Wednesday May, 15 2013 11:44 AM UTC
Trigger Warning – Depiction and Discussion of Rape and Sexual Assault
It’s about 3pm, and I’m in the middle of a mall parking lot. I’ve just picked up something from Bon Ton, and I see two young men about my age having trouble with their car. My human instinct is to help them – see if they need a ride, ask if they need some gas, etc. But I don’t go help because I’m a woman, and they are two men. I have been taught that to help in those situations would be stupid.
In Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, she describes her experiences of hitchhiking, how people will almost always give her a ride if she’s alone because as a woman, she’s less threatening than a man. She also describes how she gets fearful alone in a car with a man.
Later, two men find her alone on the trail in Oregon. She gets a clear sense that one of the men is dangerous, and sure enough, he returns alone a bit later, after having watched her change clothing. She realizes that she’s “lucky” to have not been attacked yet.
A friend goes for a jog without her phone in a state park. She sees two men coming toward her, and before she can even think, she’s afraid, wondering why they are there alone. She’s so scared she sprints back to her car.
Men, with all due respect, I think it’s hard for you to imagine this kind of fear – the kind that kicks in because of the way a man’s posture changes when you pass, the scent of adrenaline as it courses into your body even as you try to look calm so as not to antagonize, the way that leaving work a little later than usual can cause you to break into a sweat as you walk across an empty parking lot. I don’t think you can get this, men, because you don’t have to fear this way.*
This is the world of women. That we are taught to be afraid of men when we are alone. We have been taught this for a reason.
We know this. We protect ourselves as best we can – knowing that sometimes it’s not enough. I was assaulted in the middle of the day in a store where I worked as teenager. Right behind the front counter. That’s how unafraid this man was. We can only do so much to prevent rape and sexual assault.
But we do what we can. The issue is NOT WOMEN. Women know the score; we know the risk. This is the reason most of us walk around on alert when we are alone.
The issue is MEN. Men who continue to prey upon women. Men who continue to think it’s acceptable to make sexualized jokes to women they don’t know. Men who catcall and comment on women’s bodies as if those bodies belonged to those men.
Of course, all men do not do these things, and for that I am very grateful. But still, there is a pervasive pattern in male culture that sexualizes women, that focuses far too much on their physical selves and far too little on their emotional, psychological, or intellectual selves. If you doubt me, spend today listening to men talk – in person and in the media – and see how many times you hear degrading comments about women. I suspect you’ll be surprised.
The way to reduce these rape statistics, the way to help women feel safe is not to continue to dwell on the ways women can protect themselves. We’ve got that covered. What we need is for men to learn how to treat a woman as an equal. What we need is for men to not be given excuses – “men are more sexual.” “That’s just how men are.” – for their inappropriate behavior. What we need is for men to really be men.
I don’t know how men help each other do this – I’m not privy to the circles where men spend time with each other, but I hope that in those circles men stop each other from making lewd or disrespectful comments about women. I’d love it if not a single bachelor party evoked the phrase “ball and chain” ever again. I’d love it if I never heard a man say that his girlfriend needed to drop 20 pounds so he’d find her attractive again. I’d love it if rape jokes were slammed, as they sometimes have been of late, every time they come up. But I know there is more men can do to help each other change the cultural attitudes toward women that make sexual assault a reality for someone in the U.S. every 2 minutes.
What I do know is women, and I know as women we can speak up. We can – even at the cost of being called “bitchy” or “sensitive,” which is, of course, a whole additional layer of this problem – demand that men not speak of women in a disrespectful manner. We can support our friends when they stand up against abusive partners. We can use our voices and demand better from the men we know. So that we will not need to be afraid, and so that they will not need to be feared.
What I would love is for my friends’ daughters to be able to walk along a quiet street at night. To be able to look up at the stars and linger on a quiet corner in peace. I want them to be able to pull up to a car broken down and offer to help. I want them to not carry the guilt for not helping over 15 years later.
