Country, Not Candidates.

This morning I woke up to read the story about Harvard immediately canceling the remainder of the men’s soccer team season as the result of a revelation of ongoing sexual harassment. It is a bold and unequivocal move, penalizing some who may not have participated. Or did they? Is not speaking up complicity? Was it only the soccer team or is it more prevalent as one female soccer player said? This behavior is unfortunately new, what is new is the effort to address.

I have been grateful for Kirsten Gillibrand here in New York who has worked on how sexual assaults on college campuses and in the military are handled. You don’t have to look very hard to find the accounts of women who bravely strode up to police stations and campus offices to report a rape only to be told they were less victim than they were cause.

 

The last couple of years have brought up a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary that some people refuse to embrace. It’s hard, I get it, embarrassing even. As I parent I have to go back and relive some of the decisions I made, I am not proud of all of them, but they are a part of who I am, who I have been, and who I can work toward becoming. The truth is some of these words and phrases are hard for me to use precisely for the way I know certain people feel about them.

 

What I’d like to do is offer places to go and read about them. You can do it privately, you can disagree, you can process, whatever it takes. What happened at Harvard and what happens at colleges and conferences all across the country is a part of why we need to acknowledge these words.

Feminism

Rape Culture also see here

Privilege

Trigger

Cultural Appropriation

Ally

Intersectionality

Macroaggressions

Micoraggrressions

Systemic Racism

Narrative

Gendered

I’ve even struggled with posting the Hillary 2016 bumper stickers I have. We have them displayed at home, I have tweeted the hashtag #ImWithHer , but even as I finally put the bumper sticker in the window of my car two days ago, I have feared what people would think or do.

Then I saw this:

 

 

I am very comfortable saying that I am not him and furthermore that I do not want to contribute to a world that encourages, even silently, people like him.

I want to be like Harvard.

Brooklyn Community Foundation

Mila Kunis

Jen Hatmaker 

This means that all these words that make us uncomfortable need to get normalized so that we can truly see what we are supporting. Donald Trump will lose his cool, he will continue to rewrite the rules, evade the truth, make rash decisions, and take women’s rights and racial issues back decades. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated a commitment to public service, expertise in conflict resolution, listening, and maintaining superhuman calm in the face of attacks, lies, and the general drag that being a politician in America has.  Donald Trump is full of hate and rage, but this isn’t about candidates, it is about our country and the people in it—all of us. We need to look toward what the person voted into office will do to/for our country in 2017. Tax breaks mean nothing if the environment is ignored. Immigration means nothing if our foreign relations become weak. Homelessness, poverty, and mental health issues can never get the support they need if the richest among us continue to leverage every loophole to keep their wealth and blame people for their circumstances. Eliminating abortion access will not save babies, it will kill mothers. Double standards on the law, sexism, intelligence, and credibility will leave us with a lemon. Voting for a third-party candidate in this race or writing in a name will not help the broken system we have now.

 

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Thanks, Jessica Shyba!

 

 

We need to avoid a 2017 with a commander-in-chief who does not put the country and the individuals in it first. We need to care enough to vote. We need to continue to care in 2017 with local elections. Let us build up third-party candidates and demand more of those representing the two major parties.

We all contributed to getting us where we are today, but we can also work together to change our course. We can be more than great, we can be a United States of America.

 

 

 

 

 

Between Brock and a Hard Place

Boulder

The other day I posted a photo of Briar and Finley on Instagram hugging it out, but what you didn’t see was the crumpled face of  Finley in tears of regret and the jutting chin of indignation and righteousness on Briar. Their emotions were justified, but absolutely counter to everything I want for my family. I did not give Fin a pass for being mean, I did not deny Briar her resentment. We all suffered through it and emerged on the other side.

 

One of the hardest things about parenting (I reserve the right to change my answer down the road because I know experiences change our views) is watching my kids suffer for the consequences of their actions. I do not believe that my job is to soften every edge, though I desperately wish gentle lives for my girls. I need them to know that when they do something wrong they will be held accountable, unfortunately I also have to tell them that people won’t always be held accountable—kind of leaves a gaping hole of, “Wait a minute, how come…?”

