January 25, 2017

Changing The Things I Cannot Accept: Time To Fight For Feminism, Ladies

In 1991, I landed my first job, teaching 3rd grade English as a Second Language. Kathy, the teacher with whom I worked,…

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March 20, 2012

Not Meant to Rent

A while back, I saw this woman at a party. She looked like a goddess….

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Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Louie C.K., Matt Lauer, Donald Trump. . .

We, women, have been too quiet for too long, laughing when we should have been shouting. We dismissed inappropriate behavior and in doing so, we inadvertently allowed it. Now we see how important it is to confront bad behavior.

And the only way to make change is to speak up.

I’ve done it before, and I’m doing it again now.

Because it’s important.

In 1985, a man I cared about forced me to have sex.

It was not consensual.

“He wouldn’t stop when I asked him to stop,” I told my friends.

But no one knew what to say.

My own mother told me I’d “asked” for it.

Here’s what I needed to hear: That is terrible! It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. He was only thinking of himself. You’re not alone. You’re going to be okay. What do you need? How can I help you?

The entire trajectory of my life was altered by that single event.

I wish I could say that that night was the only incidence in which I was encouraged to dismiss inappropriate behavior of the men around me.

But it was not.

We live in a culture that has allowed men to behave badly.

We have tolerated discrimination, assault, rape.

We are seeing it now, how our silence has protected our perpetrators.

Being “nice” has not served us well.

Yesterday, a friend suggested I create a piece of art that says “ME TOO” on it. Inspired, I shared the idea with another friend and together we collaborated to create this image.

Because we’re all in this together.

There’s one helluva planetary correction happening, people.

Change is coming.

Keep sharing your stories.

People are finally listening.

If you’d like to pre-order a 12×18 print for $10 + S&H, leave a comment or message me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com. 

If you relate to this post, please type ME TOO in the comments.

Screen Shot 2017-01-21 at 2.50.31 PM
Feminism in Buffalo, New York, circa 1992. I am, of course, the one in the hat.  

In 1991, I landed my first job, teaching 3rd grade English as a Second Language. Kathy, the teacher with whom I worked, was smart, generous, kind, and warmhearted. She treated every child equally. She arranged the desks in neighborhoods and talked about community responsibilities. She bedazzled her bulletin boards and spent a lot of time doing little things she believed mattered to her students.

In the spring of 1992, as the debate over Roe v. Wade heated up, an event was planned in front of Buffalo’s GYN/Women Services. My friends and I agreed it was our obligation to ensure that women were able to make their appointments free from harassment from the notorious rabble-rousers who were coming to town. After all, GYN/Women Services provided prenatal care and regular obstetrics appointments for its many patients. It was not a killing field. It was a medical office that mainly provided routine office procedures like breast exams and pap smears in addition to providing legal abortions.

I attended the rally with two friends.

People screamed at each other from both sides of the street, on both sides of the issue. I didn’t like the things the Pro-Choice people were chanting: things like “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” and offensive rhymes which dragged religion into the issue. My friends and I didn’t have a problem with anyone’s religious practices, and we didn’t want to be associated with all that noise.

So we walked across the street to CVS and bought electrical tape, and we taped our mouths shut.

Reporters and photographers were busy looking for that one cool angle, that one interesting image.

Their camera lenses landed on us.

When our picture was published in LIFE magazine, I brought a copy to school to show Kathy, my teacher-friend. I wanted to talk to her about the caption, which read “Women tape their mouths shut to represent the Silent Majority who favor safe, legal abortion” — and explain how that didn’t quite capture the whole story. I wanted to tell her how — at the end of the day — when the news vans with their giant satellite dishes had driven away, I felt used, like a pawn in someone else’s chess game. How it had occurred to me everyone had an agenda and we, women, had been pitted one against the other by religious leaders and politicians, by media spokespeople who encouraged participants from both sides of the street to shout louder when their cameras were rolling.

Kathy squinted at me coolly.

“We were on different sides of the street that day,” she said.

Kathy and I worked side by side for the rest of the year, but our interactions were different. I learned so much from her: how to treat children with dignity, how to walk the fine line between friend and disciplinarian, how to integrate non-native speakers of English into the larger class: so many things. I wanted to make things right.

I tried to talk to her about her feelings regarding reproductive rights — I believed we could find some middle ground — but Kathy held up her hand.

“We’ll have to agree to disagree,” she said, shutting down my attempts at dialogue.

I never realized an issue could be so divisive that it could destroy a friendship.

Lately, when I watch the news I feel like I’m back in the 1990’s.

Issues and rights I thought long settled are being challenged again.

But this time around, it’s not only reproductive rights that are being challenged.

This time, the rhetoric is more ominous as basic human rights are being challenged.

As a feminist, I believe in reproductive freedom, and I will never accept federal, state or local rollbacks/cuts or restrictions to our access to quality healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education.

I may be older, but my core values remain the same in 2017. 

I believe all women are free and able to care for and nurture themselves and their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments. I believe women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free from all forms of violence against our bodies.

I believe it is our obligation to protect the rights of all people, including our gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender or gender non-conforming brothers and sisters.

I believe in an economy governed by transparency, accountability, security and equity; that all workers must be paid equitably with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, healthy work environments, and paid family leave. I believe civil rights are our birthrights. This includes voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation, harassment, freedom of speech for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability.

