Ancient Writing

The scary thing about Trump is that men like him. Tell me why men support Trump vs. Clinton, 48% to 45%. This is way more interesting to me than why women support Clinton vs. Trump, 53% to 41%. (CNN 10-24-16) But it’s the two pieces of data taken together that are the most amazing..

What’s at work here?

What do men see in Trump that so many women seem to be missing?

Is Trump the bad boy they never had the nerve to be? Maybe.

Is Trump the billionaire finally giving voice to men’s economic angst? Maybe.

Or is Trump a guy and that’s enough? Probably.

Swap out Hillary Clinton with any other female presidential candidate, real or imagined. I bet the percentages look the same. The gap between male and female voters would be the same.

Why? Because it’s not about Trump or Clinton. It’s about male or female.

It’s about men who, at their core, just can’t fathom voting for a woman for president. Oh, they’re not bad guys, probably not racist, and they’d all likely claim not to be sexist. They might be holding a toddler in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other when they’re interviewed. They’re decent guys.

But they have a little nub. A little, tiny, tough as steel nub. And in the nub it is written that men do certain things and women do certain things. Times have changed but the nub hasn’t changed. Because it is written and it’s fixed. Permanent. Men deny this, mostly because they are unaware of their own nub. But I’m not unaware. I can see it in the slight wincing, the steeling oneself moves that even the most committed Democratic man seems to make about voting for Clinton as if it is somehow vaguely physically painful. For those men with no concrete political views, the nub tells them what to do. Trump is the safer bet. He is, after all, fundamentally like them. And they trust themselves. That’s written in the nub, too. A lot of things are crammed in there.

This could be a depressing thing to discover. Or it could just be illuminating. What I take away from this whole election process is this: we (women) are idiots if we think sexism is over. It lives on in the nub. You might not see it and you might not feel it but when push comes to shove, the nub rules for a lot of men. You might be married to one of them.

Just an observation in the last days of this endless, difficult campaign season.


Photo: 10-24-16




News Flash for Mr. Trump

Anybody who is surprised and indignant today because Donald Trump was caught on tape talking about grabbing somebody’s pussy is a queen-size fool.

What did y’all think? That he was blustery and offensive in public but polite and respectful in private? That he was just saying that crude stuff about women to giant audiences to get a rise out of them? That it was just for fun? For entertainment?

This shit is real, folks. Donald Trump doesn’t even remotely consider women as equal. Oh, he’s got a bit of exceptionalism going with his very smart and apparently very attractive (to him) daughter, Ivanka. She might be considered his equal. But she’s clearly, in his view, an exceptional person, not like other women. Not like us.

We’re either pussy or we’re not. Very simple dichotomy for Mr. Trump. Worth grabbing or not worth grabbing.

His sexism isn’t just a foible, an unpleasant artifact of his generation, a function of his (newly found) conservatism. It isn’t something he thinks about, nothing that he ponders; he doesn’t consider the pros and cons of the notion of women being equal. They just aren’t equal in his view and they never will be. His extreme sexism might not be genetic but, at this point, it’s written into every cell in his body.

The guy has no use for women except for the parts he can grab.

It’s unbelievable, I guess. Which is why people seem to be flapping their arms in alarm and disbelief. Oh my God! He was talking about pussy with Billy Bush on a bus! What astonishing news!

Ah, maybe. But here’s news we should all remember, especially the darling Mr. Trump.

Pussy votes.


Today in my Medical Anthropology class. we discussed a long article entitled, “A Life: Between Psychiatric Drugs and Social Abandonment,” by Joao Biehl. It is a condensation of a book of a similar name: Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment. 

The article started this way:

“In my thinking, I see that people forget me,” Catarina said to me as she pedaled an old exercise bicycle while holding a doll. This woman of kind manners and a piercing gaze was in her early thirties; her speech was lightly slurred. I first met Catarina in March 1997 in southern Brazil at an asylum called Vita. I remember asking myself, Where on earth does she think she is going on this bicycle? Vita is the end point. Like so many others, Catarina had been left there to die.” 

