When you discover you don’t know anything and what you thought you knew is all wrong

Isn’t this the theme of 2020?

A suffragist.
Source: Independent Australia

Last night, Mr T and I watched The Vote, about women’s suffrage.

All I knew before we started was that 100 years ago, women in the US won the right to vote and blah blah blah.

I did not know women had been arrested.

I did not know that women had been beaten.

I did not know that women had been force fed in jail, tubes shoved down their throats against their will.

I did not know about the sabatoge.

I did not know about the bombs.

I did not know about the hunger strikes.

I did not know about the awful racism in the suffrage movement – that many white women did not want to ally with Black women.


I didn’t know so many things.


I did not know until I was out of college that the US had put US citizens of Japanese ancestry in prison camps during WWII. Had stolen their property. Had treated them horribly.

I did not know how brutally and unfairly Native Americans were treated. And are still treated.

And of course I did not know about all the systemic racism, past and present. I have talked about that before, but I have not talked about how angry I am that I learned none of this in school.

Why wasn’t this part of the history curriculum when I was in school?

Why were we not taught about any of this – racism, lynching, internment camps, sexism, genocide – in school?

Yeah I know that’s a stupid question.

It’s for the same reason that in 7th grade Texas history, we were taught that the Mexicans were bad and the Texans were noble at the Alamo.

We were not taught the part that one of the reasons the Texans were fighting for independence was because Mexico had abolished slavery and the Texans wanted to keep slavery.

Regardless, the Alamo is beautiful now.

Fighting for independence from oppression is one thing.

Fighting to oppress is another.


It would be kind of like if the Confederacy had won the war and students were taught that Robert E Lee was noble and there were high schools named after him and there were statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and military bases were named after Confederate generals and ordinary people named their little boys “Jefferson Dav—

Wait.

The Confederacy lost the war but those things still happened.

WTF?

How did we ever get to the point where we glorify the losers from a war they fought to maintain slavery?

How did we get to the point where there are people in the US who think it’s OK to fly the flag of the Confederacy, a nation that the US defeated in war, a group of traitors who tried to secede from the US to start their own country for the sole purpose of maintaining the morally indefensible practice of enslaving other human beings?

At least they get it right in the Civil War burying grounds.

Wait.

At least they get it right at Shiloh. I just googled and discovered that there are Confederate dead buried at Arlington? And apparently recognized?

At Shiloh, the Confederate dead are in their own section that the US Parks Service does not maintain.

I asked a ranger about it and he answered that yeah, they were enemy soldiers and I realized OF COURSE.

Why should the US pay to maintain the graves of traitors?

Shiloh

How are we ever supposed to understand our history if we are lied to?


Let me get to my point, which is,

We have to stop teaching the myths and teach the truth.

If we don’t know our true history, how are we ever supposed to reach the ideals on which this country was founded?

We need to know that the founders’ intentions really weren’t for everyone.

(That doesn’t mean we are going to stick with their intentions – this is not the place for originalism.)

We need to know that when they said “all men are created equal,” they really meant all white men, not all human beings of every color.

We need to know how people who were not white men of property were treated.

We need to know that we, as a country, have done horrible things.

We need to figure out how to apologize for these things and make it right with the people who have suffered.

We need to figure out how to make it better in the future.


I am angry that I was not taught these things in school, but I am also angry at myself for not learning on my own.

So that’s what I’m doing now. I am reading and watching and trying to understand.

These are the books and DVDs on my shelf now.

  • The Vote
  • Ain’t I a woman : Black women and feminism, bell hooks
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Assata: A Biography, Assata Shakur
  • Caste, Isabel Wilkerson
  • They were her property : white women as slave owners in the American South, Stephanie Jones-Rogers
  • Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
  • John Lewis: Get In The Way
  • Mama Flora’s Famiy, Alex Haley
  • Dying of whiteness : how the politics of racial resentment is killing America’s heartland, Jonathan Metzl

What should I add to this list? What else should I do?

Don’t cry for white men

I apologize to all the white men I know and love, but – sorry, your professional life does not suck just because companies are now trying to hire people who do not look like you

This is Clara Campoamor, who fought for women’s rights in Spain. She was amazing.

