Last week, I wrote about one of my experiences of sexual assault. This week I was going to write about playfulness. Yesterday, I listened to as much of the Kavanaugh hearings as I was able, maneuvering around my work schedule. Today, I am numb. Although, my blog post was partially written, I can’t think about playfulness at this time. All I can think about is how angry I feel when confronted by white male privilege. I try to encourage men to feel and show their emotions. I don’t shy away from their anger when it’s not directed at me. I have compassion for any man crying, knowing how hard that is for them. I truly believe it’s healthy and important to express ourselves. However, what I witnessed yesterday from Judge Kavanaugh felt like petulance and outrage at not being given what he sees as his due. No one is entitled to be appointed to the Supreme Court. There is a vetting process and a series of votes for a reason. A Supreme Court judge would not act like a spoiled child who's not getting his way!
He may not have committed the crimes of which he is being accused. As a victim myself, I tend to believe women when they make these accusations. And, I understand the reluctance to report it or even acknowledge it at all. But, we have no real evidence yet as to what really happened and may never have that evidence. Regardless of whether he did these things, it should be investigated. If he did not do it, then I am sorry he had to endure the process, but he accepted the nomination knowing that sometimes things get ugly. And, who wouldn't want an investigation done to clear their name? That’s the part that really baffles me. Submit to a polygraph test. If he didn’t do it, what does he have to lose? If he did commit this crime, then why on earth would he put his family through this? I suspect that, if he did this, being a heavy drinker, he probably blacked out and truly doesn’t remember. He would not be the first person to do that, nor will he be the last. I have been sickened by the numbers of people who explained this behavior away by the impetuousness of youth. My father, my brother, my sons, my boyfriend never did this. They were taught to be respectful of women. Some men are even taught to revere women. These men would never consider violating a woman under any circumstances regardless of whether they blacked out or not because that respect is ingrained.
If an FBI investigation is launched, and if I were voting on confirmation, the conclusion of an investigation would no longer matter much to my vote anymore. I would never vote to confirm the man I saw yesterday spewing his vehement anger at the women questioning him. I would never vote for a man who talked around the questions, never giving a straight answer to very simple questions asked by the women in that room and throwing their questions back at them. Okay, he apologized to one, but he still never answered the questions. Did he react the same way to the men? Did you see him disrespect one man in the room? When faced with stressful decisions on the court, will he be ruled by his emotions as we saw yesterday? There is a time and place for emotional expression, and a court is not an appropriate place. I know this was not a court, and I get it … he was upset. But, lashing out at the women who were trying to get to the bottom of this was completely inappropriate. If he behaves inappropriately at this all-important time, how do we know he will not do that again?
I am sickened by politics. I am sickened by the pompous old white men who have been ruling our country, accusing the Democrats of playing the game of partisan politics when they are the masters at it. I am sickened by the disrespect that is still spewed at women by these same men. They say the right words but their actions speak louder. It is inappropriate to describe Dr. Ford as "an attractive witness." Would that have been said about a man in the same position? No! Don't try to tell me that you respect women when you make remarks like that. Yes, I know you are from a different background, even a different generation, but it's never too late to start changing attitudes. As difficult as it is to admit the wrongs that were perpetrated on us, every woman needs to start sharing her stories with other women. And, women need to believe these stories and support each other. As we saw yesterday, the retelling of the story is still painful, and when it is met with silence instead of support, it compounds the hurt. This is one reason why women don't share these difficult things. The last thing I can write about this week is playfulness. Maybe next week, I can find my lightness again.
I recently listened to a wonderful interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. It was with a woman who had just written a memoir about being raised in the Evangelical Christian Purity movement. She spoke very eloquently about growing up being ashamed of her sexuality and of her body. In this movement, you are expected to keep the boys under control because they are incapable of monitoring themselves. Abstinence to the Purity Movement means not even kissing. After marriage, these same girls, now women, are expected to be on fire, incredibly sexy and wild. Wow! Talk about mixed messages, right?
