An Open Letter

Dear Duggar daughters –

I am not here to chide you, or your family. I am not here to pass judgement on what anyone should or shouldn’t have done in regards to what your brother did.

I am here to tell you that I’m sorry. For everything.

I’m sorry he touched you, in the manner he did, without your permission. Regardless of how you dismiss or rationalize it, he should have never invaded your body like that.

I’m sorry that the adults in your life failed you. They failed to protect you, and they failed to right the wrong, after you were violated.

I’m sorry that it happened to you. I’m sorry you had to feel the confusion and shame afterwards. And I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with all your feelings, while trying to put up a united front on TV cameras.

I am truly, truly sorry.

I say all this, as someone who’s been there, minus the TV cameras. Someone who was supposed to love and protect me as a parent, did not. And convinced me it was my fault. This person violated me as well, many times, while I was awake, and aware, and scarred me to this day. He gave me nightmares until my adult years. Because of his actions, I was unable to trust any adult male in my life for a very long time. I thought all men were going to try and treat me as a sexual object as well, even my male teachers.

Like you, I told one day. I’m not sure of the reaction your parents gave you, but the reaction I was given by my adults was not positive. I was called a “lying  little bitch” by a member of his family, who again, said they loved me. This was quite traumatic for 12 year old me. However, instead of my perpetrator being shipped away, I was sent to stay with a family friend for the summer. I went home just before school started.
And like you, it started again.
I told again, but this time the police were involved. But even they questioned me, and pointed out that I was going to “ruin his life”.

Never mind that he had already almost ruined mine.

I was 30 before I started to feel better about myself. I do hope that the therapy your family says they gave you will allow you to have a normal relationship with someone of the opposite sex before I was able to.

I’m rambling, I know. You’re telling yourself that nothing bad happened. It’s not like he raped you, or you were even aware of it. I’m sorry you’ve rationalized things to that point. There are no degrees of this. He violated your space, your body, and your trust.

So in closing, as the story dies from the media,  I just want to say that I hope things are better for you. I hope you’re not harboring any negative feelings about yourself, or what you could have done to stop it. I hope that you don’t occasionally still cower from the men in your life, (husbands/partners included) despite how much you love them. Above all else, you deserve to have a happy, whole life, away from the fear to sleep these feelings cause.

Yours ever sincerely,
Samantha Regina Imperiatrix

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How to be an “ally”

First of all, let me acknowledge that some have valid objections to the word “ally.” Not the idea, the word itself and the way many feel it’s been cheapened over time.

For sake of convenience, I shall use “ally” in this post though, with the hopes of reaching a broader audience.

We all have some benefits because of health, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This is also called privilege (which isn’t “bad”).   I’d venture that we all belong to a minority group,too.

Let “G” =  marginalized group.

Allies get down and dirty.

Allies constantly work to educate themselves on issues affecting G.

Allies educate others. It’s sad, say, that when I reported sexual harassment, the institution took the word of men over mine. “OH, MEN saw this happen so it must have occurred.”

As an ally, you should always challenge yourself. Recognize your limitations–you will and can never know what it’s like for G. (And that’s not good or bad, that’s just how it is.) 

Listen to members of G regarding their personal and institutional experiences of marginalization. Think about how your privileges (again, NOT a “bad” term) impact your life in a given situation and then just think about how it is for members of G. Multiply it by 10.

What you can imagine is most likely not even close to what members of G must endure, and often endure on a daily bases.

Be vigilant. When you’re at the store, wonder what this trip would be like if you were a member of G. Did the clerk listen to you or follow you around because of your skin color? Wonder about it at work: would I be promoted for the amount of work I put in or would I have to work a lot harder, often times for less pay?

Ponder which stereotypes are applied to you  now and what stereotypes would non-G folks apply to a member of G? To use race, one thing that’s always struck me as terrible is that white-skinned people aren’t called “white professionals.” White people are just doing what they’re “supposed” to be doing.

So why the term “black professional?”

Being an ally isn’t always comfortable and sometimes, you, as an ally, must draw the attention back to a member of G, say, if they’re making a damn fine point, etc.

Notice the diversity of groups to which you belong. All white? Why? No women speakers? Again, why?

Allies align themselves publicly and privately with members of target groups and respond to their needs. This may mean breaking assumed allegiances with those who have the same privileges as you.  Don’t underestimate the consequences of breaking these allegiances, and be sure to break them in ways that will be most useful to the person or group with whom you are aligning yourself.

An ally is not a rescuer. Members of G don’t need “rescuing”–that’s too Savior Complex. Work with us.

Be mindful that the G member you’re allying with could be at risk of a demotion or some form of retaliation. Be aware that the G member you may draw attention to (“X has a good point, why don’t you finish that idea for [whatever]?”) may not be delighted by your well-intentioned action. Explain and apologize. (Keep your explanation short, or you risk sounding like you’re preaching at the person.)

