Fathers of Sons: 8 Steps to Avoid Being Dan Turner

Just yesterday I wrote a hellish rebuke of Brock Turner and rape culture, but it turns out I’m not done.  And if you’re a father, neither are you.

Dan Turner’s shitty letter defending his son is an act of violence.  It positions him clearly as an agent and ambassador of rape culture, blaming everything but his son for the rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.  It positions Brock as a victim of alcohol and (his victim’s) promiscuity and, worst of all, it completely erases the the actual victim of the crime.  (By the way, @alexandraozeri on Twitter fixed the letter.)

But alcohol and promiscuity aren’t the problems.  Men are speaking up about that fallacy all over social media, thankfully.  Matt Lang notes:

I’ve been drunk many times, even in the presence of promiscuous women who were also drunk, and I managed not to rape them, so I don’t think drinking and promiscuity are the problems.

This here is the problem: some guys are entitled pricks, and they’re entitled pricks because their fathers and coaches and friends taught them to be entitled pricks. Because they are entitled pricks, they think they can have whatever they want, and that their worth is defined by what they have and what they take.

Chris Taylor echoes Lang in a piece he published on Mashable yesterday titled, “Dear Dads, This is what rape culture looks like and you’re responsible:”

Rape culture is a thing. I’m sorry if you bristle at that notion, guys, but it just is. Any time you put the onus on our daughters — don’t wear that dress, don’t get drunk, don’t lead guys on — you’re perpetuating it. Any time you make a rape joke, you’re perpetuating it.

And any time you miss an opportunity to educate our sons about the concept of consent — even if you prefer to talk abstinence because you’re not comfortable talking about sex, or if you just say something vague that conflates drunkenness and rape — you’re perpetuating it.

See, educating one’s children about consent and sexual assault is a responsibility that typically falls to mothers as a matter of course in the form of somber, hushed conversations between mothers and daughters.  (Of course, leaving that kind of educating to mothers also adds to the heaping pile of invisible labor that we already do, but that’s a post for another day.)

“Well,” you might say, “It falls to mothers because rape is a women’s issue.”

But when we frame rape as “a women’s issue,” we make it women’s problem, and we make it women’s responsibility to prevent our own assault. That is victim blaming and rape culture, full stop.  Don’t believe me?  Let Jackson Katz tell you about it in his TEDTalk,  “Violence Against Women–It’s a Men’s Issue.”

Until we make rape everyone’s problem, we excuse it with our silence.

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WaPo published this infographic.  The system is fine, right?

Turner’s joke of a sentence reminds us that–at least with matters of sexual assault–we can’t count on the legal system to do what is just, moral, or ethical. We must rewind, look deeper, and take control of the narrative ourselves.  What interventions should have happened along the way, before it seemed drunkenly reasonable for Brock Turner to unrepentantly drag a woman behind a dumpster and rape her?


A 2015 study from the University of North Dakota found that 1 in 3 young men would force a woman to have sex with them if they knew there would be no consequences and they wouldn’t be caught (and isn’t that what the Brock Turner sentence confirms?); however, here’s where it gets interesting:

But, when the researchers actually used the word “rape” in their question, those numbers dropped much lower — suggesting that many college men don’t associate the act of forcing a woman to have sex with them with the crime of committing rape.

So young men understand they should think rape is wrong, but they don’t really know what rape is.

That’s obviously a huge problem, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone.  We live in a society that, in every way conceivable, sends the message to women that we are less human than men, only valuable in relation to men, and they are entitled to our bodies.  It’s oppressive and misogynistic and it’s way worse for women of color and LGBTQ folks.

So what do we do?  If you’re the father to some sons, the best thing is to get in on the conversation early and often.  You probably already have the best of intentions and a lot of love for your kids, but you might not be aware of some of the things you yourself have absorbed around masculinity and rape culture.  Here are some ideas to get started:

1. Get curious about your own privilege and take nothing for granted.  The first step is figuring out your own privilege and the ways in which masculinity and rape culture have been part of your life. Things that seem natural might suddenly start looking kind of messed up and it’ll be uncomfortable and hard.  Watch The Mask You Live In and Tough Guise 2 and then talk about them with other dads/men. Ask why.  Ask who benefits, who is harmed. Being self-aware will make everything I suggest after this a lot easier and already puts you leaps and bounds ahead of Dan Turner.

2. Abandon the stand-alone lecture. Start talking early and make messages about consent ongoing, consistent, and age appropriate.  Embed consent in your family culture/code of honor.Outside of the fortress of your home (and even in it as long as we have TVs and internet access), violent masculinity and misogyny are everywhere.  And guess what?  Those two are the grotesque parents of rape culture.

See, rape culture isn’t just manifested in an isolated, sudden act of brutality like the one rapist Brock Turner committed; rape culture is everywhere we are.  It’s in music, movies, pop culture, advertisements, conversations, and so much more.That means that whatever messages you try to share with your kids about consent will run counter to everything else they’re soaking in.

So you can’t do the one-time lecture and be done; you have to start early and make consent culture a part of your everyday family life.

3. Early messages about consent don’t have to be about sex, but can focus on bodily autonomy. Teach your young son to honor the bodily autonomy of other people by having him ask before he touches others.  If he’s too young to form sentences, model it for him. “I think Buddy here wants to give Aisha a hug–is that all right with you, Aisha?”

Another way to model consent is to ask before you tickle or roughhouse with your children.  At our house, we also do safewords for starting and stopping a tickling session–“time out” to stop, and “time in” to resume.

Don’t make your kid give hugs and kisses to relatives and friends if they don’t want to.  Instead of saying, “Go give Auntie Gretchen a hug and a kiss,” try, “Do you want to give Auntie Gretchen a hug, a high five, or a wave?”

Show them that their own bodily autonomy matters so they might think to value the bodily autonomy of others as well.

4. Teach your sons that women’s and girls’ bodies don’t exist for their pleasure and judgment. Never, ever comment about other people’s weight loss/gain or clothing choices.  You might say to your younger child, “In our family, the rule is we don’t comment on other people’s bodies.”  At the same time, follow your own advice and don’t disparage your own body or the bodies of others in front of your children.

If you are having a play date with younger kids, don’t comment on a girl’s appearance or clothing.  Resist the urge to tell her how pretty she is or that you like her dress; you wouldn’t tell a boy the same thing, and that’s because we want boys to value–and know we ourselves value–other things most.

If you have older sons, find out if there’s a dress code at their school and talk to them about how dress codes can be oppressive and they value the education of boys at the expense of that of girls.  Ask your sons what they think about the idea that an exposed collar bone on a girl will make them incapable of doing school work. What does that say about people of all genders?

5. Don’t buy into the heteronormative gender binary (which is not real anyway) by saying things to your sons like, “boys will be boys.”  We’ve all seen it–boys roughhouse or play-hit a girl and we joke that they’re showing affection.  It might sound harsh, but these are early displays of violent masculinity and heteronormativity (assuming a boy will be interested in girls and not other boys), and they are the precursors to rape culture. These precursors start early and so should you.

There is real harm when we say things like “boys will be boys,” because we plant the seed that there is an inherent, insuperable, irresistible drive inside boys to dominate and conquer.  “Boys will be boys” promotes the idea of boys as savages who can’t control their violent–and later sexual–urges.  We tell them that to be a boy and a man, they have to be heterosexual and aggressive. Similarly, we teach our daughters that aggression and violence are healthy ways for their male partners to express affection.

So when you hear comments like “boys will be boys”–especially in front of your sons, name it and talk about it.  Don’t let your silence be an endorsement.  Those little silences add up into a loud message down the line. (The Mask You Live In is a good documentary to watch with teen sons.)

