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January 21, 2017

March on, Sisters and Brothers

I am not at one of today’s marches. I was invited by a niece to join her in DC, and I thought about it, but I’m doing a charity thing next weekend and taking time off work to do it, so two weekends off in a row wouldn’t work. She’s there, other nieces and my sister-in-law are there, and many former students are marching in NYC.

I’ve marched a lot in my time. I’ve been doing protest marches since the 70s, and have racked up marches in four countries. I’ve been out there for civil rights, police brutality, AIDS awareness, workers’ rights, anti-nukes, and I’m sure things I’ve forgotten. I’ve put in my time, and I’m frankly tired.

I also question the efficacy of marches. I think they had more impact in the 60s when they were something relatively new. But nowadays, I don’t think those in power pay attention to the “rabble.” It’s easy to say, “oh, Hollywood liberals spouting nonsense” or “That one’s always been an uppity troublemaker,” and ignore it. As for the rest, people who agree, agree. People who don’t, mock. I’ve not gone on much social media today other than Instagram, but I did see some “snowflake” comments last night and a wonderful “libtard crybabies” this afternoon.

But today I admit I was wrong about this one, and I wish I were there. This is massive, not only in America, but around the world. I think it would be very stupid and very dangerous to ignore this many women and men standing up for equality for women, for people of color, for LBGTQ+. But I think it was the pussy grab that really capped things.

Marchers today in their pink hats are calling for a stop to women being objectified and sexualized by men, especially men in power, who have a moral obligation to be role models, at least in public. While a reality TV star, Donald Trump said some things to women contestants that could have won him a lawsuit in the real world. Of course, in the real world, many women choose to ignore the overtly sexual comments and even aggressions in order to preserve their careers, though I am seeing a change in the behaviors of some people, which heartens me.

I am a very hard headed and realistic person as well as being the optimistic idealist. I revel in my duality most of the time. To those who say calling America a “rape culture” is hysteria, I say, oh really? I spend much of my professional life with women 18-26. I hear their stories of being groped, fondled, and even threatened and raped. I am 55, overweight and certainly nowhere near my prime, and I still get groped by men at work (not coworkers but customers) who think it’s all “a good joke”. Why do we get groped? Men think it’s their right.

When women use their voices on the internet, along with death threats come rape threats. We teach our young women how not to get raped. When I teach, I tell all my classes “don’t rape anyone. Now you can’t say no one ever told you don’t rape.” They laugh, but it’s uncomfortable laughter.

Young women on college campus and even in high school are raped every weekend. It’s called “date rape” but that’s just a pretty name for being raped by someone you know.

Most of these rapes are unreported. Why? Women have learned that they are the ones put on trial. What did they wear? What did they drink? Did they come on to him? If there is a conviction? Well, the Brock Turner case taught as to keep our mouths shut. It’s not worth the price. His future was considered more important that hers. And he was the rapist.

This is the 21st century. Back in the 1950s, my mother knew a NYC cop who made her go to a rape trial—one in which the rapist was caught “red handed”—and see how she was destroyed by the judge. That, for him, was a lesson she needed to see. That was over 60 years ago. Things haven’t changed and we’re still being shown that it’s best for us to keep quiet.

Sexual name calling, which can lead to sexual violence, is rampant.

Last semester there was a “Christian preacher” on my campus who called my students “whores” because they disagreed with him or wore what he termed revealing clothing. He called others “lesbians” because they wore pants. To him, that was an insult, to me, whatever. But that’s not protected speech under the law yet campus security did nothing about it. He told the young men they’d burn in hell, but he didn’t attack them sexually.

I’ve heard students I teach slut shame fellow students as well as celebrities. I’ve heard people trying to slut shame the new First Lady. I’m sorry. No. Double standards are not allowed.

There are very few sexual insults for men other than dick and maybe faggot, which are words that are also unacceptable.

Phew, I got angry there. I’ve had bad situations in my past, things I don’t talk in about in public not because I keep them bottled up, but because as I’ve seen over and over in society, when someone reveals rape, especially date rape, or sexual abuse, too many people see it as salacious gossip instead of someone’s personal pain. Or they see the person as a victim and pity them. I want no one’s pity. And I’m no victim. I was. But now I’m a warrior.

And hey, a message to a certain set of guys for whom the following shoe fits—think back to those incidents in college when you knew she didn’t want to, or she couldn’t speak for herself, but you did it  anyway. Know what? That was rape. Yes. Yes, it was. And she’s probably still really, really, angry with you. And she may just be ashamed. I remember having to physically bust in and save a friend who was passed out. Those guys who laughed at me trying to carry out the deadweight of a drunk and didn’t help me? I’m sorry, but you’re assholes.

