Shaming Melania

Standard

Who knows what makes Melania Trump tick? She’s hard to figure out, unless you want to make judgey, slut-shaming assessments, based on her appearance and her past life choices. I myself don’t know that much about her, but what I’ve seen doesn’t exactly impress me. I’ve seen a photograph of her with a gold-plated baby carriage in a gold-plated nursery. I’ve heard an interview with her and Donald Trump on Howard Stern, where she gleefully participates in one of the grossest “are you naked now?” shitshows that you might ever wish to unhear. I know that she doesn’t write her own speeches, and if she does, she plagiarizes like a C- student in her first year of community college. She wears way too much makeup for my taste, and seems to have married for money (because who would marry that man for anything but money? If he were an average penniless Joe, I bet she wouldn’t have given him the fumes off her perfume). So yeah, I guess I’m not a fan of Melania Trump, based on what I’ve seen of her so far.

One of the things I’ve seen of her is a modelling portfolio photograph where she stands greased up and naked, with her feet spread in the standard come-fuck-me stance, her face in a Modelling School 101 Sexy Glare, and her hand covering her pubis. Yawn. Naked lady, baby oil, early gig in a wannabe modelling career, I get it. It’s no big deal. It was a paying gig and she was a model and it’s her life and get over it. If she wasn’t famous now, it would have just been another model doing another nudie shoot. Double yawn.

But when people who eventually become famous are found to have chosen to do nudie photo shoots, or porn movies, or to have worked as escorts, it’s often rather embarrassing for them. Rarely, however, does it turn out to be any big deal. In the modelling, entertainment, film, and other sell-your-good-looks industries, such early-career jobs are part of the climb upward. Nothing wrong with that.

But Melania Trump is not in those industries now – she’s a political wife. Unless we accept that American politics and the entertainment business have indeed now completely merged into a monstrous chimera of reality TV and anti-intellectual, anti-social, just-plain-horrible political-office-seeking people (looking sort of like the monster at the end of Poltergeist II),Poltergeist II: The Other Side movie scenes poltergeist ii the other side ending monster carol melaniadonald

she’s going to have to meet a scrupulous standard of intellect, conventional attractiveness, and public service that has little to do with the game-show/gong-show/horror show that was her husband’s campaign. That’s going to be hard for her: self-evidently, Melania’s choices in her life indicate that she was looking for a high income, low-labour lifetime gig: a rich husband, a gold-plated nursery, and lots of servants. She wasn’t actually expecting to have to work.

So do we get to shame the new First Lady, for the choices she made when she was working her way up in the entertainment/trophy wife industries? In short, do we get to point to her nudie photo and giggle and smirk and make jokes? Some say yes: after all, she’s a public figure. She hooked her gold-digging wagon to a big star (the biggest, the hugest, the greatest), and at no point did she ever unhook it. So she’s a nudie-photo model and a gold-digger, and now she’s First Lady. Can we call her names for that?

No. No. No. First of all, we do not get to shame her for her modelling work. She was entitled to market her body for a possible career in fashion. No, we don’t get to fan ourselves delicately and shriek, “What kind of First Lady would pose naked – gracious!” Melania was a working woman doing a job, and well, some jobs involve getting naked. So no: her modelling career decisions are irrelevant to her job as First Lady.

As is her decision to marry for money. Sure, she married a hideous globule with a marmot glued to his balding pate, and she appears to have done it for money, because hideous globule/marmot. But that’s also irrelevant to her work as First Lady. If her heart (and her sexual response matrix) can accept something that icky, then that’s her affair (you should excuse the expression). We don’t shame sex trade workers and we don’t shame people who marry for money. It’s none of our business, even if the marriage is that of the presidential couple.

So in the face of all the finger-pointing, naughty-photo-sharing, and name-calling, it is possible to feel a little sorry for Melania. She is even more of a post turtle than her husband. After all, she didn’t want to work for a living – that’s why she married a rich man! Now look what she’s stuck with – a job! A hard job! So not only did her nudie picture career and her marriage not end up getting her the lady-of-leisure career she’d anticipated, but now she’s facing hard work. And she’s getting people waving these old pictures and her marriage-for-money decision in her face like she should be ashamed or something, when they were perfectly legitimate career choices for the career she happened to want. It’s not really fair game.

