Good & Mad

The day after the election, I learned an important lesson.

Actually, I learned two important lessons.  The first is this: When you are raking leaves and you find a fun sized pouch of M&Ms that some hapless trick-or-treater lost in the chaos, do not say “Yahtzee!” and eat them.  In the week since they fell, they have been reclaimed by the earth and are no longer safe for human consumption.

The second lesson, unfortunately, left an even fouler after taste.

I was at Staples getting some copies made.  (Side note, if you sometimes wish you worked from home and not in an office setting, think about all the free copies you get when no one is looking!  It’s a nice perk, and I miss it very much.)  I had my essays for writing group and a craft pattern printed and was just about to pay, when a nicely dressed silver haired white man interrupted my conversation with the sales person to ask a question.  Let’s cast him in your imagination with the actor John Slattery.  I’m sure John Slattery is a perfectly lovely human in real life, but this guy was the same type of basic white man.  And John Slattery did that movie The Adjustment Bureau which was terrible, so I don’t feel bad fobbing this off on him.  (Spoiler alert: angels are real, but they are allergic to water.  Same basic premise as signs but with a better looking cast.)

The man at Staples completely ignored me.  He acted as if I wasn’t standing there, and once he got an answer he didn’t like, he began arguing his cause based on the semantics of the coupon he wanted to use. I waited to see if he was going to at least acknowledge me, as I would have done.  As the minutes ticked on, it was clear this wasn’t going to happen.  Then I thought over all the times over the last few years (since Trump was elected, basically) that I have been verbally interrupted or physically cut off or just disregarded by a white man and I have stood there thinking, “the next time this happens to me, I’m not just going to stand there like an idiot following my ‘respect the priesthood’ programming. I’m going to say something, dammit!”

Then I thought of an interview I heard with Rebecca Traister when her new book, Good and Mad, came out in October.  It is a book about women’s anger.  She said that she began writing it immediately after the 2016 election when she didn’t know what to do with her emotional response and the anger she saw all around her, but it had the good fortune of coming out during the Kavanaugh hearings when the anger of women in this country hit the bell at the top of that carnival attraction that tests your strength (just googled it: it is called a High Striker. The more you know!)

In that interview Rebecca Traister told a story about a friend of hers who decided that she was no longer going to step out of the way of white men plowing toward her on the sidewalk.  She decided that she had as much right to the sidewalk, and she simply stopped moving to the side.  And she body checked some people, which surprised them and delighted her.

I can’t think of a better metaphor for how I’ve been feeling since the 2016 election.  We women have been patiently waiting our turn, thinking we had achieved so much and that breaking that “glass ceiling” was basically just a technicality that would happen in time.  Be good, stay in your lane (or step out of it, but only if it serves others), and it will happen.  But then… no.  We learned.  Not only had a highly qualified female been beaten by an unqualified mediocre white man, the highest office in the land went to a misogynist and self-described pussy grabber.  We aren’t seen as equals with internal genitalia.  And all of our waiting and staying silent in the face of that pussy grabbing shit has only served to hold ourselves and our daughters back.

So women are saying, “no more!”  We are speaking up in the face of injustice!  We aren’t moving out of the road for you!  We aren’t covering for your bullshit!  And, goddamalmighty, we are not letting you bastards butt in line!”

Effectively worked up into an “I just watched Oprah” esque state of empowerment, I said, “Excuse me sir,”  I called him sir!  “But we were in the middle of a transaction. Do you mind if we finish our business?”

I was polite. I might not have been kind, but I was polite.

And he LOST his FUCKING shit.

He told me to grow up. He called me names. He used the F word multiple times. He imitated my voice. And then had the audacity to ask me “Why don’t you just grow up?”  I was shaking as I tried to pay and then tried to get out of the store but I first went to the “in” door and you have to go all the way around to the “out” door, and EVERYONE was staring at me, as if to ask what I had done to that man to deserve such a tongue lashing.

It was so bad, I went next door to Harmon’s and bought myself some flowers. Then I went home, and I logged back on to my computer to focus on work… and failed.  And then I cried for nearly two hours.

