Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Do Women Have a Right to Defend Themselves?

 

There was a very powerful letter to the editor in the Nov. 23 NY Times, bringing a feminist analysis to the mainstream "legal analysis" of the verdict in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. The jury in Kenosha found him not guilty of murdering two people and injuring a third because he was "afraid." I quote Valerie M. Field's letter in full:
In "Self-Defense is Difficult to Disprove, Experts say" you write, "The acquittal points to the wide berth the legal system gives to defendants who say they acted out of fear."
Wow. Yet another punch in the face to the thousands of women abuse survivors incarcerated for acts of self-defense. This verdict had nothing to do with justice. This verdict was a clear message about power and control, and exactly who in American society is permitted to hold it.
So. When white men feel fear, they're entitled to kill who they fear -- which is quite easily accomplished with an assault rifle. When WOMEN fear, they're supposed to flee.

When women are on trial for killing their abusers, they'd better have a really good answer to questions like...
  • "Why didn't you just leave?"
  • "Why did you stay if you were so afraid of him?"
... or they'll end up in prison. Even if they had good answers as in, "He told he me would come after me and kill me if I left him," they can still get sentenced to prison for life.

Kyle Rittenhouse could have simply run away. Run run run, Kyle, as fast as you can, away from the crazy man with the skateboard! But that's not manly, is it?

AND, from the DomesticShelters.org website:
  • According to statistics compiled by the ACLU, women who kill their partners will spend an average of 15 years behind bars, while men who kill their female partners serve much shorter sentences, on average between 2 to 6 years.....Why are women being punished so much more harshly, especially when you consider this statistic: At least 90 percent of women in prison for killing men report having been abused by those men?

In this patriarchy, somehow it's more NORMAL for men to kill. You almost EXPECt men to kill. You know that old saying: "Boys will be boys." So even when they ARE convicted of murder, they get a slap on the wrist compared to what women get. After all, there IS no equivalent old saying, "Girls will be girls."

And what about lesbians? It turns out we have even LESS right to defend ourselves against male violence than straight women. In 1968, I was in one of the early consciousness-raising groups in New York City. Diane was the only lesbian in the group. She stopped coming to the weekly meetings, and we assumed she had dropped out. After being gone for two months, Diane re-appeared. It turned out she had been in jail.

She told us that one of her neighbors sexually assaulted her in the hallway of her building. However, Diane had been studying self-defense for years, and she threw him down the stairs. HE brought charges of assault against HER. Diane testified in court to HIS assault which had provoked HER assault. But his defense was that he could not possibly have sexually assaulted her because she was a lesbian and therefore too unattractive to inspire rape. That made perfect sense to the judge. And the reason she threw him down the stairs if she hadn't been assaulted? Why, that was obvious: As a lesbian, Diane hated men and wanted to kill them all!

To the judge, it all fit together perfectly, and Diane spent two months in jail.
Is that verdict any more absurd than the Rittenhouse verdict? That a boy with an assault rifle has the right to kill anyone he's says he's afraid of? Both verdicts are motivated by the biases of the patriarchy.

Yes, boys are permitted to be boys, which sometimes means you take an assault rifle and drive to a violent demonstration and kill people. However, girls are NEVER permitted to be violent, even when threatened with death by their abuser. And, if they do become violent, they will be severely punished for it.

Oh, and by the way, no man would ever rape a lesbian because they're so physically repulsive. And if SHE kills a man, it's because she wants to kill ALL men.

Patriarchy. Ain't it great?

That's all, my dear Bloggelinis. Terry


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

SPECIAL THANKSGIVINGS I HAVE KNOWN

 


Thanksgiving was always a big deal in my family. Because we were Jewish, it was the one big holiday that we shared with the whole country. Sure, there's Fourth of July, but people don't fly home for that. My mother always hosted. The only year she ever missed (until she got too old to manage a big party) was the year I was born (November 26, 1946).

I loved all those big family gatherings. I happen to have grown up in a very sane family, easy to be around. No turkeys hurtling through the air, no screaming fights, no boring drunks.

But I reserve a little corner of my heart for those special Thanksgivings away from my parents' home.


