Friday, December 5, 2014

My Five-year-old Wants to be a Single Mother

My five-year-old daughter and I were discussing weddings and dance parties. I was feeling good about my open-minded parenting skills when I turned to her and said: "Well, if you choose to get married some day, you can have a disco ball at your wedding, too."

I am careful to never mention gender when I talk about partnering. I am always clear that there are no expectations on who they may couple with when they become adults, or if they choose to couple at all. I use inclusive language, I let them know I love them no matter what. I am a supportive and a great mom.

Or so I thought.
Because in that moment, I got blindsided with a response that totally took me by surprise.


"Actually," my sweet little girl looked me in the eye, ever-so-matter-of-factly, "I am going to be a single mom."

Zoinks!
I did not see that coming. And I am not proud of my first thoughts:
"No one wants to be a single mother."
Followed by…
"You are not allowed to want that."
Yes, that is right. I thought that last one too.
Me. The girl driven by the prime directive to live and let live. To love and accept all people for exactly who they are; and as long as who they are and what they do brings harm to no one, then my judgment-free acceptance is limitless.

Or so I thought.
Then this dangerous little antiquated gem popped into my head without permission. This little echo of all the times I cringed and had mean thoughts when relatives said, after I had my first child as a single mother:
"Oh, Karen…. Congratulations on the new baby, I guess. I just wish it was under better circumstances."
When people treated my "situation" (um, my brand new baby) like it was distasteful at best and tragic at worst, I wanted to scream:
"Are you fucking kidding me? Have you seen this beautiful boy? He is unbelievably precious and I have never known such an intense feeling of love! How dare you associate regret with this majestic being!"
And yet, here I was. Judging my young daughter for mindfully dreaming of being a single mother. It is crazy because, for me, being a single mother was one of the best times of my life. Sure, I could have done without the eating-only-rice-and-beans-for-months-on-end part, but the rest was pure magic.
I worked (often with my baby in a front pack) and I mothered, and that was it. When the weekend came it was a glorious montage of free-feeling, little-person-centered fun and love. No house projects and no mate to suck up all of our time. It was beautiful.

Why, then, was I horrified at the thought of my daughter asking for this life?
Because I have baggage. Stupid, unwanted, limiting, mind-closing baggage. I have it and so might you. Luckily, we also have our super speedy, kindness-minded, progressive brains that can help us recognize that baggage – and then send it packing (he he he).

What happens in our brains we can't help, but what comes out of our mouths we can.

So after I told my inner rule-prisoner to zip it, I told my daughter out loud:
"I think you would be a wonderful single mother. Maybe Daddy and I can come babysit sometimes."
She thought that was a great idea, and I hope I have given her a little less baggage to unpack as she grows.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Build a Better Police Force and Peace will Follow

Folks are talking about how "ignorant" and "stupid" people are for riot-protesting in Ferguson. Some are casting judgment on citizens who "have no respect for their own communities" and are participating in "senseless destruction". And while I understand the desire for peace, rational thought, and non-violence, I have to ask myself: "What would it take to get me to burn down a building?"
 
What would it take for any of us to feel trapped in a world of injustice, so let down by the system, so ultimately frustrated, that we would resort to horrific acts of destruction?
 
Let's all take a giant leap here and assume that people in the Ferguson community are wise, rational, and reasonable people. Let's assume those participating in the riots are just like you and me. What brought them here? What would it take to bring you there?
 
Would it be an institutionalized system that routinely encourages you to fear for your life? One that demands you demonstrate subservience in the presence of police, and teaches your children to do the same? Would it be a lack of faith in the system that is meant to protect you? Would it take a lifetime of witnessing extreme violence executed by those entrusted to protect and serve? Would it be a system that encourages you to believe you are powerless when you try to hold its people accountable for their actions? Would it be someone killing your unarmed child and walking free, without ever being cross-examined by a prosecutor?

I don't know what it would take for me, but I do know that unless I am actually living that life, I don't really have a right to cast judgment on those who are. 

I also know that I have never really had much dealing with the legal system and so I always simply assumed that it has everyone's best interest at heart and strives to be fair and just. But I recently had a run-in with the law, and while the excessiveness of police power I experienced was comparatively small, I learned just how incredibly difficult it is to get the police department to take responsibility for the actions of their officers.
 
The feeling of people in authority having so much unbridled power over you, making it very clear they can make your life a living hell (which is, at least, still living), is terrifying. I am not exaggerating here. My one-time experience frightened me to the core and yet it is an infinitesimally small piece of what many folks deal with every moment of their life. This may be the only reality some people know.
 
Is rioting the best, most enlightened path to change? No, I don't think so. Should those breaking the law be prosecuted? Yes, I think so. Do I understand the intense frustration that could lead to those choices? I think I do. At the very least, I think we should be thinking about it, talking about it, and working to inspire change around it. You know things are bad when the only way we feel we can be heard is to start lighting fires in the streets.
 