But. But.

You know what is fair game? Melania Trump’s betrayal of women. For that, we get to go after her, tooth and claw. This woman, and women like her – I’m looking at you, Trump supporters – threw their entire sex under the bus when they hooked up with that brute and his political aspirations. Donald Trump has  – without the help of “the media”, etc., etc., but from his own mouth and actions – showed himself to be viciously anti-woman. I don’t care if he has a history of hiring women here and there in higher-up positions. Lots of misogynists can recognize a single woman’s talents, and still be the guy who thrusts his paw up the receptionist’s skirt. And I don’t care if his two ex-wives still allegedly claim to sort-of like the guy (even the wife who swore under oath that he’d raped her as punishment for criticising his hair implants, and then retracted the sworn statement as “metaphorical”, when offered a massive financial settlement). I don’t care if you, personally, as a woman, find the guy to be charismatic or charming or a great orator or something else that suggests you might want to have your meds adjusted. Women like Melania Trump – women who follow creeps like that, and empower them, and marry them knowing what they are, and vote for them – are spitting in the faces of the women who fought and died for our right to vote; our reproductive freedom; our right to work safely and without fear of sexual abuse from our male co-workers and bosses; our right to say no to sexual advances; our right to an education; our right to not have to be physically beautiful in order to be successful (if you think that’s not an issue, try being an “ugly” woman some time). Women who follow men like Donald Trump are thieves, and they should relinquish every right that women fought for. Give it all back. Give back the vote. Give back community of property on divorce. Give back the right to work. Give back your birth control. Give back your education (if you have one). Give back your right to own property, for fuck’s sake – because women fought for that too. Give it all back, because you don’t deserve it.

Women who enable – who support – who celebrate – pigs like Donald Trump take every single benefit and right that stronger, braver, smarter women struggled to achieve, and they use it for their own benefit. Melania Trump is one of those women. She stands back in her high-high heels and her pancake makeup and applauds with her manicured hands and rattles her paid-for-by-hubby jewellery, while her man advocates for a regime that will make life for the rest of us women horribly, terribly, worse. A man who would grab us by the genitals and drag us back in time, to those good ol’ days that Trumpers remember as being just so damned wonderful, and which were anything but – for women.

For that, we get to say: shame on you, Melania Trump. Shame on you big time.

“If she weighs as much as a duck…”

Standard

hillary_arc

This is the first time in my recollection that I was actually scared by a Hallowe’en display. Normally I don’t find Hallowe’en scary – on the contrary, I love it, especially with everyone in this neighbourhood competing to recreate the most realistic cemetery or charnel-pit their front yard might allow. It’s all that, and chocolate too. The best holiday of the year!

But this year I found myself looking at a display that truly disturbed me, to the point that I had to avert my eyes every time I passed that house. It was a great effort – a very imaginative and well-executed rendering of an historical event- and the family had clearly put a lot of work into it. When I saw it, though, I was filled not with admiration but with fear, and pity, and sorrow. Which was weird, even for me – a possessor of a very active imagination and very thin skin. How come all the other yards – full of open graves and severed heads – didn’t bother me, but this yard made me shudder, and hurry quickly away?

This was their display: a half-dozen life-sized, upright skeletons, arranged on the house’s small front lawn. Four skeletons were dressed as Puritans, in black greatcoats and tall hats; they stood in a semi-circle, in an attitude of intense discussion, or perhaps prayer. A little behind them stood a skeleton-priest, clutching a Bible and holding one hand aloft. Behind all these men was the skeleton of a woman being burned at the stake. Her hands were stretched above her head, pinioned there by chains; she was naked, and her feet were sunk into an active “fire” (real logs; electric-fan-blown tissue-paper flames; smoke-machine smoke). Her face looked directly at passers-by, as her red hair tumbled down across her shoulders. She cast her empty eyes out past the men who had done this to her, and begged for help.

