Stalkers and Harassers

Stalking is perhaps the worst thing a person can do to another person aside from rape and murder, etc. although stalking has in fact led to that too many times. We have all read and heard far too many stories about women* who have been driven from their lives, their homes, their jobs, their families by a man who just cannot let go.

This is not about love. This is not about friendship. This is about claiming power and entitlement over another human being and treating another human being like an object for one’s personal gratification.

Margaret Atwood stated that men fear that women will laugh at them and women fear that men will kill them. Murders of passion have happened throughout history, but in a time and place where rejected men like Elliot Rodger can easily purchase a gun and go on a rampage that statement rings even more true.

I am lucky that no one has ever seriously threatened me at this point, however I have recently had the experience of someone harassing me via phone and social media and the scary thing is, this person does not understand what they are doing is wrong.

A common tactic of abusers and stalkers is “gaslighting.” Making the person being abused or stalked think that they are the crazy one. The term comes from a film starring Ingrid Bergman in which her character’s husband tries to make her feel she is going insane by, among other things, subtly changing the lighting.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslight_(1944_film)

When I asked this person who was harassing me for the final time to stop contacting me he told me that I am the one with “issues” and that “all [he] wanted was to get to know who [I] am as a person” and “is that too much to ask for.” Yes, that is too much to ask for if I have been disturbed by previous inappropriate communications and have previously indicated that I did not wish to have any contact with this person. My final request for communication to stop had been preceded by multiple text messages, Facebook messages, a request to be friends again after I removed them, and calls from a hidden phone number in the middle of the night after I blocked them from all other modes of communication. That is not how one treats a friend. That is how someone tries to intimidate another person and demonstrates that they have no respect for someone’s individual choices.

No one owes anyone anything, period. It may seem mean, it may seem unfair, but not everyone has to like everyone no matter how silly or petty the reason. No means no, end of. I understand the hurt when a friendship ends or the hurt when someone you want to be friends with doesn’t like you back. It sucks a lot and I have been there done that, but the only healthy thing to do is to move on and find people who do appreciate you.

I feel that stalkers never truly care about the target of their obsession. Because if one really cares about a person, why scare them and infringe upon their personal space and time like that? And why deny their actions were wrong and blame the other person? This person who was sending me harassing messages claimed he “never bothered me.” To be unable to see that these actions were “bothering” me especially after I had asked him once already to stop is profoundly disturbing and shows a complete lack of understanding or caring about how his actions impact me.

I don’t think this person is out to murder me, but plenty of people who start out like this do try to harm or kill their target of obsession. Stalking or harassment is a crime that is easily dismissed as simple paranoia on the end of the person being stalked or harassed and it can be difficult to prove or be found to be an actual crime if the perpetrator is not making outright threats. States and legislatures are making progress with criminalizing this kind of behavior and protecting the rights of victims, but it is increasingly difficult with online methods of communication, using fake accounts, blocked number, etc.

I am hoping that my harasser will stop contacting me, but I am fearful of what he may do to someone else if he does not understand that his actions are wrong and continues to believe that how he behaves is an appropriate way to interact with people. I am also fearful of those who escalate to outright violence after starting out in a “mild” fashion like this.

*Men are the victims of stalking as well and have been murdered by women who are obsessed and do not respect their autonomy. My intention is not to make their stories less important, however my focus for this is primarily on women as I am a woman and statistically women are more likely to be targeted by a man such as what happened in my personal situation. As an aside, women can and have also been stalked by other women, so this really truly can happen to and by anyone of any gender.

 

 

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XoJane and their “my friend’s death was a blessing” article

Almost every day on my lunch break at work I read XoJane, former Jane magazine editor Jane Pratt’s website. I used to be devoted reader of Jane when I was in high school. They were known for off beat, humorous articles and most importantly the magazine celebrated women and paid attention to what women around the world were going through. I wanted to work at Jane after graduating from college, but unfortunately the magazine folded when I was still in high school and I do not work for any magazine whatsoever.

The website XoJane was launched a few years ago, I forget specifically when, but I signed up for their newsletter because I thought it was going to be a similar concept to Jane. I think it is in the sense that women from all different points of view share their stories. Unfortunately that means some abhorrent view points are going to be published and while I applaud XoJane’s commitment to free speech, they also need to take into account that their publishing of these items can make it look like they endorse these viewpoints. And worse, many of these articles are about tearing down other women which is the antithesis of what Jane was about and should be against what XoJane is about.

XoJane has been known for many articles that are racist and classist as not all writers have been introduced to the concept of intersectional feminism. Many of these writers are educated by other XoJane writers writing counter essays or by readers posting in the comments section. I hope that these writers actually have been educated and changed their way of thinking and developed at least some empathy and self awareness about the fact that not every single person has the same advantages and circumstances in life.

