Girl Power

When i was a kid, if i had handed an alien my U.S. History book as an insight to our country, they would have thought nearly everyone of importance was a white male.  From Columbus and his male crew meeting the (male) chief of the local tribe, to Captain John Smith, to President George Washington (And every president up til this decade)…  3/4 of the book was white men. Yes, we learned about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Eleanor Roosevelt. We learned about George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr. We learned about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. We learned about Pocahontas and Sacagawea. But that was about it. The only person i remember being called out as specifically Jewish was Einstein. And if there were people of any other ethnic persuasions, i don’t remember any time being spent on them. Sad, really.

Granted, some of it is due to the fact that, until fairly recently, generally speaking, white men held the seats of power. The status quo was a European Christian male as the leader of… well.. pretty much everything. But times, they are a’changing. Every day this country becomes more diverse. And as a result, more groups are getting a chance to partake in the type of history that gets documented in textbooks. I mean, we all have always been a part of history… Just not the part that gets into the popular public record. But even that is starting to come around.

I went to see Hidden Figures  yesterday. To my surprise and delight, my son was eager to see it as well. If you somehow haven’t seen the trailers, it is the story of the “human computers”, specifically, a group of black women, who were responsible for the calculations used to get men into space. Now, i have made it a point to study women’s history for nearly 30 years, but i can honestly say that i didn’t know anything about these women until a few years back when  my daughter and i had the pleasure of hearing Dr Mae Jemison speak, and she talked about some of the women who came before her at NASA. One of the things she said about those women, women like herself, has stuck with me – They were black, they were female, and they were “nerds”; so they had three strikes against them when it came to public impressions. Thankfully, Dr. Jemison’s parents never bought into that. They encouraged her, even knowing how difficult the path would be. Becoming an astonaut is hard for anyone. But at that time, for a black woman, even more so. She did it anyway. And now it is easily conceivable for a woman, of any ethnicity, to go to space.

We need to put women like these into the history books. Important, significant women of all types to help further the aspirations of our weedlings. Lets make it easier for them to spend less time reading about the Kardashians, and more time reading about  Madame C.J. Walker, Wilma Mankiller, Maya Lin, the Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to those not in-the-know). And lesser known, but still historically significant women like Deborah Samson, Ann E. Dunwoody, Dr Helen Rodríguez Trías,  and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler. By including women like these, we show that it is possible for ALL girls, and by extension, ALL children, to grow to become people of historical significance.

Lets face it, folks, it wasn’t that long ago when independent women were burned at the stake as witches. When black women were thought to be little more than oxen. When intelligent women were thought to be anomalies. When conventionally unattractive women were considered to be hopeless. And on and on. And heaven help you if you had more than one of those strikes against you.

Yes, i am fully aware that i am soap-boxing. But this is important to me.

Also of note, we need to make sure that we don’t go overboard and infringe upon those who take paths society deems “backwards”. The woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom is important, not because of some misogynistic fluff, but because she CHOSE to be that in the face of small-minded feminists who don’t see the value in it. The woman who becomes a Catholic nun or Buddhist monk is important not because she is sheltered from the world, but because she CHOSE to dedicate her life to something she cared deeply about in spite of others finding it old-fashioned. The young woman who attends an all-girls’ school, or an all-black school, or any separatist institution is doing so BY HER OWN CHOICE, and that makes it significant. Even if it is something that others might feel is a step back. In this context, a free choice is a step forward, even if the result is not one that seems progressive to the masses.

My daughters have never felt fettered by notions of what women are “supposed to do”. At least i don’t think they have. I hope they haven’t. I’ve tried to instill in them the belief that society’s notions are not a code that needs to be followed. I try to be the same with my son, as he, too, will find gates and fences that will try to block his path along the way. Teaching our weedlings that there are endless possibilities in life is most important… And should be followed closely by the teaching that “endless” does not mean “easy”. The norms we frequently have to buck against require effort to overcome. Swimming against the tide, literally or figuratively, is much more labor intensive than going with the flow. It is not for everyone.

