Brock Turner was Not Convicted of Rape – Just of Trying

06.9.16


I want to talk about Brock Turner and his father Dan A. Turner in a new way. We are all outraged. We know that we have a problem on college campuses. We send our daughters to college with ambivalence and some amount of fear. We hope that they will not be sexually assaulted. We lecture them about drinking at parties, about going with friends, about watching out for each other. We send our sons and we hope that they will not fall into group think and victimize women by standing idly by. We pray that if they pledge a fraternity there is no abuse. We don’t have any way of knowing so we draw from our own experiences and tell ourselves, mistakenly, that it wasn’t so bad. It was.

Brock Turner was convicted of three felonies: assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. Though Brock Turner is a convicted sex offender he is not a convicted rapist, he is a convicted attempted rapist. I am not prepared to say that Brock Turner is not a rapist, he very well may be a rapist but that is not the felony he was convicted of. Just the other three.

Brock Turner is not a convicted rapist. Many millions of us have read his victims horrifying, chilling and profound words. We are outraged by his mild sentence, we are awed by her strength in her pain. We feel for her family, for her boyfriend, for her colleagues and our heart aches for her sister in unimaginable ways. We know her sister feels responsible. We know her sister is not responsible. Knowing things with your head and feeling them with your heart are two different scenarios. Brock Turner broke her sister’s heart.

He will go to jail, or perhaps prison, but not for very long.

Shortly after reading the victim’s words we were treated to Dan A. Turner’s statement where presumably his words were carefully chosen. They did more than demonstrate tone deafness. They sounded like an excerpt from The Idiots Guide to Raising a Sexual Predator.

“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

It is critical that we remember the horror that the victim endured. It is critical that we remember how broken she felt and how angry we are at the justice system. We need to keep in mind that almost all of America wants a judge removed because he gave a disturbingly lenient sentence to a man who perpetrated sexual violence on another human being. Violence that cannot be undone. It was more than 20 minutes.

The next time somebody talks about crimes as lesser please remember the impact on the victim. The next time you go on the Megan’s law website and see lewd and lascivious acts with a minor think of the victim’s letter. When you read “digital penetration” and think someone’s lucky they weren’t raped, think of the Stanford victim. Let’s use language well and shift the conversation from Brock Turner rapist to Brock Turner Attempted Rapist.

Emily Doe gave the world a gift with her words. Joe Biden is right, she did make the world safer. She did save lives. She also allowed us to see that sexual assault which does not include penis in vagina penetration is in an of itself a horrific crime and that we can acknowledge that as such. She showed us the rippling effect of violence when she talked about her sister:

When I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over again she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you. That night I had called her to try and find her, but you found me first. Your attorney’s closing statement began, “[Her sister] said she was fine and who knows her better than her sister.” You tried to use my own sister against me? Your points of attack were so weak, so low, it was almost embarrassing. You do not touch her.

Joe Biden published an open letter to Emily Doe today. It was heartfelt and compassionate and it spoke from our nation to a woman who deserved kindness and support. As an open letter it was for the country too. Unfortunately he left one line in that is both searing and cruel.

I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed.

Anyone at that party who saw that you were incapacitated yet looked the other way and did not offer assistance.

Read the victim’s words Joe. Please, before spouting off read what you’re responding to. Read the 7,000+ words this victim wrote and where she repeated over and over again that her sister was there, that her sister felt guilty. This is why people don’t talk about campus assaults. There are so many people hurt by it. A thousand small decisions led the victim to the Sex Offender and though there was drinking and gaiety and flirting and probably even hooking up there is one sister and probably a few other people who are wracked with guilt about this event and shouldn’t be. They are victims too. They should have felt guilty that she left drunk and alone, fell over scraped her knee and puked on her beige cardigan. How was anyone to know that there was a monster in the midst?

Should we all watch out for each other? Of course. Can we in every instance? No.

There is no fault or blame to be spread around. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If a crazy or drunk lady is walking down the street naked you do not have permission to put anything in her vagina, not your finger, not your penis, not your mouth. If a girl passes out at a party but was horny and kissy before passing out you still do not have permission to put anything in her, touch her breasts or any other part of her body.