A former co-worker, Max, called. He’s starting a new job – the old job at our mutual former employer – Acme – had become unbearable.

Acme was acquired by a German company about three years ago. The Germans put in a new CEO, who came from GE.

This is important – if you know anything about GE, you know it’s a nightmare employer.

New CEO brought in his people from GE and things got worse and worse.

Anyhow. Max’s new VP wanted Max to get rid of at least two of Max’s female direct reports.

Max: He wanted me to fire Maggie.

Me: Why? I’ve worked with her. She’s great!

Max: He says she’s not technical enough.

Me: Doesn’t she have a PhD in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech?

Max: Yes.

Me: And – she’s not a software developer. She’s the product manager.

Max: Yes.

Me: So. He’s just threatened by her?

Max: Yes.

Max found Maggie a new position with a promotion and a raise, but after his VP told him he couldn’t give a good performance evaluation to Olivia – who is also excellent – because VP wanted to get rid of her because she wasn’t a “good fit” for the team, Max started looking for a new job.

Only to discover – through friends who already worked at the places he was applying – that these companies are not hiring white men. They are trying to hire women and people of color.


Mr T has a friend – a white man – who is running for school board.

A Black woman has entered the race.

Mr T: My friend has experience. He’s served in other elected positions. He knows the policy. The woman has never run for office before. He says he’s qualified and she’s not.

Me: Maybe we need to change the definition of what makes someone qualified?


A former co-worker, who is now a VP: Yeah, when I graduated from college, it was tough to find a job. I’m a white man, so…..

Me:

Me:

Me: [Yeah, being a woman has so worked for me professionally.]


What makes someone “qualified” for a job?

I can tell you what I think makes a woman not qualified. This is anecdata, theory only.

Out of a team of ten, with only two women, when my boss was ordered to cut 10% from his budget, I was the one he cut.

My performance evaluation had gone like this:

Boss: You need to quit using big words that make people feel stupid.

Me: What? Can you give me an example? I mean, I use the word I need to express the idea. Who feels stupid when I talk to them?

Boss: I don’t have any examples. But you need to stop.

Later.

Co-worker Bruce: He meant he feels stupid. You make him feel stupid.


Years later, at Acme, an engineering company, before the GE takeover. I was the marketing person for the R&D group.

R&D engineer: You’ve been here three months. What do you think?

Me: I love it! I’m the stupidest person in the group!

Engineer:

Engineer:

Engineer: You – seem bright enough.

A day later, after I have told the story to Bruce.

Bruce: Yeah, he doesn’t know you at all. He thinks you have a self esteem problem. He doesn’t get that you were really saying that at your old job, you worked with really stupid people.

Narrator: She had indeed worked with really stupid people.


You are not intimidating.

They are intimidated.


What makes a person “qualified?”

What makes a white man who has held public office before more qualified than a Black woman to be elected to the school board of a school that has a majority of Black students?

Who makes the rules?

Narrator: That was a joke. Everyone knows who makes the rules.


I was going to do all kinds of research about how even though women and people of color are running for office and winning, they are still the minority.

I was going to give you percents and data and detail.

But then I realized I don’t need to.

Because we all know that despite the AOCs and the Kamalas and the Cory Bookers and the Ilhan Omars, most of the people elected to office are white men.

In some places, it’s even the law. In England, the House of Lords has 92 seats. You get that seat by inheriting a title and property and all kinds of weird primogeniture stuff.

Narrator: Yes she knows this is not about elected officials. It’s about a higher principle.

How many women hold a seat in the House of Lords?

If you said “zero,” you would be correct.

But WHY?

Because a woman cannot inherit all that – stuff. It’s the law.

But I don’t want to be too harsh on my English cousins. Our situation in the US is not much better and we don’t even have laws against women holding the seats.

Narrator: Not to mention the UK has had a female prime minister and currently has a queen.

As in, what percent of the seats in Congress are held by someone who is not a white man?

As in, what percent of CEOs in the US are held by someone who is not a white man? What percent of executive offices in the US are held by someone who is not a white man?


Max found a new job. He’s fine.


I had an phone interview last week for a marketing position in a technical company.

I talked to the hiring manager, who is a man.

