Being a Woman in America, Today

So … take 5. Honestly, I have had an arc in my mind for this blog. I was going to start out with personal “tips & tricks” that everyone can employ in your own lives, so you’re less-at-risk of being taken advantage of, and more at risk of finding your own personal happiness; then I was going to move toward addressing social issues that we might be able to work together to change. I have about four or five blogs pre-written in my head at any one time. Yesterday, I went through four before I threw in the towel; no matter what I wanted (or thought I wanted) to write about, the words just wouldn’t show up. These lovely blogs I’ve had dancing in my head forever just — poof! — vanished. I pushed back from the desk, decided to walk away and wait for this morning so I could figure out what was wanting to be written.

Last night, sitting on the deck with the hubs, the above title popped in my head. I groaned, then decided to just do it and so … here we are. This is going to break the arc; don’t worry, I plan on resuming it shortly. But seriously, what kind of SJW would I be if I let the events of this past week go unremarked?

To begin, I want it understood that I don’t much care which side of the political divide you feel you need to defend or represent. However, I work with, and correspond with, and personally know many many women for whom this past week has been traumatic and painful, bringing back all the horror and fear and pain of past issues which have been dragged back out into the light. I actually have a very strong opinion about all of this, which I’ll get to toward the end of the blog.

So, to begin! What I’ve (had) decided (for me) to do today is write about the women I know. The women who share their lives with me; the women whose hopes, dreams, and fears I’ve been privileged enough to learn, to encourage, and to help put to rest.

For this particular blog I’m going to give some demographic information so that you can fully understood the perspective I’m writing from. First of all, I was raised as pure white trash. I currently (with my husband) live at a low-to-middle middle class level — or maybe we’re considered working class? — we have enough money to have a comfortable home, pay bills, eat well; not enough to really travel or buy fancy cars or anything like that. We sometimes find ourselves living paycheck to paycheck; we need cars that won’t fall apart if the bubblegum disintegrates, and honestly, I’d really love a vacay. Just sayin’.

I am a natural-born woman. I say this because my experiences only include the female perspective. I can commiserate and sympathize with men, but I can’t understand the world through your eyes cuz, like, ya know … I ain’t got the right equipment, and never have had. So the views you will see are the views of a woman who’s been female all her life, and identifies very strongly as a female.

History – Me & My family

I’m going to start with my mother, since she was the first woman I knew. My mother, who was horribly abused (translate, raped regularly) by brothers, uncles, grandfather, step-father … you name it. She met and seduced my father when she was 15, getting pregnant with me at 16 and delivering me at 17.

Next, naturally, I must speak of myself. Myself who was beaten and severely abused by both parents. Interestingly enough, in my life, it wasn’t my father who was my primary abuser, it was my mother. Sexual as well as physical and emotional; her love language only knew one means of expression, sadly. At 14, I was raped by a friends’ uncle. When I became pregnant, my father flew home from S. Korea, where he was stationed, and informed me that his whore daughter would not be delivering a bastard child in his household. I could have an abortion or I could go live in a home for unwed mothers. I had an abortion. I won’t talk about that, or the aftermath.

Later I married a man who told me “Hey, I know you have issues, but I’m a man, and I have needs. You’re my wife, so it’s your job to take care of those needs.” This, when I was trying to work my way through a lifetime of heinous abuse. The last therapist I worked with, around 2010/2011, was shocked as I was relating some of what I grew up with. Her jaw dropped, her face became pained, and she asked me, “You do realize that what you’re talking about would, by most countries, be considered torture, right?” But thats ok, hubby dear; I’ll put my issues to the side and spread my legs for ya. I mean, you’re “The Man” in the house, right?

From Husband #1 I went to the single life for a couple of years, then met someone and got involved with him. Throughout our relationship, I was constantly chided for being too fat. Now, he wasn’t all that attractive himself, but the burden of a happy relationship obviously fell on me, because I was female and too fat.

