Modern Horror for the Modern Woman

A short story by Laura A. Freymiller

I first noticed it under my bed a few months ago, but who knows how long it was there before. It was small at first. I only found it because of the bump.

It was about midnight, and I was tossing and not sleeping as I tend to do when Charley is out of town. I had woken from dreams of digestion, luminescent glowing fluids, and tentacles, when I felt the mattress lift ever so slightly and fall with a bump back onto the bedframe.

It reminded me of sharing a bunkbed with my older sister as a child. Sometimes at night if she was angry or more often if she was bored, she would lift the mattress with her feet and let it drop, so that I, sleeping in the top bunk, awoke with the sickening feeling of falling.

Here I was, an adult woman, with the same feeling of falling.

I got up, lowered myself onto my hands and knees and peered into the darkness.

It was small then, a lump half-hidden in the darkness, but I felt it watching me.

Charley came home the next day.

“There’s something under our bed,” I said.

“Hello to you, too,” he said.

“Just look at it,” I said. “Also I missed you.”

He kissed me.

“Under the bed?” he said. “Are you sure it isn’t on top?”

“Come and see,” I said and dragged him to the bedroom.

Charley dropped to his hands and knees beside me. He sat still for a moment. There it was, staring back at us. I forced myself to breathe evenly.

“I don’t see it,” Charley said at last.

“What?” I said. “Are you serious? It’s right there.”

Charley looked again. “Sorry,” he said. “I just don’t.”

I looked at the thing. It looked larger than the day before. I wondered whether it could laugh.

That night I felt the bed rise again and drop with a bump. Charley, sleeping soundly next to me, didn’t stir.

The next few weeks, I kept my eyes open. It hadn’t, as of yet, done anything more sinister than jolt me awake every once in a while. Still, I didn’t like that I alone could see it.

Or so I thought. Until one day when my niece was over to visit.

I love my niece. She’s a nice niece. I don’t get to see her as often as I want. As a teenager, she has a bit more going on in her life than hanging out with her aunt.

“Jenny,” I said. “I need to show you something.”

“Okay,” she said.

“It’s under the bed,” I said.

“You’re weird, Aunt Margot,” she said. But she followed me anyway.

I held my breath this time. Hoping against hope that it had indeed disappeared, that it was nothing more than my imagination. I didn’t say anything as Jenny took a look.

“Ew,” she said. “What is that?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“It’s scary,” Jenny said. “You should get rid of it.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ll try.”

The exterminator was as kind as he could be under the circumstances.

“Ma’am,” he said, “there’s just nothing there. I can set out the traps if you’d like, standard cockroach and mouse. But really I can’t do more than that.”

“Please,” I said. “Maybe you’re not looking hard enough. It’s there. Right there. Why would I be making this up?”

“I don’t know,” the exterminator said. He glanced nervously towards the door. “Why would you be making this up?”

“Can’t you just poke at it with a net or something?” I asked.

“I think you’re thinking of animal control,” the exterminator said. “Or a psychiatrist.”

“Come on,” I said. “This has to be a joke.”

He might have been joking, but his bill certainly wasn’t.

“Margot,” Charley said when he found out. “Are you okay? Is this about something else?”

“No,” I said. “It isn’t about anything else. It’s about that weird thing that’s under our bed. It’s getting bigger. And I swear the other day I saw it grab one of my socks.”

“Margot,” Charley said. He ran a hand through his hair, his thick beautiful hair. Probably one of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place. I looked at his face, so trusting, so trustworthy. He couldn’t be lying to me. He just didn’t see it.

“It’s there,” I said. “Please, just believe me. It’s there.”

By April it was so large I could see it every time I walked into the room. It had started to make little hissing noises whenever I walked by, something like air escaping from a tire, or hysterical giggling. One morning I found a pile of little bones next to the bed.

“We should move,” I said. “Please, Charley. Let’s move.”

“Margot,” Charley said. “It’s okay. Whatever this is, it will pass. I promise. It will go away.”

I tried to lure it out with cheese, raw meat, beer. Nothing worked. It stayed where it was glowering under our bed. I took to sleeping on the couch. I couldn’t persuade Charley to join me. I was scared all the time. I ate fewer and fewer meals. Started pulling out strands of my hair as I’d done in college.

Jenny came over again.

“Aunt Margot,” she said. “Are you safe?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It hasn’t done anything yet.”

“I’m scared,” she said.

“Let’s go see a movie,” I said.

We went to the local theater that was playing old-fashioned flicks. We watched a back to back screening of Roman Holiday and Sabrina. For a little while I forgot to be worried.

Until I got home, took off my shoes and felt it watching me.

I looked up and there it was in the doorway of our bedroom. It was larger than ever. Looking at me. Watching. Waiting. Hissing gently. Oh so gently. Mocking. Watching. Waiting to—

I grabbed my shoes and flung them as hard as I could. It hissed when they hit and sprang towards me.

I screamed and raced towards the kitchen, reaching for a knife–

It was on me before I made it two steps. Sharp claws and a heavy heavy weight. Dragging me down.

I screamed again, pushing it away, beating at it with my hands. It was so heavy. My lungs were in agony reaching for air. Its smell overpowering, I felt it sucking the oxygen out of me. Cutting into my arms and belly, my legs, my face. This was how I would die and Charley would have no idea.

Charley if only you’d believed me.

I woke up in the hospital. My arms in bandages. Charley sitting next to me.

“Margot,” he said. “Hey there.”

My head hurt. The sun was too bright. Everything hurt.

“Where?” I asked. “Where is it?”