TALK about the fact you have privileges others don’t. Openly acknowledge this. And no, you don’t have to use the word privilege, since so many people shut down when they hear that term.

Being an ally takes personal growth, and with growth comes growing pains. If you say something supportive and a person of G responds negatively, pause and reflect. No one is perfect. Dig deep to the root and try to figure out if it was your delivery, you messed up, or they did.

Know what internalized oppression. Sometimes internalized oppression is like kudzu.

As an ally, share how oppression of G is something you may have inadvertently benefited from.  Let’s say you are running for office. A member of G has to think about public office more than you do. I mean, look at Sarah Palin. There’s plenty to dislike about her political views, but the media seems so focused on her hair/appearance. Same with Hillary and her “cankles.” That’s not cool.

Allies will make mistakes. Expect this. YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES.  You are learning, after all. Allies should help promote a sense of justice and inclusiveness.

Humor can be a method a survival, both for G and allies.

Feeling safe if not a realistic expectation; a good ally learns to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Again, growing pains. Allies understand that emotional safety is not a realistic expectation. Act to alter the too-comfortable when necessary.

(When I write, “feeling safe,” I mean more “KNOW your boundaries will be pushed, and some biases you may not be aware of may surface.” It’s very uncomfortable realizing you have a bias against something–but you can’t fix something you don’t know is broken.)

If you take anything out of this:

  • Educate yourself. It’s not the job of G to educate you, though listening to stories has helped me in the past. You can easily read stories online. Check out microaggressions. Read blogs of marginalized groups. Read the news and ask yourself questions via thought-experiment. (“If X was a member of G, would they really have gotten probation for rape? Denied bail for protecting their children?”)
  • LISTEN. I cannot emphasis this enough. LISTEN thoughtfully and with your full attention.
  • Accept that you will mess up, and then learn from it. Apologize. I’ve messed up, and I’ve learned. I’ve apologized.

And we then laughed about my gaffe.

This is by no means all-inclusive, so any ideas, suggestions, corrections are happily welcome in the comments.

What’s goin’ on?

Things we’ve been reading:

First, a friend of mine shared this.

I lightly broke it down (do read it) with this response:

1. Referring to yourself and/or group of friends as “bro” seriously might as well be a sign you’re a douchcanoe.
2. “Midnight or after, if you have been talking for awhile and they’ve had a couple drinks, ask if they want to dance. If you see an untalked to group or a solo girl, go up to her and ask if she wants anything to drink. If she says yes, get her a drink and then ask if she wants to dance. If she says no, ask her to dance. DANCING IS FUN!!!!! Always try to dance. If she does not want to dance and is with friends, say “aw thats no fun” (or something like that) and then ask one of her friends.”
I thought the stereotype was that guys don’t like to dance, which made the all caps insistence DANCING IS FUN massively humorous. But is DANCING FUN with creepy guys who call each other “bro?”
He really does need to learn about the body though. There’s a lot in between “just under the boob” and “fingering her.”  Just sayin’.
3. “If she starts putting her hair over her ear, THAT MEANS SHE WANTS A KISS.”
I had no idea this was part of the mating ritual of humans. I’m sure my husband is stewing “That feminist bitch I married never puts her hair over my ear, dammit.”
WTF is he talking about? Well, he sure is fond OF ALL CAPS.
4. ” 6. Ejaculate (should also be self explanatory) ”
No, I’m sorry, I don’t follow, care to explain? Preferably in ALL CAPS, AMIRITE BROS? How many women do you think this “bro” *shudder* has so cleverly used this MASSIVELY AWESOME ADVICE ON, [name of friend]? Success rates count.

Also, why are people so stupid to think emails won’t be leaked, etc? Geez.

In other news:

Assange and Abortion

My high school geometry teacher once told me (paraphrase) “it’s okay to appreciate someone as an artist but not like their personal and political beliefs, etc.”

This kickass advice has helped me while navigating college, grad school, work, and most every aspect of life.  I like some things Obama has done; I disapprove of many other things he’s done while president. Hell, I vaguely remember approving of something G.W. Bush did while in office.  No one very few people are that simple and consistent. I’m the first to admit I’m not.

But enough about vague nuances. Let’s now apply this to a very, oh, divisive person.

Julian Assange.

I have encountered people who believe he’s a hero, with no flaws. In the eyes of some, Assange can do no wrong.
I have also encountered people who think he’s a traitor, he’s terrible, etc.

My own view is that Wikileaks was good. I applaud that.

And . . .  that may be all I applaud or approve of regarding Assange’s life and work.

He currently lives in an embassy, avoiding arrest for more than one rape allegation. I understand why someone would hide from facing trial, even if they aren’t guilty, but at the same time, I do find this quite cowardly.

