Sen. Sessions needs some schooling on assault

A clueless Jeff Sessions thinks it's not sexual assault to grab a woman by the genitals. I have news for him.

A clueless Jeff Sessions thinks it’s not sexual assault to grab a woman by the genitals. I have news for him.

In nearly every instance, I’m committed to nonviolence, but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about what I would like to see happen to a man who thinks grabbing a woman’s genitals isn’t sexual assault.

I would like to see someone grab him by the genitals and twist until they come off.

I would like to see him attacked as he walks to his car at night and then told it was his fault because his tie was too sexy or he shouldn’t have been alone in the parking garage at night or he looked suggestively at his attacker during Congressional testimony that afternoon. And then I would like to tell him myself that he should just get over it.

I would like to see him sent to a re-education camp staffed entirely by women who have survived sexual violence.

Would I actually do these things? No. But I can dream.

I am a survivor, and I am so deeply offended by the potential appointment of this miscreant to the office of Attorney General of the United States that all I can do is think about what I would like to see happen to him.

For me, the sexual violence began when I was just 3.

That’s right, I was still a toddler.

I have never known a time when my body was my own to do with as I pleased. I didn’t know what it was to say no to sexual advances, even as a little girl. My body belonged to my assailant until I was 11 and I finally found the courage to say no.

I later was raped as an adult, and I believe part of the reason was that I still wasn’t convinced my body really belonged to me. I have since decided it does, and that I will defend it.

So, I have some expertise in this area, and I have a few words for Mr. Sessions:

Until you have been objectified and grabbed because some man thinks he has a right to your body, you don’t have any idea what sexual assault does to a woman.

And, yes, grabbing a woman by the “pussy” is assault.

In nonviolence training, we’re taught that even touching someone can be classed as assault, so if I can be charged with assault for putting my hand on your shoulder, you certainly are guilty if you grab my lady parts — any of my lady parts.

You are not superior to me, nor do you have any rights over my body. You may think you do, but I’m telling you the only time I am even tempted to do violence to another human being is when a man thinks he has dominion over my body.

This means I will believe any woman who tells me she has been assaulted because even though there are cases of women lying, those cases are rare.

My body is mine and mine alone and neither you or any other man will tell me what I can or can not do with it. You will not touch me without my express permission. You will not tell me I can’t have birth control. You will not tell me I can’t choose to terminate a pregnancy.

These are my choices.

Women’s bodies are not pleasure palaces for your penis, Mr. Sessions. My “pussy” is mine, not yours or any other man’s. I will decide who can touch me and who can not. I will decide what happens with my body because I claim dominion over it.

We are not going back to the days when you could claim us as chattel. We are going to determine our own destinies.

We will decide when and if we want you to touch us in any way.

We will decide whether we want to bear children, and when.

We will have control over our lives and we will shun despicable characters such as you, Mr. Sessions.

 

 

 

It’s time to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

The ;logo for the documentary film. "Equal Means Equal."

The logo for the documentary film. “Equal Means Equal.”

 

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

–The Equal Rights Amendment

Did you know that women have no protections guaranteed to them by the US Constitution?

It’s true.

In fact, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained it very simply:

Interviewer: In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

Justice Scalia: Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box.

That means discrimination based on race is held to a different, higher standard than discrimination against women. In a case involving sex discrimination, a woman has to prove not just harm, but also deliberate intent.

In our society, women are not valued as highly as men. We are paid less for the same work, promoted less often, even when we are as competent — or even more so — as any man we compete with.

We are prosecuted unequally — women who kill their abusive intimate partners are far, far more likely to be sentenced to life in prison than abusive partners are when they kill the women in their lives.

Studies show that orders of protection against intimate partners are either ignored by many local law enforcement agencies, or complaints of violations are responded to more slowly than are other calls. So, if you are a woman whose ex-boyfriend is banging down your door, call 9-1-1 and tell them someone is using drugs in your front yard. You’ll get a better response in many cases.

In cases of rape, the successful conviction rate is just 2 percent. Do you really believe 98 percent of women are lying? I don’t. But crimes against women are held to a higher standard of proof.