Sorry, I went off on an angry rant there. And that just shows you how much anger is bottled up inside American women. The world’s women as we’re seeing today. I’ve worked very hard to purge the anger inside me, but every once in a while, it pops up and bites me in the ass like it just did now. I’m obviously still angry at those jerk fraternity brothers.

And now American women, at least, have a target for their anger. I hope someone in the government is paying attention. I hope these angry women go home and get to writing and working and watching their government. Maybe even running for office on the local, state or national level to more fully effect change. Politicians work for us, in theory anyway, and if we use our voices, some Congressional representatives might fear losing their jobs enough to challenge or do something positive to make America stronger and better.

To the women marching, I am there in spirit. To my bestie, sister-in-law, other friends and “nieces” and “kids,” you’re amazing, and I love you all. And to my blood nieces, especially, not only all of the above, but I am so proud of you, my darlings. Nana is up there singing and laughing and so proud that she passed on hell raiser genes.

September 25, 2012

Times have changed

Filed under: Uncategorized — by maggiec @ 10:43 am
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Read of the uproar in the UK news as a 15 year old girl ran off with her 30 year old maths teacher. I shook my head but then realized, wow, my 15 year old great grandmother married my 30 year old great grandfather in 1877 and no one cared about the age difference.

The big problem was he was RC she was AC. Not condoning the teacher’s actions, but just a realization of how the idea of “childhood” has changed and the roles of women have changed. G-Grandma went on to have 23 children (7 survived to adulthood), sing on the stage, emigrate, widowed at 40, became a midwife, reared a passel of grandchildren thanks to flu epidemic then died an old woman at the age of 60.

Out lives have changed so much. What would she have thought about her great grandchild? A doctor, not medical, but of philosophy. Teaches at a university. Lived in four countries to her two. Had one child and had him when she was nearly 30!  By that age, my grandmother had had 19 children!

There’s a book in this.  Someday I’ll write it.  But musings for the day.  I really need to get on here and write more.

I have written a poem about great grandma, so I’ll share it here

 

Motherland

My great-grandmother McCormick

used to move with alarming regularity.

Back then, first month’s rent was free.

No lease, I guess.

With strong-backed sons and few possessions

it was cheaper to move than to stay.

 

As I sit in my apartment today

I wish I had great-grandmother’s option.

Like her, I find paying monthly a strain.

What would she think of my rent?

Per month I pay about nine times

the average annual salary of back then.

 

Over a hundred times what great-grandma paid.

Per month, for the same two rooms.

Except I have hot and cold running water, heating,

and an inside toilet that flushes.

I imagine sometimes that she even knew this building

that was built before she  was gone,

though she lived on the East side.

This rough Irish westside neighborhood

might have beckoned sometimes.

 

What would she think of this great-grandchild?

I often think of her as I stride the streets she must have known.

But there is little left of her New York.

It was May 1883 when she arrived–

Her first act was crossing the newly-opened 

Brooklyn Bridge–a wonder of the modern world.

She died in summer 1921, still only 61.

Ten years older than I am now, yet an old woman,

worn by care, by chlldbirth, by poverty.

 

What would she think of this descendant?

I’d like to think the iron strength in my DNA comes from her.

Like her, I left my native land.

Lived with strangers, yet I returned.

She always hoped to return to Ireland.

I never thought I would return to America.

 

I thought of her–her hoping to return–

the first time my plane landed in Dublin.

She would be so thrilled that a McCormick had come back,

Even though I was never a McCormick, I was still hers.

I thought about settling there, but Granny, 

you would not know the place.  In 1922 it was freed–

But would you care, once-protestant daughter of Anglo-Irish?

 

But in our shared city,

I look for buildings she would have known.

So much of this city is new–

So new that it was not even here

when I gave birth to her great great grandson

in the city she had come to for a better life.

I was gone for fourteen years, and somedays

I look around, amazed, at the city that sprang up while I was gone.

 

Where you used to live there is a public college now. Sometimes

I would go hear speakers or poets there, and I always thought of you

and nana, your daughter, living in those streets, all changed now.

What was it like then, I wonder. I imagine you trudging the streets alone,

at night, returning home after long hours spent helping the labor of other women.  

Your own 23 babies gave you the knack for helping other women through.

 

Widowed alone in a foreign place, young ones still, more on the way

(twins who died at birth, perhaps a blessing, poor fatherless ones).

You turned to a profession you could do. The creative life,

the life on stage, singing, no longer an option for a woman like you.

You stayed in New York, your eldest grown and moving on. 

Building family here, family that has spread from coast to coast,

from north to south.  Your descendants cover America.

 

But one remains. Of all the countless McCormick spawn, 

one remains true to your city. Of all the cousins, just one

raises her son on the smaller island you came to all those years ago.

 

New York City is in my bones, buried there

by three generations of women

who walked these streets, loved this town.

My ties to it as strong as my ties to them–

Love carried on a cellular level, in the blood.

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