Charley dropped his gaze to the floor. “Margot,” he said. “I love you so much, baby. I just love you so much.”

“Is it dead?” I asked. “Is it finally dead?”

“The doctors aren’t sure,” Charley said slowly.

He was talking from a million miles away, the bottom of the ocean.

“They’ve seen cases similar, but not exactly like this. I should’ve said something sooner. Picked up on signs.”

“It’s dead,” I said. “Just tell me it’s dead.”

“There was nothing there,” Charley said.

Outer space. His words could barely reach me.

“Margot, you did this to yourself.”

“No,” I said. “No.”

That night in the hospital, I lay awake, tossing and turning. When I closed my eyes I saw it again, smelled its breath on my face, the sharp claws, the suffocation. I heard Charley saying, “There was nothing there.”

I lay there in the hospital bed listening to the machines beep-beep-beeping away. The traffic outside my window. The ticking of the clock from the nurse’s station.

I felt the mattress lift ever so slightly under me.

And fall with a bump.

 

Laura’s Nth Cat-Call

Remember back in the day, back when I had never been cat-called? Ah, simpler times.

It’s been about a year since then, and now I’ve stopped keeping count. From the simple, “Hey there, beautiful” to the more complex “pulls-car-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-to-yell-that-he-‘wants-to-get-to-know-me'” there is an infinite variety to the cat-call. A subtle nuance to the ways in which I am reminded that my existence is not mine, that my body is not mine, that I am always and forever under threat.

If you’re a woman, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you’re male, you might think I am overreacting.

As a way to think about this, and all forms of microaggression, I have decided to buy an air-horn and blow it every time someone cat calls me.

Because that is what it’s like.

The first time someone air-horned you in the face, you could probably laugh it off, tell the story to your friends, let it go as just another ridiculous part of living in the city.

The second time, you might be slightly annoyed.

The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh times you’d probably start looking for ways to avoid this intrusion. Maybe you notice you get more air-horn blasts when you’re wearing certain things, or that more people with air-horns hang around certain corners. So maybe you change your behavior, but you still get honked at no matter what you do. You get honked at for smiling, you get honked at for not smiling. You get honked at when you say nothing, you get honked at when you try to tell them why their honking is unwanted. There is nothing you can do to make the honking go away.

Because the honking is not your doing. It is the system that gave these people the air-horns in the first place. It is the system that decided some people would have air-horns and some people would not. It is the people who have the air-horns who are choosing to use them.

And it doesn’t matter if they think the air-horn is a way of greeting, or a compliment, in the end, it is still an obnoxious and unwanted noise interrupting my otherwise pleasant day.

And perhaps if it were only ever air-horn blasts, we could let it go. But often these air-horns are simply the beginning. When people say things like “smile, beautiful”, I wonder what will happen when I don’t. Will I be hit by a car? Assaulted in broad daylight? Followed home? Or worse?

I’m tired of trying and failing to keep myself safe by toeing the line. I’m tired of the anger that’s made its home in my chest. I’m tired of the weight of silence, that oppressive voice telling me to smile, smile, smile.

So, I plan on purchasing an air-horn of my own. And honking back.

Here’s Why There Ought to Be a Cap on Men in the Government

I recently read “Here’s Why There Ought to Be a Cap on Women Studying Science and Maths” by a really swell guy named Milo. (Fun facts: he also wrote something called “How I Forced Glamour Magazine to Say I’m Not a White Supremacist”, so you know he’s a keeper.)

Inspired as usual by white men on the internet, I’ve decided to write my own essay about gender caps.

Here’s the hard truth, folks, governing is a difficult and thankless job. You’re going to put in long hours, people will complain to you constantly, and at the end of the day, you probably won’t even get a thank you.

And let’s face it, most men need constant adoration to do anything. Without the sun of approval, men wither up like fragile flowers. Women, however, have been doing thankless work since the dawn of time. You may have had a mother. How many times did you thank her for feeding you or giving birth to you?

Men don’t like to work hard. It’s not their fault. They are biologically designed to seek quick rewards. That’s why they aren’t mothers, and why so many families grow up in fatherless homes. But in the government, you need to commit for at least two years. That’s something that, statistically, men are unable to do.

Let’s look at the facts. Countries where men make up the majority of the government face high rates of crime, poverty, and political strife. In these countries, the death rate is 100%.

Men were not made to have emotions. To govern you need to understand what it is to be a human, and for most men, this just isn’t possible. So we need gender caps.

It’s been thrown around that about one man in a government should be sufficient. We’ll always need someone there to throw out incorrect or irrelevant statistics. And without a man, how will we women know whose approval to seek? So one man should be just about right.

We should institute this at the local, state, and federal level, and all the way down into the schools and the media. Men will no longer be asked to report on items that may require “sensitivity” or “subtlety”.

I don’t know how I feel about this segregation personally. I’d be interested to see what men would do when they no longer have to face the pressure to be moral, upright, and self-sacrificing. As we all know they have been.

Although masculinists want men to be a part of the ruling class, men just weren’t cut out for it. And it’s time we let them take their natural place. Like in the hard sciences, where they’ve been clamoring to be. They really really want to go back to the maths. I can tell.

Let’s free ourselves from the shackles of “political correctness” and enter the world we’ve been waiting for. Men, get out of the government.

Poem from Women’s March

There’s been a lot of discussion about the Women’s March and its purpose and its controversy and I support that. I’m still thinking about exactly what and how I fit into this movement. I know I need to be a part of it, that I must be a part of it, but I also cannot in anyway usurp or suppress the activists who have laid the groundwork for this movement to even occur. With these and many other thoughts, I have this poem which is just one of my many reactions to the march.

