Shaming Women

I recently watched the first two of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy. I loved how the decor and much of the clothing was very Art Deco, but the story itself is set just two years in the future. Well, started just two years in the future, anyway. I think someone had a lot of fun with that.

The story itself, much like the Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo and Juliet is very true to its source yet set in a different time. Unlike Shakespeare, though, this one blends pretty well. Unfortunately, there were unintended bits that wouldn’t raise eyebrows when the book was written in the 1950’s, but still apply in 2014. The one that really struck me was the reaction to the proof of infidelity.

For those who haven’t read the book or seen one of the movies, the government is pressuring Henry Rearden to give up the patents to a metal alloy he created that is putting regular steel to shame. He is a married man, and to turn up the heat, the government official shows him pictures of himself and Dagny Taggart, a woman who is not his wife. The most scandalous thing they’re doing is sharing kisses, but they do look very happy in the picture that has them walking hand-in-hand.

I don’t imagine you’ll suffer much, since your wife already knows . . . but, I can’t say the same for Miss Taggart, one of the most respected business women in the nation. Spotless reputation, a source of inspiration to young girls all across the country.

I don’t have a copy of the book, so I can’t compare it to the actual text, but that does seem pretty 1950’s, so I’m guessing it’s close. The problem is, I can also see it being said now. The person cheating? Eh, whatever, he’s a man. The person he’s cheating with? That whore! That homewreaker! She should be ashamed of herself and can’t be looked up to anymore as an inspiration!

That’s actually a pretty standard reaction to a situation where a married man cheats. Was it Bill Clinton who was shamed for the Cigar Incident? No. What about Brad Pitt? It was all that hussy Angelina Jolie’s fault. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single cheating man who got as much or more blame than the woman he cheated with. If I remember correctly, though, Kristen Stewart got all sorts of blame for cheating on Robert Pattinson.

The problem with this situation is that it takes two to tango. Dagny and Rearden fell in love because they were well suited to each other in a world that didn’t take kindly to either. It was mutual. Bill Clinton is pretty well recognized as a flirt and possibly a womanizer (or as much of one as Hilary lets him get away with). I doubt his affair with Monica Lewinski was one-sided. Kristen Stewart? I haven’t heard anyone suggest that she was seduced by the director and then given the movie role to keep her quiet.

Cheating is bad, but the one-sided shaming is worse. If a man who cheats can still be considered a hero (JFK comes to mind), then why can’t a woman? Or have we still not moved past a woman’s sexual fidelity being a very large part of her worth? When I think of our First Lady, the first thing that comes to mind is her arms, and how awful people think it is that she wears sleeveless blouses. After that comes her organic garden on the White House grounds and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. When I think of her husband, it’s his political wins and losses that come first. Somewhere down the line, way down the line, is that he pulls off polo shirts really well. There’s something wrong with giving what a woman does with her body the same level of importance as what a man does with his mind.

Why are women still bearing the shame for something that happens between consenting adults? Why are we permitting it? Why are men allowing it? If we are going to shame cheaters, then we need to shame the parties as they have earned it. Or, we need to rethink why we need to shame anyone.

Yes, I Am Difficult

I have pretty much always recognized that I’m not the easiest person to deal with. I’m totally worth the effort, but if you are really going to get to know me, you will have to put forth some effort. For a long time, I tried to hide or balance that fact by having a very pleasant, easy-to-like personality for more shallow interactions. Are you the girlfriend of the week of one of my male friends? I’ll be nice and stuff, but that’s a surface interaction for me. We are unlikely to ever get to know each other because you just won’t stick around long enough. This happens to apply to a lot of coworkers and friends of friends. Why? Because it’s easier for me to put up a facade in those cases than to be me. Getting to know me takes effort on your part- and on mine. I’m only going to expend it if I think it’s worth the energy I have to muster for it. Lately, though, the facade has gotten annoying outside of required interactions. If you’re not going to like me for who I am, then why should I foster the relationship?

I’m explaining this because as a woman on a particular social site, I get a fair amount of unsolicited friend requests. I’m not so inundated that I can’t read them all, but I am choosy about those I accept. I like internet friends, so being from another city or state isn’t a reason to be rejected. However, being boring or potentially dangerous is a reason to be rejected. When an unsolicited friend request comes in, I go and check out the profile. After all, maybe the sender is shy or isn’t the best with language, so they’re silently asking me to start the interaction. If the profile is interesting, I’ll probably accept. If it’s empty, and you haven’t sent me a note to catch my interest, you’ll be rejected.

Some time ago I got a friend request with a pretty empty profile that looked suspiciously familiar. It still offered nothing of interest, so it got rejected. Again, I’m pretty sure. The next day, I again got a friend request without any sort of note. The profile still hadn’t been improved. This time, I rejected it and sent him a note:

“Dude. I have said no because you have given me absolutely no reason to say yes. Give me a reason to say yes or piss the fuck off.”

His response:

“Ok …I like talking to nicer people, so bye :)”

Was my note as polite as maybe it could have been? Nah. But that’s because on strike three, the rejection has to be stepped up. Clearly he wasn’t accepting the polite rejection of not accepting the friend request. Please note that I did give him yet another chance to redeem himself. Had he come back with something smart/funny/interesting, he might have gotten further attention from me. Instead, he chooses to decide that I’m the difficult one.