So many layers. So many questions. I thought I would address just one part right now, and that is how to develop a system of checks and balances for the police who are in this everyday. I am the daughter of a cop and I have deep respect for this unfathomably difficult job - but we need a system capable of holding everyone accountable for their actions - everyone.

Five Easy Steps to Creating a Kinder, Gentler Police "Force"
 
 
1. Chill the Fuck Out
 
Things have changed for police. They have become extremely overly-militarized and they are not just bringing guns to a knife fight - they are bringing riot gear and TANKS to peaceful protests.
 
Dress like Rambo and you start acting like Rambo. Stop it.
 
 
2. More Transparency Please
 
Currently, you are unable to request the police report that is about you (at least this was my experience – I asked to see it and was flatly denied). Police can store and share their assertions about you in a permanent, ominous "file" (that other police officers can see) without notifying you or even giving you a chance to offer your own testimony. This information can influence decisions that have real consequences. What the hot shit is that all about? Why so secret, my friends?
 
Let’s make it so that anyone can go to the police station and see their arrest records. Let's have a website where pictures, names, and badge numbers of these public servants are available. In fact, why not have something like Angie's List for police officers? When you have an encounter with an officer, positive or negative, you could share it with others. Like a Yelp review for cops. The voting record of politicians is public, why not the arrest records and public feedback on cops? Is there a bad cop on the force? How prevalent is the problem? Who are the good cops? Having a system of accountability makes sense.
 
 
3. Stop Pretending Race Doesn't Matter

In the United States, we have a lot of white people:
 
RacialDistributionUnitedStates2012
 
And percentage-wise, we have even more white police officers:
 
PoliceOfficersByRace
 
And even more white judges:
 
JudgesByRace

And when it comes to enforcing the laws, this very white world seems to lead to an imprisoned community filled with minorities.
 
Who’s in jail, in the United States, by race:
 
IncarcerationByRace
 
 
If you live in the United States, your likelihood of going to jail, by race:

ChanceOfGoingToJailByRace
 
Here’s another way of looking at it:
 
The chances a white person is going to jail are 1 in 935.
 
Those odds look like this (each circle represents one person – the red dot is the one going to jail):
 
1in935
 
The chances a black person is going to jail: 1 in 34.
 
1in34
 
As a black person, you are 27 times more likely to go to jail than your white compatriots.
 
Race. Clearly. Matters.
 
 

4. Can We Get Some Sensitivity Training Up in Here?

Seriously, is this even a thing? It kind of feels like it should be Police Academy 101. If black people, even unarmed ones, make you nervous and volatile, don't be a cop. If you think women should be seen and not heard, don't be a cop. If you think Mexicans should all be deported, don't be a cop.
 
Racism & sexism have no place in Cop-land - get enlightened or get the fuck out.

Let's start incentivizing and recruiting people of diversity to be police officers. It is hard to dehumanize someone because of their color if your partner is the same color.

You know those young people with pants down to their knees and hoodies and apparent “attitude problems”? Go meet their moms, or little siblings, or grandfathers, or whoever cares about these young people - start seeing them as real people, just kids trying to find their identity and maybe trying to find a way to stand up to bullies, even ones with badges. Each one of those "Thugs" has worth and should be treated with dignity.

5. Costume Change!

In addition to sensitivity training, how about some practical policy change? Let's make non-lethal weapons like Tasers a mandatory part of police equipment, so if a cop in a car feels threatened and it doesn't occur to him to roll up the windows or drive away, he could simply use a Taser - BAM! Revolution avoided.

There are also technological advancements like mace and rubber bullets. It feels like designing the uniform to make non-lethal options easier to get to than lethal ones makes sense and may save lives.

Body cameras worn by police are effective because all of us behave better under scrutiny. An objective recording of events protects both suspects and police officers alike.

There are lots of things police could carry, including empathy, and respect for all human life, that would make the world a little bit safer for all of us.

PS – If you are wondering why you have not seen charts like the ones above before, it is because they are not easily available. Information on racial breakdown across the United States seems to only be available through careful analysis of data deeply buried. These charts were created by my amazing husband/editor (deep gratitude for his abilities and his prioritization of this issue). We should continue to ask questions, especially ones like “why is this information so hard to find?”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Women in Tech have a New Role Model!

(just kidding - same old shit...)

 
I am a feminist who usually considers Barbie to be a pretty good role model. Sure, she has proportions that in real life would not allow her tiny neck to hold up her enormous head, or accommodate full sized organs - but aren't we in favor of representing unique body shapes? I know that her permanently tip-toed, child-size-three feet and fragile thinness would, in reality, only allow her to walk on all fours.
 
