Remember the good ol’ days, only a year ago, back before that fateful first week in November, when Hillary had it in the bag and our biggest worry were these freaky, creepy clown sightings? Funny how, now that combover Bozo Creep-in-Chief is in the White House, those menacing bizarro clown sightings have stopped. Now the lurking menace, the fear, the feeling that something wicked this way comes is much more apparent, and all too real. And it seems to be seeping through cracks and hiding around corners at every turn, trick-or-treating at will through our culture. Witness the ugly resurgence of white supremacists, and this most recent deluge of sexual assault and harassment allegations, among any number of other affronts (to the environment, to immigrants…where to stop?).
But as much as I’d like to blame Charlottesville and Weinstein and his seemingly endless “et al” on our misogynist, racist, narcissist president, that’s too easy. Trump, like those weird clowns, is a manifestation of the base nature of our species that’s always lurking in the shadows; he’s just enabled the ghouls to frolic more freely.
It’s no coincidence that heightened racial tensions and this recent onslaught of pussy-grabbing go hand in hand, or hand up skirt. In her excellent book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, New York Times columnist Gail Collins recounts how the civil rights movement paved the way for the women’s lib movement, much in the way many of the leading abolitionists, including Charleston’s Grimke sisters, became leading suffragists. “All of them had learned that injustice can run deep in a nation’s laws, traditions and customs …” Collins writes. “The civil rights movement made women conscious of the ways they had been treated like second-class citizens and made them determined that their own status was one of the things they were going to change.”
And here we are, more than half a century later. When everything has changed, as Collins’ title claims, and nothing has. When women and minorities can vote, can be CEOs, can even be POTUS — as if that now denigrated office is still something to aspire to. And yet, men in positions of power still feel that demanding sexual favors is their prerogative. When women and minorities are still paid less than white men, when blacks have to fear for their safety when stopped by police, and women must be on constant guard against predatory bosses, blind dates, and frisky frat boys. When as soon as the Heff dies, the Harve fills the void.
I was not one of the multitudes who joined the #MeToo social media campaign. I feel like I’ve cheated the system somehow to confess that I’ve never been sexually harassed or abused. There was one horrifying incidence when a stranger exposed his masturbatory self to me, but I’ve never had to sexually perform to save my job or safeguard myself or my family. And yet as a mother of three daughters, I am wholeheartedly alongside my #MeToo sisters and friends. Count me as a Me Three. I’m saddened and infuriated that my three daughters see the news as a daily parade of abusive dicks. Good lord, even H.W. is now among the lowly gropers — and if Babs couldn’t leash him with her pearl choker, then what prayer do any of us have?
I don’t have answers. I think castration is perfectly reasonable (and follows Republican logic regarding interfering in women’s reproductive health options), and I vow to march and grab back and speak out as much as I possibly can. But my girls are still at risk in a society that objectifies women. They are young enough to have a world of possibility open to them — possibilities that women generations before now only dreamed of — and yet they’re old enough to turn men’s heads, and so they are vulnerable.
As Gail Collins’ book, and as my life as a working woman with a husband who both respects me and does the dishes and occasionally the laundry proves, everything has changed. Unlike women of the 1950s, I have access to birth control. Unlike Louis Rabinowitz in 1960, I can wear pants to traffic court and not get ejected (actually, I once strategically breastfed in traffic court, which got me out of a ticket). Unlike my own mother, I went to college fully expecting to earn more than a “MRS” degree. I am Mary Tyler Moore and Billie Jean King and Gloria Steinem and Hillary and Michelle, and yet also Megyn and Mira and the multitudes of other women stepping up and speaking out against harassment. We all are. As the womanizing Dr. King said, “When there is injustice anywhere, there’s a threat to justice everywhere.”
What hasn’t changed is that the clowns are out there, and not just at Halloween. So yes, #MeThree and you too. We all must be on guard and call out the creeps, the abusers, the racists, the unmoored and dangerous narcissists. And we should call out the good guys too, and teach our daughters and sons to recognize and gravitate to them. They’re out there, just like the clowns are out there. Maybe they need a hashtag? #Imwithher still sounds good to me.