In front of all this was a large wooden sign: WELCOME TO THE WITCH TRIALS.

I was horrified. For me, those witch trials were personal. Those women – women like me – were killed because they were perceived to be misbehaving. They did not toe the line; they were perhaps very smart – smarter than the men around them – and they perhaps knew things, like how to use poultices or brew healing tea. Or how to run the village. Maybe they spoke too passionately; rejected religion; enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) sex with men. Whatever reason, they were singled out, and they were killed. They were hung, burned, and even crushed. Because they were women who didn’t behave like they were supposed to.

So there it was – I took the display personally. A little strange, but perhaps understandable. But why the fear? After all, it was centuries ago. We do not treat women like that anymore. It’s not a current problem.

But I fear – literally fear – that it is a current problem. I was not just mourning the deaths of hundreds of years ago; I was afraid for what’s happening today, as exposed by the American election. It’s not just Trump’s boasts of sexual assault, and his threats to take away our reproductive freedom. It’s the orchestrated and intense witch hunt that is underway against Hillary Clinton, to the point where her safety is at stake.

What has happened to Hillary Clinton’s reputation is the quintessential witch hunt. I’m not talking about legitimate criticism of a political figure. Heck, there’s lots to criticize her about. But there are people out there – lots of people – who want her dead. They want to kill her, shouting out just about every ridiculous accusation, some of them right up there with “she turned me into a newt.” And she’s not the only woman at risk for being powerful – or just for speaking up. The women who came forward to out Trump’s sexual assaults have all gone into hiding, and the one who had the guts to bring a lawsuit has just dropped it. Hunted down, she gave up. She was legitimately afraid for her life.

If Trump is elected, who knows what will happen? Maybe there will still be due process in the States under Trump’s thumb. But let’s not forget that there is a cabal of FBI officers in New York City who orchestrated the bullshit “reopening” of the “investigation” into Clinton’s email server. If the highest law enforcement agency in the land so despises this woman that they would do something like that, what’s to stop Trump for having her arrested? Who’s going to protect her, if the agencies meant to protect people are all standing around doing nothing – like those Puritan figures with their backs turned to the woman in the flames?

And that’s what I found so scary, in my neighbours’ witch-hunt display: echoes not only of the past, but of an active present, and of a possibly-foreseeable future.

Working It All Out

Standard

tired-bulldog-on-treadmill

Okay, so I joined a gym. I’ve done that before. Probably most of us have. But for me, joining a gym is a two-edged sword. On the one edge, there is the fun of it – the bouncy, booty-shaking, bass-thumpin’ fitness classes; the steel complexes of weights and chains, clanging and ringing like bells; the treadmills churning beneath your feet, while you race yourself against the ticking lap-meter. Yes, I find that stuff fun: yes, I love wearing myself out at the gym. I love my wobbly legs and my bright red face and the fact that I stretched this much further than I did two weeks ago. I might ask myself: why don’t I do this more often?

Well, that’s the other edge of the sword, isn’t it? Gyms are pretty inexpensive nowadays, so it’s not the money, and they’re usually open 24 hours, so it’s not the time. The other edge of the sword is the shame aspect. The fear of scrutiny; of analysis; of judgment. The shame of working out – while fat.

Gyms, historically, are not safe spaces for – ahem – people of size. I know we’re supposed to be past “fat shaming,” but once you’ve been bullied for being fat, it sticks with you. Especially in a gym, the House of Shame. You remember being the last one to make the twenty laps of the that hellhole known as the high school gymnasium, and the troop of girls waiting for you to finish, calling out the Fat Albert “hey, hey, hey” call as you jogged determinedly by; you remember – in adult years – the up-and-down look the other women in fitness clubs gave you when you walked into aerobics class. Sometimes, you’d get some helpful remarks in the change room: have you tried Weight Watchers? or You know, this club has a nutritionist. Gyms weren’t fun places, and it wasn’t because the workout was too hard: it was because of how clear it was made that you don’t belong here. How you ought to be ashamed, showing up here, looking like that.

