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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13 Reasons why…or not

Spurred by a friend’s recommendation, I chose to binge-watch the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why” based on the popular young adult novel by Jay Asher. I never read the novel, though I have delved into many YA novels at my ripe old age and that is another post for another time.

“13 Reasons” is the story of Hannah Baker, a teen who has committed suicide. On her last day, she records 13 tapes (yes, cassette tapes) each one aimed at calling out a certain person who contributed to the mess that became her young life. It certainly does become a mess and the ones who are called out have either betrayed her, broken her heart, ditched her as a friend, slut-shamed her, and the biggie, raped her. The web of deceit, lies, betrayals, anger, and dysfunction grows with each episode and with each tape and even though you know that each of the people called out has done something to hurt Hannah, you can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for all of them, bearing shame, guilt, abuse, drugs, alcohol, parental abandonment, you name it. For example, Hannah’s former best friend is raped by a “friend” while passed out. Another friend lives with his druggie mother and her drug dealing boyfriend while attempting to maintain his outward appearance of “big man on campus.”  The tapes are passed around, from person to person, each person who is named on the tapes must listen and then pass the tapes to the next in line.

Meanwhile, Hannah’s parents are trying to figure out why their daughter did this. The protagonist, Clay, is a nice guy who is a former friend and potential love interest for Hannah, but he betrays her as well by not trying hard enough.  It is through Clay listening to the tapes that the viewer finds out about each of the people named on the tapes.

So, you get the picture. I had a huge problem with the premise of this show. Obviously, the friends of Hannah had horrible things going on in their own lives and all of the interactions between these friends are connected in a huge horrible web which supposedly led Hannah to take her own life and her friends who let her down are now left with the tapes, which pretty much blame them for her suicide. The culture of bullying at Hannah’s high school seems like a good subject to tackle, but I’m just not sure the end result of the discussion should have been the suicide of a young girl. The suicide scene is a very graphic depiction and certainly not for the faint of heart. The idea of the tapes is an interesting concept.

This brings me to my teenage  years. (a long time ago)  Has our society really gotten that much meaner and more viciously cruel? I knew MANY people who were bullied. I was bullied.  My brother and I were victims for years. I solved the problem by physically fighting back. What has made kids today so fragile? Is bullying so much worse due to social media? What is it?  I was the victim of a sexual assault at age 12. I knew many girls who were. I had friends betray me and I knew friends who lived through much, much worse without resorting to checking out permanently. When you’re 15 or 16 and your life is in the shitter, it does seem that things will never get better. Kids these days have resources that we never did. So many formerly taboo subjects are now discussed openly: sexuality, transgender people, drugs, alcohol, etc.

I would not recommend this program for any young person. I believe there are better ways of talking with your children about bullying, rape, drugs, alcohol, abuse, sexuality, etc. than this show. Romanticizing and normalizing suicide as an option is not an option.