As always, thank you for reading my writing.

 

Little girl

dancing in the window

little girl dancing

long-legged grasshopper

gray-headed knight-gown

night grown rich with

sound.

Under sullen sky

dripping rain through lamplight

long feet marching

out of history

into history

out of fear

into awe

out of white

into dark and rich-

brown and gold and red and black as earth.

And above

in  the light-gray-brown-black-red moving swelter

little girl dances

dances on.

 

 

 

Why I Am Marching

The past few months I haven’t been writing.

I’ve made vague scratches at the page, but nothing felt like enough.

Donald Trump is nothing new. He is only the concentrated epitome of racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia that has long held our country in its claws. His rise to power, however, has granted the more violent racist elements of the country a feeling of empowerment. It is not a small thing that Neo-Nazis and the KKK have both supported the small-handed creature that has now been inaugurated.

The cabinet that Donald chose, or more accurately the cabinet that the power directing his incoherent hate-filled gourd-of-a-body chose, is full of people whose careers have been based on denying climate change, electrocuting young members of the LGBTIQA community, and accumulating wealth at the expense of the marginalized populations. They do not care about me or the people I love.

Already, many of the people I love have lost their health insurance with the repeal of major parts of the ACA. For those who don’t understand what it’s like to wonder how you’ll pay for rent and groceries and utilities, let alone trying to pay for doctor’s visits or heaven forbid emergency surgery … it is demoralizing. It has made the concept of surviving in the United States, a high-wire act already for women and men of color, immigrants, non-binary people, indigenous folks, and the many, many others, an impossibility.

I have felt overwhelmed by the urge to act, the regret at not having acted sooner, the fear that my actions may cause further harm, the frustration of feeling that even when I do act it feels at times insignificant. Even my writing, which has carried me through my darkest hours, even my writing doesn’t feel sufficient for this challenge.

But I’m writing now. I am writing because I need to raise a voice, however imperfect it is, however misguided and idiotic my thinking, I need to speak out against those who do not respect human life. No matter how insufficient I may be, I need to write.

I do not support a Muslim registry. Freedom of religion was a foundation of this nation, and those who claim to be Christian should remember the persecution that once faced their own religion. And should also recall a time when people were isolated based on their religion and then slaughtered by the millions.

I will not allow this to happen while I am alive. I will not. I will fight any semblance of such a registry with everything I have.

I will not support the loss of female autonomy. Reproductive rights, already so fragile, are once again threatened. The most basic right granted by joining a society, physical autonomy, is on the line.

I will not support the continued persecution, imprisonment, and murder of people of color. There has never been an excuse for this enslavement and murder. The fact that this evil has continued essentially unchanged since the 1600s is an abomination. We live in a country that time and again has sacrificed its soul in order to perpetuate a racial hierarchy.

Black women are six times more likely to go to prison than white women. Rates of sexual assault against women of color are higher than the rates against white women. Young black men can be sent to prison for years without being charged. Young Hispanic men can be murdered because they “looked suspicious”.

My words fail. My words will never be enough. But I have to write anyway.

This world needs saving. This world needs changing. And I must use my words as a weapon. I will write fiction that does not evade. I will write fiction that eviscerates. I will write to enlighten and uplift, to tear down walls and build houses. I will write when I cannot write. I will write.

At my core, I believe in love. Love is the way to fight against seemingly insurmountable odds. Love saves those who cannot be saved, recovers what has been irrevocably lost. Love forces my fingers forward, draws my hand across the page, when everything inside of me wishes only to erase.

I love you. I love you completely. I will give whatever I have to protect you. I will put my body between you and the bullet, between you and the registry, between you and the forces that wish to destroy you.

I am small and stupid and insufficient. I do not know anything. But I am here for you. And you are why I am marching.

You are why I am writing.

Who Controls the Narrative: Thoughts on Being a Woman, Luke Cage, and the Presidential Election

*I was working on this before the election and I wish I had published it back then, but I hope it’ll still be relevant.*

**Content warning: discussion of sexual violence**

Narratives are what we tell ourselves to make sense of a disparate and confusing universe. Narratives have power. Narratives shape reality, our sense of identity, and how we empathize (or don’t) with other people.

When you control narratives you are taking on great power, and, if you are a moral person seeking to forward social justice (big if, I know), you are taking on great responsibility as well.

Thought 1

I am a woman. And it seems that everyone has an idea of what that means. And moreover everyone would like to tell me what it means. Or shout it at me while I’m trying to get to work.

Some of the most frustrating things I hear as a woman are from very well-intentioned people who truly have my best interests at heart. They are seemingly innocuous things such as: “You’re walking home at night?” “You’re traveling alone?” “You’re living where?” “You’re going on a date with someone from Tinder?” “You’re moving across the country with no job or housing lined up and you know absolutely nothing about the area other than what you picked up from a thirty minute visit a year ago?” (The last one might be me-specific.)

I in no way want to downplay the seriousness of sexual violence or gender-driven abuse. Honestly at this point I’m surprised I haven’t been raped yet. I feel like it’s only a matter of time.

Which is the problem.

Rape is a terrible reality for many women. 1 in 3 globally, 1 in 5 in the United States.

But it shouldn’t be considered the norm. Even by me in my own head. Pardon my French but it is FUCKED UP that I think it’s inevitable that I will be raped.

