Thursday, April 25, 2013


Helloooo, compassionate followers.  Were you wondering WHERE THE FUCK I've been?  Well, me too.  My late winter/early spring has disappeared into a black hole of illness:

Heeeelp Meeeee!

Currently, I am on my seventh week of antibiotics and finally starting to feel human again.  But I am suspicious of some of the side effects of this much medication (latest count 8/day ). I seem to feel absolutely INSANE.  You know it's bad when you have to take medications to counteract the side-effects of other medications.
A cornucopia of pills!

But, the purpose of this post is not, I repeat, NOT, to bitch and moan about the state of my health or lack thereof, but rather to draw attention to the other event in my life that is making me sick to my stomach:  The imminent arrival of my show.

That's right, this reformed actress is taking to the stage for the first time in 9 years.


in case you didn't get that:  HOLY FUCKING SHIT CRAP DAMN!!!!!

There was a time in my life (before children) when being onstage was about as common for me as breathing.  It is what I did and it defined Who I Was.  In fact I did not celebrate my birthday on my birthday for a full decade because every single October 19th for ten years I was on stage or in a rehearsal.
Those teeth!  That hair!  Those...PANTS!

When I left the DC theater scene it was time for me to go.  In retrospect, I can see that I was on the brink of losing myself completely to the person that everyone else reflected back at me.  I had spent over a decade defining myself by someone else's standards: casting directors, writers, directors, producers, audiences...  Once those voices were removed,  the quiet that followed brought me to my knees.

In fact, leaving the theater to become a full-time mom to a special-needs child caused me to have an identity crisis so strong it literally took me almost 2 years to recover.  Who was I without a character to play and without lines to interpret?  Who was I without costumes, make up, lights?  Who was I without an audience and applause?   Who was?  Did I like me?  Would anyone else like me?  Would I cease to be special?  Did I have anything interesting to say?  Would I cease to be heard without a microphone?

Those teeth! That hair!  Those PJs!
I did not set foot inside a theater for 7 years.  I had no desire to resurrect ghosts.  I had no desire to wonder what might have been, or where I might have gone if I had not become pregnant.  I had no desire to feel the many conflicting emotions that invaded me when I left.  I did not want the confusion, the heart-ache, the longing, the fear, the betrayal, the disappointment, the bitterness, the shame....

Then, after seven years, two babies, and three houses, one of my closest friends, a non-theater person, who I had met in my suburban neighborhood and whose eldest son went to special-ed preschool with my son and whose younger kids went to preschool with my daughter, a woman who understood and liked me for who I was as a person outside of any judgment or reflection, told me she had decided to take a leap of faith and produce a show called Listen To Your Mother.

You see, my friend is an incredible writer.  She is very active in the blogging community and had heard about a show created by blogger, humorist, and actress, Ann Imig.    In 2010, Ann decided to marry her passions of writing, motherhood and theater to create a show about Motherhood.  She wanted to "give motherhood a microphone."  The show, Listen To Your Mother was a huge success.  Over the next few years, the show spread to more and more cities until this year Listen to Your Mother is in 24 cities nationwide.  My friend, Kate, is the brave soul who decided to bring the show to DC.

Kate encouraged me to audition in 2012, but the caveat was, I had to write my own piece.  Everyone in the show writes their own essay about motherhood to perform.



Just the thought of it made me feel a little crazy.

My palms got sweaty.  My stomach did flip-flops.  Finally, I balked.  I just could not do it.  I did not think I had anything of worth to say.  Anything I would want to explore would be too private or too boring, or too....

I did not audition.  I did however, go to see the show, and it changed my life.

The first thing was The Smell.

There is a smell that permeates all theaters, no matter the size, shape or venue.  It is THAT SMELL.

Then there were The Lights.
The Stage
The Audience

But most importantly, there were the Brave and Fearless Performers who Spoke their truths about Motherhood.

You see, Motherhood ain't easy.  It is utterly unappreciated.   To this day, I struggle to do it well, or "right" or best.  And I feel alone most days.

But in that theater during the 2012 Listen to Your Mother DC show, I was not alone.  I was part of a beautiful, brave, fearsome sisterhood of Mothers, and I discovered that no matter how perfect they seemed on the outside, they were just as full of fear, hope, love, laughter, tears and doubts as I was.

We NEEDED each other.  I NEEDED THEM.  And I found them, in a theater.

