Suffer the Children

(TRIGGER WARNING – CHILD ABUSE – PEDOPHILIA – RAPE)

This morning was a very disillusioning one full of debate and controversy. It began with the sickening news of one of my literary inspirations being a real life monster. It has transformed into a conversation about whether or not people can separate the person from the art – and whether or not we should. It is an interesting argument and I believe being able to do so indicates a useful yet troubling skill borne of personal detachment, distance, and denial. Many disagree with me and say that the art in the world should stand on its own merit – regardless of the personality of its creator. In many instances I agree but I draw the line at child abuse. That is a hard line for me – and knowing that one of my idols was busy destroying her female child while she created a world of feminist heroines is truly horrifying to me.

Normally, I pay no attention to celebrity news because I too am detached and I don’t know any of those people nor do I really care about what they do. I make no judgements on how they live or how they die, unless they hurt someone along the way. Even then, I tend to be lenient because it doesn’t affect me personally – until it comes to children. I have no kids of my own by choice – but I do love the many I have in my life – and I cannot tolerate cruelty or abuse toward someone who cannot defend themselves. When Michael Jackson died, I think I was the only person on earth who refused to listen to his music or celebrate his life. When Roman Polanski’s victim recommended that the charges on her behalf were dismissed, I applauded her decision simply because it was hers to make but have still never seen one of his movies, nor will I ever watch a Woody Allen film. Bill Cosby, James Brown, Ike Turner, Chris Brown, Rick James – they were predators and abusers of women and family if even half of the alleged charges against them are to be believed and so was Hemingway. Millions of pieces of art, literature, comedy, and music would never be heard or seen if we judged it all by the disturbed people who have created it. Where then is the line drawn? When do we see the art as an extension of the drunken or cruel person who makes it and refuse to support it?

For me, it’s all about the children. I realize that it’s a shade of grey that makes me uncomfortable, in that one type of abuse shouldn’t be worse than another. All of it is deplorable. I just can’t get past the person who would prey on kids. It’s why I don’t read Ginsberg, despite what I hear is amazing poetry. It is why hearing the news of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s horrendous personal life is so upsetting to me. Her books were my first glimpse into feminism and how strong and beautiful the female identity could be. It shaped my personality, my preferred fiction genre, and my own writing. I was looking forward to sharing it with the young girls in my life as soon as they were old enough to understand. I am heartbroken that now I do not feel I can do that – and to have such an emotional reaction to such news is bewildering.

After all, I have already read everything I was going to read by her. The books are already purchased – I cannot undo it. The argument some posit about the fact that no proceeds can go to her anyway, as she is dead, makes some sense…and that not sharing a book that influenced so many women in the world could be considered a waste. I get that. I also feel that knowing what little I do about her alleged abuse has turned my stomach all morning and I can’t in good conscience use that book to help shape little girls’ destinies, not with hearing about what she did to her own little girl. I don’t think I can ever pick it up again, for that matter – though the urge to look for clues to her behavior in her fiction is strong. Hindsight is always 20/20.

The good news is that many of her co-authors or writers who wrote stories based on hers are now donating a large portion of their sales to things like RAINN or child abuse centers. That’s wonderful – and who knows, maybe I’ll read some of those. But the haunting work of her daughter, Moria Greyland, in music and verse is enough to make me weep, particularly her poem “Mother’s Hands”.  To support anything that has even a tiny connection to her mother, including sharing her very influential and inspiring book, after reading that piece is something I am not capable of.

Maybe I’m too sensitive. Maybe we should separate all the art from the artist and accept the darkness as something that does not effect the consumer. It’d certainly be easier. But how can we support the person financially or creatively while their victims plead for acknowledgement and help? How can we say that a book, movie or song is greater than the suffering that the creator inflicted on another human? How do we put Woody Allen’s genius in front of his daughter? I don’t think we can, without losing a little of ourselves. But, as I said, maybe I’m too sensitive. You decide.

(Scroll through the article to see the poetry)

http://deirdre.net/marion-zimmer-bradley-its-worse-than-i-knew/

Gerry Conlon

Today as I celebrate my birthday and my friends raise a glass to me, I will be raising one for Gerry Conlon and his family. I was heartbroken to hear the news today that this inspiring man has passed away in Belfast and it marks the only time I have shed a tear over the passing of someone I did not know personally. It was a goal of mine to meet him, and now I will not. Rest in Peace Mr. Conlon. I hope you meet your father again soon.

For more information on who he was and what his life meant to me, go here:

http://lightandthunder.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/gerry-conlon-r-i-p/

YesAllWomen

For the last week or so, the very amazing women in my life have been making lists and telling stories about being victimized. As humans we have always bonded over trauma, no matter what our gender is. These stories have broken my heart and made me admire and love the tellers even more fiercely, especially their ability to stay open and vulnerable despite the violence in their lives. Mine is nothing compared to many and when I can be grateful for that, there’s a very serious problem. I was going to skip out on the conversation except that an amazing woman asked us to keep them coming, so that she might be able to post hers someday. So here is mine.