This is the narrative that I’ve grown up with. Men rape and women are raped. Men are violent and will hurt me if I don’t live according to a very strict set of rules that control where and when I go places. According to the narrative, if I don’t behave according to the rules of an acceptable respectable woman, if I drink or wear the wrong clothes, I will be raped.

HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT. This is the narrative that goes through my head EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I’m not exaggerating. I’m not being dramatic.Women live in constant fear. Every day. Every interaction with men. We are weighing the consequences of our actions, judging whether we are within the bounds of the narrative.

This, we are told, is to be expected and accepted.  We are told it so often that we believe it, accept it, acquiesce to it.

There are so many reasons to throw out this narrative.

First, it isn’t even accurate. The rules don’t keep us safe. It doesn’t matter how we dress or act. We can still be targeted due to our gender.

Second, the fact is that anyone is capable of committing sexual violence and it is possible for anyone to be a victim. To say otherwise is to silence an already horribly marginalized part of our population.

Third, women are powerful. We do not have to live in fear. Living in fear is counter-productive to all the things I’m trying to accomplish. Particularly traveling alone. I love traveling alone. I’ve done it in the United States and abroad, during the day and the night. I will continue to do it. I love taking walks at night. I will continue to do it. I refuse to continue buying into a bankrupt narrative that doesn’t work for me. I can create better stories than that.

Thought 2

Now, let’s talk about Luke Cage. The best show on television right now. I don’t want to hear about Stranger Things or Breaking Bad or any of the other white-washed shows out there. I want to talk about Luke Cage. Because finally we see a narrative being controlled by someone other than a white man (0r even a white woman). It has a cast of black actors, shows multi-dimensional black men and women facing multi-dimensional problems. Not to mention the star-studded cast of black musicians. This is an example of the narrative being controlled by and for a minority. And it’s brilliant.

It’s certainly not the first of its kind. God, no. But it’s getting some well-deserved attention and is a particularly relevant, freeing, and constructive. Not to mention it’s also a hell-of-a-lot more interesting than the same “white man struggling with his fragile white masculinity” story we’ve been force-fed the last two centuries.

Thought 3

And so we come rambling-ly along to the current presidential election. I already wrote a piece about it. And I stand by what I said: even if Hillary Clinton has a troubling past, I believe that she’s willing to listen to her constituent. I believe she can change. I don’t believe the same can be said of the other guy. He has sexually assaulted numerous women and is likely to continue doing so. His hate speech is horribly destructive and inhumane.

I know that many conservatives are frightened. I know that they don’t want to vote for the corrupt wealthy elite (even though that’s what the other guy is). I know that they are familiar with and comforted by the narrative of a white man triumphing.

Which brings us back to point number one.

Women should be afraid, people think, so why is one running for president? She should be cowering, not attempting to hold public office. And why is she in support of minorities or immigrants, when all the minorities or immigrants they see are bit characters, stereotypes, or villains?

We need a new narrative. For women. For POC. For POC who are women and non-binary and queer in particular. We need to be writing and consuming and producing media that tells stories about and for these people. Because if we don’t we’ll continue to be trapped in this horror world, where women must live in fear, and men are trapped in a glass cage of emotion. Where POC are sent to prison or killed because they look like “a big, bad dude”. Where there are no “happy endings” for queer POC or queer people in general.

There is a mural on a wall in West Oakland, I see it every day when I ride the BART to work. It says “Culture is a Weapon”. I love this mural, and I take hope in it.

White culture, after doing our best to exterminate all other peoples on this continent, has sought to enslave or erase all other narratives. The power of Hollywood has done a lot to make this a reality, but it has not succeeded.

There are MANY wonderful examples of positive narratives, movies, TV shows, this thing called books, that exist already, and it’s our job to find out and support these voices. (Side note, it would be amazing if we could compile a list of these in the comments.) Let’s fight back with our votes, with our money, with our viewing.

We can change the narrative, not only through creating, but also by consuming. Think about what narrative you want to live in and pursue it.

Why Everyone EVERYONE Needs to Vote for Hillary Clinton

Friends, I have kept silent this election, mostly in stunned bewilderment. I thought it was funny at first, that this hateful peach of a man was running for presidency. Yes, I laughed at the farce of it, at the way it pointed out the flaws in our political system. Yes, the corruption, yes, the humor.

But it has stopped being funny. It is now deadly serious in the most literal definition of this word.

I am going to do my best, reasonably and rationally, to argue that we all, regardless of political background, beliefs, or emotions must vote for Hillary Clinton this election. I know that my arguments will largely go unheard, will largely be ignored, that people who have emotionalized their politics are unlikely to listen. But still I need to make this effort, because I do not want to live in a world where Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America. And I want to say that I did EVERYTHING I could to ensure that it would not happen.

So, I will do my best to unravel the major arguments I’ve seen against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump. Then I will scream into a pillow for a while since I’ve had to type that sentence.

1.) “I’m a Bernie supporter, and I’m so pissed off at the corruption of the political system that I’m going to vote for Trump just to prove a point”

I have a lot of very intelligent friends who I have heard make this argument. Largely spurred on by this article or articles like it. Which raises legitimate points about Clinton’s problematic past.

As with ANY politician in the United States government, Clinton has voted on bills that she and the country went on to regret. In specific the 1994 crime bill accompanied by the categorizing of young black men as “super-predators”. This is not something I take lightly. Everyone should read this article about Clinton’s track record with regards to African Americans. She needs to change, face up to her hurtful politics in the past, and listen to her constituents. All things I believe she is capable of doing.