This year, I wrote a piece.  I auditioned with over 50 others, and the director selected me to tell my story.  Immediately after my audition, I finally started the blog that Kate had been urging me to start for several years...this blog.  I was full of hope.  I finally, finally felt whole again after so long.  I believe, no matter what comes after this year's LTYM DC performance, I have changed.  Two sides of me have come together.  The performer and the Mom.  The big difference is I am speaking my truth about my life.  I have my own microphone.


Listen To Your Mother DC 2013
April 28, 2013
2-3:30 PM
Synetic Theater at Crystal City

1800 South Bell Street
Arlington, VA 22202
For Tickets click this link:  PURCHASE TICKETS

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fear and Loathing in the Ladies' Lounge

I've been thinking a lot about woman on woman hate.  The way we can turn on each other and tear each other down.  The way we can turn on ourselves and tear ourselves down.  It seems to me that we are, as a rule, more likely to destroy ourselves than we are to destroy the system and culture that holds us hostage.

The question is:  Why?

There has been an astronomical amount of coverage of the Stuebenville Rape case over the past couple of weeks.  There has been far too much focus on the males who perpetrated the crime and very little acknowledgement given to the female victim.  So, I want to take the boys completely out of this discussion and focus on the ladies.  I want to focus on the victim of the rape and the female reaction to her. In particular I want to examine why many women of Steubenville and, if social media is any accurate gauge, the rest of the country are continuing  to victimize this woman with death threats, hate mail and victim-blaming.

Then I want us to look at ourselves.  You and me, kind readers. I want us to take a hard look at our own practices of female on female violence and self-loathing and then I want us to think about where this practice eventually leads us.

I think this might be a little scary.

In the wake of the guilty verdict (Yay!) that was levied against the two Steubenville football players who raped a 16 year old girl, an epidemic of victim-blaming has lit up news sites and social media.  It is frankly, disgusting.  However, one of the most disturbing developments that I have read about is the arrest of two female Steubenville teens ( 15 & 16) who have made death-threats against the 16 year-old victim.

Why would a woman blame another woman for being raped, reporting a rape, or seeking justice?

How many of us, the women reading this post, our friends, our families secretly (or openly) judge the girl for getting so wasted that she had no control over herself?  How many of us shake our heads and then take our daughters aside and warn them that this could happen to them too, rather than taking our sons aside and telling them how to help someone in need rather than victimize her?

I am not saying girls shouldn't be taught to protect themselves, they absolutely MUST be, but we must also look at why we are so willing to make this a WOMAN's problem.

Why would another woman insist that it was the victim's fault for being drunk?

(The following are all actual tweets from Women regarding #Steubenville)

I think we do this because we are afraid.

We are afraid that the next time, it could be us.

I think we blame other women and ourselves because it gives us a sense of control over events that are largely out of our control.  If we can put the blame on the victims, it means that we can protect ourselves from the same fate.  If we can create a set of social rules for women to follow dictating behavior, dress code, and acceptable social environments, and then hold ourselves and each other accountable for adhereing to those behaviors, it affords us the insurance that we can control wether or not we become the victims of one of the most horrifying types of violent crime imaginable.

If it is OUR fault, It is also within our power to FIX it, or PREVENT it.

Sadly, this is a lie.

It is a lie we tell ourselves so that we can sleep at night.  It is a lie we buy into because it helps us function in our daily lives.  Otherwise, we might never leave the house, otherwise, we might hold our daughters hostage with us.

And yet, buying into this idea, this idea that preventing rape by adhering to a set of Female Rules of Behavior is not only WRONG, it is perpetuating the system of oppression that holds us hostage in the first place.

It is a sad and scary fact that Rape happens.  It even happens in societies where women are completely imprisoned by social dictates of behavior and dress to the extreme:

Saudi Arabia, a country where women are forced to war a burka and follow the strictest of behavior codes also has a horrific amount of rape as a part of its every-day culture:

Jonathan Turley writes a  blog post regarding an experience that Michael Slackman, jounalist for the NY Times and a fellow female journalist had when they interviewed young Saudi soldiers:

Recently, he went out into the desert where many Saudi youths go. He was traveling with a female Egyptian journalist to meet with six Saudi men in the military, ages 19 to 26.
One of the men immediately observed that it was “reckless” to travel with a female who was not a relative.
One of the men said that it was only because he was friends with one of the people in the group that he did not “try something.” When pressed on what he would do, by the woman, he had the following exchange about first trying to get rid of her companion:
“I would get rid of him and try something with you,’’ he replied. “Not rape, I would try to do something, to get you to do something.”
“And if I said no?” she asked.
“Then I would rape you.”
That was it. None of the other young men seemed surprised, or sounded an objection.
Another example is that of the Qatif rape case, in which a teenage girl after being harassed and threatened by a male with whom she had been conversing over the phone met with the boy in his car and was gang raped as he drove her home

