Friday, May 8, 2020

What is that building with the birdie sailing back and forth?

The Embassy of Cambodia 
by Zadie Smith
This is a 70-page novella published on the New Yorker website in February, 2013. 
It is available to read for free! 

I have read On Beauty and Swing Time by Zadie Smith 
and was cnurious to read another of her books. 
I am honestly undecided about her writing. 
I enjoyed both On Beauty and Swing Time
but I wouldn't consider either book as a "favorite read."
Although I rarely read ebooks, 
I felt this is short enough I could 
survive reading it in the digital format. :)'s free! :)

Fatou passes this building for the first time as she heads to the heated pool in the health center adjacent to the Embassy. This is, as far as most people are aware, the only embassy built in a suburb, Willesden, and not located in the center of the city. The people of Willesden being more "prosaic" than "poetic":
I doubt there is a man or woman among us, for example, who--upon passing 
the Embassy of Cambodia for the first time--did not immediately 
think: 'genocide.' (p 3)
This made me stop and consider, since that was one of the first words that crossed my mind... 

We learn that Fatou is a chambermaid who has taught herself to swim while at the Carib Beach Resort in Accra. No tourist ever ventured on the trash-covered beach at the Resort and employees were not allowed to use the hotel's pool. So Fatou rose and sank with the water's motion in the early morning hours each Sunday as she taught herself to swim in this "cold and treacherous sea." The only way she is able to enter the health center and swim in their pool is by using free guest passes stolen from her employer, the Derawals. But she can only do this on Mondays as both Mr. and Mrs. Derawal are both working on this one day each week. 

Badminton is being played inside the embassy's high walls with only the shuttlecock visible as it arches over the net with each hit: "Pock, smash, Pock, smash." The only arrivals to the Embassy that Fatou has ever seen are white males with backpacks--no one who looks to be in the least "Cambodian." She assumes they are seeking visas. Although a basketball goal was newly visible above the Embassy's high wall, there never appeared to be anyone playing basketball--only the "Pock, smash, Pock, smash" of badminton play could be heard.

Fatou has confirmed her assumption that she is not actually a slave upon reading an abandoned article describing the life of a Sudanese girl kept in a rich man's London house   as a slave. It was her father, not a kidnapper, who took her from the Ivory Coast to Accra in Ghana at age 16, where they both obtained work at the same hotel. From there he sent her to Libya then on to Italy at age 18. And although she has not seen her passport since her arrival, nor is she paid a wage by the Derawals since that money is retained by them as payment for her room and board while living there, she can come and go as she pleases. She is not restricted to the Derawal residence. For example, she meets a friend, Andrew, on Sunday mornings to attend church and he treats her to coffee and cake afterwards at a Tunisian cafe. 

Andrew is educated and Fatou feels she can have "deep" discussions with him, unlike anyone else in her everyday life in London. One day they discuss the Holocaust versus the genocide in Rwanda, and the resulting worldwide knowledge. Fatou expresses her belief that Africans "have more pain" than other ethnicities in the world, e.g. the Chinese. They briefly discuss the Khmer Rouge policies in Cambodia--forcing all the New People (who live in cities) to move to the country and become "Old People." Andrew explained you would be killed for wearing glasses as that implied you "thought too much." 

Following Fatou's baptism and conversion to Christianity, she realizes her daily life is still the same routine. She emphasizes that she can recognize the "Devil" in people, rather than concentrating on "God's love." We learn that a Russian raped her while working in a hotel, so she is not a virgin...

Fatou performs the Heimlich maneuver to save one of the four children in Derawal household from choking, and then is fired within the next day or two. For no apparent reason other than they need "a housekeeper who cleans properly," not a nanny, and she pays too much attention to the children. 

Fatou calls Andrew, the only other person she knows in London, and he will meet her four hours later. They will sleep in shifts, etc., as she moves into his apartment. He assures her he respects her and it will all work out.

Fatou could speak English and some Italian, and was obviously more well-read than you might assume, considering her background. Though her life was obviously a very lonely one with no one but this Andrew to help her at all while in London. No mention was made of her father, so we assume he simply sent her to a place where he believed she could have a better future.

I am always so sad when parents feel they must separate themselves from their children to possibly provide a better life for the children. I just feel so grateful not to have ever been put in a similar situation, as a child or a parent...

I felt this story was at the very least poignant and bittersweet. 
Perhaps Fatou is not technically a "slave" in the strictest sense of the word, 
but her life doesn't appear to be very different in many ways, at least to me.

Have you read this?
What are your thoughts?

I don't believe Zadie Smith's writing is ever particularly 'cheery' or entertaining,
but she does make me think and consider...

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

This book is one that has been in my house for years. 
It perfectly satisfied a prompt 
for an April 2020 reading challenge, 
so I finally picked it up
and read it! 

Maeve Binchy is one of my absolute favorite authors. 
Although she died in 2012, 
I will be collecting and reading all books 
authored by her that I have not yet read...

I mainly read for characterization, 
and in that respect, 
she is one of the masters!

