Outraged by the day-to-day fears endured by more than half of his fellow humans

I just came across this description of a male telepath who discovers sexual harassment. Yes, he is a fiction, but he has something worthwhile to say.

Olumiji had spent his adult life carefully cultivating his outer calm. Thanks to receptive abilities that he had struggled with since adolescence, his days were often spent filtering out the wild, uncontrolled emotions of those around him…

His … specialty involved search and rescue. Telepathy was more of an ability to sense emotions than it was a skill at reading minds, and as such, it was a fairly poor tool for locating confused and distracted humans at a distance. However, those trapped by natural disasters tended to be close at hand and to broadcast mental pleas for help quite forcefully. This made them relatively easy for a good telepath to find.

Rescue workers the world over had come to know Olumiji as the tall, thin Nigerian man who showed up after earthquakes, mudslides and tsunamis to offer assistance, and who had an uncanny ability to find barely alive souls in the wreckage. He stayed out of their way and asked for nothing in return, so most wrote him off as a harmless oddball. Some speculated that he may have lost a loved one himself long ago in a natural disaster. In a way they were right. Olumiji had never lost anyone, thankfully, but he heard the cries of the desperate so often and so well in his own head that deep in his heart he felt connected to every human who had ever died yearning to be found.

He had one chink in his armor of outer calm, and he knew that it was born of guilt. As a male in his home country, he had grown up accepting the many casual ways that young women were forced to have sex. From arranged marriages to gang rapes, from bizarre bridal customs to forced prostitution, the horror of lacking ownership of one’s own body escaped him completely—until his own budding empathy let him discover it, and then left him outraged by the day-to-day fears endured by more than half of his fellow humans.

Don’t dress that way. Don’t go out at night. Don’t talk to him. Don’t meet his eyes. Any of it can earn you pain and humiliation and even more fear, and everyone will tell you it was your own fault. Olumiji had been simply astounded.

And for all the people he had calmly rescued and helped since, every time a case came his way where a young woman was put at greater risk, merely because she possessed a vagina, or worse yet, a hymen, he felt a deep burning anger at a world that treated such as “unavoidable.”

“No,” he wanted to scream. “This is not unavoidable. We are better than that. We have to be.”

 

Top Requirement for a Superhero

I love superheroes. And, I love it when women in fiction are strong and capable. But, for some odd reason I’ve never been much of a fan of Wonder Woman.

It could have been the tiara, way back when, or the silly skirted costume. This original heroine was before my time, but her image lingered, and it made her appear to me like a secretary out of the 40’s hustling to get her really angry boss a cup of coffee.

More likely it was the goofy boots and lasso I saw as a young girl. This modernized Wonder Woman had a faintly Texas air about her, and I wasn’t big on cowboy stories. Was I judging her by her appearance? Sadly, yes. I didn’t know much else about her, though, because although I read comics and watched superheroes on TV,  somehow her stories were never there. Her image was all I had.

Then I became a teen-aged feminist, and Wonder Woman became a sex object. Well, not totally I’m sure, but her outward appearance took a sharp turn, so once again I wasn’t interested in her. I preferred my heroes not to look like that they were prepared to do a lap dance in some sort of kinky bondage strip club.

Finally, I outgrew superheros for a long while, as I tended to the challenges of life in my own real world. It was only when I picked up my laptop and started to write books that I discovered how much I had missed heroes with superpowers.

Didn’t give Wonder Woman much thought though, until I caught an interview with the director of the upcoming movie. Really? Someone is making a movie about Wonder Woman?

It sounded interesting, and I went. And I loved it. Not because she was a woman, though that was nice. Not because she was strong and heroic, which of course she was. And not because the whole rest of the movie was basically done with taste and class, though I thought it was, too.

I loved it because she had what I need to see in every hero I appreciate. She had heart. Compassion. Kindness. Ethics. Morals. A desire to make the world better. All those things that all the guy heroes I liked had all along, and maybe she had it too but if all you get is an image and an occasional bit in a fight scene, then there is no way to show that heart is there.

I walked away loving her concept of “it’s not about what they deserve, it’s about what you believe.” That’s a great way to run an army, a country, or a world. In fact, I like that idea so much that all my other blog posts this month will be about letting beliefs shape actions.

I love superheroes. And, I love it when women in fiction are strong and capable. But, my favorite hero of them all is now Wonder Woman.

