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Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

“In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot.” Felicity Huffman

I know, I know. GM is out on strike and we just might start a new war with Iran, but I’m still obsessing over Felicity Huffman’s college admission scandal.

Every single parent can relate to this; single moms I met in the Jersey City projects, where I was teaching Head Start ages ago, wanted the best education for their children. Education is supposed to lift you out of poverty.

But those young moms could not pay to endow a chair (the legal equivalent of a bribe) at an elite school. Today they live with luck; will an arbitrary lottery number mean their child gets to go to a charter school? And then, if they make the grades and stay out of trouble, will they even be able to afford a state college without sinking themselves into debt?

And what about suburban desperate housewives? Every single one of us knows of someone, or maybe IS that someone, who twisted the rules a little for their child. I knew moms who had their sons diagnosed with ADHD just so they could have their SAT time lengthened. I heard about moms who didn’t live in our tony district, so they submitted the grandmother’s address. I knew moms who hired college counselors just because everyone else was doing it!

We would pay for SAT prep courses and then pray for the best. Of course most of that was a “legal” attempt at gaming the system. The difference being, in suburban school districts like Rumson-Fair Haven, parents had the money to grease the wheels of the college admission process. In Jersey City, parents could barely survive on food stamps. What does this say about a public school system that is funded with property taxes? What does this say about our country?

WE ARE ALL GUILTY of wanting the very best education for our children! But comparing Felicity Huffman’s sentence of a $30,000 fine, 2 weeks in jail and parole to Tanya McDowell’s 5 year sentence for falsifying her address to get her son into a better school district and taking a plea deal on drug charges is misleading. Sure one mom is white with an infinity pool and one mom is brown living in a homeless shelter, but both of them were guilty and desperate to give their child a “fair” shot at success.

McDowell served 3 years of her sentence and said she would do it again if she had the chance because her son started Kindergarten in his grandmother’s district, and he is now on the Honor Roll.  https://www.oxygen.com/crime-time/tanya-mcdowell-homeless-mom-stealing-education-jail-felicity-huffman-college-scandal

Huffman, on the other hand, may have learned her lesson. She seems remorseful and pleaded guilty. Her daughter will now be identified with this scandal for the rest of her life, whether she actually attends college or not. Bob agrees with John legend, who posted on Twitter that women should NOT go to jail for these non-violent offenses. In a twist of the social media world, men seem to be more feminist and empathic than women who declare themselves feminist!

The questions raised this week about racism and social justice are not new. We are running private-for-profit prisons in order to maintain the illusion that our rule of law is fair. We pay more to incarcerate our citizens than we do for pre-schools and elementary education where more brown boys are labeled “special ed,” or end up suspended for disciplinary problems. Our system is broken, and calling out Felicity Huffman or comparing her with Tanya McDowell misses the point.

Over the summer, I downloaded a first level reader book about owls on my iPad for the Love Bug and caught her reading it to her brother. On her 7th birthday last month I explained the “age of reason” to her, about knowing right from wrong. Her brother starts Kindergarten next year and wants to learn how to play the drums! Our children are modeling our behavior – good, bad and indifferent.

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In the depths of a crisis, have you ever looked around and asked yourself how in the world you got there? How did Great Grandma Ada, a Jewish girl from Brooklyn, end up in Nashville for instance. I am less likely to examine the minutiae of my circumstances, maybe because I was tossed about from one home to another as a child. I had to learn to ride the waves of two families. Plus, I’m not one to live in the past; but I do love to see Shakespeare performed outside, amidst the sounds of birds and trains.

This past weekend our whole family bumped into “The Tempest” outside our restaurant window! We loved it so much, we came back the next day with lawn chairs. A deposed Duke Prospero, has been tossed onto an island in a storm with only his young daughter, Miranda, some sprites of course, and a strange, savage man named Caliban. So what does he do? He whips up an even bigger storm with his magic to payback his conniving brother and his court who are now shipwrecked alongside him.

Shenanigans begin!

When Bob and I first married and moved to the Berkshires, we would regularly attend Shakespeare at the Mount in Lenox. Edith Wharton’s “cottage” garden was the setting for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” our introduction to the Bard en plein air. Of course we became enamored of this comedy of errors, where sprites and fairies rule the roost and make mockery of love and lust. Puck is a most mischievous servant and of course magic plays a central role in this play as well.