We talk a lot about privilege and white privilege in particular (see the global financial breakdown of 2008 and the zero people who went to prison). We talk about treatment of elite athletes and the consequences they don’t have to pay. We know that something happened with Kobe Bryant,  we know that Mike Tyson served less than three years in youth correctional facility for a rape he committed at age 25. Ben Roethlisberger has a problem with multiple women accusing him of sexual assault and don’t forget Steubenville I could go on for ages but really we all know the story, it would be boring if it wasn’t so scary.

Because of obscene levels of privilege Brock Turner will not be in prison very long. Because of a broken culture of reverence of college athletics this judge Persky has let several other felons off easy.

Brock Turner has siblings. They will need to think about changing their names. I have no compassion for his parents. His father behaved abominably.

We need to choose our words carefully. You do not get a medal for not having taken advantage of a “promiscuous” woman. The same way that women don’t get battle for not grabbing the asses of men who are walking around without their shirts on. This Facebook update where a man talks about his heroic act of treating drunk promiscuous women just like any other was shared hundreds of thousands of times. Is that the best we can do?

Has no one read the victim’s letter? Is there anyone left who thinks that has anything to do with sex?

I want to call on everyone to pay close attention to the words we use because words are what created the situation we are in. I don’t care who you sleep with so long as it’s consensual. I don’t care if you’re gay. I don’t care if you’re straight. I don’t care if you dress up like a hedgehog and give blowjobs to dwarves. I only care that before anybody touches or enters your body that you have given them permission to do so.

And to the Stanford Victim’s Sister: Joe Biden was wrong. You failed no one.

#JusticeForHarambe: Group Think and Lack Thereof

05.29.16


In the past 24 hours I’ve heard the following:

He was protecting the child.

Why didn’t the mother watch him? Arrest her. Take her other children away. Where is CPS?

Why didn’t they use a tranquilizer dart? A tazer?

A Change.org petition signed by tens of thousands of Mrs. Kravitz’ on the Internet asserts that something is terribly wrong at home:

We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation. We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation.

America has lost its mind. We no longer own animals, we adopt them. We (not me, you) refer to pets as furbabies. We talk about smiling dolphins (their mouths don’t actually move) and currently tens of thousands of people know the intent of a four hundred pound Gorilla.

Michelle Beadle Harambe

In fact, we’ve so lost our way that one reporter and a few thousand of her followers don’t want to hear from the parents of the four year old child who could easily have died and fortunately only suffered a concussion. Does no one want to hear about the child’s health? Is no one curious why the zoo didn’t have adequate security?

Instead the Sanctimommys are out en masse. This could never happen to their child. They ask each other why she has so many children, why she can’t control her children, why she didn’t have help? They say she should be shot.

shoot michelle gregg shoot michelle gregg

There is chatter about the murder of Harambe. Let me explain something to you. Murder is a crime that involves two or more human beings. Harambe was a mammal at a zoo not a person. You cannot murder something non-human. Language matters.

There is no way of knowing if the gorilla was protecting the Gregg child. Sure, it looked that way to my Facebook friends and as much as I love them their expertise is more valid in the jungle of the Macy’s sale rack than the jungles of the African Lowlands. No one knows the intent of a gorilla. How was a zookeeper supposed to get the baby back from the gorilla? By having a conversation with him:

“Mr. Harambe, if you wouldn’t mind handing the toddler over now we’d like to bring him up the ladder and back to his family.”

As we distance ourselves more and more from our own communities, adopting pitbulls instead of children and building wells for brown children in Africa while simultaneously allowing them to die slowly in Flint Michigan we lose a piece of our own humanity. Why is no one asking how a four year fell into the enclosure? Why is no one asking why the zoo had such a serious security flaw. Why is no one saying, “That could have been me.”?

When did we fetishize motherhood to such a degree that four year old children are supposed to have two eyes on them at every second of the day? When did taking children to the zoo become something that only bad mothers do? Has no one been to a zoo lately?