This is an absolutely delightful collection of short stories.

In "The Return Journey" Gina travels to her mother's home country, where her mother has never visited after emigrated to the United States from Ireland. During that visit, Gina meets a man and decides to settle down in her mother's childhood hometown. History repeating itself...?

Ms. Grant and Mr. Green each manage to somehow pick up "The Wrong Suitcase" at the airport, each not realizing their error until opening the case in their possession. As they meet to exchange cases, they shake hands and simultaneously claim not to have read the other's unison...each then realizing the other was lying. :) Human nature! We are curious about each other, aren't we?

"Miss Vogel's Vacation" is a lovely story about a woman who takes life as it comes...disappointments and all, retaining a positive attitude. In the end, she realizes she has had it much better than some whom she felt had cheated her out of a 'better' life. Good for Miss Vogel!

Shane and Moya in "Package Tour" believe themselves to be soul-mates... Until they plan to travel together and each of them is preparing to pack. Then differences arise that are seemingly insurmountable. They both wonder why this disparity couldn't have been discovered before they fell in love? Personally, I felt that if they did indeed love each other, they could have managed...but that's just me! :)

In "The Apprenticeship," both Florrie and Camilla manage to raise themselves to a much higher social status than that to which they were born. As Camilla is marrying an elite male, Florrie realizes that in their training to 'marry up' on the social ladder they have overlooked the concept of love in a relationship. She vows to incorporate this into her life as she searches for an acceptable spouse. Quite naturally, my thought is, "Uh-oh. That may prove to be the downfall of your training!" :)

Lena gets a lesson on "love" in "The Business Trip." She has managed to convince herself that she is "in love" with her boss. However, her aunt Maggie, feels otherwise and encourages her to use the opportunity of this time spent alone with Shay to learn more about him so she can determine (1) how well she truly knows him, and (2) whether he really is the person she believes him to be. Lena feels a sense of relief as she determines Shay is incompatible with her attitudes and behaviors...and anxiously anticipates arriving home to begin life anew after four years of devotion to a person she only thought she knew... Awwwww...

"The Crossing" depicts an all-too-familiar occurrence of connecting intensely with a total stranger and then parting ways without ever exchange contact information or expecting to see the other person again. This is so true, isn't it? We often glean information and/or insights from strangers that prove to be very beneficial, yet, the other person never knows of their impact because we never communicate with them again after that initial meeting. Life can be very strange sometimes. :)

Paul the Purser gets a very good lesson in "implicit bias" when he becomes rather obsessed with a trio of passengers which includes the one male, Charlie, and "The Women in Hats," Bonnie and Charlotte. The woman he has already befriended on this voyage, Helen, informs him in no uncertain terms that while he believes others should willingly accept the fact that he is gay and is devoted to a male partner, he is unable to drop his own prejudice against overweight people, especially a "fat" female. This was very interesting. Helen tells him in no uncertain terms of his despicable behavior that has deeply offended her. But she refuses to divulge her connection to the issue. I just love Maeve Binchy's ability to write such simple yet powerful stories within only 18 pages.

In all their "Excitement," Rose and Ted plans what appears to be a concrete immovable plan to have an overnight tryst, away from both of their respective spouses and families. However, both discover relatives at the same hotel where they have a reservation and end up with no more "excitement" than returning to their families without the extramarital sex they had planned to obtain. This was quite humorous! 

In "Holiday Weather" Frankie and Robert are planning their usual annual vacation together when plans are interrupted at the last minute--the destination is changed and Robert must work the whole week. This gives Frankie time to get to know Shane, the innkeeper better. She decides to stay in Ireland before the week ends... Robert is married. Interestingly, once chaos inserts itself into their plans, and neither of them is any longer in 'control' of their situation, previously unrevealed incompatible aspects of their personalities emerge...and the relationship ends. I suppose it is easy to maintain an extramarital affair when everything remains under your control, but if not, perhaps alter egoes show themselves...

Victor in "Victor and St. Valentine" is perhaps one of the last truly romantic males. He was raised in a household where Valentine's Day was intensely celebrated, but has learned as an adult, that the females he has known overall do not appreciate honest "Valentine" sentiments. Until as an electrician, he gets to know Mrs. Todd, one of his clients, very well and ends up offering to escort her to Australia to visit her granddaughter, Amy. It is Amy who gives Victor his first adult Valentine's gift and card, and I believe Victor may well end up in Australia permanently! :)

In "Cross Lines" Martin and Kay demonstrate just how incorrect our first impressions can be until we actually speak with and get to know a person. They make assumptions about each other simply from visual input, then they actually have a conversation. Again, strangers meet and impart information/opinions, and then assume they will have no further contact. However, as each of them rides in separate taxis to their hotel, they are unknowingly headed to the same place and will most likely encounter each ot her again, very soon! 