I am hoping he thinks I’m qualified. Even though I don’t look like him.

Working for The Man

When a person wonders if pants are really necessary for a job interview

On the right is Rosa, the director of the agency where I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile.

So you know I have been looking for a job.

I spent August and September volunteering on election stuff. I helped some local candidates in October and Mr T and I did our regular shifts at the food bank, which I love love love because for three hours, I don’t think about anything else but sorting produce or finding some kind of protein – canned beans, tuna, peanut butter – to pack in the boxes of shelf-stable foods to be sent to the food pantries.

Grocery stores? I want to thank you for donating food to the food bank, but I gotta say that chips, candy, and salad dressing are not really what hungry people need. I am not going to waste box space on a bag of potato chips. I want to fill that space with oatmeal or rice or pasta sauce or of course any kind of protein.

What was I talking about?

OK. So Mr T and I both worked the polls on election day and then we were going to quarantine and then we thought we might as well put the quarantine to good use and drive to visit my mom, but ten days after the election, the covid numbers got really bad because of all the stupid people who refuse to believe it’s real and who are ruining it for the rest of us.

So that’s when I started applying for jobs again.

And – this is bizarre – I started getting interviews right away.

This is not how my life has been I assure you. It took me 18 months to find a job again after I returned from the Peace Corps, even though I KILLED IT when I was in Chile. We developed new products, increased sales, increased margins, reduced costs, streamlined operations. I was very happy with my work there.

So I have been getting interviews and I have discovered there is this new evil in interviewing also known as the video interview.

What fresh hell is this?

Can’t we just talk on the phone like normal people?

I do not have to see someone to have a conversation. Lord have mercy.

But I am not in a position to tell people no, so I grit my teeth and agree to the video interview.

One company sent me tips for video interviewing. Including the instruction to dress professionally on the bottom as well as on the top because I might have to stand up.

Which – my plan had been to wear my running tights on the bottom and not move once my butt was in the seat.

But then I worried that they might trick me into standing up.

So now I have to wear actual pants.

Which I have not done in – how long has it been?

I have been living an Elastic Life AND I LIKE IT.

Also – nobody outside of Mr T has seen my lower face in months and months.

But I suppose I need to remove the mask for the call.

Which means I need to make sure that my teeth – which I hate, by the way – don’t have anything stuck in them.

I have not had to worry about stuff being stuck in my teeth for months AND I LIKE IT.

Another thing I had to think about was how puffy my eyes were. I had made a big batch of stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut the day I got two of the interviews. I woke up the next morning with a puffy face and puffy eyes and I thought, I cannot interview like this I look old and old is not good.

So I have not eaten any more of that delicious stuffed cabbage and I have not eaten anything else with extra salt like chicharrones even though I want to stress eat.

I had to make sure I was bathed with decent hair.

But it was going to work out. One interview was Monday afternoon and the next was Tuesday morning. Yes, that would mean showering two days in a row (oh don’t judge me like you’re showering and doing your hair every day? NO YOU ARE NOT YOU LIAR), but it would reduce the salt-free diet time.

Only – yesterday after Interview 1, I checked the email about Interview 2 again and discovered that I had misread Thursday for Tuesday.

So now the shower schedule is better but I have to wait a few more days before I can eat what I want!

I had to find makeup – just some mascara and some light eye shadow – otherwise, my eyes just disappear.

My hair?

Hahahahahaha.

I have not been to a salon since January, which means I have not had my highlights done since January and which also means I have been cutting my own hair because I don’t like it long.

I look a mess. I don’t want to wear clothes that hurt. My teeth. Ick. My teeth.

Working stinks.

Let’s talk about rape

There are plenty of men who think they are Good Men and who think this word does not apply to them.

They are wrong.

I don’t even know what kind of image one would use to show rape, so I am just going to show a cat in the sun instead.

I love love love Jane Casey‘s writing. She incorporates feminist themes into her books so well.

(And it goes without saying that her plots and character development are excellent.)

In The Last Girl, she writes about rape – or how rape is defined and viewed. Kit is a man telling the story to Maeve. Kenneford is a senior lawyer. Jodie was a young lawyer at the time, I think. (I am not clear on how the English legal education system works.)