I was not raised in that movement. I was raised Roman Catholic. Shame and guilt are a huge part of that tradition too. The good news was that I could always go to confession, confess my sins, do penance and be forgiven. Whew! That was a big relief, not that I was given any opportunity to transgress sexually when I was younger. But I was still taught that sex was bad. I was taught that my body was an unfair temptation to boys, who had no control over their baser instincts. Unfortunately, when I was in school, we were taught the biology of procreation and the societal expectations, but nothing about our emotions. We were not told that there would be serious temptation and were also not taught about birth control, and many girls got pregnant in high school. Some of them had illegal abortions, and others disappeared for a while, only to reappear later, quietly and with no explanations. One of my friends had a child when she was a senior in high school. A fraction of the boys involved took responsibility. The rest insisted that the girls had multiple partners and couldn't be trusted to tell the truth. As usual, the boys got away with it while the girls suffered the consequences.
I remember my grandmother, who was born in the late 1800s and schooled by nuns, telling me that she was not allowed to look at her body. She told me that she always bathed in the dark, so that she wouldn’t accidentally see herself. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for her to have sex with her husband. I assume that he never saw her naked. I’m sure they must have had sex in the dark, maybe even with their night clothes on. No wonder women were told that it was a distasteful duty that had to be endured. It’s hard to believe that some people are still being taught these messages, but they are.
Currently, Supreme Court Justice nominee Kavanaugh is going through his confirmation hearings, and a prominent woman has come forward accusing him of attempted rape. I’m sickened by the number of men who are saying things like, “Boys will be boys.” Or, “That was a long time ago, he was just a kid.” Who cares how old he was? I know we all make mistakes. So, admit it and apologize. Yes, it was a different time. It was still not right and there should be consequences. Where are the apologies and acknowledgments of the wrong done? I wonder how many other of my women acquaintances can say that they endured something similar at some time in their lives. Here is one of my stories.
When I was 19, I was seeing a young man who invited me to a New Years Eve party. When we arrived, I noticed that there were no other women around and questioned that. I was told that the other guys’ girlfriends were coming later. I relaxed and accepted the drink offered to me. Unbeknownst to me. the drink was laced with a date rape drug and it turned out, I was the party favor set up in a back room. I won’t get into the details, but it was a nightmare of being aware but unable to move or talk. Finally one of the guys in line took his turn to help me get dressed, carried me out to his car through the back door and drove me home. He kept apologizing during the ride but also made excuses for his friends. I never spoke a word. What was there to say?
It’s only relatively recently that I’ve told anyone what happened. Like so many others, I was taught to feel shame for what happened to me, even if it wasn’t my fault. It never even occurred to me to report it. I couldn’t tell my friends because I was absolutely sure it was my fault. I should have known better than to go to that party. When there were no other girls in attendance, I should have followed my instincts and insisted on leaving. I shouldn’t have accepted the drink. If I hadn't worn the clothes I wore that night, if I hadn’t been wearing make-up, and on and on. That is only one of my stories. Unfortunately, I have a few more.
My parents were very affectionate with each other and with us, until I hit puberty. Suddenly, I didn't sit on my dad's lap anymore. There were no more of the hugs and kisses I had come to expect from him. Instead of physical affection, I was ridiculed about my growing breasts and changing skin. I was pinched and tickled. He smeared my eye glasses with oil from his can of peanuts and encouraged my brother to laugh along with him at my discomfort. When asked if he thought I was pretty, my dad replied, after much hesitation, that I wasn't unattractive. What kind of an answer is that to give a young girl just starting to grow into a woman. I was taught that all girls needed to attract a man. That was the goal for girls of my generation ... snag a husband and have babies. Apparently, they all thought there was no hope for me. They also tried to kill my spirit by constantly putting me down. I think they must have reasoned that if I felt badly enough about myself, maybe I would accept their restrictions more easily.
All through high school, I was harrassed for being too skinny, but no one noticed my eating disorder. I was bullied in school and out and was convinced that I was ugly and a throw away. I knew I would never have a boyfriend, so when someone showed any interest in me, not only was I naive due to a complete lack of experience, I was desperate to be liked. That led to a whole series of poor decisions that put me in danger more than once. Luckily, I've survived the trauma and have become strong and confident, but I could just as easily have been defeated. It makes me laugh to think that the girl who had no prospects at all has had two 20-year relationships and is now on a third. I can't manage to stay single for very long, and I am still shocked by that revelation.
My first reaction to someone making a claim of harrassment is to believe them. I know how hard it is to speak up. I've experienced the shame and guilt firsthand. If I thought I would have been believed, I would have told my stories long before now. It's not necessary to tell them publicly, but it is important to tell them so they don't fester and become poisonous to us and others.
