Being Girl 

Here’s a photo of me when I was about 23 years old. I was a mess. I was struggling with alcoholism, on my own for the first time and just trying to make sense of the world around me. 

It’s hard to look at this picture. It brings up a lot of memories. I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. 

I was fifteen when I started drinking. About the same time that I was trying to figure out boys. 

The first time I french-kissed a boy, we had been drinking. 

It’s not easy being a girl. The messages are so mixed up. Be sexy, but not too sexy. Be smart, but not too smart. Be a leader, but don’t be a bitch. 

It seems we can’t win for losing. 

A couple of weeks ago at a Red Boot Training, a future RBC guide and beautiful human being, broke down into tears. “I’m feeling violated by the rhetoric of this election. Specifically the claims of sexual assault and the laissez faire approach some people seem to have toward it.”

I know how she feels. Yesterday, a woman, who was preparing to come out about an encounter she had with Trump, when she was 13 years old, at the home of billionaire Epstein, decided last minute to remain silent due to the countless death threats she had received. 

I’m not sharing this with you as a political statement, but as the supporter-of-women-one. Bill Clinton was known to frequent the company of Epstein as well…

So please don’t make this about politics. 

Make it about love. Make it about power and sex and how messed up it all is. Let’s make it about being human and human beings. 
Like the time a boss (too many times to list) came on to me and how many times I played along. 

I was young. He was not. He was powerful. I was not. I was confused and lost and just trying to figure it all out.

Or that time at the end-of-school-where-I-was-teaching-banquet…a prominent man, MUCH older than me who, at a public mic in front of lots of people, compared my body to the Milky Way…”both heavenly and marvelous…a wonder to behold.” I will never forget it…both the humiliation and the fleeting sense of power…I felt. The guilt I felt for kind of liking his comments and the shame I felt for his making them. 

Or like that time the cute guys whistled at my friend Susan. We were in middle school and she was curvy, a red head and beautiful. I was pissed that it had happened and pissed that she had received the attention and I hadn’t. 

Or in 6th grade when the boys would pop bra straps…to figure out who wore them…and how I wanted their attention but was repulsed by it all the same. 

There’s a new movement amongst my female friends, especially my college-age ones, and I think I love it. 

I met Jacklyn Friedman a couple of years ago at Rutgers. We were both speaking at a student-led event. She wrote the book, “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” and author of “What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety.” 

She writes: “Yes Means Yes provides answers for so many of the private anxieties students scrawl on the index cards they pass to me anonymously during Q&A sessions, or wait in line to whisper to me after talks. 

Oftentimes, I’m the first adult they’ve encountered who talk with them directly about sex in a way that affirms that sex can and should be pleasurable and that they’re the ones who get to decide when and how it works for them.”

Yes means yes removes the gray area. I think about the numerous encounters I’ve had over the course of my lifetime…especially those when I was young and trying to figure out where my power comes from. How things might’ve been different had there been a discussion on power and love and sexism and how to navigate all that in advance.

“Is it a yes? A big bold YES, let’s-do-this-yes” or is it an uncertain kind of “uh-I-don’t-know-kinda-sorta-let’s see-what-happens-kinda-I-think-but-I’m-not-sure-well-if-he-likes-me-kinda-yes-no-yes-no-but-I-feel-guilty-if-I-don’t-kinda thing.”

I think it all comes down to power. There are several documented instances where women in certain societies withheld sex to bring about change to the power structure. http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/29/opinion/ghitis-sex-strikes/

The argument against that, however, is precisely what makes this whole conversation so convoluted and confusing. It’s like a crazy house of mirrors. Using sex or lack of it…to bring about radical change suggests that women’s power is in fact related to our willingness or not to have sex; and is potentially limiting our worth to the world as sexual beings, rather than HUMAN beings with feelings and stories and hearts and souls. 

I write all this as an offering to all…to be more conscious of how all this is playing out on the current political stage. 

It’s messy. It’s scary. It’s wrong and it’s time for change. 

I’m not sure how we get there. I do know that for me…not seeing this as a political issue, but as a humanitarian one, helps. Also, supporting all of my sisters as we go about navigating this difficult topic is helpful too. 

Humanizing people…well…that’s about the best of all.

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