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I dressed in black for work today. It matched my mood and I felt emotionally the way I did after 9/11. The flags should be lowered as after any national tragedy. The people around me were unnaturally subdued.

I did wear red and black socks, with flames. I put them on as part of my intentional choices in wardrobe: my prayer bracelets, so I’d have Julian of Norwich and Saint Francis’ prayers and my family with me; the flame socks symbolizing the burning rage I felt.

flamesock

I wore a blue pantsuit to work yesterday. When we passed a line of people at a polling place on the Muni, the stranger next to me and I chatted about looking forward to the results and how we’d both already voted. He was a Hispanic man.

After work, I gathered with good friends to watch the returns and celebrate with sparkling wine in Hillary glasses. We had hotel rooms so we could celebrate and not have to drive.

As results came in, I was saddened but not surprised to see Indiana go so heavily for bigotry and hatred. I was still optimistic until about 8:45 Pacific time. Worry won out and I lost my appetite for food and drink, and was very quickly completely sober.

The level of stress in the room was climbing, and Whisky felt it, and always more nervous around men, barked more, and I became more tense. My anger grew at the margins by which Hillary was trailing in key races – margins less than the number of votes given to 3rd party candidates in key states. I wanted to yell at the TV commentators, at something. Every time Whisky barked I was ready to snap and when I snapped at her, that just made me angrier at myself. A vicious cycle.

I was – and still am – horrified that so many people in the US could support a candidate who exemplifies the worst in us: misogyny, bigotry, racism and xenophobia. I grieve for the damage the President-elect has said he’ll do to the climate that the entire world relies on, and what that means to my nephews and their families. If that happens, it won’t be recoverable. I am heartbroken.

The damage done to the lives of those persecuted, scapegoated and demonized may be irreparable. The damage done to the Presidency and our collective reputation and the values espoused in our Constitution pale in comparison.

Finally, we could not continue to watch. I needed to be alone, so Whisky and I went home. Whisky was anxious and somewhat fearful of me, adding to my distress. I tried to sleep, and woke up multiple times, only to remember what was wrong.

I cried. When two women I know asked how to explain to their young girls that we could elect a person who thinks it’s OK to sexually assault women, and who vilifies people who aren’t white, there are no acceptable answers. A man raising twin four-year-olds with his husband, said he’d read the first thing is to tell your children you’ll keep them safe, and then reinforce the values we teach our children. I work with many people who are first and second-generation immigrants. I was emotionally fragile all day – near tears multiple times.

So, I dressed all in black for work today, except for those red flame socks. My rage has no outlet that I will allow myself to express, without sinking to the level of the President-elect, and that I will not do.

I have read what far more eloquent people have written to process the election results. I read and later watched, the leadership and caring exhibited by Hillary Clinton in her remarks today. Once again, she put service to the country above self. Once again, President Obama showed his grace and ability as a leader, exhorting us to support the President-elect.

I’m not there. Right now, I’m not sure I will ever be able to support the Executive branch while the new President-elect is in office. He’s despicable. I’m closer to The Audacity of Hopelessness from Roxane Gay, and No, Let’s Not Congratulate Him from Connie Schultz than to the speeches either Hillary or Barack made. Especially – and maybe always – what Connie wrote.

My rage still burns, but I’m working to be able to channel it productively. I won’t need to wear the flame socks to remember that. I will use the rage to forge an even more steely resolve to work on what must change.

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A variety of ideas have been swirling in my brain of late. It’s taken a few days for me to synthesize enough to sort out why they are connected, and important enough to write about. I’m not entirely sure I’m ready, but I want to get at least the sketch of the pieces I’m seeing down: #HeForShe, Outlander, Google, MissRepresentation, and even a bit of church thrown in.

Late last week, Emma Watson gave a heartfelt speech to the United Nations on the need for gender equity, launching the #HeForShe campaign, encouraging men as well as women to embrace feminism – equality of opportunities for all. I was happy to see a young woman taking on equal rights for women & girls, and to see efforts to enlist all people to the cause. (You can refer to older posts on how I feel on the subject.) If you’re uncomfortable with the being a “feminist,” watch the speech.