I believe every person and every community has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. I believe our climate must be protected, that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for gain or greed, especially at the risk of public safety and health.

Twenty-five years ago, people kept their politics pretty quiet. But, with the advent of social media, people have become much more open about their political leanings.

I’ve taken the electrical tape off my mouth.

Now is not the time to be silent, friends.

Decades of polite silence has created a divided country.

We have to start having these uncomfortable conversations if we ever hope to move forward as a country.

I’m fortunate to have nurturing relationships with women of every race, class, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, and religious practice. My life is enriched daily by the interactions that I have with these women. We laugh and cry together. We share food and we share stories. We celebrate each other’s successes and hold each up during dark times.

Why wouldn’t I want everyone to have the same inalienable rights that I enjoy?

Who would have thought that twenty-five years later the personal would be so political… again?

Have your relationships changed as a result of political differences? If not, how have you managed to make it through the election season without any shift in friendships?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly this woman. And it wasn’t exactly this dress. And we weren’t by the ocean. But you get the idea.

A while back, I saw this woman at a party.

She looked like a goddess.

Her dress was one of those long Grecian-inspired things that draped her body perfectly. She was lithe and long, and I’m pretty sure she was a size 00.

Now, I am no shopper, but I had never seen anything like that dress in any store remotely near Rochester, New York. I couldn’t help myself.

I drifted away from my husband and walked right up to The Goddess who was accompanied by a man at least twice her age.

Because I am incredible classy, I introduced myself. We shook hands, and then I stated flat out: “You look freakin’ awesome in that dress!”

The Goddess ran her fingernails through her hair and gave me a pretend blush. Because she knew she looked like Heidi Klum. Then she leaned in as if she was about to tell me the world’s best secret. “People always stare at me in my dresses,” she confided.

I knew she didn’t mean for this to come out as arrogantly as it sounded. She was just gorgeous and stupid and young. Plus, I could tell she was sitting on something big. And I figured if I could tolerate her just listened a little bit longer, then I’d be in on it, too.

“What I mean is lots of times I see people staring at my dresses, and I wish they would just ask me where I got them so I could tell them.”

I knew she wasn’t a total bitch.

“I swear I want to shout it from the rooftops!” she exclaimed.

The build-up was tremendous.

“Have you ever heard of Rent the Runway?” she asked.

I shook my head, clueless.

“Omigosh!” The Goddess grabbed my wrist and did a little pee-pee crouch. “It’s the best thing ever. I’m one of those people who hates wearing the same dress twice, you know what I mean?”

I nodded, but honestly. No. I didn’t know what she meant. I have a closet filled with dresses I wear over and over again.

Image representing Rent the Runway as depicted...
Image via CrunchBase

The Goddess continued, “Rent the Runway is this company that leases designer dresses and accessories for … like…up to 85% off retail.”

I looked at The Goddess and watched her perfectly shaped lips.

“You pick a dress style that you like, choose two sizes — the one that you think is most likely to fit and another size as a backup in case you guessed wrong. They ship the dress to you for four days, and after you are done using it you mail it back. You can rent dresses that would normally be, like $1,000 for between $275 and $400,” she gushed. “And the best part is that you always have a new dress! How awesome is that?”

I looked at this pretty young thing like she had 7 heads.

Talk about coming from totally different worlds.

1. I would never. I can’t even imagine spending between $275-$400 on a new dress, let alone one someone else has already worn. Even my wedding dress was $212 off the rack.

2. The douche-bag factor. I would never admit to spending hundreds of dollars on a rented dress because my friends would think I was the most arrogant snob in the world. Not to get all preachy, but – excuse me while I get on my high horse for a moment – people are being foreclosed upon. I have taught homeless students who have had to sleep in Walmart for lack of a place to go. Families are living in hotel rooms that cost $50 per night. How could I ever, in good conscience, rent a dress that I knew could house them for a week? Or, at least, feed them for a few days?

3. I like re-runs. I have watched The Shawshank Redemption dozens of times. I never get tired of it. Same goes for clothes. If I see an outfit that I actually love, I want it. And I want to wear it again. I wear my party dresses so infrequently that I am actually excited when I pull them out of the closet. They are like old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. And because I shop carefully and try to avoid trends, I generally do fine.

4. I rely on friends. Some of my friends happen to be the same size as I am. I can’t tell you how many times my friend Cindy and I have swapped dresses. I actually met my friend Rachel while trying on dresses. Yes, I invited a total stranger over to my house; then she invited me over to her house. We stripped off our clothes in front of each other and ended up doing a dress swap. Now that’s a “How We Met” story!

5. I’m cheap. I have pretty good luck at Marshall’s. What can I say? Some of us just weren’t made for high fashion.

I tried to appreciate the delicious kernel of awesomeness that The Goddess had bestowed upon me.

I couldn’t get past the idea that standing before me was this young woman who loved fashion so much that she was willing to spend a good portion of money on a dress that she was only going to wear once and then have to return.

“How can you afford this?” I asked. “I don’t get it.”

The Goddess smirked and whispered from behind one manicured hand, “Oh, I get my dates to pay.”

As if on cue, the old man her date beckoned, she waved good-bye, took her escort’s arm (or maybe she was the escort), and together they went off. I watched as the train of her white gown slowly swirled around a corner, kind of like expensive toilet paper does as it disappears down the drain.

What do you think of the idea of renting clothes? Has anyone ever done it? What was your experience like?

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

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