Aspirations of Justice

I have worked in a law office for almost two years now.  I have no preconceived notions of glory that will happen when I am a lawyer.  I know that clients will be needy and rarely ever grateful.  I know that clients will sometimes be their own worst enemy.  I know that even when they aren’t, there are plenty of other enemies out there wanting to pounce.  I know that you will go from being busy to having fifteen things that need to get done in the next fifteen minutes.

I know that you will never feel like you are caught up on your work, and you will always feel like you are forgetting to do something important.  I know that this work is exhausting, it is emotional draining, it is mental taxing, and some days it will break you.  But I also know that this work is important, because at its foundations is justice and fairness for all.  It is work that is worth aspiring to.

We as Americans tend to have an idealized idea of how our justice system works.  We like to think that we have the great leveler of justice right at our finger tips.  A place where the truth will also prevail and good will always win.  This is the courtroom of America that we put on a pedestal.  But I see a different courtroom.  I see a place where the innocent go to prison and the guilty go free.  I see a place where the victims are often victimized a second time by the justice system.

I see a broken justice system.

You may wonder why if I have lost so much faith in our justice system, why oh why am I so eager to jump in with the throws of attorneys and join it.  I will tell you why.  Because it breaks my heart to watch it happen, and I am sick of sitting on the sidelines.  I am sick of being the girl that complains about our justice system instead of being part of the solution.

I know that I can’t fix an entire broken system, but maybe if I can just fix it for one person, maybe that will be enough.  I know that truth and justice are unattainable aspirations, but that does not mean that we should aspire for them any less.  

My boss once told me that visibility brings change.   Meaning that if the common person in America knew what really went on behind closed doors, there is no way they would not demand change.

We fool ourselves into believing that we don’t have a voice, or that our voice doesn’t matter.  We don’t believe that we have any power to change anything at all.  Change will not come by us playing small.  Stop playing small.  Stop playing scared.  Stop pretending you voice doesn’t matter.  Stop sitting there telling yourself that this is just how life is, and stand up and demand change.  Get angry.  Get vocal.  Not in a way that we are fighting with against each other, but in a way that we are fighting with each other.  Demand visibility.  Demand change.  Because until we demand change, change will not come.   

Philly

Photo Credit: Lori Rensink

 

 

The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About by: Gretchen Kelly

 

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There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.

It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.

It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.

So maybe they don’t know.

Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth. That we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.

So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing.

Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.

We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.

“It’s the reality of being a woman in our world. It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.”

We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.

It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign.

It is the boss who says or does something inappropriate. It is the customer who holds our tip out of reach until we lean over to hug him. It’s the male friend who has had too much to drink and tries to corner us for a “friends with benefits” moment even though we’ve made it clear we’re not interested. It’s the guy who gets angry if we turn him down for a date. Or a dance. Or a drink.

We see it happen to our friends. We see it happen in so many scenarios and instances that it becomes the norm. And we really don’t think anything of it. Until that one time that came close to being a dangerous situation. Until we hear that the “friend” who cornered us was accused of rape a day later. Until our boss makes good on his promise to kiss us on New Years Eve when he catches us alone in the kitchen. Those times stick out. They’re the ones we may tell your friends, our boyfriends, our husbands about.

But all the other times? All the times we felt uneasy or nervous but nothing more happened? Those times we just go about our business and don’t think twice about.

It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.

It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.

It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.

It’s feeling shame and regret the we didn’t call that guy out, the one who seemed intimidating but in hindsight was probably harmless. Probably.

It’s taking our phone out, finger poised over the “Call” button when we’re walking alone at night.

It’s positioning our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon when walking to our car.

It’s lying and saying we have a boyfriend just so a guy would take “No” for an answer.

It’s being at a crowded bar/concert/insert any crowded event, and having to turn around to look for the jerk who just grabbed our ass.

It’s knowing that even if we spot him, we might not say anything.

It’s walking through the parking lot of a big box store and politely saying Hello when a guy passing us says Hi. It’s pretending not to hear as he berates us for not stopping to talk further. What? You too good to talk to me? You got a problem? Pffft… bitch.