What will you do to help our attitudes toward women change as a society?
*Men are, of course, victims of assault and rape. Absolutely. But still, I don’t think most men walk around fearful of their physical safety most of the time.
Tuesday May, 14 2013 11:19 AM UTC
Trigger Warning – Discussion of sexual assault and rape.
A woman is raped, and her attackers videotape the attack; the woman is told she should not have had so much to drink.
A young girl is assaulted, and her classmates tell her she led the boy on by talking to him and wearing “cute clothes.”
The men, the murderers and attackers – they may be, may! be held accountable in a court, but they are rarely held accountable by the public.
Instead, we lay blame against these women, as if there is anything at all in the world they could do to be responsible for these actions.*
I know all the arguments about the reality of the world, about women needing to be savvy, about being street smart. I don’t disagree with any of those things. Sadly, we need to protect ourselves.
What rankles me is that we only put our attention there, as if the way a woman dresses or the fact that she chooses to walk alone at night is the problem.
It’s not the problem. The fact that some men prey on women – that’s the problem.
If I’m a woman, and I’m walking down the street naked, you still don’t have a right to rape me. – Dick Gregory
We spend so much energy blaming the victim – and I know that’s a cliche, a buzz word – but let it buzz in our heads like a gong – BLAMING THE VICTIM. I know we do this sometimes because we think we – as women – can control only ourselves. But when we carry the blame on our own backs and heap it onto people who are already victimized instead of onto the people who committed these terrible crimes, we do nothing to solve the problem and everything to perpetuate it.
What if we dedicated as much energy to teaching men that they do not own women, to educating boys about respect and equality, to training men that women are not just bodies for men’s sexual pleasure, to speaking up when men attack women and saying, “You, you, sir, did something horrible?” What if we actually expected better from men?
What if we dedicated as much energy to teaching women that our gender does not make us victims, that our gender is not weaker or lesser, and that if people treat it like it is, the problem is theirs, not ours? What if dedicated as much energy to teaching women not only physical self-defense but also the kind of defense that comes from a sense of equality and self-worth, the kind of self-defense that lets a woman set boundaries and protect herself in conversations with co-workers and classmates, at dinner parties and movie theaters? What if we taught women to speak in declarative sentences instead of in questions – to say No and not need to justify it.
What if we dedicated as much energy to sitting with women who had been victimized and telling them – 100 million times if necessary to counter the cultural voices that say they are to blame – “You did nothing to deserve this. You did nothing wrong. Your attacker – he is to blame.”
A dear friend of mine was attacked this weekend. Attacked by a man she did not know. In broad daylight.
A friend of a friend of mine was raped on her back porch while her infant sat in a stroller nearby. In broad daylight. In a quiet neighborhood.
Another friend of mine was assaulted in a dance club. In a crowded public space.
See assault, rape – these are not things women can protect ourselves from all the time. We can carry whistles and go out in the day. We can walk with our keys between our stretched fingers and make good choices, and yet, we still are attacked. It’s not US who need to “make better choices.” It’s our culture that needs to stop saying the problem lies with us and to start addressing the real problem – men’s lack of respect for women.
What if we stopped tolerating language that makes it sound like it’s a woman’s fault if she’s attacked? What if we stopped allowing men to make jokes about rape, if we stopped allowing men who don’t know us speak to us as if we are only bodies to be evaluated? What if took all that energy that we put into trying to protect ourselves and taught our society how to value us and protect us instead?
*Of course, men are victims of sexual assault, too. I grieve for these men as well. Yet, 9 out of 10 rape victims are women.
Monday May, 13 2013 12:20 PM UTC
This morning, when I climbed back into bed for just a couple of minutes – feeling emotionally spent by the 20-minute-old day – Meander licked that hollow between my clavicles. Her little sandpaper tongue, hot with breathe, caressing my voice. The place where my speech comes from. A little reminder to nurture that space in myself.
