So, something happened yesterday, and I need to talk about it. It was actually the last straw in a series of unacceptable behaviors, in which I ended up blocking someone from all forms of online contact. This person happens to be associated and responsible for a fairly well-known magazine. And while I have no intention of naming names, I feel like the experience might be more universal than I’d like.
This was someone I ‘met’ on Twitter. He had several friends of mine in common. He seemed nice and even sent me some merchandise for his magazine. We started talking on Gchat, which was fine at first. Except over a short period of time, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. If I was unavailable to DM on Twitter on the weekends, there were guilt trips (I’d declined giving him my cell number, thankfully). If I couldn’t Gchat throughout the entire day (because of work), there were guilt trips. The whole relationship started to exhibit hallmarks of a controlling boyfriend…except we weren’t dating. He is married, and I am not available. When it become clear that he was unhappy with my lack of time to chat, I explained myself multiple times (work taking priority). Each time, I came away from the conversation feeling as though nothing I said got through to him. I’d still, in his mind, let him down.
At one point, when we were still Gchatting, he mentioned a cat. I said that he should tweet a photo. Because, guys, I love animals. I’d happily coo over a photo of a hedgehog or whatever any day. Instead of doing that (safe and public, yes?), he emailed me a photo of the cat…and himself. Now, it wasn’t a dirty photo. But it still made me uncomfortable. Admittedly, toward the beginning of our correspondence, he repeatedly asked ME for a photo, and I did cave – I emailed one of me with my book. Because BOOK. The fact that he told me I looked ‘coy’ ensured that I would never send him another one again. Because I wasn’t coy. I was proud of my book.
Except, given that this IS the internet, he started replying to the photos I posted on Twitter. These were statements that made me feel increasingly uncomfortable, given the increasingly uncomfortable situation. Privately (multiple times) via Gchat, I explained that I was uncomfortable, especially in light of two instances where he tried to pressure me to attend writing conferences. (For the record, his response was basically the classic, “Oh, I don’t mean it that way.”) One instance, I flat out told him that I don’t think my boyfriend would appreciate me blowing him off for a weekend to attend a conference. The attempts to get me to go to the conferences weren’t simply, “Hey! This is cool. I’m going. You should go.” His behavior was coercive and almost…bullying. Some of this took place on Twitter, but there was much more behind the scenes. Eventually, a godsend of a friend told me that you can block someone from chat on Gchat, which I did.
That helped for a while. Except, since he wasn’t getting the response he wanted from me (and he gave me crap about not being available to chat), his behavior only got worse. At one point, I stopped posting photos on Twitter. Even now, I post less of them. The photos I share are just me being goofy, but I felt so uncomfortable and creeped out. They weren’t fun anymore.
So, why didn’t I immediately cut all ties? First, I worried that I was overreacting. I know at least four people (who are all LOVELY human beings) who know him. Given that, I worried that maybe I was just being sensitive. Maybe I was misreading the situation. But all these events kept piling up, until one giant red flag. In response to me mentioning a mutual friend, who I didn’t realize he knew, he said something like: Well, I know EVERYONE in this business.
Okay, I know a threat (veiled or not) when I see/hear it. That is clear cut intimidation. I’m a writer. I’d submitted to his magazine. Would there be repercussions if I cut all ties? I wondered. I worried. I hemmed and I hawed. Then, after mentioning this situation to a wise friend, she advised me to flee. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Just block and run. So, I unfriended him on Facebook and unfollowed him on Twitter. I did not block him on Twitter until this week, because I thought that he’d realize I’d done those things and then…go away.
I was wrong. In response to a tweet of mine, he replied in a passive aggressive manner – letting me know that he was a) still reading my tweets and b) pissed that I’d broken ties. His tweet was full of venom, and I didn’t need it.
This morning, it occurred to me that, maybe, this has happened to other people. Specifically, it made me want to approach our common friends and ask if they’d had similar experiences. Because there’s something terribly isolating in not talking about it and keeping it to myself. There’s something this person said, in passing conversation, that made think that at least one other person may feel the way I do – and may have experienced something similar to me. And yet, I can’t quite seem to ask the question. Why?