THE FIRST ONE: 1968

I was living in New York City in a tiny apartment on West 49th Street & Ninth Avenue -- in the area at that time known as Hell's Kitchen. I worked at a halfway house for former mental patients, Fountain House. The clients didn't live there but came during the day and hung out and worked jobs keeping the programs going. I was assistant to the social worker who ran the coffee shop. We didn't get along. I had this idea that I wanted to be a social worker, and I always got along great with the clients but almost never with the other social workers. Eventually I ended up in the Art Department where everyone, including the head, was an ex-patient except for me. I'd found my niche.

Anyhow THANKSGIVING. All my friends had gone out of town. I was alone on Thanksgiving for the first time of my life, and I felt lousy about it. I decided to walk to Times Square and see the Beatle's new movie, YELLOW SUBMARINE. At that time, Times Square was very sleazy with lots of cheap movies. I started down Ninth Avenue, and who should come along but an African-American Santa Claus on a bicycle built for two! He stopped and asked if I needed a ride anywhere. Of course, I COULD have walked the short distance to the theater, but who would refuse a ride on a bike from a black Santa on Thanksgiving Day? On ANY day? Not I!

When I arrived at the theater, I descended from my chariot, with the gracious assistance of my Santa. He bowed low and I curtsied my appreciation. The crowd that was watching burst into applause as Santa pedaled away. I joined the line.

Once inside the movie palace, which had seen far better days, I bought some popcorn and headed for the balcony. At some point in the movie, I recognized the laugh of someone behind me. I turned around and... if it wasn't John McGwynn, my ex-boyfriend's buddy, sitting four rows up with a bunch of friends! I went up to join them. I didn't know the others, but they were happy to include me. They were all stoned out of their gourds. They invited me home with them after the movie, and I ended up having a very stoned and jolly Turkey Day.


THE SECOND ONE: 1990

My good friend Pat Bond was in a nursing home. She had lung cancer. I was her best friend, so of course I was going to spend the holiday with her. Her roommate, Irma, was in a coma, which didn't make for the most cheery environment.

Suddenly Irma's big African-American family burst in. Twelve people hauling containers big and small, with turkey dinner and all the fixings. Mama Irma was the indomitable matriarch of the family, and there was no way they were going to spend Thanksgiving away from her as long as she was above ground.

Pat and I wondered how we were going to fit our little quiet Thanksgiving in, with all of these big loud jolly people in the room. But we were embraced, swallowed up. We became part of Mama Irma's family for the day. They insisted we put away the nursing home's holiday dinner and share their food.

Perhaps they were particularly jolly now that Mama Irma couldn't rule the roost. They confessed to us that they had all lived in fear of her. Mama Irma always told them, "You're on this earth to do good and be good!" -- and if you didn't live up to her ideas about those two activities, you would feel her wrath. She was a matriarch and a half!

So, although they were very sad that Mama Irma was comatose, there was also something to be said for it, especially on a holiday. They laughed and sang and told family stories, especially about Mama Irma. And then there was the amazing feast they had brought with them. Pat and I felt completely at home and had a wonderful time.

And that was Pat's last Thanksgiving.

I'm seeing a theme in these two Thanksgivings -- miraculous interventions by African-Americans.


THE THIRD ONE: 2012

I adored my Auntie Hannah. Well, everyone did. She was funny and warm and politically hip. She donated money to my campaigns when I ran for office.

Hannah lived in Los Angeles. She and my mother were very close, the last ones of their generation. Hannah used to say that she and my mom talked on the phone every day to do the L.A. Times crossword puzzle and to make sure they were both still breathing. Hannah was devastated when my mother died in 2011.

And then Hannah took a bad fall in her apartment. Her children, Miriam in Modesto and Sam in Jerusalem, insisted that she could no longer live alone. So she moved to a very nice assisted living home in Modesto in the Central Valley, to be near Miriam. They invited me for Thanksgiving.

Modesto is beautiful in the Fall. It's nickname is The City of Trees, and there were multitudes and they were all full of bright gold leaves. Actually, Thanksgiving day was perfectly nice, with dinner in a restaurant. It was the day after that was special. Miriam and I took a long walk under the golden trees, and she told me how happy she was to have her mother close. Then we went to see the movie LINCOLN, which focused on the last few months of his life when he was trying to abolish slavery and get the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed. It was a wonderful movie, and then we went to a hip and funky cafe and talked and talked.