I am emotionally spent at this moment. The grief that washes in with Mother’s Day. The disappointment of finding barns that seemed perfect to reclaim until we saw them. The weariness of managing great, wonderful, flawed humans for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. The strain of not quite knowing yet what my next book project will be.
All of these things weigh heavy in me today, they sit in my throat – tears uncried – and quiet my voice. They stiffen my writing.
What I need – what I always need even if people downplay the “need” to write as self-glorification, or misguided adoration, or delusion – is to lose myself in a story. I need to drop myself into a book, one I read at least, one I write at best. I need to hide away among the words, line up my spine against the tall “l” like it’s a tree trunk in a vast forest and find my way through.
It’s not escapism. I’m not denying the struggles of my life or the lives around me. It’s healing. While I wander – meander, if you will – among the trees, my mind and body find ideas and sustenance. They touch the weary places and feed them. When I emerge, I am clearer, less weary, more alive.
It’s like a hot breath has nursed me, roughing away the edges with a little sandpaper tongue.
Sunday May, 12 2013 12:47 PM UTC
On this Mother’s Day – the hardest day of the year for me as a woman who has wanted children and as a woman who has lost her own mother – it seems appropriate to share a post that speaks to all of us as women. Thanks to James Prescott for this gift. And thanks to every woman who mothers in whatever way that mothering comes.
Dear women of the world,
Before I dive in properly, I want to apologise. This letter is written to you by someone who doesn’t understand you fully. I also have no intention of patronising you, talking down to you or treating you in any way unequally. So if any of this comes across this way, I apologise from the bottom of my heart.
My desire as man is to empower others – both men and women. To give all people the opportuity to achieve their divine calling and identity, whatever it may be. This is in fact a calling on all of us, both men and women. I believe in equality – which means both genders treating each other equally, and to see both genders given equality of opportunity, freedoms and rights. I’m a feminist in the way Jesus was, and an egalitarian through and through. So please forgive me if this letter comes across any differently.
Now to begin, I want to thank you for bearing with us all this time.
I confess, some us men haven’t exactly done been a shining example of either humanity nor masculinity. Some of us have abused you and caused you indescribable pain. We’ve left wounds sometimes not visible on the surface, but which cut deeper than any knife. Wounds caused as much by our words as our actions.
And for this, we are truly sorry.
Problem is, sometimes these words come from places where you should feel safe. Like church. Or even from your boyfriends.
There are pastors who say God has a ‘masculine feel’. Leaders who argue passionately women have no place leading, speaking or even working. And I know many of us men we make comments which stereotype you and box you up.
None of this is acceptable or theologically accurate.
And it makes me ashamed to be a man.
Today I want to offer hope. Because there are men out there who don’t behave this way. Men who genuinely want to bless you, to serve you, empower and love you, and treat you as equals. Men, like myself, who believe we must pursue equality and end prejudice in all spheres of life.
We believe you are beautiful creations of the divine, and He wants you to flourish and fly, to be who you were created to be – and it’s our job to simply assist on this journey. To tell you who you are, and what you can be.
And the best men are men who will do their all to do this.
Truth is, most of us men – even those with ‘unequal’ views – have no intention of hurting you, insulting you or making you feel any less than us.
But because there’s little healthy definition of what a man is, and misconceptions of true feminism and political correctness, we often we act towards you out of fear. For many of us, our hearts are in the right place, but we are afraid of hurting you.
We want to treat you equally, and not talk down to you or patronize you, or make you any less than us men. But many of us are plain confused about how we can treat you in a way which is affirming, encouraging and which respects you as equals, whilst at the same time showing affection.
This isn’t your fault. It’s partly the way our culture is, and partly our own weakness as men. So please bear with us. We’re not perfect, but we’re trying.
So to conclude, I want to thank you again for bearing with us. For putting up with our at times appalling treatment of you.
As I ask your forgiveness, I also ask you would have grace with us.
Most of us are on your side, and we love you and want to set you free to discover your divine identity. We’re just a bit confused.