But it is better now, and not just because I’m not in one of those glittery chrome-and-neon gyms where everybody seems to be more into showing off than working out. It might be partly age: as you get older in your fat-woman body, you become older-woman invisible, and the body that caused such disgust and vocal criticism when you were 12 or 21 or even 41 is now pretty-much your average middle-aged-ladybody, and nothing to remark on. So maybe the sight of me thundering along on the treadmill, my face as florid as a torture victim’s, is no longer worthy of comment. Maybe no one is saying anything – or giving me that look – because I’ve moved into another realm, where I’m not working out with the goal of looking gorgeous. Gorgeous is for the young. Me, I just want to be able to ride my horse without hurting his back; I just want to not to have wear a size 22. And my reason for “strengthening my core” is not at all about wanting to wear a bikini. It’s about not wanting to wear an incontinence pad.

I’ve been going for a week now, and after a day or two, I was able to shake off most of the feeling of being watched and judged, realizing that – in fact – nobody was watching. But I still am not completely enjoying my workouts. It sunk in a few days ago, while I saw myself in the mirror in front of the treadmill, that I was still hearing a terrible, mocking, censorious voice: the one calling me fatso, the one telling me I was going too slow; that everyone else was faster and sleeker and just so much better than I was. I was still seeing myself through the eyes of someone who was trying to shame me. And I suddenly knew that the only person shaming me…was me.

The trainer asked me yesterday about my fitness goals. Well, there’s not squishing my horse/not wearing a caftan/not peeing myself (see above). But my biggest goal is more subtle, and much harder for me than doing a 5K or planking for two minutes straight. For me, it will be to stop watching myself through the eyes of long-gone bullies. It will be to forget all those gyms of the past. It will be to run, and stretch, and play, in the moment I have now, and in the body I have now, in the gymnasium that I just joined, because I am not ashamed.  

 

Not Guilty. Guilty.

Standard

Ghomeshi not guilty. Not surprising.

 Women (and men) sexual assault victims, don’t let this chill you. Be brave. Be honest. Be circumspect in your communications post-assault.

Sexual assault is not going away. And the justice system IS changing, slowly, for the better. Just the fact that the victim no longer has to prove penetration, for instance, is a huge change from when I was a little girl. And there have been many, many other improvements (disallowing evidence of previous sexual conduct, for instance).

This was a pathological series of cases, where the complainant witnesses made many ill-advised choices in terms of their providing of information, and their post-reporting behaviour. That there was acquittal is not surprising.

For women, sexual assault is an everyday occurrence. We blow off the instances of subway frottage, of walk-by breast grabs, of the fingers thrust into our vaginas and bottoms when we move through crowds, of men we incorrectly assessed as “safe” turning out – with shocking suddenness – to be anything but, of full-blown rapes while we were unconscious drunk. We MUST report these things wherever possible. And we MUST, wherever possible, YELL fucking bloody blue murder. When some cocksucker grabs us in the subway, YELL. YELL. Call him out, call him every name in the book. Yes, he will sneer at you, yes he will laugh and say you’re crazy (that’s what’s happened when I’ve done it). But at least you have been heard. And YES, there are many who will believe you.

As for reporting to the police, yes, when you report the assaults you suffer, YES, you will suffer again. Yes, you will have the indignity of the rape kit examination (with the cop in the room while the doctor swabs you); you will have the eye-rolls and the “we can’t do anything,” from the reporting officers (although the one time I reported a sexual assault, the cop was extraordinarily kind, but sadly it was a stranger assault by someone who escaped, and there was no luck finding him). Don’t ASSUME you will receive no support. Do your best to be stay with it, despite the overwhelming desire to let it go at once. To “forget it ever happened.”

 We owe it to each other to expose this to the light, despite what happened in this extraordinary case of late reporting, inconsistent memories, self-serving hiding-of-evidence, and over-enthusiastic but perfectly-understandable I’m-gonna-get-this-bastard email exchanges. Even if there is an acquittal – which, because of the high standard of proof, is entirely likely to happen – you will at least have called the fucker out. You have NOT let him get away with it.

 Do your best to report it, if at all possible. Don’t let this shitshow shut you down.