Side note: In the past when my children insisted we play with her, I would have Barbie walk on all fours and make her head droop down sideways because you have to follow the rules of physics, people! My kids don’t ask to play with Barbie any more.
 
But come on! We should be proud that despite Barbie’s severe physical limitations, the woman has held 78 careers in her lifetime, probably due to that giant oversized brain she must be holding in her giant oversized head. Past occupations include oncologist, fire fighter, paratrooper, street rapper, and football coach.
 
Barbie, in spite of having breasts so freakishly large for her disproportionate frame that it is a wonder anyone looks at her face, never mind her accomplishments, has bucked stereotypes and succeeded in male-dominated fields. All the while, Barbie has never compromised her meticulous make up routine or attention to her extensive, if questionably professional, wardrobe.
 
Hasn't Barbie done enough for feminism already?
 
Well, it turns out she is still at it. Recently, Barbie's turn as a computer engineer has hit the news. This may be a poor choice for Barbie, considering her wrists are so tiny only 1 in 19 people suffering from Anorexia ever reach that level of fragility, so early-onset carpal tunnel syndrome seems inevitable.
 
Nonetheless, she begins the book Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer by saying to her little sister Skipper: "I am designing a game that shows kids how computers work." That is so cool!
 
BarbieIntro
While she turns out to be a designer, not an engineer, as the book promises, I am thrilled to see a woman like Barbie take on the task of simplifying the complex inner workings of computers so it is easy for children to understand. But there is one problem: no one has simplified the complex inner workings of computers so it is easy for Barbie to understand.
 
Barbie has no idea how to detect or remove a computer virus, is unable to reboot her computer, and uses a pink necklace flash drive to back up her work (and unknowingly transmit viruses), because the story takes place in 1991 and version control and offline backup have yet to be invented in My Little Pony Land.
 
Look, I don't begrudge Barbie her pink (although I worry about the resale value of Barbie’s mansion with those pink and purple cabinets in the kitchen), and I don't even begrudge her ineptitude in the world of technology - but I am shocked and confused that she took on computer engineering without actually taking on computer engineering. Wasn't it enough for you to be the UNICEF summit diplomat? Did you have to have a book titled "I can be a computer engineer" when it is very clear to everyone, especially your friends Steven and Brian, who had to bail you out by page three, that you most certainly can NOT?
 
I am not a woman from the world of tech, but I have a husband and friends (even girl ones!) who are. And I have been to enough tech conferences where attendees say things like: "You don't look like a woman in tech" or “You must be in marketing”, later heading in packs to strip clubs after dinner. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the rocket science industry is an old boys club and there are some seriously brilliant, articulate women swimming upstream in a Madmen kind of world.
 
Why Barbie, why? Why do you have to add insult to injury to these women who actually can be computer engineers? You were a popular aerobics instructor for 25 years even though your limbs are not wide enough to actually accommodate muscle. Why not stay with that instead of telling the story of how you can giggle and hair flip your way into pretending you’re a computer engineer? It is insulting; it is inaccurate; and it is exploiting a field where women are working hard, every day, to be taken seriously and compensated fairly.
 
Come on Barbie, I try to defend you - but you are making it so difficult.
 
Here’s my version of the book (original on the left, mine on the right):
BarbieRedesign
Can you spot the differences?
 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

#Breaking the Internet

(of the negativity cycle surrounding women and their sexuality)


When J.Law and company had their private, nude photos hacked and leaked onto the internet a few months ago, there was some serious anger. Not so much anger at the criminals who hacked into these women’s accounts, violating their basic rights - that’s actually the kind of anger I can get behind. No, the anger that surfaced was toward the victims. Oh sure, it was couched in “concern about internet safety”, but the more honest criticism sounded like: "If you don't want nude photos leaked, don't take nude photos." Right. Like if you don't want to be strangled, don't have a neck.

Interestingly, criticism was mostly a by women, about women kind of thing. Women don't like it when naked ladies go mainstream.

And now, we have Kim Kardashian, and the full frontal heard round the world. Oh yeah, panties are in a tightly wound bunch, so to speak. It is hard to consume any social media without hearing how "Nasty" and "Disgusting" Kim Kardashian is. Again, most of the anger coming from women.

I am not a fan of KK, but I found the picture both interesting and funny. Naked women don't make me angry, but with all the hoo-hah I thought maybe I was missing something, so I considered the criticism....

"She needs to respect her body."

First of all, she doesn't NEED to do anything. She is a grown woman, not breaking any laws. Secondly, I think she is respecting her body. She is not talking smack about it, she is not harming it, and she seems to be celebrating it with pride. Hiding under a hoodie and self-hate doesn't mean you respect your body.

"What about the children!!?"