“Kenneford slept with [Jodie] when she was a pupil at Three Unicorn, about fifteen years ago. She was young, straight out of college, and no money whatsoever- she’s from the arse end of Cornwall and got where she is on scholarships. Kenneford wanted her as soon as he saw her and spent a fortune on persuading her to sleep with him. He bombarded her with presents and kept taking her out to dinner until she felt obliged to give something back. That was how he described it to me, by the way- he wasn’t under any illusions about how she felt about him. It gave him a thrill to coax her into bed when she had turned him down so many times. He’s that sort of person- can’t resist a challenge. And Jodie was a challenge, because even though she was young and impoverished, she was still a feisty one. If you ask me, the whole thing was a power struggle and Kenneford declared himself the winner once he’d slept with her, more or less against her will.”

….

“Hold on, he didn’t rape her, did he?”

“Good Lord, no. Nothing like that.” Kit looked shocked at the very idea. “He put her under so much pressure she didn’t feel she could say no, but he didn’t force her. It was still her choice to do it, but she made it clear it was a one-off.”

The Last Girl, Jane Casey

Let’s examine this, shall we?

First, Kenneford was in a position of power over Jodie. That by itself is enough to call her consent into question.

Second, she “felt obliged to give something back.” Thanks, society, for teaching women that men are owed something if they spend enough money on us.

Third, Kit thinks there is a clear distinction between rape and putting a woman under “so much pressure she didn’t feel she could say no.” I would argue that there is not.

Fourth, of course she felt like she chose it. Because we don’t want to admit the truth, even to ourselves. We want autonomy and control.

But if a man pushes and pushes and pushes despite the “no,” then I tell you without a shadow of a doubt, that is rape.

When you push to bend someone to your will, someone who has said “no” even once, then you are a rapist.


When I was in my 20s, there was this guy. Let’s call him Bob, as Bob is an inoffensive, common name that should lull you into a sense of safety.

Bob was the boss of two of my college friends. He was (is) seven years older than me, I think. Which – when you are 25, a man who is 32 seems Old and Distinguished and Mature.

I met Bob at a few happy hours with my friends. Then he quit his job and moved out of town to attend grad school. That spring, he returned to Austin for spring break and I saw him again at an event with my friends.

He flirted with me, which was heady and exciting because he was Old and Distinguished and Mature and, I remember, very sexy. He was very very smart and he was good looking and he was interesting and he was interested in me.

He walked with me to my car and we kissed for a little while and it was very nice.

He was leaving that night to drive to Houston to see his sister and I thought that was the end of it.

The next day, he called me from his sister’s house and asked if he could take me out if he returned to Austin.

Sure, I said.

This was flattering! A man who wanted to drive four hours just to see me?

He picked me up and we went out to eat and then he took me back to my place and we kissed for a while and then I was ready for him to leave and I asked him where he was staying and he said he thought he was staying with me and I wondered where he had ever gotten that idea because I had never offered housing. I had agreed to dinner, not to an overnight. I had agreed to a date, not to hotel service and/or sex.

I should have shrugged and told him, Sorry dude this is not my problem we never discussed your staying with me in my dwelling. I should have said, Surely after attending college here and living here for years, you have plenty of friends who would let you sleep on the sofa.

I should have.

And if it were to happen today, I would.

I was 25.

I was an idiot.

I finally said he could sleep on the sofa.

And then he started advocating for moving to the bed.

I WAS SUCH AN IDIOT.

He. Would. Not. Shut. Up.

His words were not mean. His words were not threatening. His words were not scary.

His words were seductive, even.

But he would not take “no” for an answer.

And I finally gave in, just to get him to shut up. Just because I didn’t want to argue anymore.


After he left the next day, of course I did the rational thing and never let him in my apartment again.

Hahahahahahaha no!!

No, I let him visit me AGAIN!

Because – well, because I WAS CHOOSING THIS. I had chosen it.

I had not been forced into sex against my will.

I mean, how could it be involuntary sex aka rape if I was seeing him again?

Oh BlessMyHeart.


Today, Bob is very influential in Good Causes in Austin. He is seen, I am sure, as A Very Good Liberal Person Who Cares.


I did not want. I did not want to sleep with him.

I am still angry.