*At age 6 when I had short hair and glasses, a young boy asked me if I was a boy or a girl. He bullied me into showing him when he didn’t believe my answer and then held me down and pulled my hair while telling me that I was the ugliest girl in the world.

*At age 8 my friend’s father started snapping my bathing suit, spanking me and grabbing at me under the water every time we went swimming. We went swimming every day, mostly at his insistence.25 years later, she called to ask if he had been molesting me all the years that he had been attacking her.

*At age 11, I was one of the first girls to wear a bra. Almost every boy in the class had to try to snap it or unhook it every day for the rest of the school year, laughing at my embarrassment and discomfort. Teachers and parents had a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude or a ‘they’re just curious’ excuse when I complained.

*At age 17, I was told that if I wanted to stay where I was living, I had to sleep with the guy who paid rent.

*At age 18, two male friends came to visit from out of town. One molested and mentally abused me, trying to force me to sleep with them both. The other looked at my torn clothes and my tears and only asked why I still wouldn’t sleep with him.

*At age 19 on the first day of a new job, my supervisor stood pressed against my back, grinding into me with his arms around me to show me how the job was done. When I complained to the boss he was called into the office where they proceeded to talk about my mouth for the 10 minutes I listened in before walking out, never to return.

This list could go on and on for every single year if I truly wanted to rehash all the trauma in my life. Instead I’m going to jump right back into the present.

*Every single day at least 3 people (friends and strangers, male and female) mention the size of my breasts and at least one tries to grab or poke them. Every. Single. Day.

*2 weeks ago I danced with a guy who told me I was beautiful when I really needed to hear it. When he got more aggressive and started picking me up, spinning me around and pinning my arms, I protested. He tried to kiss me instead of apologizing. I quit dancing.

*1 week ago I watched an acquaintance get pushy with a friend and many of us helped facilitate her retreat. When his attention turned to me I said no more than 6 times and smacked his hands away repeatedly before getting angry and violent, shoving him off his seat next to me and moving away. When I complained about his behavior to some of the best people I know, their response was that he gets that way when he’s been drinking and his behavior was not anyone else’s problem.

*For the last 3 weeks I have documented constant public threats against one of the best women I know from her ex. This continues every day while we lose sleep from too many miles away.

*In the last 6 months I have listened to men I know who are normally fair minded and sensitive say horrible things. One labeled a recent love a whore as soon as she did not choose him when they were BOTH seeing other people. Another one of my oldest friends JUST asked when younger women started dressing like whores. A third only posts passive aggressive quotes about women’s behaviors or half naked pictures of women on his news feed, all day every day. There have been no less than 4 “you hit like a girl” type demeaning jokes in the last 24 hours that have reached my ears.

PLEASE realize that these stories are everyone’s problems. #YesAllWomen doesn’t exist to bash men, nor does it exist to shove an agenda down anyone’s throat. It is to show you that even the strongest and even-keeled women you know are or have been victims, whether they look like one or not. Sure, not all men display these tendencies – but to hijack the vital conversation or to complain about all the lectures is detrimental to what could be a very big enlightening lesson. In every recent case, it has been MY job to leave the dangerous situations – when it should be that they never happen in the first place. Accept that it happens – that sometimes even the most considerate men have tendencies to lash out at women, just because it is totally ingrained in how we all grow up. Admit that your sons may pick up some of these behaviors – and try to mitigate that osmosis with better teachings and respect. When they start throwing things down girls’ tops or snapping straps, don’t laugh or roll your eyes, and instead show them why it is wrong. Stop being defensive and learn from the women in your life. Then stand up for and with them.  Make the world a better place instead of an angrier one. We beg you.

[Guest Post] #notalldrivers

At this point, I’d like to celebrate my talented and amazing friends. Thank you Ben Davis, for saying something so perfect – and to Whiskeypants for being so quick to put it up.

The Adventures of the Terminally Snarky

Reading many of the #‎YesAllWomen posts from most of my female friends, one thing comes repeatedly to mind. It’s from a radio interview Marisa did in regard to being a female motorcyclist in the Bay Area.

During the interview a man called in with so much hatred towards motorcyclists, it was terrifying. He even went so far as to promise that any time he sees a rider in his side view mirror he tries to “put them into the guard rail” and that he hoped all motorcyclists died horrible, painful deaths.

Traffic                               #notalldrivers

This is as close as I can come to understanding that feeling of what it’s like to be female in this society. EVERY TIME I RIDE, I think about that guy on the radio and remind myself that…

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Why Hedwig is so important

I flew to New York a few weeks ago and am only now catching up with the writing. My head has been so full of things to remember and talk about that the thought of beginning it has been overwhelming. All of it was such a whirlwind that it’s still all jumbled. I finally made a decision though and I am going to start with one of the highlights – Hedwig.

I think it is pretty safe to say that Neil Patrick Harris is amazing. Casting him and allowing him to elaborate and expand as Hedwig was not only brilliant for the money-making aspect of the production, but it also makes random television-watching humans want to go see the play. This is super important particularly now with all of the states that are tackling gay marriages and the bigoted reactions that we as a nation are all dealing with. That being said, these are not the reasons I was at the show. I flew across the country to see it, because as I said, Neil Patrick Harris is amazing. Hedwig is one of my favorite soundtracks of ALL TIME. I’m actually not really into musicals and I didn’t gush over the movie of Hedwig at all – however the music is brilliant and I had a feeling that this production would knock it out of the park. I was right.