After the trial, not only were the perpetrators of the rape punished, but the victims were punished and then later the victims had their sentences doubled due to the amount of press the case received.  After outcry from human rights groups and the international community, the female victim was pardoned in 2007, which has its own complicated message regarding female behavior as described in the Wikipeadia article:

On December 17, 2007, Saudi newspapers reported that King Abdullah had issued a pardon for the girl, citing his ultimate authority as monarch to overrule "discretionary" punishments (punishments not expressly prescribed by Islamic legal canon) in accordance with the public good. However, he maintained that the pardon did not reflect any lack of confidence in the Saudi justice system or the initial verdicts, and in fact the King trusted "that the verdicts are just and fair."[18]Although the pardon was good news for the girl from Qatif, human rights activists voiced concern that it was not a practical solution to the problem, as "the pardon means that she did something wrong and was kindly pardoned later." They called for reform of the law and clear legislation that differentiates between rape and adultery, as there are many similar cases which do not receive such international exposure and not every victim will get a royal pardon afterward.[19]

In many of the contries with the most restrictive rules about female behavior there are what we term "Morality Police." Women take an active part in the enforcement of laws restricting the movements and behaviors of other women.  The following quote is from the article, "Iran’s morality police target women who test rules for dress" by Jason Rezaian of the Boston Globe:

The government’s offensive this year has been marked by the stationing of mixed-gender*  teams of morality police in Tehran’s main squares. 
In recent weeks, 53 coffee shops and 87 restaurants have been closed in Tehran for serving customers with improper hijab or for other gender-related offenses, such as permitting women to smoke hookah pipes.
Concerts have been abruptly canceled because of inappropriate dress and too much contact between male and female fans. Approximately 80 stands at an international food fair were closed last month because, officials said, the women working at them were either breaking hijab rules or wearing too much makeup.
Those arrested face up to two months in prison or even lashing, penalties that have been on the books for years but have rarely been imposed. 
The aggressive enforcement and stiff penalties have spawned resentment. But authorities have made the case this year that un-Islamic dress is a matter of national security and a symptom of longtime Western meddling in Iranian affairs. Officials routinely cite the improper wearing of hijab as the cause of a variety of social maladies, from women who marry later in life to those who go into prostitution. 

The stories go on and on.  But my point is simply this:  NO AMOUNT OF RULES OF BEHAVIOR AND DRESS imposed and reinforced by society and ourselves will prevent the rape of women. To lash out against ourselves and each other, merely helps to further victimize us and keep women from ever changing the social dynamics that are at the root of these crimes to begin with.

We become accomplices in our own subjugation and imprisonment.

Much has been written regarding women being catty toward other women on a surface level. We criticize each other's appearance and behaviors.  I want to take this conversation a step further. When we take this woman on woman loathing down to a personal level, a microcosmic level, what we discover is our own personal self-loathing and victim-blaming.  Women engage in so many types of self-hatred on a daily basis, it is almost invisible to us in it's more universal forms:

1. The infinite quest for physical perfection manifested in billions of dollars worth of:
  • diets
  • cosmetics
  • plastic surgeries
2. Overwhelming instances of female depression stemming from the belief that we are not enough:
  • not beautiful enough
  • not smart enough
  • not successful enough
  • not popular enough
  • not worthy enough
  • not good enough parents
3. We fall into the pattern of blaming ourselves and ourselves alone for:
  • The failures of our spouses
  • The failures of our children
  • The failures of our marriages
  • sometimes even the failures of the world

