35 years later?!

Weighing in on the Kavanaugh issue. He and I are about the same age. He and I both grew up in Maryland, though that has little to do with what I want to talk about. This issue of sexual assault has triggered some memories for me and as I’ve gone about my business the past week or so, I’ve noticed that some of my peers have strong opinions about the nominee for SCOTUS and all of the news that has come out about what happened when he was a high schooler.

I drank in high school and I was underage when I did it. I can’t think of a single one of my high school friends or acquaintances who didn’t. Brett Kavanaugh did, too. He went to parties and got wasted. So did I and so did the majority of people I knew then. The typical scenario was that a person’s parents would go out for the night or the weekend and the party would take place. Word got out, booze and drugs would be obtained and before you knew it, your house was full of people you didn’t know. In a few hours, drunken antics would occur. Some people went to other parts of the house to engage in sex, some would barf and fall asleep, some would just hang out. That was the typical underage high school party as I remember it. I’m not proud of some of the things I did at such parties and I don’t really like to remember myself then like a drunken idiot, but we were all drunken idiots and we have grown up since then, hopefully.

At one party, a guy I hardly knew cornered me. Another guy came to my rescue. I’m sure that many of my female friends have memories of similar scenarios and some like Dr. Blasey-Ford, were not rescued. I’m sure that if the guy who cornered me had gone through with whatever he had planned, my life would have been much different.

I hope that today’s young men have gotten the message that “no means no” and through the “me too” movement, the conversation around sexual assault has opened their eyes and made them more sensitive and aware of the damaging power of being violated.  There was little to no conversation about it when Kavanaugh and I were in high school. Girls didn’t speak up for many reasons. Maybe they thought that if they let a guy have his way, he would like her. She might become popular if she relented. If she had been physically overpowered by a male, then, of course, her power was taken away in a more violent fashion leading to more psychological scars.

So why now? Why is she coming forward 35 years later? Why can’t she just let bygones be bygones and carry on with her life? Why would she rehash these events now? Is it a political witch hunt? Why can’t we just drop it and look at who he is now? Why bring up the past? I’m going to tell you why.  The obvious answer is that a SCOTUS nominee should be of outstanding moral character. There should not be these kinds of skeletons in his closet. The real reason and most important reason is that the skeleton is out and if we ignore it and give it a pass, we are sending the wrong message to today’s young people.

For 35 years, we have worked very hard to start a conversation about sexual assault. Through the “me too” movement, I learned that most women were affected by unwanted advances and worse, in some way. We are not your playthings. We give ourselves to those we love and those we choose to. It’s our choice, not yours. Blasey-Ford was victimized, just like most of the women I know. We would be sending the wrong message to the males in our society if we swept this under the carpet. We have spent years telling the next generation of girls that their bodies are their own and to boys, “no means no.” Give a pass to someone less important if you want. Women, get your head out of your asses and think about what happened to you. Think about the person who violated you. Let yourself go there, even if it’s uncomfortable.  Think about the future generations. Think about your daughters or granddaughters. Don’t we want better for them?  If you haven’t appropriately dealt with your own sexual assault, that’s on you. Don’t defend a man who did something criminal to one of our sisters. It’s not right. If you think for one minute that we should ignore this, you’re wrong. Women, I urge you to come together in solidarity. Let’s not allow this to be acceptable.

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My mother’s politics

My mother is a quiet, reserved person and she would never be described as an activist. She spent her life molding the minds of her students in her many classrooms. She may be quiet, but she has always had strong opinions about things and the way she taught me about them influences me even now.

These days it is not uncommon to see advertisements that feature what I call purposeful role reversal. A father may be folding the laundry or a mother is coaching sports. In the 70’s, there was an ad for Jif peanut butter and the tag line was “choosy mothers choose Jif.” The fact that the commercial insinuated that only mothers choose peanut butter and that you’re not a good (choosy) mother if you don’t choose Jif pretty much outraged my mother. She stuck with her favorite, Peter Pan, thank you very much. She showed me that it was possible to “vote” with your wallet.

Long before conservative Christians began speaking up politically and years before the Moral Majority was formed, my mother was on guard to protect me from certain types of religious indoctrination. Vacation Bible school was forbidden and if a friend invited me to church or youth group, the group/church had to be investigated by my mother. If they had any conservative/prejudiced/evangelical leanings, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend. My churchgoing desires were satisfied by her taking me to a local liberal Episcopal church, where I would be confirmed.

In 2015, same-sex marriage became the law of the land. The first thing my mother said to me about the decision was, “too bad Uncle Max and Charlie aren’t alive to see this.” Uncle Max was her paternal uncle and Charlie was his partner. I knew about Uncle Max and Charlie because my mother was honest about their relationship. In the mid 60’s, most gay people had to keep their orientation a secret even from family members. As a young child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I knew my Great Uncle Max was different, but in my eyes, he and Charlie were just handsome relatives whom we saw at holidays.

My mother is now 75 years old. I love the fact that she has friends of all races and religions. Her strong opinions are something she holds close to her and unless you are family, you might not know about them. As long as you respect her, she will respect you and her political views won’t be discussed among friends. I admire this and strive to emulate her quiet strength.