And that’s ok. We don’t all have to be trailblazers. It takes all kinds of women, of people, to make the world the wonder that it is. Being a “regular Joe” (Or Josephine) is nothing shameful. The important thing is not the life you choose, but that YOU choose it. Yourself. Freely. Knowing that any choice was allowable. President or Preacher. Entertainer or Inventor. Mayor or Mother. Any choice you make freely with the conviction of your own heart is a good choice. But the only way we know that is to read and learn about those who came before us. The choices they made, the goals they set, and what it took to realize them.

These women, they were remarkable.

And so are we.

 

Momma Hol Has Had It

In children’s athletics, the teams greet each other after the game in a show of sportsmanship. No heckling or bashing is allowed. The losers aren’t expected to be happy about losing, but they are expected to be courteous and to concede with grace. The winners, in return, are not allowed to gloat. They congratulate the other team on a game well-played. And then both teams walk away intent on playing better next time.

Since most of us don’t go on to become professional athletes, the lesson of winners and losers is probably the most important thing we learn from playing team sports as kids. And yet, over the last week, a lot of us seem to have forgotten. Social media over the last week has been chock full of hatred. Democrats hating that they lost. Republicans hating because they’re fed up with the half of the nation that has been sitting shiva since election day. Third party voters hating because they just want to move on, and neither side is letting it happen.

Well, newsflash: Democrats, you lost. You are allowed to be disappointed, but no amount of collective weeping is going to change the outcome. You want your candidate to win? Congratulations! You have another chance four years from now. Run a stronger campaign, and you can take the White House. But for now, put on your big-kid panties and give the guy a chance. He may not be as bad as you expect.

Republicans,  you want the Democrats to stop whining? Quit rubbing your opinion of their candidate in their faces. Be the gracious winner, congratulate them on their efforts, and move on. Remember, this isn’t a permanent position. Your candidate may not be all you expected. In four years, you might be in their shoes, so remember the Golden Rule.

Third party voters: We lost. We knew we were going to. I think that makes it easier for us. But we fought well and brought the potential for a third party to enter into the finals up to something approaching reality. Now, lets quit grumbling and build on our momentum, or we’ll be in the same boat four years from now.

And to all my friends from all sides of the political spectrum: I love you all. Really really. But i can’t take the arguing any more. Yes, there is the potential for scary times ahead; but there always is when we elect a new president. Yes, our President-Elect has said more daft, derogatory, and offensive things than Prince Phillip. But that doesn’t likely mean that he will put an end to Democracy as we know it. In fact, it’s unlikely he could. Our government is structured to keep that from happening. (Perhaps you noticed that there were other political positions on your ballot? Yes, those were important. Just as important as the one at the top. Perhaps more so, since they affect your community directly.)  The causes that are dear to your heart, the ones you are worried will go by the wayside over the next four years… Get active with them! And if it appears that our leaders won’t take the stand you want, make your voice heard. That’s how things change…

Which brings us back to the presidential election. Obviously, enough people wanted this change to make it happen. (And before you argue about the Electoral College being unfair, that point is moot. The fact of the matter is, we all knew the Electoral College would apply in this election. It wasn’t a last minute decision.) Whether you voted for him or not, Donald Trump is our new president. Rather than bash each other for being “for” or “against”, remember that both votes are on the same team. The U.S. team. We might scrimmage against each other, but come time for the playoffs, we’d all better be working together. Otherwise, we’re all sure to lose.

And If She Asks You Why, You Can Tell Her That I Told You

You can’t make anyone do anything. In the end we all do what we want. We only have control over our own actions, and sometimes even that is questionable.

Have you ever watched someone about to fall? You see them shift, you watch the tilt, all in slow motion. You know they are in for pain, and you know you can’t stop it. I watched a relationship do that last night. Yes, i was uncomfortable. Yes, i felt awkward. But, mostly, i felt powerless. Even understanding both sides of the argument, able to empathize with how each of them felt, there was no way to make peace. Both friends would suffer, and there wasn’t a damned thing i could do about it.

