Archive for June, 2016



June 23, 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan, and my dearest GOP Senators,

It’s 1:30 a.m. here in Nashville, 2:30 in the morning in Washington DC. The House has just been called back into session at this absurd hour. Whoever is presiding over the House while you, Speaker Ryan, preserve your viability by keeping out of the fray, has just disregarded the Democrats’ request for equal time, and moved on to a vote on the Military Construction bill – completely ignoring the past 16 hours of House Democrats sitting in on the House floor, demanding a vote on gun control issues. After this vote, the House will surely vote to break until after the 4th of July, and, as Republican Congressmen are apparently willing to show up at 3 a.m. to vote for vacation time (but never to vote on gun control) that, you think, will be the end of that.

You are counting on us, your constituents, to be asleep. To not care. To be so despondent and despairing over our government EVER functioning that we don’t see this. Two weeks will pass, fireworks will fill the air, we’ll all love America, and you’ll come back pretending nothing has changed. Pretending that the Democrats elected to the House of Representatives had not had to resort to civil disobedience in the halls of the government THEY SERVE in order to be heard. Ignoring the fact that Republican Senators, after 16 hours of filibuster by Democrats, were still too spineless to actually VOTE on sensible gun control measures, and instead, hid behind cloture votes, secure in their belief that Americans are too stupid to realize they still hadn’t addressed the issue.

But in those twelve days – assuming you come back on July 5th – 1,068 families will have been torn apart by gun violence. ONE THOUSAND AND SIXTY-EIGHT. Mothers and fathers weeping for their children. Children sent to live with distant relatives because Mommy’s been shot. Families vacationing together, children playing in public parks. Maybe another movie theater full of excited patrons, waiting to be transported by a summer blockbuster. Maybe another club full of beautiful 22 –year-olds out dancing. Maybe another church full of devout souls. But even without another national headline, the toll will still be met. 89 gun deaths a day. 1,068 of the people YOU have sworn to protect, the people who voted for you, trusted you, who put you in the room where it happens – they will be gone, forever, by the time you come back from vacation.

You’ve ignored the problem for years, and Democrats tried normal channels, came up empty, and let it be. But now they have called you out. Now they – now WE – are not putting up with this inaction any longer. You still control the House and Senate, so you can still stop every effort to save these lives, but from here on out? We’re holding you accountable. This is on you. Every murder committed with an assault rifle is on YOU. Every person suspected of terrorism who purchases a weapon – that’s on you, too, because you’re too cowardly to vote to stop them. Every single purchase of a weapon at a gun show, or online, or otherwise without a background check? Hang that around your necks, along with all the bodies that those weapons put in the ground, all the sorrow of the families ripped apart, all the fear of kids who are not let out to play this summer because their mothers love them too much to bear risking them. Every time someone convicted of domestic violence doesn’t have to surrender all of their guns – that’s on you, too, because surely you know that domestic violence is the single strongest indicator of later violent acts (that one WOULD have stopped Omar Mateen). Speaking of things you surely know, I assume you’ve seen the viral photo of the adorable 3-year-old standing on a toilet, practicing for an “active shooter” situation? Yeah. Her fear, the fear of millions of children growing up with this reality, and the ways that will warp them all of their lives, THAT’S ON YOU, TOO.

(Photo by Stacey Feeley, via

I know that’s a heavy burden to bear. I know that NRA money doesn’t completely soften the blow. So as you grapple with the enormity of what your inaction has wrought, start small. Start with one single death, and that family’s loss and pain, the light gone out forever from that community. Carry that, know that you caused that. Then feel that 88 more times, for 88 other unique individuals mowed down, every day. Soon you’ll be able to feel all of the one thousand sixty-eight American lives you are willing to sacrifice by not voting before your precious vacation. And know that we are watching you. We are not asleep. Those 1,068 are just the start. Until you enact sensible gun control measures, that toll keeps growing.  We won’t forget in November. And we won’t forget in two years, or four years, when you, my Senators, are up for reelection.

You have an amazing and rare privilege. You can make this country better, and safer, for all its people. But if you choose not to do that, you are accepting the consequences of your inaction. 89 deaths a day. 623 souls gone every week. Over 82,000 families devastated every year. That’s on you.


The Ubiquitous Mr. Turner

June 9, 2016

TW: Rape, Assault

Brock Turner seems to be everywhere. Can’t go on Facebook, or turn on the news, without seeing Fucking Brock Turner everywhere. For the first time in our nation’s history, a woman is a major-party candidate for the presidency. My feminist heart should be soaring this week – but Brock Turner. Fucking Brock Turner…  Hillary Clinton winning the presidency would be a hugely significant, but I know that we’ll see a spike in vile and hateful misogyny – and I can’t take it, I can’t take it getting worse because already I live in a country with Brock Fucking Turner. Every online outlet has written eloquently this week about rape culture and white privilege, about the laughable sentence the judge justified by saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” We’ve dissected his father’s Study in Tone-Deaf Patriarchy. By the time we read his friend’s similar letter to the Court, we were too numb to think much of the fact that the friend claimed this wasn’t REALLY rape, that he was just drunk and his “emotions” took over. I resisted chiming in, because what else is there to say? But I find I can’t put this down. It’s not just a miscarriage of justice. It’s not just about Brock Turner and this woman. It’s not just about campus rape. It’s not just about white privilege and victim blaming and laying bare the biases that warp every aspect of our lives. It’s not just about a woman’s violation and devastation being nothing worth mentioning, not when her assailant is a Champion Swimmer. I can’t add anything to that story, but I still feel I have to say something. This case, particularly the victim’s raw testimony, shook floods of memories loose in me, and I feel overwhelmed, incoherent with rage that this is my world, my daughters’ world.