Then, I realized: I’m afraid. I’m afraid to ask the question and not be believed. Isn’t that why we keep quiet about things we maybe shouldn’t? Fear is a funny thing. Not talking about something gives a situation too much power. And I’m not a fan of cowering to bullies. Which, I suppose, is why I’m writing this post.
Here’s the thing that needs to be said: if you tell someone he/she’s made you uncomfortable (once or habitually) and that person doesn’t immediately respond with an “I’m sorry” AND a change in behavior, run. Apologies are easy. They’re just words. But actions reveal things that words can keep hidden or, at least, shadowed. You don’t owe such a person ANYTHING – not even an explanation.
Between convention harassment and the whole Fake Geek Girls bullshit, being a female writer can be hard. So, I’ll make you an offer. If someone harasses you, or makes you feel uneasy, talk to me. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care how famous or in what position of authority that person resides. If you need someone to listen, I’ll listen. If you need help, I’ll help you. Because, after talking to another friend of mine this morning, I felt less alone. Moreover, I realized that I did the right thing.
I may not have much clout to do anything other than listen or make a little noise. I’m certainly not Neil Gaiman. But I can make sure that you are heard and do not feel alone. Because chances are, it’s not just you – and it’s not just me. Chances are this is a habit, not a fluke. It’s not a bad day; it’s a pattern.
I ask for wine
when all I want is rain –
my words twisted
to mean other things, until
I’m unsure of their origins,
until I’m questioning
every angle of my existence –
have I lost weight, again?
is shrinking these days.
I wonder if you remember
my middle name –
it is, of course, not
the point of any of this,
it is a symptom
of wanting too much –
isn’t that the first
and last of all my sins?
I was born with a hymn
in my throat, but I learned
how to hold my breath
when the time comes –
I’m not always good
at letting it out,
nothing I ever do is perfect,
and my heart
may be a naked clock,
but it is never absent –
how many hours are left?
I don’t know.
I don’t feel safe enough
to be this fragile, but you know
how awful my timing is,
and all I want is proof
that I matter, that I weigh more
than just my bones –
am I really nothing more than glass
blowing light in all directions?
Fear has too many sharp edges,
and I am rounded out
with an unglamorous need –
something is missing
and something else is misunderstood,
and all I want is surrender
somewhere safe –
all I want is to hear you say my name
and feel the word sacred
just once. Perhaps
I am a drought asking
for a hurricane –
perhaps you are the rain.
Let me start off by saying this: I’ve been a fan of Shonda Rhimes’ shows since Grey’s Anatomy first debuted. I was all over the tequila, the Mer/Der romance, and the awesomeness that is Cristina Yang. I loved how Bailey was teeny tiny, but commanded respect. I’ve watched Private Practice, and Scandal. And yes, I’m totally THERE for How to Get Away With Murder. Because I haven’t found a Shondaland show that doesn’t appeal to me.
Here’s my second confession: I’m a five-foot-five white girl. I love Olivia Pope. I never once looked at her and thought she was an angry black woman. Does the show address race? Sometimes, yes. In a way that has importance and relevance, reminding us that it is still an issue in society today. Because it is. Anyone who tells you differently isn’t paying attention.
So, imagine my surprise when I was reading this article in the NYTimes, when I discovered the insane analysis and reduction of the characters, by the writer. Let’s just take a look at the first line, okay? Here:
When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.”
Are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING me? No. NOPE. That is not okay. It’s insanely offensive. First of all, if you reduce characters to be ONE stereotypical thing, you’re clearly not paying enough attention. What I find incredibly appealing about ALL of Rhimes’ characters is that they’re multifaceted. No one is all good or all bad. They’re FLAWED. And they’re human. To imply that Rhimes simple writes angry black women is derogative and shortsighted at best.
Let’s look at another quote, shall we? Behold:
Be it Kerry Washington on “Scandal” or Chandra Wilson on “Grey’s Anatomy,” they can and do get angry.
Okay, hold up. Find me a character on either of those shows who DOESN’T get angry at some point. Why is anger the defining characteristic? This isn’t reinventing the wheel, guys. Characters do things. They have feelings, and they’re not always pretty. No one gets angry more spectacularly that Cyrus Beene (Scandal).