Yes, with the prevalence of this photo, it is very possibly going to be seen by young eyes. Then again. it is just a woman without clothes. This should really not be scarring. I also heard a mother angry because Kim Kardashian was now a terrible role model. I can honestly say this photo did nothing to change Kim Kardashian's status as a role model in my eyes. If you want a role model for the little ones you love, try Eleanor Roosevelt or Malala Yousafzai.

"She is a mom!!!"

Right, because when you become a mom - that is all you are. Not a celebrity, entrepreneur, lover, or owner of an ass. Again, the picture is not one of KK ripping the wings off bugs; she is not doing anything harmful in these photos. When her kid sees these one day, he will likely roll his eyes and say "Mommmm!" And end of scene.

"It's plastic!"

There is a lot of speculation about surgical enhancements that may have contributed to the striking nature of the photo. I don't know if it is the case or not, and it is really none of my business. People have uniquely shaped bodies and some chose to sculpt their bodies with silicone. Again, no puppies are dying here.

"It is Photoshopped!"

Yes, I am sure it is. That is how magazine art is created. The lighting and make-up are also part of the art of the picture. Kim wasn't just walking around in a sequined gown in her kitchen when she noticed a plain brown backdrop and thought "Hmmm…. I am going to pour myself a glass of champagne!"
It is an illusion; a fantasy. Photoshop is a creative tool. Let's assume all magazine covers are Photoshopped and move on.

"She is doing it for attention!"

Yes, that is what celebrities do.

"It is not classy. It is just trashy."

I get that you feel that way, so you should certainly not pose nude for magazines or balance things on your butt - but please, just zip it. Is it classy to make negative comments about a person’s body or her choice?

"She is just doing it for money. Like she needs it!"

I don't know what Kim Kardashian needs or does not need, but I do know that I would rather pose for pictures where I was compensated and had a choice than have photos stolen from me and published without my consent.

"She is a vapid, no-talent reflection of society's celebrity-mongering."

Maybe. But here we all are - talking about her.

So, since I have not heard a compelling argument about why I should be grossed-out by a naked woman with a big ass in a magazine, I am left to speculate about why many women find this so unsettling.

KarenPoursCoffee2
Is it because we feel insecure when we look at perfectly lit, stunning bodies? Is it because we get jealous when others – maybe our partners - covet them? Are we resentful because we have to play within the confines of decorum, while the likes of Kim Kardashian do as they please under perfect Hollywood lighting? Do we hate "sluts", or anyone who gives "slutty messages"? It this because sexual freedom is not something we think we can achieve? Do we think women who seek attention are dangerous?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. All I know is that balancing cups on your ass is hard, and I need another coffee.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How to lose 10 lbs. in 10 days!

Faked you out again with the picture,
no diet tips in this blog. 
Last week was really hard for me. I was kind of a wreck. My stomach and head hurt, I was unreasonably hot or cold, and using the phrase "emotional roller coaster" would be an understatement unless you have a roller coaster that actually leaves earth's orbit and then plummets into earth's core in less than 30 seconds.

I yelled at my kids, I was a jerk to my husband, and I was unproductive and lethargic when I was taking breaks from being mean. I recognized my behavior as crazy town, I did. But there was also nothing I could do about it, I just could not figure out why I was feeling this way.

But...here is what else happened to me.

I received several online threats - nasty ones. Ones talking about my kids. Ones saying I look "easy to rape". Horrific threats. Curl-your-toes atrocious. From strangers.

I also received menacing comments from my husband's ex sister-in-law. This is not a woman who has ever met me, or even spoken to me, but has still found it in her heart to say terrible things about me to anyone who will listen. This woman actually called my minister to make threatening remarks and defame my character. She is teeming with rage against me. Apparently, she is also an online follower of mine and left a comment on social media that was just odd enough, and threatening enough, to make me wonder about her sanity and her intentions. It scared me.

Then, my neighbor and I had an exchange where he ended up hitting me hard with his shoulder and I hit him back. Inexplicably, only I was arrested and taken away. The police took me in without ever taking a statement from me. I was confused, I was powerless, I was treated like a second class citizen in this situation. The police took action before knowing the whole situation.

I felt unsafe. I felt unjustly persecuted. I felt targeted, and I felt powerless.

I felt a small piece of what it means to live in a world where you are marginalized and vulnerable. I tasted a bit of what it might be like to be a woman in the middle east, or a Mexican in a border state, or a black person in Ferguson, MO.

As a white privileged woman in America, I rarely have the opportunity for this kind of perspective.

It sucks. A lot.

It sucks for me and everyone I came in contact with.

The stress and anxiety also prevented me from eating and I lost 10lbs.

Then the comments started. "You look great! So skinny! What have you been doing?"

?!?!?

