Sexual Harassment – An Unpopular Viewpoint (Maybe)

I went to an ice cream shop with a friend the other day and enjoyed my favorite flavor, cookies n’ cream, while sitting on the shop’s front porch.  As usual, the place was busy with families, couples on date night, and teenagers enjoying their youth. I couldn’t help but take notice, as most others did, when three teenage girls came walking up from the parking area. Each one had a similar version of the same outfit. Tank top, low cut, worn with high-heeled boots and shorts so short their butt cheeks were escaping the fabric. Their make-up was heavily applied and they seemed very aware of the attention they were receiving.

I heard one mother tell her young daughter, “Don’t think you will ever be allowed to dress like that.” The girl, who was probably about seven or eight, replied with big eyes, “I know, I won’t.” But then said a little softer, “But boys like girls who dress like that.” I turned away, but not before I saw the mother’s look of shock.

In the past couple of months, and even more so in the last two weeks, we have heard numerous accounts of prominent men being called out for sexual harassment and assault. Yet, it still surprises me every time I hear women saying that they are free to dress and act any way they want and the men are all, 100 percent, to blame. Now, before every women’s rights activist starts shouting that we shouldn’t blame the victim, let me say that no woman deserves to be treated with disrespect, harassment, or violence. Men need to keep their hands, and every other body part, to themselves unless expressly invited to do otherwise. Also, I know there are victims who never wore a provocative outfit or flirted in their lives. However, there are some situations that could have been avoided and women have to get past saying that men need to change (because men who do these things are not going to change) and take the responsibility for themselves or these assaults will keep happening.

We all live in a world where the topic of sex and sexual images bombard us every day. Very provocative images of women cover magazines, movies, television, and billboards. Women go around wearing short-shorts, mini-skirts, low-cut shirts and less. These sexual images are chalked up to women’s rights to express themselves and feel free with their own body.

Let’s get real. Why do women dress like this? Think about what the young girl at the ice cream shop told her mother. We can say we feel comfortable or beautiful. We can say it’s a form of expression. But, we all know that when we dress to be sexy, it is an effort to attract men (or for some women, it is an effort to look better than other women, but still ultimately to be more attractive to men). It does feel good to be thought of as beautiful and sexy, there is nothing wrong with that. I believe that we can achieve this in other ways.

In the last few days, two women, an actress and a politician, have come out with similar views. They have each faced angry backlash, but they are absolutely right.  When women wear provocative clothing and flirt with men, we are sending a message. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose who receives this message. There are men out there who are so warped that they feel like the message is an invitation. They are awful, but as much as you want to say that their misguided thinking is their problem, when they act on these thoughts, it becomes their victim’s problem. We can’t control these men and their criminal actions because we don’t know who they are until they have committed a crime and it becomes public, but we can control ourselves and take steps to reduce our vulnerability.

Stop getting drunk in public places, like frat parties. If you weigh 108 pounds and you have to fend off a man of 200 pounds, you are less likely to be able to kick them in the groin if you are so drunk you can’t lift your leg.

Don’t go to or leave parties or bars alone. You are stronger in numbers. You and your friends need to have a pact to watch out for each other.  This goes for leaving any building at night.

Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your instincts. If you are getting signals that someone is behaving inappropriately, don’t ignore it. Get away, stay away, and get help. By keeping quiet, you let the criminal get away with his criminal actions and he will continue to assault other women.

Wear clothes that cover your assets. The politician who spoke out about women wearing modest clothes said that maybe she is “old school.” Well, maybe old school is what we need. Think about it. Our grandmothers didn’t have a problem attracting men. Women in generations past wore long skirts, little make-up, and high-collared shirts, but the generations have continued, so they must have shown their beauty in other ways. The thing is, a good man will love you in jeans and a sweatshirt. You don’t need to put it all on display for everyone to see. Your body is not what makes you special!

There is a small fraction of men who will prey on women until they are stopped. We need to do everything in our power to take away their opportunity to harass and assault. It is not a matter of who is to blame, it is a matter of stopping it before it starts.

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The Las Vegas Tragedy – A Personal Story

Sunday night I was on a plane sitting on a runway of Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport. We were ready for takeoff when the pilot made an announcement that something was happening on the strip and we needed to wait. After about 40 minutes we were told to de-plane and wait in the airport, which was put on lock-down. It wasn’t until I arrived home the next day and watched the news reports that I fully understood what had happened. My heart is still aching.