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My responsibility is to cultivate a self-awareness and code of ethics that will steer the girls to make the right decision when no one is watching, to own up to the times when they do not, and mostly, to acknowledge each day how the choices they make influence their happiness, well-being, and impact on the world. Because they are female I also have to include how their actions impact their safety. Women do not get to assume a base level of safety, for us there will always be exceptions and fine print.

I need to address what has happened at Stanford. Let me say that I don’t want to be the woman who harps on rape. I don’t seek to be the angry feminist or the ranty past-prime woman.

I want to be happy-go-lucky.
I want to be lighthearted with men and women.
I want to have a healthy appreciation of sex.
I want to enjoy entertainment.
I want to laugh at jokes.

And yet:

  • Men make jokes about “getting raped at the dealership.”
  • People use “rapey” as an adjective.
  • What did she wear?
  • Was she drunk?
  • Does she have a history of black outs?
  • Did she kiss him?
  • Does she have visible bruising?
  • Is there semen present inside of her?
  • Were there witnesses?
  • Did she report it immediately?

The question to the man rarely seems to be about what he did, what he wore, who he was with, or who witnessed any moment of consent.

The men say, “I can’t remember if she said yes, but she never said no.”

I am off track from the grooves worn in the path by:

  • “You don’t have enough evidence.”
  • “It would be a very hard case for you to win.”
  • “The fact that you know his penis was crooked is great.”
  • “It’s also compelling that you’d never met before.
  • It’s good you weren’t drunk. Do you usually drink?”
  • “You weren’t dressed promiscuously but, rape is hard to prove.”

I’ll go back to the facts of parenting and code of ethics. I am raising my daughters to know that I will call bullshit so fast on excuses that avoid responsibility they’ll get dizzy. They know it when they’ve screwed up; it’s something we have developed together over time, a mutual understanding. It isn’t so perfect that it keeps them from wrongdoing, but they do understand when they have made a mistake in judgement.

We practice “if this, then that,” but explaining why you can’t walk into a house that isn’t yours, you cannot use things that aren’t yours without asking, and you have to think about how what you do makes someone feel when it does not seem to apply to America, and in particular America’s justice system or higher education realm is tough. These are places where the enormous burden of not just proof, but of character, moral fiber, and documentable intentions and behavior seem to fall squarely on the shoulders of women.

Stanford. It’s a school where my grandfather worked, it is the stage for commencement address by Steve Jobs that Briar has been quoting, and it stands as one of the top schools in the nation. A while back a rape occurred, it was perpetrated by a student at Stanford, a standout swimmer they said.

The thing about rape is that it feels like it happened another lifetime ago and yet, certain stories, smells, and qualities of light can take me right back. I can feel the way the bench seat dug into my back as my knees banged against the glove box and his knees rested on my shoulders. I remember gagging, choking, crying.

It’s not pleasant, I know, and I am sorry. I am also sorry for Mr. Turner, father of Brock Turner, who was convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Mr. Turner is pained by Brock’s loss of appetite and general listlessness over what was but “20 minutes of action.” He is respectfully distressed about what these 20 minutes will mean over the course of a lifetime to his son, “…incarceration is not the appropriate punishment for Brock.” He goes on to talk about the lack of criminal history and the potential he had for life.

I might’ve said the same thing about myself after my rape. I struggled to eat too, but it wasn’t guilt, it was the gag reflex, a memory from the time, maybe less than 20 minutes, that my rapist forced himself on me. I was conscious, I was able to recount my story, I did not get to press charges. The brave woman at Stanford who has spoken up about what she’s going through wasn’t conscious for the rape, but like so many women, she has her eyes wide open and the public watching as she endures the second assault.

The deliberate, sober process of Judge Aaron Persky determining that her past (those twenty minutes of the attack, which actually have long lasting aftershocks, so a ‘respectful’ fuck you to Brock’s dad) are somehow less important than the future of the accused rapist.

