the way to listening to the recordings because we had been watching Revolution and I felt a compulsion to find out if it was true—how I thought I’d know if it were true, I can’t say.

 

Mr. Collins did very bad things, how many I am sure will come to horrifying light.

 

Mr. Grisham said things about very bad things.

 

He oversimplified things making sure that people understood that looking at sexed up teenage girls who may or may not have looked like 30 year old hookers was nothing like child sex trafficking and yet, they are linked.

Mr. Grisham said this in an interview with Above The Law about public opinion about lawyers:

It’s part of our DNA. We have an insatiable appetite for stories about the law and lawyers, and it stems from our strong belief that we have so many rights, real or imagined, and if anyone or anything violates our rights, then we want justice. We believe our judicial system to be fair and efficient, so we have no hesitation about using it.  Lawyers become advocates, fighters, rescuers, saviors, gladiators, etc.

I get that. We do want justice, we crave the knowledge that there is sense to the world. When I read defenses of Grisham and attacks of stories that dare to get passionate, I feel like it’s more of the same injustice.

 

The truth is that each time it is said that a girl looks older than her chronological age, we are chipping away at the integrity of our system for protecting the young and those without a voice.

 

Men like John Grisham trounce the voices of the non-white, non-male, under 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 set. They have no voice, no power, less still when we shift public perception to suggest that some girls are older, some girls are more ready.

Every time a woman’s account of rape is countered with commentary on how she was dressed, how much she drank, or if regret of sex played a role, we discount the severity of the violation. We chip away at that justice Grisham says fascinates us so.

 

Every time we don’t consider the impact of subtle sexism, we dilute justice.

 

Grisham mentioned that it wasn’t a little boy. He suggested that the punishment meted out for sex crimes should have a scale applied to it, based on varying degrees of what, I’m not sure. If we take that to apply to rape, is it the amount of bruising that should influence sentencing? Does the defendant’s sentencing get points applied like a mortgage, less points for age and education?

 

I am tired of hearing that rape culture doesn’t exist. I am tired of hearing that catcalls are a form of free speech. I am tired of society being fatigued by my resentment of being ogled, ignored, and legislated. I don’t buy the line that comments are made off the cuff. I believe that this is a reflection of genuine views that young women are here for the pleasure of men and that it’s harmless.

 

Grisham’s apology, which you can read here, included, “My comments… were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes”

 

I have no problem with feeling compassion for those who commit or are convicted of sex crimes. Personally I have not reached a point of sufficient zen to forgive my rapist or the neighbor who molested me, but my hat is off to those who can. What I would like, Mr. Grisham, is some modest amount of consideration for those who don’t make it to 60 without being mistreated at best, or violated repeatedly, day after day until their childhoods and potential for healthy relationships or enjoyment of intimacy are forever scrubbed from their beings.

 

Nothing was said of the young people, the vehicles for pleasure, through a screen or otherwise, of adults.

 

Shame on you, Mr. Grisham. Shame on many of us for not working harder, caring more, or being more willing to stand up and say, “No.”

 

This story and the others that seem to surround it has struck me to the core. If you are feeling the same here are some places to look for ways to help.

 

Support organizations like RAINN.

Follow Gender Avenger and The Representation Project

Familiarize yourself with the reality of violence.

Question the glamorization of abuse.

Decry the sexualization of young people.

 

Or maybe just start listening. Pay attention to how language is used to diminish certain situations or minimize discomfort in the face of things that are just plain awful. It will sober you.

 

 

 

Passionate Distortion-Making Sense of Life

Posted on October 13, 2014

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Excuse this photo being of dairy products rather than toys. It is the best I had to represent how jarring making a seemingly simple decision can be in today’s world.

I remember the first time I took the girls to Target as a reward. They had helped me clear leaves in the backyard and I had told them that I would take them to the store to pick out a treat. It just didn’t occur to me how difficult it would be for them to manage the sensory assault. Each aisle made their eyes a bit wilder, each new shelf of LEGOS, Barbie, and My Little Pony made them blurt, “This, this is it.”

“Easy, easy. Take a minute, just walk with me and let’s try to decide which thing is the most interesting,” I said walking and scanning the shelves.

“Ok,” Ave said as she tossed a box back into a bin and took two steps, “Got it. This is it.”

I looked, “Honey, you already have that at home.” She looked down at her hand crestfallen, “Ok.”

Finley came around the corner clutching a stuffed dog and a princess doll. “I’m ready,” she said proudly.

“Sweets, I told you, one thing. It can be your choice, but it can only be one thing.”

Briar stood quietly at the end of the aisle. “Mom, I really can’t decide.” She began to weep silently.

My own eyes were having trouble focusing. I thought about taking them over to the coloring books and DVDs, but realized that would just confuse them more.

