#MeToo meets Uncle Joe

 

I’m not calling on Joe Biden to leave public life over his creepy way of getting in a little too close to women, but we we try to have a conversation in light of #MeToo, we need to understand that we’re just trying to figure out where we draw the new line of what’s proper and what isn’t.

 

I’ve spent much of the morning replying to comments from men about how “snowlfakes” are over-reacting to a woman’s complaint that Joe Biden invaded her personal space.

I have asked each man why they think a man has a right to invade my personal space and hug me, rub my shoulders or smell my hair without getting permission.

I also have asked when they were raped or had other sexual violence perpetrated against them — something that would give them the right to lead this conversation.

The #MeToo Movement has opened doors to a redefining of what’s proper behavior and what crosses the line, and we’re still pretty early in that discussion.

Women have been second-class citizens for millennia, and we’re finally seeing cracks in the wall of toxic patriarchy. What we need now is a new definition of that line men shouldn’t cross in dealing with women, and we won’t get that without an adult conversation about women’s very real trauma.

While it’s easy to say we shouldn’t criticize Uncle Joe while the pussy-grabber is still squatting in the White House, my point is that this is an urgent and necessary discussion. In fact, we must talk about it if #MeToo is going to lead to meaningful and permanent change.

What’s more, this is a discussion that must be led by women. Men need to listen, even though that may be hard.

My husband has never raped me or treated me with disrespect, but this is not a discussion where he’s going to take the lead (fortunately, he respects me enough to know that), because he’s not the one who has suffered from the patriarchy, I am.

Women are the ones who have been harmed in so many horrible, cruel and humiliating ways. We have been blamed for the violence perpetrated against us and punished every moment of our lives, just for being female. We have been denied the vote, denied credit, denied jobs, denied equal pay, denied autonomy, had our children taken from us when we left their fathers in fear for our very lives, denied sanctuary from violent men.

The list goes on, but you get he gist here. Men have been the oppressors and still carry a great deal of privilege. Men speak over me and minimize the trauma I have suffered at the hands of men. They told me my menstrual periods weren’t that bad when I was doubled over with a pain they’d never experience. They told me I was lying about what I was eating when I started gaining weight for no apparent reason, and then told me I was doing great when I was so depressed I lost my appetite and lost a whole lot of weight.

These things don’t just happen, they are deeply embedded in society, and we need to dislodge these behaviors. #MeToo is about we women using our voices to seek justice and societal change in attitudes toward women.

Men want to know what’s appropriate, and when we hold up Joe Biden and say, this is a little over the line, men (and some women) scramble to defend him.

The conversation here needs to be about where we’re going to draw that line. It has little to do with Biden’s qualifications to be president and everything to do with whether his behavior will continue to be seen as acceptable.

I love a good hug. There are few things more calming and reassuring. When my son was sick and after he died, I sometimes needed hugs just to stay upright. But I gave permission for those hugs, or I asked for them.

Before my son got sick, I wrote a huge piece for the paper here about how the state was neglecting children with disabilities that changed state policy and then won a big award. I e-mailed the notice of that award to my editor, who then came running out of his office, stopped a few feet from me and said, “Can I give you a hug? This is so huge, I just don’t know how else to respond!”

He got his hug, along with my undying respect.

All we’re asking here is that before you touch us, show us the basic respect of getting permission first. It is not too much to ask. I don’t care if you’ve never raped a woman and never will. Please, just give us the basic respect of asking permission before getting all over us, no matter what the circumstances.

A lot of us are creeped out by overly close men because men have hurt us. No, I don’t blame every man for the deeds of a few of them, but you have to understand that men have caused my trauma, and if you’re a man, you need to be aware of that.

If you stand a foot away from me and I take a step back, that probably means you’re too close and I want to have my space. If you take that step closer to insist that you control the rules of engagement, I will walk away.

The conversation about the new rules of engagement needs to happen, and it needs to happen in a civilized manner.

If you’ve never had sexual violence perpetrated against you, you probably won’t fully understand the necessity of this conversation. That means you probably shouldn’t try to lead the conversation.

Joe Biden seems like a good guy, but he is also a perfect example of a man who needs to step back a little. And those who defend him, and those who criticize women who are trying to talk about this, need to sit down and listen.

I understand that the rules have been one way for millennia, and that they’re changing rather abruptly, but that’s not an excuse to condone behavior that makes women uncomfortable — or worse.

We’re working on new rules. You can join the conversation or not, but this will happen either way.

I am leaving the Democratic Party. Here’s why.

I am done.