James Prescott is a writer and author from Sutton, near London, UK. He blogs regularly at JamesPrescott.co.uk. He recently released his first e-book, ‘5 Steps to Encouragement: A Manifesto for Changing the World’ which can be obtained free here.
Saturday May, 11 2013 11:38 AM UTC
If you’re like me, you may go unaware of others’ needs that exist outside of your daily routine. You would like to know. You would like to help. And then, you read an article about human trafficking, see a video about starving children, hear a friend talk about abuse and depression, watch a news clip on people dying from unclean water — and suddenly you become aware. Your heartstrings have been tugged. But still… It often seems so big or so far away. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and wondering, “What can I do?” Often that’s where it ends… We are left wondering…
That’s why Spark Collective exists. We exist to help you become aware of the very real needs of others and to provide a very real way that you can help make a difference. Each time you share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or another of your favorite social media networks or even face-to-face, you help others become aware of both the needs and the solutions. Each time you buy a shirt from Spark Collective, you help make the solutions possible. For every shirt purchased, Spark Collective donates 25% to a proven nonprofit making a difference in the world. Each time you do these things, YOU are helping to make the world a better place! You are a World Changer!
Spark Collective launched April 1, 2013 and is growing and building momentum. We started with a campaign partnering with the End It Movement and its coalition of 7 partners to raise awareness and capital in the fight to bring an end to slavery and human trafficking. We shared daily facts about the significant needs in this fight, as well as stories of hope in which our partners successfully rescued people and brought down perpetrators and their systems of abuse.
A few weeks ago, we launched a new campaign highlighting the malnutrition of people in poverty-stricken countries. Every shirt sold will feed a child for a month. Due to the recent tragedies in Boston, Spark Collective is running a dual campaign including a design which supports the victims of the Boston bombing.
We will continue by rotating causes and proven nonprofits addressing various needs in order to broaden the scope of our collective impact. Spark Collective wants to have both a wide and deep impact in the lives of people from all walks of life bringing hope and life to the world.
Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission said, “Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern slavery, but nothing will EVER happen until we are.” This is true in the war against slavery and just as true in every other effort to combat issues like unclean water, poverty, malnutrition, diseases, sexual abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, gender genocide, and every other injustice or tragedy. Each cause needs a voice. Spark Collective will be that voice.
But awareness alone is not enough. So, just as we have been moved into action by what we have come to know, so we also want to give an avenue for others to do the same. Spark Collective gives a simple yet effective way for anyone to be able to get involved and to enable great impact. By doing the very things you do regularly, buying and wearing clothes, you can help fund the work of these proven nonprofits and thereby YOU have helped to change the world for the better.
“Never underestimate the power of advocacy and fundraising. Without those two things, we wouldn’t be able to continue working in the developing world!” said Gary Haugen of IJM.
The reality is that each one of us can make a difference. When we combine our voices and our resources, we can make an even bigger difference. Our collective efforts our stronger than that of one alone! We are the Spark Collective! Be the Spark for change!
Join us at wearethespark.com.
You can also follow the Spark Collective on Facebook. Be a part of the change.
Friday May, 10 2013 11:54 AM UTC
Let go completely. Let yourself totally be a writer from now on. – Natalie Goldberg
But holding onto everything is heavy, not so heavy at first, like a folktale about starting at the bottom of a hill and picking up one rock at a time along the way. By the time you’re at the top, your bucket is heavy, but you have carried it.
The problem is that life isn’t just one hill.
I want to explain, to defend, to force understanding. Each word I write a rock in the bucket.
So, so heavy.
In Middle English, letten meant “to hinder” or as a noun “an obstruction.”
In Middle English, leten meant “to permit.”
Both and yes.
Let go. To keep myself from grasping. From clenching. From clutching.
Let go. To permit things to travel from me and to me unhindered. Free.