From there I got myself involved with a man who took pride (not when we met, not for two years) in being a sadist. Specifically a sexual sadist, and if you don’t know exactly what that means, you can read this; in short, it’s not about deviant sexual practices but rather, deriving sexual pleasure from mental, physical and/or sexual torture of another person. I survived 10 years with that man; I didn’t escape unscathed. It’s taken me about eight years, now, to move past the damage he inflicted, but every day is further away from that time, and it just gets better.

In between all this, I found myself attacked, physically, by men on three occasions. Once, when I was seeking to protect a friend who was being targeted by two guys who were bound and determined to have fun with her in the parking lot, after she left the bar we were hanging out in (I was driving her home). Once, by someone who thought he was God’s gift to me, and all I had to do was lay there and let him prove it. Never mind the fact that I kept trying to walk away, and walk away, and walk away … the third time by a guy I was dating. We’d been out that night, then came back to my place and sang songs together while he strummed his guitar. Lovely, wonderful evening; until he tried to pick me up and carry me to the bedroom, and I protested. My house took a beating; we won’t talk about him, or me.

None of the above incidents got reported to the police. My familial abuse I actually did report when I was hospitalized as a teen; from there, we had family group meetings before we met with counselors, where I was coached very carefully on what I could and could not discuss. The rape by my friends’ uncle wasn’t reported because my parents didn’t want to believe it was rape; my father was out of the country at that time, and my mother was out bar-hopping with her bestie the night it happened. So, believing it was rape might be a tad inconvenient. The first husband? What’s to report; he was just “being a man,” right? He didn’t actually force himself on me … and my second husband? Did I mention he’s also really really smart, and a classic narcissist? In short, everything that I did during our marriage (except of course for the date-rape drugs he fed me, which I cannot prove) could be said to have been my own choice. The three other occasions? I can hear it now: “If you (or your friend) hadn’t been giving off the wrong signals this wouldn’t have happened” or “If you had been at home where you belonged …”

My sister was beaten regularly by her first real boyfriend, the father of her two children. Beyond that I don’t know; she was eight years my junior and we operated in separate spheres. Further she was killed when she was 30; at that time, she’d been in prison, back out, fought a custody battle for her kids across the nation, then worked 2-3 jobs at a time as well as putting herself through school. There were things we discussed … and things we didn’t.

My cousin was raped by her father; when she talked about it, she was told she was making it up. He later married another woman, and was reported for rape/molestation of her daughters. He was cleared of the charges because the daughters were afraid to testify.

My youngest daughter was date-raped when she was 15. A male friend picked her up, took her for a ride (many many miles away from the house), then told her “If you want me to drive you back home, have sex with me.” She was too far away from home to even know where she was, and this was before cell phones were prevalent. She was utterly at his mercy. She never reported it because she believed that she “consented.”

My oldest daughter? I think, and I hope, she made it through without all of this. But so far, just in my family, we’re talking about five of six women who’ve lived through physical and/or emotional and/or sexual abuse, all within one family unit. We’re talking three generations, but a common thread exists that crosses the generations to wreak havoc on our lives.

My friends

Alrighty, on to other women in my friend circle. We have P, beaten and raped throughout her childhood; when she spoke to her parents about it she was ordered to keep it hush-hush. Her abusers were family and non-family; she was essentially “passed around.”

We have D, whose second husband tried to cut her daughter out of her womb when she was eight months pregnant with her. Her daughter, now 12, will carry forever the scar on her back, which she received from that event. D was seen in the hospital, obviously; when she told the medical staff and later the police what happened, it became her word against his. He was never charged for assault with a deadly weapon, with attempted murder of mother and child.

We have D2, who was out with a girlfriend a couple years ago. Girlfriend went to get the car and pull it around while D2 paid the bill; by the time D2 got outside, she found her girlfriend bent over the car, her panties down around her ankles, with a man about to rape her. D2 clubbed him, got him off her friend, and got them both in the car and to safety. This was never reported because D2 didn’t know if she caused serious harm to the rapist; he wasn’t moving when she left. She was afraid she’d be charged with assault or, possibly, murder.