I knelt down, “Listen Finley, you did an amazing job today, but the deal was one treat. Now, if you want, we could look for a toy that comes with two things, that way it would be like getting two.”

She looked at me, looked at the toys in her hands, and shook her head. “Nope, I love the dog. The princess isn’t as special.” I smiled and helped her put the doll back. Then I went back to Ave and Briar. “Well, what do you guys think?” I asked.

Briar looked at me with forlorn eyes, “I’m just not sure and I don’t want to make a wrong decision.”

“You won’t, babe. This was supposed to be fun. I’m sorry it’s so overwhelming.” She leaned into me and wrapped her arms around my leg. Ave said, “I got it, I figured it out. I want to get a game that we can all play. Can we go to the game section?” I nodded.

We walked to the games, somewhere along the way Briar found a little stuffed animal and said that it was what she wanted. I’m pretty sure that she did it to stop the indecision, better to make a choice than continue suffering. As we walked to the car she said to Finley, “Would you like to play with this, that way you can have two?” Finley’s eyes bugged out, “Weelly, Bwi-uh?”

I drove home peeking in the rearview mirror at Ave and Briar, their heads touching as they read  the back of the game box, while Finley narrated the view from the car in the voice of her stuffed dog.

All of this reminds me so much of my current roller coaster of emotions as I try to make sense of the world. I don’t understand how it is that I am living in a time when women can hold public office and a black man can be president, yet it feels like we’ve made no progress at all.

I want to participate. I want to speak up, but every time I venture out I feel like the girls at Target. The voices saying “believe this” and “that’s a lie” make me falter. I don’t want to jeopardize my business, don’t want to have people take my words out on my daughters. Then I see comments that suggest that rape is a suitable punishment for people with different ideas.

It’s hard to stand out in the open, see the blur of opinions and spin and not feel dizzy, overwhelmed, or eager to just grab on to the first one within reach. I can understand any response and I don’t personally have it figured out, but I will keep tiptoeing forward.

Because women are people.

Equal pay is important.

Access to contraceptives is important.

The right to marry is deserved.

A living wage is a fair expectation.

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Saying do better seems reasonable.

Don’t hit.

Don’t shoot.

Don’t rape.

Don’t assault.

Don’t stop listening or trying.

I get that it’s not without grey, any of it, for every position there is a yes, but

I am just exhausted by so many of the yes, buts crashing into each other and leaving nothing but more hate, hurt, and resolute refusal to keep trying.

Like I said, I don’t have it figured out. I am sure I will say the wrong thing, leap to conclusions, and backtrack. I won’t give up though. I have to believe there is a way to bring it all together.

Reach

What about you? Are you confused? Invested? Ready to try?

Used to

Posted on October 11, 2014

When I was hoping to get pregnant and then later when I was, I sought advice, poring over articles on what to eat, what not to eat. I expected the days, months and years following delivery to adhere to a schedule and approach as defined by so many articles and experts. They did not.

Pregnant

When they laid Briar in my arms everything changed. I didn’t look for answers, didn’t refer to manuals. I was drunk with instinct, believing that I knew exactly what to do at each turn. Breastfeeding came easy to us, which may have been where the fearlessness came from, the heady experience of feeding, soothing, and forging a bond through my body to this perfect creature.

This isn’t to say that we didn’t have a witching hour or that I didn’t weep in my bed with exhaustion. Avery and Finley came, and still I trusted in my ability. I found a circle of moms online that are still with me today. I read their firsts, celebrated their triumphs, and sobbed over my keys as they experienced loss none of us could prevent.

As we passed down the back pack that had carried each of our girls, and as I faced the summer frocks, still so fragrant with sun screen and alive with the laughter they’d heard, that would not be passed down again, I understood that instinct and ability will never overpower life, with its currents and crashes so beyond our control.

Once again I search for guidance, a promise that we can survive whatever comes, acceptance as I read the words of others who echo of my own hopes and worries, the balm of knowing that life goes on. It changes, we lose and we falter, but the beauty and the exhilaration of hope persevere.

I found an article this morning from a dad. The cadence of his words is not perfectly in synch with what I would write, there are lines that at first I hoped would read differently, but as it went along I wept. Adding in bits of wisdom from others, questioning it, chuckling at it—it is a beautiful letter to a 21 year old daughter about life.

There is this gem from Maggie, who always draws me in, again, her words are different than mine, the life she lives so fascinating and foreign to me. I love reading her, partly because she isn’t afraid to write long sweeping posts, partly because she reminds me that we can be both—we can work hard and be silly, we can be stern, selfish, weak, hopeful. You could read any of her posts and come away happy that you did.

Tracy wrote a beautiful post on her middle.

This post by Lara about the Tooth Fairy.

Shannon, ahead of me on this road of parenting, gives me hope in ways that make me laugh and hiccup with tears.