(For more Wonder Woman inspired thoughts, see Believe, It’s About What You Believe, I believe in appreciating those who protect us. All of them, and Believe in Tomorrow.)

 

 

And that’s the way it was, June 30, 1940

Young people will find role models where they can. I remember two of mine. The independent professional woman Lois Lane, and the fiery red-headed reporter Brenda Starr. I was eight or so, and I read the Sunday comics every week, and watched the kids program “Major Astro” most days after school.

Of course “Major Astro” had five or six programs, and the comics were full of stories, but all the other young women featured in my entertainment world seemed to do nothing but silly things. Only Lois and Brenda had adventures. They were reporters.

Ten years later I headed off to college to major in journalism. I didn’t particularly want to write for a newspaper, and in fact was poorly suited to asking anyone questions they didn’t want to answer. But I wanted to be independent and fiery and have adventures, you know, so even though I’d long since stopped caring about either of my heroes, I landed in their profession. Go figure.

I suppose it’s a good thing that Major Astro didn’t run Wonder Woman features  or I might have joined the army instead.

This year, I’ve fallen in the habit of reading about what happened today in history, because it is a calming antidote to the chaos of current events. Imagine my delight at discovering that seventy-seven years ago today, “Brenda Starr” the cartoon strip by Dale Messick, first appeared in the Chicago Tribune. More surprising to me was that Dale was a woman, and she originally tried to sell her newspaper on a cartoon strip about a female pirate. When that failed, she opted for her red-haired reporter instead, and for forty years she wrote and illustrated the comic strip, always fighting to keep Brenda as an adventurous woman. Two hundred and fifty newspapers carried her work at one time.

Lois kind of fell by the wayside for me, given how obsessed she was with superman. But Brenda, something in me still admires her and wants to be her.

(For more segments about June days from long ago, see That’s the Way It Was June 10, 1947, June 15, 1984, June 18, 1972, and June 28, 1888.)

Choice. A good thing?

I came across two wildly different pieces of information, and their juxtaposition sent my brain into cartwheels on the subject of having choices.

choiceConsider having no choice. I read the Economist most weeks, because it is one of the better ways to keep informed about the world outside my home country. If you’ve read my books, you’ve noticed that I am fascinated by the rest of the world. I also consider myself somewhat informed, so I read the following from the Feb 25 2017 issue of The Economist three times.

In a 2012 household survey … more than half [of Indian women] said they could not visit a shop, or even a friend, without someone else’s approval … and 52% thought it normal for a husband to beat his wife if she ventured out without telling him.

2012? Half the population? But I know women from India who live in the US, and my writing and the internet have combined to introduce me to women who live in India now as well. This doesn’t sound like their reality. The article adds

For wealthy and middle-class Indian women, freedoms have steadily grown.

Oh, right.  Those are the women with whom I have contact. In fact, those are generally the women with whom I have contact here as well. Both education and the influence of others work to increase a woman’s freedom. I wonder what percentage of poorly educated women in remote rural locations live a similarly constrained life here?

Then I came across this.

While people like having choices, too many options makes settling on one specific choice difficult. There is a technical term to describe this problem: the excessive choice effect (ECE). The ECE refers to the inverse relationship between the number of options and the ability of a person to make a choice. It is most famously related to a study involving jam. Authors Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper found that consumers more likely to purchase jam when presented with six choices than when they were presented with 24 choices.

jamIt was part of a newsletter from the American Association of Independent Investors. If you’ve read d4 you know that I handle stock investing for myself and other family members, and so I’ve subscribed to a wide variety of newsletters on the subject over the past decade or so. Most make money, but mostly for the people who write them.  However, the AAII aims to provide “unbiased, actionable investment education” often playing the role of a sort of “Consumer Reports” for the individual investor. Here, they were trying to help the non-professional navigate their way through mutual funds. (There are an awful lot of them out there.) So I checked out the jam story, and apparently it is true.

I have always believed that having no real choice about what you can do is the very definition of misery. The essence of happiness is the freedom to choose the alternative you believe is best. You may choose to defer your happiness, or to forego it altogether to aid or please another. You may choose to do something difficult; you may choose to take a nap. When circumstances beyond anyone’s control give you a lousy set of choices, that might make what you pick all the more valuable to you.

growing-bolder-8To artificially restrict anyone’s decisions (visit a sick friend and get beaten, or don’t) is to artificially limit their joy in life. No, you can’t study to be a doctor because we say so. No, you cannot try to run a marathon, because I don’t like the idea. This exertion of control, this limiting the potential of others with arbitrary rules, is of course not confined to the experience of women. However, women have far too often been on the losing end of it. On this blog and in my life, I cheer on the women who have found a way to regain their options.