In "A Holiday with Your Father" Rose fantasizes about the relationship between a younger female and older wheelchair-bound male she observes in the airport. She is immediately jealous as she assumes he woman is his daughter and they are traveling together by choice. She wants her father to travel with her. But when she broaches the subject with her own father yet again, he insists he still cannot do so, but perhaps once he is retired... And she finally agrees they could discuss it then. Rather poignant. And I was jealous! Having never had my biological father in my life, nor living with a stepfather, etc., I believe I have always fantasized a close father-daughter relationship and all that might entail. Though who knows? Perhaps I would have despised him in the end...but I will never know as he has been dead 20+ years. 

Even if short stories aren't necessarily your thing, I can highly recommend this collection.
They certainly worked well for me!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

#MeToo: Essays... Part 2

#MeToo: Essays About How and Why This Happened, 
What it Means and How to Make Sure It Never Happens Again 
by Lisa Perkins
I established a 30-day free trial account on scribd to mainly listen to the audiobook of poetry, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, to satisfy the 2020 Read Harder Challenge prompt #8.
I rarely listen to audiobooks and didn't wish to pay for something I wouldn't listen to again. 
If you happen to listen to this, be sure to listen to his interview at the end. 
It is definitely noteworthy! I did find Reynolds' narration to be wonderful 
and would highly recommend this audiobook.
However, I will also own the actual book and read it as well. 
Just because I overall prefer a book in my hands. But on to #MeToo.

This review will cover the last half of this book. You can find Part 1 of this review here
Thus far I have been very impressed, 
as well as sometimes shocked at these revelations of 
males' aggressive, abusive, and misogynistic behaviors toward females.
But I also realize that I am now at a much different place in my life. 
As an older female, I don't give a damn! If you are a male and you're even halfway considering mistreating or abusing me, you'd better carry a big stick with you! 
'Cause I'm comin' after you with whatever I have on hand...and I know some moves!
So beware! And, honestly, I have always been much more combative in this regard than most of the other females I've known throughout my life, no matter at what age.
My husband researched interpersonal violence between males and females for his PhD. 
Before we were even dating, in those first 9 months as very best friends, I once asked 
him if I demonstrated enough self-confidence to hopefully avoid being attacked. 
His response? "If a male selected you as a potential victim, he needs to do something else.
You are definitely not a woman any man with sense would dare mess with." 
(I am paraphrasing from memory.) I just remember feeling proud of that. 
Now, back to the book!

Katherine Ramsland describes the concept of narcissistic immunity in "Tit for Tat." These repeat offenders who often take big risks
have a talent for rebounding from setbacks because they're certain of their invulnerability. This comes not just from their repeated success, 
but also from the knowledge that those who know what they're doing 
won't stop them. (p 81)
Ramsland goes on to describe a situation where a male was implicitly stating he would give her what she wanted if she gave him what he wanted. And then everyone would be happy and satisfied. Was this ever expressed in explicit terms? No, of course not. As Ramsland states,
Situations of subtle compromise are probably the most frequent abuse of power, 
and the most difficult to identify as sexual misconduct, 
because the aggressor can easily say he was misunderstood. 
He slips away, leaving his target violated in a non-specific way. 
Even if she complains, it's difficult to make anything stick. 
She will also be labeled in some negative way, not to mention ostracized. (p 78)
And this is how the cycle perpetuates itself with no male ever being held accountable.

Predators plan. They use "deflection, social miscues, and misinformation" to exude charm and success which work to "falsely engender trust" in a very relaxed and confident manner. So change must occur on both a cultural and personal level. We need to learn about sexual predators as well as our own vulnerabilities to help this collective movement make a better world for everyone, but particularly those historically deemed to be most vulnerable and socially subjugated by males--females!

Catherine Gigante-Brown describes how and why she believes 
"I was only..." are three of the most dangerous words in the English language.
"I was only joking."
"I was only trying to help."
"I was only..."
No. You weren't. (p 89)
Not the best friend's uncle who put his hand on her crotch at age 12. Not the nice blind man who ran the newsstand and forced his tongue down her throat for a "friendly" good-bye kiss at age 17. And especially not the man in the park who said of her at age 19, "We're following her. I like the way her ass jiggles when she walks." These are weak excuses offered by men--only because they're caught! To her credit she confronted the last man in the crowded public park and ended up shaming him into an apology. 
Yes means yes. No means no. (p 89)
And no man has a right to assault a woman. Period. Until you ask and the answer is "yes," just don't. As the author notes, it feels good to stand up for herself, but 40 years later she must still do so. It will not stop until we view each other with respect, kindness, and acceptance...
It starts here. It starts now. It starts with us. (p 90)
We will raise our young girls to be self-confident self-assured individuals who will defend themselves any time and anywhere by confronting and calling out these abusers.

Kate Mara addresses an issue I'd never experienced or considered before in "Me Too: Protecting Men from Themselves." Once she informed her mother that her own uncle (her mother's own brother) had attempted to rape her but she'd been lucky enough to get away, her mother's reply was to never tell her father because he would kill the man. At age 12, Kate agreed. But wait! Now this child must somehow keep herself out of harm's way when visiting her own grandmother (with whom her uncle lived) AND protect her father from the truth that would make him lose control and murder someone, his own brother-in-law. It is this cycle of "silence and violence" that also helps perpetuate the misogynistic culture of our time and the past. Men can't be trusted to respect women and yet those who would be their most intense defenders also cannot be trusted to control their violent behaviors...? My immediate thought? Men are messed up!