I am being taught wild, quiet lessons in non-attachment these days. About the need to disconnect myself from outcomes, from tomorrows. About the need to let and to go.
A pepper plant withered because its tender stalk is broken.
Pages sent again and again across the universe of 0s and 1s, never to be seen again.
Brand new gravel washed down the hillside into grass.
To let the petals from the dogwood drift against my hands and through. To let them kiss the web of my fingers. To let them fall, ungrasped is to let them fall unbruised.
I will not pick up all that gravel and carry it back up the mountain.
What are you working to let go at this moment?
Thursday May, 09 2013 11:25 AM UTC
The deepest secret in our heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world . . . — Natalie Goldberg
In the bank yesterday, two women stood – two teller stalls between them – and chatted. Loudly. I couldn’t help but smile. Both of these women I have known since I was 14, and they have both always been like this, the definition of boisterous.They also are women who have lived hard.
The woman on the left had her gray hair tugged back into a tiny pony tail, her things legs long beneath a pair of shorts that were made, I’m sure in the 1980s. Her face bore the soft crevices of nights with too little sleep and too much burden. Her eyes shone, though, with laughter.
Her friend on the right had short-cropped hair, and when she talked, her lungs filled so deep that her wind jacket whispered beneath her voice. “They know me over there,” she said. “They expect me to make trouble.” When she turned toward me, I saw the space where her front teeth had once been. She smiled huge.
Their voices echoed against the marble floors and faux-wood counters, a foil to the quieter, more formal conversations in the manager’s cubbies. They were like sunshine.
The tellers were not smiling. Their eyes were blown up to the size of a lemur’s; their mouths turned down just a bit. Noise like this does not happen in a bank. I almost frowned with them.
Then, I remembered all the times I wanted to shout for sheer love of the world. When I wanted to tell every person I met that we have a tractor on the farm now. When the grief poured so hard from my spirit that I wanted to sob with sorrow to the clerk at the dollar store. When I wanted to grab the arm of the old man crossing the drugstore parking lot and help him look up and see the rainbow.
Of course, the intimacy of breath-laden conversations sits perfectly at moments. But so does bigness of voice. When someone wants to speak their life with a throaty, rich goodness like the voice of Odetta – whether that voice carry anger or exuberance, mourning or triumph – sometimes, we need to be slower to shout them down, slower to try to ameliorate, slower to fix, slower to silence. Slower to make ourselves comfortable again. And quicker to keen with them, our voices echoing out. Because to speak with such volume is to speak of how we care.
There are places where a voice needs to carry all the breath behind it. Where boisterous is perfect. Where two women need to shout joy to one another across space. Dancing across marble for all the love of the world.
When do you need to speak with all the breath in your body?
Wednesday May, 08 2013 11:11 AM UTC
I am weary of some of us posturing as experts when, really, we know very little.
I am weary of the way I dismiss things/ideas/people because they make me uncomfortable, because they challenge me spiritually, emotionally, socially.
I am weary of people with privilege being blind to that. Of white people not recognizing the relative ease in which we shop and apply for work. Of men not seeing that they can walk outside at night or hike in Turkey or drink a few beers at a party with less (but of course not no) fear than a woman may have. I am weary of the richer not recognizing that their complaints about the quality of the new sandals they bought ring blessing to people who scavenge my shoes from a garbage dump. I am weary of this blindness in myself.
I am weary of us berating one another with labels like Marxist and feminist when what we really mean is not “you believe in the economic balancing of power” or “you believe in equality between the sexes” but instead mean is “you lazy fool who doesn’t value hard work” or “you man hater.”
I am weary of our decision to be blind to our privilege and yet, still, to act as if we have answers about how life SHOULD be lived for people’s whose lives we haven’t even tried to understand.
I am weary of the way we have forgotten that redemption is a gift unearned and grace a lavish overflow that pours life into us even when we pretend we have earned it all.
And yet, I take sustenance.
In the way a new friend hears my tiny pain and responds with grace and love.