wolf whistle

I haven’t heard the term in a while, but growing up, beautiful starlets were often described – POSITIVELY! – as “sex objects.” Farrah Fawcett? Sex object. Daisy Duke? Sex object. Objectification is taking a living, breathing human being and reducing her to parts, to objects. And we are told it’s a compliment. Her body is an object to stare at, grab, fondle, jack off to. It’s not a person, with dignity and a self, it’s just another thing the Brock Turners of the world feel entitled to. In the words of a particularly gross guy I used to know:  “Women are just life support for pussy.” We experience that attitude hundreds, thousands of times during our lives. It scares us, degrades us, angers us, terrifies us – and we can’t do anything to stop it. It’s minimized, glossed over, just as the gross violation of this woman’s body was completely ignored by a judge who HEARD her testimony – who sat in a room as she detailed her physical and emotional devastation – and concluded “I think [Brock Turner] will not be a danger to others.” The guy was CONVICTED OF FELONY SEXUAL ASSAULT, for shoving his fingers inside this woman’s unwilling, unresponsive body, but he’s not, you know, DANGEROUS – he’s just a rapist. Brock Turner’s stupid punchable face is on half the posts on my newsfeed, and I’m incandescent with rage, and I have to finally let it out.

Let me be clear: I have never been raped, and that is a huge distinction. I am not saying anything I’ve experienced is comparable, because nothing is. But the internet is marinating in this story, and suddenly, I can remember every hand inside my top in a crowd (it’s happened many times), every feel copped on public transportation (because obviously my body exists for strangers to touch), every time a car would slow down alongside me when I was walking to campus so the driver could say something crude and threatening (Christ, in St. Louis that happened every day). I have never been raped. But I’ve met Brock Turner a thousand times – at parties, on dance floors, in job interviews. Boys who look at me and see an object, men who somehow feel entitled to my body. I’ve met him as the partner I reported to in one of my first jobs as an attorney, whose eyes never – EVER – left my chest when I had to talk to him. I’ve met Brock Turner as a businessman behind me on the rush hour train, suddenly running his hand under my skirt, between my legs, knowing I’d never know which guy did it. As the guy whose name I never even knew, who stopped me on WKU’s campus when I was 17 to show me a photo album – a big, 2-inch thick photo album – of me. Photograph after photograph after photograph he’d taken of me over the course of the previous year, while I was completely unaware. Usually shot from a great distance with a monster lens, apparently; many cropped so my boyfriend wasn’t in them. God, that terrified me, especially when he said I should be flattered… I’ve met Brock Turner as every guy who sees me dancing and decides he gets to grind his erection against my ass until I elbow him off me and fight through the crowd to get away. As the skeevy guy in my building who broke into my apartment at 2 a.m. – thank God my dog woke me up and got me out safely… I’ll spare you all the “minor” stuff – you know, decades of being slut-shamed for what I wore (we didn’t have a word for it back then), catcalls, being followed, the pervasive fear when walking down a street at night alone. I’ve aged out of most of the harassment (because Brock Turner likes them younger) and thank God for that. But the memories persist – feeling helpless, degraded, scared, furious, impotent. Being seen as an object that some men felt entitled to handle, or fondle, or grope. They felt entitled to ME. Not me as a person – me, the object. But each encounter was brief, I was *ultimately* safe, so it’s no big deal, right? These guys wouldn’t ever be a danger to anyone; what harm is there in copping a feel? And every time, rage and shock and feeling like poison was flowing through my veins – and no recourse. I knew what the answers would be even if there had been any authority to appeal to.

  • “That guy had his hand inside my dress!” – Yeah, but look at what you’re wearing,
  • “That guy just rubbed his erection all over my ass!” – Yeah, but with the way you were dancing…
  • “That senior partner won’t stop staring at my chest” – Oh, he does that to every woman in the office, it doesn’t mean anything! (That is the response I got, hand to god).
  • “That guy won’t be back here; he was convicted of burglary this morning.” – What?!? For that thing when he was in your apartment?!? He didn’t even touch you!! (This was my landlord’s response to the 2 a.m. break-in. Thank goodness the law was more responsive on this one.)
  • “That guy fondled me on the train!” – Which one? How do you know it was him? Did you see him do it? I thought you said he was behind you. Well, he stopped, anyway.
  • “That guy has apparently been stalking me for a year taking photographs!” Wow, he must really think you’re pretty. Take it as a compliment!

The sense was always that there was no damage done. But I know that these encounters warped the way I deal with the world, despite my best attempts to be a strong woman with a non-stick soul. I know that those feelings of helplessness and rage, that toxic brew inside me at being treated as less-than human, hurt me. I’ve healed, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t damaged. And now that ubiquitous face – whether it’s the bloodshot, slack-jawed mugshot or the beaming country club yearbook photo – has brought all that poison back into my bloodstream this week. Fucking Brock Turner.

I’m just one woman, and all of us have different experiences – but every woman experiences a degree of this. This is the world we live in. This is the world I’m raising daughters in. My beautiful, brilliant daughters will face Brock Turner again and again, as I have, and he’ll never see them in their complicated awesomeness. He’ll see them as their various parts, and feel entitled to grope and paw and leer and grind against them, to follow them, shout at them, scare them, laugh off their anger and shock and outrage. I know this, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Brock Turner is everywhere.

(But he doesn’t get his picture here. We’ve all seen him enough.)