Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Tail of Two Kitties: Lessons from the Cat #4


Lilith and Pookie were my first two cats. They were littermates. They came to live with me when they were only five weeks old. Alas, Pookie passed onto her next life over a decade ago (inoperable tumor), but Lilith will turn 18 years old next month (and she doesn't look a day over 13).

They were close even as they grew out of kittenhood into adolesence and adulthood into middle age. Whatever her age, though, Pookie never outgrew her love of chasing tail. Mostly it was her own tail (her preferred perch was my bicycle seat. which still bears her clawmarks), but sometimes Lilith's was the target. Pookie would be mezmerized by the sight of Lilith's tail swinging over the edge of the couch and begin her stalking routine. She would crouch and wiggle her rear end ever so slightly. Then she would pounce. But the tail would be gone.

Lilith the Clever
Lilith the clever had deliberately positioned herself on the couch edge. Then she would slowly swish her tail in clear sight of Pookie, drawing her attention. Lilith would pretend not to notice Pookie, but her timing gave her away. As Pookie pounced, Lilith snapped her tail up and out of reach. Without fail.

Lilith and Pookie were two cats at play. The ramifications of Pookie being lured into chasing Lilith's tail were, well, non-existent. But for us people, it is a very different tail, er, tale.

People who mean you harm will often use desirable lures to distract you from their real intent. Some can be quite clever at discerning an unfulfilled need, and holding out an offer. The idea is to physically isolate you after they've gained a small measure of your trust. When you are alone with the perp, they will make their move quickly, and you will be surprised and in denial. In many instances the assault will be over before you realize you've been assaulted. In fact, you may never even name your experience as assault.

The lesson of this tale is something you've heard again and again. If it's too good to be true, if it's too perfect, listen to your gut's reservations. Because, unlike Pookie and Lilith's tail, your consequences may last longer than 5 seconds.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rihanna and Chris Brown Remix It Up

I suffer from a lack of contemporary culture awareness.  When, three years ago, Rihanna was beaten by then-boyfriend Chris Brown, my first thought was "That's horrible . . . Chris who?" (I had heard of Rihanna, even if I couldn't think of a single song of hers.)

So now the two of them are back in the news, in The New York Times no less. Because they both performed in the 2012 Grammys broadcast. There was some disgruntled buzz about why a convicted woman-beater was allowed to perform, and then more buzz after BuzzFeed aggregated some tweets by some women who said they'd take a beating from Brown any day.* And because they each have new songs out, featuring each other (at least on the "remix" versions).**

Jon Caramanica, author of the above-mentioned NY Times article, reads into these two collaborations a need for all parties to move on and away from the "black cloud." Rihanna does not want to live as a victim, and Brown wants to rehabilitate his image. There seems to be support all around from the music community. Caramanica describes this as "a desire by both to reshape the narrative" of how much that event in 2009 affects their future(s). As if they want to put it all behind, perhaps even to forget anything bad happened. Caramanica's ending line is "You want to forget? Fine. But don't forgive."

And that's the part I just don't get. Perhaps it's the connotations I connect with forgiveness and forgetfulness. To forgive is something you do for yourself, free yourself from the emotional bondage of trauma. You want to move on. To forget is to not only to not remember, but to also to not have learned anything. You want to move on regardless of the cost, and quite possibly risk repeating history and trauma. I've know a few people like that.

Rihanna, it's okay to publicly forgive. But please don't forget. Don't let your fans forget, either.


Footnotes:

*I'd bet if you asked any of those women what they meant when they tweeted that it would be okay to be beaten by Chris Brown, you'd probably get a blank look as they said well, no, not REALLY, like they were just telling the world how much they love him regardless of what he does off the stage, and like since they weren't beaten it doesn't really factor into how they like feel about him as an artist or person. Like, it doesn't really mean anything because they like really didn't put a whole lotta thought before they tweeted.

** Wanna hear the songs? Try these links:


Friday, February 17, 2012

Should Female Soldiers "Expect" to be Raped? A Former Marine Says NO!

A few days  ago I posted about a FOX News "pundit," Liz Trotta, who expressed incredulity that women would enter the service and not be expecting sexual assault. The whole episode reminded me more of an old Monty Python routine ("NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!") than real news commentary in how surreal Trotta's opinions were.

Former Marine Sarah Anderson wrote a truly AWESOME piece about Ms. Trotta's inane comments, and at the end asks us to sign an online petition demanding that FOX fire Trotter. I signed, and I highly recommend you do too.