Losing my mind. That is what I had been doing. The comment "You look great" shocked me. I am as raw and distressed as I have ever been. Nothing about me felt great, but that apparently does not matter. I was manipulating my body to be small, and whatever price I was paying was irrelevant. Hooray or me!

When things like this happen, it is time to reevaluate. Is losing weight the most praiseworthy thing I can do? When we encounter someone, do we always evaluate their size status? Are we so entrenched in the thin ideal that we notice it above all else?

I had a very special teacher in high school, her name was Dr. Cote. She seemed to know me very well. I don't know how, but she did. I kept a relationship with her after high school and she always seemed to notice that for me, losing weight usually meant feeling kind of sad. Not always - she looked closely enough to know the difference between me feeling great and fit - and me getting small inexplicably. She noticed and she cared. She stands out in my mind because she is the only one who looked deeper than simply just me losing weight. When everyone else congratulated me, she looked further.  She is no longer living, and a woman like that is a huge loss to the world.

Maybe the 'end all/be all' is not about shedding pounds. Maybe rapid weight loss is not the holy grail we think it is; maybe it is sign that something is not going well - in our bodies, in our minds, in our society.

I am making my way back to strength and well-being. I am consciously eating foods that will give my body what it needs. I am getting it together and trying to be healthy, if not thin. When I get there, I will more genuinely appreciate the compliment "You look great".




Monday, November 3, 2014

Orange is the New Karen: Seven Things I Learned after Getting Arrested Today

Our neighbors moved in almost three years ago. Most of this time, they have kept to themselves; regardless I thought we had a nice relationship. When they had a baby, I bought them a welcoming gift of a cute little baby hat (because nothing’s cuter than a baby in a hat) and I made them lasagna. Once we rode together to a school function. We were always friendly.

The woman of the house was lovely, if not very reclusive. The man of the house, however, has always given me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it was the amount of tension in his face as he closely watched his wife speak. Maybe it was the way he only grunted and looked away when neighbors said hello. Or maybe it was the way he kept his lawn and grounds so intensely manicured and meticulously perfect - the kind of perfect you only get with a psychiatric diagnosis. Maybe it was all the times we realized he had been standing right next to us, quietly, out of sight, just on the other side of his fence, whenever we were in the backyard. Or maybe it was the way he sat in his backyard and continuously stared at my sister and her friends every time they went swimming in the pool last summer.

At any rate, I just assumed the family were not into socializing or having anyone over. Ever. Still, I invited them to our re-wedding in August. They did not respond to our invitation and they did not show up to the wedding, but just after 8:00pm when my husband/editor and I were having our first dance, the police showed up. The man had apparently called the police. The officers and I had a pleasant exchange and they ultimately agreed they saw no reason why they should have been called, and left.

Shortly after, a few guests, which included a 17-year-old young man, stood chatting on my lawn in front of my house. The 17-year-old was appreciating and commenting on the neighbor's car, when we heard something rarely uttered here in the Northeast: the command “Git!” (as in “Git out of here!”). My neighbor shouted “Git! Git! Git!” as he ran over to our guests. The 17-year-old, in disbelief, asked "Are you talking to me?"

My neighbor (let's just call him Mr. Git) shouted: "Take your bitches and get out!" Now, since one of those so-called "bitches" happened to be the young man’s mother, the young man told Mr. Git to kindly fuck off.
Mr. Git shouted back: "I'll fuck your mother!".

Yes, that was actually said, in anger, on my front lawn, on my re-wedding day.

A growingly nervous mother sent the 17-year-old back into our home. Mr. Git then announced that he had a Glock inside his house. His wife appeared at their front door and begged him to come inside. Mr. Git shouted “Shut Up! and she quickly retreated.

Again and again Mr. Git made it very clear to our guests that he had a Glock and he was from Florida and so everyone better stay off his property. He seemed to be under the impression that his Floridian heritage allowed him to shoot our guests from his front lawn. Now kids, this level of crazy goes beyond what I’m normally accustomed to. This isn’t fun crazy. This is dangerous crazy.

So I was glad when the cops showed up again around 10pm.

However, this second encounter with the police was very different. When the officers approached I told them I was glad to see them and told them about the neighbor threatening a boy with a gun.

But the officer was very irritated. He said: "I will decide what we are talking about. You need to turn down the music." I said "Ok, but can I make a statement about what I consider to be a dangerous situation?" At that point, the officer asked to speak with the man of the house. I said "Sure, let me just travel back in time to 1950". I was laughing. “You can talk to me.”

Instead of discussing the incident, the officer and I went through a sort of power exchange tango. Since it was my wedding and I was the one in the white dress, I grew frustrated with the lack of progress and left to rejoin the party. The cops remained in the front yard interviewing our guests and talking to the neighbors. And they stayed there, in front of our wedding ceremony, for over an hour. Since they were kind of harshing the vibe of our wedding, I returned to the front yard and said: “This is enough. You have been here a very long time and we are done.” The office ordered: “You stand over there.” I said: “I am standing over here, on my property, but if you are not detaining me, then it is time for you to leave." The officer asked: “Do you know what I can do to you?