I used to think it was dangerous or somehow representative of a lack of know-how to read articles about parenting. Now I seek them out like four leaf clovers, the hunt as pleasurable as the find. I know that I am in a meadow and that I am not alone.

 

They Said…

Posted on October 7, 2014

I dropped the littler girls off at school this morning; the sight of Avery slinging her arm around Fin’s shoulders, and Fin leaning into her undid me. I watched them walk, their bright raincoats like carousel horses, bobbing up and down. Red, aqua, gone and then back again. I held my hand out the window in case they turned.

So much of what I do is in case…a note in the lunchbox in case something happens to me. A whispered I love you in a sleeping ear, a fervent wish to make it echo for years to come in case I’m not there.

I’m not sure why everything feels so potent today, tears nipping at the corners of my eyes a persistent lump in my throat, and the tell tale sting in my nose as I switch the song as a sob pounds on the door.

I read you need to write every day, even if your words falter and a darkness blooms, and so I’m here. I’ve gathered ribbons of words from others, maybe written to cheer themselves, maybe for someone they loved.

Today I offer them here, for us. Draft off them, leap from them, quiet your hurt with them.

Hope

 

Light

 

Soul

Quiet Your Doubt

Posted on October 6, 2014

“I wish I could shower without my thoughts,” I said to Sean absentmindedly as I towel dried my hair. I’d been doing battle with people who haven’t listened, replaying conversations that are already inked and smudged beyond repair. He looked at me and took a deep breath, I felt my shoulders go up in defensive anticipation and then back down.

“Me too,” he said and smiled gently. “Hard to turn it all off sometimes.”

It felt pretty good to not be judged, but my mind immediately set itself back to judging—flitting from why I chirp “yup” during conference calls to the clothes hanging  in the closet, to the roller coaster of 40something skin (Is it a break out? Is it flaking dry skin? Is it both? Why do I itch everywhere?) to how I haven’t been writing and when I do write it drops silently into the abyss. I tried resetting my shoulders again.

It’s maddening to me that I can walk down the street with confidence, a few instances notwithstanding, and feel unbothered by appearance or doubt. Yet when I’m at home I thrash against quicksand like doubt and judgement. The face I might have cracked a smile at in a storefront reflection is now haggard, the idea I had for a project is full of holes that I tear wider with contempt. The doubt is caricature-like in its relentlessness.

The thing about doubt for me is that it doesn’t matter how tightly scheduled my day is, I fit it in. It also comes upon in me ways that are unpredictable-good night’s sleep, bad night’s sleep, easy day, hard day. The other day I said something about it online and Bette, a woman who I’ve been friends with online almost as long as I’ve been a mom said, “You’re getting better at this, right?”

I want to say yes. I want to say that I hit 40 and let it all go, or that I realized it was a waste of time, which I have, but it’s still here. I am still here. Ever questing for set—

smartest

strongest

prettiest

thinnest

funnest

You name it, alone with my thoughts I tend to think that I don’t measure up. I look at the things other people do, see their 13.1 or 26.2 stickers. I have no desire to run that far, I just don’t. That doesn’t stop me from thinking that I am somehow failing by not training for half marathon. Same goes for seasonal wreaths and centerpieces. I don’t want them, but not creating them or buying them is something I curse myself for.

Seeing all this written out, imagining hearing it from someone else, I can easily rally a “you shouldn’t feel that way and here are 15 reasons why…” for them, not for me. Laying this out here with the cursor blinking at me to write more is excruciating. How much more can I tell? How bare can I lay the doubt and self-ridicule? I could choose not to do this and have the stories I leave be free of this. I could erase this part of my voice and deny that I wavered or faltered. As much as I want to be free of these echoes, I want my daughters to know that it’s ok to worry. We aren’t broken.

Reflection

 

I promised myself I’d do this. I  prefer the days when my joy at being alive trumps everything else, when each challenge that pops up is met with a a reflex of I can do this. Because I can, I do know that beneath my shallow lamenting that I am not as effective as so and so at something I am remarkable. We all are, but when held against the remarkableness of others we are destined to fall short.

As I went about this emotional, mind stammering I found something from Gretchen Rubin. It was a tweet that came up in my feed at just the right moment, erasing for a moment the pursuit of est.

 

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I’ve been writing these posts about self-doubt and body image for years. I’m tired of it. I’d like to think that it’s possible to get to a point where certain things aren’t a part of us, that we can conquer vices. Maybe if I embrace what Gretchen writes, aim for one or the other depending on the day, I can hold on a bit longer to the days when my reflection, my shadow, and the sound of my own voice are things that I cherish.

Yesterday Sean helped me get out of my own head by shooing me out of the house for a walk. Just agreeing to do it felt like climbing a mountain, but I did it. I was about 50 steps from the house when I realized that it was all I needed, a perfect reset. Now if I can just hold on to that and the perspective that can be found from stepping out of the self-critiquing rut, I’ll be just fine.

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