5 01 2015

I have just gone through – again – a round of “you’re out of my league” from someone I was casually dating.  It is a common enough metaphor out here in the cis-het dating world.  A number of otherwise apparently intelligent men still fall back on sports metaphors in trying to relate to women.  This woman is tired of it.

Men of the world, repeat with me: There are no leagues in relationships.

Are there things you don’t want to deal with? You bet.

Deal-breakers that maybe don’t make sense to other people? Absolutely.

Incompatible lifestyles? Of course.

Are there leagues?  NO.  THERE ARE NO LEAGUES.

I don’t have too many illusions (at least I hope I don’t) about myself.  I am not the Perfect Woman For Every Man.  For instance: a man who is looking for arm candy isn’t going to enjoy my company… and similarly, I have no interest in being in that kind of position, so no harm, no foul.  But I’ve spent over fifty years learning and doing things.  I have some accomplishments that are important.  Some skills that I’m proud of.  Nearly everyone does.  I am no different.

“You’re out of my league” sounds like a compliment, but it isn’t.  It is an invitation to diminish yourself so that the speaker can feel like more.  It’s the cue to say oh, that set of skills I have?  I just do the things I enjoy.  Or that advanced degree that I have that seems to be bugging you?  I just got that advanced degree because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  The job title that sounds bigger than yours?  Gosh, job titles can mean nearly anything.

Never mind the hours I’ve spent learning and working on those skills I enjoy.  Or the years spent immersed in study and writing.  Let’s not consider the amount of work it took for me to end up in a career area that still makes me happy.

I am all about the awareness of privilege.  I know that being a straight cisgendered white woman gives me some advantages.  But I also know that I didn’t just fall into my life, that I’ve done work along the way that I can be proud of.  And that I am a decent person worth knowing and spending time with.  And that those accomplishments that are putting me “out of your league” do nothing of the sort, and I am no longer going to make myself seem smaller so that someone else can feel bigger.

And I’m also done with explaining.  The next time I hear any permutation of “you’re out of my league,” I’m not going to waste my time with why that metaphor is patently ridiculous.

Instead, my answer will be only “Yes.  Yes I am.”  And that will be the end of it.


“Senseless” violence

6 08 2012

We had just an awful news story here yesterday – there was a domestic terrorism incident at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek WI, a suburb on the south side of Milwaukee.  I drive through it every time I go up to Milwaukee for rehearsal.  Romney is already calling the shooting a “senseless act of violence,” and while I understand what he’s trying to say, I want to remind him that this crap does not happen in a void.  It’s fostered by the othering of anyone who isn’t white and Christian – and that’s what really needs to be addressed.  

Even CNN came up with the gem that Sikhs can often be mistaken for Muslim or Taliban.  Shall we begin to unpack this?  How even if someone is Muslim, that doesn’t justify shooting them or opening fire in a place of worship?  And just what do the Taliban look like?  I’m reading an awful lot of “But Sikhs aren’t Muslims!” with the implication being that we can understand, a little bit, if someone guns down Muslims.  I understand that after the 9/11 attacks, when there were a lot of reprisals on Muslims, there were a number of Sikhs who made it clear they were NOT Muslim – and they were reprimanded by their temple leadership for making the distinction, because it made it seem like attacks on Muslims were justified.  I have to admire that brand of humanity and justice.  

There is, in fact, a great deal to admire about the Sikhs overall, and it is my own shame that I didn’t know more about this major world religion until this morning.  Their commitment to family, to living a productive life, to taking care of their families and their communities.  I know that lived religion doesn’t always measure up to the textbook descriptions of what the faith is actually supposed to mean (hello, Christianity!) but those tenets are a real good place to start.  It is both tragic and disgusting that what people see of Sikhs are the beards and turbans.  And for lots of people, beard + turban = Taliban, or at least Scary Foreign Person Who Probably Hates America. 