Mental health is another area in which some XoJane writers need an education in, most specifically, the woman who wrote that her friend’s death was a blessing. The original article is gone, what is linked to is an apology from Jane Pratt for that article being posted on her site. The original article probably exists somewhere and in screen shots, there is no point looking for it. But in summary, the author had a friend dealing with significant mental health issues and the friend upset her in other ways such as by hitting on a guy she liked and quitting a job that the author had gotten her. Stuff that might be legitimate to end a friendship over depending on other complicating factors, however, this woman ending up dying and the author felt her death was for the best because her life made the author so uncomfortable.

I have been on both sides of this. I have dealt with mental health issues and I have ended a friendship because the ongoing problems made our friendship unsustainable. That said I cannot imagine ever thinking that someone should just die (or being grateful that someone actually did die) simply because their actions make them incompatible with us being friends. Of course I want them to get better and be happy with their lives, and for their sake, no one should ever live their life for the enjoyment of someone else. Sometimes there is no completely getting better which is a harsh reality, there is only learning to manage an illness just like with chronic physical illnesses, but it is what it is and there is no right to judge whose life is worth living or not.

I do feel guilty for having a friendship end over what was largely related to mental health issues and I tried for years to help her. I feel bad because it would be awful to drop someone over a physical illness and mental illnesses should be treated the same way. On the other hand though, I do understand and feel that sometimes issues and problems create such a boundary between people that it is impossible to remain friends even in the absence of anything pertaining to mental health. No one is obligated to remain friends if there is no mutual positive experience anymore.

But to be so gleeful in someone’s death? I find that horrifying and wonder how many people read that article wondering if that’s how people secretly view them. While the former friend described in the article did have a diagnosed mental illness, none of her behavior was so incredibly outlandish that it would have been out of the ordinary had anyone else done it. Her actions became terrible though once they were linked with her mental illness and therefore her life was not worth living according to this author.

It wasn’t clear whether or not the friend described took her own life or died by accident, but maybe since XoJane published this article they should, in addition to apologizing, re-post some decent essays they’ve previously published or seek new essays pertaining to the actual experience of mental illness and how it is possible to get help and that it is possible to connect with and be friends with caring people who believe that people who are not 100% perfect deserve to live.

I am not going to quit reading XoJane and I believe they have learned their lesson since as Jane stated, there will be tighter editorial control, but it is a very harsh lesson and reality check to see how cruel people can be. I am glad the article was removed and so many have spoken up about it. I do not believe in publicly shaming, but I do hope the woman who wrote that article is deeply ashamed of herself.

“Bernie Bros” and Gawker’s comments section

Yesterday New York Magazine published this piece by Jonathan Chait to outline why he does not believe Bernie Sanders should be the Democratic nominee for president: The Case Against Bernie Sanders. Chait, while he is entitled to his opinion just like everyone else, puts forth arguments against Sanders that are outdated at this point in the primary cycle as a) socialism (or Democratic Socialism to be more precise) is not as much of a dirty word as centrists have feared and b) Sanders has been releasing more concrete information about how exactly his plans will be enacted in terms of raising taxes to pay for his health care plan, how much it will cost, and potential savings for citizens. Chait also makes the argument that raising the minimum wage to $15 will hurt jobs, specifically in the restaurant industry, which has been debunked for the most part (http://gawker.com/study-minimum-wage-increases-dont-hurt-the-restaurant-1753143586).

Hamilton Nolan writing for Gawker has broken down the argument against Chait’s assessment point by point and I agree with the majority of what Nolan states: http://gawker.com/the-case-against-bernie-sanders-is-dumb-1753735204.

Before getting into the comments section of this article, the one area in which I disagree is that it doesn’t matter which one of them is elected because the Republicans hate both and will stonewall both of them or maybe Clinton even more so since their hatred of her is even more rabid and has been going on for decades by this point. But it is reasonable to be of the opinion that perhaps someone who is more of a centrist might have more luck working out a compromise on various issues with a hostile Congress. To be fair though, Sanders may end up drastically reducing or scaling back his proposals if he does end up in the White House and perhaps he would be “starting with more” (much like with the $15 minimum wage proposal) and be able to end up with more following negotiations with Congress rather than starting with an idea that’s more moderate in comparison and ending up with a deal that’s worse for the people.

I strongly agree with Sanders on economic issues (he is virtually the same as Clinton on social issues although she seems to be more effective in getting messages about women’s equality and racial equality across) and I think he is a pure, genuine, honest politician who would do his very best to get things done and do things right to change the system in favor of disadvantaged people and would do his very best to reduce economic inequality. On the other hand however, I’m concerned about the fact that he has primarily stuck to just his economic message and hasn’t gone too much in depth about other issues such as foreign policy where I believe Clinton has a much stronger advantage.  There’s also the case that Clinton has a much broader base of support and that Sanders has not been able to move beyond his base of young white liberals although again, that could change if he is able to beat Clinton in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. Those are states with politically active young white voters which gives him an advantage, but he might be able to use a win in those states to gain momentum and share his message with a broader group and the rest of the Democratic Base.