Leaping ahead from the 17th Century to today, I wonder who will be the ultimate playwright of our turbulent times? We may not have dukes and kings and queens but we do have a president who would be king. He loves opulence and the fame reality TV brings, he yearns for power and adoring crowds of red-hatted people. Kim Kardashian-West seems to be the only person who has played him recently, successfully lobbying Mr T to enact the first criminal justice reform bill in recent history.

Now Kim, a perfect medieval sprite, is studying Law – and what does Shakespeare say about lawyers? And not the one about killing all of them:

I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; not the soldier’s which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s, which is politic; nor the lady’s, which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these: but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, which, by often rumination, wraps me in a most humorous sadness.

Yes, lawyers can be political. Think about Gloria Allred’s daughter, the feminist lawyer, Lisa Bloom. She’s found herself in a bit of a Tempest while arguing FOR Harvey Weinstein in a memo she suggested they sully an actress’ reputation. Paint Rose McGowan to be unhinged, a “harpy” in Shakespearian terms. I’m heading over to Parnassus soon to get the new book, “She Said” by Jody Kantor and Megan Twohey. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/08/books/review/she-said-jodi-kantor-megan-twohey.html

Maybe this is how we can frame our troubled times. Pulitzer Prize winning journalists piece together the culture of abuse and obfuscation that dominates some of our most cherished institutions. And instead of a play, we will make a film. How did we end up caging children, separating families, and drawing Alabama into Hurricane Dorian with a Sharpie? How have we managed to separate ourselves from the natural world and our allies on this forlorn island?

Magically, we landed on a lawn in a park in the city to help ease our “humorous sadness.”

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It’s been a helluva week, played out on the national stage but also on our Music City stage. The body of Debra Johnson was transported back to her home in Nashville yesterday; she was the warden of the state penitentiary, who was raped and murdered in her house on the prison grounds. The manhunt for her killer, Curtis Ray Watson, has been all over the local news for 4 days. He was last seen riding a tractor in her yard – it was a minimum security place and he supposedly had “privileges.”

Only in Tennessee would the getaway vehicle be a tractor.

Since Bob’s been traveling, I’ve been extra cautious walking the dog at night. Our little farmhouse sits on the outskirts of the main drag, away from restaurants and nightlife. But it’s not just wondering where Watson could be hiding, I’ve had some serious social media threats since I posted something about how we might try regulating guns the way our government likes to regulate a woman’s body. Silly, sarcastic me.

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I’ve since been told this was not a Steinem quote, but it should have been! This does not seem like a time to sit on the fence. You are either OK with our country’s fascination with weapons of war, with young white men (for the most part, cause just let a black or a brown guy try that shit) being able to carry these guns all around town showing off their “manhood,” with separating families at our border, keeping people in cages, and raiding their workplace leaving their children waiting at school, wondering if they will ever see them again.

You are either OK with this, or you are not. Silence and indifference is not an option either.

The Bride sent me an article about how more than half of the mass murderers we’ve seen since we started tracking them back in 1966 have basically 2 things in common. You know what the first is – GUNS. But can you guess the second? It’s a hatred, a vile hatred of women. Yessir, misogyny rears its ugly head. “A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women,” by Bosman, Taylor, and Arango.

“The motivations of men who commit mass shootings are often muddled, complex or unknown. But one common thread that connects many of them — other than access to powerful firearms — is a history of hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online”

My good friend Bess told me that very thing last year while we were in Italy. She works at a shelter for abused women, and she personally understands how and why a woman might end up fleeing a relationship and fighting for her life.

We both went off to Boston for college in 1966, but she ended up in a cult. The man who persuaded her to sell newspapers on the street eventually ended up controlling every aspect of her life. Bess was my hero in high school, she was the smartest girl in our gang. I never understood how this had happened to her until we talked one night in Tuscany.

Her daughter Gwen is a talented screenwriter who was returned to her mother after Bess finally fled the cult, at first resenting being separated from the only family she had ever known. Gwen’s movie, “Charlie Says,” about the Manson girls, was released this Spring: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1759744/

Gwen wrote about growing up in a cult for the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/06/my-childhood-in-a-cult

“Where are you from?” For most people, this is a casual social question. For me, it’s an exceptionally loaded one, and demands either a lie or my glossing over facts, because the real answer goes something like this: “I grew up on compounds in Kansas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Martha’s Vineyard, often travelling in five-vehicle caravans across the country from one location to the next. My reality included LSD, government cheese, and a repurposed school bus with the words ‘Venus or Bust’ painted on both sides.” And that, while completely factual, is hard to believe, and sounds like a cry for attention. So I usually just say, “Upstate New York.”