Here is a sampling of the Change.org commenters who have given a gorilla a name but call a child a brat:

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 9.31.58 PM

The gorilla wasn’t tranquilized for two reasons. Firstly, this isn’t an action flick and the gorilla won’t magically fall to the ground while safely cradling the toddler in his arms. Secondly, the gorilla might get more aggressive and if the tranquilizer dart works they’d need to wait 10 minutes to find out. What might happen in 10 minutes?

We need to stop naming wild animals. We need to stop caging them too but that’s a discussion for someone else to have. We’ve assigned human characteristics to mammals and animals and it’s confusing to some people. Here are murders in Cincinnati within the past 12 months.  Where is the outrage for these lost human lives? Why don’t you know about 28 year old Dominic Gilbert or 34 year old Julia Boyajian? They were both murdered in Cincinnati in May. Why is it easier for you behind your screens to show compassion to a gorilla than to a mother and her child? What broke in your soul to create that scenario?

I, for one, am pleased that Michelle Gregg didn’t have to bury a child.

Who Owns Elotes?

05.8.16


In my kitchen there is a piece of art that I bought from someone called Old Chola. It’s a picture of elotes. I bought it because it’s a local artist who made a beautiful screenprint of a food that’s marked some of the greatest days of my family’s lives. Some people would say that elote is corn. Others would say it is street corn. Still others will say that calling it street corn is offensive because that’s just how corn is served in Mexico and that I’m guilty of cultural appropriation.

I know what cultural appropriation looks like. It looks like this:

And like this: 

And like this:

 

I’m not convinced that for kids growing up in the Southwest that Mexican and Central American cuisine and a love of it is cultural appropriation. I have two kids who played sports in the park more days than not and I assure you that not a weekend went by without three of us having elotes. Mr. G is a New Yorker and he doesn’t adore spice the way the kids and I do.

Do elotes belong to my children as they have been part of their diet since they had teeth? What about chicharrones or fruit cups with lime and chili (no salt for me please)? Everyone knows that these are foods that are best purchased from street vendors. Do we have to be Latino for elotes to belong to us? I share my bagels with you and watched as they were turned first into white bread and next into glittery rainbow things.

I understand the struggle of being first generation. I know what it is to have an American family that isn’t quite American. A family that speaks one language at home and another on the street. A family with different food, a different religion, strange music and yet still we are all American.

The Trumps and the Babybels and Happy Fruit in a Bag o’Crap of the world tried to take your culture and try to sell it to you in really annoying ways. I can’t tell you how many eye rolls I want to give during the winter when I’m told that Chanukah came early or late that year. It comes at the exact same time every year, the 25th of Kislev, and it is no more the Jewish Christmas than Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. Please don’t wish me Happy Passover. It’s not Easter. There are no greeting cards for Passover.

That border between the US and Mexico? It’s a wobbly thing and people have been criss crossing it since before you and I were born. You’ve brought your food and your art and it’s been here for enough generations that it’s become our food and our art. There is a Mexican American culture that Los Angeles and other cities have embraced and need. We love your music and your elotes. We don’t want to live in a world without jalapeños and every child in Los Angeles knows that there are Cholula families and there are Tapatio families. We have artwork for Dia de los Muertos because it surrounded us as children and it evokes a strong response. A smile, a feeling that we are home.

How can it be cultural appropriation if it’s our childhood too? At some point it’s just culture.

If there’s one thing that Donald Trump has done, it’s to bring to the forefront a national discourse on Mexican culture. Nowhere was that more evident than the web on May 5th. We know that whatever sort of taco bowl Trump had in front of his smug face was nothing like Mexican food. We know that May 5th is not Independence Day for Mexico and that getting sloppy drunk is more a frat house tradition than anything else.

We don’t have to be Mexican to have an opinion. We don’t have to be Mexican for elotes to be part of our culture. We’re not stealing your elotes, we’re just joining you at the table.