It’s not telling our friends or our parents or our husbands because it’s just a matter of fact, a part of our lives.

It’s the memory that haunts us of that time we were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s the stories our friends tell us through heartbreaking tears of that time they were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.

“Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.”

It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this. They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.

Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.

The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?

So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on a regular basis.

Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.

It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the every day sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.

Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.

We de-escalate.

We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to, that guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.

Guys, this is what it means to be a woman.

We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex. That boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.

So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.

The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.

The next time you read about or hear a woman call out sexist language, don’t belittle her for doing so. Listen.

The next time your girlfriend tells you that the way a guy talked to her made her feel uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off. Listen.

Listen because your reality is not the same as hers.

Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.

Listen because the reality is that she or someone she knows personally has at some point been abused, assaulted, or raped. And she knows that it’s always a danger of happening to her.

Listen because even a simple comment from a strange man can send ripples of fear through her.

Listen because she may be trying to make her experience not be the experience of her daughters.

Listen because nothing bad can ever come from listening.

Just. Listen.

 

Original post found at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-kelly/the-thing-all-women-do-you-dont-know-about_b_8630416.html

I Never Meant to Become a Feminist

Because I never meant to become a feminist but I did anyway.

Because we have tried to silence women who stand up for themselves by turning feminism into a dirty word.

Because if I had a dollar for every time I was interrupted or overlooked then maybe I would earn equal wages.

Because I want to be able to walk to the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon without being verbally harassed.

Because I don’t need your whistled stamp of approval to know that I am beautiful.

Because we live in a culture where the girl is “asking for it” but she doesn’t dare ask to be left alone.

Because it is my body, not yours, and that means I get to decide how it is treated.

Because it is better to put on lipstick and not let boys be mean to you.

Because it takes away the shame of never being enough and replaces it with pride in who you are.

Because my mother was sexually abused and no one did anything about it.

Because my sister in law was sexually abused and no one did anything about it.

Because my best friend was sexually abused and no one did anything about it.

Because one out of every four women are sexually abused and no one does anything about it.

Because I had to learn martial arts just to feel safe in my own skin.

Because enough is enough.

Because it breaks my heart but it is easier to just be angry.

Because I never meant to become a feminist, but I didn’t like the alternative.

feminisim

Photo Credit: French by Design

Love Wins

If I am being honest I still haven’t decide how I feel about the issue.  I know that is wishy-washy to blog about an issue I don’t have a fully established opinion on.  Then again it this may be a nice breath of fresh air instead of everyone trying to prove why they are right.

But really this day is about more than legalizing gay marriage.  It is about love.  It is about the idea that some people are more deserving of love than others.  And I am not talking about the right to get married.  I am talking about the right to be treated like a human being.  Not a freak show.  Not someone who needs to be fixed.  Not someone who has done anything deserving of all the hateful comments they receive.

You may have your opinions on this issue.  That is okay.  It is good to have opinions.  It is good to know where you stand and to stand up for what you believe in.  But in the world of social media where we can hide behind our Facebook statuses, we seem to have crossed a line.  The line that says it is more important to be right than to communicate and see both sides.

We have set our goal on being right, no matter who gets hurt in the crossfire. 

This issue is a hard one for me.  I think that is why I have had such a hard time deciding where I stand.  I grew up in a very conservative community.  I still have those conservative roots in me.  That part of me grew up believing that homosexuality is a sin.  Just like drinking, dancing, and gambling.

Then I watched this video

And so help me if I didn’t get all emotional.  Because it is impossible for me to watch two people in love and not want them to be able to spend their life together.  Just like it is impossible for me to get to know someone who is a homosexual and think that they are horrible sinful people.

Which is why I decided to not decide an opinion.  It is not up to me to decide if it is right or wrong.  Just like it is not up to me to judge anyone.

Here is the secret: it doesn’t matter what I decide about the issue, because that isn’t going to change how I treat the people. 

Its an issue about people.  It is an issue about love.

So despite how you feel about gay rights, let this simply be a day in history when love wins.  For one day, let this be a day when the hate stops, a day when people can accept others for their differences.  Let this be a day when we can just put aside our differences and see each other as who we really are: human beings desperately in need of each other’s love.