Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Friday we lost a great American patriot and true hero of equality. She was a woman of unquestioned character with a mission in life to ensure the freedoms and liberties of our nation are a blanket of protection and opportunity for every man, woman and child within our borders. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was, until Friday September 18, 2020, a living legend in the fight for equal rights. Most see her as a champion of women’s rights, but that is to view her through a small lens and misses the foundation and the spectrum of her contributions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg believed in human equality. She embodied the fight for human rights, that every person is entitled to the same considerations, liberties, and freedoms under the law without regard to race, gender, sexuality, religion, financial status, or national origin. RBG understood a wise truth: that the signing of our Declaration of Independence and the ratification of our Constitution was not the culmination of liberty and freedom achieved, but the beginning of that pursuit.

Our nation began as an infant, its expressed freedoms and rights bestowed on the few: male, white land-owners. But even as the men who crafted it kept their powers close, they also understood the nature of infancy: growth. Because of this foresight, they crafted a foundation to accommodate both growth and growing pains. They formulated a document to bind us and free us, with the flexibility to grow as we grew. They gave us the ability to become a more perfect union, a more inclusive republic, and a beacon of freedom to all people. The founding fathers created a completely new idea of patriotism, giving citizens the right and duty of dissent. They made a government answerable to the people, and placed in the hands of the people the right to ratify and change the boundaries of freedom and power.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg believed freedom and liberty and equal protection under the law were more than utopian talking points, but tangible rights affordable to everyone. Because of her contributions to the fight for equality, we are all freer today. While no one should look at our nation and claim we have achieved the pinnacle of equality, thanks to RBG, we climbed higher up that mountain, ever closer. Due in great part to her contributions, and those of so many other amazing patriots, women can purchase property, open bank accounts, obtain a credit card, and even buy a car without needing a man’s consent. Yes, not that long ago, women could do none of those things without their husband, father, brother or nearest male relative cosigning for them. People of color are able to obtain business loans, open businesses in any location, have credit cards, and purchase homes without being legally excluded from ‘desirable’ neighborhoods. LGBTQ people are protected under the equal rights amendment and further, we all can marry (or not marry) the person we love without consideration to gender, sexuality, race, or religion.

It would be a kind reflection to believe we could take some time to absorb the enormity of her accomplishments and the goals she still had yet to achieve, but that time spent pausing in memorial would be to undo so much of what she fought for. Without her kind but penetrating gaze and her stalwart dedication to equal justice, it is up to each of us to lift the torch she once held with seeming ease. It is heavy in our hands, but working together, we can continue this Everest climb to that ideal summit of true equality.

Let us not mourn quietly her loss, but celebrate her life by demanding what she demanded, by continuing her fight and seeing to it she did not labor her entire adult life in vain. Ruth Bader Ginsberg showed us how much one person can accomplish. Just think of the reality we could have if we all put in even a tenth of her effort to a better world. We have the ability to see that dream fulfilled; to be a true beacon of freedom to all the world. We can see the fruition of what was begun over two hundred forty-four years ago when the founders first began this trek. They were imperfect, as are we, but that does not dismiss the call to rise above ourselves, to be better, and to choose a better life and world for tomorrow.

Thank you, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, for showing us all that even if we feel small, we are still mighty enough to move this mountain and we can defeat any giant who stands between us and our liberty.

Fairfarren, Justice Ginsberg.

by Ann Lavendar

Are you equal enough?

While working on another article the last few days, I have been distracted by a bombardment of people, both men and women (though mostly men) filling the social media universe with condescending diatribe and snippets against the peaceful marches protesting Trump over the weekend. But out of all the hateful things said, the “alternate facts” given, and the disparaging comments, there is one, central theme I found the most disturbing. Repeatedly I saw women’s rights in the United States being compared to oppressed women in other places of the world, in an effort to point out how good women have it here as opposed to places where they are nothing more than property to men. This, above most other arguments, reveals the embedded misogyny in our culture. Why does it reveal so much?

This argument says you have it better here than somewhere else, so you should be thankful. The implication is that these are not your rights, so much as privileges which could be revoked. It is the same method used by abusers to rationalize and normalize mistreatment. Abusers tell their victim that smacking them here and there isn’t really abusive, because they don’t have black eyes, a bloody nose, or broken bones. They tell their victim how much worse someone else has it, how those are the people who are really abused, and remind the victim what all the abuser does for them, so they should be thankful. Abusers use this language to undermine the value of those they overpower, by making them believe they should be thankful their life is not worse, to make them feel guilty for wanting more; make them ashamed and feel greedy at the thought of a better life. It is a psychological abuse to keep them in line and under the abuser’s control.