The research and statistics are alarming:

young women far outnumber men in terms of self-injury. There are many possible reasons for this, associated with the different experiences, roles and perceptions applied to women and men in society. What is clear from talking to women who self injure is that it is linked with (chronically) low self-esteem.The majority of women who self-harm say the self harming immediately follows feelings of either emotional pain (sadness, grief, hopelessness and desperation), self-hatred (shame, guilt, dirtiness) or anger (frustration, powerlessness). Self-injury can be a way of achieving a sense of power and control over these feelings. Women who self-harm say that it is easier to cope with the physical pain than their emotional pain.  ( )
Copyright, Threshold Women’s Mental Health Initiative 

and from

  • 75% of American women surveyed endorse unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies Source: Three Out Of Four American Women Have Disordered Eating, Survey Suggests, Science News, RetrievedJuly 18, 2011, from (
  • Almost half of American children between 1st– 3rd grade want to be thinner and half of 9 - 10 year old girls are dieting. Source: Rate of Eating Disorders in Kids Keeps Rising, US Department of Health and Human Services, Retrieved July 18, 2011, from ( 
  • The “obesity industry” (commercial weight-loss programs, weight-loss drug manufacturers and bariatric surgery centers) will likely top $315 billion this year. Nearly 3% of the overall U.S. economy. Source: “The War On Obesity" was declared on American soil by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 
    1996. Big Fat Facts Blog, Retrieved July 18, 2011, from (

So, what do we /do/ with all of this?  How do we change it?  How do we break out of a pattern of continuing our own subjugation within the larger society and the world?

We have to begin with ourselves.  We need to look in the mirror and acknowledge that we are not our own enemy.  We must each begin to behave like an ally to the woman in the mirror only then, can we branch out and begin to look at one another, our fellow women-in-arms, as allies.

If we stop spending so much time and energy fighting ourselves and each other, perhaps we can wake up to the truth.  The truth is that the only way to fight this beast of female oppression is by working together to defeat lookism, sexism and violence against women.

We have been suffocating in a death-bed of self-loathing and it is time for us to rise up together and take on the world.

When sleeping women wake, Mountains Move.

*emphasis is my own.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pneumonia with a side of Sinus Infection

I was planning to continue with Part 2 of my story this week.  At the very least, I was hoping to get a post up about something interesting or funny or full of whimsy (actually the last is total BS, whimsy isn't really my thing).  Instead, I have been reduced to this:

Ever since the December holidays, someone in my family has been sick.  SICK SICK SICK.  It's sickening how sick we've been.  Come January, I too fell ill.  Happily, after a first round of antibiotics and nasal sprays, I was On The Mend.  But I still had this funny little rattle in my left lung.  All breathing tests pointed to better, however, so I was sent home with a reminder to return in a couple of weeks, "Just to make sure."

I was doing ok, regaining my energy, finally conquering the enormous mess that had been left for me by my loving husband and children...but then this past weekend, things took a turn for the worse.  The biggest tip-off that my health was not progressing as it should be was that I lost my voice.  Now, for those who know me this is BIG TROUBLE.  You see, I am quite a talker, sometimes a singer and also a laugher.  And, truth be told, I am occasionally a shouter when all else fails to penetrate the skulls of my delightful (but sometimes deaf) children.  And by "occasionally" I mean on every occasion that calls for it, (which is far more often than I would like).

In this case, no voice for Upsidedown was the calm before the storm.

Yesterday was day three of being vocally challenged with increasing bouts of coughing,  a perpetual head-ache and a wheeze.  I packed myself back off to the doctor.  She was not pleased with what she saw or heard.  I think she was particularly disgusted with my whispered (no voice) description of my personal brand of lung butter: green with a consistency between rubber cement and paste.  She ordered me off for xrays:  one of the lungs, one of the sinuses.


Sure enough, I have pneumonia and a sinus infection.  This really bums me out.

Hallelujah for the blog, however.  For even with no voice, a hideous diagnosis and relegation to bed, the powers that be still haven't managed to shut me up.  Due to my forced silence, I have turned to you, my unfortunate readers, to spread the word of my illness.  Aren't you lucky?  I promise not to breathe on you.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Resurrection of a Reformed Actress

*Note to readers - I had intended to make this story a single blog post, but as I started writing, I realized that I had a lot more to say than I had initially thought.  I could have cut back, but what the hell, it's my blog and I kind of want to explore this thing that is my identity.  So, I have decided to post this story in multiple parts.

Part 1:  Childhood

So, I am in a show.  And, I'm super excited!  When I left the DC Theater Scene over 8 years ago, I wasn't sure if there would ever come a day when I would say those words again.  It has been a long, transformative journey there and back.  A journey that parallels the story of My Life.  So, let's start at the beginning, shall we?

