My #MeToo

There are a million terrible things happening. Nothing happening about gun regulations in the five years since first-graders were murdered at school one year ago today. Losing the neutrality of the internet. I could go on, but I think we all know about most of the injustices happening, though maybe not so much about prison gerrymandering or children with disabilities losing their protections in school or voter suppression of minorities. 

I don’t think I have anything particularly unique to contribute about most of these issues, but I do think I have something to say about the sexual harassment reckoning. So here it is: 

On the biggest day of the #MeToo movement, I wondered why I didn’t have a moment to share. I cringed at the self-exposure, and didn’t want to participate. I didn’t want to say that I had been hurt, because I wasn’t sure if I had been. I haven't had to deal with a hostile work environment, and I wasn't systematically victimized. In other words, I wasn’t sure if I had a #MeToo moment. 

But maybe I didn’t have a #MeToo moment because I hadn’t pursued a career in a male-dominated field? Or because I hadn’t spent much time out late in sketchy bars? Had I somehow avoided all this because of inadvertent choices I made? Or maybe I just got lucky? 

Or what if I did have a moment? Maybe I did, but did it really count? 

That’s how rampant this is: We—women, mostly—lose the ability to discern what counts. But that question itself is suspect. If we question at all if it counts—and we question, of course, because those moments make us question ourselves—then it counts. Of course it counts, I as can see now. 

The male administrator condescending to me counts. 

The male student telling me to suck his you-know-what counts. 

The bad date who spooked me counts. 

The guy who followed me home from the bus stop counts. 

The father of a male student trying to embarrass me in front of other parents counts. 

I used to think it was me they were insulting. I understand now that it was women more generally. These moments weren't about my worthiness, and in fact had nothing to do with me. Each moment was about each man's desire for superiority. 

What I experienced wasn’t assault, and maybe doesn’t even constitute harassment. But it was still men wielding sexual power. And that’s never OK. 

Almost every day now, as new allegations emerge, I see men and women alike state: “I believe her.” Or, “I believe the women.” These need to stop. What these statements imply is that the credibility of the woman is not enough, that her account must be verified, as if it’s a credit card with a security code. When a woman musters the courage and finds the right circumstances to come forward, we need to believe her. We don’t need to say we believe her, we just need to do it. 

This moment has made me feel more rage about gender inequality. It’s not only a problem that individual women are and were being traumatized, it’s a problem that too many women to count have abandoned or foregone entirely careers that they could have excelled in, and it's a problem that we have lost all their potential contributions to society. 

And on top of that, how can these people—who clearly don’t see women as equals—make laws or interpret the laws? I just can’t handle it. So I’m angry now in a way that I wasn’t at the time these things happened to me because I had simply been conditioned to think that this was how things were. 

I truly didn't understand the extent of this problem. I didn't understand how much we still need feminism. I didn't understand how I might have been subtly directed toward a career that was lower in pay and status simply because it has been traditionally female. I didn't understand how pervasive and insidious this—harassment, assault, sexism, misogyny—still is. 

#Enough

RESIST

Of the many horrible things that have happened since last Friday, the one I know most about is the confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. 

For that reason, and because I feel so strongly that her confirmation would hurt millions of children, I made some phone calls this morning.

Specifically, I called the DC offices of all the Republican senators on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. 

DeVos has “donated” approximately $250,000 to five members of the committee voting on her confirmation. 

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If that were not enough, it is abundantly clear that she lacks fundamental knowledge on crucial education debates and federal education law. I am appalled that they are even considering approving her confirmation given her clear incompetence. If she were qualified and I disagreed with her, I would be upset; however, she so wildly unqualified for the position that I felt I must do something. 

I hate calling people I don’t know. It makes my blood pressure rise. I clam up and forget what to say. It makes me so nervous. 

I did it anyway, and here is what happened: 

Committee Chair: Lamar Alexander (TN) 202.224.4944 – Busy signal. Will keep trying! (Chairman Alexander limited the questioning during the first confirmation hearing and did not allow a second hearing after DeVos’s ethics paperwork was released. If he thinks she is qualified and free of conflicts of interest, he should not be concerned about what will arise from a second hearing.)

Susan Collins (ME) 202.224.2523 – Left a message explaining that DeVos is unqualified and has too many conflicts of interest, so please vote no on her confirmation. 

Lisa Murkowski (AK) 202.224.6665 – Left the same message.

Johnny Isakson (GA) 202.224.3643 – Left the same message, with the added information that I grew up in Georgia.  

Orrin Hatch (UT) 202.224.5251 – Mailbox was full.

Richard Burr (NC) 202.224.3154 – Left the same message, though added that I attended college in NC and hoped the senator would listen to my concerns.

Michael Enzi (WY) 202.224.3424 – Someone answered the phone! I spoke to a staffer and registered my opposition. She didn’t even ask if I lived in Wyoming.  

Dr. Bill Cassidy (LA) 202.224.5824 – Another live person! I explained that I am an educator and asked the staffer to tell the senator I would like him to vote against DeVos. 

Pat Roberts (KS) 202.224.4774 – The office was experiencing a high volume of calls, so I left a message registering my opposition.

Tim Scott (SC) 202.224.6121 – I spoke to a staffer to voice my concerns. He asked if I lived in South Carolina. I explained that I did not, but that because I live in DC and do not have federal representation, I hoped the senator would be willing to hear my opinion.