It's not an exciting story. But the three of us were together on Thanksgiving, as we had been every single Turkey Day with the rest of the family for decades until all us kids started moving away. Now, only Hannah remained of her generation. And all the children of my generation were scattered. But the three of us were in golden Modesto together, eating Thanksgiving dinner in a nice restaurant, going to a good movie and hanging out in a cafe. Just having a wonderful time

A lovely memory.

That's all for now, Bloggelinis. Have a happy Thanksgiving Day. Terry


Friday, November 19, 2021

The Art of Disability Culture -- GO SEE IT!

The title of the exhibit speaks of "disrupting prejudices," and I'll tell you my prejudices were, not just disrupted but blown to pieces right away, when I saw the portraits above painted by the man on the right, Bill Bruckner. I mean, I expected to be moved, to feel good that I had gone out of my way to support people less fortunate than me. I did not expect to see ART with a capital "A." I mean just plain old interesting beautiful art. I did not expect the quality of the work.

And then this statement from Bruckner's website REALLY fried my brain circuits:
  • "As a person with a lifelong visible disability, I have been acutely aware of the patronizing, objectifying ways in which we are often depicted in the arts. Over the past 25 years I have been creating a series of portraits of my friends who have disabilities. Because I believe that our lives are neither pitiable nor inspiring, my intent has been to convey images of our ordinary dignity, humanity and self-respect. I hope you will feel that the people in these portraits are gazing at you with as much curiosity and interest as you may have about them."
"Neither pitiable nor inspiring..." Damn! Bruckner's making me face that even being INSPIRED by people with disabilities is a way of seeing them as "other." He refuses to be used as an inspiration. I don't know if I can handle that, even though I can see that it IS a kind of use.

When we entered the gallery, the first thing we encountered was not Bruckner's work but this:
How can I NOT be inspired by Matthaus Lam's elephant created especially for this exhibition from toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, and other detritus from the recycling bin? I think Bruckner's saying, "Yes, be inspired by Lam's creativity and resourcefulness. Start collecting toilet paper rolls yourself! You know you want to. But don't put a cherry on top of your appreciation because he's autistic. He's just a human being who happens to be an artist." Click here to watch a video about Lam and his elephant.


Below are two works by Katherine SherwoodDr. Speech and Neuron Nurse, both from the Healers of the Yelling Clinic series.
Sherwood says of her art:
  • "I think when you experience something so absolutely life-altering as a cerebral hemorrhage, you see that 'okay, I wasn't in control. And what's happening isn't just the conscious person inside of me.' Once you give up any notion of control, then I think life goes a lot easier. That's what I've experienced."
This very sophisticated and detailed work is about giving up control? Now, that's something to ponder. Sherwood is represented by two galleries.

There was so much beautiful and provocative work. And some of it had a very clear political viewpoint.
Michele Oteri's self-portrait is explicitly political. To the right is her memorial portrait of Tracy Park Milburn, a beloved activist in the disability rights community whose presence and spirit are greatly missed.

I want to end with work that relates to a very important event in the history of the disability rights movement.


This is Disabled Black Panthers in the Bay by Otis Smith, who is a long-time creative partner with Kriphop Nation, an international association of Black artists with disabilities.

The man in the blue jacket, Bradley Lomax, was part of the Section 504 protest in 1977 when over 100 disabled people occupied the San Francisco Federal Building. They were protesting the fact that nothing had been done to put Section 504 into effect. This law, passed in 1973, guaranteed that disabled people would have greater access to federal buildings. But by 1977, not a damn thing had been done to make it happen.
Disabled people occupied federal buildings all over the country. The occupation in San Francisco lasted longer than any others -- 26 days. Why? Because the Black Panthers supplied hot food to the protesters every single day!

My mind is blown again. Disability activists... Black panthers....What?! In fact, the San Francisco action was the longest occupation of a federal building EVER. And disabled activists remain grateful to the Panthers. Without that daily hot food delivery, the activists would not have been able to hold out so long.