We have V who, at 14, was in a foster home with her sister, after her father “sold” them to a couple who then abandoned them. V ended up making a deal with the father; you see, he was being inappropriate with her then-12-year-old sister, who had MD. She would do anything he wanted, as long as he left her sister alone. This was never reported because he was, in her mind, someone that the government “gave” her and her sister to, and obviously if the government approved of him, then reporting him wouldn’t do any good.

We have O, who lived as straight-and-narrow a life as you could possibly imagine, who was raped by an acquaintance’s boyfriend during a wedding rehearsal/reception. They were in a hotel when the lights went off and stayed off; he took advantage of the situation. She never reported it because she was too ashamed, and because she knew the reputation this male enjoyed. She did not feel that she would be believed.

We have P2, who lived in an abusive marriage for 24 years. He terrorized her, threatened to kill her and her children, and was an all-around bad dude. When she talked to family and friends about what she was living with, they scoffed at her. “He’s a good man,” they told her. “You just need to work on being a better wife.”

We have D3, a professional bartender as well as the director of a county government HR department. A year ago she was out with friends; she knows all the tricks. Somehow, she still ended up roofied, her phone and wallet taken while she was left behind a bar miles away from the last place she recalled being. So far as she knows, the phone and wallet being taken was all that happened to her; but she doesn’t know for sure that she wasn’t assaulted. She believes she wasn’t — I mean, no physical aches and pains indicating she was — but she doesn’t know what they did or did not do to her.

What’s It All Mean?

The point I wanted to make with the above information is two-fold. First of all, of the women I know, most of us have suffered some form of abuse, at least once in our lives, at the hands of a man. Secondly, the ones who actually did report (or have it reported due to circumstances) were not believed, were not given the ability to see their transgressors punished. Not one of the cases above, including the woman who nearly had a baby cut out of her womb was believable enough for the police or law enforcement officials to charge, much less prosecute. So next time you wanna ask “Why wait,” re-read what I’ve written out here for you above. Seriously — why report? Until our country adopts a stance that doesn’t put the blame for rape and physical assault on the woman’s shoulders, what good does it do for us to report? If we’re young, we’re already terrified; who’s going to believe us? Most of our perpetrators actually play off of that. “I’m a nurse/doctor/police officer/high-level manager/blah blah blah. No one’s gonna believe you over me!” So, is it inconceivable that women will refuse to report, when we know women who have reported, and have seen nothing come of it?

But that’s not really the point I want to make, either. All the above? It’s been laying ground work so that I can make the point I want to make. That point is simple:

If women keep on tearing apart other women for political reasons then we will never be able to achieve any parity in justice for the crimes committed against us.

Divided We Fall

Our country currently has two major sources of news: So-called “legitimate” news brokers, and Social Media. I say so-called “legitimate” because it’s nearly impossible to watch the news, nowadays, without seeing information related to “What’s trending?” in Social Media. Seems there’s a huge crossover, but that’s a blog for another time.

What I’ve seen this past week is partisanship that has created a gulf, a chasm, between women. On one hand, we have “The Conservatives” falling in line with the party rhetoric because, well, they’re “The Conservatives.” Anything that indicates harm to anyone in their party must be met and challenged, regardless of whether we have suffered through it ourselves. On this line of the divide, we have women proudly denouncing Dr. Ford, because “I lived through terrible stuff, but I didn’t come crying about it 36 years later!”

On the other side, we have those nasty, stinking “Liberals” who’re just hell-bent on doing anything to keep another yucky Conservative outta the Judge’s seat. They’ll lie, they’ll obfuscate, and they’ll make up stories just to keep a nominee from getting nominated.

