No Thank You

An empty office chair. The chair is red and it's in a rustic room.

The conference room was crowded. Again. It was always crowded. In addition to having too many meetings, there was frequently too many people in any given meeting. And, to add insult to injury, there were definitely too few conference rooms of substance.

There was enough room around the table for maybe fourteen people. There were an additional eleven or twelve chairs lining two of the walls.

The way conference rooms usually work had senior folks taking the seats at the table and the junior staff hanging out along the edges. Usually is not the norm in this room, though. Many interns and junior staffers read articles telling them it’s important to take their seats at the table. So although they had no substantive role in the meeting–not responsible for any action items, no speaking role and without relevant questions to ask or answer–the table was half-filled with the mute.

This day was like the rest. Musical chairs. Too many bodies for too few chairs.

A young woman walked into the room and stood along the edge. There were three other people posted up along the walls. The meeting was still convening.

One guy who was seated looked up at the late entering woman. “Here, sit here.”

“I’m okay.”

“No, really sit here.”

“I’m good.”

“No. Sit here,” he stood up his full six-foot three-inches.

“Seriously. I can stand. No problem.”

“No, I insist. I cannot accept you not taking this seat.”

He offered because that was what gentlemen do. He was brought up to respect women. To give up his seat. To open doors. To pay for dinner. That was what he was trained to do.

Somehow, though, she, and what she wanted was not part of his training. So it became not about her, and her sitting, but about him and him giving up his seat. And he demanded that she accept his offer of generosity.

I stepped in and said with a smile, “The lady said, ‘No,’ if we heard her correctly.”

He persevered on our young colleague. “I won’t feel right if you don’t take this chair.”

“It’s not about you,” I offered. “No means no.”

He looked at me with a flash of ire that immediately fell away. He meant no harm. He was doing what he was supposed to do. Except he was focused on his own will and his own need, not that of the object of his chivalry. He didn’t know what to do when his offer was not accepted. He had a role. She was stopping him. He had to reset, and he did.

She looked at me with a sense of relief. She didn’t want to fight over not sitting in the chair but felt pressured by him. She stood along the wall, as did a few others, for the duration of the meeting.

Here’s a new rule to add to one’s chivalry equation. When someone says “No thank you,” the correct response is, “Okay.”

Bottom line, if you are forcing your own desire or rules for someone’s benefit who does not share your perception of what they need, back off. Accept their choice. That’s the right thing to do.

Use the Right Words

Synonyms for LEWD. Like Naughty, suggestive, improper, in bad taste, indelicate, questionable, rakish, risque, unchaste, wanton. None are words of violence.

CAUTION: LEWD LANGUAGE TO FOLLOW

Yeah. Fucking STRONG language. Angry language. Because LANGUAGE MATTERS.

WORDS MATTER.

Like, what the fuck, Washington Post and others? Somebody says that he uses his celebrity to sexually assault women and you are stuck on the word P-U-S-S-Y?

Let me do this for you. Pussy. Pussy. Pussy. Did that make you squirm? Well that’s not the fucking point.

Using the word “lewd” (and sometimes “vulgar”) seems like something might make grandma uncomfortable. Synonyms for lewd are words like racy, naughty, coarse, lascivious.

Do any of those words conjure up an image of violation? Of violence? Of pain? Of cruelty? Of savagery? Of unwanted physical contact?

And YOU, editors and reporters, YOU who are leading with the word “lewd” are normalizing violence against women. As is the fucking standard script in rape culture. Can you tell I’ve had it with your shit?

I guess you have never had your breast grabbed as you walked down a dark hallway at a dorm party. Or had a strange man rub his dick against your ass on a crowded train. Or had someone put his unwanted hand on your crotch. Or someone kiss you full on the lips when you offered your cheek. You dad reporters out there, think about someone being “lewd,” as you refer to it, to your child.

Stop pussy-footing around. Words matter. Get this the fuck right!

Emily Doe and F-U

The silhouette of a woman holding her head.

As I was reading the brave and wrenching letter a woman read to her rapist at his sentencing, I started feeling sick. I began to curl up into myself as I read how she regained consciousness after a drunken blackout to find herself in the hospital where she began piecing together how she got there and what had happened to her.

I couldn’t stand to read it all, but because she was so strong and honest in relating her pain, I had to get strong too. I owed it to her to read it. All of it. Even the parts where her assailant never admitted to what he did to her. He raped her.

I have been cycling through sick, sad and mad since I read her words. Since I read that the rapist’s legal team, after realizing that she had blacked out and had no memories of the attack, decided on a strategy to continue attacking her. And, once again, she couldn’t defend herself because he could create a bullshit narrative that she honestly could not deny. Double-fucking-whammy.

Since I read that his “remorse” was for drinking too much and being sexually “promiscuous.” Neither of these are against the law, by the way. Rape is. That’s what he was convicted of.

Since I saw reports that the rapist’s father said that his son doesn’t eat his favorite snacks like he used to. Contrast that with the victim who “wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.” God, that hurts. So much. Worse than not having an appetite for pretzels.

Since I read that the judge in the case didn’t want to punish the rapist any further because he might have maybe gone to the Olympics (!? that’s a reason?! and he’d outswim Michael Phelps?), and that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” You think? Isn’t that the point, Mr. Judge?

Since after being convicted by a jury of eight men and four women, with a recommended sentencing floor of two years and a possibility of fourteen years in prison, the judge gave him six months in the county jail. Even though the judge said that the rapist didn’t actually acknowledge his crime; that the convicted rapist continued to say that the woman was conscious and consented, despite the jury findings. Mr. Judge said that’s okay because he’s not convinced that the rapist’s “lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him.” I mean, he said he was sorry. For something. Not the the rape he was convicted of, though. Seriously? The judge said that? Yes. He did.

Since every news story about this convicted rapist includes a clean cut photo of him, either from his yearbook or standing in a blue blazer next to his loving parents. You can’t find his mug shot from his arrest that night. A Google search will deliver mugshots of Reese Witherspoon, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson and zillions of other people who get arrested. Guess his lawyers are working to protect his image. You know, his future THAT HE RUINED BECAUSE OF WHAT HE DID.

Since “he’s been punished enough” and “they were both drunk” tropes continue to pummel the victim who the rapist’s attorney blames for not remembering the color of her cardigan or making a phone call. Again, for those of you watching at home,  let me remind you that drinking to the point of blacking out is neither a crime nor a substitute for consent.

Since I’ve pieced a night back together after drinking heavily. So I felt like I was punched in my stomach, and my throat, and my head, and in my vagina when I read how she learned about what happened and how the bastards used that against her.

I’m sorry. I’m incoherent here, but I’m back on mad. So mad. So, so mad.

And yet, despite all the assholes, I am impressed and grateful and lifted by the courage of Emily Doe. She reminds us all–graphically, honestly and humanly–of the multiple layers of dehumanization and accusation that victims of sexual assault bear.

And, most of all, I am giving hugs to the amazing Emily Doe, and every Emily Doe. And I pray that she, and her sisters, can find peace.