As a result of the 1977 protests, federal buildings were made accessible and the ground was prepared for the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Here are some photos from that historic protest:
And here's the photographer, Anthony Tusler:


Thanks to Elizabeth for telling me about the exhibit. And thanks to Tara, herself a disability rights activist, for driving me down and filling us in on so much of the history behind the art and the artists we saw. Oh, and of course thanks to Nella, the best-behaved and sweetest dog in the world.

It was a wonderful day, full of revelation and friendship.


Bloggelinis: I took photos of almost every single work of art. I could imagine spending
a whole day in this exhibit, because every work has a QR Code that leads to lots of fascinating information about the artist's techniques and intentions and history. Terry

 

GLASGOW


It's easy for me to say -- and hard for almost everyone else in the U.S. to do anything about -- BUT:

Private passenger vehicles are not sustainable.
Even if they run on AIR.

It is not feasible for everyone -- or even every family -- to ride around in their very own personal 4156 pounds of steel (average weight according to a 2020 report from the Environmental Protection Agency).

IT DOESN'T WORK!

Besides the pollution caused by fuel emissions, there are:

  • Traffic Jams
  • Parking Problems
  • Accidents
  • Not to mention all the resources used and pollution created in the manufacture of PPVs.

SO FORGET ABOUT ELECTRIC CARS!
THEY'RE NOT THE ANSWER!

You might wonder why it's easy for me to say these things. I've been saying these things for 45 years. For some reason, even though I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I have never enjoyed driving. I was the only teenager in the history of the city that didn't get my Learners Permit the day I turned 15 1/2 and my Drivers License the day I turned 16. This is an absolute ironclad rite of passage in the City of Angels. Didn't do it.

Yes, I did learn to drive, very painfully. First, I took Drivers Training, a free class at high school. Almost all kids learned to drive from their parents BEFORE they took the class. They only took the class to get a lower insurance rate for their parents. In fact, I was the ONLY student in the car who didn't already know how to drive, which really pissed off the teacher, who had no interest in teaching anyone how to drive. He just liked talking to cute teenage girls. And I wasn't even CUTE!

When I took the final driving exam, my incompetence was exacerbated by the fact that I could barely see because my eyes were streaming. You see, I had gone to the horse races for the only time in my life the day before, wore my fairly new contact lenses, stared into the sun for hours watching the horses (I was a horse-crazy girl) and abraded my corneas. Well, I certainly wasn't going to wear my GLASSES! I was there with family friends and their SON who I hoped would ask me out on my very first DATE. (He didn't.)

So the Drivers Training instructor told me he was going to give me a D because if he failed me, then I would have to take the class again, to get the lower insurance rate. He couldn't take the risk that I might end up in his car again.

I KNOW all of this has nothing to do with Global Warming, but Blogmistress simply cannot resist telling stories from her sordid past.

THEN my parents took on the task of teaching me to drive, which they knew nothing about. The teaching, I mean. The very first thing my father had me do was try to parallel park one of the two family cars behind the other family car. Of course I rubbed the two vehicles against each other like they were cats in heat.

My father wasn't angry. He understood that we were both deeply flawed. He hired a professional, and I finally learned how to drive.

Admittedly there was a lot of pain and trauma in my introduction to driving. But even BEFORE that, I just didn't wanna do it. I'm a walker. I love to walk.

So yes, it is EASY for me to say:
WE GOTTA GET RID OF PPVs!

But just because it's easy, that doesn't mean I'm WRONG.

AND I am very much in favor of taxis --- subsidized for those who have trouble taking public transit like the disabled, the old, mothers of small children, whatever -- and UNsubsidized for rich folk. And yes, I also believe tradespeople need trucks to do their work. I'm not a purist. But everyone gets to have a car when they grow up?
NO.

I want to leave you with a very clear, entertaining and instructive video about Glasgow by a wonderful resource I've discovered: The Juice Media.


All for now, Bloggelinis. Terry



Wednesday, November 10, 2021

GOOD STUFF

GOOD STUFF #1
In my neighborhood paper, The Noe Valley Voice, there is a long report on housing, with some amazing information. A developer wants to build 24 new luxury homes on a vacant hillside in our very genteel neighborhood. He will be required to pay $3 million to avoid having to set aside any of the space for affordable housing. Nothing amazing about that, right?