So in summary, there are pros and cons to both and as a supporter of the Democratic Party as a whole I want to do what’s best for the general election and the long term success of the party turning in a more leftward direction and overall. That will almost certainly happen with Sanders, but he has pushed Clinton to the left (her changing views on positions is another topic addressed below) and I don’t think she will be a repeat of the same old, same old. If Sanders wins the nomination I will fully support him and I hope that he would actually be successful in implementing any sort of change rather than simply running to make a point, have a one term presidency and that’s it, back to the status quo. No guarantee that there wouldn’t be a backlash against Clinton with her ending up only serving one term, but I think it’s less likely in her case and I think she would be more likely to even run for a second term (although let’s hope Sanders is in excellent health and lives a million years like Jimmy Carter).

And in terms of the Democratic Party as a whole, I think anyone who is the Democratic candidate is better for the country as I believe the Republican Party would do their best to undo steps taken to ensure the rights of minorities, LGBTQ people, women, the right to health care and they would continue to make the rich richer all of which no Democratic president would do, Sanders or otherwise. 

This is where the comments section of that Gawker article refuting Chait’s NYMag article comes into play. The top comment is a person (presumably a woman) stating how uncomfortable people she refers to as “Bernie Bros” make her feel and that it’s tempting to not vote for him due to that despite agreeing with Sanders to an extent otherwise. Some people piled on calling her stupid, “intellectually dishonest” and said that she shouldn’t be voting at all. She raises a valid point though that while Sanders himself has been staying positive and running a positive campaign free of personal attacks, some of his supporters have been incredibly misogynistic in their attacks against Clinton and instead of engaging in honest discourse against her policies some of them are repeating right wing propaganda against her with specific attacks pertaining to her being a woman.

All candidates have rabid supporters who engage in personal attacks against the other candidate’s supporters, however it does appear more intense this time around and it’s reasonable to make the assessment that it’s because a highly polarizing woman is a serious contender for the White House, therefore some of these attacks have elements of gender bias to them which would not exist if only men were running. Whether or not a candidate’s supporters’ behavior is a valid reason (and “valid reason” is subjective given that we also have voters who will not vote for a candidate on the basis of race or gender which is a much worse reason to dismiss a person) to not vote for a candidate, it’s at least understandable to feel unwanted in this movement if one is a woman and is primarily seeing Sanders supporters as men who are bashing Clinton with gendered attacks and dismiss anyone who doesn’t hate Clinton as being an apologist, corrupt, stupid, etc. (all arguments that can also be made against a man, but in this instance are coupled with sexism).

Just as with “not all men,” this is not all Sanders supporters. I would hope that perhaps in states where he has more support there is a more diverse group of people out there who are campaigning for him, however in New York I personally have primarily encountered those who, for example, are men who solely want Sanders to win in New York to have the satisfaction of beating Clinton in her own state. This came from the official organizer of Sanders centered events to register New Yorkers to vote in the primary elections. It’s unclear if he would have the same vitriol toward a man, but either way that reasoning is absurd, has nothing to do with politics, and again, very off putting to a voter who may be undecided and think that maybe that’s what the Sanders campaign is all about if this is what his “representatives” are saying and this hatred is aimed toward a woman and her supporters with language that is rarely aimed at male candidates. I also volunteered with the Clinton campaign for the same purpose and there was no discussion of Sanders period.

Granted, the guy I was volunteering along with for Sanders affiliated voter registration expressed discomfort with the level of hatred the organizer expressed toward Clinton and when I told another Sanders supporter who introduced me to some additional economic ideas Sanders has, he also stated that he does not like those tactics and does not hate Clinton. But for every one of those guys who is willing to be reasonable and take a step back from the personal attacks or is unwilling to engage in them, there’s another guy who wants women who are on the fence to shut up. I have encountered those who aren’t even willing to listen to women who are expressing ideas that are in line with Sanders’. It’s valid to feel discouraged and maybe join the side where one feels more welcome if there are only slight reasons for why one would choose one candidate over another.

And Clinton is a flawed candidate. I think she has made missteps such as invoking September 11th when asked about her campaign contributions from Wall Street. Her ties to Wall Street in general are of concern when it comes to the debate regarding money in politics. There is the fact that she has changed her views over time and Sanders has been more consistent (such as with gay rights). That does not bother me as much personally since she is not the only politician Democratic or otherwise who has ever changed her mind on issues (Obama is an example of one and he explained his reasonings), but it’s fair for that to be off putting for someone else. I also think her criticisms of Sanders’ proposed health plan are out of line as I believe they have similar goals, just different plans for how to get there. There are plenty of other political reasons not to like her that can be found, but the discussion should stick to her policies. Not her appearance, not how she talks, not her husband.