My Parents on their wedding day, 1962
Like so many artsy-fartsy types, I grew up with a tumultuous family life. My father was a disappointed artist/genius who had early success as a photographer in New York City, but later career frustrations once he began working for NBC and later CBS.  My mother was a former dancer who, after a particularly satisfying but difficult season with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, had given up her career in performance to support my father in his endeavors and pay the bills once he was drafted to Vietnam.   I suspect the choice to hang up her toe shoes and start working for Pan Am also had a lot to do with a fundamental lack of self-esteem coupled with a need for financial security. Ultimately, these personal and artistic disappointments led my parents down the path of bitterness, anger and exhaustion which, when coupled with the responsibilities of two young children, eroded their once dramatic and charismatic union.   After 19 years of marriage, they acrimoniously divorced when I was 7 and my brother was 9. This was back in the 70's and early 80s when none of the families in our neighborhood had working mothers (we did) much less divorced parents.

I was a painfully shy, bespectacled, asthmatic child with mild learning disabilities that led my family to pronounce me, "a ball of fluff and a future Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader."  I found this puzzling because other than my obvious lack of intellect, I felt totally unsuited to this glamorous career.  I was definitely not considered popular or pretty or vivacious.

Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, 1978

Me at 8, definitely not
a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader

In our early childhoods, my brother won all of the academic and social accolades from my parents and the community at large. He would roam our neighborhood with a pack of kids.  Children and adults alike found him amusing, friendly and precocious.  He played chess at 6!  He was a lego genius!  He was gifted and talented!

I, on the other hand, would run around behind my brother and the other cool kids, hoping some of the acceptance would wear off.  The one friend I had, I clung to with a death-grip, praying that she would not figure out what a dork I was and leave me behind.   I cried on every single first day of school until the ninth grade.  The idea of riding the bus unsure of a seat partner and then navigating a new classroom of strange and terrifying faces all while holding myself together simply overwhelmed me.  I would be so alone.  And awkward. There was nothing about me that would appeal to anybody.

However, in private, locked in my room, or wandering around the woods that lined the golf-course near our house, I would create an alternate universe.  It was a universe where I was a star.  I was beautiful and graceful.  I was full of promise, and people would come to watch me, ME, dance on soft stages of grass lined by trees.  Every beam of light that filtered through the summer leaves would touch me and it would feel like the hand of God, a God that I spent a lot of time pondering and praying to in those days.  I prayed for him to help me and my family.

I started taking ballet when I was 5 after over a year of begging my mother for classes.  Thus began an unbalanced, and sometimes unhealthy love affair with dance that continued into my teen years.  Unfortunately, even from that young age,  although I loved, deeply loved the discipline of dance, I was so terrified of making a mistake that I would become sick with nerves and forget the routines that we were to practice during center floor time.  More than once, I left a class in tears, frustrated once again with my ineptitude.  Other girls were taller, slimmer and had better memories for choreography.  Although it seemed that I worked the hardest, I could never get ahead.  I would be praised for my form or technique, only to fumble as soon as all eyes were upon me.  Plus, there was my Mother.  I lived in fear of her disapproval.  She had danced professionally.
ANNIE! My alter-ego!

It was not until a desperate book-report in seventh grade that I became aware of Acting.  Oh sure, in my lonely days I would sing all the songs to Annie and day-dream about starring in the revival, but that had to do with Song! and Dance! and Broadway! as much as anything else.  No, it was an unconventional book report that my seventh-grade teacher assigned to our class that changed my life.  We had the opportunity to do anything we chose for this book report.  We could paint pictures, make a tri-fold display board, create dioramas, anything.  But it had to be good.  And it had to show effort.

I had no idea what I was going to do.

Over the years, I had quietly set about proving to my brainy family and the world that I was not in fact, stupid, but smart.  Smart enough to be a member of my family In Good Standing.  After the divorce,  my brother and I had moved with my Mom and her new husband to another school district.  Interestingly, as soon as I got away from where I had grown up, teachers began to notice me.  A few glorious teachers took the time to work with me one-on-one to overcome my dyslexic tendencies and ultimately, I was tested and brought into the gifted and talented program in my new school.  My life as a determined perfectionist had begun.  The funny thing about perfectionists, though, is that those of us whose strive for perfection is coupled with crippling self-doubt often find ourselves procrastinating out of the fear of failure.  We must then work ten times as hard and at a feverish pace to finish our projects.

This was exactly the predicament in which I found my 11 year-old self.

