Thursday, January 18, 2018

Open Letter to a Young Woman I Don't Know.

You deserve so much better.

You deserve comfort, and not to have to do the heavy lifting and take on emotional and bureaucratic headaches because of someone else's actions.

You deserve never to have been violated at all.

But you were.

The responsibility being pushed at you right now is this: to provide consequences for HIM. To make manifest how illegal and how immoral and how brutal his actions were.

It's a pain. It's unfair to you. You deserve better; peace, and never having to deal with him in the first place, and being able to concentrate on your goals, your life, your education. Yourself.

Because he concentrated on you too much, you're being asked to interrupt EVERYTHING and take on a terrible job, expose yourself before strangers tasked to judge him, examine and re-examine and document and reiterate a series of experiences it would be so much better to forget. Not easy. But better. You want to move on. You deserve to.

The problem is: does he?

Does this person, who not only intimidated, but in the end physically violated you, deserve to get past what he's done to YOU with all the comfort, with all the ease you seek and should have had all along? Does he deserve the seamless existence he disturbed for you?

Who am I to interrogate you?

I'm you.

Most women are. We've all dealt with encroachment upon our daily grind, our reveries, our desires, and our bodies. In this "moment of #MeToo" everyone keeps talking about, my question all along has been #WhoNOT? What woman has NOT had to deal with the harassment dealt out, from leers to assaults, every day, all day, around the world, at every level of society and in every culture?

When I was maybe eleven, it was the guy at the lake who tried to get me and my cousin away from our families. Who speculated as to our sexual experience. Assessed our bodies, in terms of how decorative and/or desirable he found them. Never touched us with his hands, but clearly touched some part of my brain that, forty years on, still bears the bruise.

The million men who've told me to smile. Because, again: they are trained to think we're decor, and they like pleasant decor.

The ones who do so much worse.

The ass-grabbers.

He was not allowed. And here is the problem ... if you don't press the charges against him, which his actions legally invite: he'll think he is. And he will do this again.

Several years ago, a contractor in my department stayed late at work. This was someone who made me uncomfortable in the most general sense; he wasn't very socially ept, he demonstrated more interest in me than I would have liked. He never touched me.

But the night he stayed late (knowing I always stayed late), he popped up at my cube when he heard the sounds of my preparation to leave, and held up a napkin to me. On the napkin was a cherry stem, tied in a knot. And he said, "No hands."

He didn't use his hands then, either. The implication of what he'd LIKE to have used was entirely too clear. And so shocking that I found myself unable to respond except with a quick dismissive joke and a hasty exit.

I talked to a manager the next day - not a formal complaint, but a discussion with someone I thought I could trust with the question of how I should proceed. She blew me off, and I ended up saying nothing. Time went by, and he never said anything else to me - and I was able to move my cube well away from him. I had power of my own.

I also learned that there had been a witness to what transpired that night; a woman in the next row of the cube farm. She heard everything, and told me I was entirely correct to be creeped out. He was wrong.

I told at least one other person at work about the incident, and let it go.

I deserved that. Right? Moving on?

Then I saw Jane (pseudonym, obviously). I saw her doing her job one day, cashiering us out at lunch, and I saw the way his presence made her SQUIRM.

It was obvious, instantly, that I was on the only person he'd ever "been inappropriate" with. I may have talked with that other friend at work about what I'd seen.

But I didn't talk with HR. I didn't go to my boss.

Time passed. I was pretty comfortable. Jane had herself moved to another location. I told myself it was all okay.

Then The Stem emailed my boss, hoping for a recommendation as he applied for a permanent position. I audited my boss's emails, and within two minutes of seeing The Stem's note, I was in my boss's office, calling him while he traveled, and explaining that we must not hire The Stem.

In less than an hour, I was speaking with an executive in HR. She got exactly the story of what The Stem had done, including the part about why I'd been silent, and my previous discussion with the manager. I also talked about what I had seen with Jane: that I had no permission from Jane to discuss anything he might done to her, and that I didn't know what that might be, but that I was clearly not alone in my experience with him.

To hire him would be a risk. That was enough. He was put on the a list immediately, and did not get the permanent position.

I felt a LITTLE better about failing to act for Jane. She knew nothing about my incident, and may never have known about my discussion with HR. She had used her own power. I didn't know her beyond friendly greetings at lunch or breakfast, but she had a family. They all deserved peace, too.