Seriously. These are pretty much the views we carry about other women, based solely on what we believe their political affiliations are. Now, I don’t really consider myself as belonging to either party; I absolutely consider myself standing outside of the rhetoric. Further, neither party currently in power is willing to do what’s right, rather seeking to do what’s convenient; for themselves, for the power they’re building, for their party’s ability to help them grow that power. Until this changes, I cannot back either party. Elections are fun; I have to actually be more educated about where people stand, so I can try to make the best choice possible for the outcome I wish to see. I consider myself conservative, but mainly because my views are simple: The government needs to keep itself out of my home. Out of my bedroom, out of my pocket-book (for anything beyond infrastructure). Out of my business, unless I do something that brings harm to another person. This means I don’t think the government should be legislating morality. I further don’t believe the government should be constantly delving into my pocketbook to pay for programs that are useless — and prove themselves useless and open to manipulation regularly. I am seen, however, as being liberal, because I absolutely refuse to think of people as anything more than people. I don’t care if they’re black, white, foreign, national, gay, straight, transgendered … whatever. I don’t care. The things I care about are their actions toward me, and toward other people. There really isn’t a party for people like me … yet.

The point that I really want to make here is that, almost across the board, the women I’ve listed above (friends, not my immediate family) are like me. It’s not that we’re apolitical; it’s that we have lives to live, and current politics just don’t really do anything for us. We are, largely, lower- and middle-middle-class people. We are more interested in the fact that prices for services and products keep going up, while we keep getting so-called “Merit Raises” of 2.5% or less. We generally have 1-2 children per household, until families blend and remarry and then who knows what you end up with? We want schools that teach our children, not try to reeducate them. We want to eat food that doesn’t poison us. We want to be able to afford to put our kids in extracurricular activities, without breaking the bank to do so. We want to stop seeing ourselves having to work more and more, just to afford less and less, every year. We are enraged that corporations and government are keeping in place a system where the rich keep getting richer, and the not-rich keep getting poorer … regardless of how bloody hard we work.

We also, desperately, want to see our home, our country, change direction. We want to live without fearing that opening our mouths will cause us to be reviled. We want equity in treatment; that doesn’t mean we want more or better treatment than our male counterparts have. It just means we don’t want to live in fear. We don’t want to raise our daughters to be afraid. We don’t want to have to continue going to work, knowing our male counterpart who is doing the exact same job and has the exact same time in service is making more money than we make. We want to not be harassed professionally or personally by our male counterparts. We want to be seen as exactly what we are — human beings worthy of being treated with grace, dignity, respect, and courtesy. You know, the opposite of harassment.

Why we have allowed ourselves to be further divided along political lines is confusing to me. I mean, we can agree to disagree, right? We can agree to say “I don’t agree with you, but I’ll still be your friend.” What I’ve seen, in this last week, is people across the board refusing to remain friends with anyone who disagrees with them. A woman I respect and admire who’s a faithful Christian and, largely, a Conservative, offered up a neutral post about this past week’s debacle. The responders were all women; of those women, at least two I can think of were ugly, rude, discourteous, and even inflammatory and outright combative with people who disagreed with them. Name-calling was rife. If you disagreed with these people you were thus open for any amount of name-calling and abuse they wanted to heap upon you.

This. This is the point I don’t understand, so I’ll spell it out for you.

Ladies? We’re fighting an uphill battle, already. We’re the wives, the mothers, and in many cases professional leaders, and we are still struggling to be seen as viable, equal.

Where does it make sense for us to allow our country’s current political structure to continue to divide us? Especially over something that each and every single one of us knows is something that we will all have to face. How many of you don’t carry pepper spray with you? How many of you don’t walk out to your car with your keys securely gripped, pointing out from your fist? How many of you don’t check the back seat & back of your car, before you get in it? How many of you don’t make sure you’ve always got a buddy nearby when you’re out past dark?

Stop and think, ladies. Now is the time for us to relearn that we are all sisters, and when we roar together, we can change the world around us. As long as our country continues to embrace a policy that divides its population as clearly as our country’s current structure is dividing us, as a people, someone needs to maintain a clear head! Why not unite, find our common ground, then work as a team to implement what we want to see changed? If change must happen from within, great! Let’s work on it from within. But let’s work on it together instead of falling into the trap that we have to prove our party’s better than their party. Really. Haven’t we left high school yet?