In the way a person spoke witness into a phone and saved three women from imprisonment.
In the way a man speaks to the way gender violence is an issue that men, first and foremost, must address.
In the way that voices long silenced by hands meant to maintain a status quo long decrepit, long oppressive are starting to be heard. In the way the rush of whispers is echoing.
In the hope – the everlasting hope – that change is possible.
And in the knowledge that all will – definitively – be well and right.
What are you weary of today? What gives you hope?
Tuesday May, 07 2013 03:02 PM UTC
Advertising, social media and the internet is about getting attention… RIGHT NOW.
Don’t wait. Limited Time Offer. Don’t Miss This. Make Money Now.
What if brands took a long view at attention earning? What if we stretched from “now” to “in 5 years?”
How might that change our interactions with our tribe?
I have some thoughts:
Listen vs Noise
Businesses would listen to their customers far more intently. With less anxiety about getting prospects to “buy now” you can concentrate on a much more natural desire to “help someday, somehow.” Brands would stop creating noise just for the sake of snagging a few eyeballs.
Hearts vs Eyeballs
Capture hearts is the goal of long-term marketing. Capture the heart, imagination & trust of a few rather than the eyeballs & ears of masses. A long-term view allows us to stop doing all the craziness that gains attention but loses trust (spam emails, sales pitches as tweets, call centers, automated garbage) and instead of focusing only on the things that drive the long-term relationship we’re developing with our audience. Secretly, I think this would be a smart short-term strategy as well.
Sustainability vs Burn Out
Taking a long-term view to gaining attention, we have time to take a vacation, a nap and a day off. With each moment filled with potential emails, tweets and Facebook status updates we have a hard time shutting it all off. Burn-out, stress, anxiety. These seem to be the hallmarks of entrepreneurs and marketers. We all know people who’ve been fried. We’ve been overextended.
Shift to a concern about serving your clients next year just as much as next quarter and rest becomes a key priority. Creativity, energy and momentum all take long-term nurturing. Seeking attention in 5-years instead of attention now gives you the proper space to take care of yourself.
How else do you think our work would change if we focused on long-term instead of immediacy? Leave a comment.
Tuesday May, 07 2013 11:00 AM UTC
I keep in mind a belief . . . : who knows a word is girded round with silence finds a way to realms. – Lia Purpura
Above me, the metal roof sings with rain, the not-quite-beat of spring dancing. The coffee pot ticks that tiny click, I’m on. I’m on. Upstairs, Meander has gone back to bed – her needs satiated, her head (I’m sure) on my pillow.
I have left email unchecked and social media unopened for just this moment of silence. This lack of sound that assaults the mind, as I described it years ago.
Now, Emily sings out from the living room, her voice a tiny scale of mew.
I am reminded of the rock on which Madeline L’Engle lay on her summers at the farm. I have been searching for this rock for years, a decade, two. It’s the rural girl’s version of a room of my own although I, like Anne Lamott, also crave a door with an office. A space where duties and obligations are pushed aside, where the wanderings of the mind stream like the creeks that gird this farm.
Just now, the silence is so tenable here that I can feel it, an angora kiss just inside my ear.
I have to work at sitting still in this place. I have to cultivate this silence. Already, the numbered lists of things that could be done nibble at the edge. I am learning to draw my knee up to my chin and kick full-footed, to let them spin away. A sheet of paper. A pen. A few words to remember later. Those things will be there when I let the silence fade.
In the pump house, a splinterish, wooden handle is attached to a metal cultivator, a tiny rake-like hoe that is perfect for digging up the tiny roots that unfurl beneath my radishes. Two tines, fifteen minutes – the whole 150 square feet of my garden is focused again on growing food again.
15 minutes. A candle. Natalie Goldberg. Lia Purpura. I am focused again, too.
I revel here. A cardinal calls two tones again and again, her voice fading back over my left shoulder. “Listen.” “Listen.” Listen.
Where and when do you cultivate silence in your life?