I looked up "pundit" in Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, hoping for some pithy and witty quip to quote. Nothing. I think it's the season for a new, updated dictionary.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pittance of Punditry on Women in Military Service

I really hate it when women in public positions spout off anti-feminist platitudes. For example, how does Liz Trotta think she got where she is, if not on the backs of women who pushed to be able to engage and be taken seriously in public discourse (i.e., "feminists")?  Maybe you never heard of Liz Trotta either? I hadn't, until I saw this video. Lis Trotta is a FOX News "pundit," and here she's opining about women serving in the US military who'd been raped while in service.




(if you received this post as an email and cannot view the video, you can see it on my blog online or at Media Matters. If you are using an iPad or iPhone, you may have to go to a computer that plays Flash.)

So much deliberate ignorance, packed into less than 4 minutes.  I'll just point out the parts I consider most egregious.

  • She objects to how much is spent on issues around sexual assault. $113 million annually, she says. Is that a lot of money? It would be to me personally. However, the military commands a budget is somewhat larger than mine, and this military expenditure is fiscally comparable to my buying one plain old coffee, not even a latte (double short, non-fat milk, please).
  • She is astounded that people in the military are still people. Apparently, once you join the military you can be disregarded as having any real needs other than to protect Americans. Because the mission of the Army and other services is to defend and protect us, not those actually fighting the war. I am astounded at the sheer lack of humanity of that statement. Liz, the people sent to defend and protect us ARE US. 
  • She believes that rape just happens when men and women are in close proximity. Bull. People make the choice to rape. When "pundits" spout off that we can expect men to commit rape, they are giving their permission for rape to happen. 
  • She seems to believe that this is strictly a male-female problem. While a greater percentage of women in military service are raped, a far greater number of men are raped while in military service. Funny how she doesn't mention that.
  • She objects to "feminists" wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time. Really? I've worked for years with women veterans who had been sexually assaulted. None of them wanted to be victims. Almost all of them were proud of their service to the United States, and wanted the wrongs done to them recognized and justice served. And isn't that at the core of being American?

Adam Weinstein's article in Mother Jones points out some fascinating facts of Trotta's background that make her statements appear even more ludicrous.

You can help. One female military veteran has begun a petition on Change.org to ask the US House and Senate Armed Services Committee to change the way sexual assault is handled. Because rape should NOT be expected, or tolerated, when women sign up to serve. Please sign it today; remember that sharing is caring, so pass it along to your friends.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Caution Keeps You Aware. Fear Keeps You . . .

"I am going to be raped."

Monday morning's radio, KUOW-FM Weekday with Steve Scher and his guest Willie Weir. Weir is an "adventure traveler," predominantly by bicycle. He has a tale about a "fork in the road," an event that could be life-changing. Could have been life-changing, and not in a positive way. This happened about 20 years ago, alone in a foreign land by the sea.

Weir was looking for a place to pitch his tent. He accepted an offer to be led to a secluded site by a local man. The site was perfect, in a grove of trees just away from a hotel. The threat of sexual assault had never been part of his world. Until then.

Denial, fear, acceptance, and then clarity. The local man was bigger and stronger (not to mention he had a machete). Weir realized that he needed to get closer to the nearby hotel, so he feigned compliance to lull the man into letting his guard down. He began drawing the man closer to the open area near the hotel, breaking the isolation of this perfect camping site. He saw an open door at the hotel, and people just within, so Weir used his voice to attract attention. And the man ran. Weir was now alone.

You can hear Weir's telling at http://www.kuow.org/podcast/WeekdayA/WeekdayA20120206.mp3 (note: this is the whole show, Weir's tale begins at about the 31 minute mark).

"This trip was over." He considered going home right then. He sat on the beach all night, and by morning he had changed his mind and resolved to keep on going.

"Caution keeps you aware. Fear keeps you away."

Weir felt that if he gave up on his trip and went home, he may never have traveled again. This was about who he wanted to be, and he knew he did not want to live in fear.

After three decades now of bicycle travel, Weir has the experience to exercise caution while still enjoying travels off the beaten path. He understands the risks and the rewards. And the beauty, people, laughs, and adventure outweigh the risks over 100-fold.

I've taught self-defense skills to women who travel, with others or often solo. They all have said they learn from their experiences, and wouldn't give it up for anything. And, as a result, they feel safer, more confident, and more alive.

Aware or away -- where would you rather be?