I believe her

The most shocking thing about Susan J. Fowler’s story is that it isn’t the least bit shocking. The statistics alone speak volumes: Uber’s employment of women fell from 25% to 6% within less than a year. On her final day employed there, only 3% of Ms.Fowler’s cohort of 150 engineers were female.

Uber’s CEO can quit 45’s misogynistic team in DC, but he’s got some serious corporate culture problems back home.

I’m permanently deleting Uber.

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silencing dissent

Elizabeth Warren was shut down on the Senate floor as she quoted the writing of Coretta Scott King about Jeff Sessions, who has been nominated for attorney general of the United States. Mitch McConnell invoked a rule of the Senate which deemed the widow’s words unsuitable for senators’ ears. Senator Warren is banned from uttering another word during the 30 hours remaining in the confirmation hearings.

Republicans have made themselves into the perfect example of the blind, deaf, and tongue-tied, who refuse to see evil or hear evil but who speak nothing but evil.

Warren, who refuses to be silenced, read the letter outside the senate chamber.

 

resist

Some good news  in the Huff Post is that the grassroots resisters are surging ahead of Dems in DC, which is a good thing, since Elizabeth Warren — of all people — just voted to confirm Ben Carson. I guess he must be the lesser of whatever evil lurks in the unknown in some people’s minds.

Feeling disconnected from your elected officials? Here’s some inspiration from the organizers of the Women’s March:

10 things to do in the first 100 days

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our voices

our voices
ringing clear
you can’t claim
you didn’t hear

see images from Women’s Marches around the world

and hear Ashley Judd

and America Ferrera

and Angela Davis

Listen to each other, my sisters, and resist!

and for some comic relief, check out Kate MacKinnon mocking Kellyanne Conway (we’re still listening, Ms. Conway, if you have anything factual to say…)

misogyny much?

I don’t use Twitter, but today I saw a disturbing report about cyberthreats directed at Ashley Judd in response to a critical tweet she made about a sports opponent of her favorite team. I perused her Twitter feed to see what was up and was shocked by some of what she made public. Do not click here if you do not want to be offended.

The problem isn’t Twitter, although that particular platform seems to unleash the unchecked foulness of some people. The problem is the vituperative violence directed at a woman who dared to express an opinion about sports. The problem is that this sort of violence toward women plays out every day in real life, not just on social media feeds. From federal judges to sports stars, the perpetrators often go unpunished. Ashley Judd is making an example of her haters and pressing charges. I say Brava! You go, sister!

One has to wonder how one woman becomes the target of so much anger and loathing. My guess is that Ms. Judd’s politics play a role: she is an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and equality, which threaten the social and political structure on which some of these bullies precariously perch. Perhaps they feel the groundswell of our outrage at the mistreatment of our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. Perhaps they hear our voices ringing out through the airwaves of free speech, no longer held in check by greying newspaper editors or chauvinistic higher ups. Perhaps they fear the Elizabeth Warrens and the Malala Yousafzais of the world, who are not afraid to call them out on their bad behavior, who threaten to topple them from their place of privilege by speaking the truth to their delusions, from Wall Street to Taliban strongholds.

No amount of hate-speech or craven threats on Internet will stop our voices. The fire of our indignation is real, and they provide the fuel that proves us justified.

the invisibility of age

Lori Day’s article “Aging white female is not your worst nightmare” struck a chord with me that compelled me to return to this platform after months of focusing on other forms of creativity (mostly my Instagram art photography forums). Ms. Day outlines the intersection between misogyny and ageism, noting that the latter bias affects women much more than men in our patriarchal society, which values the wisdom and experience of older men but rejects older women as irrelevant.

One particularly poignant quote echoes many thoughts I’ve posted to this blog: “[The solution] isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation.”

I am two years older than Lori Day and attempting acceptance of the 10 pounds I’ve gained post-menopause. This is no small task, especially for someone who has struggled with eating disorders in my distant past and body acceptance only in the recent decade. The first gray hairs didn’t bother me; the small lines and age spots on my face haven’t made me feel worse about myself. Yet my body changing causes me to feel “damn unpretty,” to quote TLC. I am not hot, thin, or sexy to my mind’s eye (although many around me may disagree, and I bless them). Intellectually I don’t give a damn, yet psychologically I am fading into the background of the public stage. This is an internal judgment that has grown from decades of being told by strangers what my true value is to the world, even as I’ve refused to believe it: “smile, beautiful.”

A good friend in her 40s was recently dumped by a man she was dating (and falling for, which by all signs was mutual) because she was “overweight,” according to him. She is intelligent, talented, adventurous, fun to be with, and beautiful, and yet this somewhat paunchy middle-aged man couldn’t accept her love and other gifts because he couldn’t turn away from the five extra pounds she may or may not be carrying (depending on who is judging). Although this is much more about him than it is about her, she has to process the anger and self-doubt that his cruel dismissal caused. And his assessment is neither rare nor unspoken: we see it all around us as women with good genes or good plastic surgeons are heralded and those who thicken or sag for good reasons are publicly mocked (look at Kelly Clarkson, for example).

Like Lori Day, I am grateful not to be cat-called in the street anymore. I relish being able to go out dancing and know that it is less likely than in my youth that some drunken jerk will start grinding up against me. But what I don’t like is for my opinions born of wisdom and experience to be ignored because I’m “of a certain age.” This is precisely why I started this blog. I hope other women will join me in a refusal to starve or work ourselves into the twisted, youth-culture image of what a vital, relevant woman should be. I do not have time to spend hours exercising away my “muffin top,” which I come by quite naturally from having birthed a child at 40, from enjoying healthy food, and from living an active — but not obsessive — life.