That’s a fear-based threat, kids, and I was feeling neither protected nor served.

I repeated my request for the police to leave or detain me. More words were exchanged, one of us puffed out his chest, and the discussion was becoming increasingly stand-offish until the good cop (there’s always one, isn’t there?) stepped between us, telling his partner to go to the car. The angry cop remained in the car for a long time before getting out and writing me a “disturbing the peace” ticket for $133.00. I thanked them and he finally left, though he was still visibly irritated.

The next day I went to the police station. I was overwhelmed. Why the neighbor hate? Why were the police so abrasive? Why the apparent misogynistic attitude from the police? Would I be able to feel safe living next to Mr. Git and his Glock?

I also wanted to talk to someone about the possibly misogynistic officer who demanded to speak to my husband. I asked the officer on duty to place a report of my complaint in the officer’s file. The officer on duty told me that would not happen because: “if the officer misspoke, it would have been an isolated incident.”

But how could he (or anyone) know it was isolated, with their apparent policy of refusing to file complaints?

“Look, if it’s isolated, then nothing will ever come of it - but if it is a pattern, let's start documenting it. Anyone with a regular job can get negative feedback documented. What makes the police so – ?”

The officer interrupted: “I am not playing this game. You are not in a grocery store!

Look, if you read this blog regularly you know that I’m an instigator. But I also have big love and respect for cops as a whole (my daddy was a cop - a good one). But everyone is accountable. Everyone.

More visits to the police station, more debates, and finally resolution – they reluctantly agreed to enter my complaint in the officer’s file.

In truth I expected some backlash. I expected to get pulled over more frequently. However I did not expect what happened this morning.

This morning I was wrangling a gaggle of kids into the car for church when I noticed an enormous semi-truck completely blocking my driveway exit to the street (I am pretty sure this is not legal, and at the very least it is rude without asking). I went next door and knocked. I was surprised to see the mover answer the door.

“Can you please move your truck so I can get out and get my kids to church?” The mover said: "Look lady, we block driveways all the time.” I was surprised by his answer, so I asked again. He replied: “If I move my truck I’ll just back it up so it blocks your driveway even more.”

Wow. And that was from a total stranger.

The woman who lives in the house came to the door and said "Karen, you block our driveway all the time." Which seems highly unlikely since we only have one car and our own driveway - which easily holds four cars.

But instead of addressing the questionable plausibility of her claim I simply said: "I am sorry if that has ever happened and if you let us know we will always move our cars as soon as possible."

Next I hear Mr. Git running down the stairs screaming “What is SHE doing here?”. I backed up, deciding to return to my kids. When Mr. Git reached the door, his wife, now pregnant with their third baby, whispered: “Please don't go out.”

Mr. Git grabbed his wife's head and pushed it violently down, jumping past her, flying down his front porch stairs, and running at me fast. He put his finger right up into my face and screamed: “You have one minute to get off my property!

I raised both hands into the air, took a step backward from the finger in my face, and said: “I just need the truck moved.” He kept threateningly close. My dog was near us, barking. He chased after the little dog, shouting: “I’ll shut you up for good!” He called me a fucking bitch and a cunt. He kicked the dog. My dog yelped and ran away. Mr. Git then quickly returned, and we were face to face again.

He shoulder-chucked me hard, really hard. It knocked the breath out of my lungs. I stepped back, and Mr. Git stepped in.

If you read my blog, you know I believe there is never a good reason to use force. I teach this to my kids all the time. But the enraged Mr. Git just hurt his pregnant wife, just kicked my dog, and just hit me hard. I don’t believe in violence, but I also don’t believe in just sitting there and taking abuse.

I shouted: "Oh no you didn't!" and I hit Mr. Git’s shoulder, clearly surprising him, and knocking him back.

Mr. Git suddenly turned and ran into his house. With all the rage on display, I wondered if he might be going for his Glock. Deciding that I didn’t really want to find out what item he was rushing in to get, I shoveled the kids into the car, drove over our lawn and off the curb, and off to safety. I needed a little church and a little distance.

I called 911 on my way, mostly because my heart was heavy with the idea that I possibly sent the bundle-of-rage that is Mr. Git back into his house with only the pregnant wife there to process his anger. I found myself wishing Mr. Git had just punched me in the face so he would be arrested and out of the house, which might offer his wife and her babies some protection.

I relayed my concern to 911 about Mr. Git’s aggressive behavior with his wife, but 911 was more interested in knowing what vehicle I was driving and what road I was on so they could “send a car for me”. I said: “I am leaving a volatile situation and taking my kids to church. I will be back home in two hours.”