Jude M. Lucien points out in "Men, Women and #MeToo" males are also sexually assaulted and seem to have no recourse for reporting such abuse. None. It is just unacceptable for a male to claim that he was assaulted. It seems like such an aberration. A near impossibility. Likewise to a great degree for any female sexually assaulted by another female. However, Lucien is very clear about the vast difference between a female victim of male sexual assault and the other two scenarios--it boils own to the "fear" culture created by the continued and unchecked misogynistic behaviors of men toward women. Women must always operate by a different set of social/cultural rules than those of men: (1) never ride in an elevator alone with a male, (2) never walk alone at night in a parking garage, (3) never walk alone anywhere after dark, etc. As Lucien states,
Women have physically violated my sexual boundaries many more times 
than have men because my sexual relationships have always been with women. 
But all those years that men catcalled, bra-snapped, commented and 
attempted to rape me structured my life in a way that those women simply can't. 
(p 99)

"Every Book I Have Ever Written is a #MeToo Novel" (The grammar nerd in me realizes it should read an #MeToo...) by Trinity Blacio describes how using her own helplessness against sexual assault in her youthful past is reflected in her very strong and self-sufficient female protagonists. In her worlds women support each other and have each other's backs. Where an 8-year-old can feel comfortable confiding to her mother of her stepfather's inappropriate behaviors toward her. Where a 15-year-old can confide to her father that the employee who took her on a date at her father's behest took her to an abandoned cabin and date-raped her and feel vindicated that a process was followed to hold the 20-year-old accountable beyond just losing his job... 
And if for some reason she doesn't have those options, 
perhaps she'll read a novel where she'll see her reflection 
and know that she will survive, and, maybe, save the world. (p 104)

In "#NotMe's Instead of #MeToo's" by Nikki Prince details the trauma in the aftermath of molestation by a family member and family friend, before she even reached age 10. She believed herself to be "voiceless" and said nothing about it until she was in her 20's. She still has dreams about these incidents. As the mother of both a son and a daughter she believes we must start by educating our children at home, with reinforcement occurring at school. Teaching them agency for their own bodies and that when something doesn't feel good or right, they have a voice. (The one thing she didn't mention is to be sure to back them up fully if/when they do come to you as a parent.)
This is for me, this is for my children, and this is for the world to hear. 
We are here, we are the #MeToo's, and we will not remain silent ever again.
Let's make a world where there are #NotMe's instead of #MeToo's. (p 107)

"Not Them Too" by Louisa Bacio. Imagine that it is your first job in publishing and you're in the elevator with the Vice President for Advertising and he says
"Are those $1000-a-night fuck-me pumps?" (p 109)
What do you say? Alone with a man in an work! And this happens! Of course, this was not the incident to occur to Louisa. The editorial director informed her she would not be allowed to travel as part of her job because she was "female and attractive." The staff was 98% male. Good old misogynistic patriarchy at work! Don't change male behavior, instead, restrict the life of females to prevent 'incidents'. Ugh! At another magazine on her first day of work one of the senior editors (the only female one) called her into her office and explained that she would never be able to advance because there was 
only "room" for one female editor and it was going to be her. 
That troubled magazine went bankrupt, and when the doors closed 
there was only one female editor: It was [Louisa]. (p 109)
This story made me smile! Louisa goes on to describe the scariest occurrence that happened in her own home. Her roommate befriended two strange men and had them follow her home in their car.  Fortunately, Louisa awakened as they were walking down the hall toward her room, saying 
"Can we look at your roommate? Is she pretty?" A man's voice woke me in the middle of the night. I was 23, in grad school. "She's asleep," my roommate said.
"It's all right. We won't do anything. Just look at her."
I lay in bed, listening to footsteps come down the hallway, and stop outside my closed bedroom door. The doorknob rattled, and turned.
At that moment, I jumped out of bed, yanked on the handle, and screamed:
"What the fuck do you think you're doing? Get out of my house!" (p 111)
Louisa chased them out, locked the door, and promptly evicted her roommate the very next day. She now has two daughters and is
...teaching [them] how to stand up for themselves. Hell no, not them too! (p 112)

In "Why We #MeToo" Jennifer Wedmore describes how she 
became two people, the one who suffered during the night/early morning, and the one who got up and went to school and functioned normally. (p 114)
This occurred for 10 years of her life as a young girl. She also describes other much more minor incidents where men "accidentally" brushed up against her, etc., throughout her life. 
The everyday fear women have of walking to our car by ourselves or walking by a group of men must stop! We should feel safe in our environments! (p 114)
Then she mentions being "afraid" to ask her teenage daughter if she has experienced any such incidents... That seems hypocritical to me. If you don't ask, you won't know, and then you can' help her talk it out and decide how best to handle it in the future. We need to enable girls/women to expose these incidents so they can know it is not their fault and how best to counteract such behaviors. 