This morning, it was the global version of that same sensation. As i learned of the shooting in Orlando, which is sad enough in itself, i could see what would happen next: Knee jerk reaction and retaliation of Americans against muslims, savage protests by the masses, the promotion and election of politicians who eat such groups for breakfast, and the escalation of violence and hatred between religions. Again, i am devastated, weeping for the results. And again, i am impotent. Nothing i say or do is going to bring those victims back to life, nor will it stop the vicious aftermath.

I realize that many times in life and history, one lone voice has impacted the vector of time and stopped the descent into whatever circle of hell was gaining ground at that moment; but those voices came from people who already commanded attention. The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Jimmy Carter, Robin Williams… Some people have the gift of influence. You, me, Daniel the bartender, most of the people we know… We could plead til we were blue in the face, but the politicians, the terrorists, the hatemongers… None of them are listening. Even on the small-scale, watching a fight between friends, it is nearly impossible to build a bridge that can bear the weight of the hurt feelings. To our credit, most of us still try, desperately hanging onto the thread of a utopian pipe dream.

Most of the time we are disappointed.

But that last shred of faith, the faint shadow of that castle in the air… They give us the strength for another attempt. Some of us are too stubborn to resolve ourselves to watching havoc play out like a movie. And tho i may never be able to keep terrorists from annihilating a group of bystanders, perhaps i can at least give my friends a white flag to clutch in peace.

I would still consider that a success.

 

 

To Die With Honor ~ Memorial Day 2016

So the Klingons have this saying, “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” (Unsurprisingly, but a bit disappointingly, they didn’t coin the phrase. They stole it from Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.)  Warriors have this credo running in their blood.

What good is life if we merely exist as chemical creations, without letting ourselves shine forth like the miraculous spirit-filled beings we are? The energy we house, the ideas we birth, the inventions, the music, the poetry! We must be free to liberate these things from ourselves, or it is all for nothing. Not all of us have the strength of body or will to fight the good fight for this human cause. For freedom. But there are a special few whose hearts are bursting at the seams with a need to plow the road for others, so that they can live and laugh and love without tethers to an ersatz owner.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NASB)  Soldiers have this credo in their veins. The men and women who serve our community and country are all of a special breed. Being willing to die for your fellow citizens is a commitment that few make. Whether storming the beach at Normandy, protecting a village from conquerors, or becoming a human shield for an innocent, the ones in uniform have proven themselves heroes time and again. And as the saying goes, tho all gave some, some gave all. And it is those we honor today.

I served. And tho i never expected the time would come, i did end up in a war zone. I did my job to the best of my ability and i never gave a thought to bailing, even tho, like most of my brothers and sisters who served with me, i didn’t really understand why we were there. And if i had died there, i’d have been pissed. My spirit angry at the emptiness and vanity that comes with the mockery of a calling.

“Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar. And still there are things worth fighting for.” ~ Norman Schwarzkopf. And this, THIS, is what makes the difference between a mercenary and a hero. A patsy and a protector. If i had died without contributing to a human cause, i would have considered it senseless.

It’s an insult to all who don a uniform and serve to send them to die without cause. To use them as anything but the mighty defenders they are. They are not pawns for corporate needs. They are not leverage for your financial interests. They are vanquishers of those who would terrorize innocents. Do not belittle their importance and significance by using them as sympathy points in the media or distractions from real and true human issues.

The veterans at home now, who are committing suicide in droves, this is what happens when you strip soldiers of their honor. When you pointedly tell them in word and in deed that their actions made no difference. When you rip from them their worth by subjugating the notion they hold most dear. When you shrink their value to little more than a penny on the sidewalk, its triviality so obvious that no one stoops to pick it up.

On this, Memorial Day, i am on fire for my brothers and sisters who gave all and are forgotten. The ones whose importance is diminished by government and bureaucracy who don’t hold dear the responsibilities that our soldiers took on before they were taken back by God/Goddess/Universe to the virtuous gemstone quarry from which they came. They deserve better. Their souls deserve respect. Notice. And in their darkest hours, protection of the masses as they once protected us.