However, it should be noted that most of the policies enacted were BILL Clinton and not Hillary. And anyone who is going to make the argument that Hillary is simply going to be another Bill may also remember the time when people argued not to give women the vote because they would simply vote for whatever their husband voted for.

Regardless, I do not expect that there is anyone with political expertise, who has been in politics as long as Clinton has will not have a unspoiled record. I also believe, perhaps most importantly, that Hillary will listen to advisors and constituents, that Hillary actually and fundamentally is trying. Yes, in the same way that your aunt who doesn’t quite understand about gender pronouns is trying. It’s still really incredibly hurtful, but at least you know that they are trying and that fundamentally they care about you.

Which leads to segment b. of this point. People voting for Trump to prove that the system is corrupt. If you truly believe that the system is corrupt, don’t vote at all rather than voting for Trump. If we elect Donald Trump as POTUS, we are giving up on the American experiment.We are saying that we have lost faith in our political system entirely, that we have given up on being a country that strives for equality and inclusivity.

But more importantly than some collective myth, if we elect DT, we are saying that we do not care for Latinx who have been called rapists and continually slandered throughout his campaign. We say that we do not care for women who have charged Trump with being an actual rapist. In addition to all the other horrible anti-women statements and actions that Trump has perpetrated. We say that we are willing to give up on all the positive changes we have seen because we couldn’t have the future we wanted.

2.) “At least Donald Trump is honest about being a bigot. At least he’s not a PC candidate.”

First, let’s talk about the idea and term of “political correctness”. Here’s the thing, I believe in honest and open conversations. I believe in getting to the uncomfortable truth of what is happening in this country. The prison-industrial complex, the support of rape culture, the Islamophobia, classism, racism, sexism. By all means, let’s talk about it. Let’s not shy away from difficult conversations.

But let’s have them be conversations based in respect, in a general willingness to listen and respond. Not a shouting match to see who can say the more hateful and idiotic statement. Political correctness is about recognizing and supporting people who have been continually traumatized by the verbal and physical hierarchy of our country. It is not about silencing people. It is about acknowledging that not all people experience language in a privileged way. All people should be protected from hate speech that has its roots in our violent past.

Secondly, PC is just a smokescreen. The same people who applaud DT for his “non-PC” methods are often the same who point out Clinton’s “super-predator” comment.

3.) “People are just voting for Hillary because she’s a woman. What a stupid thing to do.”

It’s very difficult to unpack this one for me. Partly because for me it is (somewhat) accurate. But here’s the thing, if you don’t believe that Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president of the United States, you aren’t likely to believe anyone is. I’m not saying she’s best. I’m saying she’s most-qualified. If you heard Obama’s killer speech at the DNC you know what I’m talking about.

Additionally, YES IT IS TIME THAT WE HAD A FEMALE PRESIDENT. It took us this long to elect a black president. Let’s not regress when we have a chance to move forward. We could make history again.

For every woman who has felt afraid to walk alone at night, who has been told she shouldn’t travel alone, that she won’t survive in a STEM field, that she is nothing more than her looks, that she should smile more, that she was asking for it, that she won’t be believed, that the world is too much, that she is too weak, that she is too aggressive, that she is the wrong kind of woman. For all those little girls out there with aching hearts, for all the women who fought for the right to go to school, to vote in elections, to be seen as people.

For all of them:

IT IS TIME WE HAD A FEMALE PRESIDENT.

And I’m not going to be bullied by the argument that it is somehow silly for me to vote based on gender, that it is irrational and irresponsible. People never vote for rational reasons. It has always been and always will be emotional. That’s why the candidates always go for either hope or fear-based arguments. Because they play our emotions, and they work.

4.) “I’m a Bernie supporter and I’m voting for no one. Because Hillary would ruin America and Trump would ruin America. It’s okay, Trump won’t win.” (Additionally, voting for Bernie/Jill Stein/etc.) 

Please, I beg you, for me and for whatever future you hope to have for yourself, vote for Hillary Clinton. She will listen to her advisors, she knows how to compromise, she has the support of people whose opinions you respect. She is respected internationally, is not an alleged rapist, and can make it through multi-syllabic words. No, she is not perfect, but I believe she will move us in the right direction.

If DT becomes president we are saying goodbye to rights for our climate, black people, immigrants, Latinx, LBGTQ, lower SES, and international relations. You will essentially be giving up on the ideals you claim to espouse. You are saying that all the work that your candidates did was for nothing.

5.) “I’m a Trump supporter because he’s honest and he makes money and he is tough and he supports American values and gives us a vision. Etc.”

To read what white wealthy cis-male privilege sounds like, give this a read.

So if you believe that sort of stuff, I doubt you’d have made it this far through the article. But just in case you did. Trump does not have a firm grasp on reality. He has lied so many times, he has gone bankrupt so many times, he has relied on hatred and fear and demagoguery, and the long-ingrained idea that because there is (slowly oh so very very slowly) starting to be more inclusion of black Americans, Native Americans, Latinx Americans, Asian Americans, LBGTQ Americans, etc. in our society, that this somehow corrupts the pure white bread America we all know and love. He spouts hate and fear.

So, I guess if that’s what you believe to be the core of the United States: hatred and fear rather than hope and love, then, yes, vote for Trump.

Conclusion:

The United States is not a perfect country. God knows I’ve cried this year. God knows I’ve been angry, unable to sleep more times than I can count. The shooting at Orlando, the Stanford rape case, the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. There is so much that I hate about this country, its history, its racism, its patriarchal capitalistic society.