My experiences are purely anecdotal as are the Gawker commenter’s and I do not know what exactly she has experienced, only what I have observed. I have not conducted research into how Sanders supporters across the country feel about women in general or Clinton based on the fact she is a woman. It’s important to note though that the commenter wasn’t stating that she literally would not vote for Sanders based on his supporters. She was just expressing a thought based on her experiences and was immediately called stupid. But feeling that way is a natural reaction to feeling continually unwelcome even when one wants to feel support for a movement and some of the reactions to her statements only reinforced the idea that women’s perceptions are generally dismissed by men as stupid.

Ultimately it really does come down to vote who you want to vote for and as long as it’s a rational, thought out position then who cares? And women are capable of making rational, thought out decisions based on their experiences. It’s absurd that that has to be defended in 2016. I am hoping once the negativity of the primary dies down supporters of whomever can support each other with a common goal to defeat bigotry and intolerance.

Bad Feminist: The Strip Club Edition

No, that is not an updated version of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Simply my idea of a clever title for this blog entry. My purpose though is to ask whether I am a bad feminist for feeling depressed in a strip club, is that disrespectful to the women who work there and would I feel depressed in another setting in which I am watching people in an occupation I would rather not do myself.

For a little context, a few weeks ago I went out with some friends in Williamsburg and we ended up in a fine establishment in East Williamsburg whose name I will not mention here, but it should be easily determined by using Google where we were. We spent about an hour there, watched the ladies dance behind the bar and my friends were very insistent on purchasing me a lap dance (thanks Tashay and Gabe if you ever read this).

I think this club should get a lot of credit for promoting body positivity. The women were of all different backgrounds, shapes and sizes which I think is great because it would be very boring to go to a club where all the ladies were plastic, blonde barbie dolls. I also think it’s great in general to show a wide range of beauty because there should not be any one definition of beauty, especially when it comes to the fact that barely any women truly fill the skinny, blonde stereotype of Western Beauty.

The women also possessed amazing strength and stamina while dancing, primarily on a pole which requires an amazing amount of flexibility and upper arm strength. Pole dancing is a legitimate work out and should not be solely associated with clubs, and in clubs I think women should be celebrated for their strength just as much as their sexiness.

What made me feel sad was when I did the lap dance. Nothing at all wrong with that in concept, it was a great experience and I had a nice chat with the woman who danced about how she trains and her style inspiration. What bothered me was, despite the fact that there was a large Do Not Touch The Women sign in the lap dance area (it was only semi private so other people receiving dances could be seen by me and anyone walking past in the back) there were multiple men touching the women. Maybe some of the women don’t mind, perhaps I am projecting my own personal hang ups onto them and I am sorry for being judgmental and being concerned about breaking the rules. It just made me sad that a basic rule to protect their personal safety was being violated, so what else is being violated?

My friend pointed out that it’s not really any different from an unprotected fast food worker which is absolutely true. Fast food workers in the US, and other low wage workers, are also subjected to potential and actual bodily harm due to basic work place safety being violated and that bothers me a lot too. I think serious reforms need to be made in all of these work places. I think it was just much more obvious and in your face in a strip club environment where workers are quite literally putting their bodies on the line for more money. There was a bouncer present and other male employees so I certainly hope that they intervene if there is an unruly customer who goes too far. It’s just extremely unpleasant to feel violated, and I certainly hope that I am just projecting or speculating or thinking of worst case scenarios and the women who work here never feel violated. I just thought of potentially feeling that way on a regular basis and that’s what made me sad.

I hope that this place where we went is a good employer, but for all good employers there are crappy ones which is why I think work like this needs to be de-stigmatized and dancers need to be protected in the same way any other bar or restaurant worker is. From what I understand dancers do not have to receive minimum wage and receive their entire pay via tips and selling dances (I can’t say what the specifics are in regards to this club in Williamsburg, I am speaking in generalities) and I think that can lead to dangerous situations if a man is allowed to potentially violate a woman so she can get a larger tip. Unfortunately this idea is unlikely be on anyone’s campaign platform, but hey, progress.

I am conflicted as to whether or not this makes me a bad feminist. I do not want to judge anyone who pursues this kind of work as I don’t think it’s right to look down on a grocery bagger, or a cashier or a fast food worker either. There are concerns that I have, but they can be applied to other occupations. I would also be disappointed if someone judged my work or made false assumptions so it’s the exact same thing. Perhaps I need to make another trip to the strip club to get a more accurate idea of what it’s like, or find an interview somewhere. Of course every one’s experience is different, I know there is no one size fits all answer to my question and my personal experience is just one small anecdote.

I wouldn’t return on my own, but I wouldn’t say no if someone invited me and I went to get a fresh perspective.

2016 Democratic Nomination, or, Hillary v. Bernie

Before I get into all of my thoughts about this, I am keeping this as Hillary versus Bernie as I’m fairly certain Joe Biden is sitting this out for certain and unfortunately no one cares about Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb.

As an aside, Jim Webb is from my home state and I remember when he defeated George Allen in the 2006 Senate election. That really was a big deal and I am extremely proud that Virginia is becoming a blue state now. It’s definitely not something to take for granted, Virginia remains a swing state, but I think it’s making progress in the right direction. After that Jim Webb just kind of disappeared but I suppose he’ll be resurrected for the first Democratic debate at least.