911 continued to press: “What vehicle are you driving and what church are you going to?” I answered: “I am in a minivan and going to church in a building.” The 911 officer was getting angry: "Look, we are going to get you on the road or at church." I explained: “I realize this was not what you want, but I need to get my children - some of whom are still crying - away and to a safe place.”

I needed for everything to calm down.

At church, I maintained my cool long enough to get the kids to their classes. And then I had a little breakdown, spending the next hour trying to regain composure. After church, the 911 officer phoned me. He told me he needed to talk to me in person. I asked if we could have a phone conversation. He was angry: “Absolutely not. If there is something more important you have to do, I can just arrest you and it will be up to the judge to decide your bond.”

I was a little surprised. “What would the charge be?” The officer said: “I am not going to discuss this with you.” I said: “I think I have a right to know what I could be charged with.” The officer disagreed. He seemed as indignant as a parent realizing that “because I said so” was no longer working.

Then, as if in an echo from police visits past, he threatened: “Do you know what I can do to you?

I calmly answered: “Yes, I understand you have power over me and you would like me to acknowledge that power by doing exactly what you say.”

Then, because I have a father who explained to me when I was little that cops often have issues with power and that they do not like to be questioned because there are situations where loss of control can be lethal, I told him I would be home in 30 minutes and would talk to him then.

Shortly after I arrived home, three police vehicles pulled up in front of my house and five officers put me in handcuffs, arresting me in front of my children.
So, that was fun.

At the police station, they discovered I was not a clear and present danger, just a mom trying to put distance between her family and a rage-filled man with a Glock.
Oh and kids, the man who threatened my guests, attacked his wife, kicked my dog and hit me received no charges whatsoever and was not arrested.

On the other hand, I was charged with trespassing, breaching the peace and assault.

After two hours at the police station, I was released on my own recognizance. Apparently moms of seven are a very low flight risk (sigh).

Things I Learned From Getting Arrested Today

1. Talk to your neighbors when you are frustrated.

Good God, if Mr. Git had just come over and chatted about whatever was irritating him, this never would have happened. Don't call the police when you have a gripe with your neighbor - just tell your neighbor and ask for change. I thought this one was obvious.

2. Even if authorities are angry and threatening, listen to your instincts to protect your family.

I now have a rap sheet, which is kind of cool, even though it may destroy my chances of ever going back to teaching, but I do not regret any of my choices. The officer later told me: “You should have stayed there and called the police. We can get there quickly.” But the consequence of waiting to see what Mr. Git was going to carry from his home could have been much worse. Guns and the threat of weapons up the anti on risk, and if I had stayed and brought harm to my family, well, that would be incredibly hard to live with.

3. Cops are control freaks.

But, maybe that makes sense. Custodians or house cleaners may have OCD, but that just helps them do their job.

4. People in power want to stay in power.

There are parallels between the cops needing me to validate their place in the power structure (and threatening me when their authority was challenged) and the threats and hate mail I receive after questioning the authority of others.

When I call myself a feminist or spread thoughts that upset the current order, those with privilege - those who have the most to lose - are the ones most likely to threaten or try to shut me up.

And yes, sometimes they ask if I know what they are capable of doing to me.

5. Stupid sexism is alive and well.

My husband is not my father, and I just checked the calendar again - we do not live in feudal times. I am a grown woman who speaks for herself. When I point out to officers just how ridiculous it is to ask for the “man in charge” (instead of simply talking to me), they must feel a little stupid. And if they have any power, calling them out on their sexism is risky, because they're much more inclined to use their power against you.

6. Domestic violence is also alive and well.

And it’s hard to detect when those who are being abused refuse to speak. My pregnant neighbor denied that her husband assaulted her. We all need to be better at saying something when we see something.

I called a woman's hotline today to report what I saw.

7. When people in authority have no accountability, it is terrifying.

Police officers pulled my arms behind my back and forcefully closed handcuffs tightly over my wrists (ouch). I was stripped of my physical freedom at my home, and in front of my children, without ever having an opportunity to make a statement or to explain to the officers what happened. I was cooperative, peaceful and respectful. Unfortunately my request to be taken in without handcuffs was rejected.

And earlier, when I went to the police station to share my concerns about possible 1950's style sexism, I was essentially told (again and again) that police officers are beyond criticism.

I liked it much better when I felt safe.

There’s a chance my arrest made the rage-filled Mr. Git feel powerful. If so, I’m okay with that, because I worry about what might happen to his wife if Mr. Git ever felt emasculated or powerless. That might be the most dangerous situation of all.

