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Am I Too Liberal to Live in the “Real World?”

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AM I TOO LIBERAL TO LIVE IN THE “REAL WORLD?”

I just returned from a holiday party at an organization for which I occasionally work. The whole experience made me uncomfortable, and I’m not entirely sure why. I felt I couldn’t be my real self there. I couldn’t connect. As a result, I had a moment of standing outside myself, perhaps seeing Melanie as others do. And it was alarming.

Have I become a caricature? Am I so out of the mainstream? Do I expect everyone to share my values? Are my expectations too high? Am I too liberal to live in “the real world?”

Tell me what you think:

Bless this Food, Jesus

First of all, the boss blessed the food in the name of Jesus and said a long Christian prayer. All the music was Christmas music, and we played a Christmas trivia game. This is a group of 30+ employees, including many African-Americans and Africans. It’s highly likely there were at least a couple of Muslims in the mix. Certainly there were no Jewish people — they would have quit after the last party. Perhaps a few agnostics or atheists.

I joked to the man next to me, “Heaven forbid a Jewish person should ever start working here.” He looked at me as if I was mad. (He probably thinks I’m anti-semitic now.)

If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a Jesus-person. I’m a lay pastor, in fact. But this is a place of work. I just found it all so inappropriate. Is it me?

Is this 1950?

After our Christmas trivia game came lunch. There was nothing for a non-meat eater to dine upon, other than veggies and dip and cheese and crackers. Platter after platter of wings and crab balls and beef and lobster dip, etc, etc. Even the potato salad had bacon in it. I’m not grousing about that, it’s just kind of unusual to go someplace these days where there isn’t at least something for a vegetarian.

Everyone stuffed all their trash into the recycling containers, of course. I did not bother rifling through the garbage to pull out the recycling as I often do. It was all covered with meat juice.

Locker Room Talk

OK, so here’s the final kicker. There were gifts given out and one guy got some electric thing that looked to someone else like a dildo. Six or seven guys were roaring with laughter, making all kinds of crude jokes such as, “That’s a power tool right there” and pretending to use a jack hammer. During this time, they caught no women’s eyes, and they carried on as if we weren’t even there. (We were far outnumbered.) I *think* the guys thought they were being subtle or clever, as if we didn’t know what they were talking about.

I was astounded. It’s been so long since I’ve been in a group of men like that, I had forgotten the intense discomfort. And a big part of the discomfort lies in not speaking up myself, even just to say, “How old are you?” in a joking manner.

I have a bad cold. I have next-to-no voice this week. If I’d had any voice, I’m pretty sure I would have at least said something like that.

In the age of #MeToo, perhaps somewhere in the back of their testerone-addled brains they would think, “Oh yeah, I guess heard something about sexual harassment on the news,” or maybe, just maybe, “Wow, that might make my female colleagues uncomfortable.”

I hate that I literally could not speak. There’s remarkable symbolism in that, now that I think about it.

“Why Didn’t Those Women Speak Up Before Now??”

My muteness seemed to magnify what was going on internally, all those old familiar feelings. “I don’t want to get fired. Since I’m a temp, they will just stop calling me . . . I don’t want them to think I can’t take a joke . . . I don’t want to be ostracized . . . I want to be able to get along with my co-workers.”

And yes, “I want them to like me.”

Those are the very feelings that kept me from speaking up every time I was sexually harassed and/or assaulted in the workplace: at a theater, a hardware store, the CIA, a non-profit. Pretty much everywhere I’ve ever worked.

I thought things had changed. I thought the conversation was further along. I thought . . . I guess I thought it was safer.

The real question for me now is should I talk to the H.R. director? Should I point out that their office is not friendly to people who don’t share the boss’s religion? Should I tell her about the sexual harassment I’ve often witnessed there and use the jack-hammer guy as an example? Or should I just say, “Life is too short, I only work here sporadically, it’s not my problem?”

I could file a discrimination complaint on behalf of all vegetarians, but that probably wouldn’t be too constructive. I do need the job.

So — just a rambling holiday blog, 2017-style. I’m not going to bother to edit this, so I’m sorry if it’s not up to my usual standards. I’m tired & sick and really just wanted to process these feelings and see what you thought. Well?

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On Being Groped

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ON BEING GROPED

I don’t think that most men believe that most women have been groped. It seems so beyond the pale, doesn’t it? Well, check out Twitter the last two days if you don’t believe it. Some women have offered space to others to share about their experiences, and the results are moving, to say the least. I encourage you to take a look at this scrolling selection on the Huffington Post page.

Trump’s vile sexual arrogance has triggered a tsunami of women’s rage-full stories, and it’s no wonder. For generations, millions of girls and women have endured groping hands and much, much worse, and they often carry guilt, shame, and secrecy about their unwanted encounters.

Image of compassionate psychiatrist comforting her crying patient

Trump’s brazen vulgarity has blown the lid off the outrage. It brings it all back: the red sweaty faces, the bad breath, the hot hands, the heavy breathing. The entitlement. If this sounds like the voice of experience, it is.