So as for Hillary and Bernie. I’ve admired Hillary for a long time, before I had any clue who Bernie Sanders is and I voted for her in the 2008 Democratic primary (disclaimer: I think Obama has been a great president and I was never anti-Obama). I think she is one of our most accomplished first ladies besides Eleanor Roosevelt (who maybe would have run for public office or president had those options been open for her at that time). Hillary is not perfect, she is a flawed, complex human being who has made mistakes. I think as a politician who happens to be a woman however, and a Clinton at that- plenty of Bill haters out there, she is relentlessly attacked over and over for her mistakes in the way either a male politician wouldn’t or maybe it is because of her high profile and connections with her husband. Probably a bit of both and of course Kevin McCarthy, likely new Speaker of the House, did openly admit that the Benghazi hearings are politically motivated.

I think the email problem she had is bad and I do think her campaign and she herself handled it poorly. I think she should have admitted responsibility much earlier and taken responsibility earlier for any potential security breaches. But there isn’t any evidence that she actually endangered national security, for all we know her servers were safer than US Govt ones which have been hacked in the past. And I wonder how absolutely no one else in the State Department or any other branch of the federal government noticed or said something if her actions truly were illegal (it seems as if they were not despite the investigation).

I can understand how her actions make her seem untrustworthy and like she’s hiding something, but while that was sketchy and I don’t understand why she did that, I don’t think it totally disqualifies her from consideration as what she did was not criminal and I do not think she had any nefarious intent.

I think her ties to big business also make her suspect. I admire Bernie Sanders for taking a stance against corporations and Wall Street and I admire him for sticking true to his principles and only accepting grassroots donations. I think he is among the purest of the candidates in terms of his stances and views on things. I am just concerned about him being just “one man” though. One man cannot change American politics, unfortunately our system is just not built like that. Perhaps our political system is irretrievably broken, but I honestly think one has to work from inside the system to dismantle it and he is just too far outside of the system to make a serious impact. It’s very telling that in his 25 years in the Senate he did not have a single bill made into law (correct me if I am wrong on that, but I have not been able to find one from reviewing his Senate record) and also no politicians have endorsed him, including politicians from his home state.

I am also concerned about his ability to reach beyond his base which is young, white, liberal students primarily. I think it’s amazing that he is reaching large crowds, but the crowds seem to be all the same demographic and his polling numbers among people who are of different backgrounds and age groups is pretty dismal. His poll numbers have certainly risen and perhaps if he does succeed in winning a primary he will attract the attention and get his message across to other groups of people. I just find it ironic though that he has not been able to win over other demographics even though it could be argued that he would fight the hardest for Americans who are hardest hit by economic disparities who are disproportionately black and Hispanic.

He and Hillary have pretty much the same platform for the most part though and I feel like Bernie has been pushing Hillary to the left (and maybe the party as a whole). I think his impact is definitely needed and his voice needs to be heard. I am just worried that he would alienate the most conservative Democrats or perhaps mobilize angry Republicans to come out in droves and vote against him. Or if he did somehow win the presidency I’m concerned that the Republicans would block every single thing he tried to pass similar to like what they tried to do with Obama except they would be even more rabid with someone like Bernie in office.

One point I want to make about their platforms being almost identical. Bernie has been consistent in his views for decades which for a politician is a remarkable achievement. And why I think he is the purest and most genuine candidate. But I don’t want to fault Hillary too much for either taking a long time to decide on her point of view or changing her mind. Yes, being against gay marriage is and was wrong, but we applaud it when someone we know in real life is persuaded to change their worldview to a more open minded and accepting one, so why be so upset when a politician does the same? I don’t think it necessarily is cynical pandering, for all we know she really did change her mind after listening and talking to people. Being on the right side NOW is what matters.

So, all in all, I am for BOTH of them, but ultimately I want what I think is best for the country and I really, really think that all the Republican candidates would try to turn back the clock and eliminate any progress America has made. I want whoever will defeat the Republican candidate and whoever will be most likely to successfully stand up to Congress and get real laws to help people passed. Despite the fact that Hillary has more connections to big business and Wall Street, I don’t think that makes her inherently evil or bad. I think it is possible to be wealthy and still have the best interests of the country in mind. And with over 20 years of fighting some nasty battles I do think Hillary has it in her to get through this campaign and a possible presidency. We’ll see what happens. It’s a long road to 2016 and any number of surprises could happen between now and then.

Sandra Bland

“Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees.”