Now, there’s also this:
One of the more volcanic meltdowns in soap opera history was Olivia’s “Earn me” rant on “Scandal.”
First of all, as a longtime fan of the show (and a Scandal-Thursday tweeter), let me explain someone about Liv, as a character: she never reacts for no reason. This “rant” wasn’t a meltdown. It was a woman standing up for herself in a relationship, drawing lines and boundaries. There was nothing tantrum-like about it. To reduce it to such a definition is unobservant at best.
When I got to this part, though, I felt like the top of my head was going to pop off:
Even now, six years into the Obama presidency, race remains a sensitive, incendiary issue not only in Ferguson, Mo., but also just about everywhere except ShondaLand, as her production company is called.
First of all, Scandal does address race in the context of both the character and the plotlines. It’s not freakin’ utopia. Second of all, you know why race may appear to be less of an issue in Rhimes’ shows? Because she casts widely and diversely. And it’s pretty damn wonderful.
I’m skipping ahead in the article, because a large chunk of it made me apoplectic. I can’t even comment on it without cursing every other word. Let’s address this little gem:
[Rhimes’ characters] struggle with everything except their own identities, so unconcerned about race that it is barely ever mentioned.
Um, what? First of all, all of the characters (at some point) struggle with identity. Otherwise, it would be a very boring show. Again, Cyrus had a complicated backstory and though gay was once married to a woman. So, if that’s not an identity struggle, I don’t know what is. Additionally, on Scandal, several scenes between Liv and her dad effectively illustrate how race has affected Liv’s identity. Go watch this, especially the ‘twice as good’ part. I’ll wait. I’m pretty sure that scene invalidates the abovementioned statement.
I have to wonder, honestly, why the Times thought that steaming pile of bullshit was fit to print. I have no clever closing line for this post. I’m just furious that something like that was thought to be good reporting.
We’ve never been a good idea,
but good is relative
and despite appearances, I’ve never
quite been that –
not when it comes to wanting you,
or loving you,
or needing you – there’s no
getting over it, no putting it aside,
it’s too much skin
and not enough teeth, a mouth
full of ocean, an invitation
offered like new sheets:
crisp, but not without consequence,
is always changing.
Here is what I do not say:
I could’ve kissed a thousand men
and not wrecked a single life –
instead, I met your mouth
like a hurricane, knowing
full well what that means
for my heart – neither of us
are getting out alive, are we?
I can’t pretend
there’s no crossover effect, no
unfound bleed, no celebration
of sacrifice – I can’t outrun
you or myself,
and I’m offering you more
than just my throat –
give me a new rhythm
to move my hips
and I’ll give you a new religion:
if this body isn’t worthy of worship,
Love is not an alternative
for desire, and although time is always
a thirsty tide, it evaporates
nothing of this relentless feeling –
what miracle are you offering me?
Where is your tribute
made of thunderstorms?
Let us, together, hurl
all the ships from the sea.
Next, cross every ocean
in your heart, build
a bridge of yes between us,
and tell me all the ways
you love me –
like a dove
in a magic trick: action
built on instinct, passion
full of flight.
Find my mouth. Take this
body made of blueprints,
let me make a map
of all your curves, sighs
are more important than fingerprints
and I don’t care how this dance looks –
give me every chamber of your heart,
and when every god is asleep,
we will invent
new ways of praying.
I am spilling words
I can’t bargain with; they are
and unrelenting, and the truth is –
I almost say I love you
every time we hang up the phone.
And it scares me,
because my heart is full of dirt
and I just want everything to grow –
but wishes are not wheelbarrows,
and I can’t tell
the difference between
and flood – I only know
this skin is familiar
and this hand
is mine (I want it to be yours).
I wish I could restrain
myself, but I am too much wolf
and not enough sky – this is
my forest of promises,
my river of longing –
I want you everywhere at once,
recounting all the uses for a mouth,
and all the muscles in a tongue.
Your body is a safehouse,
a prayer, an act of self-defense,
a kind of magic, a divining rod
when everything has gone dry.