6. Name rape culture when you see it.  When your kids are old enough, start conversations about the music, ads, movies, jokes, and comments they encounter that seem to promote rape culture.  If you see the Budweiser ad that says, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night,” ask your son what he thinks of it and if it seems problematic. Ask who benefits and who is harmed.

With teens, expose the intersections of race and class with rape culture by noticing the disparity in sentences for kids like Brock Turner and Cory Batey.  Talk about how young men of color are serving decades in prison for lesser, non-violent charges and get curious with your sons about why that is.

7. Observe and comment on representations of women. Get curious about what they’re watching and watch it with them, or have a family movie night.With younger kids, watch things that show women as three-dimensional, powerful agents of change in their own lives. Ask questions during bedtime stories about why it seems like the main characters in a lot of books are boys.

With older kids, ask questions about representations of women when you watch a movie together.  Things like the Bechdel test for films (a tool so simple it’s absurd) can be useful in exposing misogyny, sexism, and male privilege. Look at this graph showing the disparity of dialogue between men and women in movies and see what your sons think and if they noticed.

When your sons see messages all around them that women are objects and no one contradicts it, those messages become lessons that they take into their relationships.  Make yours a voice in the conversation.

8. Don’t enforce rigid notions of masculinity.  So many of the messages we send boys about how they should act comes from the way we ourselves were raised and things that seem natural or normal to us.  When we subtly guide kids toward one of two extreme, rigid gender poles, we run the risk of erasing their identities and sense of agency.

Please don’t tell boys not to cry.  Don’t make them play sports if they’d rather take ballet.  Don’t show them that withdrawal, anger, and humor are the only safe emotions to show.  Don’t make homophobic, sexist, or rape jokes.  Don’t laugh at homophobic, sexist, or rape jokes.

Show boys that men can–and should–be sensitive.  Show them that being gay doesn’t make them less of a man.  Share their interest in art or theater.  Teach them empathy and compassion for animals and other people–especially women and other marginalized folks.  Show them affection and let them see you cry. Believe women, girls, and non-binary people  and stand up for them.

Because when you don’t do these things, and even if you don’t mean to, you teach them to conflate weakness with femininity and to despise and devalue both. When you can’t empathize with someone and you don’t see their value as equal to yours, it’s a whole lot easier to dehumanize them and treat them like their pain and life and feelings don’t matter–especially if you’ve been doing it your whole life and adults brushed it off.

We must be able and willing to transform our own actions to be more in line with our ideals.  All parents can do this, but dads of sons have the added benefit of being able to consistently model what it means to be a man who respects boundaries, communicates clearly about consent, and values women and other marginalized people as human beings.  You can embody it, live it, not just lecture about it.  So much of what kids learn is from what is not said.

The bottom line is, if we don’t want to raise more Brock Turners, if we want to raise more kids like the ones who stopped Turner from continuing to rape his victim, then we need fewer Dan Turners in the mix.  Dan Turner loves his son and surely doesn’t see himself as a rape apologist, so the best and first step to avoid becoming a father like Dan is to cultivate self-awareness and reflection in yourself.

Believe me, women are watching.  We notice when men say nothing and when men take a stand against rape culture. And you know who else is watching?

Our sons.

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A Hellish Rebuke of Brock Turner and Rape Culture

brock

Portrait of a rapist on the occasion of his booking.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the joke sentencing of rapist Brock Turner.

You’ve probably also seen his victim’s searing 12-page indictment, and maybe you’ve even seen Brock’s father’s preciously written, tone-deaf “defense” of his son (WHO NO LONGER EATS STEAK OR WANTS SNACKS!! Wahhh!), which turns out to be the embodiment of several key points in Brock’s victim’s scathing statement.  There’s also a Change.org petition calling for the removal of Judge Aaron Persky (for showing bias toward a particular class).

No doubt about it, the entire thing–start to finish–is a stunning example of rape culture and systems of oppression in action.

Rape culture is the normalization of rape. It is the interrogation of a victim’s past and the mourning of a rapist’s potential and future. It is the systemic devaluing of women’s bodies/lives and the systemic valuing of rich, white, male lives.

Look, here’s how it works, and how it has always worked:  You can drag an unconscious person behind a dumpster while scraping her head on the ground, remove her clothing, and then get caught in the actual act of raping her.

There can be witnesses and zero doubt that a brutal crime took place. In fact, you can try to run away when you are caught by two bystanders, and one can even tackle you to the ground. (Why did you run if you are not guilty of a crime?  Why didn’t you tell them to go talk to your consenting partner to get the whole thing straightened out?)

The person you raped can go to the hospital and endure a brutally invasive exam that confirms everything the eyewitnesses saw when they interrupted.  You can even be charged with FIVE felonies.

Then, if you’re white and male and young, and especially if you go to a really good school and you’re an athlete, you can get sentenced to what will amount to THREE MONTHS (after time served) in county jail for a crime that would cost someone in a different identity bracket a DECADE or more of their life in prison.

This is white supremacy. This is misogyny and classism and rape culture.

It is also bullshit.

There should be no doubt–and there has never been, for many of us–that the system does not exist to protect victims; it exists to protect its own interests, which means perpetuating systems of power and privilege.

The system will, in its disinterest and tone deafness, repeatedly send messages to men that raping someone is probably not that big a deal, even if you’re caught in the act.  As Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber noted, there’s also a message for women: “[Judge] Aaron Persky is telling these women don’t bother calling police.”

All this will perpetuate rape culture and patriarchal values.  The system –which is made up of actual human beings like Judge Persky with a lot of power–will violate victims a second time, only worse.  And when that gets done enough in repetition, it starts becoming expected and normal.

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Here’s Turner a few months later at his sentencing, after he’d Richie Rich-ed himself all up.

In her article, “We With the Pitchforks,” Kristen Mae points out the failures of these systems and issues a call to arms, addressing Turner directly:

But I am going to do something to you that might be worse than jail, Brock Allen Turner. Actually, we all are. All of us who are enraged at what you did, at the fact that to this day you continue to deny wrongdoing aside from getting too drunk, that you continue to feign ignorance as to the egregiousness of your actions. All of us who are enraged by the fact that the not-very-honorable Judge Aaron Persky* was so clearly more concerned with your life than with your victim’s, together, we are going to put you in a new kind of jail.

We are going to splatter your name and face across social media so that everyone knows who you are and what you look like. So that everyone knows what you’ve done. So that women know that they’d better not get drunk in your presence…or even…be in your presence at all.

Responses like hers are important because Brock Turner, his father, and judge Persky continue to center Brock’s distress at the heart of the ordeal–hallmarks of male privilege.  Brock and his father assert that the real perpetrators are alcohol and promiscuity (whose, though?). Even when there is an actual, identifiable victim in a brutal crime, we are still asked to pay attention to the feelings of the male perpetrator. In fact, the actual victim is nowhere to be found in Brock’s father’s statement.

Along those lines, folks on social media are calling out the Washington Post for its misogynistic reporting of the case.  The article is littered with sycophantic descriptions of Turner’s career as a swimmer:

Turner turned down scholarships at a host of universities to attend Stanford, where he joined a top-10-in-the-country swim team. But on Jan. 17, 2015, midway through his freshman year and first swim season at Stanford, Turner’s life and career were upended during a night of drinking.

One Facebook user, Ellie Fialk, feels no pity for Turner and takes WaPo to task:

Thank you, Washington Post, for this detailed track record of Brock Turner’s swimming career, which is so incredibly relevant to the fact that he was just found unanimously guilty of committing an unforgivable act. I’m sorry things were so sudden for you, Brock. That your career was “upended during a night of drinking.” Since you know, that’s all it was, just a casual night of drinking when you raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

[…]

I’m so sorry, Brock, that you’ve suffered so greatly from your own actions. That you believe you are the victim. That this act has stripped you of your degree and titles at the age of 20. Yes, 20 is young, but not young enough to misinterpret an unconscious woman for sexual consent, nor young enough for the malicious and immoral nature of rape to go unrecognized. I do not pity you.