In the belief that secrecy and shame are highly over-rated, I will share eight sexual predation stories from my first quarter century:

  1. I am ten years old when a young man pulls up to the curb, exposes himself and tries to make me get in his car. I run.
  2. I am sixteen. I say no. I say no again. I don’t want to talk about the rest.
  3. I am seventeen and volunteering at a theater. The manager of the carpentry team I work for is giving me a ride to work when he stops the car and sticks his tongue down my throat. I struggle away and remind him he’s married, and he yells that I’m enticing him.
  4. I am eighteen, sitting on a low stool taking inventory at a hardware store when the store manager comes up behind me, sticks his hands down my blouse and grabs my breasts.
  5. I have just turned nineteen and am working at the CIA headquarters. My thirty-year-old supervisor takes me to lunch, lunges across the seat of his car, kisses me, and sticks his married hand up my skirt. I ask an older woman in the secretarial pool what to do and she tells me not to get in the car with him again . . . and not to wear such short skirts.
  6. I get a new CIA supervisor. This one is thirty-five when he shoves his married tongue down my throat at the office holiday party.
  7. I don’t even bother to tell anyone when another CIA employee comes up behind me and shoves his (married) hands down my blouse. My fault, probably. I should have been wearing a turtleneck.
  8. I’m twenty-four and an older man I’ve never met is giving me a ride home from Boston where we had attended my uncle’s funeral. He runs his hand up my thigh and tries to persuade me to go to a hotel with him.

I encourage my fellow women: share your stories.

You are more than welcome to share them in the comments here. Of course you don’t have to share them publicly, but please find a close friend and bring them out into the light.

Don’t let men like Donald Trump win. Speak out.

We're mad as hell and we're not going to let a sexual predator become president!

We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to let a sexual predator become president!

Day twelve of my daily blogging practice.

Rubber Ducky Exposes CIA Sexual Harassment

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“Yes, but what do yellow rubber duckies have to do with sexual harassment?” my brother asks a second time. I’m trying to explain the concept of emotional de-cluttering, and he’s just not getting it. Who can blame him? The connection exists only in my brain, and I didn’t even know it was there until I started trying to decide what to do with the collection of rubber duckies in my bathroom.

In keeping with my promise to you, Dear Reader, I have been (sometimes literally) plowing forward — albeit erratically — with my housecleaning attempts, and being mindful of my emotional reactions to the stuff I find it hard to part with.   https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/emotional-house-cleaning/

Why did these five yellow duckies ruffle my emotional feathers? I began wading through charged memories. The first time I remember hearing my parents fight was over whether I should be allowed to keep Dilly, Daffy, and Dally, the ducklings my uncle had given me (no, was the upshot). The pivotal moment when I decided to pursue an environmental career came as I was sitting at the duck pond at Montgomery Community College, contemplating the effects of industrial pollution on innocent ducklings.

Then I noticed the small printing on the ducky chests – Chancellor Hotel, San Francisco, California.

Fade to San Francisco Bar Scene

Suddenly a memory came back to me of sitting at a bar in San Francisco, which wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, back in the day. I used to spend a lot of time at the Sierra Club headquarters in that fabulous city, and in the evenings, visiting field reps would gather at classy joints (not so much) like Lefty O’Doul’s on Union Square. 

That particular night, I was sitting with a distraught young woman who had just been the victim of an elevator pass made by a male Sierra Club staffer notorious for womanizing. She asked for my advice.

I am ashamed to continue this story, so I will instead take you to an underground vault at the Central Intelligence Agency in McLean, Virginia. (How I went from a job at the CIA to the Sierra Club is another story. You’ll have to wait for my book.)

Jump to an Underground Vault at the CIA

Seal of the C.I.A. - Central Intelligence Agen...

Seal of the C.I.A. – Central Intelligence Agency of the United States Government (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am newly 19 and have just come back from lunch with my 30 year-old supervisor. He had lunged across the seat of his car, kissed me, and stuck his married hand up my skirt. I am asking an older woman in the secretarial pool what I should do. She gives me two pieces of advice – first, I shouldn’t have gotten in the car with him, and second, I shouldn’t wear such short skirts. I’m inviting that behavior.

I get a new supervisor. This one shoves his married tongue down my throat at the office holiday party. I don’t even bother to tell him when another fine, upstanding CIA employee comes up behind me and shoves his (married) hands down my blouse. After all, this is nothing new — the manager at the hardware store where I worked when I was 18 had done the same thing, after I turned down his kind invitation to swing with him and his wife. My fault, probably. I should have been wearing a turtleneck.

Done with Duckies, Guilt, and Shame

So what did I tell this younger woman at the bar in San Francisco, twenty years post-CIA trauma? Thank God I didn’t tell her to wear longer skirts. But I did advise her to weigh her actions in light of her career goals. She was junior, but on her way up, and he was an influential manager. She never reported the sexual harassment. None of us works there anymore.

I haven’t thought about any of this in many moons. It was well-stuffed. The shocked confusion of an 18 year-old kid being asked to bed down with her 35 year-old manager and his wife, the shame of a 19-year-old who has essentially been told she’s a tart and is getting what she asks for, and the stabbing guilt of not supporting a younger woman struggling with similar emotions.

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve seen the woman, but I recently contacted her, and we plan to get together. I’m going to apologize. I should have marched with her up to Human Resources and busted that guy.

Anyway, I’m thinking I’ll get rid of the yellow rubber duckies. Maybe I’ll keep the one with the Santa hat…nah, he reminds me of office holiday parties.

###

(If you’re interested in following the history of sexual harassment at the CIA, class action suits, etc, there’s plenty of stuff online. I”m not here to grind an axe; I’m long gone from there and into healing. Plus, I don’t want to get “disappeared.” But you can investigate on your own. Here are recent articles:      CIA steps up harassment enforcement – UPI.com.)

http://www.newser.com/story/149502/cia-investigating-sexual-harassment-among-agents.html  “It’s an old-boys’ network, and that kind of comes with the territory,” says one victim. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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