I lived in Las Vegas for ten years. Important years, between 18 and 28, the ones where you really do your growing up. I graduated from UNLV. I was back in Las Vegas for my best friend’s wedding and, although I have been gone for several years, I felt like I was home again.

I am so saddened by the mass shooting that occurred a mere 36 hours ago, that I am having difficulty holding back my emotions as I write this. I am struggling with the fact that one person can have so much evil in their heart that he can destroy so many lives. I don’t know how that happens.

I have been praying for the victims and their families and for my own understanding and comfort. That is the only thing I know how to do. I know more people are doing the same and I hope that even more come to the same place. I truly believe that prayer is the only action that can fix this situation in which we have found ourselves. The situation where people are so disillusioned and deceived that they feel violence is the only answer.

My prayers are for peace and comfort for the families affected by this tragedy. My prayers are also for all the people who are sheltering themselves in dark places where their hearts are turned to evil.

For me, Las Vegas will always be a place of memories and friendship. I will always think of the ten years I lived there as a time of life-shaping and a great influence on who I am. I am grateful to have called Las Vegas home.

I will continue to pray for the city, the victims and their families, and all the emergency responders. I know I am not praying alone.

Athletes’ Protests are Empty Messages

The country is fuming on one side or other over the NFL players’ actions this weekend. I will not address the disrespect of these players toward our country, but will write about the situation from another perspective.

Colin Kaepernick started this movement of kneeling during the National Anthem in a message against police brutality toward minorities. In the time since, very few, if any, NFL players joined him in this method of demonstration. After words from President Trump, we saw a large number of NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem in a show of solidarity. Solidary in what? Kaepernick’s message or their dislike of President Trump?

If the answer is their dislike of the President, they have risked alienating a large portion of the country to send their message. They speak of solidarity and unity while increasing anger and pitting people against each other. They have disrespected our country and caused further division.

If the answer is that they want to increase awareness of racism and so-called police brutality, they have chosen the most passive way of doing so. Taking a knee during the National Anthem does absolutely nothing to solve these problems. It is completely ineffective. If the NFL players, or any athlete or celebrity, want to make positive change to the culture of our country, they should use their fame, influence, and fortune to initiate programs in their own communities. Have they spoken to the leaders of the police departments in their own cities? Have they worked with the school system leaders? Have they volunteered with youth organizations? Have they started real conversations with leaders in the community? Have they developed programs and events that will bring the community together in a productive way? I know the sports leagues require their teams to be involved in charity, but do these individuals become involved on their own time? Or do they simply kneel and hope that other people will do these things?

Many of these men and women had to work hard and overcome numerous obstacles to reach their goals. They should use their experiences and obvious determination to teach others and be a unifying force in their communities.

Being a positive, encouraging leader is not about politics. No matter how you feel about the protests of these men, it is apparent that their message has nothing to do with making our country better, but is simply a protest of retaliation. Instead of kneeling and causing the country to become more divided in anger, these athletes and celebrities need to stand up and be examples of positive change in our communities. Raising awareness is easy, but doing the work of change is hard. Are they willing?

Civil War Monuments – A Reminder

Have you ever made a mistake? One so big that you often wonder what your life would have been like if you had done something differently? A mistake that has left a mark on your life either emotionally or tangibly? That mark serves as a reminder every time you slip and begin to make the same mistake. It jolts you back to where you need to be. Without that mark, you would repeat your error over and over again.

I am watching the events unfold across our country around Civil War monuments and symbols. I understand that there is wide-spread pain and resentment regarding racist acts that have occurred both in the present and in the past. Tearing down historic monuments is well-intentioned but ill-placed and it will not erase that pain. It will only halt the conversation and subsequently the healing.  It also increases the possibility that future generations will repeat the past.

Most historians say that the Civil War was not completely about slavery, but more about states’ rights. There is evidence that many of the confederate soldiers were forced to fight in the war and were too poor themselves to even own slaves. Families were torn apart, fighting against each other. Many families would never be whole again. This was an unprecedented time in our country and a time that demands discussion and understanding by future generations.