Brock was sentenced to only 6 months in jail, on the basis that, “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” As if being raped did not take a severe and irreversible emotional toll on the female victim. This boy is apparently too intelligent, too wealthy, too white, too athletic, to belong in jail.

But as his victim reminds us:

Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.

The wounds on her body and psyche–both invisible and material–are wounds we all share.  Rape culture is violence, a gash that never closes or heals, and it hurts us all.

Now what? Maybe some people have the patience and resources to pursue institutional, systemic, legal change, but I’d argue that’s a privilege of the few.  In the meantime, the rest of us can do a little more than wring our hands.

We can, as Kristen Mae suggested, take up our pitchforks.  And pitchforks can look like a lot of different things.  Women and other marginalized people are no strangers to taking matters into our own hands when systems fail.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Use Brock Turner’s full name and mugshot when you share images of him. Be curious about the media’s use of Brock’s smiling, be-suited, teeth-gleaming yearbook photo.  Wonder–preferably aloud and with other people–why that image was the first to circulate when dead kids of color who haven’t even committed a crime don’t get the same courtesy.  Even if it wasn’t a case of ill intent, it matters because it adds to the racial bias and victim blaming.  That stupid blazer photo is an act of violence.
  2. Name it.  Do not permit passive, slippery, unethical language: Brock Turner raped someone.  He did not, as his father suggested, experience “20 minutes of action.” That kind of imprecise wording lets Turner off the hook (without an active verb, there is no subject doing anything–it’s just a vague happening-thing), it minimizes the seriousness of the crime, and it completely erases the person he victimized in the process.
  3. Ask questions about why the rape of female bodies is treated differently than other violent crimes.  A lot of shitty things, including murder, can happen in “20 minutes of action;” that doesn’t mean we let the perpetrators off the hook. Press yourself and the people around you to wonder what it is about rape that leads to preferential treatment for rapists.  Could it be… DUN DUN DUN!… misogyny?
  4.  Talk about the ways in which race and class compound gender oppression.  There is no way in the world this would have played out at all the same had Turner been poor or a person of color.  Let Shaun King tell you more about that if you’re not feeling it (or even if you are).
  5. If you live in Santa Clara County, California, vote Judge Aaron Persky out of office and push for his removal.  He had a chance to do something just and surprising that might have challenged the prevailing narrative around rape and whose lives/bodies are valued, but he didn’t. Instead, he used his race, class, and gender bias to prop up oppression and rape culture–to excuse a rapist because Turner is too ambitious, too white, too rich, too educated for prison.
  6. Understand that this case is not an exception, but the rule.  Look for patterns and connections.  Be suspicious of the emphasis on Turner’s achievements and the scrutiny over his victim’s past. Call that what it is: rape culture.  Bullshit.  Violence. Misogyny.
  7. Interrogate your own privilege.  Privilege is often invisible and becoming aware of it, finally, is usually uncomfortable.  But you can survive it.  In fact, it’ll be a piece of cake compared to surviving sexual assault and then the probable retraumatization at the hands of the legal system.  The stakes are high and the risks to you are low, so what are you waiting for?  Letting privilege go uninterrogated feeds oppression.

So, yeah.  Keep talking.  Don’t let it become a fast-fading “20 minutes of action” on the internet.  Remember his name:  Brock Allen Turner, Rapist.

Remember, too, that apart from his class, gender, and skin privilege, he is no one in particular.

People like him get away with rape all the time, and we should be outraged.

Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla

All right! Let’s talk about the toddler-falling-into-the-gorilla-habitat thing. We are going to. More to the point: If you think that the kid’s mom should be fined/cited/punished/SHOT TO DEATH, as some people have suggested, I’m here to tell you how profoundly wrong you are and how ashamed you should be.

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I’m only putting this here because I want you to look at what the subspecies names is. Yay, I love it, it is the only thing I liked about writing this post.

To begin: Yesterday, a deplorable, non-sequiturial article that I’m not going to link to was published all about how the kid’s dad has a criminal history, and I had a few Facebook friends latch onto that as well as string up the mom for the alleged crime of not watching him closely enough, and in some cases for having a kid at all. People are saying that CPS should take her kids away, and lots of people are saying it.

This is some privileged, snot-nosed, misanthropic, racist bullshit, and I will explain why.

I don’t have kids, and I’m gonna come clean: I don’t really enjoy their company. But even though I don’t like them, I do understand why other people like them, and that they have the right to have some. It’s not a mystery to me, because I can imagine not being myself, right, and additionally I understand the concept of liking things. E.g., I don’t like green bell peppers, I think they taste like pennies, but I GET why some people like them–they’re vegetabley, and I like vegetables, and they’re similar enough in taste and texture to vegetables I do like. I like kittens, and I like red bell peppers, so I understand how people arrive at liking babies and green bell peppers.

Imagine, for a second, that you are not the only person in the world, and that there are other people, ones who prefer and enjoy things that you do not. Pretend it is Opposite Day. You’ve heard of Opposite Day. This is finally it. Then imagine, briefly, that you are not the king of other people’s tastes and preferences and don’t get to tell them what to like! Good, OK, now imagine that THOSE PEOPLE–the people who you’ve imagined, and who I’ve not even asked you to accept are real people, they can still be pretend people for right now–also know that YOU like things that they don’t like! Consider the fact that those people don’t try to punish you for liking a thing you like, either, even though THEY DON’T LIKE IT. It’s cool with them. Instead, they just mind their own business and let you like the thing. OR dislike the thing! This may well happen to you all day, every day. Think!

OK, stay with me. Now imagine that the thing to like or dislike here is “kids,” and not only that other people are ALLOWED to like them despite the fact that you think they taste like pennies, but they also have this thing called a biological imperative that HARDWIRES THEIR BRAINS to make them like kids. And reproduce. It’s, like, inside of their minds and bodies, this hardwiring, this fondness for children. You know the way you want to play shitty violent video games all the time and ache for them when they’re not around, because you are obsessed with hurting or killing people who you think you’re better than? It’s a good feeling, right? It’s just like that for these whoops-not-imaginary-anymore people, but with kids.

Other animals are like this too. It’s OK if you’re not, you don’t have to be, but recognize that it is not only normal but is actually the default setting for all mammals, birds, fish, and insects. And flowers and mushrooms and worms and dirt. Everything. You are in poor company if you don’t have this voice-force inside you that’s compelling you to make babies.

OK, good work, you did great. Sorry I psyched you out on how those people were secretly real the whole time, but I didn’t want to freak you out, and look how far we’ve come. Now.

Even if you are a compassionless cold-handed White Walker-ass wretch, which is your complete right to be, as an American, you are still super incorrect if you are spouting a bunch of braggy pious Child-Free Movement rhetoric all over the dinnernet about how the toddler falling into the gorilla enclosure was the mom’s fault and she should be in jail or dead. For having the kid, which in your estimation is dumb, and for then not watching the kid meticulously during all seconds of the day. You’re so wrong that I’m embarrassed for you. Firstly, even though you don’t like them, she still gets to have a kid if she fucking wants to because it is literally the point of being alive, as we’ve just covered, so you’re the actual dumb one for that, but additionally: Have you ever met a human child? Maybe you’ve seen one on TV, or in a comic strip from the 1890s. This idea has been around for a minute, so it may not shock you, but as evidenced by, I don’t know, the Katzenjammer Kids, children are slippery, mischievous creatures who they routinely set out on an unintentional mission to kill or grievously injure themselves. That is their whole executive summary. It’s because they don’t know danger and that is how they learn it. This was true for you when you were a child, and it is true for most kinds of baby animals, and human is a kind of an animal, you see, and a toddler is a baby version.