Gray hairs, laugh lines, and a belly bulge have nothing to do with who I am and what I think, but being less attractive and visibly older can lead to being dismissed. It seems that only those with exterior beauty are given public platforms to say what they think, even if what they say is pure nonsense (take Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, for example).

The real solution is to change our societal norms to value the input of “elders,” as many cultures have for centuries. But while that snail crawls into mass media and sexist attitudes, we as sisters have the power not to capitulate to unreal ideals of womanhood.

Gloria Steinem, a portrait of feminism

Gloria Steinem, a portrait of feminism

aftermath

Last Tuesday’s election results didn’t surprise me, however discouraged I might be in the aftermath. Nor have I been surprised by the viral stories of gender outrage in the past few weeks: a woman’s videotaped walk through the catcall-filled streets of New York, and yet another entitled jerk (a euphemism if ever there was one) preying on countless women. And no shock surfaces from the counterpoints: ignoramuses of both genders say women should take a catcall as a compliment, sexually assaulted women are consensual partners or pissed-off exes … and so it goes.

Once my emotional responses have simmered down, my logical mind tries to piece it all together: what do the Republican mid-term victory and the backlash against women speaking up against sexist behavior have in common? The two things that surface for me: lies and money.

During my adult life, Republican messaging has been a slippery subject, shifting with the zeitgeist. After the inflation and shortages of the 1970s, the GOP embraced Reaganomics’ trickle-down theory. During the Clinton era of misbehavior, Republicans were the purveyors of morality. On the heels of the 2008 financial meltdown, fingers wagged at liberal tax and spend policies, ignoring the military elephant in the room or the too big to fail “gimme” strategies of mortgage and loan providers who created the crisis (and benefitted from it, tax-free). After President Obama’s re-election, the Affordable Care Act was going to destroy the fabric of America, forcing us to goose-step our way to death panels. And yet, trickle-down economics have created the 3% of wealth-holders, marriage equality has flung the mud right back in the faces of the moral majority, the military and banks continue to thrive while the middle and working classes suffer, and the number of uninsured Americans who would have relied on taxpayers for their healthcare has decreased by 25%. The Republican agenda has been unmasked as contrary to reality.

A through line of all this rhetoric has been the fraying of the American family, with the blame falling largely on women’s shoulder. Republicans claims that working mothers can’t parent properly, questioning women’s work-family balance while letting men take a pass. The GOP claims that pro-choice advocates are murdering our next generation of babies, without a thought to universal childcare, proper funding for education, a living wage for working parents — necessities for our next generation to grow up in a healthy environment. Conservative employers insist that contraception is an abomination and shouldn’t be covered by insurance, yet the country doesn’t offer reasonable family leave to take care of children. With this negative messaging about 50% of the population’s needs, why are the Republicans so popular?

The answer: lies and money.

During the recent mid-term elections, certain key issues of the Republican platform were obscured amidst their successful attempts to gain votes among those directly disenfranchised by their policies: people of color and women. Policies of mass incarceration of African-American males and the conservative critique of the Ferguson protests turned into historic wins for black Republican candidates in congressional races. Attempts to subjugate women to antiquated gender roles translated into the election of the youngest female congress member, also a Republican. The twisting of their core messaging to suit the current political climate may undercut any coherent GOP strategy over time, yet it results in votes, which turn into political power, especially when coupled with success strategy number two: money.

Money allows for advertising, giving re-messaging a large voice, loud enough to drown out lingering echoes of former strategies, even those as recent as anti-immigration rhetoric and the war on women. Some people (apparently a lot of them) vote for candidates who look like them and talk the talk, without examining the larger policies their party really supports. More money — from the Koch brothers and their ilk — provides for more misinformation and more doublespeak. And the same people who believe that reality TV shows are real will vote for candidates who claim to represent them, without questioning their false “facts.”

So what does this have to do with sexism, the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, and the fact that women can’t walk down a city street without the unwanted attention of gawkers and stalkers? Listen to the counter-arguments and you’ll hear the connections: women should be grateful that random men find them attractive, because all women want nothing more than to be told we are beautiful: making us conquests, showpieces, trophy wives, brainless props to help men feel better about themselves. By keeping women under the male thumb, the string-pullers in power can keep the Patriarchy happy and healthy, and keep the money and lies flowing. The Republican political machine is threatened by the Elizabeth Warrens of the world, as well as the men who support feminism and an alternative model of community and country to that which was put forth several centuries ago by our founding Fathers.

Studies have shown that women CEOs are good for business. Women in leadership roles value ethics more than men do, although it’s unclear whether that translates to more ethical behavior in the male-created business model. Either it is in our socialization or our DNA to play nice (with notable exceptions, of course), to listen to others, and to approach solutions with compassion, but the reality is that business, like politics, is not yet set up for compassionate approaches. Not surprisingly, women in leadership roles are also more at risk of being abruptly fired. But whether it’s nature or nurture, more profitable business and higher ethical values are a win-win for community, but not for the status quo political structure. Those big CEOs, celebrities, and politicians who abuse their power to their own self-interest are at great risk if women gain political and economic strength. And we won’t all sit back and let boys be boys if that behavior denies us our fundamental rights.

Watch out, boys, we’re coming up!