The Bible verse Harper Lee’s new book Go Set A Watchman is titled after is Isaiah 21:6 which is a prophesy about the destruction of Babylon, a city which in the Bible is described as being without morals and full of hypocrisy. According to Wayne Flynt, a Baptist minister quoted in the New York Daily NewsHarper Lee was comparing her own hometown of Monroeville, Alabama (fictionalized as Maycomb) to Babylon as Monroeville, like many towns in the segregated South not to mention the rest of America, had racism deeply ingrained in their culture while trying to retain the polite fiction that racism did not exist. The “watchman” is supposed to serve as a moral compass. In To Kill A Mockingbird Atticus Finch is the town’s moral compass fighting against racism while defending a black man, Tom Robinson, against charges that he raped a white woman. However in Watchman Atticus now disparages the town’s black residents, uses racial slurs, insults the NAACP and attends “citizen’s council” meetings dedicated to preserving institutionalized racism. He is no longer the moral compass and Scout is disgusted trying to come to terms with her past and her town’s racist heritage.

It should have been clear from the outset that racism has not disappeared from America’s landscape since the Civil Rights Movement, however it should be shockingly clear now from the murders and false arrests of men and women who are black that the problem of institutionalized racism is persistent and lethal.

By singling out Sandra Bland I do not mean to imply that any other’s life is not meaningful. The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tanisha Anderson (a more comprehensive list can be found here) are all horrific tragedies that would have been avoided if these police officers did not have some sort of fear of people who look different from them that caused them to shoot or use excessive violence. This is the more insidious type of racism that is not immediately apparent as most of these officers probably interacted fine in social settings and in daily life with people of a different race, but when confronted or in a situation in which they had control and power they reacted with unnecessary violence and a lack of consideration for the humanity of the person they were supposed to help. A police officer really is supposed to de-escalate the situation, pulling out a gun or using physical force is only an absolute last resort and there is no indication in any of these cases that excessive force was necessary.

I hope that the death of Sandra Bland is not completely in vain and wakes people up the same way the death of Emmett Till woke people up during the Civil Rights Era which we really are still in as full civil rights for all have still has not been achieved. I find it absolutely horrific that a young woman could be singled out for a minor lane change mistake, tossed in a jail cell with no consideration for her prior mental health issues, kept in there for three days and be driven to suicide simply because some cop was on a power trip and disliked the color of her skin. I cannot even begin to imagine what was going through her mind when she took her life, but I can understand the feeling of one’s life being destroyed by something like a potential job loss due to the arrest and feeling completely isolated in that jail cell for three days over something so trivial. And it’s soul destroying to think that if she had looked different this would have gone differently and she would still be alive.

White people, myself included, need to take a step back and become aware of and listen to stories like this and use genuine empathy to understand a completely different experience. Also to stop being so uncomfortable and defensive and deny that racism exists. Of course it exists and we are not in the idealized world of To Kill a Mockingbird, we live in the reality of Go Set A Watchman in which there is a deep, persistent problem of institutionalized racism which will not be stamped out until it is fully acknowledged and remedied by the people who put it in place.

There are plenty of people who are speaking out who have a white audience, such as Kendrick Lamar in music and Ta-Nehisi Coates in literature, but how many white people are truly listening to their message? I would hope readers of Coates’ new book Between the World and Me are, but how many white kids are listening to Lamar and fully understanding the meaning of his lyrics?

I think Jon Stewart hurling the F word at Wyatt Cenac sums up how the majority of white people feel about being accused of racism. It is deeply hurtful and the absolute worst thing a white person can be called as I honestly don’t think many white people intend to be racist and are not overtly racist, but actually making some sort of change is necessary to fully move beyond the bonds of institutional racism which is different from overt racism. Action can be taken such as electing officials who support oversight of the police, getting rid of laws which disproportionately disenfranchise voters who are not white, speaking out when confronted with a racist situation, dismantling monuments which celebrate racism and taking responsibility for ones words and actions which are racist, intentional or not. Sadly the constitution protects the rights of the blatantly racist such as David Duke who has popped up in the news again after the recent shooting in Louisiana, and all of those other KKK and Neo-Nazi idiots, but thankfully the rest of us have the right to protest against them and show them how stupid they are.

That said, that does not protect against the dangerously racist such as Dylann Roof and the dangerous racism of those who are supposed to “protect and to serve.” Both are different types of racism (blatant racism vs. institutional) but the results are fatal none the less. This is why America needs to wake up, stop towing the line and trying to appease the racists and take steps to protect the lives of its own citizens no matter what their skin color. Admitting what is happening and taking responsibility is the only way we can do that.

Is it worth it to blog without tons of followers?

A question that was recently raised. Is it worth it to blog, tweet, broadcast, etc. if one has barely any followers? And how does one define “enough” followers to make it worth it? Hundreds, thousands? Where does one draw the line as to when to give up?

There is no clear cut answer of course, it is all personal preference and how can we judge if someone loves to write or talk, but barely has an audience. That is not necessarily indicative of poor quality although of course those with the best and most interesting things to say do rise to the top.

The field of social media and tweeting and blogging and facebooking is just so crowded now that it can feel impossible to break the barrier and gain any sort of significant following. But even if someone does have a large following, how many of those followers actually pay attention and care? Out of all the followers I have on Twitter I only interact with a handful on a consistent basis.

