To That Guy in High School

AbusiveBoyfriend1

Dear Jack H,

You won’t remember me, and even if you do, you won’t remember what you did to me. This is how it is. Men don’t remember these things because they are of absolutely no consequence to them. But more than 50 years later, I do remember. I remember you and what you did. I even remember your full name without having to refer to our yearbook.

I was a sophomore, new to the school and the kids in the school. You were the football star and vice president of the student body. I was nothing and you were everything. We sat in French 3 together, you behind me for no logical reason except to do what you did—one of the things you did. I have forgotten all my French pretty much entirely, but I haven’t forgotten you.

You would sit behind me and pull one hair out of my head nearly every day that year. My hair was down to my waist, medium blond, and for a reason you couldn’t give me every time I would ask you, you’d yank a hair out. You thought it was cute, funny. I found it intrusive.

And then there was the other thing. I’d made this teal, corduroy, wrap-around jumper in Homemaking which tied in the front. I wore it often because it was comfortable and I was proud of my work on it. You would approach me, and I knew what was coming. You’d pull the bow and leave me with only the single knot holding the jumper together. That was more than intrusive; that was threatening. I asked you to stop, probably in that flirty way girls do because we don’t have the power to haul off and sock you in your pretty jaw. You never did.

You were a predator. There, I’ve said it. I don’t know how you turned out as a man, but as a senior in high school, you intimidated me with your power and your position in the student body and your good looks. Insignificant as all this may sound, I was an innocent child in many, many ways, and you preyed on me. I hope you rot in hell.

Sincerely,

The girl who sat in front of you in French class in 1965

73 words

I’m not the first to write on this topic, and I certainly won’t be the last. But I’m going to be short but sweet.

“Strong female hero”

Seriously?

“Hero,” definition #1a in Merriam-Webster:  A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability (emphasis mine).

Have you ever once read or heard someone say “strong male hero”?  Or, even, “strong hero”?

Point made. Thank you for your time.

A Swann for the Dawn and the Sundown

I cried as I first watched Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End in the theater. Why, you ask? Let me tell you. Forget Jack Sparrow (a stellar performance from Johnny Depp). Forget Will Turner (Orlando Bloom in all his matinee-idol glory). Because the story, contrary to popular belief, is about neither of them. No, the tale recounted in the first three movies of this franchise begins and ends with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly in dazzling form).

Remember the lilting voice of a child singing the pirate song at the beginning of The Curse of the Black Pearl? That’s Elizabeth Swann singing her heart out as she and her father sail to the Caribbean. Mother gone, father all that’s left, and she dreams of being a pirate.

The plot twists and turns around a myriad of obstacles and self-serving characters, but watch the movies and you’ll see it. We wander off with an often seemingly lost Jack Sparrow. We follow the perils of Will Turner as he attempts to save both Elizabeth and his own father from doom and destruction. But it is Elizabeth who rises above it all, who, as she matures, gains confidence and the ability to save her own self, thank you. And when we get to At World’s End, she has blossomed into the character most instrumental in determining the course of the conclusion of the story.

I mean, think about it. The battle on the Pearl with Will and Elizabeth almost single-handedly taking on the attackers from the Flying Dutchman, while Captain Barbossa marries the two of them? A girl sword fighting? While sparring verbally with the love of her life? And then marrying him while they’re still fighting the villainous hordes? For this fan of strong roles for women in story-telling and female heroes who aren’t afraid to get dirty, it was heaven. But that wasn’t where I cried. That moment came a little earlier in the movie.

The Brethren Court of the pirates had spoken and named Elizabeth the new King of the Pirates. (I value the screenwriters’ choice of keeping it the “King” even though the new King was not male, but I digress.) As King, Elizabeth leads the pirate lords and their ships into the ultimate battle with Davy Jones and the East India Company. As they face their foe and realize they are massively outgunned and out-shipped, spirits drop.

And then…Elizabeth takes a deep breath, jumps up on the railing and rallies the troops in a speech reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Henry V’s “Once more unto the breach, dear friends….” This young woman—whom some might call a “slip of a girl”—stands up there proud and defiant and smacks these big, strong men around verbally and drags them into fighting mode. I cried.

railing

I literally cried in that theater. Whether consciously or not, the story-by and written-by guys had created the first TRUE female hero to rise to the surface in mainstream popular culture. I know there are many strong women holding their own in movies and books these days, but here’s the thing. Elizabeth Swann seized the mantle of leadership like a man while still maintaining her womanhood, and she did it under the near-impossible odds of a major motion picture with Johnny Depp at the helm of the performance vessel and Orlando Bloom as her love interest. At that moment in time, all eyes were on her, including Johnny’s and Orlando’s, and everyone in the audience knew it. She had commandeered a movie of testosterone-driven derring-do and made it her own.

All hail Elizabeth Swann, the King of the Pirates!