Rand Paul (KY) 202.224.4343 – I spoke to another staffer and asked him to pass along the message that I would like the senator to vote against DeVos.

If you're not sure what to say, at The 65 (a reference to the 65 million who voted for Hillary) you can find scripts on this and other issues. Resist! 

 

Prudence Be Damned (#babysFirstMarch)

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Farewell, Obamas, farewell. 

I did not agree with President Obama’s policies to improve education ("Race to the Top”), but I still respected his efforts to do something. I agreed with him on many issues, though not on all. Nonetheless, I trusted that his decisions were sound, that they were based on facts, that he took into account other viewpoints, and that he considered all options. Above all, no matter how much I disagreed with him, I trusted his competence. I cannot say the same thing for anyone in the current administration. 

Politics aside, President Obama exemplified grace and strove for justice. He remained classy and polite, despite horrendous circumstances (i.g. welcoming the orange monster to The White House). Even when I wished he would slight the new administration, he didn’t. Somehow he found the strength to follow the traditional transition protocol and to welcome the new first family, despite the unusual circumstances. I know many people felt that he was doing the right thing to preserve our democracy, but I can’t say I agree. Part of me wishes he had lashed out at the grabber, even though doing so would be uncharacteristic. 

It’s up to us to protest in whatever way we can. I feel guilty when I read articles about how all millennials just post on social media but don’t take any action. I would call my representatives in congress, but unfortunately I don’t have one. Not one who can vote, at least. The approximately 600,000 residents of the District remain without federal representation. 

What is left to do? I can write, and I can sign online petitions, and I can march. Check, check, and check. 

The planning for the Women’s March on Washington has been controversial, as has the name itself. Its website is fairly lousy, and only today was the final map revealed. Plus there is the issue of men and their participation: 

It’s also interesting to see a relative lack of male enthusiasm interpreted as a problem that falls on women

Given all that, plus the crowds, the irritating bag restrictions, and the difficulty actually getting there, why march?  

  • To prove that we, the people, reject all things associated with the new administration, the most recent outrage (as of Friday) being the amoral and incompetent cabinet secretary nominees. (Not to mention the cowardly senators who will likely vote to approve their nominations.) 
  • To protest threats to dismantle the ACA, because everyone deserves to have affordable health care regardless of preexisting conditions. 
  • To show support for key provisions of the ACA, especially those that support families, mothers, and babies. 
  • To stand up for the humanity and the rights of immigrants, those with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, and women. 
  • To make it clear that we believe in the value of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. (Turns out that eliminating these agencies would fund the Pentagon for all of 11 hours.) 
  • To support the continued existence of journalism, the free press, and real news. 
  • To demonstrate against those who seek to control women's bodies because women's health shouldn't be a political issue. (Um, a gun requires more regulation than a uterus.) 
  • To reject the increasing influence of special interests and the 1%. 
  • To tell the rest of the world that we do not accept this reality. 
  • To express dissent and to always remember that this is not normal. 
  • Oh, and a million other reasons. 
 Images by Shepard Fairey. 

Images by Shepard Fairey. 

We marched today. It was not the easiest way to spend the afternoon with a baby, and it might even be a little bit crazy to take a baby downtown for a crowded march, especially when one has to procure and pack all of baby's items in a clear plastic bag. But it was worth it.

Prudence be damned. 

We rode downtown on 2 buses without much trouble, only to see people walking every which way. (Given all the talk about entering the rally at Independence & 3rd Sts. with plastic bags of specific dimensions, I was surprised to see that there was a minimal police presence, no bags were being checked, and there were no barricades along the route.) We made our way from 9th & H Sts. down to Independence, which was blocked. We then walked over to 14th St. and were able to join the march there.

Hordes of people puttered along 14th St. by the Washington Monument and the African American History Museum chanting, among other things, "This is what democracy looks like," "If you want to build a fence / Build it around Mike Pence," "My body, my choice / Her body, her choice."

Some of my favorite signs pronounced: 

  • You can't comb over bigot 

  • NOT USUALLY A SIGN GUY BUT GEEZ

  • I've seen smarter cabinets at IKEA

  • I know signs. I make the best signs. They're terrific. Everyone agrees. 

  • I'm revolting because he's revolting (Dad's sign)

And this was my favorite: 

I toted Rebekah around in my carrier, and after a couple hours we ducked out of the march and over to his office so I could feed her. Plenty of men showed up to protest, as did a number of people with disabilities. I wish I'd had one of those amazing hats! 

I just hope this is not the end of the protest against all things terrible. It was heartening to see so many people turn out in DC with signs and chants. There was an energy to the crowd similar to what I experienced at the first Obama inauguration in 2009: the feeling that those crammed together on a cold day felt just as strongly that justice must prevail. The crowds both here and abroad were stunning. We are not alone. 

It would be easy to stop now, to get excited by the frenzy of the crowds, but to return home and do nothing. It would be easy to forget amid the chanting that real people's lives are going to get vastly more difficult in the coming days. It would be easy for us to participate this one day and not again. It would be easy to be distracted from the real damage he is inflicting by minor issues like the crowd size at the inauguration or Meryl Streep. I am not sure what to do other than stay informed, painful as that may be, and challenge the media when they excuse his behavior. But we must make our voices heard for the next four years.