As Gen Ryan states in "Until When #MeToo":
The problem isn't with women not coming forward, because as we have seen 
recently in the media that women are flocking and coming together more than ever. 
It's how, as a society, we view the female. (p 117)
Females' every detail of their life experience, background, and history are examined to find fault. Ryan claims that a society, we [must] stop villainizing the victims and start holding the [offending] individuals  accountable for their actions. (p 119)
I am anxious for exactly that! Perhaps convicting and imprisonment of Harvey Weinstein is a positive sign for lasting change. I have my fingers crossed!

Carmela Caruso describes how a "friend" became an attacker in "Doing What We've Always Done: Gender Roles and Sexual Assault." This person was someone who lived in the same small town and Carmela saw around town off and on. They would exchange simple greetings: "Hello," etc. One night he invited her to join himself and some of his friends at a restaurant. He ended up walking her home even though she had told him point blank she did not want him to go with her and she was not going to have sex with him. (She was feeling uncomfortable about him at that point in time. Once in her house he tried to have sex with her several times and she kept refusing to cooperate, saying "No!" A couple of months later he approaches her asking why she never contacted him. She stated she felt he had sexually assaulted her and he was genuinely surprised...and apologized. He explained that
he'd been in a similar situation many times before and found women 
thought they should act distant and unavailable to 
avoid being labeled a "whore" or "slut" for wanting sex. 
Men, he said, were expected to show force to which the woman, 
throwing down her feigned resistance, would respond. 
It's what women wanted, he said. (p 124)
I would love to think this was simply a bullshit answer, but I believe there are males who have never been taught nor learned otherwise. Strictly caveman stuff! You can't make this shit up! Now she better understands the statistic that 85% of women who are sexually assaulted know their attacker. How sad... She also cites generic statistics regarding the likelihood any accusations will never make it to court and the victim/woman will be vilified and made out to be the reason for the assault. 

"For Men the 'MeToo' Movement Should Be More Than a Hashtag" by Ivan Natividad
Tarana Burke, a Broolyn-based youth activist, first used the words "Me Too" to found a movement meant 
as a rallying cry to support young women 
who had survived sexual abuse, assault and exploitation. (p 127)
To let them know they were not alone. Because, unfortunately, they are only one of many...
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every 98 seconds someone in our country is sexually assaulted, and one out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or competed rape in her lifetime.
Moreover, 90% of adult rape victims are female, 
and females ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely 
than the general population to be victims of 
rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. (p 128)
No wonder that within 24 hours of the launch of the #MeToo movement, there were more than 12 million Facebook posts, comments and reactions made. TWELVE MILLION. Let that number sink in. Within 24 hours. Unbelievable. And so scary! Ivan describes being able to shrug off uninvited sexual touching as a young man simply because, unlike a woman, he had no danger to fear. 
Never did I worry about being followed down a dark alley afterward.
Never did I worry about a woman stalking me at my house or 
place of work because I did not reciprocate their advances. (p 129)
Best estimates are that only 6 of every 1,000 rapists end up in prison. Natividad believes men can help make permanent changes for the better by not "supporting or condoning a culture that hyper-sexualizes women." 
We can redefine our masculinity to detach it from abusive stereotypical behavior. 
Our character is based on what we do, not what we think we believe. (p 130)
So do more than just like certain #MeToo comments/posts on social media, actually begin to set a good example for sons, brothers, cousins, or just other males who are complete strangers. Call others out on their inappropriate behaviors/attitudes/actions and be sure you are acting everyone, including females! Will it make you everyone's 'best friend'? Perhaps not. But those who choose to spend time with you will be comfortable with you...

"For Guys Reading #MeToo Testimonies" by Courtney E. Martin. 
Feel the excruciating pain of complicity. (p 133)
Martin encourages men to read the stories of #MeToo and then just sit. Close their eyes and sit...and feel. Feel what it must be like to live in a world filled with "sexual harassment and assault" a man. Much as Martin tries to deal with the fact that she is "white" and yet not in the least bit associated with white supremacists and the hatred and violence they spew. But she must deal as part of that culture by the fact that her skin is also white. (I can relate to that...) So as much as a specific male may have never mistreated or abused a woman, he is still part of the culture by definition, just as she is part of white supremacy. She encourages men to feel what they feel and then talk with other men about their feelings...
A world this riddled with sexual harassment and abuse will never be healed 
by a hashtag, that's for sure. Yet this moment could be the first one 
in which you choose to do something different, to lay the first brick 
in a world that is built differently, a world safe for women's bodies 
and men's feelings, a world worthy of everyone's wholeness. (p 135)
Hallelujah! You preach it, sister! 

"The Wild Feminine Freed #MeToo" by Jamie Della. Jamie studies wicca and writes about this religion. Her emphasis is on the feminine goddess. 
If only we remembered that they key to freedom hides in our womb. 
We must claim our sovereignty by owning the power of the pussy.
Our liberation awaits when we draw out the lusty Baba Yaga: 
the Goddess who dares us to go boldly in the direction of our bliss, 
face our fears and liberate our shame. (p 137)
We should revel in our femininity and let no one shame us for that! 