Also, kids are little fuckers and will go out of their way to defy the wishes of their parents. You can sure as shit try to keep them from getting into trouble, but good luck having a 100-percent success rate there.

katzenjammer
Kids: They’re fuckers.

It’s as though the naysayers don’t know this? So I am clearing it up for them. These folks have patently never heard of kids.

I know you don’t care about this, but it is regardless true that you, as a non-parent, enjoy a luxury of judging the mother of this kid from afar, and that you would be whining a different tune if you were in her position. I motherfucking guarantee you that if you, with ostensibly less job experience in caring for kids than the poor mom whose DEATH PEOPLE ARE CALLING FOR on social media, were minding not one but THREE of them simultaneously, at least one of them would escape your sight some of the time. Almost certainly all of them at some point, and almost certainly multiple times apiece.

Imagine actually liking kids, which people who have kids usually do. Or liking YOUR particular kids, at least, thanks to that biological hardwiring thing. Imagine you would be devastated for the rest of your life if you lost one of them, like it was your fucking XBOX or whatever in the fuck you like. And imagine it’s not just your regular XBOX but an XBOX that talks to you and came out of your body. You have a pretty strong motive to not let the XBOX climb into an enclosure with silverback gorillas, eh? You could be the number 1 best XBOX owner in history, and if your curious little XBOX had legs and were sentient, it still might get away from you and climb in with the gorillas. Especially if you brought it to a place that was crowded with other walking, death-wish-having XBOXes, and especially-especially if you had three of them milling around at once. If you brought your precious meat XBOX there in the first place, you’d probably be reasonably sure that it was a safe environment for XBOXes beforehand. Because you like it and don’t want it to get smashed. Yeah?

(And maybe if it did happen, you would already feel awful enough about it, without people who weren’t even there blithely judging you for it from thousands of miles away.)

That brings us to the place where this happened. A zoo, which is a prison for animals, is an establishment that chiefly markets itself to 1. families with small children, and 2. schools for small children. “Bring your small children to us,” zoos say! “We’re great for those things.” So, supposing zoos weren’t ghastly and inhumane, which they are, how are you going to be a business that invites large groups of soft, miniature people with real knack for accidentally killing and maiming themselves to come to your place in exchange for for money, and then be like, “Awp, BTW, we have dangerous animals inside enclosures that a toddler can easily scale! But we’re not going to tell you that, because you caretakers of children should just know that, intrinsically! Yeah, that’s not our problem, hope that’s cool, thanks for the money.”

Like, maybe I’m wrong on this? I can’t tell you the last time I was at a zoo myself, but when I was, I sure as shit didn’t see any signs that read,”Hey, your kid could fall in the gorilla pit, hope you’re watching him.” (I know I’m not wrong because if that were true, and the zoo knew this, no one would go to it and there would no zoo.) 

But you watched the video, you say, and Harambe was trying to PROTECT the little boy! You are not a gorilla, but you just, like, know this! You know things! Here is the zoo’s director, emphatically stating otherwise. “That child’s life was in danger, and people who question that or are are Monday-morning quarterbacks or second-guessers don’t understand that you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla.” He also points out that you saw one person’s phonecam video on Facebook, from one angle, but you did not see everything that was going on at the scene. As my friend Lana said, “Jesus, but it’s easy to play basketball from the bench.”

“We’re talking about an animal–with one hand–that I’ve seen take a coconut and crunch it.”

Oh, but are you a zoo director? Or a primatologist? Or an animal specialist of any kind, or even a naturalist? Is there any reason that you would know better than this guy about what should have been done in this situation? Would things have turned out way better if YOU had been in charge here? Or are you just some momo on the Internet who knows shit about fuck and who wants to punish people, especially women? Especially-especially single moms? Tripe-especially black single moms?

That is the revolting irony here. The irony is that you are not using your fucking brain, by which you are so impressed, when you say that the decision to kill the gorilla was wrong and that you are right. And that fuck this lady because YOU could mind a 3-year-old 24/7 with two other kids to juggle, and that he would never ever escape from your sight. That is stupid. You are refusing to employ a basic understand of logic or critical analysis when you say these things. You, the stupid-caller, are actually the stupid one for thinking that, my holier-than-thou childfree friend.

(Augh, and please don’t tell me they should have used tranquilizers to knock the gorilla out. It was an emergency, for godsake. Tranqs take a while to start working, and there is a dysphoric period wherein the animal is unpredictable, plus the pain from the dart could have just agitated the gorilla further. They should not have used a tranquilizer dart. That is also stupid as shit to say, so stop fucking saying it.)

It also speaks volumes when you show the world that you will spring to the aid of a gorilla but you don’t give a fuck about the plight of any actual human being. The news about Freddie Gray’s murderer being acquitted doesn’t faze you, but your world comes grinding to a halt when an <i>animal</i> is unjustly killed. You don’t give a shit that this gorilla was given about 3 and a half minutes longer than Tamir Rice, a human child who was sitting on a swing with a toy and not thrashing a toddler around by the leg, was given. Fuck everyone but animals, basically, is what you’re getting at.

I know that it feels natural to assign blame in a tragedy, because it’s painful to hear about a wrongful death, even of an animal, yes, of course. I do grok that part. I know that you want things to have turned out differently. No shit–everyone wishes that Harambe the Gorilla hadn’t been killed. If YOU think you’re sad about the death of a gorilla you never met, think about the zoo handlers, who worked with him every day and had to make the agonizing decision to kill him. It’s not an ideal outcome for anyone.

But it’s on you, as the total brain genius you’ve touted yourself to be, to place your blame carefully. This tragedy is not the mom’s fault, for trusting the zoo to be a generally safe environment for children, and it’s not Harambe’s fault for being a gorilla–if you must cast blame, cast it on whomever encouraged people to bring their children to a zoo with a climb-able-by-a-toddler gorilla enclosure. Which reportedly was in agreement with height regulations, so then it’s the fault of whomever sets the zoo-enclosure-wall-height regulations?

I personally believe that the blame, in fact, falls on the zoo for being a zoo, for showcasing imprisoned, dangerous animals for profit, and I invite you to place it there along with me. A goddamn 400-pound gorilla shouldn’t be kept in an enclosure to begin with. Zoos are unethical relics leftover from a barbaric era in history, and there’s no reason for them to continue existing when the same biological research can be carried out in animal sanctuaries and wildlife conservation parks. Today’s zoos exist only for profit. Fuck a zoo. Dismantle all zoos. Circuses too.

But if you blame this woman for the death of Harambe the Gorilla, you are straight-up being an asshole, which you’re doing because you like it and it’s fun, and it’s rooted in a hatred of single moms and general racism and misogyny, so at least own that. Like, do it if you must, but go forward having been informed.
-MvH
P.S.: If you DO have kids and you’re calling for this lady to be arrested or fined or shamed or otherwise punished for what happened to hers at the Cincinnati Zoo, you’re the very worst kind of asshole. And my, but it’s just so interesting that a perfect parent like yourself has so much free time to spend denigrating other parents on Facebook.

Attn: Tormund Giantsbane

I drew this a few years ago while reading Book 1, and it holds up inre. recent developments on the Thronesgames show. I will never get why Brienne is victimized and harassed all the damn time. LADY, YOU ARE SCIENTIFICALLY A GIANT. And murder is apparently legal where you live. Dude on your jock? Whether he’s hatin’ or he’s coming on to you? JUST KILL HIMMMMM

briennecomix

-Meg

The Time I Didn’t Get Murdered IRL after Inviting 7 Grown Men into my Home to Play D&D

3D model of an adventuring warlock holding an orb and wearing a scowl. A red d20 is next to tge model for scale.