Now the deep, abusive misogyny is revealed. Equality is not based on someone’s misfortune. We do not measure our freedom against those who are oppressed in other places in the world. The measurement of our equality, the measurement of our value and our rights are against our fellow citizens. And we are not equal.

The white patriarchy of this country enjoyed designing for itself a system of great rewards. That constitution we hold so dear did not apply to lesser humans, like women and minorities. We have been forced to fight for every single right, every tiny step towards equality was a monumental struggle: in women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, and actual religious freedoms.

It is time we see the patriarchy for what it is, and those who support it for who they are. It is an abusive spouse continually trying to shame us for wanting more, telling us to be thankful for what we are given because it could be so much worse. They seek to distract us with our own shame, so we will fall in the line of complacent obedience. They tell us we should be grateful. They tell us we are equal enough.

But women are still fighting for the right to govern their own bodies. The wage gap between men and women is between 53% to 75% depending on your minority status. Girls are taught in school that they must dress certain ways or they will distract boys, meaning a boy’s education is more important than a girl’s and that girls are responsible for the behavior of boys. The judicial system continually dismisses or hands down ridiculously light sentences to men who commit violent crimes against women. Sexual consent is defined as not saying no, rather than saying yes. Victims of rape are shamed for what they wear or drink instead of rapists being held accountable for their actions. Black communities are targeted by law enforcement to fill private prison quotas. Prisons have become the new slave drivers. Healthcare is a for-profit commodity extorting money from the most vulnerable of people. Child poverty, hunger and homelessness is actually still a problem. People are being attacked for what bathroom they use. The disabled are being ridiculed and education funds are being ripped away from schools to care for and enable  our special needs children. A woman seeking an abortion is condemned, but an unwed mother is shamed. Men with money buy political power and influence while paying less in taxes, while people working just to survive foot the government’s bill. Corporations are given more authority and rights than citizens, allowed to destroy properties and undermine the natural resources necessary for life for communities, all in the name of profit. The EPA, FDA and even the Parks and Wildlife Administration are no longer allowed to answer to the people. Citizens can no longer call the Whitehouse, the People’s House, with complaints or concerns. Doctors no longer are required to treat patients regardless of their sexual orientation or social choices. People can be denied medical attention based on the religious ideologies of the doctor or facility. This also means that employers will be able to discriminate against employees, or the hiring of employees, based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or any bigoted idea they can claim as part of their religion. Minimum wage has failed to increase with cost of living and the tax cuts given to corporations in the Trickle Down Economics Theory did not consider that the benefits would trickle no further than the top, making the corporate executives far wealthier while maintaining the lowest possible wages for employees. The minimum wage was not created for part-time students. It was created to ensure that hard working people earned a reasonable wage to live. Congress and the the Senate give themselves cost of living raises, but don’t seem to think the citizens of the United States require a livable wage to survive.

But you are supposed to feel equal enough. You are supposed to be thankful it isn’t worse. You are supposed to take what you are given like it is some great gift you didn’t earn, rather than your right as a human being. You have a right to your body and should not have to ask anyone for permission or their approval to exercise that right. You do not have to accept public shame for crimes committed against you. You do not have to accept less pay for the same work. You do not have to accept pollution in your community because it benefits corporate profits. You should not have to suffer or die, or watch those you love be consumed by illness because you can’t afford designer healthcare. People should not be living in abject poverty while working full time jobs. You never should be forced to hide who you are or who you love. You should never have to fear the police.

Being thankful for what you have does not make you equal. United, we must stand against this abusive ideology. When you see this thrown at you, call it out for what it is. Ask them if what they really mean is that we are equal enough so we should stop complaining.

I refuse to accept their abuse with complacency. I refuse to be their subjected victim. I am going to continue to fight, to fight back, because NO. We are not equal enough.

We are One Woman, One World.

Women’s Global March

photo credit: http://designedthinking.com/

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Our Misogynistic Society: Slut Shaming and Its Deeper Implications

So what is slut shaming? On the surface, slut shaming is the measure by which accepted society brutally judges women who are flirtatious by nature, wear what might be considered provocative clothing, date frequently or different men, are willing to leave men who treat them poorly and not look back, go to parties or nightclubs, are divorced, drink alcohol, single mothers, have jobs in adult entertainment, get promotions over male candidates,  actors, feminists, do not want to be married, do not want children, Lesbians, or happen to have sex out of the religious bounds of wedlock, and certainly if they have had more than one sexual partner- in their lifetime- and they are not widows. All of these scenarios (and more) can place a woman in the cross-hairs for open season slut shaming. Oh, and I forgot one: raped. Yeah, you would think that would be a no-brainer, not her fault, but it isn’t. Slut shaming techniques are the primary defense of most rapists and it is surprising how many people sympathize with it. I think there has been enough in recent news to shed exemplary light on that problem.