But I believe it can change and grow. I am not ready to cast it, and myself and everyone around me, to the wolves just yet. I believe that we have made progress over the past 600 years, too little progress, yes, but still progress.

Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. But I believe Hillary Clinton is also capable of overcoming her racist past, just as the United States is. I believe that she will listen to her advisors and to her voters, and that she will work for what we pressure her to work for. I’m not saying she’ll do it on her own, but I believe she will respond where we push her.

I cannot say the same of Donald Trump. I do not believe he has any idea of how to lead, to listen, or to be a decent human being, let alone the president of the United States.

If we do not go out to vote for Hillary Clinton, if we do not do our best to convince others to do the same, then we are giving up on all the progress that we and those we respect have made.

So, probably everyone will yell a lot of things at me. Which is fine. I’m posting my opinions on the internet. I don’t claim to know everything and this article may not speak to or for everyone. I also reserve the right not to respond, because I sort of have a life.

Yes, absolutely, I’m with her.

Deconstructing Sexual Assault

Content Warnings: Discussion of sexual assault and discussion of mental health issues.

Just watched The Hunting Ground the other day.

I am so inspired by the people, especially the women, who were a part of this project. I am so humbled by the strength of all the survivors who came forward, and so thankful to all the survivors who were a part of the project even if they never appeared on camera.

To survivors everywhere, you are loved. I believe you. I want to support you in any way that I can.

I am angry. Which is not particularly unusual for me. I am trying to wrap my head around the causes of rape and sexual assault. Fundamentally it is not a crime that makes sense to me. Sexual assault takes away a person’s sense of self. It alters their view of the world in a deep and personal way. It does not make sense how one human can perpetrate such a crime against another. It does not make sense how some people do not see this as a violent crime. Or how some people are “confused” about what is and what isn’t sexual assault.

I would like to interview sexual assailants to figure out what happens in their heads. Though according to the lead psychological researcher on the matter, David Lisak, there is no one psychological profile for rapists.

Here is a list of common motivations, though. The purpose of this is to help fight these factors. Every individual is responsible for their actions, but if we can figure out the commonalities we can start to deconstruct them and decrease their future influence.

This is to those who may have or may again assault someone because they “didn’t know”. This is to crush the idea of “ignorance” as an excuse for sexual violence. This is to deconstruct the “blurred lines” and “gray area” surrounding a lot of the sex people seem to be having in high school, college and beyond.

Confusion is not an excuse for committing a crime. Confusion is not an excuse for taking away someone’s sense of self. Even if the legal system in our country seems to believe it, I don’t believe it, and I will do everything in my power to ensure justice.

So without ado, here’s a list of what might be contributing to sexual assault:

Toxic masculinity

Unless you’re living in some strange alternate reality where humans have been replaced by genderless candy canes (which, let’s be honest, I’d love to join you in), you may be aware that the world has been suffering under the yoke of toxic masculinity since… forever. It is present in our must every interaction, internalized, and at this point self-perpetuating. But not impossible to dismantle.

By toxic masculinity I mean the idea that men are (and should be) superior to women. The idea that men are and should be (must be) stronger, more intelligent, and less capable of emotions. The idea that men be hard, muscular, large, loud, confident, and violent. The idea that men must make more money and have more sex and carry more guns. The idea that this has been “coded for in the genes”.

I’m a biology major, and I may not know much, but I can tell you that this is absolute idiocy.

At the core of toxic masculinity is fear. Fear, ultimately, of death. If men are big enough and loud enough and “smart” enough and “logical” enough, we are told, then they will not die. If men can dominate women and anything “feminine”, then they will not die. If men have large enough penises, then they will not die.

Here’s the thing: everyone dies.

I’m a biology major, and I may not know much, but I can tell you that this is absolutely true.

But what exactly about toxic masculinity drives men to sexually assault women or other men? You know other than the whole need to dominate and degrade anything feminine thing…

Toxic masculinity contributes:

Emphasis on Violence

To be male in America, we are told over and over and over again, is to be violent. The ideal way to settle things is by fists not words. If you have seen a movie in the past century you will know what I mean. Manliness has been equated with the ability to overpower others. This expresses itself in many ways: manspreading (the process by which a man takes up more physical space than is necessary), mansplaining (the process by which a man takes up more verbal and intellectual space than is necessary), and, of course, sexual assault.

(Aside: A fun game to play if you want to see manspreading in action- as you’re walking down the sidewalk and you see a male approaching, do not move out of his way. Continue walking in your set trajectory. The looks of confusion and anger on the male face are priceless. Men are accustomed to women making room for them. They get all flustered when we don’t. It’s cute.)

Probably any bizarre men’s rights activist who somehow stumbled on this site will get angry and say that manspreading and mansplaining and the like aren’t actually forms of violence. False. Violence is about force. Men who push themselves into other people’s lives physically or verbally are enacting violence.

They have been told that they should do this by society. They do this when they sexually assault people.

Emphasis on lack of empathy

How men live with themselves after committing assault is also due in part to what they have decided to believe about their maleness. I do not like to talk about suicide lightly. It is something that has impacted my life very deeply and very personally. (Feel free to check out this blogpost for more details.) That is why I am so pissed off at the fact that many, if not most, survivors of sexual assault experience periods of severe depression, including suicidal ideation. Many commit suicide.

Has there ever been a case when an assailant committed suicide? Ever?

This is because toxic masculinity tells men not to feel what others might be feeling. They are told not to empathize, that empathy is weak and feminine rather than courageous and human. If men could for even the briefest moment understand what life is like as a woman, they would never commit sexual harassment of any kind again. But they shy away from that looming cliff edge, because if they understood the depth of what has been happening and is still happening to women, they might not be able to handle it.