My current D&D character, who is basically the warlock version of Darlene from Roseanne.

 

Last year I joined a Dungeons & Dragons group that was made up of seven grown men and me.

The only person I knew was Davey, the dungeon master, who was DMing his first campaign. I knew Davey from other, anti-oppression circles; I trusted him, but as the date of our first gaming session approached, I got nervous.

As the minutes ticked by that night and our characters got to know each other through time rifts and creepy, badly done taxidermy, I monitored the low buzzing in my ears and the slight tremble in my hands as I rolled d20s and scooted my LEGO mini-fig around on the map.

Well, I told myself out of character, it’s pretty normal to be nervous.  After all, it’s been a lot of years since you played D&D and you forgot so much.  It’s nerve-wracking to be a beginner at something, especially with male nerds.  But these were Real Nice Nerds, like me, and some of them were beginners, too.

Maybe my nerves are on account of role playing feeling a little awkward, I thought. I felt a little goofy after all; every time I had my character do anything, I kept recalling the fully armored LARPers (no shame) who meet at a local park to carry out campaigns and wondered how far removed from them I now was, having now announced things like, “I compel my familiar to collect a sample of the ooze for my collection.”

I’ll let you take that in for a second. I know how cool it sounds. (So cool.)

When everyone left at the end of the night, I realized I let out a sigh of relief and my body unclenched.  Suddenly, it hit me:

I was relieved because I had not been murdered.

Let me repeat that.  I was relieved because I had invited seven grown men that I did not know into my home to play Dungeons & Dragons (5e, if you must know), and I survived the night without being raped or murdered.  To be clear, I’m talking about me, the actual person, and not my character, whose survival continues to be deliciously precarious (thanks, Davey).

Knowing this bunch of dudes as I do now, it seems absurd to even think it. (I have actually said since then that we should campaign together until we are 109.) Yet, there it is.

Like a lot of folks, I imagine, I play games to escape the unpleasantries of life. Yet here was rape culture, showing up uninvited, stealing my enjoyment and my focus, destroying my suspension of disbelief, and defiling a good thing.  Again. Still.

You probably know about Gamergate.  Maybe you’ve read articles like this one by Latonya Pennington about how even if you aren’t subject to direct violence or threats when you dare to step into male-dominated gaming spaces (that’s pretty much all of them, FYI), dudes will (inadvertently or sometimes deliberately) push you out by making the group culture so vaguely hostile that you’ll eventually give up and go away–and then they’ll call you crazy for it.  The whole thing is exacerbated if you’re queer or a person of color.

Pushing back can lead to being alienated or less respected.  If you can’t stand the heat, they say, get out of the kitchen.  Better yet, stay there and make me a sandwich.  (That is an actual thing someone said to me once.) As if rape jokes come standard with gaming culture and there’s nothing we can do about it except continue to issue them while denying that anything is wrong.  Death to false logic!

Before my latest D&D stint, I played World of Warcraft for a number of years.  I deliberately chose an ugly, male troll as my avatar and named him something that sounded like the German word for goblin puke.  I played a warrior and eventually became a guild officer and class lead. I did that because it was fun, but also to protect myself from harassment.

My very unfeminine, aggressive, powerful character was an effective shield. When new guild members would hear my voice over Vent, they’d often be taken aback that I wasn’t a guy and I was in charge of them.  The jig was up.  My elaborate ruse to create a fantasy world/character untouched by the daily realities of misogyny and rape culture inevitably ended when my voice shattered the illusion.

Even though I was mostly playing with a bunch of people that had been gaming together for years and knew each other to varying degrees, there were still rape jokes.  Unfortunate or undesirable things were called “gay” and “retarded.”  Players were advised to not be pussies or fags. There were attempts to rename the guild after pornographic acts that demeaned women.  It was all “just joking around,” you see.

There is a hatred and fear of the feminine in mainstream culture and it’s (in my experience) more amplified in gaming culture.  Guild chat, player-vs-player combat, and talking into headsets for everyone to hear become proving grounds for masculinity.  Gaming–whether it’s tabletop or online–is creative and awesome, but absolutely not approved by the arbiters of all things masculine.

To make up for it, gamers can work hard, level up, and become more powerful, thus allowing them to dominate their enemies in evermore fantastic ways.  Things like tea-bagging someone you just killed (bouncing up and down to simulate repeatedly putting one’s testicle’s on another avatar’s face) are displays of dominant masculinity, but they are also a feminization of the enemy.  There is shame in being feminized, in being feminine.  Here, weakness, gayness, and ineptitude are all conflated with the quality of being feminine.

mi·sog·y·ny
məˈsäjənē/

noun

dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
“she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny”

It could be argued that the constant numerical, measurable ascension toward ever greater power in games reinforces a culture of entitlement that is already prevalent in rape culture among white, hetero, cisgender men.  I did the thing!  You give me reward! (P.S. You’re the reward.)

In fact, everything about gaming reflects that entitlement back at male gamers: the objectification of female avatars, the absence of complex female heroes, the tired save-the-princess tropes, women as rewards, women as ornamentation or backdrops, the hyper-sexualization of female avatars, etc.  Anita Sarkeesian explored these themes in her seminal series, “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,” and–wait for it–got rape and death threats for her trouble.

When the entitlement math breaks down, when the prize is denied, that’s when things get lethal and terrifying for women and gender-diverse people.  I mean, just openly being a woman or gender diverse (or not white) on the Internet is scary; doing it in gaming spaces ups the ante exponentially.

So I walked into my new D&D crew with some considerable apprehension.  What if the men I was going to play with ended up being those kind of gamers?  What if it wasn’t safe?  What is the entire night was full of microaggressions and I wouldn’t be able to come back? There are no headsets; I can’t just turn off Vent and ghost out when I’ve had enough or need a break.

In the end, it was totally safe.  Davey put together a group of compassionate, reflexive, creative thinkers and a campaign full of surprises that honors gender diversity.  The players, too, brought surprising, atypical characters to the campaign. The guy that role plays a female character does so with nuance and care. When things come up, we deal with it.  The men I play with call each other out (“Tasha has been trying to suggest something for a while–let’s listen”) with minimal trauma and zero male tears. I want to go all the way to Mordor and back with these guys!  The long way, too–not the trick with the eagles.

But it could have gone the other way, and you just never know.  That’s the thing.

Rape culture is all around us, whether we game or not.  But gaming adds new stakes that I didn’t even know existed until we all sat around the table.

I lived to tell the tale, but how many women and gender-diverse gamers will never pick up a bag of dice or a keyboard because it doesn’t feel safe or they’ve been pushed out of the scene already?  We need some serious Title IX enforcement for gaming.

Look: Men may be the most dominant gamer group, but they aren’t the most numerous.  If you’re a guy who games, use your dominant voice to call out other guys on bullshit behavior.

Gaming culture is a living, organic thing.  It’s not static.  It hasn’t “always been this way.”  We can decide what defines it and whether or not we want rape culture and misogyny to be a part of it.

How about not.

HELLO. HERE IS AN ESSAY ‘BOUT BILLY JOEL’S FEMINISM. Thx.

beej

by Carolyn Main

One of the reasons I love Billy Joel so much is the same reason so many people hate him: because he’s super fucking catchy. You’d know him as the Piano Man, since it is on the radio half of all the time. Failing that, if you still listen to the radio, you can switch stations to catch “Uptown Girl.” Keep tuning the dial until you are sure you Did Not Start the Fire. Yes, the Beej is inescapable pop culture. I get it.

Still, you may be missing some of his best works, which also happen to be the most feminist ones. And that’s the other reason behind my adoration: Markedly unlike most mainstream music, Billy Joel’s works are never misogynist. They love women. As does he, with almost as many hits (33) as marriages (4).