I stayed when the Democrats refused to push for a single-payer health care system because they didn’t want to anger Republicans, who they knew would never go for it.

So they didn’t even try.

Instead, we got a system that was designed by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, and the Republicans weren’t even happy with that because they don’t care if people die.

I stayed when the Democrats refused to even look at the war crimes of the Bush Administration because they wanted to look forward, not back.

So the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths in a war for control of oil will go unpunished. The lies, the torture, the illegal prison in Guantanamo Bay will go unanswered.

I stayed when the Democrats manipulated the primary election system to nominate Hillary Clinton, a competent but terribly flawed candidate, simply because it was her turn. That manipulation allowed a malignant, sociopathic, narcissistic, sexual predator to take the White House, assisted by a foreign power.

I stayed when the Democrats didn’t fight harder for my right to control my own body because they didn’t want to offend the fascist “Christians” who want women to be forced to breed cannon fodder for their wars.

I stayed when Democrats refused to fight like hell for a living wage. When I wrote a resolution for an immediate hike to a $15-per-hour minimum wage, others in the party changed it to a desire for that to be phased in over five years.

If you’re making $7.25 an hour — about one-third of what it takes to live comfortably in this country — you need that money NOW, not in five years, when it won’t go nearly as far.

I stayed even though Democrats haven’t even talked about poverty or race in any campaign since — well, hell, I can’t even remember, although I wrote about my disgust in a column after the 1992 election.

I stayed through battle after battle for the soul of this nation where the Democrats refused to even show up.

And now they wonder why voters aren’t enthusiastic enough to vote. Wake up! It’s because no one is fighting for them.

I stayed because I hoped we as a party would demonstrate some sort of moral fortitude and was disappointed again and again.

I stayed as Republicans played their game of making us demonstrate our “morality” while they played dirty tricks and tolerated — even defended — inexcusable lapses in morality by members of their own party.

I stayed even though the Democrats didn’t even call out the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Republicans.

The push for Al Franken to resign was my last straw.

I say this as a woman who has survived countless episodes of sexual violence starting when I was 3 years old.

This was not about sexual improprieties, damn it, it was about manipulating us into getting rid of one of the most effective fighters we have in the Senate. This was a witch hunt designed to co-opt and pervert the #MeToo Movement.

They got what they wanted, and they will seat Roy Moore, who has more than a dozen women testifying he made inappropriate advances toward them while they were still children and he was in his 30s. And they will not investigate the charges against him because they have no conscience and no shame.

And Democrats played right into their hands.

Why couldn’t we have said Franken would be pressured to leave when and if Moore went away?

Why couldn’t we have waited for the investigation Franken himself called for?

The Democratic Party has not fought for anyone but Wall Street since the 1990s. The party has not tried to fix a horribly broken justice system. It has not done anything to stop the slaughter of young men and women of color by a militarized police. It has, in fact, promoted the militarization of police.

The party did not stand up against Bush’s illegal war in Iraq. Its members actually voted to send our people into harm’s way based on lies. And then, when the lies were revealed, it did nothing to rectify the situation.

The party is in the lap of Wall Street. Its policies further the economic inequalities that plague our nation and the world, since it leads the effort to spread the policies of Wall Street around the world.

It has not stood up for me or what I believe in for decades.

Yes, there are differences between the two parties, but not enough to keep me engaged with the Democratic Party. I have resigned my position as an assistant precinct chair.

Last summer my son left the Republican Party for its lack of morality.

Today I do the same as I depart from the Democratic party.

I will fight for the soul of this nation as an unaffiliated voter because the party I supported, both with my vote and with my checkbook, has become as corrupt as the people it claims to oppose.

 

I was the victim, not the perpetrator.

 

I was 3 here. My older sister was 6.

 

I was 3 the first time I was violated.

I don’t remember a time when my body was mine. From that first violation until I was almost 12 and I finally told him to stop, my abuser owned my body.

I remember the hush money. I can still see my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter — which was a lot of money to a little girl in the late 1950s.

I didn’t really need the money to keep me quiet because I knew I was the one at fault. I must have had one hell of a precocious come-hither look. Or maybe it was the way the lace on my ankle socks rested on my patent leather dress shoes.

In the theology I was carefully taught at church, any abuse was my fault because I was a daughter of Eve and therefore just as guilty as she of original sin, which was, of course, seduction.

Sex wasn’t discussed. Bodies weren’t discussed. Our vaginas were referred to as “down there.” Questions about anything to do with sex were answered with, “You’re too young to know that.”