"Our Bodies Are Not the Problem" by Liz DeBetta
She has a very poignant concise poem and claims that women must make others uncomfortable before things can change for the better. It is nor our bodies that are problematic, but others' refusal to respect women as people!

"Hush" by Sherri Donovan
A poem definitely worth reading! 

"Sexual Harassment on the Job from HR's Perspective" by Marina Jumiga
Marina describes her experience with pursuing an HR complaint on behalf of another employee in her facility who was "tapped on the butt" as acknowledgement, when a simple "Hello!" would have sufficed. the employee was eventually reprimanded and terminated and training was completed by all other employees. Sign-in sheets were used to prove training was completed so that no employee could claim ignorance of the sexual harassment policy. Very smart!! 

"Why the #MeToo Movement Is a Call to Arms for Men Everywhere" by Mark Radcliffe
As Mark saw all of the #MeToo Facebook postings from his female friends, he realized that as a man
it's not enough for us men to just not assault women. We have to do more.
Not just not be part of the problem, but actively be part of the solution. (p 155)
Agreed! It is time for men to act as role models for other men. Past time!
If their days are filled with dread/fear/anxiety/oppression, 
then their lives are forever worsened. 
And we share those lives with them--if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. 
As a result, women are understandably less open with us, less trusting of us, 
and less able to be fully alive and present in our lives as well. 
And this simply cannot be. (p 155)
Men need to mentor other men. Edmund Burke once wrote, 
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (p 155)
That is so true. Silence is complicity... But how to do more?
...start by simply being the kind of friend/boyfriend/husband/colleague 
that a woman feels comfortable discussing her assault with. (p 155)
Be that person who believes her...
This is just the beginning. 
The real challenge is...working on our fellow men. Every. Single. Day. 
Being an agent of change in the daily conversations we're a part of. 
When an entire conversation with "the boys" at a restaurant is 
about the waitress' ass, what are we doing to change that? (p 156)
Saying nothing is complicity. 
Because if their moral compass won't compel them to act differently, 
then we must make the consequences of their actions force them to change--
both in their behavior and attitudes. 
And if we do that, then we will no longer be fully complicit in a world that results in umpteen million women having to post "#MeToo" in their Facebook feed today.
So gentlemen, let's pledge to have a lot more difficult conversations between ourselves, so that there are fewer difficult "#MeToo" posts 
from the women in our lives. (p 158)

"Politics is My #MeToo" by Alessandra Biaggi.
...we are just beginning. The road is long, and we will grow weary, 
but we must never give up or give in. I am honored to join the stories of my sisters; together our voices will reverberate--throughout the streets, rounding corners that echo through the halls of Congress and state legislatures; that rip through industries, which have historically protected predators and upheld systems of abuse. 
Enough. Our message--spoken + written = united. #MeToo (p 162)

I must admit I am so ignorant I was unaware there was such a thing as 
a "nondisclosure agreement" to cover up abuse. 
Let us hope this is the beginning of the ending of such nonsense.
And that men are held responsible for their behaviors.

Happy reading! 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

#MeToo: Essays...Part I

#MeToo: Essays About How and Why This Happened, 
What it Means and How to Make Sure It Never Happens Again 
by Lisa Perkins
I established a 30-day free trial account on scribd to mainly listen to the audiobook of poetry, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, to satisfy the 2020 Read Harder Challenge prompt #8.
I rarely listen to audiobooks and didn't wish to pay for something I wouldn't listen to again. 
If you happen to listen to this, be sure to listen to his interview at the end. 
It is definitely noteworthy! I did find Reynolds' narration to be wonderful 
and would highly recommend this audiobook.
However, I will also own the actual book and read it as well. 
Just because I overall prefer a book in my hands. But on to #metoo.

I wanted to read a collection of essays regarding the #metoo movement.
I wanted a bit of introduction to some of the stories out there.
Another Goodreads member had read this and recommended it. 
And since I had another 2 weeks left of that 30-day free trial, I decided I would read the ebook on scribd. Just because... This ebook was published by
Not a publisher with which I am familiar. They have a very intimidating message in the "Smashwords edition, license notes" to be sure to purchase this book and any more copies of this book that you may wish to gift to others so they can also read it. 
Okay. Fine. I get that. "Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author." 
Again. I agree wholeheartedly. But...
On page 10 of 165 (actually the first page of text) 
there is a VERY obvious typo--defiNed rather than defied!
It is such a glaring error because the sentence is about a woman 
who literally DEFIED the nondisclosure agreement she had signed. 
Obviously, this particular book could have used a good editor's scrutiny just one last time!
Or maybe even a mediocre editor's once over...but whatever. 
I am reading it for free. What did I expect? So onward and upward...