Even more than that, Joel came of age in an era that was arguably more sexist than our own. One need look no further for the gold standard of ’70s gender politics than boot-faced old Charles Bronson’s Death Wish (1974), wherein his wronged daughter is spraypainted in the butt by Jeff Goldblum, basically to death. Well, it’s more of a catatonic vegetable state for life. But because of a spraypainted butt. That’s, if possible, somehow even more insulting.

Joel, though, bucked sexism of the decade to write and record some of the smoothest sax-positive songs in America. During the current election cycle, it’s really easy to feel crazy and also to hate old white men. But good news: If you ever need to listen to a boomer who you don’t hate, and who doesn’t hate you back even harder and more irrationally, just take a listen to this, the Billy Joel Feminist Playlist:

6) “Shameless”

Billy Joel will not allow anything to compromise his desire to please. Why would he? So, just ask. It’s not a problem. He’s so into you, and so over the judgment of society, that he’ll do pretty much whatever weird shit you like. Craft store? Yes. Cunnilingus? Sure. Both at the same time? He’s open to it. Featuring Cyndi Lauper’s vocals (YES) and frequently covered by Garth Brooks (shrug).

“And I’m changing, I swore I’d never compromise
But you convinced me otherwise
I’ll do anything you please”

5) “Stiletto”

Billy’s comfortable with a woman on top. Perhaps to a fault. Is this an unhealthy relationship, or does she just get in the best one-liners? (Along with the knives/stabbing heels entendre, over and over.) Either way, he’s stuck, and he’s loving it.

“She cuts you hard, she cuts you deep
She’s got so much skill
She’s so fascinating that you’re still there waiting
When she comes back for the kill”

4) “Only the Good Die Young”

Every day is another potential assault on a woman’s sexuality; politics, the patriarchy, and religious propaganda try to control a pussy and put it behind lock and key. Fuck the stigmas that would keep a woman from the power and pleasure of her own sexuality. And once you have thoroughly dismantled that nonsense, would you please consider bringing your heat to Billy Joel’s meat? Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask. There’s a reason this song was so controversial to the Catholic Church, as it makes the case for fucking instead of going to mass. There’s pretty much no comeback to that.

“Well, they showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done”

(The video above is a cover by Melissa Etheridge, who makes it much more suggestively lesbian-tastic and hot hot hot.)

3) “Code of Silence”

Just like a sea witch, what’s the first thing the patriarchy would steal from you? Your voice! (Because from there, they can strip away everything else.) As a woman, you are being diminished from all sides and are taught that there’s no one can hear you. So, you’re expected to just tamp it down and try to move on with a slit throat. But look. Billy Joel is ready to dismantle those blocks in your throat chakra and encourage you back to an authentic person who speaks their truth. He’s ready to listen. Also featuring Cyndi Lauper, YAY, who should have done even more songs with Beej. And maybe they should have probably had a baby.

“So you can’t talk about it
Because you’re following a code of silence
You’re never gonna lose the anger
You just deal within it a different way
So you can’t talk about it
And isn’t that a kind of madness
To be living by a code of silence
When you’ve really got a lot to say”

2) “Modern Woman”

This is an all-out doo-wop-style 1980s feminist anthem. It’s bordering on corny, but it’s still somewhat shocking when you think about it, since how many other mainstream dudes of the era would say such a thing? Name one. I’ll wait. Because if they exist, I would really like to hear more of these. BJ was born in 1949, and he formally recognizes outdated the gender norms he’s grown past. He’s totally ready to embrace and celebrate his empowered paramour. She’s not his uptown girl; she’s a grown-ass modern woman.

“She looks sleek and she seems so professional
She’s got a lot of confidence, it’s easy to see
You want to make a move
But you feel so inferior
Cause under that exterior
Is someone who’s free.”

(By the way, this song was featured as Bette Midler’s workout montage in the ’80s flick Ruthless People. Fun! But Bette, FYI, you don’t need to diet or work out, tho. You’re fine Just the Way you Are.)

1) “She’s Always a Woman”

Billy’s most direct response to misogyny, he wrote it for his wife-slash-manager at the time, who was much maligned by every passing sexist in the music biz. Because she was powerful. Of course, Bill had no problem with that.

Even though their relationship would turn out to be doomed during this album, as evidenced by the title track, “The Stranger,” this creamy balled endures. Here, Bilj loves his woman, and he tells the dudes who wanna hate her that that’s just their problem. This came out in 1977, for godsake; music should be way, way more advanced by now. Mike. Drop.

“She is frequently kind
And she’s suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases
She’s nobody’s fool
But she can’t be convicted
She’s earned her degree
And the most she will do
Is throw shadows at you
But she’s always a woman to me”

Isn’t his ’70s perm amazing?

Billy’s hair, like that marriage, has since fallen away. However, unlike too many iconic pop stars of late, Billy Joel remains, still playing to sold-out audiences. Via helicopter. And he reserves the front rows, not for the 1 percent who game Ticketmaster, but for the fans who he likes to perform for the most: women. Thereby proving to the world that even if you’re a worldwide musical legend (who happens to be a dude), you don’t have to be a misogynist sell-out to rock ‘n’roll.

carolynCarolyn Main is a cartoonist and writer in Portland, Oregon, who is in the process of releasing her own card game, Pitch Please. She has tickets to see Billy Joel at Shea Stadium for the first time, and she is hecka pumped. You can check out more of her art at www.carolynmain.com.

Ingrid Lyne’s Murder Is Every Woman’s Worst Fear

 

Photo of Ingrid Lyne and her children (children's faces are blurred for privacy)

Image shows Ingrid Lyne with her arms her three children (whose faces are blurred for privacy), all sporting Seahawks gear and smiling into the camera. (Image courtesy of the GoFundMe campaign to benefit Lyne’s children.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the murder of single mom, Ingrid Lyne. As a single mom myself who lives not too far from where Ingrid was raising her kids (and was then later found in a recycling bin), the whole thing gives me the chills.

Frankly, women everywhere are getting the chills. Unlike most of the men I talk to, they don’t see it as a freak occurrence, but as the realization of their worst fear and the ultimate failure of their ongoing efforts to avoid their own rape or murder.

Every woman I’ve talked to knows it could have been her. People of all genders are remarking on how Lyne “took every reasonable precaution” and yet it still happened. Do you know what that means to women? It means that you can do everything right–check off all the items on your personal safety list–and you can still be killed by a man. It means that the idea that you can prevent your own rape or murder is bullshit, an illusion of rape culture that promotes victim blaming and misogyny. It means the perpetual precautions you take every moment of your waking life are quite probably a colossal waste of time.

Perhaps more than anyone, women have internalized victim blaming. Without thinking too much about it, we spend our days avoiding rape and murder. It begins when we wake up with the clothes we put on. It continues as we walk out the door and worry about the consequences of wearing a hood even though it’s raining, as we weigh the risks of looking at a screen while we walk, have 911 on speed dial, square our shoulders and walk with the “right” posture, avoid certain routes, shield ourselves from strangers on public transport, screen potential dates, not reject street harassment too rudely, and so much more.

We do these things without thinking and we do them in perpetuity. I’ll say it again: We spend nearly 100% of our time doing things that we believe will help us avoid being raped or murdered. We have been doing it our whole lives, which is a long time. It almost doesn’t seem like it’s costing us any effort at all because it’s second nature, dialed up on auto-pilot. “Natural.” But it’s not natural and it’s still energy spent. It takes away from other ways we could be using our brains/time and it means that it’s dangerous to be in our bodies.

So when the news broke that Ingrid Lyne went on a date with John Charlton and got murdered for it, women everywhere unconsciously evaluated her behavior and interrogated the situation, walking ourselves through Lyne’s paces. Sure, she met him online, but Charlton wasn’t a stranger to Lyne; they’d been dating for 6-8 weeks (check). Their date was in a public place (the Mariners game–check) and she told folks where she was going (check).