The Civil War monuments do not only serve as a commemoration, but as a reminder of where we were as a country not so long ago. They are our mark. If those symbols are removed, the meaning behind them is removed, as well. They will no longer serve as a conversation starter. They will no longer prompt discussion on the evils we have defeated. They will no longer remind us of our mistakes and jolt us back to where we need to be. Generations to come will think nothing of the War, and its importance will soon be forgotten, leaving our country open to make the same mistakes again.

Removing statues, flags, plaques, and other symbols of the Civil War may seem like a deterrent to racism, but the people with those beliefs don’t rely on monuments to fuel their hatred.  They have an inner fire, that will soon die out as more and more people condemn their actions. We have an obligation to our children and future generations to ensure that past lessons learned and the truths discovered are passed down, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us and how ugly history can be. We cannot strain out the bad and only teach the historical moments where everyone does the right and honorable thing. I have often been told that we learn more from mistakes than from triumphs. Tearing down Civil War monuments in an effort to remove mistakes will also remove the lessons and the open discussion. Our future generations will suffer for it.

The Balance of Life

I was watching a little boy in my neighborhood learning to ride his brand new bike. His father was helping him to find balance between the training wheels, but every time the little boy turned the wheel to come back the other way, he lost his balance and fell off to the right or left. The little boy started crying out of frustration and declared that he was giving up because it was too hard. I couldn’t help but think this was a great allegory. Life needs balance.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, everything was black and white, right and wrong. Gray areas didn’t exist, and if they did, I put the situation aside not wanting to think about it. I like rules and I like when everyone follows them. With maturity, I realized that thinking in extremes very rarely reflected real life. Balance is necessary, and what is more important is knowing when balance is needed.

Politically, in the United States, we tend to focus on extremes. Democrats are far left and Republicans are far right. We like to label people because it takes away gray areas, and so we can assume we know who we are dealing with.  If we look deeper, though, I know that most people have more balance in their beliefs. I know Democrats who are pro-life and I know Republicans who believe in gay rights. I’ve written before that very few people completely match the stereotypes that define their characteristics, yet we continue to label people and treat them according to our views of those labels. Labeling someone allows us to forget that they are a person. It takes away their humanity and makes it easier to treat them as a thing rather than another human.

In the United States, we are becoming more and more divided. People are allowing their extremism to cloud their judgment. They are holding close the label that they feel defines them and targeting people with labels different from their own. They are forgetting that we are more alike than we are different, and that we are all people first.

The only way to soothe this is through balance. We cannot embrace extremism in either direction. We always need to remember that we are interacting with other people, who just like us have their own opinions, feelings, experiences, and nuances. No one has the right to force their beliefs or way of life on someone else. There must be balance. Just like the little boy on his bike, if we lean too far, we will fall off and there will be nothing but frustration and tears.

Put Some Clothes On

The other day, I read an article about a woman who is angry about the way she was treated by her apartment management in relation to her attire at their community pool. This woman, who was accused of wearing an inappropriate bathing suit at a pool visited by the families in their apartment building, claims her one-piece bathing suit was perfectly decent and that the apartment management is “body shaming” her. You see, this woman has a larger posterior and the suit appeared to others as a thong-style bathing suit. The other families in the apartment community complained to management, and this woman is outraged and considering a lawsuit because, of course, her rights have been violated. Which right is that? The right to bare skin in front of God and country?

Please forgive me if I am being too snarky. I, too, am a curvy woman, in both top and bottom. I understand the nightmare of bathing suit shopping. I remember when my much smaller friend tried to get me to wear one of her bikinis to the pool. It was obscene. There was no way I was going to go out in public dressed in this fashion. You see, I looked in the mirror before I went outside and plainly saw that my bathing suit was inappropriate for a community pool. My sense of modesty, I understand, is not the way of the world these days. Other women see no problem in revealing all to anyone and everyone.

I do see a problem, though. The problem I see is that women feel like, not only is it okay to show as much skin as possible, but that it is a requirement. This is not about body-shaming. This is about respect for ourselves and the people around us. There is no reason why any woman should feel compelled to wear clothing that is immodest. And, taking the attitude that others should just look away if they don’t appreciate what they see is simply self-centered and inconsiderate.

If you are walking around your home with the curtains drawn, completely naked, that is your prerogative. Once you take it outside your walls, you are now infringing on the rights and comforts of others. I certainly do not want to see your naked behind or uncovered breasts as I lay at the pool, and I sure as anything don’t want the young men in my family to see it either. The goal is to get the next generation of men to look at women as equals, valuable for our intellect, ingenuity, creativity, and perseverance. Instead, we continue to fuel the cycle of female objectification at every turn. Magazines, television, movies, etc. all encourage women to disrobe to gain attention. Not only is this humiliating to women, but it is fleeting as these women who succumb to this method become just another body in the crowd.