We picked the article apart. It is the professor’s style to start with a set of simply put but complex questions and then to lead the class through the discussion as if he himself is reading the article for the first time. He poses questions and then searches the article for the exact wording of the answer. I like this because it makes the answer conclusive. This is what it says. Right here.

Then he turns around and writes, makes lists, sets up dichotomies, the purpose of which is to provide the framework for our discussion. He does this effortlessly and I envy that. When I taught, I always needed to be so prepared. Have my notes and slides ready. He only needs a dry erase marker.

We trace the story of Catarina, an impoverished Brazilian woman who is living in a place called Vita that in America would be called a very badly run homeless shelter. She is thought to be mentally ill so she is treated with all manner of psychotropic drugs which have terrible side effects which, when combined with the inherited neurological disease she actually has, eventually render her unable to walk. In the meantime, though, she pedals on the stationary bike and writes her dictionary, full of frightful and poignant words like “A cure that finds the soul,” “dead alive, dead outside, alive inside,” and “I offer you my life.”

It turns out that Catarina’s fall from family life was precipitated by her physical illness which is erroneously labeled mental illness and was then accelerated by her husband’s infidelity and her brothers’ unwillingness to care for her. She ends up with nowhere to be, too sick and too drugged to fight back.

The professor traces the social and cultural context of this horrible trajectory. He begins with Brazil, then lists neo-liberalism (also known as privatization of government services), poverty, the prevalence of free psychotropic drugs, the difficulty of mental illness diagnosis, family dynamics and then a student mentions gender. “I think she was treated differently because of her gender.” And then others talk about how her husband was cheating on her at the time of her entry to Vita and how he had given away her older daughter to a boss. I’m grateful that someone has put gender on the list. It would have been me but I spoke up last week and, as an auditor, I try to pace my commentary. The professor adds “gender” to the list, it’s a faded “gender” because the ink in his marker is running low.

It’s all gender! I want to say. Gender is overarching! It helped my argument that her brothers who also manifested symptoms of the same inherited disease were living at home on government disability while their sister festered on a stationary bicycle. Gender shouldn’t be down on the list. It should be at the top of the list. But then it would seem that I’m one-dimensional, unable to take into account the full panoply of contextual variables. See the big picture.

The other students in the room are young, very young. Sexism seems like an artifact from another time, I feel it like an arrowhead in my pocket. It is so real to me it makes me sick. I know in my heart that Catarina would never have been left to die had she been a man and I feel like she’s my sister. Don’t ask me why.

In This Election: Politics Is Personal


The presidential election is painful for a lot of us girls.

First of all, we’re conflict averse. Oh, we understand conflict and can wield a sharp sword but it’s on the silent battlefield where we win. Articulated conflict is upsetting, especially those of us of a certain age. So our response is borrowed from men who seem to us to have successfully managed disputes. “You drive like a man,” a male friend once said to me as I maneuvered my car around the turns of a five-story parking ramp. I took it as a compliment.

I am known as a person with strong opinions but I have thrown unopened letters in the trash if I believed them to contain harsh words. I’ve deleted emails sent in retort to something critical I said to someone. One would say I can dish it out but not take it. That’s something my father would say about someone who hid from the truth, “Yeah, he can dish it out but he can’t take it.” I avoid things that will hurt my feelings. I abhor criticism. Not because I believe I am flawless but because it gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.

I look at Hillary Clinton and I’m betting she started from the same place I did. We’re the same age. The only difference is that she’s been a world leader and I’ve had a consulting practice in a fairly large Midwestern city. Does she drive like a man? Does she throw out scary mail? Does she get a sick feeling in her stomach when she’s attacked?

Secondly, we believe in the meritocracy. We believe in being prepared, getting certified, having the qualifications, putting the years in, getting good recommendations, fitting the job description. It’s what makes life fair. The resume.

