Tuesday, April 25, 2017

No still means NO but you have to ask the question to know that

I finished watching "13 Reasons Why" with my almost 13 year old son and it was one of the most powerful things we have ever seen together.    I know he is mature enough to handle the content but he is also still in a formative phase understanding who he is and his growing place in the world.   He is also navigating the world of middle school and soon high school, with it's puberty, posturing, bullying, popularity contests and all those other things we as adults can look back at and wonder why we let them take such an important role in our lives.

The main theme is about bullying and the consequences of that, of how lost some kids might feel but the underlying theme is about sexual assault and the way we as a society still treat our girls and women.   Think about it the names alone are only for women - slut, whore, skank, easy.   Boys and men don't get that they get a high five for getting sex, maybe their downside is the need to lie about how much sex they may have had.   We still hear the despised term "good girl" to imply it somehow makes a girl a better person if she doesn't have sex.   We vilify girls for wondering about how to embrace how they look, to show off a curve or two and then give them clothes choices that play into that objectification as a sexual being who really shouldn't like sex to begin with.

Who made up this shit???  Women, girl, boys, men should enjoy sex -- it doesn't make you a better person if you choose to not have it nor does it make you worse it makes you a person who decided to make a choice with your body.  It is about being old enough to handle the choice.

This bizarre ritual of making girls into "less than" because of sex, into objects to treated as parts and then mistreated based on what they do with or is done to those parts, paired with the use of power that men are given has continued to lead to the sexual abuse we see.

I know of no woman that I am friends or even casual friends with that has not experienced some form of sexual abuse in their life.   Let's do this again I KNOW OF NO WOMAN and I know hundreds of them who I have had discussions with that does not have at least one story.

They range from being touched in public places on our asses, rubbed against in public spaces while we try and move just enough to not make a scene,  to kissing a bit longer while we keep pushing away from a boy that didn't actually move away from us, to just not being asked.  There are the cases of course where it went much further than that - where the girls were raped.   No one forgets any of these, these moments are burned into your brain long after they have faded from the feeling on your body.   The too many times that we all can talk about the times that "No one even asked if it was ok to kiss you - to touch you".    It did not stop even when you said no.   It was someone you liked and you felt you had to because otherwise you may lose them and then you lost yourself when that person betrayed you by telling everyone that it was just a piece of pussy.  A piece - just a piece of ... that is all you are reduced to.  A piece of inconsequential nothingness that you take with you for the rest of your life.   As for the men who do this they do it because they can.  This is not about sex - this is about power, they have it, they can do what they want.

We need to watch "13 Reasons Why" and we need to watch it with our male children because we cannot allow the girls to be asked how much they had to drink, what they were wearing, how come they said yes at first and then no, how come they didn't fight back, how come????  We need to ask how come anyone thinks it is ok to have sex with someone who is passed out ?  How come you feel that you can touch a girl as you want but you wouldn't sit on the hood of your friend's brand new car for fear of damaging it?  How come we do not start with asking the girls if they know it is not their fault that someone took away their ability to say NO, with drugs, with drinks, with just not giving a shit if they said it.

I worked as a rape and domestic violence crisis counselor for 10 years, taught others to be volunteers, and the one thing we learned was that survivors just want to get some control back over their bodies and to have someone tell them it was not their fault.  It is never their fault - even if they are buck naked and drunk and begged for it, when they say no it is NO, when they are not in a state of mind to make a decision oh yeah it is NO.   Men are better than that excuse too many abusers use "I couldn't stop"  - they can stop they choose not to.

It is uncomfortable to watch the show - to have your son ask why would someone do that - to deal with sex questions but if we don't who do we think will?

Sexual assault lives with the survivor forever, I see this from the way the pain still flashes across the faces of anyone who tells their story.   I feel it in my voice when I share my own instances.

We cannot let powerful men get away with harassment and rape because they have money just like we cannot let powerful men get away with these things because they are poor or they rape a religion's core beliefs to say women are theirs for the taking.