Instead of seeing the criminal as being at fault, women are grilled about what they were wearing, where they were walking, why they went on a date with someone who they didn’t know would rape them …

I have been very open in recent weeks about the abuse that has happened to me. But last night, following a screening of the new film, “Equal Means Equal,” I stood and asked the 75 or so people in attendance how many of them had been molested, raped, sexually assaulted or abused by an intimate partner. Almost every woman there raised her hand.

Think about that for a moment. In a room full of women gathered to see a documentary about the Equal Rights Amendment, almost every one of them has suffered a form of physical abuse at the hands of a man (or men).

And I didn’t ask about harassment at work, unequal pay, lack of access to reproductive health services or other forms of discrimination against women.

I didn’t ask about women who want to breast feed their babies being told they’re somehow dirty and should take the baby into a bathroom stall. I responded to that once by inviting the person making the suggestion to bring her lunch in and eat it while sitting on the toilet. She thought that sounded absurd, and she was right. It is.

I didn’t ask about women who can’t afford to take unpaid family leave when their children are born, or about how they manage to afford the average $1,700 a month in child care costs.

More women live in poverty than men. More women are single head of household than men.

Women are not equal to men in this society, and it’s time we stood up and demanded that equality be put into the Constitution.

Only three more states are needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. We almost got it done in the 1970s, but we fell short because of arguments against men and women being “forced” to use the same bathrooms.

In 1974, when my then-husband railed against the ERA and used the bathroom argument, I reminded him that we were living in a one-bathroom apartment and that didn’t seem to bother him. He retorted, “That’s different!”

Right now, it looks like our best chances for ratification are in North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia. If you live one one of these states, you need to start talking to legislators about getting it done.

Giving women equal rights as human beings is not some left-wing, radical, militant feminist idea; it is something we should have done long, long ago.

Let’s get it done.

To learn more about the documentary, “Equal Means Equal,” visit www.equalmeansequal.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s words were not just idle chatter

I believe the women.

I believe the women.

As an increasing number of women come out and say Donald Trump assaulted them, some of his supporters still snort and say he’s innocent of such things.

But let me tell you, I believe the women. The former writer for People Magazine painted a picture so real I felt like I was watching a video clip.

I have been a woman in the workplace and I know what unwelcome advances are like.

There was the supervisor who turned down the heat in the office so he could see women’s erect nipples. When one of us overheard him bragging about it, we all started wearing loose sweatshirts at our desks.

Then there was Bob, a man at a small newspaper who pursued me every damn day for weeks, even taking to calling me at home with lewd suggestions. When I reported him to the publisher, the man said, “Oh, that’s just Bob.”

So, I went back to my desk, and within a few minutes, Bob was there, suggesting we take a couple hours away from the office.

I asked for his home phone number, and, leering, he gave it to me. I stood up.

“Attention, everyone,” I said. “I need witnesses to this.”

I turned to Bob.

“If you ever utter another word to me that isn’t work-related, I will call your wife. I will tell her what hell you have put me through here at work, and I’ll bet I can find other women to back me up.”

Bob skulked away and behaved himself after that, but I found another job as quickly as I could because I didn’t want to be in the same town as Bob anymore.

Another time, while I was on a sales call, a man cornered me and started groping and trying to kiss me. I managed to get away and he made some remark about how he understood why I was divorced because I was a “frigid bitch.”

My boss found out about it and went to visit the offender, offering to take a baseball bat to the creep if he ever made a move on a person in his employ again. I didn’t need my boss to do that, but it was nice to know a man in a position of authority had respect for me.

There was the company president who didn’t hire me because he didn’t like having women work for him because of their “monthly unreliability.”

I was fired once because the boss thought my shoes were “slutty.”

I have been paid less than men doing the same work because of my gender.

I have been called Baby and Honey and Sweetie.

I have been talked over and interrupted as though my professional opinion meant nothing.

I have been groped and pinched.

I have been molested.

I have been raped.

Women don’t make this shit up, and when a man admits he can kiss a woman without permission, that he can grab her genitalia, simply because he wants to and he can get away with it because he’s rich and/or famous, that doesn’t come from thin air.