The suggestion that the burden of registering as a sex offender and losing the swim team are punishment in and of themselves completely ignores what Brock’s actions created.

The photo being circulated is of the convicted rapist in a blazer and tie smiling at the camera. All that we know about the woman is from how she has been written about: having been loaded and then later having written a brave letter. Does she have to be well-spoken to be worthy of our trust? Does she have to check enough boxes to be at the level of this fair-faced, strawberry-haired athlete?

Is there a level of brutality that would have changed the judge’s mind?

Is there an age limit?

I wonder if there are any circumstances under which Brock’s dad would be able to look at him and say, “Well son, I still love you, but you did this and we’ve just got to see you through the consequences of it and then start again. I believe in you. I know you won’t do it again, but you did it, so you have to pay the price.”

I was at a work event one night and our sitter called to say that one of our girls had spit in her sister’s face at the dinner table.

“I had no idea what to do. I sent her to her room,” she said to me.

I was speechless but managed to sputter, “That sounds right. I’m sorry. I am in shock.”

We laughed about it later, but there was also incredulity and a bit of shame. How could that have happened? No, it isn’t rape, but it is something my kid did and we talked about it. I need her not to think spitting in faces is an option to conflict. Brock and other men need to know that penetration isn’t an option with a prone body.

Would Mr. Turner have penetrated a woman behind a dumpster?

I hope not, but honestly it feels like in this country he could do it and society would say, “Well, she shouldn’t have been there.”

Do better, America.

 

 

Not Like That

I was sitting in civics class my senior year of high school. My teacher said, “Amanda, looking hot as usual, I see.” I was mortified. I slunk out as soon as the bell rang. “See you tomorrow, Amanda,” he called drawing my name out long and slow. I held on to my backpack strap with one hand and wiped my other on the frayed edge of my cut off jeans to wipe away the feeling of his stare.
Later I was told by an adult, “He’s entitled to say that. No harm.”
Guess he didn’t mean it like that.

Cycles
Three months later I stood in a line for the bathroom at a party about four blocks from my house. I had not had anything to drink, but when a guy offered me a beer, I walked out to his car with him to get one. He raped me, saying as he thrust himself in me, “You like that?” About an hour later after gagging and biting him as he forced himself in my mouth, I was lying huddled between a car and the curb as the rumble of the car moved slowly through the neighborhood.
Later I was told there wasn’t enough to press charges. You were at a party. You walked to the car with him. What were you wearing? Had you been drinking?
Successful cases don’t look like that.
A year later I was a Rotary exchange student in Spain. I was standing against a wall waiting for my turn to order in a cafe. A man walked over to me, pressed his lips almost close enough to touch my ear and told me, “You better be careful with that neck, you never know what it will do to a man.”
Later I was told, “You should be grateful. He was saying you were beautiful.”
Don’t be frigid, don’t you like men?
A few years later I was studying in Mexico. Every day on my way to the school I would pass a garage where the workers would call things to me, “Look at those legs” and “You keep walking by but you never stop, come in here.” One day when I got back to my host family’s house I explained that I talked back to them and told them to leave me alone or I’d use the legs that they watch so closely to kick them.
“Amanda, you cannot say these things. You have to let them talk. Now we must apologize.”

Don’t resist like that, it makes them angry.

Ten years ago I was standing on my front porch talking to a friend about a couple of guys at work framing me to cover the laziness and incompetence of a co-worker. “It’s crap,” I said. “I bust my ass and they—”

“Shhh, be more quiet. You can’t talk like that,” he told me.
You can be mad, but not like that, not so loud.

I’m in my 40s now, the overt sexual come-ons are not as intense or as frequent, but I have meetings where men stare at my breasts rather than meeting my eyes or they listen to me talk and then turn to a man in the room to have my statements qualified. I have learned to navigate in ways that keep people from telling me to be quiet or to settle down. I understand that I don’t just have to size up people; I have to anticipate how they will react to me, because time and again society has taught me that I am responsible for men’s actions.