In the spirit of peace and love, and the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I’d just like to say if you didn’t live through the 60s you may not understand. We young people were embittered and embattled by an unjust war, our leaders were being mowed down by guns, and the second wave of feminism was just getting started. Some of us burned our bras and got birth control. While some of us were trying hard just to tread water while not making any waves.

Guess what?! They caught Curtis Watson today. He was hiding out in Henning, TN near the prison. When the Senate is back in session and they want to talk about anything other than an assault weapon ban, let’s pressure them to talk about red flag laws, and in particular guys who have been arrested or dishonorably discharged because of domestic abuse. “Federal law prohibits people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes, and some abusers who are subject to protective orders, from buying or owning guns. BUT there are many loopholes, and women in relationships who are not married to, do not live with, or have children with their abusers receive no protection. Federal law also does not provide a mechanism for actually removing guns from abusers.” 

Loopholes like the one in the Sutherland Springs massacre, where the Air Force didn’t report the shooter’s domestic violence history. Please read this article, it is eye-opening.

 

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Today is #EqualPayDay across the globe, meaning any woman who thinks she isn’t a feminist isn’t paying attention. For every single dollar, or euro, a man makes, a woman will collect only 80 cents. Think about it, we make almost one quarter less than what men make for doing the same work! Maybe back in the day, where MAGA-hat-wearing people long to live, men went out to work and plunder leaving their mates at home, barefoot and pregnant. But today, we ladies are half of the workforce, maybe the “better half?”

Last week, the D Majority House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. Why should that matter? Certainly some industries are fair when it comes to the payroll – historically women-centered careers like healthcare and teaching have been gender-neutral for the most part. But now the Paycheck Fairness Act will help to close the 20% wage gap in a broader way by banning employers from asking about former salaries. And maybe most importantly, prohibit companies from firing or retaliating at workers who share their wage information!

So step over to the next cubicle and talk about money people!

I remember my first real job. Before my days of teaching at a Head Start in Jersey City, I was hired to interview temp workers for a large American firm. This entry HR job meant I had to administer typing tests and ask the kinds of questions above and beyond what your last salary looked like – “Are you married?” “Do you want to have children?” Those were the good ole days, when it was more of what your body actually “looked like;” the days when my older sister Kay had to keep her child a secret if she wanted to continue to work as a stewardess in the airline industry.

And she had to starve herself too, in order to stay at a certain weight. We women of a certain age have these memories floating around in our hippocampus, judging ourselves in the mirror every day.

And being a card-carrying feminist means one should fight against sexual harassment in the workplace, or anyplace really. But listen up, I may offend some of you here, maybe we’ve gone a step too far? I mean, I LOVE ex-Veep Joe Biden! He hails from my hometown, and has the most authentic, warmest smile. His son died of the same kind of brain tumor that killed my biological father. He reminds me of my foster father, Daddy Jim; I’d share a cup of tea with him anytime! And guess what…

If he kissed the back of my head, or leaned in for some Eskimo kisses or even butterfly kisses… why, I’d hug him right back! There, I said it. Most women can differentiate between a lecherous old guy who is too handy and goes for your lips, and a Mensch. The first kind of man makes you instantly turn your face away, he hugs too hard and too long, we can see it in their hungry eyes. Great Grandma Ada had a friend like that, even into his 90s he’d put the moves on you.

But Uncle Joe just doesn’t strike me that way, you know, the way Mr T strikes me.

So let’s settle down Dems, we will never win in 2020 by fighting amongst ourselves. Let’s teach our little boys about consent, without scaring them away from intimacy. Teach them how to know when to shake hands or hug hello. Here is Pop Bob (a genuine Mensch) teaching the L’il Pumpkin about tools with his very first tool box. Clap your hands if you believe in fairy houses.

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“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations,”  Dr Mae Jemison, American physician and astronaut.     

Go to the Google Doodle today, you’ll be glad you did. https://www.google.com  Today is International Woman’s Day. Let’s see how far we’ve come, shall we? We know that menstruation can still end a girl’s education in some parts of the world, while in the 1960s it meant we could get out of gym class.

But did you know that so-called “honor killings” are still taking place around the globe?