Please, can we try to distinguish our gender by the advances we make in science, art, teaching, technology, and not the extent of our flesh. We have become a society focused on bodies and beauty instead of brains and talent. We are worth more than our bodies and it is time we send that message…to everyone! Men will not stop objectifying women if we don’t stop objectifying ourselves.

 

Donald Trump IS the President of the United States

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the President of the United States. It is done. It is fact. You can’t change it.

But, for the past four and a half months there has been nothing but protests, over-analyzation of how this happened, disrespect, and down-right ugliness. I am ashamed of the celebrities, who act like they represent everyone, inciting rage and further division with their half-crazed speeches, vulgar tweets, and simply disgusting photos.

Regardless of your political opinions, the President of the United States deserves our respect and should be treated with dignity. You may hate the actions of another, but you should not show hatred for a fellow human being. When we initiate or encourage derogatory language and disrespect of our President, we show the rest of the world that it is allowable to treat our President, and ultimately our country, with disrespect. We make fools of ourselves and our ability to govern as a country. We also further the gaps between us, as those who use such tactics continue to alienate those who disagree. The outside world views us as a country of people who have no unity and are in chaos, when this is truly not a valid portrayal.

President Trump has been in office for less than six months. He has been continuously blocked by revengeful politicians, and been the target of Hollywood and the media. The President and his family have endured countless attacks by so-called tolerant Americans who demonstrate nothing of the kind. Just because we have the ability to do something (as with freedom of speech), does not mean we should use it. We, as a country, would do well to exemplify all the good values we constantly preach of tolerance, unity, equality, and brotherly love.

I, for one, am going to support President Donald Trump and continue to pray for him and his administration every day. I see no future for the United States in hoping for his failure. In fact, if he fails, we all do. Like it or not, Donald Trump holds the highest office in our country. We need to join together in condemning the vulgar language and actions of those who choose to disrespect the President of the United States of America. Our country depends on it.

Fault-finders

I have a co-worker who finds amusement in calling out other people’s faults. She will talk at length about anyone and everyone, from what people are wearing to who is falling off the diet wagon and from who skips out of work early to who would rather be bar-hopping than home with their family, and so much more. I have never heard her admit that anyone is doing anything right, except of course herself.

I used to try to interject with some positive discussion about people’s accomplishments, which were usually dismissed.  I then tried to subtly say that I didn’t know the person she was speaking of, so I couldn’t comment. When this failed to curtail the endless commentary, I not-so-subtly avoided meeting my co-worker anywhere outside the conference room. I got tired of her never ending judgements, and I certainly didn’t want to be guilty by association of bad-mouthing everyone in the office, and frankly anyone who came into her mind.

I may not be the most positive person in the world, but I really don’t want to be trudged into negativity every day. I prefer to think the best of people and, if they must, allow them to sink themselves without my help. When I was younger, my favorite movie was Pollyanna (still love it). I loved the part where Pollyanna is speaking with the reverend and he reads the necklace given to her by her father. It contains a quote from Abraham Lincoln, reading “When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.”

I am certain this is a philosophy we are seeing in action in our country daily. From nasty social media posts to offended college students, and from humorless monologues to self-serving politicians, we hear, down to the minutest detail of everyone’s perceived failings, yet very few are able to concede when someone does something good. We are a nation of fault-finders. We look for the bad in people and are only too happy when we find it, and can let everyone else know about it. Scandal is the news that turns our world.

Fault-finding is an immature way to gain attention. People, who want the spotlight, will say whatever they can to diminish others in effort to benefit themselves. Rarely do these fault-finders ever have anything positive to contribute. They just want to make sure that everyone else knows who or what has been bad. It’s childish. Instead of lending a helping hand and contributing to solutions through constructive conversation and action, fault-finders focus their attention on spreading negativity and burying the person or people with whom they found fault.

We see it every day in the rants on social media, the finger-pointing and ugly talk of the politicians, and the often-offended college crowd (students and faculty). We live in a country where everyone is expected to be faultless, or they are not worthy of respect and dignity. We drag people through the mud and destroy their reputations.