Update: If you have never tried elote this is how it is done in Los Angeles – typically with margarine and not butter

 

Stop Talking to Girls this Way

03.11.16


Pink posted this message to Twitter. I think it was supposed to be a jab at Kim Kardashian in all her nudity.

pink tells girls how to be strong on twitter

Thanks but no thanks. You do not get to tell other women that using their body, their sex, their tits or their asses to get attention isn’t okay when this is your profile picture.

Pinkdeborahanderson_112
That’s not how the world works.

Girls and young women may or may not use T&A to get ahead. Pink is certainly familiar how that works for us in certain industries.

Proof:

pink body pink underwear pink-cover-main naked

 

You can feel self respect with tits and ass involved. Pink is typically full of great messages for young women. This was not one of them.

Heaven forbid you’re 22, show too much skin in the wrong situation and feel badly about it already. Do you need this lady making you feel worse?

Is Mom Blogging a Good Career?

03.3.16


Mom Blogging was good to me. I had a good run, great even. I and many of my peers had the obscene luxury of making a living simply by living our lives.

I’m not sure if Mom Blogging today could ever exist as it did in 2006 or even in 2009. Publicists certainly got involved with bloggers quickly but marketers were a little slower to come to the party. To be fair, bloggers were slow to behave like professionals, especially me.

I meet women all the time who want to be Mom Bloggers. The reality is that Facebook made everyone a Mom Blogger. The reason that Mom Bloggers were able to earn a living a dozen or more years ago was because there was a high bar of entry. You either had to know how to build a website or afford to have one built for you. That meant that blogs were interesting. They were written by smart or rich people, and who doesn’t want to peek into a wealthy lady’s life (I’m looking at you Pioneer Woman). Of course the smart people are engaging because – well, because they’re smarter than you and I.

I’m not smarter than anyone and I certainly didn’t have more money. I just sort of stumbled into Mom Blogging at the right moment and did it a little differently than the others. Sometimes being different is helpful. Mostly though it got me shunned. Surely today will be no different.

Recently in a Facebook group marketers were comparing notes about how difficult it is to work with Influencers and the conversation quickly evolved into storytelling about which Instagram famous dogs have the most difficult owners and how hard it can be to deal with their agents. Yes, really their agents. Instagram has changed the influencer landscape dramatically. Who doesn’t remember the (not particularly complimentary) New York Times article about Instagram Kids? The reality is that Instagram dogs will die and mom bloggers (I include Instagrammers and YouTubers in this) will have their children grow up and be less adorable. Some of these kids will have their adolescence shared with audiences of various sizes and some kids will have parents who phase out their parenting sites because the stories are no longer shareable.

The moment to blog daily about motherhood and earn a living has come and gone. The space is crowded, ad networks are routinely late with payments and there’s a limit to how many sponsored posts people can read.

Before you ask yourself if you want to become a mommy blogger ask yourself what your child will gain from it, what your child will sacrifice for it and how you plan to pay your child for the use of their image.

France is in the process of changing laws so that children can sue their parents for the photos they post online. Yes, it’s absurd but it’s the first bit of legislation that I know of which addresses the fact that entire families are making a living based upon the images of their children. I’m waiting for the Jackie Coogan laws from film and television to be applied to the children of mom bloggers.

Let me challenge you with this: is mom blogging when you don’t really talk about motherhood but only about your children?

mom bloggers make money on kids

When people ask me if they should start a mom blog I tell them they should do whatever makes them happy. When they ask me how to make money from it I shrug. I really don’t know.

I know one thing. I know that kids in France may soon be able to sue for the funds that their mother’s Instagram accounts generate and I wouldn’t be surprised if some bloggers’ kids here in the US called a lawyer and asked for some of the family money to be directed solely at them. My friend Heather Spohr has most of her blog revenue go into accounts for her children.

Here’s a question though. What happens if you’re the child of an #AssholeParent. Do you have to wait until you’re 18 to sue them?

Asshole parents are assholes

 

Should you be a mom blogger? Well, you can pick up a dog for $45 at the pound and they’ll never know if you’ve used social media to humiliate them. So, yeah, maybe that’s a better plan.