I am heartbroken about the whole thing and again, I feel myself being pushed farther and farther away from the Christian church, which has turned into a mighty weapon of othering.  For the longest time I wanted to believe that my religion was actually a force for good, that there were some bad people in it but overall it was a good thing.  It has become harder and harder for me to even set foot in a church any more.  Not when I should be hearing blistering rebukes for hate crimes from every pulpit in the country, and instead what I hear is “We mourn with the victims.”  Which is nice and everything.  But the victims don’t need my help mourning.  What they need are linked arms and people of conscience saying that this is ENOUGH.  What they need is no safe hiding place for those who hate them to the point of violence, murder, and terrorism.  

I still think of myself as a Christian.  The Jesus of the Bible was endlessly fascinating and a true revolutionary.  But I’m coming to believe that the church that bears his name cares only about that name, and not so much about what he taught.  I know that this is a source of real pain for my mother, who believes that everyone should have a church home – it’s important to her, and she can’t fathom that it isn’t important to everyone.  I just can’t do it any more.  I can’t take the bigotry and homophobia any more, the self-satisfied assurance that, because I’m doing well financially, that’s proof that God likes me best.  I can’t take the notion any more that Christians are God’s chosen people, living in God’s own country, and that the rest of the world is somehow expendable, particularly if they’re not white.  Or straight.  Or cis-gendered.  The Christian church has turned into Orwell’s Animal Farm, where all the animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Is it November yet?

27 07 2012

It’s a good news/bad news time of life.

The good news is that I have a job, after my position was eliminated (read: sent overseas) in January, after 18 years with the same company.  I now have a contract position as a project manager, which is very new for me, and gives me the chance to develop some new and marketable skills.  And more good news:  my son is working too!  Also in a contract position, but with a really good company and fabulous coworkers.  He’s happier than I’ve seen him in a couple of years.

Bad news: we’re still in the middle of election season.  Which I find more awful every single time.  As you can probably gather, my views are somewhere on the leftish side of the spectrum – so leftish, actually, that Obama has irritated me for not being the progressive he said he’d be during the last election.  I get the idea of conservatism, in the vein of my father being a conservative – he was a Goldwater Republican, the kind that believed in fiscal restraint and a whole bunch of things not being the government’s business.  It would be nice if that’s what conservative still meant, instead of representing a group of politicians who very sincerely want to climb up into my reproductive system and boss me around.

But I digress.

So it’s pretty much a given that the Republicans will be offering us Mitt Romney as their candidate.   I’ve never understood how anyone could support Romney… and this trip to London?  Has just highlighted the reasons why.  As much as I thought that George Bush Jr. was a verbal klutz, he was nothing, NOTHING compared to the jackassery of Mitt Romney.  I mean, seriously: the British overall are so welcoming to USians, and he still managed to screw it up.  And then letting slip that he had met with MI6?  I have to believe that everyone in the diplomatic corps is praying for an Obama victory this fall, because with Romney they’ll only have time to put out whatever fires he has managed to inadvertently set.

I don’t know when I have ever seen anyone more blissfully unaware of his privilege.  And it absolutely floors me that anyone can support someone who is so completely focused on himself and on business life.  Anyone who made it his business to tear companies apart for the sake of money should not be our president.  Anyone who sent that many jobs overseas should not be our president.  And anyone who thinks that running a country is like running a business should not be our president.

I was raised to believe in capitalism and the free market.  I believed that they made this country great, made us better.  I didn’t like Reagan, but I bought in at least a little to the imagery of the shining city on a hill.  I believed that we were the good guys, that we sometimes messed up but our intentions were good, and when we knew we messed up, we apologized and stopped doing it.  But over the last couple of decades I have seen such abuses of the system, of people without morals or ethics who have been able to finesse their way out of regulations by invoking the precious free market, and in the process somehow starting to convince people that if it’s making money, it must be a good thing.  And suddenly money becomes the measure of business morality, rather than looking at the people that are affected by what businesses are doing.