That handful though consists of real friends, and if real friends are interested in what I have to say and engaging in a dialogue then of course that can be more meaningful than random clicks from strangers. It is always nice though to hear from someone new though just to know that someone is paying attention.

It’s not new at all to point out that social media has been creating entirely new forms of social interactions for the past decade or so. It’s just absurd that we have reached the point where it is no longer enough for only friends and loved ones to want to hear from us, we want the whole world to hear, but unfortunately the reality (to paraphrase The Smiths) is that the world isn’t listening the vast majority of the time. That doesn’t mean we have to shut up though. Just accept small victories if words can touch even a few people.

St. Vincent- Digital Witness

If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me

What’s the point of doing anything?

Matt Walsh the blogger, not to be confused with Matt Walsh the UCB comedian, has a problem with Hillary Clinton running for president as a woman.

Matt Walsh is a blogger who seems to have a tenuous grasp on reality based on some of his entries, such as this one for example (link below this paragraph). It’s completely fine to dislike the Democratic Party but why resort to lies that can be easily fact checked and why engage in ad hominem attacks? Why can’t he be secure in disliking her just because he disagrees with her? What does her gender have to do with it? Why mention that she wears pantsuits? Why the gratuitous insults against Barack Obama in a blog entry about Hillary Clinton?

http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/no-it-isnt-time-for-a-woman-to-be-president/

Below are my point by point thoughts after reading Matt Walsh’s thoughts.

1) Why is not driving a car relevant to being president?

2) Why assume all sorts of malicious motivations on her end for running for president? How does he know that’s not what Ted Cruz is thinking for example? Marco Rubio perhaps? Why must she have devious reasons for running for president but no one else?

3) Why accuse Obama of choreographing a stage play about his life? His books were written in 1995 and 2006 respectively and I don’t think Obama as president is very different from how he comes across in his autobiographies. Could anyone seriously think he spent around 13 years orchestrating a “character” to run for president?

4) How does one define an “everyday American”? There are 50 incredibly diverse states with hundreds of ethnicities represented and a huge income gap in this nation. Using that logic a very wealthy person is as “everyday” as a poor person.

5) Why is it a problem that she has sought a career as a lawyer and a politician? Those are also the only occupations held by Ted Cruz.

6) If her speaking fees are a problem why are organizations willing to pay these fees? Rudy Giuliani charges around $100,000 per speech and George W. Bush $110,000. Maybe Hillary’s a better speaker and can charge more. For the record, none of the fees paid to any of these speakers came from student tuition money. Colleges and foundations generally have funds set aside specifically for these events.

7)This guy says Hillary requested classified FBI articles illegally and then links to a Wikipedia page stating that a staffer named Craig Livingstone did that and no senior White House officials including Hillary were involved according to several independent investigations.

8) It’s unfortunate that Bill and Hillary posed with a guy who had been convicted on drug charges but Nixon posed with Elvis and the Clintons returned the man’s campaign contributions.

9) How is comparing her to Aileen Wuornos anything but a meaningless cheap shot? Does he know that Cruella de Vil is fictional?

10) This is not the first time in history a woman has run for president. Victoria Woodhull ran in 1872

11) Why would Matt Walsh assume that African Americans voted for Obama based on race? That demographic leans Democratic in the first place. Many African Americans also voted for Bill Clinton because what, he plays the saxophone? It’s flat out racist to assume that African Americans will vote for a candidate based solely on race rather than policy. Does Matt Walsh think up until now we’ve only had a white president because white people would only vote for white people? Sadly that is actually true to an extent, but generally only among those with Matt Walsh’s conservative political beliefs, not members of the Democratic Party. On that note it’s sexist to assume a woman would vote for a woman solely because she’s a woman. I am a woman who would not vote for Margaret Thatcher or Sarah Palin.

12) Can someone please tell me where all these people saying “It’s time for a woman” are? I think Hillary is just the most engaging candidate from the Democratic party at this point and I haven’t heard anecdotally or otherwise that her gender has anything to do with that.

13) How has she been handed everything by men? How did Bill Clinton win a senate election for her? How is it her fault that a male president nominated her for Secretary of State? Does Matt Walsh think there’s some other way to become Secretary of State?

14) His opinion of her as embodying negative female CEO stereotypes is just sexist. One, those traits of hers he thinks she embodies are merely his opinion and two, can he explain what negative stereotypes of male CEOs are an come up with male politicians who fit that mold? Would he describe Al Gore’s woodeness in the same way and with the same vitriol?

15) That’s unfortunate that Hillary has taken donations from Middle Eastern countries where women are oppressed but then shouldn’t it also be a serious problem that the Bushes are family friends with members of the Saudi royal family for example?