Those of us who have served… Who lost someone in service… Who remember a time when the powers that be thought far more of those who volunteered their lives… It is our turn to say thank you. Not just with a day of remembrance, but with voice and action. Humankind is lucky to have those heroes who walked, unflinching, into the face of darkness and never returned. A little gratitude is not remiss. And the best way to say thank you is to keep any other service member from dying without reason. Take care of those who do return. When they have fought to their last breath, breathe for them. Give them a cause worth sacrificing for, and respite when they are spent. It is the least we can do, but all they ask for. Help our government to remember.

War is an evil thing. Be glad that someone took up arms in your stead, so that you wouldn’t have to live the horrors of it. Especially if you are one who sent them to war in the first place.

Yes, Uncle Sam, i am talking to you.

You Can Even Eat the Dishes

I am happy today. Yup. Just happy.

I started the day doing laundry. That probably doesn’t sound happy to most people, but i actually enjoy doing laundry. In fact, i have often mused that it would be awesome if there were a washing machine for life. Something we could throw all our nasty and dirty laundry in and have it come out nice and clean and smelling like Downy. Wouldn’t that be great? We could all toss in our 20s, and voilà, no more bad decision one night stands! Toss in our 30s and tada!, no more letting your kids have snack cakes and kool-aid while watching teletubbies because you’re tired, it’s been a long week, and you just need half an hour of quiet. I could go on, but that would get too close to recent memory for comfort.

Anyway, obviously there is no such thing, or we’d all be as beloved as Mother Theresa.

I also spent a couple of hours this morning sorting thru my clothes closet. Again, doesn’t seem like a happy thing at first glance, but i promise, it can be. I found a pretty summer skirt that i forgot i had. I culled a bunch of things that needed to go (I made myself a promise last year that i would only keep things that made me happy. Including my clothes. So anything that i didn’t like enough to wear over the winter got cut out instead of going in winter storage.) I like paring down. It makes me feel free to let go of things. And free equals happy in my book.

I made a new batch of my organic body butter. Because this batch is for me, i have it scented with the blend that i customized just for myself. With the mixing and melting and blending, my kitchen now smells all warm and decadent.  And my hands are smooth and soft. My efforts get poured into one of those covered crystal candy dishes that are the mainstay of yard sales. It’s a little thing, but making my own lotions and perfumes makes me happy. A gesture of love to myself (or to others, if the batch is for them.) A gift from the heart. How can that not delight?

My oldest weedling and i went on a little jaunt after that. She brought me to her favorite thrift store. Racks and boxes and shelves of all manner of things. I went there with the intention of finding a small table to use as a meditation station / altar. I didn’t find one. But i got to do some interesting people watching. Single digit girls swooning over the prom gowns. A young couple arguing about the value of a lamp shaped like a fish. And i watched a middle aged man sort thru a pile of lace curtains, a look of scrutiny on his face, as if he were looking for the perfect panel for some special heart-felt project. A small peek into the lives of others. Much better than Jersey Shore.

In return for the entertainment, i treated my daughter to a Peruvian lunch. A small store front served us an assortment of vegetarian nibbles, capped off with our obligatory flan. The food was yummy and reminded me of the local food when i lived in Panama. The flan… She and i are both serious flan aficionados, so when i say that we were both tempted to lick the plate, you can imagine how good it was.  Close your eyes and envision heaven good. Steal it from your granny good. Liam Neeson’s in my bed good.

Well, maybe not THAT good. But good.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig. More laundry, a cup of tea, and the score from The Hobbit. Sliding doors open to the breeze. The scent of the geranium i bought last week gently wafting thru. Siridog at my side. The knowledge that i will sleep enveloped in fresh sheets tonight. And a news story about a West Point graduate and decorated war veteran who won the right to wear his religiously significant beard and turban while in uniform. As a veteran myself, it makes me proud and happy for my Sikh brother.

Life is grand.