I turned to Facebook and related the story, hoping my friends would tell me what I wanted to hear.  Specifically: I was right to speak up for myself.  (Meaning this man was wrong in his behavior.)  I got the reassurance I wanted, along with a few laughs, which helped stop the flow of tears.  Then a mentor of mine left a comment that read:

The man’s actions were unforgivable. He’s a boor, and you can bet that he’s a boor at every moment of his life. I suspect that standing your ground with him would have escalated what was brutal and painful. This guy lives on escalation–especially with women. You might have turned to the clerk and asked that the clerk verify that you were mid-transaction. So sorry you had to go through this.

“Boor.”  That was the word, exactly.  “An unrefined, ill-mannered person.”  I belive completely that he wouldn’t have responded to me the way he had if I were a man.  Or even if I had been accompanied by a man.  Either way, there would have been some respect of the equality of status.  I can’t prove it, of course.  I believe that sexism was at the core of the exchange, as I believe it is why he ignored me in the first place.

I’ve thought a great deal about this exchange over the last few weeks.  It is shocking how easy it was to kick that hornets’ nest by asking for something so basic as adherence to the line system.  Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been the day after the election.  Maybe he was on edge because of the Democrats taking back the house.  Maybe I was feeling more piss and vinegar in my veins for the same reason?  I don’t know.

I have decided that I don’t regret standing up for myself. And I would do the same thing over again, and I will next time, even having had this experience of being put back in my place. I reject the binary choice that I seem to have: I can either be a doormat or a bitch.  I can’t control the way others respond.  Especially those who are accustomed to inspiring doormat behavior in those around them.  Maybe I will start carrying my Dudeist Priest badge in my wallet so the next time this happens I can pull it out and say, “Respect MY priesthood, bitch!

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(Actual photo of John Slattery in The Adjustment Bureau)

But What Would the Logo Look Like?

I had a dream that I was the owner/operator of a canoe rental shop named “Row vs Wade,” because even my subconscious loves puns. I woke up laughing but also knowing it wouldn’t work. For one thing, I live in Utah, which is a desert for both water and pro choice liberals. The bigger problem is that we also suffer from a lack of a sense of humor, so I guess I won’t rush out and license my brand… yet.

It would be a good fit in Seattle. Or Austin. Maybe I should look into that license… just in case this career in pharmaceuticals doesn’t pan out.

I Voted

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine made a statement about the stupidity of “I Voted” stickers.  He called them a waste of money. I rolled my eyes.  Lately I feel like I can’t go a full day without rolling my eyes at a white man.  (In fact, the other day, I was trying to drive out of grocery store and a middle aged white man stopped on the sidewalk, right in front of my car – in a clearly marked exit – and began to tend to a hangnail.  It lasted so long, I began to narrate.  “Behold, the middle aged white man in his natural environment. Notice his complete confidence in his status of his surroundings. He is oblivious to the needs of others, and is even unconcerned by the fact that he is stealing that shopping cart.  An act which, no doubt, will be blamed on a brown child.”)

I took the sticker thing personally because, not long before, I was lamenting about the fact that I voted by mail and therefore would not be getting a sticker. It is a small thing but I love them.  I love the way wearing one makes me feel, because it reminds me of how lucky I am to be living in this time and place, no matter how frustrated I am with the system as it stands.

My grandmother (my Mom’s Mom) was born in 1909.  William Taft was president. The “Gilded Age” was ending, but it would be another five years before “The Great War” began.  And, in 1909, women could not vote.

As of 1870, all American men had theoretically been granted the right to vote through the 15th amendment. (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  Of course, in practice, we know the exercising of this right was more complicated and fraught.)  The fight for women’s rights had picked up steam in the 1840s, but still had a long way to go. In 1875, the US Supreme Court unanimously decided in Minor v. Happersett that the 14th amendment (“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws) did not grant a woman the right to vote.  The justices granted that a woman was a citizen but determined that the right to vote was not a constitutionally protected right of all citizens.

The fight raged on for many decades, and it got ugly.  Many people (including a number of women) were against votes for women.

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Nonetheless, as they say, they persisted.