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time the past few weeks using Outlander as a break, and recalling the many reasons I enjoy the books: the historical detail, the evocative characters and more by author Diana Gabaldon, and the strong female characters of Claire and Bree, among others. I have read and re-read the Outlander books over the past 20 years, as escape, primarily. I love the characters and the history, and these are tried and true friends I return to when I want to immerse myself in another world. Re-reading Outlander and seeing it come to the screen has been a welcome respite as I wrapped up months of really intense and emotionally challenging work earlier this month. As my work schedule finally relaxed, I also began following some of the press around the show, including several mentions that Claire is not the usual female character portrayed on television (including comparisons to Game of Thrones.)

As someone familiar with the Outlander books, I hadn’t thought of Claire as such a uniquely strong female on screen, but it is part of what I so enjoy about her – both on the show and in the books. A favorite line is when Claire, very early on, is admonished (by a man) with the line “St. Paul says ‘Let a woman be silent and–‘ …” and replies “You can mind your own bloody business, and so can St. Paul.” Anyone who’s spent any time with me in a church setting knows that I fully endorse that sentiment. (Despite the fact that Paul was instrumental in spreading Christianity beyond the Jewish community, my studies of early church history and recent reading of Reza Aslam’s The Zealot have not improved Paul’s standing in my book. Then again, St. Paul is not likely to have thought highly of me, either. I’d figure we’re even, but no one reads from my writings in church.) Speaking of both conscious and unconscious bias, I think I’ll leave the church bit to another post.

And this week the NY Times story about how Google is starting to look at unconscious bias in the organization, as a part of its efforts to become more diverse. First step is to make oneself aware of the biases. With awareness, you can start to take yourself off of autopilot and potentially make different decisions. I’ve made multiple career moves where I had different experiences of cultures, diversity and gender bias, and I’m about to make another move, so all that is also on my mind, but that’s another post, as well.

Back to Outlander and feminism. Claire is an unusual character in the story, and in television. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend watching MissRepresentation to get a flavor of the importance to society in general – both men and women – of how women are portrayed in our media. When she’s objectified, she fights back, and as a woman in the 18th century, she’s in a tough spot with lots of opportunities to choose to accept her situation, or not. Jamie would be a great feminist, too, I think. Of course, surrounded by Claire and Brianna, he might not have a choice. (Thank you, again, Diana Gabaldon, for writing such rich characters!)

The intersection of the #HeForShe campaign, talk of feminism and Outlander, corporate diversity and biases all do come together. In some ways, I’m seeing others become more conscious of biases in society, and being reminded of my own. There is much work still to be done.

All people are equally worthy of respect, and entitled to opportunity to live with dignity and be fully alive throughout their lives.

A friend who is sharing “fun facts” for Women’s History Month reminded me of how recently women gained some basic control over their lives. It was only in the 1970’s that women were allowed to obtain mortgages and buy homes in their own names. (She’s reading When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins. I’ve just added it to my own reading list.) It made me recall that my mother had to explicitly apply for a credit card in her own name in the 1980’s, as previously, she’d only been listed under my dad’s credit. This was despite her having a job and bank account since she’d started working in her teens in the 1940’s.

I also heard a great deal over the past weeks from politicians and Catholic bishops and their supporters who believe that contraception used to prevent pregnancy is wrong and should not be available as preventative care without insurance deductibles, or at all. A law student who testified to the need for such coverage before Congress was vilified as a “slut” and “prostitute”, among other things. I was also reminded yesterday that there are people who think that women should not be able to choose to abort a fetus under any circumstance, and would take that control away from women.

All this adds up to increasing vicious attacks on women’s rights to equal opportunity and benefits in this country. When reminded of just how recently some of these benefits were won, it makes me angry – and I am not going to remain silent, on this or other social justice issues. I was a student at Wellesley College in the 1980’s, when we took these gains for women as won, and expected that society would continue to move forward. It makes me angry to see people take politicians seriously who would walk us backwards.

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by Gloria Steinem, who helped lead the effort to gain some of the rights women have today, and she isn’t resting on her laurels. She knows there is more to be done, and I now see more dramatically the need to fight with her. As she said, all social justice issues are connected, so I won’t be fighting only for women or feminism.
When an acquaintance posts on Facebook a one-sided statement, I am going to present my opposing viewpoint. I will attempt to do so in a way that is respectful but that makes it clear that I disagree, and why. I may not be able to take on all such views, but I will do what I can. The extremes in public dialogue continue to get worse as people listen more and more only to what they want to hear. I am going to try to do my part, so I cannot be silent.

So, if you’re someone who sees me wading in to a dialogue with someone in what appears to be a losing battle, now you know why I’m doing it.