No one is without fault. We all make mistakes. Get over it. Learn from them and move on. If you want to make a positive difference, reach out your hand to help. Lift people up. Help those around you see their strengths. Give people a chance to do good.

Look for the good in mankind, and you will surely find it.

It’s Not Civilized!

On a cold, rainy day, I am more than happy to be in my home, with the heat on, watching a movie on my smart TV while making an online purchase on my tablet, and drinking hot chocolate made with milk I bought from a store two miles from my house (which, of course, is open 24 hours a day). Oh, and please don’t forget that I drove to said store in my car, while listening to satellite radio. We enjoy so many luxuries in this modern age. Many people would say that this is what makes us civilized. We no longer have to trudge through dirt walking great distances, keep fires burning in every room for heat, or head to the outhouse every time nature calls.  We benefit from ever-advancing technology and manufacturing, as well as an ability to share ideas across the globe. But, is this all that makes us civilized? I propose that this is only part of a civilized society. Our treatment of one another makes the definition complete.

The way we interact with each other, whether in-person or online, gives great insight into our level of civilization. With the disappearance of many of the formalities of decades past, we have also lost the decorum that marked a civilized society. No longer do we bow or curtsy when entering the company of another, but we also don’t make eye contact, listen, speak with respect, or value the dignity of others. We don’t often write long, flourishing letters telling of the events of the day, but we also don’t use kind words in the modes where we do write. We hold our own opinions very high, and this has become the reasoning for one person to demoralize another. The Internet is teeming with videos of people screaming at one another, violently fighting, or humiliating another person. Social media is being used to bully, insult, prey on, and demean people who have differing opinions. Television and movie stars are using their influence to insult and belittle people who don’t share their political and personal beliefs. It has gone so far as to become a regular occurrence to see news of a person being removed from a public place for angrily attacking another person who dared to see an issue from another point of view.

It is absolutely all right to have firm beliefs and opinions, especially if they were formed through study and experience. It is not all right to attack, in any way, people who don’t share in them.  If you feel strongly about your opinion, why is it that you can’t listen to the opinions of others? Are you afraid they may be able to prove you wrong? Listening to the opinions of others doesn’t mean that you agree with them, it just means that you are civilized enough to engage in a polite discourse. Having a debate should not include raised voices, violence, threats, or insults. If you are civilized enough to listen to others, you may learn something you didn’t know, or realize another point of view. If this doesn’t happen, you have simply solidified your already established opinion. It’s a win-win.

So, while we will probably never go back to the days of carriages riding through the streets or men wearing coattails, we can definitely bring back a polite society where people speak with respect and kindness.

 

True Friendship

I am writing this blog post after speaking with a young girl, who is having trouble with friends. I know she is not alone in this. Many young people struggle with self-confidence, and perhaps a little encouragement would help them from making decisions they will later regret.

It is better to have one or two true friends than to have an abundance of false friends. I see the wisdom in this more and more as I age. When I was younger it seemed mortifying to be on the outside of the popular group. I did have a few very good friends, and we had a great time together, but I always somehow thought there was even more enjoyment to be had with the popular group.

After graduating from high school, I moved across the country and found myself in a new group of friends.  We were definitely considered the equivalent of the popular group. It was very different from what I had known, and I admit it was exciting at times. I never did feel quite comfortable, though. It was a lot of work emotionally and mentally to stay in step with this group. I had a couple of close friends, with whom I felt like I could be myself, but I often felt like I had to play a part, like acting, with the others. As much as I learned about myself and the world during this time in my life, I often wish I hadn’t felt like I needed to pretend to be someone I wasn’t.

Now that I am older, I can look back and see clearly the mistakes I made in trying to make other people like me. It is important to have friends who will be honest with you, help you to grow, and even challenge you, but it is destructive to be around people who want you to change who you are to be more like them.  I no longer have the effort in me to pretend to be someone else. I love to spend an afternoon with a good book, I hate horror movies and movies with a lot of swear words (it’s my opinion that if they have to use the “F-word” every other word, the script is just bad), I am not an “outdoorsy” person, I believe in God, and I enjoy spending time with true friends. This is me. I am not going to think less of myself because I don’t fit in with some groups. We all have different interests, beliefs, and desires. We all fit in somewhere. When we find the group where we belong, we will find the truest of friends, no effort required.