Of course, i’m not this easily pleased every day. I try to be, but sometimes life has other plans. Those days when everything you touch falls, spills, or breaks. When you realize all the bills are due 3 days before payday. When none of your pants will zip and your hair refuses to behave. When your weedling comes home and tells you they are quitting school to become a professional mime. Those days, it’s harder to  stay sunny. So you force yourself to tap dance while singing Candy Man. Sometimes, that is enough to change your luck. Sometimes you have to find an emergency sundae – The kind with full fat ice cream and homemade hot fudge and fresh whipped cream. And some days, you give up, chase a Benadryl with a shot of Jamesons, go to bed, and hope that tomorrow is better.

But today… Today is a good day. No need for the “groovy lemon pie”. Or the sugar fix. Or the booze. I am content. I am satisfied. I am happy.

Tho, now that i think about it, a scoop or two of coconut-almond chunk does sound good…

And starring *???* As The Mad Hatter!

Man, people are angry! Presidential elections always bring out passion in people, but this is getting ridiculous. Otherwise reasonable people hurling insults at their friends because they have voiced a dissenting opinion. And the people who aren’t generally reasonable, well, they have totally gone ’round the pipe. Watching a group of people have a beer on a pub patio yesterday, i was surprised to find myself thinking if this is what gatherings were like at the onset of the Civil War.

The debates? I admit, i only watched one in its entirety. The rest i picked up from clips. They make me feel like a lunch room monitor at middle school. The insults, the finger pointing and name calling, the personal digs… Are they presidential candidates or contenders for the Beer Pong Cup? You know it’s a messed up election year when the Democrats seem more austere and focused than the Republicans. And they have certainly been more respectful of each other. Not that they are perfect. Far from it. Rhetoric is rhetoric, even if it comes dressed for dinner.

The third party candidates could really ascend the staircase this year if they televised a debate and acted like educated adults.

It is not my place to advocate for any particular candidate. I’m a firm believer that in any election, one should do their research and vote for who represents them best, regardless of whether i agree. I respect and support your right to vote your conscience. Your view doesn’t have to be the same as mine. After all, i’m not Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama. Hell, i’m not even Donny Osmond. I’m probably more of the Danny Bonaduce type. And lord knows, we don’t want him deciding the election. We are a collective and diverse people. Our votes should reflect that. And, as that same collective, we will live with the results.

All these people who say they will move to Canada if so-and-so gets elected? You know they won’t. For all our flaws, we are an awesome nation. Jacked-up, controversial, contradictory, and flat out illogical sometimes… But still awesome in our own dysfunction. We are like a massive adaptation of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. And the position of the Mad Hatter himself is up for re-election every four years. The actors change, but the party goes on. Ain’t it grand?

Ok, not perfect. As a nation, we have a lot of work to do and problems to solve. But i’d still rather do it here than anywhere else. We have discrimination and poverty and addiction and disparity and climate change and a million other bad things, just like every place else. But we also have opportunity and variety and expanse and beauty and freedom. And, singularly, we have Broadway and New Orleans Jazz and Eleanor Roosevelt and Glacier National Park  and Toll House cookies and oh-so-many other things. Not perfect. But definitely grand.

In any case, as the momentum to the election builds, i beg of you to be kind to each other. Don’t throw things at your neighbor because he likes Trump. Don’t belittle your coworker because she likes Bernie. Dig deep into your memory and think of a time when you thought you had the right answer, went with it, and discovered you were wrong. You have one. I know you do. And you might have one again, this election. Or they might. And won’t it suck if you are no longer friends and can’t have a beer and say, “I told you so.”

In the end, it’s just politics. Regardless of who gets elected, our day to day will change very little. We will get up, suck down some coffee, go to work, come home, walk the dog, make supper, play with the weedlings, take out the trash, watch some tv, get lucky (if we’re lucky), then go to bed…. And wake up the next day to do it all again. On the weekends, hopefully, we’ll be grilling some burgers in the back yard with those same people who didn’t like our presidential candidate. So be nice. And allow for the possibility that other opinions aren’t stupid. In return, maybe they won’t laugh in your face when you lose.