But what an interesting idea that we also don’t like to have too many choices. At least when it comes to something trivial like what cookie to eat, a half dozen options are good. More important decisions like what career to pursue or what mate to choose presumably warrant having more than six to pick from. But can we suffer from choice overload even then?

Maybe what we all want is enough meaningful choices, in all aspects of our life. We don’t like being forced to pick among things that don’t matter that much to us. Ask anyone who has recently had to plan a wedding and pick from dozens of nearly identicle type-fonts. And yet, we rebel deeply against not being able to choose the things that matter most to us. Of course we do.

Funny creatures, aren’t we?

One Great Idea From the Misogynist Wing of the Alt Right

Like almost everything you can imagine, and a whole lot of things you can’t, it exists on the internet. The same wonderful, amazing tool that fuels my stories by letting me see locations I’ll never visit and open doors into the minds of others I will never meet, also allows me to find voices that repulse and frighten me. In fact, it allows me to find them easily.

Like most people, I avoid the dark corners of the internet, until my desire to make a character or incident more authentic drives me back to some putrid place. This time, I was trying to do something that seemed pretty safe. I was trying to learn more about Argentine women, because I was writing about one. Flipping through sites, I landed on a blog about how to get laid in Argentina. It seemed to be part of series of posts advising men about how to obtain casual, consensual and free sex in every country on earth. Crass but harmless.

The author advised me that women in Argentina were far too high maintenance and that I would be better off just heading over to neighboring Brazil. Something about the general tone started to bother me, and I filed it away for a possible future blog post of my own.

geniusBecause I’m a news junkie, over the last few days I’ve heard a lot about Trump’s new campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon, who also heads up Breitbart News. I had not heard of Breitbart News before, but according to a wealth of sources it is part of an alternate reality known as the alt right, in which a wide variety of paranoid white-centric ideas are held as truths. I checked it out for myself, and found headlines like “Obama Golfs as Louisiana Floods” and “Texas Voter ID Case Compared to Area 51 Alien Conspiracy” (two actual headlines used today). Okay, I’m going to go with the talking heads.

I also went back to the how-to-get-laid-in-Argentina blog, thinking I might write about it, and lo and behold I found another post there entitled “If Trump Doesn’t Win We’re Screwed.” Hmm. Seems like this guy writes about more topics than effective pick-up lines. It didn’t take much in the way of looking around to find a post called “Ugly Minority Girls Are Winning Beauty Pageants To Satisfy The Diversity Agenda” and to find comments like (I quote the exact words and apologize in advance for any offense) “overweight and obese girls have more sexual partners on average than girls who are in shape, because the same lack of impulse control that leads them to stuff their faces with food also leads them to hoover up cocks left and right” and “homosexuals and bisexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to be mentally ill: their malfunctioning sexual impulses lead to their entire personalities being dysfunctional.”

By this point I was looking for some bleach to clean out my browser. Ick. Yes, people can believe anything they want and they can also share those thoughts with others. But does this blogger seriously believe what he writes, or, like much of the alt right, does he just enjoy shocking people with outrageous statements?

I decided to look further into this. The blogger has a name, Daryush Valizadeh, and he achieved a small amount of infamy when he wrote a post in 2015 suggesting that rape be legalized on private property. His argument was that such a law would coerce women into becoming extremely careful (or paranoid), to the point of never being alone with a man with whom they did not want to have sex. Thus rape would be eliminated. After a lot of criticism, he claimed that he was being sarcastic.

sungazing5The Southern Poverty Law Center follows him due to his “specific examples of misogyny and the threat, overt or implicit, of violence” and you can read their latest on him. (I am happy to provide a link to the SPLC site, but will not link to his blogs.) According to the short Wikipedia entry on him, he is against female promiscuity, which seems a rather odd stance for a man who writes books with titles like Bang Lithuania: How to Sleep with Lithuanian Women in Lithuania and Don’t Bang Denmark: How to Sleep with Danish Women in Denmark (If You Must). I  have no idea what he has against Danish women.