Still too much? To hell
with trying to train my heart
to be quiet; it won’t keep
like that. You’re beautiful
in all the ways that matter
in this obscuring and ugly world.
Maybe I don’t need to hold back.
Maybe you need to give in.
Maybe coming undone
is the only way to build
So, yesterday, I was chatting with my friend Kristine Wyllys. You know her, right? Fabulous badass, author extraordinaire? Well, she’s awesome. Anyway, we were talking on Twitter about how people can be assholes, and while it isn’t socially acceptable in everyday life to walk away from awful conversations, one good thing about conversations on the internet (Twitter, Facebook, etc) is that you CAN walk away. Better you, you can mute, block, unfollow, or unfriend. Someone says something horrendously stupid? You can disentangle without any consequences. You cannot do that at, say, a dinner party. People don’t have mute buttons. And getting rid of someone in face-to-face life is frowned upon for legal and moral reasons.
Just as a made the point that I realllly wished people HAD mute buttons, a stranger chimed in on our conversation. He said the following:
They do. For men it’s the sentence “I’m pregnant.” For women…em…er…em
Grammatically horrors aside (missing commas abound!), this is insulting, unacceptable, and offensive on SO MANY LEVELS. So many that I’ve resorted to shouty caps. First of all, neither Kristine or myself were basing on conversation on gender. Second, the implication that they only way to silence a man is through the THREAT of pregnancy boils my blood so much that if I ate coffee grounds, I’m pretty sure my veins would fill with Starbucks. Third, the statement that there is no way to SILENCE women (because heaven fucking forbid we have a voice! Oh, no! The patriarchy and humanity will dissolve into nothingness! The world will end!) is so vile because it implies a) that women talk too much and b) that women should be silent.
To complicate this insult of ridiculous proportions, this was tweeted by someone she and I don’t know from Adam. Essentially, it proved the point that, hey, people are assholes. And yes, it’s the internet, so theoretically, I could walk away and not light something on fire.
But, honey, sweetie, darling – the second you imply that I should be seen and not heard is the second you ensure that I will not shut up. This brief interaction was an illustration that not only are people raging asshats, sometimes, sexism is alive and well. And #YesAllWomen. Because the gender implications and insults couldn’t be clearer (or more revolting).
So, perfect stranger dude (who happens to be an author – great. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS), you are what’s wrong humanity. You’ve implied that all men are terrified by pregnancy – and given that implication, it doesn’t seem like you’d take responsibility for the actions of your own penis. Because, hey, when a woman gets pregnant, it’s totally her fault. You and your helpless sperm were just minding your own business, right?
Excuse me, I need a moment to compose myself, because I can’t stop laughing. *ahem*
Let’s look at this from a different angle. Pretend that this was everyday life, would a man walk up to a woman and say something like this? You want to say no, don’t you? You want to believe that it wouldn’t happen to a woman in person, face-to-face? You want to blame it on the faceless internet, which enables cowards to be dickbags at record level?
Well, I’ve got unfortunate news: this DOES happen in everyday life. Once, I had a man tell me that I should I be seen and not heard, because I’m a woman. Once, I had a different man tell me that I couldn’t be part of something because I’m a woman.
I didn’t realize that having a vagina meant that a) I shouldn’t have an opinion and b) that it rendered me incapable.
Oh, right. It doesn’t. That’s just something shitty people say.
So, to sum up: this weird and offensive thing happened. This was a thing that some random person felt compelled to put in writing. This man thought it was okay to be a sexist schmuck. I considered letting it go. I considered not saying a word. But you know what? No. This is unacceptable. And the only way to change things, even one instance at a time, is to talk about it. Because awareness matters. Because things like this happen all the time.
And because I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to just lie back and think of England, darlings.
“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” ― Audre Lorde
* “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.” (Title credit)
― Audre Lorde
I try very hard not to be insecure. But life, and people, can be confusing. And let’s call a spade a spade: I’m sensitive. I think a lot. I feel even more. I’m basically a CareBear on emotional steroids, for better or worse.