Pressure group Human Rights Watch says the most common reasons are that the victim:

  • refused to enter into an arranged marriage
  • was the victim of a sexual assault or rape
  • had sexual relations outside marriage, even if only alleged

 

Five women are believed to have been killed by their families for clapping and singing at a wedding (where men were dancing) in Pakistan. Wearing the wrong clothes or acting in a “disrespectful” manner can also lead a father to kill his daughter. An Italian-Pakistani woman was lured back to her province and strangled when she refused to marry a Pakistani stranger just one year ago, her name was Sana Cheema, she was only 26 years old.

Activists believe there are approximately 1,000 dishonorable killings of women in Pakistan every year.

I wonder how many women have died from illegal abortions around the world?

“If other countries are a guide, abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place: According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are similar to those in countries where it’s illegal. In parts of the world where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8 to 11 percentof all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 each year.” https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/how-many-women-die-illegal-abortions/572638/

You might ask how can that be, the same number of women die whether the law prohibits abortion or not? Whether a doctor in El Salvador or Brazil reports an incomplete self-induced abortion to the government, or whether a woman dies of septic shock in the comfort of her Florida living room after a legal abortion?

Well, it’s because some so-called “legal” countries, like the US, are still trying to restrict a woman’s access to reproductive services – and when I say “woman” I mean a poor woman. Because we all know that wealthy women will always find a way to acquire a safe, medical or surgical abortion.

Our local Planned parenthood has stopped providing abortions, and so Nashville women are forced to travel to Memphis. Women here donate money to help make those travel arrangements happen.

Yesterday, the TN House voted to join Georgia in passing a “Heartbeat Bill” Bill 77. Two Democrats joined Republicans voting for this bill by a large majority, 65 -21. I am embarrassed and amazed to say a Democratic woman was left standing on the floor, with her hand raised, to introduce an amendment for the exception of rape and incest. She was IGNORED by the Republican ChairMAN.

Since a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as 6 weeks, before a woman even realizes she may be pregnant, this restriction is perilous and punishing. In the future, will Southern women eventually have to develop an underground railroad, a network to help others travel North to the Democratic states that do NOT restrict access?

Today we celebrate our sisters, our mothers, grandmothers and daughters. My sister, who had to hide her daughter in order to work as a stewardess in the airline industry. My Grandmother, who wasn’t allowed to vote. My Mother who lost her home when my Father died. My Mother-in-Law, who received her doctorate at age 65 after a divorce. My Daughter-in-Love, who organizes and volunteers for Bernie. My Daughter, who helps women in pain every day she puts on her white coat.

And the Love Bug, who is currently learning how to tell time. Let’s not let our granddaughters down and fall back on our human rights. Our girls deserve a limitless future.

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It was one of those rare opportunities lately for me. We were meeting Bob’s cousin from NY and his girlfriend for dinner at a trendy restaurant downtown. I had to run upstairs and get “beautiful.” It was an excuse to put on makeup!

I remembered the Flapper saying she had to, “put on her face.” Nelly, my foster mother, would only occasionally get dolled up since I am convinced she had agoraphobia. Still, on those rare occasions when she did venture out, she appeared like a Geisha – white face powder and red lips.

My routine now is pretty similar to Nell’s; some tinted moisturizer with an occasional dusting of mineral powder, a lip balm, with the addition of eyebrows; as in, she had them and I don’t. Well I do, but they are blonde. Still, just the basics. With Great Grandma Ada it’s all about the lipstick. She likes a bold lip.

Attending a Catholic school meant I had to learn the beauty basics fast in high school. In the 60s, I would take my “pin money” to White’s Pharmacy or Newberry’s and buy the latest white lipstick and blue eyeshadow!

I’d been told that it was always important to have “pin money.” What a quaint, ancient expression that referred obliquely to a woman having some financial independence. The term originated at the turn of the 20th century when women were fighting for the vote, and God forbid we might lose our hats in the process; hence Gibson girls were told to keep some change on their person for hat pins!

During the Flapper’s roaring 20s, it meant money for a cab in case your date was getting too fresh…

I didn’t grow up with huge beauty emporiums like Sephora, or tutorials on shading your face to create angles on YouTube. Side note – I just watched my first “influencer” teach me how to make “beachy waves” with a curling iron… it took her almost an hour and included many products! I’d just rather go to the beach though. Cheaper and simpler.

Of course, we didn’t have to be Insta-ready for a picture to spread like wildfire on social media, for all our friends to judge us.

We didn’t know how fresh and pure our skin was, so we spread on the orange gel, Bain de Soleil, and baked into bronze goddesses under the sun. We didn’t focus on the “size” of our pores or look ahead to future basal and squamous cells.