Boring is pretty easy to spot, but potentially dangerous can be more difficult. I was having an online conversation with a guy that was charming and interesting, but occasionally I got a red-flaggish hint. When he pushed for us to meet, I declined. I couldn’t say exactly why, but I was not comfortable and I told him so. He continued to insist while insisting that he wasn’t insisting. That lack of acknowledgement did make a red flag pop up. Then he confirmed that he wasn’t all that good at respecting boundaries. That, in and of itself is bad enough. Considering some of the claims he was making in his profile, that was scary. Right about then I cut contact.

I did reach out to him once after that, but promptly realized I’d made a mistake and let him know that I was cutting contact again because I shouldn’t have resumed it in the first place. He has since sent me a lot of notes. Folks, when you’re getting notes like that from someone who has triggered red flags- hold on to them. Hopefully he won’t escalate into full-blown stalking, but if he does, I want a paper trail.

The note that confirmed that I had made the right decision asked me to “just bend a bit and meet [him]” because he’s not ignoring my fears, he’s “just trying to help [me] get over some of them.” Maybe some of my fears are irrational, but that’s not his decision to make. The only time boundaries should be crossed and fears bypassed is if the person with the boundaries and fears believes it needs to happen. I firmly believe that someone that can’t respect boundaries will never be the person to change mine.

I freely admit that I am difficult. I am difficult because I have no other choice. I am difficult, because that’s what a woman gets called when she doesn’t meekly accept compliments she doesn’t want, or friend requests with no substance. I am difficult because I have boundaries and I am learning that I am the only person who will defend them. I am difficult because I am a woman who is rediscovering her self-worth and is willing to defend it and the world doesn’t seem to like that.

I am difficult, and I am ok with that.

How Dare She?!

Let’s go ahead and jump right in with politics, racism, gender, and ‘Murica at its best.

I’m a little late on this one, but I wanted to share this gem from the most recent Miss America Pageant. I don’t follow it, but in an effort to learn more about this culture of ours, I’ve sort of paid a hint of attention this year. (Ok, I didn’t pay any attention until I heard about the first openly tattooed contestant in the pageant. I like tattoos.) Let’s go ahead and start at the top, shall we?

I know, they’re all brown and all from that part of the world known as “Not America,” but, really? It’s bad enough to paint all Arab people with a single paint brush, but, um, India is not generally considered to be the Middle East, even though it shares a border with Pakistan. (Yes, I looked it up. I didn’t need to look it up to know it’s not part of what Americans consider to be “Arab” nations.)

Aah, yes- her family is from somewhere else, so how could she win? A very quick Google told me that she was born in America to parents who moved from India. According to our laws, if you’re born on this soil, you’re American. Which is why my family, your family, and any family that isn’t a Native American can claim to be American. (Also, gotta love “I’m not racist, but . . . “) Heck, even the Native Americans came from somewhere else, if you go back in time far enough. (From further down- yes, our president and Miss America being of “questionable” citizenship totally deserves the same level of outrage.)

A brown woman won the crown four days after 9/11. Oh the humanity! Have we forgotten?! No, we haven’t forgotten. We aren’t allowed to. However, 9/11 really has absolutely nothing to do with picking the woman that looks the best in a bikini. Guess what? It’s been held in September since 1921. I think it has first dibs on the month.

Miss Al-Qaeda. That’s classy. Not only is she not considered to be an Arab (being of Indian descent and all), but even if she was of Arabic descent, there is no reason to assume that she has any ties to terrorists or that she has any sympathy for such fringe groups. Brown =/= terrorist. There’ve been enough white ones to disprove that particular theory.

Miss 7-11. I can’t even.

The best for last- Miss Kansas, the tattooed, military bow-hunter is the “Real Miss America.” After reading this article– Miss Kansas is awesome. Smart, athletic, multi-lingual, and willing to serve in the military. She is a kick-ass example of womanhood to set before our young woman. The very fact that she made it as far as she did in the pageant world with visible tattoos is a huge step forward in recognizing beauty in all its forms. However, that is no more American than the child of immigrants that is following much of the rest of her family into medicine.

There are so very many things wrong with all of this that it’s hard to pick something to fixate on. I think, though, that it’s the combination of skin color and tattoos that really sticks out. I guaran-damn-tee that if that tattoo had been on Miss New York, she wouldn’t have won. She probably wouldn’t have even made it to Miss America. But the deviation is permissible on Miss Kansas because she’s not just white, she’s blond. That puts her much more firmly in the “conventionally attractive” column than our brown Miss New York. So, really, with either winner, it’s a huge step in the right direction for getting out of our narrow view of beauty. (Also, congratulations to all of the contestants. I don’t understand pageants, but I do recognize the work it takes to get to this level.)

Post: The First

This is always the hardest one, isn’t it? You have no past to build on, no sense of your followers (person reading this post- thank you for showing up!). In my case, anyway, I’m not even entirely sure where I’m going with this blog. Although at least occasionally I am anticipating that it will be NSFW. Those posts should be fun.

I am a reader, a writer, and a romantic. I am also currently a pre-published author. Isn’t that a great term? I’m one of the many inspired by that amazing work, 50 Shades of Grey. I also tend towards a dry and/or sarcastic sense of humor. This will be your only warning. I don’t really have a plan at the moment, but I expect the blog will drift from writing technique to book reviews to feminism to flat out rants. It should be an exciting ride.

That seems to be all I have to say at the moment, but the next post will be longer. I promise. I won’t be able to help myself.

Welcome to my world!