So the assailant doesn’t feel for their victim. They shut them out. Dehumanize them. Treat them like a receptacle for whatever bullshit the assailant is trying to run away from, rather than a person with a life and emotions.

Emphasis on lack of communication

Then, of course, there is the lack of communication. Men, we are told, don’t talk. Talking is for women. Women talk. If a man does talk it is always “logical” and “rational” and “very very important” so we should all sit up and take note. (See above discussion of mansplaining.)

For a man to talk during or before engaging in sexual activity, that would be like… crazy.

Or required.

Communication is a keystone of healthy sex. It is not antithetical to it. If a woman wanted a silent partner, she’d get a vibrator. It would be safer for her.

Sex at its best is about the togetherness of humans in the metaphorical or actual creation of new life. Even if not at its best, it is about pleasure. Both of these goals require communication between partners.

It is when people fail to communicate, or when they stop listening to their partner, or never bother to ask in the first place, that sexual assault finds its foothold. If you cannot carry out a conversation with your partner, you should not be having sex with your partner.

Entitlement

This is not completely separate from the toxic masculinity bullet point, but it deserves its own place.

Entitlement is necessary for sexual assault to occur. When someone is raised to believe they have a right to everything, this eventually comes to include someone else’s body.

There are many types of entitlement that may come into play.

Economic Entitlement

Sad truth, a lot of the sexual assault that occurs on college campuses are carried out by the wealthy. This is partially because there is still a perpetuation of the wealthier getting wealthier through the higher education grist mill, but it is also because many who were raised with money believe that they are entitled to the world and that if they make a mistake their money will protect them.

And in the capitalist society in which we live, they are often supported in this belief. When a student files a complaint against an assailant, they are often provided with a pro bono lawyer responsible for their case. Most wealthy assailants will use their family lawyer who has resources and who can postpone the case. The longer a case drags on the more difficult it is for the complainant to continue it.

Think of the amount of effort it takes to re-live a trauma over and over again. Many survivors want to put the case behind them, and a drawn out complicated complaint process makes this difficult if not impossible.

Racial Entitlement

Probably not surprising to anyone, the amount of assailants who are straight white males is… predominant. The number of survivors who are POC is also predominant. Does it shock any of us that racial entitlement is at play alongside these gender dynamics?

It shouldn’t.

We are a country built on the back of a violent racial hierarchy devoted to continuing itself through any means necessary. Ideas of racial superiority still live on and enact themselves in the same ways they always have.

If you never want to sleep at night ever again read “At the Dark End of the Street” a discussion of the sexual assault women of color have been enduring since the founding of the United States.

Other Forms of Entitlement

“The Hunting Ground” did a fantastic job of pointing out the other intersections of privilege that go into many college assaults. This includes the existence and power of fraternities and the undeniable might of college sports. (Another book to read “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer.) When (primarily) young men are told that they have a right to special treatment over and over and over, when they are told that they will be supported no matter what they do as long as they pledge the right house or continue to play well, are we surprised that these same young men are the ones perpetrating the most assaults?

Again, this is not an excuse. It is simply pointing out another area that requires assessment.

If we distance ourselves from our capitalist, racist, violence-obsessed roots, we are working towards a reality that doesn’t include rape.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, a rapist may be motivated by all of these factors, but they are still a rapist. If you coerce a person, through emotional or physical intimidation OR through drugs or alcohol OR if you force yourself on another person OR if you do not have verbal and physical consent such that even your mother would tell you, yes, honey, go ahead, then you are a rapist.

I am done tacitly supporting sexual assailants. I am not okay with people who claim they did not know that what they did was wrong. Guess what, your fucking knew, your victim has to live with what you did for the rest of their life.

I am done with people explaining that everyone makes mistakes. This is not a Miley Cyrus song, this is people’s lives and emotional well-being. Raping someone is not a “mistake”. Assaulting someone is not a “mistake”.

I am done with people who defend assailants. Oh no, they’re suffering from the consequences of their actions? Someone give them a sucker. If we are choosing to be part of a society, then people need to be held responsible for what they do.

In conclusion, rapists may be motivated by many factors, and we need to examine how we are intentionally or tacitly supporting these factors, but ultimately YOU are responsible for what YOU do. And I am done putting up with bullshit.

 Final Note: I would like to acknowledge that I’ve been using a lot of gendered language. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by male-bodied individuals against female-bodied individuals. But I want to point out that sexual assault and violence occurs against men and is perpetrated by women as well. Here are some statistics about rape in America: 1 in 6 women will be raped, 1 in 33 men will be raped, 1 in 4 transgender men and women will be raped. LET’S END THIS.

 

Laura Tries to Say Something Again

CW/TW/Generally I don’t want to take people places they don’t want to go: discussion of sexual violence and misconduct

I am a woman, and I am a human being. I have rights despite being a woman. I have rights because I am a woman.

Recently on the campus from which I graduated, there has been increased discussion of sexual misconduct and the complaint process. I fully support this increased discussion. It is necessary to create and foster a community that allows students of all genders to study and grow as individuals. I believe that is the point of a college, after all.

Now would be a good time to take a break and read Missoula by Jon Krakauer. If you don’t know about the complaint system in institutions of higher education or the way they work with/against/alongside the criminal justice system, it is a good starting point.

