So... I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while now. It's been brewing, perhaps since the Women's March in 2017. But after watching the new Doctor Who episode (which was amazing), I don't think I can hold it back any longer.
To start, for context, I was a child of the 1980s. I loved E.T., The Goonies, Michael Jackson, new wave music, and I genuinely feared nuclear war. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Later, I became a Gen-Xer with hippie tendencies, and for a moment or two in the early 90s, I thought we had a chance for equality, peace, and female empowerment. But then, Kurt Cobain died, female singer-songwriters were suddenly deemed uncool, replaced with boy bands and Britney Spears. Depth was replaced with shallowness, and women were openly looked at as sexual objects once again, and somehow, everyone seemed OK with that.
Personally, I reverted, hiding in the past, praying things would change. In 2008, Obama was elected, and for another brief moment, I let myself believe my country was moving forward, possibly ready for positive, progressive change.
(Photo above taken by me at the over-packed rally in 2008 in Sunrise, FL.)
OK, so Obama wasn't the perfect president we progressives wanted, but we seemed to be moving forward. LGBTQI rights made progress (gay marriage was passed, and I cried for joy), the ACA was nowhere near perfect, but it was a step in the right direction, and finally, Don't Ask Don't Tell died. Sure, we seemed stuck in the cemented myth of Trickle Down Economics, and female singer-songwriters still weren't considered that cool, but I had hope.
Unfortunately, in 2016, my own generation (and those a bit younger) dropped the ball and allowed a vile, openly sexist, corrupt "man" (I'm hesitant to call him that when he's more of a spoiled brat, IMO) into the highest office of the land. Of course, I did not vote for him, but I DID vote. I knew HillaryClinton was not the progressive's first choice, but I trusted everyone would know what was at stake, especially women, and they would come out in droves to vote for her. I was so wrong... Apparently, Americans had become lazy and/or apathetic, or just plain spoiled, believing they didn't have to vote. My own generation allowing themselves to say, "What does it matter? All politicians are the same." Except, they're not. Sometimes, the lesser of two evils makes all the difference between a flawed democracy and a misogynistic dictatorship. (Which one would you prefer?)
The point I'm trying to make here is that I could become disillusioned, and a part of me is... But a bigger part won't give up. It's a choice, and I choose to fight.
Yesterday, I watched "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" (the first Doctor Who episode of the new season), and it was the best thing ever.
Not only was Jodi Whittaker a great new Doctor, full of bright energy, optimism, and ingenuity (she friggin MADE HER OWN SONIC SCREWDRIVER!), but she was the hope I needed at this moment in America. I know this is a classic British show, but for Americans who care about women's rights, and with the defeat and anger so many of us felt after Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed into SCOTUS, this glorious and first female doctor felt like an antidote for a rampant, seemingly unstoppable disease.
And this disease isn't just in America. After it was announced that the new Doctor would be a woman, countless Brits (mostly old-fashioned men) freaked out, saying that The Doctor was always a man before and how wrong and horrible it was to make him a her. But why? For those who don't know, The Doctor is a shape-shifting alien with two hearts, who can regenerate into practically anything when he/she is about to die. (I wish I had that ability!) There was literally nothing stopping this alien hero from deciding to be a female if he/she wanted, and yet, people freaked out. It amazed me. It also worried me.
By now, most of us have heard the terms "Rape Culture" and "Toxic Masculinity," but how many of us really thought it was so prevalent, or even real? How many of us are still in denial? I know I was... Let me explain.
Like I said, I was a child of the 80s. In that era, it was post women's lib, but... Not really. You see, sexism and male-domination was still quite the norm. It was everywhere, and worse yet, we didn't even know it. We were brainwashed into thinking it was fine. Did your teacher or co-worker inappropriately hit on you? Oh, well. Boys will be boys. Did a man tell you not to pursue a career? Oh, well. What can you do but secretly complain? And if you did complain in public, well... Look what happened to Anita Hill.
I didn't realize it, but I too was brainwashed. For example, I hated when my guitar teacher told me I'd never be able to reach bar chords because of my little fingers, so I should just tell a guitarist what I wanted, and HE'D play it for me. I gave up at only 13, and if I hadn't been inspired and influenced by my other half, Timothy, I would have never realized I COULD play those chords on guitar just as well as a man with bigger hands. OK, I'll never be Jimi Hendrix, but I can certainly play guitar well enough to play my own songs. It took me until I was in my 20s to finally gain confidence. But I almost gave up... Because I didn't realize how much I believed the sexist B.S. in my childhood/adolescence. It was on a subconscious level, but I was just as brainwashed as everyone else, and that's a hard thing to realize.
You see, sexism and rape culture was deeply embedded into our society. Films like Sixteen Candles, Porky's, Last American Virgin, Revenge of the Nerds, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and many more were considered harmless and cute. But upon further inspection, you'll realize how sexist and gross these films could be. They depicted females as sex objects to be won, or played with like toys. It was normal, and we were all supposed to smile and laugh. As a child and teen, it made me uncomfortable, but I pretended it was fine. None of us knew better. And I guess our parents didn't either... Or they just didn't care.
It seems to me that this toxic masculinity thing is so ingrained into our society that both genders often have no idea when it's happening... Until it's too late. When someone is raped, they get it, but usually only when it happens to them, or someone close to them. Otherwise, we seem to look away or pretend it's not the case. (If we ignore the problem, it'll just go away, right?) Obviously, it doesn't go away. The more that rape culture is normalized, and the pain of it kept in the shadows, the more the disease festers, creating a black hole inside the progress of any civilized society, and if ignored, it will only get worse.
So, what's the answer? I want to say that the Kavanaugh confirmation woke us up, and perhaps a flood of women (sexual assault survivors or otherwise) will rise up to vote in the midterm elections in less than a month... But I'm worried. Not only has America had the tendency to be lazy or apathetic, but many women have learned to stay quiet or just give up. It's understandable... Hell, like I said, I almost gave up. I know it was just the guitar, but it wasn't. It was my soul on the line... And I had to fight to find my true self and what I was capable of. I can't imagine how much harder it is for a victim of rape, sexual assault, and/or abuse, but I know one thing: we ALL need to stand up and force our voices to be heard!
This includes men who believe women should be treated as equals. This includes boys who were raped or abused. This includes ANYONE who has been under the thumb of dominant, cruel men (and even some women, who carry on the sexist evils of the past.) It needs to stop, and only we, the people, can stop it. And we can only stop it if we vote. Voting is our only hope, our only power. How anyone can choose not to exercise it is beyond me. Women and people of color died for their right, OUR right, to vote.
Of course, no matter what happens after the midterms, the problem of toxic masculinity will be there. It has wormed its way into society for far too long to just up and leave. But we have a choice whether or not to fight it and demand progress for the better. We can fight for equality, for both men and women, LGBTQI, all ethnicities, everyone... Everywhere. It's all up to us... If only we choose to believe in our voices... And our little fingers.
As Doctor 13 wisely said, "We can honor who we've been and choose who we want to be next."
It's a great line... Because it's important to honor the good things, the good strides you've made in the past. But it's even better to realize your mistakes and learn from them.
So, the question is, America... and everyone everywhere: Who do you want to be?