Business leaders at that level aren’t stupid.  They continue to hold out the promise of the American Dream, that you can have all the things they have if you’ll just work hard enough.  And even as they say it, they know it’s a lie.  Not everyone can be that fantastically rich.  You can’t have all the things they do, because those are THEIR things, and do you think they really want to share?  Do you see any of them working to help others achieve what they have?  Sacrificing any of their own wealth so that other people have a better chance?  No, it’s all bootstraps all the time, and never mind that the vast, vast majority of the very wealthy did not get there under their own power.

I don’t understand how conservative voters in this country can so consistently vote against their own interests.  I know that the right wing continually throws up a smokescreen of family values, and it’s turned out to be the most fabulously effective distraction that big business could ever have hoped for.  Conservative voters can’t see past it to ask – what will your policies do for jobs in my area?  How are you planning on supporting economic growth?  What about the infrastructure in my town, my county, my state?  The crumbling water mains, the collapsing bridges?  Nope, you’re against gay marriage and that’s good enough for me.

I think for most conservative voters, the most attractive thing about Romney is that he’s not Obama.  And that he’s the whitest white man that ever whited.  Let’s call this what it is.  I’ve heard all the denials from the right wing, right alongside the cries of “Socialist!” and “Show us your birth certificate!”  If Obama were white, the birth certificate issue would hever have happened.  Obama’s color makes him, in the minds of the right wing, a suspect American, a not-quite American.

19 04 2012

I recently had a discussion with a Facebook friend about why I wasn’t rising to a really transparent attempt at baiting.  He posted something about the Lingerie Football League, and then wanted me to banter with him about his misogyny.  And I just could not do it.  I couldn’t find the energy to banter in the face of yet more sexist bullshit.  Not that my friend is a bad man.  He’s not.  But he is very much a privileged (and unaware of it) man.  So I wrote more to him today.  Which seemed important enough to save here:


I’ve been thinking about why I was just too tired to respond to what really was obvious baiting.  Part of it is the fatigue of life around here recently.  But it actually goes quite a bit deeper than that.

As a white, cisgendered, abled man, you are privileged in a number of areas.  It doesn’t mean your life is sweetness and light.  But it does mean that there are things you flat do not have to deal with, that don’t even come up on your radar.  As a white, cisgendered, abled woman, I have a bunch of the same privileged areas.  There are things that I simply don’t have to deal with.  But it doesn’t excuse me from the awareness of what other people do deal with, and how it is part of their lives Every. Single. Moment.

So picking up the various forms of gender essentialism and sexism, and waving them around to see who reacts, can seem like a fun game for you.  You don’t live with it, and you have the option of putting the toys down and saying “I was just seeing how you’d react.”  Being a woman, and living in a sexist society, isn’t something that I (or any other woman) can ever put down.  The expectations on women – what they should look like, what their role is in society, how they should behave – are a constantly moving target, and it’s like being in a game we can’t win.

I’m going to tell you two stories that I don’t talk about much.

The first was in high school.  I was a timer for our cross-country and track teams, coached by one of our teachers.  Lots of meets involved travelling and coming back at night.  The team was usually in the back of the bus, with coaches, managers, and timers up in front.  That teacher always found a way to get next to me.  He touched me and talked to me in ways that (I know now) were completely inappropriate.  But at the time I was fifteen years old.  I had been raised to be a good girl, the kind who didn’t yell, didn’t make a scene.  Society said, and I believed, that bad things didn’t happen to good girls.  So I didn’t push back, I didn’t tell him to knock it off – and most importantly, I didn’t tell anyone with the power to make a difference.  I didn’t want to get him in trouble, because good girls didn’t get people in trouble.  Good girls, especially ones who smart like me, figured out how to manage a situation so that everyone could save face.  So I did.  I found a way to put distance between me and that teacher, and (thank God, and I mean that) the situation ended there.  I later heard from other timers (all girls) that he had behaved the same way with them.