We didn’t even know that makeup was tested on animals. We thought that the bunny died only if one of us became pregnant. That was the test, there was no peeing on test strips in the privacy of your own bathroom. That dead bunny was the watershed moment for many of us.

Because I was a redhead, my skin was deemed super sensitive, everybody knows this. Nurses told me when I first tried nursing my baby. Doctors told me after stitching up the C-section wound. When I was diagnosed with psoriasis, I was reminded yet again…

But it wasn’t until I saw the youngest Kardashian (Kylie Jenner) on the cover of Forbes that it hit me. The beauty business is BIG business. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesdigitalcovers/2018/07/11/how-20-year-old-kylie-jenner-built-a-900-million-fortune-in-less-than-3-years/#4a7b63dcaa62

You need more than pin money to keep up these days. Imagine that as a teen Jenner was developing these “lip kits” to plump up lips. I never worried about my big upper lip, it was just a part of me and if I wanted to change anything it was to gain some curves and not look stick-straight, “like a boy.”

When the Bride was teased about her gorgeous rosebud lips in middle school, I cringed.

We didn’t know how trendy such lips would become – that a big upper lip is now considered an Elvis asset. That women inject their lips with fillers for this effect is fascinating to me. I want to tell the Love Bug to love herself just the way she is, not to compare herself to others. She will have to deal with being a tall girl in a world where women are told to keep quiet still, and stay in the background.

And when they do speak up, like Dr Ford, they are vilified.

If there was ever a generation to lead a beauty revolution now is the time. Let’s clear out our makeup drawers ladies and accept our grey hair and wrinkles. Let’s stop searching for that magic potion of youth and put our pin money where our head is – in the stuff that will soothe our souls. In books, music and art.

Beach hair and wrinkles #nomakeup, this is what 70 looks like.

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The rain had stopped for a few hours, so I ventured outside to check out the anniversary shenanigans of my favorite boutique in Nashville, Alexis and Bolt. A mere block away, we have a special relationship since they opened and we moved here about the same time two years ago – has it been 2 years? Early on Bob helped them out with a little problem that first week, while walking Ms Bean, and then told me I’d love the shop!

Bob never encourages me to shop so I knew I would love it. Dogs are always welcome too.

There were huge balloons and signature cocktails and the best Bolt Babes to celebrate their commitment to style and the neighborhood. But just as I was walking down our alley I heard the most mournful screams for help. I started running, taking out my phone to dial 911 when I saw a few women standing at the back of a Ford pickup truck with a trailer attached. As I got closer I could see a young man on his knees with his thumb caught in the hitch.

I saw something that looked like a tiny food truck halfway off the other side of the trailer.

It took just a few seconds to understand that the young woman was pleading with passers-by to jump onto the trailer and thereby see-saw the lock open to free his hand. I don’t remember dropping my bag, but I did jump up there and stood in a tight line of women, like Rockettes getting ready to kick. We jumped in unison and he rolled away.

My EMT training of 40 years ago kicked in and I told him to lay down and covered him with my coat while the woman-in-charge-owner-of-the-trucks raised his legs above his heart. Someone had called 911 and I’d called Bob who was just a few houses down the street. Thankfully his thumb was still attached but looked badly broken.

Bob did his thing, ordering ice from the fish store and making sure all his other fingers could move. When the ambulance arrived his color was back and he could stand up fine.

Never underestimate the power of a group of single-minded women. We worked in unison to rescue his hand while the owner of the tiny truck and the big Ford pickup told me that so many guys had just walked by when it first happened, while she was pleading for help. I wondered what they were thinking, is this a scam?

Bob and our neighbor Ron helped push the tiny truck into position on the street, but it was not a food truck after all, it’s a flower stall on wheels called Taylor’d Crowns where they make beautiful tiaras on the spot with ribbons and baby’s breath to make you feel like a medieval princess. I could imagine that every single girl at a Nashville bachelorette/hen party will want to wear one of her creations! https://taylordcrowns.com/

And the funny thing is, the tiny 1969 Citroen H van is from France and her name is “Gertie,” Grandma Gi’s name was Gertrude.

My sister-in-law Jorja was just talking with me the other day about the Flapper, aka Grandma Gi. She’s been sending us both signs lately! Sometimes it’s a recipe and sometimes it’s an angel making flower crowns.

Let’s encourage our daughters to not just BE nice, but to alway DO the “right and proper thing,” as my brother Mike would say. To strive to be their authentic selves; tell them that not everybody has to like them. And that’s OK.

These two could use some flower crowns!

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