You would think this is pretty broad scoped and horrible enough, but the roots of slut shaming are far more sinister and they are deeply ingrained in our society. Not just in men, either. And many of us are guilty of it, sometimes without even realizing it. Don’t get me wrong. It is okay to dislike or disagree with someone’s behavior, especially if their actions could have significant impact on your life or those you love. Otherwise, you don’t have to like it or that person, it just isn’t your business. It is not slut shaming to call someone out for cheating in what was supposed to be a monogamous relationship. That goes both ways, for men and women. But this isn’t the foundation. The sinister root is the archaic undermining of feminine freedom and expression. By controlling your sexuality, you are brought into submission, placed in the appropriate box and your value is based on your sexual virtue. That means that your abilities, thoughts, ideas, accomplishments, potential, success, intelligence, compassion -everything that makes you who you are- is insignificant in comparison to being a suitable mate. It means you should be putting first what a husband might want in you, sexually, before anything else. You must save yourself, to give to him, and do not attempt to outshine him, do not attempt to be successful, do not follow your dreams unless your dreams are to be the perfect wife. Slut shaming is only about condemning a woman for not saving herself, physically, emotionally and productively for a man. Slut shaming places women as second class citizens, servants.

When you slut shame someone, you are telling them they don’t matter, their wants, needs, hopes, desires and choices do not matter because they were not intended to achieve greatness, merely to stand in the shadows and be servants to great men. But how great can any man be who demands that kind of wife? I think I’d rather be a slut than a servant.

So, as long as your actions are not nefarious or with the intent to hurt someone else, wear the slut badge with pride. No, you didn’t sleep your way into that executive position, you aren’t one bit sad about leaving that loser, you are proud you have the courage to raise a child on your own, or you enjoy dressing sexy or having drinks and dancing with friends or even appreciate a consensual one night stand– screw the people trapped in the misogynistic ideology that women are servants, their purity and subservience their only bargaining chip to a better life or treatment. No matter how pure they are, no matter how dedicated to serving their master, they will not have what you do: freedom. The women who call you names want you to be like them because they aren’t brave enough to be like you. The men who slut shame are just pathetic imbeciles who do not want the status quo to change, pathetic underachievers whose one saving grace (to themselves) is that they think they are better than women, or powerful, abusive men who view an intelligent, professional woman as a threat and competitor.

Well, guess what. You are a competitor. You are a threat. You are a free woman who is not chained by a misogynistic self image. You will not be ashamed.

I learned long ago that the best vindictive action, the absolute worst thing I could do to those who treated me unfairly or poorly was not through anger or hate. It was not yelling, screaming or calling names. It was not even through attempts to reason, because hateful people are unreasonable. It was indifference. I just let them go because their words do not matter, their opinions carry no weight. They might as well not exist. I’ve been called a slut.  I smiled and said, “Thanks,” like it was a compliment on my shoes from a stranger. Now, I am not saying it is something we can all just ignore. It has too broad of an effect, bullying teenagers and young women, courtroom antics for both criminal and civil disputes. What we have to do is change the attitude. Words only have the meanings we give them, and they only carry the value that we place on them. We can change the conversation, we can change how the word slut is viewed. I know it is just a word and the problem is the idea, but changing the concept of the word does have significant impact in changing public opinions. When we see slut shaming, we fire back by politely thanking them for noticing that she is a free, independent woman whose value is not ruled by sex. Let’s turn their shaming into points of promise. It makes the shamers look ridiculous and gives hope and confidence to the victim.

I fall into a few of those categories up there. But I am also a good, compassionate, intelligent and capable woman. If that makes me a slut to someone, then, “Thanks.” I’ll wear my badge with pride. Let’s all be SLUTs, Stand Liberated by the Undeniable Truth: All Humans are Equal. Let us unite against those who mistake our freedom for shame.

SLUT

We are One Woman, One World.

 

Probably not what you thought!

If you thought this would be a blog about flowers, artwork, writing, pretty pictures or happy rainbows, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  Well, not really.  If you’re familiar with my works, then you will know there is an underlying theme of feminine empowerment, recognizing not only the struggles women face today, but how those struggles have both changed and remained the same throughout history. Recognizing where we are and where we came from gives us each power over where we will go and how to get there.

In the coming posts you will find a convergence of history, cultures, politics, world events, interviews, heroic women accomplishing amazing and inspiring feats, and even fiery condemnation for those who attempt to demean half the world’s population by suggesting or demanding subservience.

The blog isn’t exactly about feminism, but rather focuses on demanding equality and shedding light on the path, both behind and ahead, which leads to it. I hope you will take this journey with me.

I will happily review any suggestions for stories.  Send them to AnnLavendar@annlavendar.com