Recently, Barak Obama admitted that he and his friends got thrown out of Disneyland for smoking cigarettes. That made me laugh because, five years earlier, I also got thrown out of Disneyland for smoking, but I wasn't smoking a cigarette - a college boy at the time, maybe he wasn't either. Here's my story. As you read this, remember that it was a different time then, and I was a tried and true hippy.
In 1975, I was living in Santa Cruz, California with my husband, Paul Cavanaugh. We had hitchhiked across the country from my hometown, Stamford, Connecticut and, after landing in San Francisco, moved south and decided to stay and await the arrival of our first child. Like so many others of my generation, I grew up on the “Mickey Mouse Club” and “The Wonderful World of Disney,” watching both shows religiously. When I found myself in California, I was dying to go to Disneyland, so in August, off we went on a road trip to Southern California in our friend’s Chevy Impala, the three adults and our new puppy. What a thrill!
We found a cheap hotel room for a couple of nights and headed off to the Magical Kingdom early in the morning. Because we had our dog with us, we boarded him in the Disneyland kennel. We were true hippies at that time and smoked before arriving, being careful to not smoke too much because we had to pass the grooming inspectors and the all-important attitude inspectors. The Disneyland officials didn’t really like hippies, but at least we weren’t Yippies, and, even though we were “highly inspired”, we passed through without incident.
One of the first places we visited was Tom Sawyer’s island because we knew the Yippies had invaded it on August 6th, 1970, just a mere 5 years earlier. Here is a link for an article about the incident. http://nightflight.com/august-6-1970-the-day-the-yippies-invaded-disneyland/ Although the attraction was boring and not much of an attraction at all, it was a landmark for us.
We decided to go on the Matterhorn ride next. I have always loved roller coasters, and we currently lived only a few blocks away from the historic wooden roller coaster on Santa Cruz beach. Ever since we’d moved there, I walked down to the boardwalk every day and rode the roller coaster for a dollar. But this was Disney, and I was 8 months pregnant. They wouldn’t let me ride because of liability issues. I wasn't leaving without riding on this roller coaster, so I made a huge stink and finally signed a liability release. I'd waited my whole life to visit the home of Mickey and Minnie, but so far, Disneyland was not as much fun as I’d hoped it would be.
Next stop was the Disneyland Railroad. As we rode around the park, we passed the kennels where we were absolutely sure we could hear our puppy howling. We knew we wanted to go to the Haunted House next and, as our inspiration was waning, we picked up the dog and went out to the parking lot to get re-inspired and give our sweet Topaz a respite from his cage.
We looked around, didn’t see anyone nearby and lit up a joint. We each got one hit when we suddenly saw two three-wheeled vehicles coming our way … fast! Uh-oh! Paul quickly threw the joint away. The cops walked up to us and said, “Okay, where is it?” Of course, Paul replied, “Where’s what, officer?” We heard a voice from the radio say, “It’s under the blue impala.” What?! How did they know that? We soon found out. They retrieved it, gave a sniff and said, “It’s still burning, too.”
We weren’t cooperative at first. We were under the impression that the law had recently changed, making possession a misdemeanor. The security guards, smiling slightly, informed us that, yes, the laws had changed but didn’t go into effect until January. Not only that, Disneyland security didn’t have to answer to Anaheim police and even had their own underground jail, which they would be happy to let us check it out. Obviously, our attitudes changed quickly. We found out that they have cameras everywhere, even on all of the light poles in the parking lots, and a whole team watching them.
They asked if we had any more inspiration. Paul, a very quick thinker, handed over four more rolled joints, being very respectful and looking very cowed. We were all hoping that they wouldn’t decide to search the car, which would have landed us in a lot more trouble. They asked if he had purchased it in the park. He answered no, that he had bought them in “Golden Gate Park from a guy named Stoney,” and they actually believed him. I guess we looked like tourists in our car with Connecticut plates and our little dog. Plus, I was 8 months pregnant.
We didn’t end up in jail. We got thrown out “for the rest of the day.” We left and went to Knotts Berry Farm instead, coming back to Disneyland the following day, completely inspired and headed directly to The Haunted House before that newly acquired inspiration wore off. After they told us to leave, Paul turned to them and asked, “How did you know we were out here getting inspired?” They looked him dead in the eye and said, “The Mouse is everywhere.”
That later became a song that we titled “875” or “The Mouse is Everywhere.” It was a very popular song, complete with the story and it’s psychedelic soundtrack. Funny to think I have something in common with a former President of ther United States.