I was quickly running out of time.  The project that we had had over 3 weeks to complete was due in a matter of days, and I had not yet begun.  The book that I had read (I don't remember the name) was about two young sisters who discover a world of fairies. In a panic, I decided to make a tape-recording of all of the different characters interacting, children, fairies, etc.  This would absolve me from coming up with a fancy art project.  If I bluffed well enough, I could make it interesting and dramatic but most-importantly, it would sound cool.  So, with about three days remaining, I set to work.

Each day after school, I would record different scenes of my inventing based around the story.  The book was set in England, so I took advantage of my time with my new step-mother and step-sisters, who were British, and mimicked their voices.  Americans LOVE English accents, I figured.  Even at the age of 11, I knew simply speaking like a Brit would give me instant intellectual cred.

Winston Churchill
For the written portion of the project, I decided to create a "journal" in the voice of one of the sisters who discovered fairyland.  I wrote days of "journal entries" describing the oral adventures recorded on tape.   I then wrapped the tape and "journal" into a box with a letter (soaked in tea for the appearance age) the recipient was the subject of the book's "grandchildren."  The letter explained that within the box were a secret recording and diary proving that fairyland really existed.  It occurs to me now, that this project could actually be considered my very first theatrical writing as well as my first performance.

I was terrified about how the thing would be received...

The book report was a HIT.  A SMASH.  A GIANT COUP FOR INVISIBLE ME!

My teacher was so impressed that she played the whole tape for the class.  She later called my Mom to tell her what a talented child I was and to encourage her to send me to theater camp!    Other students suddenly noticed me.  They thought I was cool and interesting.  "How did I talk like that?" they wanted to know.  "How did I come up with such an awesome idea?"  I beamed.  I made up some sort of clever answers, and an idea began to form:  I was not such a loser after all, I was good at something!

That summer, my mom scraped together the funds to send me to a fairly prestigious theater camp in Texas, a whole continent away from the East Coast, my fractured family, and my ailing father who had recently been diagnosed with Cancer.  I suspect her willingness to spend her hard-earned money on this venture was as much due to her acknowledging that I needed a break from my further crumbling home-life as it did with her encouragement of my newfound talent.

The first day of camp, auditions were held.  We were putting on a youth production of Oklahoma!  There would be professional sets, music, and costumes.  The show would be a paid performance.  It was a big deal.  The camp participants ranged in ages from 10 -18.  Although I don't remember the precise numbers, I do remember that there were a lot of us.  I had never auditioned for anything in my life.
I took my song, (Matchmaker - haha!) and I performed it as loudly as I could, I even did a dance that I had choreographed for myself.  I wore make-up and had done my hair.  Round after round of auditions were held.  I kept getting called up, again and again.  We read from the script, we sang and we danced, until finally there were only two of us left standing.  We had to do a kissing scene with the 16 year-old boy who was, by this point, already cast as Curley.  I had never kissed a boy in my life.  But, let me tell you, I put everything I had into that kiss.  After a seemingly endless break while the adults consulted with one another, the final cast list was announced.  I was to be the lead in the production,  Laurie.  I was 12 years old and my first kiss had been onstage.

That summer in Texas, I was reborn.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Sexism Fatigue"


Lindy West, writing for Jezebel, explains exactly the state in which I find myself: Sexism Fatigue.

The definition of "Sexism Fatigue" according to Lindy:

Sexism Fatigue: When Seth MacFarlane Is a Complete Ass and You Don’t Even Notice

Sexism Fatigue struck her as she watched the Oscars last Sunday night, and interestingly, it had struck me just the week before.

I have been involved in a great online community of thinkers and debaters for the past year and a half.  It is composed of Liberals and Conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists, NeoCons and more.  We have debated almost everything under the sun, and for the most part have come to a balance of: vehement opposition,  respect for each other, and a sense of humor.  That is, we had come to a balance.  But then, the flood-gates opened.  In an effort to keep the group from growing stale, the decision was made to open up our small private group on FB to the masses. We could now, without any moderator vetting, invite our friends, our friends could invite their friends and those guys could invite any old ass-hole they chose.

And indeed, the assholes arrived.  After the group grew approximately 250% in about two weeks, things took a turn for the worse.  Much, much worse.  Petty fights erupted, name calling began, people were blocking each other's comments (which is not conducive to rational, educated and civilized conversation).  It was a royal mess.  Those of us who had a fair amount of time and energy invested in the place, tried to self-regulate and reign in the chaos.  We were holding it together, but then, I decided to post about rape in the military.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Immediately upon posting about the (AMAZING, BRILLIANT) Academy Award nominated documentary film, The Invisible War, the sexist comments started rolling in.  At first it was subtle, more about tone and less about direct comments.  Then came the accusations that I was too "emotional," soon followed by multiple men discounting the film altogether as "propaganda" full of "lies."  Finally, the coup de grace:  after sharing a story about a friend of mine who had experienced the very situation that the film profiles (all details and personal information omitted) one of the men, a career military man, accused my friend of leaving out details of the story in order to gain "sympathy."