I find it infuriating that Bradley Manning is serving time and Assange isn’t (okay, living in an embassy for days-months-years can’t be fun); I admit to wondering if Assange took advantage of Pfc. Manning’s low self esteem/mental state. Yes, I realize that it’s not that simple, but at the end of the day . . . Assange isn’t in prison, suffering inhumane solitary confinement.  Whistleblower Pfc B. Manning has been sentencedis in prison, serving up to 35 years. Laila Lalami observes: “That’s 35 years more than the people who started the Iraq War.” Tim Ireland observes it’s “more than 3 times the maximum sentence faced by anyone involved in Abu Ghraib torture.”

I hadn’t thought of any of Assange for a while, and then I stumbled upon this article: “Julian Assange calls Rand Paul the ‘only hope’ for US politics.”  Please do take the time to read it.

Assange also praised Paul and former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul for their principled positions on the libertarianism, non-violence, drone warfare, extrajudicial killings and abortion.

What? I reread the line several times.

Rand Paul and Ron Paul are against abortion.  I can disagree with the Paul’s (and the majority of the GOP) on this (and other) issue(s)…but I fail to see how this anti-abortion stance could ever be construed as libertarian. Libertarians believe that government should be kept at a minimum and that government shouldn’t interfere with personal life (and liberty, and freedom.)

Restricting or outlawing abortion does just that, however; it interferes with personal life, liberty, and freedom in a cruel and yes, inhumane, torturous way. The criminalization of abortion is the government telling a set of the population what they can and can’t do with their bodies. It’s the government stepping into a doctor’s office and interfering with what may be the best decision for the individual. The criminalization of abortion takes freedom away from a professional (so much for the free market, Doc) and from the person pregnant.

“We trust you to educate children without any assistance. But we don’t trust you to decide whether you want to have a child.”

That, my friends, is not true libertarianism. I call it “GOP-libertarianism.”

So thanks for Wikileaks.

That’s really the only positive thing I can say about you, Mr. Assange.

Southern Style: The Belle

Welcome back to the south, friends, where our chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy.  Y’all pull up a rocker and grab a glass of tea.  Why don’t we chat a spell about Southern Belles?belle1

Tell me, do you think of Scarlett O’Hara?  A delicate young lady with a feminine southern drawl?  Bless your little heart,  we probably all do. We imagine hoop skirts, wide-rimmed hats, and parasol umbrellas.

More than that, we envision a flirtatious, yet chaste, beauty, who has been taught that hospitality can win the day – and the man.  Even though, the man she will always love best is Daddy. (wink)  Mama has taught her that a wide front porch is the ideal setting for entertaining guests, and manners – ladies never sweat or cuss, thank you very much! – are of utmost importance.

As time passed, things changed.  Fiddle-dee-dee!!  Hoop skirts were replaced with feminine skirts.  Wide hats replaced with regular salon visits.  Women began to venture outside their homes to work.  In short, Scarlett O’Hara was replaced by Julia Sugarbaker and friends.

These changes, or advancements, came about by both force and choice.  Many women had to seek employment in order to care for their families.    Many more chose to seek a life outside of the traditional roles laid before them.

Gone with the wind.. are the days where a smart girl lets a man take credit for doing exactly what she wants him to do.

Todays Belle prefers to take credit for doing exactly what she wants to do.  Todays Belle is often the sole provider for her family.  She is educated.  She is industrious.  She is determined and persistent.  She knows her own mind.  And she is speaking it.  Loudly and clearly.

Let’s meet a few, shall we?

belle2If you haven’t already, meet Wendy Davis.  Mrs. Davis is a Harvard educated lawyer and Democrat from Forth Worth, Texas.

I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored. These voices have been silenced by a governor who made blind partisanship and personal political ambition the official business of our great state.

With those opening words, she solidified her place on the national stage.  She became a hero for women when she donned her pink tennis shoes and staged an 11- hour filibuster against an abortion bill she labeled “draconian”.  The bill would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks and closed all but five abortion clinics in the state.

Hats off to this Belle for showing them what a filibuster really is…No food, drink, sitting, leaning, or breaks of any kind.  Yes, friends, an honest to God filibuster!  We have become accustomed to the “threat” of filibuster by our do-nothing Congress.  Because a do-nothing Congress can’t be expected to actually do anything, right?  And while her friends from across the aisle think she owes them something, the rest of us think she has a bright future ahead of her.

Wendy Davis isn’t the only Belle of the ball.  I’m not sure how many of you know of Alison Grimes.  This attorney and Democrat currently holds belle3the position of Secretary of State of Kentucky.  She is also seeking to replace Mitch McConnell in the United States Senate.  With her sweet smile and gentle voice, she has laid down the gauntlet:

Now this part’s for you Senator. Your campaign wants to play silly games about where I am and where I stand.  Well I’m right here in Kentucky, Senator, where I’ll be holding you accountable for voting to double Medicare premiums on Kentucky seniors, including our retired coal miners, for being against requiring the Department of Defense to buy equipment that’s made in America first, for failing to stand up for women when you voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Violence Against Women Act, and for opposing raising the minimum wage over and over again while you became a multimillionaire in public office.