So we wonder if Lyne missed warning signs. We start asking about Charlton’s criminal background and we discover his history of drugs, theft, assault and battery, the creepy threat he made to his mother in 2006 when, after some macho chest-bumping and a few hours of verbal assault, he presented her with the movie Hannibal and told her to “beware.” Maybe we need to add “get an assault-and-battery background check” to our list of murder-avoidance rituals before we go on dates–even if it’s someone we’ve been dating a little while.

It would make us feel safer if we could find some hole in Lyne’s actions leading up to her murder because it would mean that maybe–just maybe–we have some control.

Think about it: Before we could even talk about the crime, we had to make sure Lyne wasn’t culpable somehow. That’s victim blaming, one of the most deeply ingrained forms of internalized misogyny I know. Looking it in the eye and explicitly rejecting it means letting go of the notion that we are in any way agents of our own safety where men are concerned. The reality is, there are no sufficiently “reasonable precautions” we can take or “right” ways to behave that will ensure we won’t be raped or murdered by a man.

The unfortunate alternative to victim blaming is that it doesn’t fucking matter what you do: You can “take every reasonable precaution” and still end up in pieces in a stranger’s recycling bin.

So now what?

Ingrid Lyne’s murder did not happen in a vacuum. I didn’t know her, but I’m also a single mom with two kids and, like most women, have spent my entire life practicing ongoing rape-and-murder avoidance rituals (at times with better results than others). It’s not a theoretical, hypothetical conversation for me and I know from talking to other women that they feel similarly.

Ingrid Lyne’s murder does two contradictory things: It confirms the need for women to continue our vigilance (because look what happened!) and it also points out the uselessness of that vigilance (because look what happened!).

So when you hear people talking about the very “reasonable” precautions Lyne took to avoid being murdered, point out the absurdity of it. Interrogate the master narrative. Get curious. Point out the inherent toxic masculinity and victim blaming of it, since those things are perpetuated by our silence and passive acceptance. You have a particular duty to call it out if you’re a beneficiary of rape culture.

Men, if your women friends talk about it with you, listen. Don’t ask them to be reasonable. Don’t tell them to calm down (tone policing). Don’t tell them they’re imagining the gendered nature of the crime (gaslighting). Just because you haven’t experienced living in constant fear of rape and murder doesn’t mean it’s not real 24/7 for over half of the population.

People of color, transfolk, and the queer community are at even greater risk for this type of violence , though it certainly doesn’t get the same–or often any–attention in the media. We have a particular responsibility to call that out, too.

This much is clear: Although it might be more comforting to do so, dismissing the murder of Ingrid Lyne as a freak occurrence isn’t doing anyone any favors.

 

P.S. You can donate money to support Ingrid Lyne’s three children here.

 

How I Put Donald Trump’s Lights Out in Atlanta

12822701_976584465751666_1567639090_o.jpg

by Veronica Sidwell

The Trump rally was occurring at the GWCC, which is about four blocks from where I live, so I figured I’d walk down and watch the spectacle. I put together the most patriotic outfit I could, a navy blue dress with white buttons, navy blue leggings and a bright red cardigan.

The doors opened at 2pm, I arrived around then and several hundred people were already in line. It was a real blizzard there, and it looked like the suburbs had vomited on downtown Atlanta. Several street vendors lined the sidewalks, and they fought with local police over where exactly they could hawk their wares. The lady behind me in line kept jabbing me with her stupid Trump flag and apologizing. She and her husband mused about how Trump was the only one who could sort this mess of a country out. Photographers hovered around the line, passing over the J.Crew models for the gaudier of the bunch, who happily posed for the cameras.

The people in front of me had a panic attack when they realized that they did not procure tickets. (It was a free event.) They scrambled to register online on their phones. However, tickets were completely unnecessary.

We made it to the front, and there were Secret Service officers who were in full SWAT gear. We were told that no outside posters were allowed. Also, no umbrellas. It was a little misty outside, but luckily I kept my umbrella at home. They did let me in with an issue of Creative Loafing though.

Because the event began at 4, I needed some diversion. I passed through security and made my way down two sets of escalators to the hall where Trump would be speaking. Instead of finding a proper auditorium with seating, it was a mostly empty hall with a stage in the middle with cameramen stationed there, and then the main stage up front where Trump would be speaking. There had already gathered a large crowd on the right side of the stage, since that’s the side of the auditorium where the doors lead to, so I decided to make my way to the left side of the stage to get a better view.

The crowd was still a little thick, so I made my way over to the hard left of the stage. I found a spot right up front on the barricade that was empty, but my viewpoint was going to be Trump’s right shoulder. It also just so happened that the spot I found was directly in front of the soundboard.

There was an overweight gentleman behind me, and beside him there was a man with a button-up shirt of a Confederate Flag. The sound man was nowhere to be found, so the overweight man reached over the barricade and took the sound man’s chair. He sat no longer than 30 seconds when the sound man came out and demanded his chair back. The overweight man asked if there was any way to request some chairs, that some of the people in the crowd had disabilities and couldn’t stand for extended periods of time. Others in the crowd chimed in and asked if he could bring chairs. The sound man apologized and said that at this point it would probably involve getting a forklift and to bring chairs out, and there’d be no way to get enough for everyone anyway, so he wasn’t going to bother trying.

I opened up my Creative Loafing and started to work the crossword puzzle. It took me quite a while to finish, but I did complete it, and tried to ignore the opening acts, which consisted of some people saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and singing “God Bless America” and some other nonsense that I have blocked from my memory. I do remember a country singer trying to get a sing-along going of “Don’t Be a Chump, Vote for Trump.”

As the time drew closer to 4pm, workers with the campaign began to pass out signs to the crowd. I thought they were only going to pass them out to those in front of the stage, but eventually they made their way over to where I was and handed out a handful to us. I kept one and passed the rest back. The signs said something to the effect of “The Silent Majority Stands with Trump.” The signs were of a high quality and on a very, very heavy card stock.

Throughout the afternoon, I knew that I wanted to create some kind of disruption, but I hadn’t come up with anything. I held the sign in my hand and thought I could fold the “T” over and make the sign say “RUMP,” and then a part of me thought that the card stock was so heavy that it could make a bitchin’ paper airplane. I was probably 100 feet from the podium, and I wasn’t sure how far I could actually throw a paper airplane. Plus I was a little worried that if I cocked my arm back with airplane in hand, someone would probably grab it or somehow otherwise block the throw. The more I thought about it, the lamer the idea seemed.

Finally, the time for Trump to take the stage had come, and beforehand a mechanical, disembodied voice came over the speakers giving instructions regarding the contingency of protesters. They said it was a private event, and a safe place to protest was given outside of the event. But if someone inside did protest, do not touch or accost the protester, just simply hold your signs up and chant “Trump, Trump, Trump…”

Donald finally took the stage and I folded my sign over and held up my RUMP sign and a middle finger in front of it. Everyone settled down and Trump launched into his speech.

I noticed the sound man get up and go behind a curtain. A few minutes later, he returned. This happened several times and a plan began to brew in my mind. The soundboard was probably about 5 feet away from the barricade and I noticed an 8-channel mixer, of which only 3 seemed to be in use. The sliders on those three were pushed to the max, while the other sliders were set at zero.

I looked at this rigid, folded-over sign in my hand and realized that it made the perfect tool to rake the sliders and pull them toward me to the zero position. I thought it was controlling the sound, and I figured that I’d be cutting the mike. I got nervous and giddy at the same time thinking about it.

The sound man left again…and I chickened out. After a minute or so, he returned. But I kept eyeing it, thinking that if I stepped up onto the lower part of the barricade, I could lean over and make the reach. About this time a small group of about 5 photographers was heading my way in the pit. The sound man left again, and in a moment I decided that when the photographers passed by it would provide the perfect cover to pull the sliders.