My clothing.
My neck.
My legs.
My yes for one thing negates my no for another.
Don’t be loud.
Don’t be cold.
Be pretty, but be careful.

I have three daughters and what I hear over and over, “Oh, you’re in for trouble,” and I think, “No, I’m not. Fuck you.” I don’t say it, though. I smile sweetly and say, “Thank you.”
Don’t make them angry.

Many say, “Does your husband have a rifle ready?” and I think, “You think it’s cute to look at a grade school age child and think about sex?” I let a slow smile spread across my face and laugh delicately.
Don’t be frigid.

I got a call from my eldest daughter’s school one day after she ran out of the gym during a dance. I asked what happened. They told me that there was a situation that involved a boy wanting to talk to her. I asked what the problem was and was told that she had run away from the boy. I asked what they were doing about it. They said they were questioning my daughter. “And the boy?” I asked. They were not talking to him. “She should have let him talk to her. He just wanted to tell her something.” I took a deep breath, made my tone even, and said, “But when does her desire not to talk with the boy become as important as his desire to talk to her?” Silence. “Will you be talking to him?” They answer weakly, something about staffing and the day being nearly done, and maybe my daughter will calm down and feel differently.
The cycle repeats as if nothing has changed.

I understand that I must teach my daughters that in our culture they are responsible for their actions and the actions of the men and boys around them. All the lessons they have been taught about right and wrong, kindness, respect, and standing up for yourself will be thrown out the window. It is easier to manage the girls. It is less complicated to focus on what the girls are doing. Experience suggests that I need to teach them to be quiet, to not talk back, to not allow their bodies to incite actions that will be their fault, to keep themselves safe.
I wish I had a tidy ending for this, but I am a woman in a society that thinks we are here for entertainment. I want to tell my daughters it doesn’t have to be like this, but this is what it is. I clench my teeth and breathe through flaming cheeks as I teach them both sides. Because I want them to have everything that they want, but I also want them to have their eyes open. They need to understand that injustice persists.
I wish I didn’t think that speaking up and teaching my daughters to do the same would end up with us getting hurt, but I do. I want to be braver, but I don’t trust my life or my daughters’ to be valued more than men’s freedom to do whatever they please.


Men will touch what isn’t theirs and be protected.
Men will demand gratitude for unwanted attention.
Men will label, discount, and judge women differently.
Society and women will side with them; them being men, not my daughters. That’s the world I grew up in, it’s the world I live in now, and it’s the world I have to prepare my daughters to occupy.
I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t want to be like that.
I can’t let it continue, not like that. I have to find a way.

Horror Trending

I have a routine in the mornings, after a cuddle with our early-rising cat, I pad downstairs, make coffee and check my email, Twitter, and Facebook. The volume of junk email I receive makes the email check a nice warm-up, easily done with heavy lids and a not entirely alert mind. Twitter is my favorite, my circle of friends there are wildly passionate and quirky. They educate, challenge, and fascinate me. Whether it’s chatter about a tv show or advocating for gun reform, I discover new viewpoints and humbling daring. For the most part I am safe in what I tweet about; avoiding perilous ledges of conflict because I have a business and I know that sometimes my very liberal Pacific Northwest roots put my views in conflict with what might be the majority. It isn’t worth the dynamic—UNTIL IT IS.

Yesterday morning as I tried to avoid the trending box on Facebook I saw ‘Campus Shooting’ again and again. I clicked back to Twitter. My feed was a sea of one hashtag #YesAllWomen I didn’t think anything of it until a voice I respect retweeted a rush of #YesAllWomen tweets. This image popped up:

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 6.57.16 AM

There is nothing new about this image, nothing revolutionary about women in various states of undress on magazine covers. What has changed for me is that my daughters, all three of them, are asking why.

“Mama, why is she naked?”

“Mom, why on earth is she in inappropriate stuff on the cover?”

“How come the girls are always showing their stuff and boys are in suits?” they waited, watching my face.

After stammering that the women do that because it is what they feel they have to do to compete I recoiled. I don’t want that for them. I decided that I was going to draw a line and when that line was crossed I would speak up, I would do whatever it took to not be a part of the other side of that line.