The second was in college.  My freshman year I went out dancing with a very handsome  man that I wanted to be with.  We had a wonderful time, came back to the dorm, and I went to his room to spend more time with him.  His roommate was there, and it was all fun and flirty and we were all having a good time.  Then his roommate left.  And it wasn’t fun any more.  It was insistent and unwilling to hear me saying no, and he raped me.   Afterwards he yelled at me for bleeding on his sheets.  He also shared the story of his conquest with all of his friends, so that I got to hear their comments when I walked past their table in the cafeteria for the rest of the year.   I never told anyone in authority.  For the longest time I couldn’t even give what had happened to me a name.  In my world, this kind of stuff didn’t happen to good girls, so I blamed myself for being in a situation where someone could hurt me that way.  I couldn’t call it what it was until just a few years ago.

I am here to tell you that these stories are not unusual.  They are part of life for many, many women.  I’m not saying they happen to every woman.  There are doubtless some who haven’t been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual attention, touching, harassment, catcalls on the street.  We don’t have the option of walking away from it.  We can’t stop being women for the time that someone else wants to play around with misogyny or sexism or gender roles for fun, under the guise of being a devil’s advocate, or trying to get a reaction.

I don’t believe that you, or many other men, are trying to be deliberately mean.   I don’t think you would be willfully cruel in hurting women that you knew had been through bad experiences.  But what I am saying is that many women have been through those experiences, and you may not realize how many of them are in your life.

Society’s ever-changing and unachievable standards of femininity, of what defines a good and worthwhile woman, are part of my life every single day.  So it’s not something that I can easily banter about and toss back and forth like a toy.  This stuff is serious.  I live with it, deal with it, process it, heal from it, every day.

So that’s where the edge is

4 01 2012
So, yeah.  That congregational meeting?  An overwhelming decision (over 90%) to separate from the current denomination (Presbyterian Church-USA) and affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  Where we’ll have none of those Scary Gay People, thankyouverymuch, and likely won’t have any of them uppity wimmin on the boards, either.   I suspect that some of the people who voted for this move are going to be quite surprised at how this plays out.  For now lots of people seem to be singing the “Nothing is going to change REALLY” chorus, which seems disingenuous at best. 
Can’t say that I’m surprised or undone by all of this.  There was a painful air of finality to all of it, and after the meeting countless tearful hugs from people I’ve been in church with for years.  I told every one of them that I couldn’t stay in this church.  More telling, the people who haven’t talked to me.  Intellectually – yeah, there might be some bitterness.  But in my heart, when I’ve known people since high school, this is how they’re willing to end things?  By not speaking? Ever?  How is that Christian? 
I despair sometimes.    People who think that stereotypes are reality, who truly do not care about anyone who doesn’t look like them… actually, they don’t care about much of anyone outside of their own immediate circle.  So willing to quickly judge, and just as quickly toss aside, entire groups of people as “less than.”  And unfortunately, a whole bunch of that comes from inside right-wing evangelical circles.  I can’t tell you how many of those conversations I short-circuited inside of my own (former) church.  I’d hear a “those people” conversation start up, and I’d do my very best to monkey-wrench it – and usually in the most shameless fashion possible, by serving up a scriptural reference.  If you are really a Christian, if you really follow the example of Jesus’ life, there is NO excuse for treating people as if they are disposable.  NONE. 
I’ve spent so much time trying to make peace between what I read in the Bible and how the right wing expresses their own version of Christianity.  I’ve made excuses, I’ve said that I’m not going to play the more-Christian-than-thou game.  I’ve done everything in my power to avoid calling the right wing out as hypocrites and liars.  And now?  I’m done with that.  I’m calling out the crap where I see it.  I am no longer interested in trying to make peace with those who are willing to wage war on entire swathes of society.  Their so-called gospel is comfortable feel-good garbage, designed to make them feel like their unearned privilege is their God-given right. 
I used to make excuses.  I’m done.  I thought they maybe just didn’t know any better.  They damned well DO know better.