Worthy Women of Courage

I’m pissed.  A few days ago I wrote a lovely piece about my father I intended to upload this weekend.  I’ll still upload it, but I’m pissed and I need to tell you why.  Several months ago I allied myself with a group on the internet and Facebook called Ordain Women (OW).  I’ve written about this before and about my concerns if the general authorities of the Mormon church decide to come down hard on these women.

The war has begun.  On June 8, 2014, Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, received an “invitation” to answer charges of apostasy (see NYT article here).  Likely the evidence will include the belief on the part of the church that Ordain Women and its members and supporters are directly questioning the authority of the “divinely” inspired leadership of the church.  The fact that these women always speak softly, dress in their Sunday best whenever they perform some sort of public action and only ask that said leadership ask God the question “Has the time come for women to be ordained?” means nothing to these men in charge.  They see these women as questioning the laws of God.  The LAWS of GAWD, for heaven’s sake.  (And remember that this is a church that was founded on the principle of “ask and it shall be answered.”)

Silent vigils are planned for the day and time this “disciplinary council” is scheduled to meet (June 22, 7 p.m. ET).  Sister Kelly, who, as an attorney, knows how to answers these fools and refute their charges, will not be present.  Knowing that Ms. Kelly has just moved from Virginia to Utah, her “former” bishop has ordered the meeting to take place in Virginia in a ward (a small community of church members) to which Ms. Kelly no longer belongs and to which she will be unable to travel (especially at the tail end of a weekend).  She will be allowed to send a written statement, but no phone or internet will be allowed.  Either show up or shut up.

To the wonderful women of OW who are reeling from this betrayal, I say, be strong.  Be not afraid.  I don’t believe in God as you perceive him, but I believe that there’s something out there which, when petitioned, will send you the strength and courage you require.  The bigwigs of Mormondom may have fired the first salvo and the wounds may feel deadly, but the recognition you seek as human beings of equal value to me is a worthy cause.  I know that often one of you will quote a line or two from “Come, Come Ye Saints,” but I choose to end with words from the Finale of Les Miserables.

“Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!”

Mormon Women Opening Pandora’s Box

I was going to hold off on posting this, but then I read this article online about how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) disciplines people utilizing committees made up exclusively of men, with the spotlight on the disciplining of women. This so disgusted me that I decided I had to speak my piece or explode.

I used to be a Mormon. I’ve written about this before and the fact that Mormon women are denied the priesthood which all Mormon men expect to achieve by the age of twelve.

Recently, I shared my story with a group of wonderful women, women who seek priesthood for all in the LDS church. They have welcomed me into their inner sanctum where stories are shared privately, and I will not betray that trust. But here’s what pains me about this more than anything else.

These women have an atypical attitude about many things compared to other Mormons. They believe LGBT individuals should have ALL the rights that heterosexuals have, something that the church chooses not to acknowledge. (They allow LGBTs into the fold, but only if they don’t practice their “deviant” behavior.) They find fault with conservative politics (most Mormons being ultraconservative).  They question the authorities in the church, and that is a definite no-no.

The LDS church brings its children up in a somewhat cultish fashion. “We have the only truth on the planet,” they claim, “and don’t you dare do or say anything to the contrary.” The church authorities claim direct guidance from God. And these women pray for the revelation that will open the doors to the priesthood for them.

There has been some pushback from above. In some cases, local authorities (and yes, they are called “authorities” by everyone in the church) have tried to discourage participation but have done nothing punitive. In others, punitive actions have been taken—such as taking away church assignments and denying temple recommends—in an attempt to quell what is perceived by some as Satan’s handiwork.

It’s not that these women are innocents, eyes wide in shock at the repercussions. But they are surprised when a place they had deemed safe from childhood morphs into a place not quite as safe anymore just because they’ve questioned the status quo. Have they never heard of Sonia Johnson? (Sonia Johnson was an upstanding Mormon woman who supported the ERA back in the 1980s. She spoke before a Senate committee which included Senator Orin Hatch of Utah. She had the audacity to answer truthfully about equal rights for women to this LDS man, and she ended up excommunicated for standing up for all women’s rights.)

I worry about these new friends I’ve made. They are wonderful, wise women, sincere in their desire to understand why God hasn’t stepped in to encourage the men at the top to at least consider opening the priesthood up to women. I worry because they continue in their faithfulness, and I fear it is possible that before all this is over, they will find the church that had once embraced them has abandoned them to find faith on their own.

I don’t want to see them turned into orphans. They deserve much better than that. I wish—oh, how I wish—I could fly in on their behalf, an adult Katniss Everdeen, arrow aflame in my bow, strike at the statue of the angel Moroni at the top of the temple and take the slings and arrows flung back in outraged defense. My skin is tough; I haven’t been a Mormon in over 40 years. These men who claim guidance from heaven can’t touch me the way they can touch my brave friends.

But for that very same reason—my lack of participation in the church for so long—this isn’t my fight; this is their fight. However, nothing will stop me from cheering them on from the sidelines, wiping their tears, cleaning their wounds and holding them in my arms when the burden grows heavy and threatens to overwhelm them.  May the God they rely on bless them all.