BUT:
"Nearby residents are opposing the plans, arguing the entire project should be designated affordable housing."


Wait. Whaaat????

  • "Nearby residents are opposing the plans, arguing the entire project should be designated affordable housing."

Are these Noe Valleyans out of their minds? "We demand more poor people in our neighborhood!"

Thank you, my neighbors, for acting with compassion. Truly, we do not need more luxury housing in San Francisco.



GOOD STUFF #2
Alvarado Elementary School is a half a block from my house. I noticed something new when I walked by the other day:
THE KINDNESS ROCKS PROJECT
Of course I took one:
Be a
Frien
d
It's actually having an effect on me. I put it on the kitchen table, which causes me to glance at it often. Then I stop and ponder whether I have actually been a frien d lately with whoever I've encountered as I saunter/stumble/plough through my life.

Needless to say, the rock wouldn't be nearly as powerful if the child had been able to get the whole word on one line. My Kindness Rock is perfectly imperfect. I'm going to get a couple of flat ones when I go to the beach so I can be a frien d and make a contribution to the Kindness Rocks Project.

In case anyone feels compelled to get involved, Alvarado School is between 21st and 22nd St. on Douglass.


GOOD STUFF #3
THE CALM LINE
From the NY Times, Oct. 19:
"BOGOTA, Columbia -- A new hotline takes calls from men struggling with jealousy, control and fear -- and challenges assumptions about masculinity.The calls are often urgent and pleading.

I've hit my wife. I've lost my temper. I'm jealous and don't know what to do.

Callers are young and old, wealthy and poor. But they all have one thing in common: They're men. The new hotline they are calling is aimed at fighting violence against women. But instead of focusing on women, it puts men at the center of the conversation, in an effort to teach them to understand their emotions and control their actions.

The shift is simple, but profound. The idea of the CalmLine, as it is called, is not just to prevent violence, but to address what many experts say is one of its root causes: machismo, the often ingrained belief that men must be dominant."

This is a truly brilliant idea from Bogota, Columbia -- initiated by the government of the first woman and first openly gay mayor of that city, no less. In other words, SHE'S A DYKE!! The idea is simple. It's cheap. It's catching men who are controlling or violent towards women at the moment that they REALIZE they are being macho creeps, at the moment they want help so they can change. The men initiate the contact when THEY are ready for it.

"The creation of the line comes as women increasingly demand that society cast off norms that have limited them at home or in the workplace, even as they make strides in higher education, business and politics.

In recent years, women from Mexico to Argentina have poured into the streets in mass protests to push for the legalization of abortion and call for an end to the violence they have suffered.
A feminist anthem, 'A Rapist in Your Path,' written by a Chilean feminist collective, placed the responsibility for violence squarely on the shoulders of men, touching a nerve with women who performed it together in public spaces across the region, and then the world.

'The fault was not mine, or where I was, or how I dressed,' tens of thousands of women changed in plazas and public streets beginning in 2019. 'The rapist is you.'"

So. Women throughout Latin America are marching and singing for the end of patriarchy. And the city of Bogota offers men who are ready to look at their machismo:
  1. The Calm Line
  2. Free one-on-one workshops to work through issues
  3. A school for men, known as "Men in Care," to teach husbands and fathers how to tend to their home, their children and their partners
  4. A television mini-series, "Calm," featuring a cast of four male friends who support one another as they struggle with anger and control issues.

Bogota. Colombia.
My mind is seriously blown -- in the nicest way possible.
May Latin American feminists teach us all
how to transform the patriarchy from the ground up.


Bloggelinis, you haven't heard from me much lately partly because I have been busy with good things -- a Buddhist practice period, theater. But I also have not wanted to look at the world. It's just a bit too much. I want to hide. Perhaps you have felt the same way. But I must look at it, no matter how painful it is to do that. In fact, the more painful, the more important it is to look. I'm not saying I cannot take a break from looking. But I must return because, in the end, hiding from the world is an admission of defeat, which depresses me more. But engaging with the world lifts my spirits -- and, along with all the tough stuff, I find Kindness Rocks & The Calm Line. Terry