There are some days where I totally fail to understand humanity, and in the absence of actual facts, my brain helpfully (not really) fills in the gaps with all the fears I’m too scared to say out loud. That’s what happens, I think, when we’re feeling weak or vulnerable. A seemingly small thing, left unattended, becomes a shadow. Then, that shadow becomes a monster. Before the cowering part of your rational self knows it, you’re five years old, again, hiding under the covers. Figuratively. (Or literally. Who hasn’t had the urge to cal out of work, build a blanket fort, eat candy, and hide for the day?)
The simple truth is that my brain is, often, a scary place of stupid. It can be a ridiculous graveyard of logical thinking. I am forever grateful that no one can ever read my mind, because (to paraphrase Anne Lamott), I often think such terrible thoughts that it would make Jesus drink gin straight out of the cat dish.
Internally, I’m Angela Chase. And don’t even get me started on Jordan Catalano. Because #MySoCalledLife forever. Yes, I know this isn’t Twitter. It’s my blog, and I’ll hashtag if I want to. (Somewhere, Leslie Gore is glaring into her morning coffee. Sorry, lady. #NotSorry)
There are days where I am unsettled and insecure. I don’t let that bleed into the rest of my life. I don’t take it out on people. I refuse to do that, because I’m had that done to be – and that stuff is not fun. It’s actually the mark of a jerk and a coward, but that’s a rant of a different color. (Is bullshit a color?)
I keep making jokes, I know. That’s because I’m uncomfortable, as I’m writing this. The subject makes me feel like I should run, because it’s not easy to admit vulnerability and flaws. And I think I’m doing both. Or I’m trying to.
While I don’t let me insecurity affect my actions, that’s not to say that it doesn’t affect me. Recently, I had a friendship tank spectacularly. Like a final scream as one is unexpectedly pushed off a cliff, I’ve never heard a death knell quite like that. It was strange and alarming to, essentially, watch it disintegrate in spasms. When something like that catches a person off guard, it can lead to a lot of questions – and a lot of self-examination. (That should, eventually, end when you realize that it’s not your fault – and, really, not your circus, not your monkey. In fact, take a match to that damn monkey, if you must. It’s probably rabid.)
Where was I? Yes, death of a friendship. Since the demise, I’ve felt rather wretched. I’ve tried to laugh it off and ignore it. I’ve tried not to take it personally, but…um, it is rather personal. But if I’m being honest, it has made me realize that this can be the norm more than the exception. People let us down. People disappear. People do hurtful things. And if we don’t talk about them, we end up internalizing them. Which is bad. Very bad. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Dive straight on in to the rum. Or the vodka. Or the tequila. (Never the gin. I’m sorry. It’s vile.)
So, today, I am feeling insecure. I am feeling a bit underappreciated from several angles. I’m both curious and confused, and these are not necessarily pretty things. I’m neither angry nor upset. But I find myself dangerously close to so many things – and one of them is losing my patience. The thing is that life is tricky. It’s often unclear and uncertain. But I feel as long as you’re trying, reaching for your dreams, and not simply whining about what is and isn’t happening – that’s the trick to getting what you want/need/love.
For me, today might be a wash. I may be cranky. But tomorrow, darlings, is a fresh start and a new adventure. I’ve named the monster. Now, it’s less scary. Naming a thing is a powerful act. After all, we start our lives with naming. It is the beginning of identity. We name someone friend or lover. We call love, love. Saying things out loud means it’s more real. It means you can’t take it back. That’s why it’s a risk, sometimes. But naming is where everything starts. It’s the words that declare what the heart feels. And actions drive that arrow home. Remember that, when you’re scared. Name the fear. Name the confusion. Then, kick it in the ass.
Own it. Claim what’s yours, darlings. Say everything out loud. Because life is too short not to be absolutely, ridiculously bold. Don’t let your fears chase you away from what’s possible. Don’t let your doubt keep you where you don’t want to be. And, for coffee’s sake, remember: you never get what you don’t ask for. So, ask. It doesn’t matter if your hands are shaking. It doesn’t matter if you words come out in a rush or a heap.
Remember to fight for your life — for what you want and for who you are. Remember that, occasionally, means you’re fighting you. Nobody can save you but yourself — and you, love, are worth saving. (Sorry, Charles Bukowski, for paraphrasing you poorly.)