Another odd contradiction is that along with his clarion call for men to be sexually aggressive, he has recently begun to rally his followers to reject globalism and adhere to nationalism. It seems a strange stance for a man who is the child of two immigrants, who has lived in multiple other countries and who writes travel books. Perhaps he is trying a little too hard to merge his philosophies about sex with the politics of the alt right.

I do confess to reading one of his posts from start to finish. It was titled something like “don’t have sex with feminists” and it advised men that the feminist movement could be seriously diminished if males would simply refuse to become intimate with women who held unacceptable ideas like wanting equal pay. (I’m serious, equal pay was the horrible feminist idea that he used as an example.) His plan for stopping feminism is for every man in every bar to respond clearly and firmly to every such statement with something like “then forget it, I’m not attracted to feminists.” He thinks this would make women feel so rejected that they would rethink their silly ideas.

I almost wrote the man to say “Please get all of your followers to do this. Please. What a service this would be.”

Imagine the scene in the bar. He says “Forget it, lady, I’m not attracted to feminists.” She says “Thank you so much for telling me. I’m not attracted to assholes.”

And everyone leaves the bar happy. See, even I can find one idea from the misogyny wing of the alt right movement with which to agree.

 

 

 

Because she could ….

bolder6A couple of months ago I wrote about March as Women’s History month, and the corresponding wealth of sites celebrating songs that empower women. Buzz Feed, The BoomBox, and vh1 all had their lists complete with best lines from the song, the reason the song is great, and a video to enjoy. I concatenated the lists together to create my own mega celebration of female power.

However, I felt like the songs were mostly recent and in certain popular genres. The only one that could be considered an oldie was the all time classic “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Country-western songs were nowhere to be found, even though I had discovered plenty of them when I was writing c3, and needed one to include in my story. (I settled on “Because I Can” by LeAnn Rimes and, I’ve come to really appreciate it even though I’m not a CW fan.)

An old friend of mine who is an expert on Classic Rock and Roll read my post and he agreed that too many older songs that qualified were left off of the list. He proposed twelve more additions. They are all good, but the three that simply have to be included are given below in chronological order.

Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit “You Don’t Own Me” predated the idea of feminism but it got the attitude right.The chorus features “And don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to say”.

Yes, you can find a video of a song from 1963. Here it is.

“I am Woman” performed by Helen Reddy is a 1972 feminist’s anthem, with lyrics that begin with “I am woman, hear me roar!” It has had plenty of satire over the years but no one has put a more blunt statement of feminine power to music before or since. The Billboard Book of Number One Hits describes the typical DJ reaction to the song in 1972 as “‘I can’t stand this record! I hate this song! But you know, it’s a funny thing, my wife loves it!”

Enjoy this 1975 version performed by Helen Reddy.

Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 “I Will Survive” has gotten some recent attention when it was featured during the credits at the end of “The Martian”.  Yes, it is a song about human survival, but also one specifically about a woman finding the strength within her.  This video of Gloria Gaynor singing will have you standing up and yelling “yes” by the end and you’ll feel better, I promise.

“Because I Can”

beautiful life6Not sure when women got March as Women’s History month, but I’m glad they did. Her story isn’t told nearly as often as history. It is a little surprising, though, that along with this attempt to add more balance to our knowledge of the past, there is suddenly a wealth of sites celebrating songs that empower women. Buzz Feed offers 17 Empowering Songs By Female Artists To Boost Your Self-Esteem, The BoomBox has 20 songs to celebrate the superwoman in you, and vh1 has The 15 Greatest Girl Power Anthems. Each site features best lines from the song, the reason the song is great, and a video to enjoy.

I thought it was interesting that only three songs showed up twice.  The honors go to “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child, “Stronger” by Britney Spears and the all time classic “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. It is worth checking out all three sites, but if you are just curious which songs were chosen, an alphabetical list of all 49 songs is at the end of this post.

Do you have one or two of your own to add? Of course you do. We all have our personal favorites.

I needed to find an anthem celebrating female power when I was writing c3, but because my hero was a fan of country music, I needed to find it in that genre. Country music isn’t my own first choice for listening, so I couldn’t think of a single one. I did a search and was surprised at the number of contenders. I finally settled on a song commonly called “Because I Can” by LeAnn Rimes and after listening to it and writing about it, I’ve come to really appreciate it. Here is how it got used in the book.

Teddie returned to her room mid-morning and pushed herself to stay awake through the rest of the day’s classes. Most of her life she’d been a good student, and she was trying to accept the fact that this year would be the exception. While kids back home were already stressing out about college applications, Teddie could only trust that her sense of adventure in spending a year abroad was going to count for something.