16) It’s unfortunate that Hillary did defend a rapist as part of her job as a defense attorney, but it was her job, she was required to defend him by law as she was a court appointed attorney and could not say no. From what I understand she was trying to cope as she could in the situation. This is also a “she said-she said” case as there’s no way to verify if Hillary did actually lie about the victim.

17) Matt Walsh keeps linking to the same stories while going on about how Hillary is a rape apologist, liar, hated, corrupt, etc. If she’s this awful why link to multiple stories about the same thing? Shouldn’t there be more examples out there? Not just Benghazi and the rape case she handled approximately 40 years ago? The link that’s titled she’s “hated by the people who work for her” links to an unrelated article about Benghazi. Really?

18) I don’t think he could walk down the street and find a random woman qualified to be president. Or man or anyone for that matter.

Internet Trolls Who Apparently Hate Women

First two things to address. One) I realize my previous blog post came across as somewhat rushed, especially toward the end. That’s because I wrote it at work and just wanted to get it done which yes, is bad writing, but I hope my point was still understandable. Two) I promise to diversify the topics I’ve been writing about recently so they’re not just about feminism. It’s just a topic that has been on my mind recently.

Anyway I recently came across a very disturbing Twitter account which I will not link to because why feed the trolls, which was essentially a rant about how women are demanding all these rights and women are so confusing and why can’t this guy (the author of the account) get laid. Instead of soul searching and perhaps working on his social skills this guy just goes on a Twitter rampage about how terrible all women are and even more scary there are some veiled references to killing women although not outright threats.

I know these men are very much in the minority, but it still boggles my mind that anyone can be so full of hate and blame an entire gender on their problems instead of taking a deep breath, stepping back and trying to improve themselves and get help to have a happier more fulfilling life.

Everybody wants companionship and I understand that it is very frustrating to not be able to be with who you want to be with but move on. Move on, move on, move on. It is hard and maybe therapy is necessary if severe personal problems are part of the issue, but there is absolutely no shame in needing to seek help. There is shame in being a hateful troll who cannot accept responsibility and hides behind their computer screen to spew hatred against entire groups of people.

Gone Girl and Bad Feminist

One of my favorite films of 2014 was Gone Girl and of course I’ve read the book by Gillian Flynn as well. Both have attracted criticism for allegedly being misogynist and Gillian Flynn has been accused of being one of those whackadoodle feminists who hates men.

This article makes no such accusations, but is an example of the discussion happening in the media about the film http://www.vulture.com/2014/10/yes-gone-girl-has-a-woman-problem.html

That article hits the nail on the head that this book is not misogynist because it is about the actions of one specific screwed up sociopathic women. Yes, her husband is pretty pathetic and her old college boyfriend is a creep, but none of the men are portrayed as being as seriously out of control as she is (well maybe Desi, and somewhat ironically both are out of control in their desire for complete control over every aspect of and over the people in their lives). And not all of the women in the film are portrayed as destructive man haters. Nick has a devoted sister Margot and the lead detective, Rhonda Boney, ends up on Nick’s side and wants him to give evidence against Amy and he refuses.

Gone Girl is solely about one woman’s worst impulses and how she gives into them to get out of her boring suburban marriage. The only aspect of the book (which is also in the film) that truly delves into feminism is the “Cool Girl” monologue which can be read in the article I linked to above.

It is absolutely true that women go out of their way to take an interest in what men like, but rarely do men do the same. There is no male equivalent of the “cool girl.” I am guilty of it myself and so are most women. I have no idea why more men don’t do the same aside from the fact that women are conditioned to please people and men must not feel the same desire to do so. Obviously that is a gross generalization. There are many good and thoughtful men out there and stereotyping men harms feminism and leads to the concept of feminists being manhaters.

That brings me to Bad Feminist, the 2014 book by Roxane Gay. The title pretty much says it all. It’s a collection of essays about not living up to the ideal of being a perfect feminist. We are all flawed human beings and it is impossible to live up to one’s ideals and convictions one hundred percent of the time.

I consider myself to be a bad feminist because I have pandered to the interests of a man although in my defense I wouldn’t go so far as to completely lie about having an interest in something. I have also allowed a man to make me feel bad about the clothes I wear, I have allowed a man to dismiss my feelings, etc. I have also been inconsiderate of a woman’s perspective and feelings and for that I am sorry.

Sometimes I do stand up and say something, sometimes I feel it’s not worth it to argue, sometimes I just don’t know what to say. All I can do is try to be better, not beat myself up over past mistakes, forgive those who may have inadvertently upset me and try to understand where they may have been coming from.

As to how Bad Feminist related to Gone Girl, I think part of being a bad feminist is not understanding that women can have angry feelings but it does not mean that they hate men or anyone else. I have been called hateful for having complex feelings toward a person which I found very hurtful because it is ok for a woman or anyone else to feel upset or angry about a situation. Those feelings do not equal hatred.

In essence, I just have to say that I love how film and literature inspires these discussions. And I enjoy seeing complex non stereotypical female characters in movies and reading about them in books even if they represent our very worst selves.