That might be the most dangerous situation of all.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Vacancy at the Hotel Uterus

Freedom is a beautiful thing
I think we can all agree that women are under a lot of scrutiny. A lot.
We are almost always too fat – unless we cross over and become “disgustingly thin” or a “skinny bitch”.
We are expected to behave, and we hear these commands all the time:
  "Smile!"
  "Sit up!"
  "Don't be pushy!"
  "Don't be too loud!"
  "You are too opinionated!"
  "Act like a lady!"
Wait, are those last four said only to me? No, I’m pretty sure they are universal.
I think.
We are constantly under observation: 
  "Sure, she lost some weight, but now her face sags."
  "I think she has had some work done."
  "She has cankles and her left eye is lazy."

From where I sit, women can't win for losing. This goes double for moms:
  "I don't know why she even had kids if she is never home."
  "She just lets those kids walk all over her."
  "She is a mess! If you can't handle the stress, don't have kids!"
Talking about not being able to win for losing, try that, women. Try not having kids. That will surely keep all that criticism off your ass.
Oh wait - no it won't.
You want to open yourself up to a huge stinking pile of judgment? Just be a childless female over 30. Even worse, a married childless female over 30. A woman who chooses not to have a child.
I have never been a childless female over 30, so I am not speaking from experience. But, I can tell you that I have never heard anything good offered up about women who exercise their right to live their life in a way that suits them.
I can also tell you that whenever I meet a woman who has chosen not to have children, she confesses that right away. Sometimes she will share this information apologetically, sometimes with a bit of compensating bravado, and sometimes just as a warning or heads-up that I may find her pristine ovaries all too much and take leave of her company forthwith.
Women would not be so preemptively defensive if they didn't all get a ton of shit for not having a kid.
This steaming pile of shit we dump on childless women is crazy for so many reasons, I feel compelled to enumerate them in my new blog segment, aptly titled:

WHY GIVING WOMEN SHIT FOR NOT HAVING BABIES

IS ONE OF THE MOST FUCKED-UP THINGS

YOU CAN DO



This title makes me happy.

1. It is their body, their life and their choice

That's right people, women are actually autonomous creatures with lots to offer the world besides their uteruses. They are not extensions of a man who can breed with them; they are not cattle impregnated for the good of the farm; they are not the unpaid nannies of the world, continuing the species, alone, on their exhausted shoulders.
They are humans, living in a society and oh so very capable of personal choice.

2. Overpopulation

Seriously folks, before you start laying into people about how "they must experience children, for they are God's gift" - try remembering that God has been a little too generous with the gifts when we consider what the planet can sustain. God is like the uncle who brings us a puppy and a drum set. They seem like a good idea, but we have no place to put the drum set and now we have to feed and care for the puppy. We need fewer gifts please, God.
I know I am opening myself up to major critique with this point, as I have so many “littles,” but that is just my point. When I encounter people who have opted for a childless life, I thank them:
"That is great! You may have noticed I screwed up the “just replace yourselves” thing and I really appreciate you helping me even it out. Besides, no sense in both of us going under."

3. Poverty

This is a very real consideration. It even has a name, the Feminization of Poverty, with lone mothers experiencing the highest risk for extreme poverty because their income is insufficient to feed their children.
So, before we get all high & mighty as we look down on women who choose to lower their risk of destitution, maybe we should stop a moment to think about it as a very wise choice.
Also, if as a society we are so hell-bent on every womb being sacred and therefore obligated to hold human life - perhaps we should help a mother out now and again.
Players all be like:
  "Have a baby! Have a baby! Have a baby!"
Then:
  "Girl, why you have a baby when you can't take care of it!??!!!"
Can't win for losing.

4. Babies Kind of Suck

You know, I love me some babies. I am a total addict; I always need to hold them –I will even ask complete strangers if I can hold their babies. And thank God I have a fertile family that pops those little poopers out every few years because there is nothing better than baby head smell.
Buuuuuut.... truth be told, babies suck the life right out of you. You give up your body to make them and your sleep and sanity to raise them. And you get to deeply understand the phrase “this is why we can’t have nice things” for at least 20 years.
When the littles are young you spend every moment making sure they don't die, and when they are older you spend every moment fixing stuff they have broken or looking for stuff they have taken.
Seriously. Can someone tell me which of those little fuckers took my body wash?
I love my kids, but realistically - it is not for everyone. It is not even for most people. If social pressure did not exist, and we had a really clear picture of what it was like to raise children before having them, I think our over-population problem would fix itself in a generation.
So, women who do not have children, you are perfectly complete and amazing.
You have to answer to no one about your mindful decisions and your powerful choices.
You are going to have more time and disposable income than those of us who made a different choice, so good for you! I hope you use both in ways that make your life and the world even better. 
The mandate that you must have children to be a "real woman" is completely false, but you are real.

How could anyone ever tell you otherwise?