Perkins begins by detailing two encounters she had with 
"totally out of place sexual behavior within a work environment."
These two stories alone enraged me! We can be so gullible and naive when young, 
can't we? She admitted she had never told anyone 
nor had she written about these experiences, until now. As she states:
We have to tell our stories, point the finger, shame this behavior and make it stop.
And if we have to do it every day for the next month, or year, or decade, we have to make that commitment. (p 13)
Agreed! We may well need to do this for the rest of our life!
...we have to change how we look at the behavior, and make sure that there are consequences. (p 14)
We are not a mob. We are a movement. (p 14)
And, as she notes, this movement which Patricia Douglas initiated clear back in 1937 in Hollywood, through Anita Hill's brave testimony, is now a worldwide/global call to action!

Back legislation to change the nondisclosure laws in the workplace. (p 14)
I remember being horrified when I learned this was even a thing! 
And a perfectly LEGAL, often used thing, at that! 
That was with regard to Donald Trump's own sexual antics revealed during the 2016 Presidential election. (And how has that worked out for our country?)

I love this quote:
Don't just lean in. Take the reins. (p 14)
I did read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead as part of our campus Office of Women Book Club about six months after its release in 2013. 
I felt the main point it made was that each individual should have the right to choose 
what they do with their life, regardless of gender. 
But I know the book received some negative this did make me chuckle.
Perkins states her goal is "to reach people in the most permanent ways possible" and to achieve that end, the paperback version of this book is being sold at cost.
So pass this book around. Share it with your sons, brothers, fathers, 
your daughters, sisters, mothers, your co-workers and friends. 
Read passages to them, if they won't read it for themselves. 
Leave it on the desk of someone who should know better. 
Help us make this movement more than a hashtag. (p 15)

1937. That is the year Patricia Douglas became the first woman to publicly call out the studios (MGM specifically) for such behaviors. At the age of 20 she was one of 120 women to show up for an audition for You Must Remember This. Each woman was "fancied up" and "given a skimpy outfit" and taken to a party thrown for studio executives and 300 salesmen, as the evening's entertainment. (In addition to the 500 cases of scotch and champagne.) Patricia (and all the other women) were repeatedly sexually assaulted and eventually Patricia was raped. Since MGM owned everyone and everything at that time, nothing came of the criminal charges filed although a grand jury was convened). Civil lawsuits went nowhere, but Douglas persevered and finally tried to file a lawsuit in federal court, to which her own lawyer did not appear, nor any of the MGM bigwigs, so it was dismissed. However, this 
was "an apparent legal first" in that "a female plaintiff 
made rape a federal case, based on its violation of her civil rights. (p 21)
Even when interviewed at the age of 86, Douglas stated
"It ruined my life. It absolutely ruined my life"...
"They put me through such misery. It took away all my confidence." (p 21)
Patricia was willing to go public again due to her advanced age.
"When I die, the truth dies with me, and that means those bastards win." 
Not today. (p 22)
Thanks to Raechal Leone Shewfelt and Lisa Perkins, that is not what happened. Patricia Douglas's story has seen the light of day... :)

A.M. Carley asserts that such abuse is common knowledge, especially when you consider the 2016 Presidential election when the current "Predator-in-Chief" was 'elected' by the electoral college, not by the popular vote. Carley cites the Stockholm Syndrome as the main reason so many "conservative white middle-class women voted Republican." 
They took on the views of their oppressors long ago. 
Now, like the rest of us, they're wedded to their story, 
and recalcitrant about ceding any ground. (p 30)
What should we do to fight back? Promote "girl power"! Educate all children, female and male, about when "physical contact feels unwelcome" and how to report it. But most of all, train society to believe such reports and act upon them. Empower all individuals so each person can think clearly and form their own attitudes and opinions without caving to the oppressors and their desires. Most importantly--MOBILIZE and VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE! 2020 is our year! 

But only if we exercise our rights. And, as Ambassador Susan Rice said on March 2nd as a Steward Speakers Lecture Series presenter in Indianapolis, Indiana, (I'm paraphrasing): It is not only imperative that YOU vote, but that you make sure all your family and friends vote as well! 

Jesse Berdinka writes in "The Bully Culture of the Weinsteins" what really resonated for him was not to be on the red carpet, but rather the idea of the "culture of constantly trying to be the best at something, trying to prove something." As Berdinka says, the Weinsteins always portrayed themselves as "two kids from Queens fighting and besting a system that didn't think they were good enough to get in." That attitude permeated all the way down the authority chain. He describes how anyone could move up in the Weinstein corporation and in fact, it was perhaps easier for those from the 'outside' to do so than the typical Ivy League grad...
The problem is you can't be the outsider forever. 
At some point you have to find something to be for instead of against. 
Scrappiness often turns into ego. Ego turns into anger. 
The culture was one where you had to make a choice. (p 40)
He describes how you had to become a bully to "fit in." And then rationalize that in whatever way you saw fit--typically self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs. 
The real power of abuse isn't the big things. It's the subtle drip. 
The slow wearing down of a person, by small comments, looks or actions.
It wears on you day after day, sand blown hard even against the hardest of rocks. 
(p 42)
He admits to having witnessed absolutely reprehensible and unacceptable behaviors and doing nothing since they were not "crimes." But as he notes, is that our level of attention? Only when such behavior qualifies as criminal is it to be addressed? For him, it came down to a choice regarding what he valued as a person. He determined that he valued kindness, and he left the Weinstein corporation. 