LeAnnShe was hoping for a nap before dinner, but Haley was already in the room, happily singing along to one of Teddie’s favorite country songs. Haley preferred pop and rock, but she had slowly warmed to some of Teddie’s music. Right now she was belting out the empowering words to song often referred to as “Because I Can”. It was impossible not to ask what was going on.

“One blogger called it ‘Barbie climbs Everest,’” Haley laughed, “and you know what? Even though I am not climbing Everest, I wasn’t offended.”

“Can I assume that means that you are part of the expedition again?” Teddie asked.

Haley’s wide grin was answer enough. “’Cami girl’—that’s my other name—‘set to climb Kanchenjunga.’ That was the other big blog’s headline. I can’t believe that it is really going to happen. You do know that this means that I am out of here in less than a week?

“What? Why? You don’t climb until May,” Teddie said.

“I know, but I’ve decided that I’ve got to spend more time adjusting to a higher altitude. We’re only at 6,700 feet here, so my dad is coming in a few days. We’re going to drive up to Lachen. It’s only about fifty miles from Gangtok but takes six hours to drive. It’s supposed to be gorgeous, and it’s at almost nine thousand feet. After a few days there we’ll drive up to Thangu at thirteen-thousand feet, and I’ve decided that I’m going to live there until the climb. I’m even going to let my dad do all the last minute coaching and training that he thinks he needs to do, because if I’m going to do this I have got to stack the deck in my favor every way that I can.”

Haley gestured to the pile of schoolwork on her desk. “I’m bringing my schoolwork with me, even though I’ll probably have to take incompletes in everything.” She looked hard at Teddie. “Are you going to be alright here by yourself?”

Teddie had to laugh. “Haley, you are about to go do something where people actually die, and you’re worried about me?”

“Well, there’s a lot going on here too.”

The song is also called “One Way Ticket.”  LeAnn Rimes gives the lyrics everything she’s got in this well-made video of her and her band performing it live. Enjoy.

Here are the songs from the other three sites.

  1. A Woman’s Worth by Alicia Keys
  2. Body Of My Own by Charli XCX
  3. Bust Your Windows by Jazmine Sullivan
  4. Can’t Hold Us Down by Christina Aguilera (ft Lil Kim)
  5. Conceited by Remy Ma
  6. Control by Janet Jackson
  7. Doo Wop (That Thing )by Lauryn Hill
  8. F**kin’ Perfect by P!nk
  9. Feeling Myself by Nicki Minaj (feat Beyoncé)
  10. Fight Song by Rachel Platten
  11. Flawless by Beyoncé ft Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  12. Fly by Nicki Minaj Feat Rihanna
  13. Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves
  14. Freedom  by Queen Latifah, Yo Yo, Lisa Left Eye Lopes, MC Lyte, Nefertiti, Salt-N-Pepa
  15. Girl Talk by TLC
  16. Girls by Santigold
  17. Goodbye by Kristina DeBarge
  18. Hair by Lady Gaga
  19. I Look So Good (Without You) by Jessie James
  20. I’m Every Woman by Chaka Khan
  21. Independent Women by Destiny’s Child
  22. Ladies First by Queen Latifah Feat Monie Love
  23. Love Me by Katy Perry
  24. Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld
  25. Man! I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain
  26. Milkshake by Kelis
  27. No More Drama by Mary J Blige
  28. No Scrubs by TLC
  29. None of Your Business by Salt-N-Pepa
  30. Obsessed by Mariah Carey
  31. On My Own by Miley Cyrus
  32. One In A Million by Hilary Duff
  33. Pretty Girl Rock by Keri Hilson
  34. QUEEN by Janelle Monae Feat Erykah Badu
  35. Respect by Aretha Franklin
  36. Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce
  37. Satellite Call by Sara Bareilles
  38. Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine
  39. Stay Beautiful by Taylor Swift
  40. Stronger by Britney Spears
  41. Try by Colbie Caillat
  42. Unpretty by TLC
  43. Video by India Aire
  44. Wannabe by Spice Girls
  45. Whatcha Think About That by Pussycat Dolls (ft Missy Elliot)
  46. Who Says by Selena Gomez
  47. Who’s That Girl by Eve
  48. You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo by Yo-Yo Feat Ice Cube