So we build our resumes. We take more courses and join more boards while our male counterparts are having drinks at the club that we didn’t know about and wouldn’t join anyway because it would take time away from everything important, like building our resumes.

Having spent a lifetime on my resume, literally years and years in school, which I remember fondly but were so very difficult at the time, having no money and working so hard, being one of very few women in class, praying for A’s like some people pray for a sign from Jesus, I am astonished at the lack of respect for Hillary Clinton’s resume. ‘They are treating her like she is just some person on the street.’ I think to myself. She is so qualified!

‘Oh, you fool,’ I think. Have you forgotten about the guys having drinks at the club?

And unbelievably, this almost brings me to tears.

I couch this all in the feminist struggle. I argue with people that Hillary Clinton is getting criticized and attacked because of sexism which I truly believe but what is really killing me is this. I am Hillary Clinton. Every woman my age is Hillary Clinton. Every woman who sat in college classes filled with men is Hillary Clinton. Every woman who showed up and worked hard and prepared and got ready is Hillary Clinton. And every woman who didn’t know there was a club is Hillary Clinton.

So, this election? It’s a tough little exercise. In what? Maybe learning to open scary letters and reading every word, folding the letters and putting them back in the envelopes they were mailed in, pulling them all together with a rubber band, and saving them for another time when I want to look back on the life I’ve lived. Maybe that’s the point of this campaign. To make all of this long, seemingly endless, struggle the stuff of attics.



Minnie and BowWow Discuss Living Arrangements

Minnie (2)

BowWow: Did you see they bought a new rug?

Minnie: Yes. I also see you scoping it out like it’s a fresh lamp chop.

BowWow: That’s a crummy thing to say. I just like to be clear about my turf.

Minnie: Your turf? Everything is your turf. Wherever I’m sleeping suddenly becomes your turf.

BowWow: The world functions best when there’s an Alpha situation.

Minnie: An Alpha situation? What do you mean ‘an Alpha situation?’

BowWow: Well, obviously, someone has to be in charge. Otherwise, there’s chaos.

Minnie: Chaos.

BowWow: Right. There’s chaos when everyone runs around the house thinking they’re equal.

Minnie: Okay. So you’re saying that in order to avoid chaos, you have to be in charge?

BowWow: Exactly! It’s a matter of everyone knowing their place.

Minnie: I see. So where’s my place?

BowWow: Wherever I don’t want to be. That’s your place. It actually gives you a lot of options since I can’t be everywhere. You just have to pay attention to where it is I’m not.

Minnie: Is this a real conversation?

BowWow: Absolutely. Although after all these years, Minnie, I shouldn’t have to tell you this stuff. You really should know by now.

Minnie: Oh brother.

BowWow: Don’t worry. We’ll get into a system and it’ll be like second nature to you. We won’t have to have these little convos all the time about whose place is where. You’ll just know. It’ll be great. Time-saving. EX-PE-DI-ENT!

Minnie: Expedient. Big word, BowWow. Really big. I’m very impressed.




Dear Woman Married to a Man Who Likes Donald Trump Because He Speaks His Mind

Photo: Sue Ogracki, AP
Photo: Sue Ogracki, AP

There are nice words for it. Some say Donald Trump’s message resonates with working class white men. Some say Donald Trump is speaking to that group’s economic woes, giving voice to their frustration, shining a light on a neglected demographic – white men who get no respect.

To posit that Trump supporters are acting out of their economic interests is ridiculous. If they were, they’d be advocating for raising the minimum wage and reducing barriers to education and training. But that’s not their deal. Their deal is road rage.

A few weeks ago, on our narrow residential street, I slowed to let an oncoming car through but I didn’t do it fast enough. He sped up, jammed on the brakes when he came up next to me, rolled down his window and yelled at me. I had bothered him, disrespected him, didn’t defer quick enough, got in the way, cost him valuable time, so he felt justified yelling at me. Heaven forbid I’d cut him off in a lane change. I’d probably be dead now.