Yes, men talk smack and exaggerate, but when women start coming forward with stories as detailed as these women, when first one, then another, and then another come forward with credible, creepy stories, I tend to believe them.

Don’t start talking to me about Bill Clinton or Bill Cosby as though I somehow defended their behavior because I never have. I have only said that Clinton’s Oval Office blow job was consensual, which it was.

If Trump were running for dogcatcher, perhaps his utter disrespect for women wouldn’t make a difference, although he still wouldn’t get my vote.

But he is running for President of the United States, and he actually has millions of supporters — or at least millions who think he’s somehow a better choice than his opponent.

This is just another example of the rape culture that is so pervasive in American society now. We believe men who make comments like this and then say they were “only kidding,” but we either refuse to believe women who say they have been assaulted or we blame them.

We tell them they were wearing the wrong thing or we were in the wrong place (alone with a male colleague in his office, for example). We shouldn’t have accepted that invitation to talk about an ad campaign over dinner or to work on a project after hours so we could make a deadline.

Or in the case of the People reporter, we interview a man for a story. As a former reporter, I can attest to the fear we sometimes feel when we land alone with someone we think might be a predator. I made it a practice to do interviews in a public place or with people nearby who could hear me if I screamed. I never let story subjects buy me a meal.

Still, there were plenty of men who made suggestive remarks (although there were fewer as I got older) when they thought no one could hear.

So, why don’t we say something then and there?

Because he’s more powerful than we are and he could ruin us, and to defend himself, he probably will. Because we know we’ll catch the blame for the incident in the end.

If you want to support Trump, that’s your choice. If you believe he’s innocent of all charges, fine. Believe what you want. It’s your vote.

However, if you come onto one of my posts on social media and start telling me I have no right to be creeped out by this monster, I will block you.

If you troll on another woman’s post in the same manner, I will block you. Because if you have so little respect for women that you can’t understand why we find him abhorrent in what he says and does, I have nothing in common with you.

My experience with men like Trump is real and I will not allow anyone to invalidate it.

 

 

 

The Equal Rights Amendment is back

ERA button

I rejoined the National Organization for Women when the US Supreme Court decided employers could deny women access to contraception, as well as abortion.

Obviously, they want women at home, bearing baby after baby after baby because a few religious extremists think that’s the way life should be for everyone, and if they’re denied their “religious freedom,” they will scream that they’re being persecuted.

It seems we’re all supposed to be the family from 19 Kids and Counting, even though most of us could never support that size family and God knows these same people who pushed for this Supreme Court decision don’t care a bit about our children after they’re born.

I was appalled at the walking back of our right to control our own bodies and reproduction.

The thing is, we never actually had that right. In fact, the only right women are granted in the Constitution is the right to vote. All our other “rights” are granted at the pleasure of the men for whom the Constitution was written.

I believed it back in the 1970s and I believe it now; we need the Equal Rights Amendment to have the same rights in all other things as men now enjoy.

They are free to pass laws governing our bodies and our ability to plan our families and careers unless we are granted equal rights under the Constitution, and you know they’re not going to be fair to women when they won’t even let us in on the discussion.

Monday night in Raleigh, state Rep. Carla Cunningham announced at a gathering of NC Women United she would introduce the Equal Rights Amendment into the NC House, most likely next week. Sen Terry Van Duyn said she would be one of the primary sponsors in the state Senate.

The Equal Rights Amendment was written by suffragist Alice Paul and introduced into the US Congress in 1923. It passed in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification. Only three more states need to ratify the amendment, although there is one more hurdle: Congress must vote to remove the five-year time limit that was set in 1972.

I know the atmosphere in this country is decidedly anti-woman right now, but we women can change that. There are more of us than there are men, and we tend to vote in larger numbers.

So, what we need is a coordinated effort to oust those who would send us back to the 19th century. We need to educate all girls and women about the importance of voting, and we need to get them registered and to the polls.

If you are anti-abortion, that’s fine. But if you think it’s OK to tell a woman she has no right to prevent pregnancy and then say rape can be a beautiful thing or that a woman won’t get pregnant from rape unless she enjoys it, I think we should part ways right here and now.