There's been a lot of talk in recent months about extraordinarily wealthy and/or powerful men using their position and pull to harass women. This tells the comforting story that, since most of us aren't really in contact with famous men or highly-placed moguls ... these things happen to someone else.

But it happened to you and me both. It happens to everyone. It happened to Jane, and I didn't do anything for her the moment I saw that. She used her own power, and got out of The Stem's way. And in the end, I got him out of the way of my employer.

But he doesn't know that.

And he is probably still acting exactly the same way.

I had power enough to push the bubble in the wallpaper, but the bubble still exists. There is a whisper network - something not unlike the Shitty Media Men List - and he may still be stuck with contract work. But nobody ever held him responsible for what he'd done to me, and for Jane.

He never had consequences. It's entirely possible he never will. Just another awkward guy. Not a rapist (that we know of). Not a mogul or celebrity.

But still making women squirm.

He got off.

Does the man who touched you - do the women he will undoubtedly assault, and emotionally damage - for years to come ... deserve that?

Does he deserve to get off?

And do they deserve to endure anything he does to them? If he stays the same. If he escalates, with age - and knowing he can get away with stalking, with assault?

Don't even you deserve ... not to have to carry that question with you? Not to inherit complicity in his guilt, when you are innocent?

You have the power of the law itself behind you. You have a lot of people behind you, too. You can do more than take a different route out of the cube farm at night, or wait a year and whisper when you think it finally matters. You can provide real consequences to a real criminal.

You have the power, maybe, to save a bunch of Janes - and their kids - and their families. To give them the peace that they deserve.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Just two links today, unless you count the recursive looks back upon my own musings.

For them/by them - a remarkable collection of perspectives not just on the period of sexual harassment history that began in Autumn of 2017 (and more), but on the dominant narratives and who is STILL left out of those narratives. The graphics are exceptional, and the writing ... well. Exemplary.

The very fact that such a model exists offers tacit permission for him to treat his wants as valid. ... I wish that he, as the adult in the room, had looked past his emotions to consider what would have been best for me ...

Also: "I’m disappointed that the story has remained focused so squarely on the villainous doings of the metropolitan elites." Yep. It's not just the "powerful" (rich) men, and it's not just white women in subjective but nonetheless injurious situations.

There is a constructive breadth, at that first link, of ages and understandings of (cis and binary) gender dynamics, and some of what is said I question. But it is best to understand than to refuse to know that others think things we do not.

“I remember when you told me I made this one girl feel uncomfortable because she had to say no twice, and I never forgot that.”
Some of what is said, in the last quarter or so of this anthology of perspectives - those things said by men, and about their looks - are ... well. Striking.

Where is the second link, you ask? Right here - and here is why:

While women aren’t confusing egregious incidents with less obviously offensive ones, the small ones matter, too. And not talking about them is the easiest way to ensure they go on and on, ad infinitum

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Well, apparently the year I was born was important enough to commemorate. Some of the tidbits The Atlantic has archived here are pretty interesting; stay tuned for more, no doubt I'll come back to this well more than once this year.

Plant lore! I love so many aspects of this story - not merely the nerd who looked at a lock and understood its symbolism, but the images of a centuries-old trunk and its archives, and simply the word "hutch" - thanks again, History Blog, for a multi-layered read and look at an unusual collection of artifacts and facts. Moonwort. Heh.

Random note - in opening this new post window, I was listening to a 70s music mix, and "Moonlight Feels Right" by Starbuck happened to be playing. Yep: marimba solos happened in 1976. The times of my life (redux).

Map nerdlery! CityLab has thirteen maps to help make some sense (or at least get a view of) the year 2017. Some of it is interesting, some even amusing - some of it is dark (literally, and spiritually). From marches to regions to events within them, take a *look* at the year that was.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Enough Old Year

The evening is underway, as are feline and canine post-supper naptimes. Goss has his front half upended inside the warm curve of his back half, curled in the new chair, and Pen is flaked out on her flank in the floor. I chose "Arrival" tonight; slow-moving and blessedly low on explosions, at least halfway along it is - it's gloomy and murky but not too thinky so far. Seems to be just the ticket for me.

The year has been dwindling down with oddness and pains in my head, a great deal of work around the house, but mostly quiet. It is one of my pensive years, to be rung out alone and contemplating.