So this grossly disproportionate reaction to my momentary hesitation in ceding the road to this man came from where? And why does he think it’s okay to get so mad and so rude to a woman driving a car that happened to ‘get in his way?’

Because anger is his thing. It’s his man evidence. He’s not going to let some ‘lesser-than’ like me disrespect him. He’s not going to allow my hesitation to stand because it shows that I was debating whether to let him go first and I shouldn’t have had to debate the question. Of course, he should go first. He’s the man, after all.

Women whose men like Donald Trump because he speaks his mind need to be careful. Because it’s not possible to endorse Donald Trump without endorsing his fundamental philosophy. Women are inferior.

There is no way to pretty it up or explain it away. No amount of apology will work. Donald Trump’s extraordinary sexism is in a class so extreme that a word has yet to be developed to describe it properly.  So when your man smiles at the TV and says, “Yeah, that guy is really saying what needs to be said,” you need to start considering your life options because where you are is not safe for children or other living creatures. There is a very short hop between disdain for women and their abuse. Sorry, but it’s true.

So what do you do if you’re a woman married to a man who likes Donald Trump because he speaks his mind (and by this, I mean both Donald Trump’s and your husband’s)?

After you’re done being careful, you decide to get honest with yourself. It’s not okay that your partner agrees with a guy who seems to think all women are cunts. It’s not funny or cute, nor is it something to tolerate in light of the ‘bigger message,’ as if there actually is one. It’s not a side issue because trade with China or building a wall and making Mexico pay for it are bigger issues. Oh, gee, it’s okay that Trump hates women as long as he’ll make a better ‘deal’ with China. Don’t buy that junk. It’s crazy. If you do, you’re the idiot Trump thinks you are. Sorry. Truth.

So if your man is headed to the polls to pull the lever for Donald Trump. Follow him. And vote for anyone else. X out his vote. Cancel him and his misogynist vote. You never have to say a word about it. Just stay alert, have a bag packed and keep one eye on the door.






Minnie and BowWow Go on Vacation


Minnie: It’s so sad when it rains on vacation.

BowWow: Who cares? It’s just water.

Minnie: Oh. That must be why you’re always crying under the bed whenever it’s going to rain. And why the mister has to crawl under the bed and fetch you and why you end up sleeping between the people like a house-ruling toddler.

BowWow: House-ruling toddler? What in the hell is a house-ruling toddler and why you calling me that?

Minnie: If the whine fits, BowWow. If the whine fits, pour it. Ha. Ha. Ha.

BowWow: You know, every time we go on vacation, you get real uppity.

Minnie: Uppity? Uppity? As in forgetting my place? That kind of uppity? Oh my goodness. How could that happen?

BowWow: I know, right? I figured you didn’t even know you were doing it. I mean, like Jeez, I think to myself, what has happened to Minnie? Why is she all crazy and pushy. And then I figure it’s hormones.

Minnie: I don’t have any hormones, BowWow. I am ahormonal.

BowWow: What?! When did that happen?

Minnie: Right after I came. Remember the people talked about how they didn’t want the nightmare puppy that would result if you and I, you know, created one. Not that it would even have been possible without some assistive devices. I mean, well, look at you.

BowWow: Jesus, Minnie. That’s what I’m talking about. We go on vacation and you’re talking about sex with dogs!

Minnie: We are dogs, moron. If I was talking about sex with people, that would be cause for concern. Sex with dogs, not so much. Of course, present company excluded.

BowWow: Sometimes when we’re on vacation, I just want to shitcan the whole thing and go home.

Minnie: Where a dog knows her place and everything isn’t all confusey? Poor thing, I totally understand. It’s rough when the dog dishes are in the wrong place. Unhappy-making.

BowWow: You think I’m too dumb to know that you’re mocking me.

Minnie: Who? Me? Mock? Never would I presume that a dog such as me could mock a dog such as you.

BowWow: What does that even mean?

Minnie: Never mind. Do you want to play chase? I’ll give you a 10-second lead. I’ll count.