All the while, I knew that; I also knew it was dirty and never to be mentioned because good girls didn’t talk about anything that went on with “down there.”

So, in this atmosphere of secrecy, my grandfather got away with molesting me for eight years.

As an adult, I was raped repeatedly by someone who was supposed to love me. He loved me so much he insisted we have sex when he felt like it, no matter how I felt.

I was never alone if he thought I would be naked. He followed me into the shower to grope me. Even when I changed my clothes, there he was, groping and sometimes insisting I satisfy him because it was my “duty.”

Since I had said yes, even once, that was license for him to take what he wanted whenever he wanted it. At the time, his actions were perfectly legal.

I know I am not alone in either of these experiences.

At work, I was told I was less than a man. I made less, even though I often did the job a lot better than men in similar positions.

If a colleague groped at me or made passes at me, it was my fault, or it was, “That’s our Bob! Heh, heh.”

At every turn I was made to feel less than men.

Sometimes, there was a boss who was on my side. When I sold ads for the weekly paper, the Rockland Review, and a client cornered me in a back room, I was able to escape because I knew not to let a man get between me and the door. I was a mess when I got back to the office. The boss heard me out, then he went to the business owner and told him if he ever touched me — or any other employee of the paper — the boss would educate him about proper behavior with a baseball bat. The man tried to say I had been flirting with him, but my boss wasn’t having any of that.

“Why would she flirt with you?” the boss asked. “You’re a creep.”

That’s another thing — the number of men who think they’re irresistible, or who want to make a woman feel guilty for rejecting them.

There was the military recruiter, Navy, I think, who made a pass at me while I was there to interview him for a story. Within moments of my arrival, he was suggesting we continue the conversation at his apartment.

I said no.

“What, don’t you find me attractive?” he asked.

“Frankly, no,” I said. “I find you offensive and I’m sure your superior officer will find your remarks as inappropriate as I do.”

That shut him up.

But standing up to men who think they’re entitled to sexual gratification because you have a vagina doesn’t always work. Some men think they can take what they want.

They might insult you: “Well, I don’t know why you’re saying no to me. It’s not like you’re beautiful. You should jump at the chance.” Yes, a man actually said this to me.

Or they might try to just take what they want because, well, they’re bigger and stronger and you have a vagina, which is the perfect place for him to park his penis.

That’s why I know to carry my keys pointing out of my fist so I can gouge your eyes out if you think you’re going to force yourself on me.

That’s why I don’t get into elevators alone, and if everyone gets off and a man gets on, I get off.

That’s why I don’t take the stairs at night.

That’s why I check around my car before I get in.

That’s why I don’t offer rides to men I don’t know well. I mean, really well.

That’s why I don’t answer the door if I’m home alone.

That’s why I ask to see ID when a repairman comes to the door, and it’s why I don’t let anyone in unless I have called for a repairman.

You get the gist.

In all the flurries of “Me, too,” I have seen a few men, and my heart goes out to them.

But even more, I have seen women — friends — divulge for the first time that they are among the women who have been harassed, abused or assaulted. I know even more women who still can’t come out and say it in public.

I have also seen a few men try to mansplain why men are not at fault. I had it out with one who insisted women lie.

I hated to drop the F-bomb on another person’s time line, but I did. He wouldn’t stop, no matter how many women came on to tell him he was wrong. He just kept defending his position, through dozens of posts, until I womansplained that his behavior — insisting he was right even after it was clear he was wrong and not shutting up until everyone agreed with him, even though he was clearly wrong — was a hallmark behavior of an abusive personality.

Another man posted a “me, too,” but then went on to say it was an ugly woman at work who harassed him. So, does that mean he would have been less offended if a pretty woman had suggested they have a sexual encounter?

I called him out and other men came on to defend him, calling me a drama queen. One man even went into great detail to mansplain how men really aren’t the problem here. I dropped the F-bomb again and blocked the offender.

So, here’s the reason for harassment, abuse and assault of women: Men who harass, abuse and assault women.

It’s a culture that sees men as entitled and women as at fault.

It’s a culture where women and children aren’t believed.

It’s a culture that doesn’t value women but sees us as vessels of men’s pleasure and the source of the children who will fight their wars.

It’s a culture that will place an admitted sexual predator into the highest office in the land.

It’s a culture that “protects” victims of sexual predation by not naming them, as though they were the perpetrators.

Well, my name is Leslie Boyd and I was the victim of many, many crimes. And I’m here to say we women are coming for your male privilege.

#MeToo.

 

 

 

 

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