Well, I do declare…these ladies aren’t sitting on their porches gossiping about the town cad, are they?  A younger generation of southern women are eager to help change the tone in government and further our nation’s progress.  Take a peek at this:

belle5 belle6

Southern Belles are raising hell…

along with millions of other women, all over the country.  The largest and most reliable voting block in the country has something to say.

Are you listening?

Kirsten Gillibrand is tackling sexual assault in the military.   Elizabeth Warren is sick of banks being catered to, while students pay the price.  Not one to abandon veterans, is Tammy Duckworth.  Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, doesn’t want climate change deniers in her department.

It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.  – Hillary Clinton

Women, the Belles included, are no longer content to be seen as pretty shells with a uterus.  So, you should be listening.

Running Errands: Looking for Plan B

There is, to my knowledge, only one video on youtube that I’m in:

Watch it. You’ll see me. And a lot of my friends.

If you didn’t catch it, HHS Sebellius and the Obama Administration were ordered, by a Judge to make the Morning After Pill (“MAP” or “Plan B”) truly over the counter for people of all ages. No ID need be shown. Not hide the pills behind the counter, but in the “family planing section” where condoms are.

I wrote about Obama’s failure to comply in early May.

About a week or so after, participated in one of several flash mobs you can see in the video above.

The Obama administration decided to obey the Order from the Judge, and make Plan B OTC, no restrictions.

We were told it would take a month or so for the companies that make Plan B to change their packaging and also allot the stores time to make room on the shelves for Plan B.

Fair enough.

That month is over. And I’ve had to run errands that either require I stop at a pharmacy or pass by a pharmacy.

I decided I was going to start checking out a pharmacy a day to see if Plan B/MAP was, in fact, OTC as it’s legally supposed to be.

The first pharmacy I stopped at, I couldn’t find the MAP in the family planning aisle. I approached the pharmacy, noticed during my brief wait, I noted that there was no Plan B behind the counter. When it was my turn, I inquired where I could find Plan B.  A courteous pharmacy tech walked me to the family planning aisle, and seeing that they had apparently sold out, quickly asked that it be restocked. He then showed me–rather proudly–that this particular store also had it in the snack food aisle (I laughed. Milk Duds and MAP anyone?) as well as displayed very prominently in the beauty section, neatly stacked next to nail polish and mascara.

I thanked him for his help and began to leave. “Did you want to buy, um…anything?” He gestured to the box he was holding of emergency contraceptive.

“Oh no, but thank you. I’m okay, I was just checking to make sure it was available over the counter.”

He smiled, we wished each other a good day, and I left surprised that this one chain pharmacy had done such a great job complying with the law.

I stopped at another pharmacy, with my elementary-age daughter. It was actually in a grocery store, and we were getting juice. I saw the pharmacy and thought, “Let’s see what they have.”

In the family planning aisle, I noted not only the lack of MAP, but that there wasn’t even a space on the shelves. We went to the pharmacy.

A tech, who already looked annoyed, asked “What do you want?”

I asked, “Why don’t you have Plan B over the counter and out in the family planning section?”

He perked up (I can’t figure out why?), and asked me to wait a moment. He dug around the shelves in the back, and pulled out a box of emergency contraception.

“We haven’t gotten the right packaging for over-the-counter sales yet. It was supposed to come this week, but….” He quickly searched the computer. “…looks like it was delayed until next week.”

I thanked him for his help.

Most pharmacies in my totally unscientific survey are stocking the MAP properly–it’s near the condoms and tampons. I thought the pharmacy stocking EC in three places was rather impressive. The beauty aisle made sense–there’s a separate check-out there, and it’s almost always run by a woman. The snack aisle? I don’t know, I’m still laughing to myself over that. But kudos, Walgreens. You surprised me.

Also worth mentioning: the pharmacist on duty heard me ask where MAP was on several occasions. One woman put her right fist in the air. Every single pharmacist was supportive, non-judgmental, and helpful.

This is only reflective of a few places in a blue-city in a red-state. (Okay, we’re purple, but since Rick Scott (Republican) is governor, we’re red as far as I’m concerned.)

I wish everyone could have such good, non-judgmental experiences obtaining medications they may need.

What I’ve been reading

I don’t usually get my news from CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Fox, whatever.

So here’s what I’ve been reading about the past few days, while recovering from a minor illness–and these are some stories I think all citizens of this country (should read about too. Agree with the story or not, it’s always good to exercise one’s mind!