It does not, however, give a very good look into the way that sexual violence impacts a community. It does not explain how when someone you love is attacked, the world looks different. I do not mean metaphorically, I mean literally colors are darkened, figures appear to be fuzzy and misshapen.  The people you once trusted and believed to be friends now appear to be strangers. You have difficulty recognizing faces. You may end up having a visual hallucination that leaves you cowering in the basement of the concert hall for twenty minutes during a cappella practice. For example.

It does not describe the feelings that come when someone you once dated assaults someone else. The feelings of guilt and shame and utter disorientation. That someone you once loved is capable of something so heinous, that perhaps there was something you might have done to stop this from happening.

I do not know how to process these emotions appropriately. But I do know that I do not want others to go through similar experiences. I do not want the campus that I loved for four years to become an alien terrain to anyone else.

Sexual violence is unacceptable.

To those who do not see their victims as human, I have nothing but pity and anger for you. You do not have the right to take your fucked-upness out on anyone else.

To those who “mistakenly” violate someone else. Drunkenness is not an excuse. Uncertainty is not an excuse. If there is ANY doubt in your mind about whether something is wanted, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to be absolutely 100% certain.

If you do not have verbal and physical consent for a sexual act, do not do it.

Perhaps the fear of sexually assaulting someone should replace the constant fear of being sexually assaulted.

Perhaps the consequences for sexually assaulting someone should in some infinitesimally small way be equivalent to the consequences of being sexually assaulted: depression, feelings of isolation, decreased ability to function in social situations, PTSD, increased involvement in risky behaviors, loss of sleep, difficulty concentrating on school, significant time devoted to complaint process, etc. etc. etc.

Perhaps I don’t mean perhaps at all.

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE VERBAL AND PHYSICAL CONSENT FOR A SEXUAL ACT, DO NOT DO IT.

Take care of yourselves. I am sending all my love.

Some-Bunny is NOT Hoppy

TW: Sexual harassment and LOTS of cursing

Hey there, me again!

So, I got to be the Easter Bunny on Sunday! Which was actually one of the best things ever. I figured out the only way I like to interact with small children is when I am completely covered in synthetic fur, wearing a giant plastic mask, and I don’t have to talk at all.

I got so many little-kid-hugs and little-kid-high-fives and so many little kids saying “Happy Easter, Easter Bunny, you’re so soft!”. I got to see all the little kid faces filled with little kid joy and I didn’t have to be in actual physical contact with any of them. My favorite were the ones who were really shy but then eventually gave me fist-bumps. SO GOOD!

But there was one interaction that was, to say the least, unwelcome. I took plenty of pictures with adults, lots of grandparents, and embarrassed teenagers and the like, so when one group of adults asked if I’d come take a picture, I did my standard Easter Bunny thumb’s up which was my way of silently saying yes. Nodding in the Easter Bunny costume was something of a challenge since it was about five times the size of my actual head.

I went over and joined the group, sweating profusely, barely able to see anything, and silently counting down the seconds before I could head back to my safe haven to rest for a few minutes before making another round. All was well, until I felt a dude’s hand on my breast.

If you had asked me before what I would do in this situation I would have given you an earful. I would yell at the dude, probably punch him in the face, at least get him kicked out of the restaurant for the rest of his life, and then hop off in a righteous rage. I am a strong independent woman and I don’t take shit from nobody.

And here is what I actually did: nothing.

I got out of the group as quickly as I could, finished my circuit of saying hi to little children, and finally made it to the back room where I could take off my rabbit head and breathe.

I was so angry. I couldn’t even tell where to start. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I just wanted the dude to die.

Because here’s the thing. He made me feel ashamed. Ashamed that I didn’t say anything immediately. I know I should have, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. I didn’t want to spoil some little kid’s Easter by submitting them to an Easter bunny beating up a douchebag. I didn’t want to worry my managers who were already swamped on one of the busiest days of the year. I didn’t want to tell my friends because they’ve had to deal with this shit enough. I didn’t want my family or other people to get upset over something as stupid as this. I only told a few of my male friends because, as predicted, they didn’t get it. I was angry and ashamed and I finally experienced firsthand why most sexual harassment or sexual assault cases go unreported.

By the time I got myself together again and re-bunny-suited-up, the group was already gone. So I told myself there was nothing I could do about it anyway. Nothing except replay over and over again all the stories of my friends who have been assaulted, all my fellow women who have experienced harassment like this and so much worse.

If there were ever any doubt that it’s not about what you wear, here it is. I was wearing a MOTHERFUCKING EASTER BUNNY COSTUME. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe, could barely see, and was mostly there because I’m kind of broke at the moment. I was trying to bring joy to some little kids and I was GROPED.

If there were ever any doubt that sexual harassment leaves its victims silent, here it is. I, who for all my life have believed in myself as a person and a woman, couldn’t bring myself to turn in one idiotic asshole.

If there were ever any doubt that ALL WOMEN experience sexual harassment, sexual violence, or sexual discrimination, stop doubting it.

To the asshole who groped me: fuck you for making me doubt myself even for a second, fuck you for taking advantage of me when I was already on the verge of passing out, fuck you for turning something that was otherwise completely joyful into something horrifying, fuck you for reminding me of all the terrible things men do to women.

I refuse to let this sully my life. I had an awesome time being the Easter bunny and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I feel honored that I got to be a part of so many family’s celebrations. It reminded me of my family and how much I love and miss them. I am still going to take joy in all of life’s experiences. I am still going to go on walks alone at night. I am still a strong independent woman who doesn’t take shit from nobody.

I refuse to be beaten by assholes like you.

Happy Easter, everyone. Take care of yourselves.