He said this after assuring me that he believes rape in the military is a problem and that he had sat in on many "seminiars" and "trainings"about rape risk factors and that the military was taking the issue very seriously.


Meanwhile misogynist # 2 (also a military man) accused me of being a "bully" for bringing gender into the discussion (I know HILARIOUS, right?) and then said to me (and this is an actual quote):

Diane...your assumptions regarding rape are based on what...having a vagina? You just invalidated yourself.

Yeah, he went there.
But perhaps the most insulting thing of all to happen was the chain of events that occurred during the aftermath of that train-wreck.

The moderator shut down the thread and insisted that no comments be added until the following day.  Needless to say, the discussion was over for good.  Now, this might sound reasonable, and on the face of it, it is, except that the post was about women who are raped in the military not getting justice and being silenced by the military heirarchy and legal process.  And, now, in a thread where ONE woman decided to bring attention to the subject, the obnoxious and misogynistic behavior of three military men was enough to shut down the discussion completely and RE-silence those victims and me.

Needless to say, I was seething in rage.  RAGERAGERAGERAGERAGE.

I was told by the (male) moderator after the fact that I had been beating a dead horse with the topic...  Well, you know what, the horse clearly ISN'T DEAD.  In fact, that fucking horse is running wild and trampling all over my garden (see the metaphor where you will).  Is it beating a dead horse to say, "Prove it? You are calling this documentary lies well point out the lies."  (by the way he never did).  Is it beating a dead horse to say, "You have crossed a line by calling my friend a LIAR about her own rape?"  No.  Sorry.  No horse beaten here.  What you have is a woman refusing to shut up and take it.


And what made it worse, was it was a friend who was now telling me to be quiet. Two days later, he told me to "be quiet" again by shutting down the very next thread I started.  Ironically, the thread was a question about why more women were not speaking up in our group.  The exact wording follows:

This one is for the WOMEN of the [group]: I, and others have noticed throughout my time in the [group] in her current and previous incarnations that we are lacking the female voice. Currently, there are 40 women in the group and 80 men, so women represent 1/3 of the [group] population. However, we do not in any way represent a third of the posts nor a third of the comments. So, I am wondering, why? Please vote, even if you don't comment! And, feel free to add a category!
(the voting options were) 
I don't have the time to participate
I feel I do participate proportionately (incidentally, this was my answer)
I prefer to spend my Facebook time on non-political matters
I am not interested in the subject matter
The group feels like a "boys club" and is unwelcoming to the female perspective
I don't participate online much at all anywhere, including my own FB page.

I was asked in the future not to post questions regarding the internal operations of the group without first running it by the moderator.  Now this struck me as odd as over the course of a year and a half of membership in the group, questions about group participation and opinions had been asked multiple times and never censored.  In addition, two of the three (new to the group) military goons from the rape thread had made independent posts regarding what they saw as the proper running of the group, how people should word their posts, what types of sources were acceptable etc. and not one word had been mentioned to them.

Why was I being singled out?  Could it be...BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN?  I think the answer is, quite frankly, yes. The moderator was a friend.  He wanted to step-up control of the group, he wanted to prevent another train wreck and, well, I was his friend and a woman and he knew I would understand and could be trusted not to fly off the handle.  I am, after all, pretty nice.


Once again I found myself at a crossroads. Would  I:

1. Take up the banner and open a can of whoop-ass on the group pointing out all of the overt and subtle sexism that had gone on in the course of three days and risk blowing the place to bits and losing friends


2. Walk away

I chose to walk away.  I left the group.  I was too frustrated and too upset and too disappointed to stay. I left, not entirely quietly, there were a fair number of private messages zinging around, but ultimately, I was tired.  Fatigued.  Sexism Fatigued.  As Lindy West says:

To put it simply, I AM TIRED OF TRYING TO EXPLAIN THIS SHIT TO PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT. ... I am tired of trying to have an intellectual discussion about dog-whistle sexism in a culture where prominent politicians are still trying to grasp what rape is, and in a world where little girls are shot in the head because they want to go to school. Asking people to think critically about some hacky jokes from a dancing cartoonist? You might as well wear a sandwich board that says, "Yell at Me With Bad Grammar."
I am tired of being called a shrieking harridan for pointing out inequalities so tangible and blatant that they are regularly codified into law. I am tired of being told to provide documentation of inequality in the comments sections of a website where a staff of smart women documents inequality as fast as our fingers can move. Like, you might as well write me a note on a banana peel demanding that I prove to you that bananas exist. I am tired of being asked to "cite sources" proving that sexism is real (that RAPE is real, even!), because there is no way to concisely cite decades and decades of rigorous academia. Allow me to point at the fucking library. We can't cite "everything," and our challengers know that. It's an insulting diversionary tactic, it's an attempt to drag us all backwards, and fuck it. Do your own research like the rest of the grown-ups.

I was on the warpath, but I was expected to be a "grown up."  I was supposed to take the moral high-ground and be nice and polite, because, I was the woman.  I honestly believe that. But I was tired.  I was tired and I am tired.  I am tired after a respectful forum that I loved was destroyed in two weeks by a group of sexist assholes, I am tired after a lifetime of sexist cuts (some big, some little), I am tired after inheriting a history of misogyny from all of the women who have lived on this planet in this Galaxy in this Universe.  I am fatigued.  Sexism Fatigued.

If you haven't read Lindy's article I stongly recommend that you do.  It is at once hilarious, insightful, and inspiring.  And, it woke me up.  It roused me from my fatigue when I was almost asleep. Thanks, Lindy.

* There is a happy footnote to this post!  After discussions among members and the moderator, some necessary changes were made to the group.  Without going into detail here, suffice it to say, I am happy to be back in the group and among friends.  I haven't yet, however, regained enough energy to chime in much on the discussions there.

** Second footnote to this post:  several days after posting "Sexism Fatigue," a friend in the UK sent me a link to another, very informative article about rape in the US military.  It was written by Lucy Broadbent and published in the Guardian in December of 2011.   For those of you interested in further reading, I recommend it:  Rape in the US Military: America's Dirty Little Secret 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Late To The Party

So, I'm late to the party.

This whole "blogging thing," well, I hear it's past its prime.  The universe of the blogger has been taken over by twats.  Or should I say, Twitterers?  Yes, my dear friend who finally (finally!) convinced me to start a blog signed me up for Twitter too. I suppose she figured if she left me to my own devices, I might miss that party altogether.  I still don't know how to use it though, Twitter, I mean. I feel lost among all the witty "pound-hashtags."  I want to shout at my iphone:  "Who are you talking to?  What did they say?  How do I follow 5 million conversations at once?"

I know, you are confused, right?

I describe myself as a rock and roll volcano, but I don't know how to Tweet with the twats?  I'm a whole decade late to the mommy blog, for goodness sake.  What the hell kind of misleading marketing is this?

And now you know how I feel.

See, that whole "blog description" thing gives me only 500 words to sum up what I am doing here.  And you know, I felt I had two choices.  The first option was to say:

I have no fucking clue what this blog is about.

The second option was to try to craft some artsy-fartsy, metaphor-laden, description that was full and concise and brilliant.  Buuuuut, what you see is what you get.

And, at least it is TRUE.  I mean, I am in a constant state of inner - tornado.  The various aspects of my personality whirl around each other trying to decide if it is best to knock each other out cold or hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Can you imagine living with this brain?

My quest for inner-peace has taken me to yoga classes, meditation seminars, women's studies classes, a professional life as an actress and choreographer, years of therapy, peace rallies, anti-gun rallies, shooting ranges (no really), rallies against domestic violence and child abuse and finally, wonderfully to the creation of my own darling family.  I have argued in political science courses, online forums, and over dinner tables in the US and abroad.  I read and I cry and I meditate and I drink some wine and I go take a pole dancing class and I am still lost.

I know I believe in compassion.  I believe in kindness and generosity and nurturing.  But I also believe in shouting from the rooftops and fighting back.  I have learned in my complicated life that too much passivity in the face of adversity does me no favors.  So how do I work toward compassion, kindness and gentleness without losing my voice or my nerve?  How do I protect myself and those more fragile and innocent without a little bloodshed?  These are the questions that keep me up at night and have led me to this party a little late, a little backward, a little upside-down, but no less ready to rock and roll.