No means NO always and we owe it to all to understand that but we have to teach our youngsters that they need to ask even if it seems obvious.  We also need to stop using labels on women that tell them they do not control their own sexuality - like slut, whore, easy - they are not ok to use because they enable the culture of woman having to appear reluctant to not be shamed about it which predators use.  It is time we all said NO to sexual assault.

Monday, April 17, 2017

13 and 1 Reasons Why

They, you know "they" who know everything and who are never wrong, say you should try and eat most meals with your kids as this is a good way to connect with them and to establish a way to have conversations about their day.  I grew up in a house where my family could not always eat together, as both my parents worked, but I always ate with at least one of my parents.  It was like that up and down the streets of my neighborhood - you went home to eat dinner.

Now sometimes these dinners could be horrible in my house, as in many others, where conversation could be at the whim of my father's mood.  I saw a few homes where it was silent.  I saw a few where everyone talked over everyone else and the mood was energetic.  I sat with my mom and dad and had some of the most interesting discussions on everything from geography to art to science.  My dad was an autodidact who either knew something about most things or loved to help me find out about it. Our dinners were never silent.    I do not know if these were the "conversations" they talk about but I do believe there is something to sharing a meal, with family, kids, friends that is bonding.  It is why I have never insisted on my kids eating things they do not like and have made many a two different meal dinners.  I want it to be our time and laughter not about a fight on the merits of eating asparagus.

Yet one meal a day is really not enough even if it is a good start.  I want to be part of my kids lives in a way that they know they can come to me with anything, and while I may not have a positive reaction I will have a fair one and help them.   I do this through texts, notes, calls and letting them talk.  I mean they talk a lot and sometimes the subject is one that makes me want to sort of run, I do not want to hear how to beat level x in any video game, I don't book I listen and try and ask questions that keep them talking.  It is the connection and frankly we expect kids to listen and absorb what we think is important shouldn't we model this by doing it for what they think is important to them ?

The other thing that seems to work for me with a 10 and an almost 13 year old boys is finding time to watch tv shows with them.  Yes I said TV shows, yes screen time.   The way it works is that we find something we all like, or one child and I like. Each has shows we all 3 watch and each has shows that they watch only with me.  The balance of mothering 2 children is done with military precision - the perception of not getting same amount of anything from water in a glass to time with mom is monitored better than any drone by my two.  They do not begrudge the other's time they expect the equivalent.

So with my 2 we watch "Stranger Things" - I say it often but whoever started streaming services is a hero of mine.  I like it because it is well written and the kid actors are amazing, the storyline is spooky without being too crazed for me and I admit I like the whole time frame it is set in.  It has taken me back to my own teenage years lived in the early 80s, Le Sports Sac anyone??  It gets them talking about school, being a kid and of course the fascination of asking me "did you do that?" for some scenes.   No I did not have the adventure of finding an "upside down" world but I would have loved it.  

With my 2 I also watch "Death in Paradise" which is a strange show for kids their age to like - but it is a murder mystery Brit show that takes place on a gorgeous island and I think they like the detective solving skills of the main character who is just slightly goofy yet brilliant.   It transports us to a warm place and has us debating who done it.

My younger son and I tend to gravitate toward shows that are British detective shows - no clue why but they tend to be our genre of choice.

My older son and I watch "13 Reasons Why" together.   We decided to do this because it seemed really relevant to his almost teen self.   If you do not know what this is, the show is about a girl who commits suicide after a series of bullying incidents and bad choices with social media on the part of her peers that spiral out of control.  This has been a difficult watch because it happens, it happens more than we might think and it has increasingly dire consequences.  It has led to discussions with my son about his responsibility as a male to not demean girls.  It has led to disagreements on the main character's reaction to certain situations, he "oh it wasn't that bad this time and she gets so crazy" me "because it is constant and to her it was another big deal in a series of them".  It for sure has led us to discuss what he would do in certain situations.

The two of them also tend to like watch "Scorpion" with me - nothing like geeks who are sort of cool saving the world.