 In 1918, 100 years ago, some white women of England were given the right to vote.  They had to be over 30 and either own property or be the wives of property owners.

White women of the United States were granted the right to vote in 1920, when my grandmother was 11 years old.  This is not a historical figure that I have only read about.  I knew her; we had a relationship. She died when I was a teenager.  Women got the right to vote a mere 24 years before my mother was born.  It will be another two years before we can celebrate 100 years of Women’s Suffrage in the United States.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, my point is: that was not very long ago!

Many other groups had to wait even longer.  In 1924, Native Americans were granted citizenship and given the right to vote. In 1943, Chinese American immigrants were granted citizenship and the right to vote.  African American women were not able to vote in some Southern states until the 1960s.

The forefathers of our country sacrificed and labored so that we could have this experiment in democracy, wherein the right to vote was given to white men of property.  Since then, thousands of people fought and died to secure the right to vote for every citizen, and the fight goes on.  In Florida, people are voting this very minute to determine if convicted felons who have served their time should have their voting rights restored.

The vote is the important thing. The sticker is just the little side thing that you can wear with pride, if you so choose.  But I want that fucking sticker.  Even if I have to make one for myself.

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You don’t have to want the sticker.  But please vote.  No matter who you are, someone made a sacrifice so that you could.  Getting out there and voting is the only way to say “thanks.”

Witches Brew

I just learned a historical fact that blew my mind.

Matt is reading a book on the dark ages right now, and he told me that there is a paragraph describing that from ancient times, beer was made almost exclusively by women.  But in the 1500s, men decided that they wanted to take over beer making as careers and set about putting the brewers known as “alewives” out of business.  So they called them witches and drove them out beer making.  Here is a video that shows how the details we associate with witches, such as brooms and cats, directly came from the legacy of the alewives.

So interesting!  Makes me want to go buy another pumpkin, carve the word “Patriarchy” on it, and smash that motherfucker.

Happy Halloween, Bitches!  Get your brew on!

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What Would Myra Do?

So, I chose the wrong time to start The Handmaid’s Tale.  Jesus.

I wanted to hide from my phone.  I knew that Brett Kavanaugh was going to be confirmed over the weekend, and I wanted to think about other things.  I stayed in, I knitted, and I watched episodes of Handmaid.  I emerged from my basement on Monday morning unsure of what year it was.  Where am I, again? The black and white past?  The red and white future?  Oh, no.  It’s just the dystopian present.  Goddamn.

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I can’t stop thinking about the episode where all the women are sent home from work because a law has been passed making illegal for them to have jobs or bank accounts.  They decide to protest but discover it is too late; the moment to take a stand slipped by and they have been slowly “boiled to death in their bathtubs,” as June says.

It is so disturbing to think about. Where is all the progress that I thought women had made since 1991?  There another credibly accused creep on the SCOTUS and a majority of Republicans polled said they supported the nominee even if the allegations against him were proved true. And now I’m reading that proposed restrictions to demonstrations at the White House and places on the National Mall are being considered.  I don’t want to sound like an alarmist crazy person, but keep protesting while they let you.  Watch the Handmaid’s Tale to see why I’m feeling urgency.

Last week, before I realized that the FDA investigation was a complete fraud, I kept thinking about Myra Bradwell, and wondering what she would think about all of this nuttiness.  You’ve probably never heard of her, so here is a brief summary of her badass life.

Myra Colby was born in Vermont in 1831.  After she completed her formal education at the age of 24, she became a school teacher.  In 1852, Myra married a law student named James B. Bradwell.  In 1855, they moved to Illinois where was admitted to the Chicago Bar and became a successful lawyer and judge.  Myra was also interested in the law, but women were prohibited from attending law school.  Instead, she studied under her husband and apprenticed in his law practice.  She was quoted in the Chicago Tribune in 1889, saying:

“I acquired the idea [of studying law] from helping my husband in his office. I was always with him, helping in whatever way I could.… I believe that married people should share the same toil and the same interests and be separated in no way. It is the separation of interests and labor that develops people in opposite directions and makes them grow apart. If they worked side by side and thought side by side we would need no divorce courts.”