My best friend is also in NYC for a seminar, so truthfully Hedwig wasn’t the only reason I went across the country. When I made him get a ticket, I think he was humoring me – knowing that it’d be OK but really he was there because I insisted. Due to poor planning, we were not sitting next to each other and instead I was sitting next to a woman from who knows where in her sixties or seventies. While we were waiting for the show to begin, I couldn’t help but overhear her loud complaints about being dragged to a “silly play about disgusting drag queens”. She was not shy with her opinions about “the gays” and that she “may not be able to tolerate that young Doogie Howser fellow after being forced to sit through this” by her granddaughter.

I was appalled. I looked around and emotions were mixed. Those who had heard her were either horrified and speechless like me or they were kind of silently nodding along with her, as if they were all there by some force that was not their own and were uncomfortable and disappointed by their very surroundings. I could not fathom paying so much money and traveling from wherever they came from to complain before it even began. I could not understand choosing that play to go to if you were truly so bigoted and against the characters. I was  totally confused by anyone who would say that OUT LOUD in this show.

And then I remembered. People love Neil Patrick Harris. They were going to sit through a play that went against their morals just so they could see him. They may hold it against him if it is bad, they may use him as an excuse to their friends or family as to why they were there, but they were going to go. It was a very strange realization.

I was no less appalled. The lights went down and I picked my jaw up off the floor – just to let it fall there again – but this time in a good way. Neil Patrick Harris’ Hedwig is the most beautiful train wreck to ever grace the Belasco theatre. The funny banter with the audience is crass and perfect. His acrobatic song performances have a life and a swirling energy of their own – and his ability to draw the crowd in to his every single word is breathtaking. In the more poignant moments, a sold out crowd was so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop – not even a shift in the chair or a cough could be heard. The theater was utterly transformed into Hedwig’s world – a world of the most heartbreaking pain and challenging taboos ever imagined. It was at once much more serious and much more irreverent than I ever expected – and I expected a lot.

I cried nearly all the way through the show…and I am not usually that woman. I looked over at my friend who had only bought a ticket to humor me and he was on the edge of his seat throughout the whole performance while occasionally throwing a fist in the air or bursting out with a belly laugh. The show was magic.

I had forgotten about all of the people around me – including the woman who had been so terrible before the lights went down. During the last number, the phrase “lift up your hands” repeats over and over – and many of us did just that. Because I was already familiar with the play, I knew the ovation would come 20 seconds later so I got to my feet to raise my hands. As I did, I looked at this judgmental, bigoted woman next to me and nearly fell over. She had tears streaming down her face and her hands in the air, just as riveted to the story as I was, and when the lights came on she jumped to her feet clapping furiously and reaching for her kleenex.

That right there is why reviving Hedwig right now, in this day and age of discrimination being written into law, is so vitally important. That is why casting someone like Neil Patrick Harris as the star is genius. This woman went from one extreme to the other in 100 minutes – but would never have been there at all except for who was starring. By the end, she didn’t see a “disgusting drag queen” – she didn’t even see Neil Patrick Harris – she saw a broken person sing his way out of the darkness. She saw a tale of love that every single person deserves and should be lucky enough to find – and she was fully engaged. It was amazing to see.

Now I don’t know how long that feeling will stick. She could have woken up in the morning and been the same person she was before she ever sat through that show. I like to think the next time she describes someone of any other proclivity that she will not use the word disgusting. I like to hope that she may not vote against “those people” ever again in her life and that she will always remember that play.

I know for a fact I will. My friend and I both were unwilling to leave the theater when it was done. He was more choked up and emotional than he ever thought he’d be and was blown away by the production. We let everyone walk out before we stood up again, choosing instead to talk about sexuality, gender roles, the white hot love people can feel and empathy for the broken among us who might never get that chance. When we walked out of the building, we sat on a concrete bench outside to continue the conversation and 45 minutes later when the stars came out a side door, I was lucky enough to tell them ALL that they were stunning and amazing. I know that everything is about Neil in the press and most of this post is too – but every one of those musicians works their fingers to the bone for that show – and they all deserve praise. One can’t happen without the other. When I walked away with almost all of their signatures (dammit Lena!) on my playbill including Neil Patrick Hedwig’s (as we have rechristened him) it felt like a dream and it does even now.

If I could, I would fly right back and see it tomorrow and the next day and the next because it truly is that good. I would also try to tell them about that woman – to let them know that they truly changed someone for a brief moment because I think it is important for people to know when they’ve gone above and beyond. I would have that night if it had been possible. And yet now, as I write this, I realize that they changed more than just her because witnessing her transformation due to their show gave me an extra bump of emotion, an extra inch of tolerance and a tiny bit of hope where there was only frustration before.

I guess I’ll go ahead and add that to the list of why Hedwig is so important right here, right now.

signed