Thursday, September 27, 2012

I'm Still Alive and I've Been to C-ville on Lost in DC

Seth came for a visit in August, to celebrate my birthday with me, and we decided to take a brief trip to Charlottesville.  Neither of us had been to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (our adventure will be detailed in the next Lost in DC post) and wanted to spend most of a day there.  But first we wanted to check out C-ville (as it is evidently referred to by the locals).  

Charlottesville is located in the Piedmont Plateau, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the Rivanna River running through.  The city has been independent (not part of a county) since 1888, but serves as a cultural center for the surrounding area.  You will not only find Thomas Jefferson's mountain-top home, Monticello, but the home of learning he founded, the University of Virginia.  [read more...]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Breaking the Surface

I have officially received a much-needed kick in the pants from Meg.  I was working on the post The Silence Stops Now this morning and I kept feeling like something was missing or that I was really skirting the issue at hand.  Mary and I talked about it and she told me that if I felt something was off, I should sleep on it.  But I hadn't posted in a few days and I couldn't see how else I'd change things, so I published the post anyway.  

I can't say it was an absolute mistake, as I don't think it's a horrible piece of writing, but I have to say that I should have listened to Mary.  I'm also thankful to both her and Meg for having my back, while still being able to call me out when I don't say something that I should.  As Meg did in an email to me today, pointing out (very gently) the fact that harassment is what Marcotte was addressing, specifically, in It's Really Time for the Harassment to End on The Raw Story.  From Meg:
I read your post.  It's good, but I think I was still hoping for more.  I feel like it only scratches the surface of how serious and prevalent sexism and harassment are.  Women deal with it every day, to the point that it's regarded as commonplace.  But we are still having to legally combat sexism in the workplace, church, etc.  
I think this is just a hot button issue for me.  I see it, I hear about it from my closest friends, I have to deal with it myself, and it doesn't seem to be getting that much better.  When I read your post, I realized that you didn't go down the harassment road so much as the general sexism one.  And then I was reminded of all of my working-in-church moments, and growing-up-in-private-school moments - where women were truly treated like second class citizens in the most passive and unassuming ways.  The "it's for your own good," "we're protecting you," and "you were actually created not as smart and not as strong as men, it's okay."  Then when you are as smart and strong as the men you're working with, it seems difficult for them to swallow.
"I'm the Best" by Nicki Minaj is Meg's new anthem (at least, this part of it): 
All the girls will come in, as long as they understandThat I'm fightin' for the girls that never thought they could win'Cause before they could begin you told 'em it was the endBut I am here to reverse the curse that they live in

So the question of the day is why did I hesitate to talk about harassment directly?  I suppose because there are so many levels to it - things get complicated very quickly.  And I don't actually want to bash men in general or be negative at all.  But, admittedly, I kind of wussed out on that last post, though I did not intend to.  So here is what I feel, at the end of the day, having talked to other women about this and examined where I stand:

As women, we are not required to treat men the way they want to be treated.  While I prefer to use courtesy with my fellow human beings, I am not required to give my attention or anything else to anyone, if I do not want to.  I do not owe anyone anything.  My preference for courtesy, tact and diplomacy come from wanting to have a nice, positive experience with other people and hopefully get the same in return.  However, I will not respond well to acts of intimidation or attempts to make me feel guilty.  I will not put up with someone who tries to control or overpower me.  I would never do that to another person, why on earth would I allow them to do that to me?

There is a difference between being courteous, which both sexes benefit from, and being the one who always has to be in control.  That is, in the end, what the harassment is about - power, domination, control.  I don't care if you think you're better, stronger or smarter than me - you might be all three - you do not own me, control me or get to have me.  

The Silence Stops Now

A friend of mine posted a link to an article the other day that inspired this post.  Part of the inspiration was about things being said that really needed to be, but that no one wants to talk about or even acknowledge.  The other part of it was that I found the article so hostile and raw (which is absolutely appropriate for the site that it's posted on) that I wanted to address it in such a way as to reach those people who might turn away from something so strongly worded.  

When it comes to sexism and harassment there are so many lines that could be crossed.  And those lines do differ from person to person (we are certainly each allowed our own boundaries).  Some women feel that the majority of men they interact with are trying to get something out of them.  Some women think that any act of courtesy, like opening a door for a woman, is misogyny.  And then some women think that the rest of those women are crazy banshees who should stop complaining.  And, unfortunately, some women attack anyone who tries to point out that there is a great imbalance between the sexes.    

Allow me to take the middle ground here.  I do not feel it is necessary to reprimand every person who invades my personal space or attempts to demand my attention.  I prefer to be diplomatic when I can and get along with everyone as much as possible.  At the same time, I do have my boundaries and I am not afraid to enforce them.  I believe that both boys and girls should be raised to be assertive, to stand up for themselves as well as others, and to have respect for people who are not like them, whether that means of a different gender, a different race, a different religion - you get the idea.  

I do not want to lessen anything that Amanda Marcotte wrote in It's Really Time for the Harassment to End.  Although maybe I am compromising too much of myself, maybe I'm using diplomacy when I should be suckerpunching people (not that she's saying that).  I'm fairly certain that's how most of the men I know would respond to some of the things I've experienced.


When I was younger I didn't have the skills or the internal strength to fight back or walk away.  And whether they meant to or not, there were men who treated me in a way that made me fearful.  Now I am stronger and wiser, and possess at least some skills to deal with uncomfortable or unpleasant situations.  But I recognize that not every person feels strong enough to stand up for themselves and I do not think less of them for it.  Those of us who have strong voices would do well to use them when we see that others don't or can't.


I wrote recently about "trolling."  It remains a great fear in the back of my mind and when I see other bloggers dealing with it, I step in and help them wherever I can.  I hope that they will continue blogging, but I also understand why people get sick of it.  It is abuse, plain and simple.  It serves no constructive purpose and is harmful to everyone who comes into contact with it.  They benefit no one and they discourage those who haven't found their voice yet from ever finding it.  I suppose that's exactly what trolls are aiming for.  And I cannot begin to understand what makes a person want to be so toxic.


Aside from the day to day attempts we make to find balance in a world where too many people feel that their gender/sexual orientation/religion/etcetera should dominate and control, there are some very serious issues that get completely ignored.  I'd like to encourage everyone reading this post to check out the Facebook pages for Stop the Worldwide War on Girls and their new sister site, The Silence Stops Now.  Both pages provide information about abuse and violence that women suffer.  Neither are meant to tear down men.  They are about respect.  Equality.  Peace.  Understanding.  Making the world a better place for everyone.  These are the things we should be striving for.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

National Portrait Gallery on Lost in DC

When I'm not busy planning outdoor adventures for stormy days, I like to plan poorly for indoor activities.  Which is why the photos in this post are such crap (I forgot my camera and had to use my phone - remember that one time I went to the NY Met?  Yeah...) and there are so few of them (we left really late and didn't get to explore the whole museum before it closed).  So instead of telling you all about the fabulous National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum in Washington DC that I didn't really get to explore for very long, I'm going to share with you some of my favorite pieces currently on display that I did get pictures of.  I plan on going back to this one soon - definitely worth a visit.  It's also free and open till 7pm (a lot of the museums close around 5pm).  [read more...]