Feminist.

Complainer.

Prude.

Bitch. 

You got it, I’ll take them. Because I don’t know when this became acceptable as a way to sell shoes.

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I began reading the tweets, not yet understanding that they sprang from the campus shooting story.

RT: @stefgraser #yesallwomen because guys can be shirtless at practice but I can’t run in a sports bra because it “distracts them”

RT @MissLaurenMoss #Yesallwomen because people still think feminism is about hating men

RT @KariJoLee #YesAllWomen Because The Breakfast Club was released in 1985, but this is still an issue.

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RT: @thatkristen  Misogyny and the mistreatment of women has become accepted by men AND women. We’re all guilty. #YesAllWomen

RT: @MommyNaniBooboo  1 in 4 women is a victim of sexual assault… and #YesAllWomen live with the fear that they’ll be that 1.

RT: @LeahMeyerhoff   Because society is more comfortable with people telling jokes about rape than it is with people revealing they have been raped #YesAllWomen

RT: @AmyVernon  #YesAllWomen because every woman I know has *at least* once in her life feared she would be raped. And too many have been assaulted.

I jumped into the conversation.

@AmandaMagee If the idea of #YesAllWomen threatens you and makes you feel panic, rage & that life is unfair, congrats, you just got a taste #NotAllMen
@AmandaMageeYour decency doesn’t change it, just like mine didn’t keep me safe from rape, molestation, and harassment #NotAllMen #YesAllWomen

Then I had a man attack me, saying that the real issue is that men can’t be victims. I calmly suggested that maybe the problem isn’t that there is one problem, maybe, just maybe the problem is a pervasive attitude that things are certain way, boys will be boys, beauty comes with attention, man up, don’t be a pussy.

He told me I wasn’t smart enough to understand what he was saying. I suggested his anger be directed at a larger population than women. He stopped talking to me.

He was too busy with this:

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Handily demonstrating how quickly insults devolve to threats of violence against women.

Then I received a private message from an incredibly strong friend: Oh my God…that I’m sitting here sobbing and thinking that I can’t let my kid find out on Twitter that I was raped..and that idiot is worried that he can’t be allowed to be a victim?

I can understand how this hashtag made people uncomfortable. We have all contributed to where we are today. I’m not sure when it began. I know that 25 years ago when I complained about my teacher saying that I looked hot, I was told that he was entitled to have that opinion. These aren’t easy things to face, it’s easier to think that it doesn’t happen or that it is the exception not the rule.
The #NotAllMen hashtag that emerged in response was peppered with hate against women, but there was also a very real argument that not all men are doing these things, which is true. The issue that bubbles up for me is that just because something is not an issue for you or with you does not mean it doesn’t exist.
RT: @schmutzie  The validity of #YesAllWomen isn’t based in the impossible task of speaking to 100% of particular human experiences. Larger truth prevails.

I am a survivor, even saying that bothers some people.

@AmandaMagee The anger we have for assaults on us are expected to have both volume control & expiration dates. “Aren’t you over it yet?” #YesAllWomen

What now? Where do we go from a conversation that some are too afraid to participate in, others are worried that it unfairly villainizes them, and others still think that it is just more complaining? Start quietly. Sit somewhere and ponder what it means to have it suggested that the onus is on women to make sure that they don’t incite unmanageable lust in a man. Or that being too attractive could mean losing your job, or that we are raising boys who think it’s the responsibility of teenage girls to keep them from feeling tempted. Isn’t it time that we worked toward a reality that had clear lines.

For a long time I was ok with saying that I could strategize my way around things if a client had to “hear it from a man” and that I could swallow my frustration at the incessant objectification of women as a sales ploy. I’m not anymore.

I am a feminist. I strenuously believe that men and women are equal. We are different, sure, but that does not make us not equal.

I shouldn’t be afraid—

afraid to walk alone

afraid to speak my mind

afraid to believe in equality

afraid to call out hate…

and yet I am, which makes it that much more important that I insist on supporting the #YesAllWomen wave.