I didn’t March today despite the thousands in Seattle that did. I am a writer not a marcher. I still feel heartfelt when I envision my teenage daughter going forth into this world as her curves develop along with her sense of confidence. A luminescent quality radiates from her; she turns heads, “your daughter is beautiful” I hear. In many ways this makes me bite my lip in worry, devoid of words- the RIGHT words anyway.
I read many books by Betty Friedan, poems of Dorothy Parker, I read Our Bodies, Our Selves, I knew the phrase the Beauty Myth and I recall thinking beauty was a blessing and a curse. Thank god I was a boyish looking child or it could have lasted longer.
I heard it starting at 16, “you are very pretty.” from total strangers. I just looked astonished and ran away. I didn’t realize I had an important platform from which to shatter myths? In middle age on occasion I do get flirtatiously chatted up at grocery stores by a fish monger, the butcher, by some young New Jersey transplant in a t-shirt with rolled up sleeves, a gold chain around his neck- the Graduate comes to mind. My mom experienced it, and well-some of us are magnets. But for me, the flattery stops if the cute stops. If touching starts, my quills shoot venom.
My dream is to write the perfect screenplay that recreates the lures, the confusion the grey areas we get snared in that truly explore if Feminism helps or hinders us? We constantly consume messages contradictory messages. Those that create films and music and publicly consume art should be aware that the impressionable youth of the next generation are soaking up your message, make it a good one.
Biology and socialization are key and the messages playfully duke it out in tug-of war -back and forth. We can call certain men predatory, Anthony Wiener, Harvey Wienstein, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Woody Allen, or we can call them products of society’s passivity and prize; fame. Certain women get confused, lacking self respect or simply young and naive having weak role models? But the media should start calling out it’s participation in overt over-sexualizing of American Culture. Turn on Dancing with the Stars or any hip hop song or sitcom if this confuses you, you’ll spot it. God forbid our young people esteem to have sex lives like on Game of Thrones, good luck with that.
It’s time. This ain’t 1950. We are changing. We are asking to see more of your black dress statements. To hear your public admissions of abuse, in memoirs, in movies, in government, no matter who your famous daddies are- you deserve to be heard! It’s time we shed the skewed visions our moms mistakenly filtered down. We HAVE evolved and culture changes. Pretty first and smart second is 50’s mentality. Flattery only goes so far. It’s time to teach conservative mother’s and fathers to live the new message and really hear the new demand. Not just parents of daughters but parents of boys! We need more marches, more bills in government, more spoken requests at work; daily -however impolite it feels, communicate that sexual harassment and the tolerance for it are over.
I was taught if they hit on you-it’s a compliment. I was told to “go to college and marry a rich man.” Boy did that get my hackles up. My mother was told only her brother could go to college. Her generation was practiced. If they hit on you- you just batted your eyes. No one ever spoke of women being objectified! But today- If it feels wrong, it is. The blank slate you entered into as an infant entitles you to two things- dignity and self respect. If they drop their pants in front of you, don’t assume you must make them amorous; or you caused it somehow, -IF they drop their pants in front of you, they have seriously unpredictable creepy predatory tendencies and should be reported. Tell three people, at least write a letter to your local Dear Abby. The quiet suffering is just a path to alcohol abuse, regret and bottled up truth. There is nothing modern about living a lie, we grow from truths, we learn from mistakes.
We have evolved. There is more good than bad. There is progress to make. We should cultivate and inspire our modern icons of change, Sasha and Malia and Chelsea, Oprah, Melania- March the road of change, can you imagine the message if she leaves the white house and decides to be a woman with a wake up call; instead of a trophy wife? It’s time we can be gymnasts and models and TV Anchors and Actresses and admins and not be sexually harassed or subject to bias for our choice to wear leotards or walk runways.
Young women have a very real challenge, the new dream of equality starting at the White House. Obliterating the message the very image of Melania Trump personifies; that money is worth more than dignity. That we are second to men and can not be president. Our young adolescence voices need to press harder to be more courageous blot out Hollywood’s misconception: status is NOT more important than your self respect. Beauty is NOT Pain, Money is not a super power with exclusionary rules that grant rights to victimize women or men for that matter. FOR GOD SAKE, women bleed once a month in preparation for motherhood and still go to work, to make less on the dollar than men, men who go to work with all their iron stores in check, make more money and shed no blood at all? This is why we March!
I was 28 at the time, I worked in Marketing. I was called into my boss’s office. Correction, I walked into Bruce Cleaveland’s office. I had no cause for alarm, We always got along, we both liked the band Cake, we loved sales, he spoke adoringly of his kid Henry, I listened. This one day hit me unexpectedly, from a man I thought I admired. “well Lisa, he said, you’re a hard worker, we think it’s time to promote you, he said smiling” ‘My face swelled with pride, I wanted desperately to be a career woman, “well then, I told him, now is as good a time as any to tell you, I’m gonna be having a baby, I’m expecting,” I said frankly nodding and looking him in the eyes, (I was currently the 50th person at this software company -it later went public). In the next few weeks I realized my “mistake.” His response to my exciting news was “oh, well then……that changes things in regards to promoting you.” I looked perplexed, my mouth still. My response quite possibly cost me my career-my mouth just naturally spoke these words: “you DO realize what you’ve just said is actually illegal?” I told him, devoid of emotion. Things got difficult from there on out-I was pushed out. I chose motherhood over career after that.
Inexperienced, I was. True to myself-I was. Naive, I was. Too outspoken, maybe. The secret welled in me and festered like a lost love for years. I recall having to press someone in my next career to convince me why we really needed to print false sales numbers? Again, my ethics were in question. Really!? Mom never said it would be like this! She just said again and again “you really need lipstick.” I remind her of that one still. Luckily for me karma granted me the pedestal of my writing inspiration, I stayed home with this boy whom I had much to teach-foregoing a career. So I was lucky? Young ladies, I would not do it again, I would keep the door open and make noise and keep working at least part time.
Where do we start? We start by not working at Hooters, not stripping to pay for law school, not disconnecting from our mom’s who don’t get it- but repeating our message until they do. We ask for a break room to pump while nursing -not the restroom; making them see working mothers as an asset. Demanding change for the next generation of women. Let me remind you like a recent issue of Time Magazine did that not that long ago women died in childbirth, let us not let part of us still die in motherhood?
I waited after the boy was born, why would I do THAT again? 4 years later, I swaddled a girl in pink tulip prints in that hospital room. I vowed to write that book from home. To blaze an important undervalued path-the path of motherhood. I would erase the icky parts of adolescence for her? There would be no secrets, no one would masturbate in front of her at age 15 and not be arrested as had happened to me. No boss would slobber over her while she worked at her desk, biting her, talking down to her. She would speak up, unlike me. I would discourage the overly sexy pedestal many women find themselves wanting to climb atop. I’d watch Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at least 5 times with her so she heard the message again and again.
We need Marches, but we need letters and laws and powerful voices doing the hard work at state and federal levels. The image of power cannot just stop with a march through the streets.