I promise, i won’t.

NO MORE

Warning: Violent and honest content about a current news story is discussed herein.

 

Last week, a local high school basketball team was in a vacation destination close to here for a holiday tournament. From the various news stories i have read, this is what we know: At the time of the incident, the kids were unsupervised. They were in the basement of a vacation cabin where the younger players were begin “hazed”. Comments were made to the younger students that it was part of being on a team, and that they would get to do it to freshman players when they were upperclassmen. The younger students were beaten by the upperclassmen  with pool cues. Two of the younger students suffered minor injuries. A third collapsed the next day and was found to have a punctured colon and bladder where he had been sexually violated with a pool cue by three of his teammates. He spent eight days in the hospital being physically repaired. The team continued to play on. When they returned from the tournament, the offending three (As if the rest of the team beating freshmen with cues isn’t offensive enough), were expelled from the team and suspended from school by the county school board. Many members of the school board are infuriated that the team didn’t come home immediately following the incident, that the team wasn’t better supervised, and that the school board hasn’t been give a complete account of everything that went on (At least not as of yesterday, and this happened between Dec 21st and 23rd.) Two of the accused three are being held in jail on aggravated rape and aggravated sexual assault charges. The third was released on bond. The victim is at home, trying to recover from his physical injuries. The emotional injuries will be much harder to heal.

There are far too many vile issues to deal with in this story.

The culture we have in this country seems to perpetuate this archaic and violent idea of manhood: One where sexual violence is accepted as if it were a dog lifting his leg on the sofa to mark his territory. I heard someone say about the incident that she didn’t understand how the kids would think it was “normal hazing”.  I can. Just watch the news. Listen to the things your kids talk about. Listen to what WE talk about. We make excuses for everything leading up to this. “Boys will be boys.”  There are still ignorant people making statements to justify rape based on the victims clothing/demeanor/inebriation status. And then when it keeps escalating until something like this… Well, we really have no right to be surprised. We tell kids not to bully, but the masculine culture is still that juvenile machismo bullshit that has been around since the beginning of time. We tell kids to not buy into it, but just like everyone at that age, they want to be accepted, so they take it. And by virtue of constant exposure, they become it. Or the opposite, we tell them to avoid violence and just walk away. Ignore it and the bullies will give up. And they get their asses kicked (or violated) as a result. How about we just find a way to stop the cycle? How about we fix the problem?

I admit, it would have been unfair to the rest of the team to cut the tournament short and leave when the violence came to light. But certainly no more unfair than to the player who had to have surgery as a result. It seems highly doubtful that the rest of the team had no idea what was going on. I am stunned that the coach didn’t see a need to report the incident and head back immediately. Yet another example to the kids that “It isn’t really that big a deal. The ‘fun’ just got a bit out of hand.” What the hell, coach?!?!?!  You KNOW you are the main example of what it means to “be a man” to a lot of these kids, and THAT is the message you give? You need to be relieved from your position for that alone, never mind for being totally unaware of what your team was doing in that cabin. Never mind that you closed your eyes and ears while it was being planned. Never mind that you have socialized a team to believe that violent hazing is acceptable practice.

The school board: There have been a few comments by the superintendent that sound suspiciously like he just wants it to go away, tho he hasn’t said anything that could be considered condoning it. He has taken a stance to investigate and punish accordingly. One female member of the school board, tho, has been very vocal about her outrage. To quote Rhonda Thurman, “I wasn’t elected to guard the cat litter box, to cover up crap, that is not why I’m here.”  Amen, Rhonda! I don’t think it’s coincidence that the most outrage is coming from a female. We know what it’s like to be a victim of such violence. We know what it’s like to have it passed off and our perpetrators be made out to be victims as much as we were. We know what it’s like to have everyone act like it isn’t a big deal. If it didn’t happen to us personally, we have someone very close to whom it has.