The last one passed by and I stepped up, leaned over and, with the sign, pulled two of the sliders down with one swipe, and then I pulled the third slider with an extra flick of the wrist.

Someone next to me said, “Hey, what are you doing!” and I immediately stepped down and turned to leave. Someone grabbed my sweater but I kept walking, and they let go. I walked through the crowd, and made my way to a side exit that was open, but a police officer said I had to exit through the front entrance. I powerwalked through the auditorium, and could hear Trump going on about the lights being out. I then realized that I had shut the lights off, and not cut the sound as I had anticipated. I giggled to myself and looked back and didn’t see anyone following me.

trump

I figured that the most distinguishing part of my outfit was my bright red sweater, so I took that off and stuffed it in my purse. I continued through the double doors, exiting the auditorium, and got on an escalator. I turned around and saw no one in pursuit. I walked up to the second escalator, looked over my shoulder, and once again, saw no commotion behind me. I thought I was home free until I got to the front doors and I noticed them stopping two ladies who were about my age who were trying to exit.

As I approached the exit, a Secret Serviceman in SWAT gear told me to stop. He said into his radio “Is this her?” A few seconds later,”Are you sure?” He then tells me to step aside.

Two people who look like real-life Mulder and Scully come up and start questioning me. They ask vague questions like “Why did you do what you did?” but I keep denying that I know what they are talking about. They take my license and write my information down. They keep asking if I would go to a private room with them, just to answer some questions and I decline. Eventually, I ask Mulder if I am being charged with anything and he says no, that if I were I’d already be in handcuffs, and I said I figured as much. He says that people from the GWCC want to talk to me and he asks me to stay put. He leaves Scully with me and walks over to a group of policemen.

Probably a solid half hour passes and Scully and I are just standing there silently, and finally I ask, “So, if I am not being charged, am I free to leave?” She says no, that they are under the jurisdiction of the GWCC police, and it’s up to them to decide what to do with me. Finally, two GWCC police officers come up to me and start the same line of questioning, and I stonewall again. One of the officers asks me a series of innocuous questions about my family and background. We chit-chat for a while when he says “So what were you doing leaning over that railing?” Again, I say that I don’t know what he is talking about.

Finally, the other officer comes back and claims that they have video of me turning the lights off, in addition to a witness. It could be a bluff, so I still do not admit anything. The officer asks if I’ve ever been arrested before. I said I wasn’t sure. He said “How can you not be sure if you have been arrested before?” I told him about the time I was involuntarily committed in my early 20s, and I wasn’t sure whether that constituted an actual arrest.

He informs me that they are going to issue me a Warning of Criminal Trespass, but he rattles off a list of charges that they could have given me if they wanted to throw the book at me. Another officer comes over with the paperwork and explains that for the next 3 years I cannot come on the GWCC grounds, or go in the Georgia Dome, or visit Centennial Olympic Park. (The last one actually stung just a little; I enjoy going to that park.)

I signed the paperwork and they gave me my license back. The one officer that I was chit-chatting with asked “So what kind of motorcycle you got?” referring to the fact that I have a motorcycle license. I said, “Oh, I don’t have a motorcycle, I have a scooter. A Vespa.” He smiled and said, “You need to get a Harley.” I smiled and said, “Maybe I will.”

The other officer said I was free to go and I said thanks and wished them all a good day, and strolled out the door.

Epilogue: I walked straight to Taco Bell for a early dinner.

Men Who Hate Women

By Amie Simon

I’ve had my mind on comics and comic book stores a lot lately, and so I’ve been thinking about the BEST job I ever had, ever. But because of one guy, it was also one of the most horrible workplace environments. Ever.

Too bad I didn’t have this WW crown when I was working there. I could have summoned my inner Amazonian and kicked his ass.

In the mid-’90s, I took a second job at a comic book/collectibles store to make extra money, and to try to forget about how bad my once-awesome-but-now-terribly-corporate video store job had gotten. I used to buy my comics there and had discussed my rampant Clive Barker obsession with the owner several times, as he always seemed to have several signed books, figurines, et cetera (as I found out later, he was good friends with Clive! SCORE). So, when I mentioned that I was looking for something part-time, he thought it would be awesome to have a chick working there who knew her stuff. It was a quick hire. I don’t even remember an interview, really. I had become so chummy with most of the staff that they already knew me and liked me. 

All of them I guess, except one.

For the purposes of this story, I will just call him “Dick.” It seems appropriate.

Dick had relocated to the fair city of Lynnwood from some small town in the Midwest and, as I came to find out, hated women. Not just a little. A lot. Or maybe it was just me he hated? I guess I never quite figured it out. In any case, Dick was polite and accommodating when other employees or the manager/owner was around, but as soon as we were the only two in the store, he would have me do the most insane things, backed up with the excuse that the owner wanted it done.

He would have me move whole sections of comics to the other side of the store, and when I finally got them all perfect, he would have me move them all back to their original place. He would tell me to clean the glass counters over and over and over, sometimes up to 20 times a shift (a whopping 5 hours, usually). I was instructed to vacuum all the time. He would tell me to take a toothbrush and scrub in between the tiles on the floor by the counter, or use a wire scrub brush to try to get stains off the back door.

WHY would I put up with this, you ask? A few reasons, I guess.

1) I needed the money. Working 30 hours a week at minimum video store wages wasn’t covering my college books, rent, food, and bills.

2) I’d been treated worse by a boyfriend, or actually a few, so I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. In fact, I was sure I deserved it in some way. I spent most of my 20s feeling like I deserved to be miserable.

3) At the time, I was naive enough to believe that these are the way things were, and that the boss wanted them that way—until I worked with my absolutely favorite guy (Hi, Brian!), who said, “Wait. He told you to do WHAT? That’s not cool, Amie,” when I described my workload.

Also, while I was doing all this Cinderella-caliber work? Dick would be on the phone. CONSTANTLY. Talking to friends, family, you name it. He was always on the damn phone. He barely ever put it down, and when he did, it was only to ring up big sales.

So the next time I worked with him, I politely explained that I didn’t think things needed to be cleaned over and over—and also probably not with a toothbrush, ever. He glared at me and then ignored me for the rest of the shift. UNTIL someone came in to buy something. Since he was on the phone as usual, I helped the guy. A nice older gentlemen who was interested in the whole Magic card phenomenon (at the time, it was kind of a big deal). I talked him into buying an entire box of starter decks and another of the packs to try it out.

Toward the end of the purchase, Dick got off the phone, and decided to talk to the guy as well. (He was nice to the customers, just not to me.) And then the customer turned to me and said “You know, you are stunningly beautiful! I just wanted to tell you that. Have a good night, and thank you!” And he left.

Dick’s response to this was to turn angrily to me and scream in my face:

“God, I fucking HATE you! You. SUCK.

And then he stormed into the back room. And man, I felt it. I absolutely FELT the fact that he hated me. For seemingly no other reason than that I was a woman, and that someone had told me I was beautiful. I wondered what was next. More insults (I had heard him call me a bitch under his breath more than a few times)? More rage? Would this guy actually try to hit me?

I was terrified to work with him again and almost quit. Fortunately for me, the very next day, it was discovered that all of Dick’s phone calls were long-distance calls to his Midwestern hometown—all on the company’s dime. So, Dick was out. And I was able to stay. And I never had to see him again.

Which meant Brian and I had the most fun ever working together once Dick was gone. And coming up with scenarios about the miserable, unhappy life he was leading.

Hopefully it didn’t involve serial murders, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Amie Simon is a Seattle-based writer. She likes cake AND pie. You can find her on Twitter at @posiegirl.