Last year was a jangle. Good times with friends, but the car got towed, there was loud music and cigarette smoke. This year, just this; staying in, staying warm. Remembering, and looking forward as as I do: seldom and poorly. The memories are ones which once were so painful, but now only make me who I am. And I am content with that, mostly. Always some work to do.

Life is like homeownership; if you don't have something you think you need to work on, the place'll go to pot.

In two weeks from now, many long months of meeting planning, and two trips to attend them, will be over. I realized this a couple of days ago, to my own surprise. Most of 2017 has been occupied with these events; and now I will be able to just do my day-to-day job. It'll be strange for a little while.

I am as content as the fur-bearing critters, this hour. Never satisfied. But content.

CONTENT NEW YEAR TO YOU, and to yours.

*Raises a glass, be it whatever you happen to like* Cheers!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas is When We're Together

Three years ago, my mom and stepfather, D, and I postponed Christmas a day because both of them had pneumonia, or the flu or something. I don't recall the problem so much as the beautiful day out with Pen-Pen, and the nice, quiet holiday the three of us shared.

The quiet time with just us three has been the nature of Christmas long enough that it is tradition now. But we are willing to change that, and this year the advent of my brother and nieces was a welcome change. D has been ailing for about seven years now, and at long last, the doctors have said it "won't be long." I'm not sure either my mom or I are genuinely capable of  rasping that he ever can die, after so long doing poorly, but logically it's "real" enough we know this is the last family Christmas, probably.

So it was an extra pity when my brother, then both nieces, and finally D, all came down with the flu.

Christmas has ended up still being sort of a small affair for us, even with twice the population. My nieces have been great troupers, putting up with a huge houseful of relations yesterday, most of the day, and opening presents this evening almost as if they were not half-dying, missing out on snow at home, and far far away from their own comfortable beds and puppies.

Tomorrow is fake Sunday. Run the fam to the airport, come home, nap, eat something. We've had Christmas early, and - as far as this can be said given the circumstances - it was pretty lovely.

May yours, if you celebrate, be merry and bright.

As for me, it's about time for a long winter's nap. So Merry Christmas (etc./or not) to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 16, 2017


We use the word Barbarian to presume ourselves better.

It's all about ourselves.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Have you ever found yourself feeling a kind of ... distrust, when you find out someone isn't a reader? Or special admiration, even a crush, on a writer? Even the smallest phrases can be great storytelling; I am able to clearly remember some of the things that have swept my heart away: Beloved Ex's calling me a wonderful bag of things. Humorous, sure. But ... "telling" in a way that was important to me. A girl who once said to me, I have a voice like rain and brownies baking. The friend who called me a flower-eyed waterfall. And Mr. X ... that time he said to me, "You use your wit and intelligence as if your appearance had no power, and the effect is devastating."

Why the self-aggrandizing intro, today? Well, READ on, my friends. On the evolution of storytelling. It keeps humanity alive, literally. And the best storytellers get the greatest rewards, in egalitarian communities. Hmm.

And now, a little consumer culture ...

Of all the people I have known in the 25-year SUV trend, I am aware of ONE who ever used their winch, and none who ever went offroading, or even camping. (In the 1970s, my cousins did have a proto-SUV, but they skiied and camped and hunted and used its immense capacity in full, though not every single time they drove it.) SUVs looked to my contrarian eyes like a Baby Boomer/yuppie fad from the start, and what rugged behavior I ever *have* seen with them seems to be confined to drivers imagining that "SUV" confers upon them not merely invulnerability but also immunity to the existence of others on the roads when it is snowy and/or icy. (Strangely, this does not appy to rain; everyone in this whole town seems to just *crawl* when there is rain, mist, or drizzle anywhere in a 50-mile radius. No matter what they drive.) Anyway, to the link, Batman: on SUVs, and the developing social structure in America, over the past 30 years. As always, there is room for quibbling here. But it's an interesting wider look at "trends" ...

The older I get, the more I LOVE investigative journalism. Doesn't matter when it's a couple or few years old; the detective stories hold up, and truly good writing never goes out of date. Here's a great piece about discovering provenance, and for my writer friends, stay tuned to the end - the bit about publishing a book is priceless.

Here is a joyous(-ish ...) stocking stuffer for you all! More demented cover fails with the Caustic Cover Critic, guesting over at the Australian Book Designers Association. Featuring: Jane AusTIN and Slash. You know you wanna click!