It’s time to give women the same guarantees as men to the rights granted by the Constitution. It won’t mean we have to share bathrooms (one of the more common arguments against the ERA in the 1970s) or showers at the gym. It won’t mean men have fewer rights; it only means women will have equal rights.

So, it’s back. Let’s work together to get it passed.

You bet I’m angry

By my friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies

I had a pretty lengthy rant going on Local Edge Radio the other day. I started with the arrogance and mean-spiritedness of Justice Antonin Scalia, making light of the Affordable Care Act, complaining it was too long to read and saying it was OK to let people die.

It was NOT OK to let my son die, or any other American whose life could be saved by appropriate medical treatment. A study released this week placed the United States 19th out of 19 industrialized nations in health care outcomes. Dead last (pun intended). It also estimated 101,000 Americans die each year because they lack access to appropriate treatment.

Someone commented to me that we can’t afford to treat everyone — just look at all the problems the Euro-nations are having.

Well, first of all, the economic mess comes from the power of Wall Street and the big banks to do whatever they please, rob the economy blind, take us to the brink of world economic disaster and suffer no punishment for it. Secondly, every one of those countries pays far, far less than we do for health care because it costs far, far less to care for people before they become critically ill. It costs far, far less to treat mental illnesses in a clinic than it does in a jail, which is where some 60 percent of people with chronic and persistent mental illnesses get treatment nowadays.

And we’re just talking about the financial cost, not the human cost of allowing people to suffer needlessly.

Regulation is important, not just for health insurance companies, but for banks, Wall Street, utilities — every industry. Without it, you get economic meltdown as the 1 percent steals ever more from the working class.

Without regulation, there is less safety in the workplace — the reason my son has had third-degree burns three times where he works.

The Right would have us believe government can do nothing right. They point to schools, which have been defunded at historic rates.  When schools were funded, American children had the best education system in the world. That hasn’t been true since the 1980s. In fact, we have been slipping badly.

Now they’re defunding highways and transportation, claiming that the market will build and maintain roads where they’re needed. Yes I have heard that claim many times; I’m not making it up.

But you still can turn on your tap and get water. You still have libraries and police and fire departments you can call when you need them — at least until the Right privatizes them or eliminates them entirely by defunding them. Already, we’re seeing concerted efforts to reduce their power to negotiate and reduce their salaries and benefits.

Workers’ salaries aren’t keeping pace with inflation. In every city in the country, it takes more than twice the minimum wage to pay for even the most basic needs (housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, child care). Those basic needs do not include cable TV, any meals out, including McDonald’s, or Internet service.

Why do you suppose that’s true? Well, we’ve villified the American worker and killed the unions.

This sustained attack on working Americans has reduced our salaries and increased our debt — it hearkens back to the Guilded Age when factories put people up in company-owned housing and paid them in company scrip which could only be spent at the company store. Prices at the store were high enough to keep workers in debt so they couldn’t leave.

If you think that’s not where we’re headed, think again.

And now they attack women, forcing us to have transvaginal sonograms — against our and our doctors’ wills — before we can have a perfectly legal surgical procedure. They call us whores because we want to be the ones to decide when and if we will bear children, as though we can’t be trusted to control our own bodies.

I lived through the changing of those laws. I thought we had changed attitudes too, but apparently, we weren’t as successful as we thought.

We are engaged in endless wars, killing and maiming our soldiers while asking nothing of any of the rest of us. The military-industrial complex is making billions off of these wars while soldiers and their families suffer with not enough pay and not enough care, not to mention the misery we inflict on the populations of people we attack. But if we demand an end to war, we’re told we’re not supporting the troops. That’s bullshit, pure and simple.

I’m tired of the attacks on the American people and I’m furious about the lies they perpetrate on us.

The Affordable Care Act will not result in rationed care; that’s being done already by Big Insurance. It will not mean people over 75 will be refused treatment for cancer, not like my 30-year-old son was refused care because he didn’t have insurance. These things are deliberate lies.

You bet I’m angry.

 

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