Men have less experience in the publicity of sexual violence. Men aren’t generally allowed to acknowledge when they have been victimized in this way. The public has a much more visceral and disbelieving reaction to their plight. After all, males aren’t weak, so why didn’t they just fight back? Just like lesbian culture vs. gay male culture, the public has a much harder time accepting men being anything but Ward Cleaver or George Clooney. They can’t stomach the thought of anything else. I never have understood why that is. Granted, i grew up in a house full of women where effort was made to accept us all as we were, so i am lacking in a lot of the typical American socialization. But the fact of the matter is, in any major city here in the U.S., you will see billboards, PSAs, and pamphlets making the public aware of rape crisis centers and counseling available… And you can bet the bank, the picture accompanying it is of a female. It’s as if male rape doesn’t exist.  We need to face the fact that being raped is not dependent on the victim’s sex. Nor is it about sex. As much as we hate to think about it, we are a violent people. This situation is the result. And we have no solution available for it because we don’t talk about it.

So this poor 14 year old kid, who is at home trying to walk again after the surgery to repair his destroyed guts, has very few places to turn to get help healing the emotional scars that accompany his physical ones. And any woman will tell you that the emotional scars are far deeper and worse than the physical ones. There might be a  therapy group in this city for sexually abused males, but i’ve never heard of one, and i make it a point to be aware of the mental health services available here. He isn’t the only young man who has been raped in this city, but you’d never know it if you were looking for support services. That is a shame and totally unacceptable.

You can say that rape is rape, and gender doesn’t matter, but i don’t believe you. We’ve spent the last 40 or 50 years working hard to strengthen our women in this country. Teaching us how to be strong in ourselves. What we deserve and what we don’t. What we are to blame for and what we are not. To blaze our own trail. And to turn to our sisters for help when we need it. However, in this same amount of time, we have done very little to change the way our men think. There aren’t many groups out there to teach young men what a man really is. (Shout out to my coworkers and friends and their ilk who work, mostly,  thru their churches with these young men.  I salute you making the effort, and i promise you, you are making a difference!)  There aren’t advertisements for places to turn when a man is violated. Or when he sees a violent trait within himself. And far too many of our typical socialization groups, like team sports, still perpetuate the caveman as the model for masculinity. No wonder so many young men are so screwed up.

I am not, in any way, saying that rape of men is worse than women. Only that there is far less available to help a man heal from rape. Because we don’t talk about it. We don’t want to think about it. We can’t imagine it. And we don’t know how to reconcile “man” as “victim”.

In a small step towards supporting our young men, more and more adult men are starting to speak out on surviving rape. Manly men, by American standards, who no one could think of as weak. Ice-T, for example… When his badass self appears in a PSA against rape, it makes a small nick in the rock of machismo.

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Enough of these nicks, and maybe we can chip away at the rock that is the distorted view of men in this country. A nick for every school assembly on violence that includes where boys can go for help if they are victim or horrified perpetrator. A nick for every man who speaks out against ignorant comments made by a peer. A nick for every billboard for rape crisis centers that shows a male as well as a female. Pretty soon, a small movement will take hold and we can make bigger nicks.  A nick for every coach who talks to his team about the issue of hazing, and personally confronts violent players. A nick for every student who stands up and says, “Not on my team!” A nick for every woman who stops talking like rape is only a woman’s issue and remembers that it is a HUMAN issue and not about sex at all. And a nick for every generation to come that tolerates the bullshit less and less.

I have a 13 year old son. I have never spoken with him about sexual violence, except to note, when it appears in the news, that it is vile and unacceptable. And i have no excuse. I know the devastation it can cause. I have lived with it. And, i know others, both men and women, who have been violated and suffered lifelong for it. And still i haven’t mentioned it. But you can bet your life on the fact that i will be having that discussion now.

The first step in becoming part of the solution is realizing that you are part of the problem.

I won’t be part of the problem anymore.

 

For more information on help available for ALL victims of sexual assault, this is a great website with a lot of links available to other sites and services as well:    http://nomore.org/about/  You can also check with any local outpatient mental health facility or your local hospital to find qualified help.