Maybe it is because I have always had boring jobs, but that seems like a terrible idea to me.  If people don’t go off and do their own thing all day, then what do they talk about at night?  “Oh, one of my co-workers made me so mad today…”

“I know.  It was me.”

“Oh yeah! That was you! Did anything happen to you when you got out of my sight today?”

“In the men’s room? Not really.”

Then the sad couple would just go back to eating their peas in silence, I imagine.  Until one of them would say, “I can’t stand it! I’m going for a walk.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and be chased by a bear. I’ll tell you about it when I get back…”

Anyway, Myra put her private studies on hold when the Civil War broke out.  She went to work for charities that raised money for sick and wounded Union soldiers.  She eventually became the president of the Chicago Soldiers’ Aid Society. After the war she went back to her studies and in 1869 she passed the Illinois bar exam with high honors.  She applied for a law license, but the Illinois State Supreme Court denied her application because, as a married woman, she could not lawfully enter into any legal contracts, which would be necessary for a practicing lawyer.

Myra continued to fight her case and appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1873, but the lower court’s decision was upheld. It was the opinion of the highest court in the land that the 14th Amendment (equal protection) did not provide women with the right to practice a profession.

Furthermore, in the opinion of Associate Justice Joseph P. Bradley, “The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many occupations of civil life….The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign office of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

So that was some bullshit, obviously.  Myra Bradwell made no more attempts to gain her law license after that, but managed to stay busy.  She helped to write the Illinois Married Women’s Property Act of 1861 and the Earnings Act of 1869, allowing married women gain control of their personal wealth.  In 1968, she founded the Chicago Legal News.  (Actually, she had to get her husband’s help to persuade the Illinois legislature to pass a special law so that she could edit and manage her own newspaper.  They were really hung up on not letting married women work.)  In time, it became the most widely read legal newspaper in the United States.  The paper was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, but Myra rebuilt it and carried on.

Myra Bradwell was also a well-known suffragette.  She helped (along with Lucy Stone and others) to form the American Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869.  Myra insisted that equality for women was a non-partisan issue and  fought to help women in other states attempting to study law and become lawyers.

In 1879, an anti-discrimination bill to allow women to practice in federal courts was passed and signed into law by President Rutherford B. Hayes.  Though Myra Bradwell did not re-apply for her license, the Illinois State Supreme Court, acting on its own motion, approved the original application.  (Feel a little guilty, there, Illinois?) It was the year 1890, 21 years after she had applied and four years before Myra Bradwell died of cancer in 1894.

Myra Colby Bradwell first popped into my head when Lindsey Graham histrionically asked, “What am I supposed to do, go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?”

Really?  I thought.  Tell that to Myra!  Not getting your dream job is only “ruinous” to privileged and entitled people who are used to getting what they want. Many people have been denied the opportunity to pursue careers and interests for countless unfair reasons.  And some people, like Myra Bradwell, still found ways to kick ass.  One might even say, “she persisted.”

I wish I were writing this in a snarky way to “Judge Kavanagh,” after a failed vote left him off the highest court.  “Take heart, little bean sprout,” I might have said.  “Let Myra by your inspiration to rise above!”

But it didn’t go that way.  Justice Kavanagh, to the manor born, has achieved his dreams despite all the credible accusations and his own disgraceful display in the final hearing.  No snark for me.  Not this week.

Instead, I’m still focused on Myra Bradwell because she reminds me that things have been worse.  Yes, thing have not progressed as far as I wanted to believe.  And maybe we have done some backsliding.  But I don’t believe we have passed the point of no return.  We are not yet Marthas and Handmaids to the end of democracy.  Myra took her defeat, but then kept writing and working and pushing other women around her to achieve their own goals, and things got better.  Not on its own, but because of the work of the people like Myra Colby Bradwell.

Defeat sucks, but it isn’t final.  Justice Kavanagh may be on the court for forty years (God help us), but not forever.  Damage will be done.  Meanwhile, we will keep writing and working and encouraging one another.  Take heart, dear sprouts!  We will persist!

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