Paul M. Sammon describes "The Big Ugly" as "pay to play" that has always existed in the underbelly of Hollywood. He is aware of many such alliances with "willing" participants. He describes several situations where he was able to extricate himself before anything untoward or unwelcome was offered to him directly. He credits a law enforcement background and knowledge for this 'sixth sense' of avoidance. Sammon also realizes that as a male he is certainly much more able to care for himself than females and doesn't even try to extend his own experiences to any others. He also has a 40-year-long successful marriage, so has found it easy to remember that any short-term pleasure is not worth risking that long-term committed relationship. 
I do know that I don't like bullying. Of any kind. To any gender. (p 50)
Sammon believes the "casting couch" culture will persist.
Because demanding unwanted sexual favors is a smaller manifestation of our country's larger, ongoing, deeply troubling war against gender equality--a war which some men continue to wage by using fiscal threats and sexual coercion as anti-woman power tools. (p 51)
As successful actor, screenwriter, and producer Brit Marling states: 
The real danger inside the present moment...would be for us all to separate the alleged deeds of [Bill] Cosby, [Roger] Ailes, [Bill] O'Reilly, or Weinstein 
from a culture that continues to allow for dramatic imbalances of power. 
It's not these bad men. Or that dirty industry. It's this inhumane economic system 
of which we are all a part. As producers and as consumers. 
As storytellers and as listeners. As human beings. 
That's a very uncomfortable truth to sit inside. 
But perhaps discomfort is what's required. (p 52)
Agreed. Discomfort is the least of it. I feel that Harvey Weinstein being convicted AND jailed is just a start...

In "Wall Street Assets" Veronica Vera describes her early days on Wall Street, which included mind-blowing sex with one of the worst sexual predators, but the highest-earning salesperson, in a major Wall Street Firm. Of course, this man was retained at this firm because of his "success." At least "success" as measured in dollars of sales. Otherwise, he was one of the worst creeps! (Granted this was in the 1960's, but still...) Veronica did come around to a feminist mindset and has done well for herself and serves as a mentor to others in many ways. But that description of her first job and the sexual relationship with this guy...gave me the creeps! Seriously, I had to take a break from reading this and return to it. Ugh.

Camilla Saly-Monzingo provides some details of her life as a rock'n'roll runaway teen in the 1970's. Scary to read of the times she was raped and otherwise assaulted. And I keep asking myself: Why do these men feel this is "right"? Obviously, our society gives them permission to do as they please. Period. Fortunately for her, Camilla becomes a stable adult who serves as a teacher and mentor to others. 
This myth that men often cite, that the girls are hanging around, in my case 
in a club or backstage or in a hotel lobby, "because they want it, and that means "they were asking for it," has to be dissected, examined and addressed. 
I did want attention. I did want approval. I was a sexual being. 
But I did not want to be coerced, abused and raped. 
Those are very, very different things. (p 64)
While we do need to empower girls/females as Saly-Monzingo states, we must educate boys/men/all adults to realize their responsibility to others, but especially those younger than themselves/teens/children! 
We also have to teach men that, when dealing with young people, 
what looks to them like "I'm into it" doesn't give them license to do whatever 
they want, regardless of the power and age differential. 
And it is never okay to coerce or force sex on anyone. (p 68)

In "Consent: Breaking the Silence" Mary Billiter describes the initial sexual assault she suffered, at the hands of "a distant family relative" who began staying at her parent's house. He would come to her room at night, always when she was sleeping and rape/sexually assault her. She was 11 years old. And as so often happens, her parents blamed her for the nightshirt she wore. At this point in the story, I am saying out loud: "un-fucking-believable"! When the people on whom you should be able to rely the most to listen to and believe you and then protect you from further harm deny your truth, where the hell can/do you turn? As with many children--alcohol became the answer. To escape and mask the pain. Fortunately for Mary, a friend called her years later in the aftermath of a sexual assault she had suffered which prompted Mary to finally discuss and disclose her own sexual assaults. Billiter quotes some of the astounding statistics available: 
(1) 80% of female rape victims are assaulted before the age of 25
(2) One of every six American women has been the fiction of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
(3) Nine of every ten victims of rape are female
(4) Per a survey conducted by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) focused on what the sexual assault survivor was doing when the crime occurred:
48% were sleeping
29% were traveling to or from school or work
12% were working
7% were attending school
5% were doing an unknown or other activity
No matter the situation, sexual assaults are 
physically debilitating, emotionally draining, unimaginably traumatic and shameful.
There is no timetable for when someone will heal form a sexual assault. (p 74)

Since I am about halfway through this book, I am ending this Part 1 review here...
you can find Part 2 here!

Happy reading!