To me time with kids is fleeting and while at times it seems overwhelming and that they take up every moment of your time, the reality is that it goes as fast as the cliche states.   They watched little kids shows with me and asked those great questions about why, though for a while I thought the word "why" was my nemesis and non-stop, things were a color or a shape.  They watch different shows now and still ask why but the questions are harder sometimes to answer.  We do as a family still practice my father's curiosity seeking "look it up" with so much more information and easier to find via Google.  

I find the time we spend is not only about the shows but about the time they have to feel that we can talk about things that are on their mind, they still like a good snuggle and I alternate between laughing with them to a slightly wistful smile tied to my knowledge that they are getting taller, older and most of all heading toward the point where I will not be their first choice for snuggles and tv shows.




Monday, April 10, 2017

What would Jesus do ?

As an atheist many people think I am anti-religion but really it just means I do not believe in deity worship or organized religion.  I can easily see other life in other planets, other universes but the idea of a singular, or even multi, "higher being" and all the rules that man makes to justify how this, or these, deities need to be worshiped that just doesn't mean anything to me.    I find no comfort or need for that kind of being in my own life.  The other thing people think when they hear I am atheist, is that it means I do not believe in having scruples.  Actually it is my deep conviction that we should treat one another and our planet, and the other parts of space, with respect and kindness and worry about continuously improving life not only as we have it but for those long after we have been gone that was part of how I came to be an atheist.  I found no doctrine that did that even though they all claim to.   There are a few more clarifications that I feel as an atheist that I need to get out there as there seems to be lots of confusion.

First of all you do not have to whisper or ask me to whisper that I am an ATHEIST.   It is not an admission that I have ritual slayings in my house -- the irony of having ritual anything is not lost on me.  I am not a satanist either, I know but really I have gotten asked, I do believe people choose either through conscious decision or mental illness to do things we can all agree to call evil (genocide, anything to do with harming living children, serial killers, torture -- yeah we are on same page).  I do not hate religions, I just cannot agree with the many ways they are used to negatively judge others for things that some man at some point in time decreed he did not agree with or worse to justify those things I deemed evil before.   I understand their purpose and if you get comfort from them or find the need to connect with your heritage with them well then that is what you need - doesn't make it wrong or right it makes it your opinion.

Of the many historical religious figures,  after much research, I find that Jesus is my favorite. Oddly enough not because I believe he was the son of a god but because I believe he wasn't.   It is almost easier to be a better than the average person if you are a deity.   It is hard to be a leader and ask that all people are treated well if you are not.

Jesus who all religions acknowledge lived was a simple man who asked of all those who followed him to be kind to others, to give to those in need if you have more than you need.  He was able to treat Mary Magdalene with the same respect by all counts that he treated Judas, and we know who betrayed him.   Yet he did not judge Judas either.

I find myself wondering as many around the world celebrate the holiday that really defines them as Christians, the horrific torture and death of a man who until the end chose not give up his hopes for the better in humanity even when they displayed the worst, how do so many use his name as justification to be more like those who nailed him to a cross?  

Jesus - what would Jesus do when laws are made that disempower those who had very little to begin with ?  what would Jesus do when women are treated as there for the taking by men or told to cover up because they inherently are too sexually powerful and men cannot "help" themselves? what would Jesus do when the planet he thought a higher being created is not treated with the care and polluted at will?  what would Jesus do when people are discriminated against for just being themselves (note to all things like the fact that we look different, homosexuality all came before the whole religion thing)?

I do not know what he would do but based on all that is written about him, and there is loads, I would like to think that this atheist understands he would be more about forgiving and accepting than brandishing hate.   I would like to think that as I always cry seeing him and the others carrying their crosses, being whipped, being tortured that we learned from that not that it is acceptable to have others crucified but that in what appear to be his final words the word "forgiveness" is prominent with acceptance.

For all the religions out there one person seems to be woven into all of them, some who believe will see this as divine connection, for others like me it will reaffirm my belief in people.  That most of us are good and that is why the one man who spoke of this appears in all of them.

What would Jesus do ?  Probably just ask us to stop and think of that in terms of doing right by others.

Happy Spring