Songs for the Struggling Artist


Screaming Songs For Men
November 26, 2019, 6:57 pm
Filed under: anger, feminism, music, writing | Tags: , , , , , , ,

For the podcast version of the blog, I try and find a song to pair it with – a song that speaks to the content of the piece. For my piece about screaming, I searched for songs on the subject. There are a fair amount of songs with the word “scream” or “yell” in the title but almost all of them, I found, were by white guys.

I found this phenomenon curious. Why are there so many scream songs by white men? What do white guys have to scream about?
EVERYONE LISTENS TO ME WHEN I TALK!
PEOPLE CLEAR A PATH FOR ME WHEN I WALK DOWN THE STREET!
WHEN WOMEN MAKE 70 CENTS, I MAKE A DOLLAR!
I AM AT THE CENTER OF MOST STORIES!

I don’t get. I’ve really been trying to understand why we have Scream Bloody Gore, Scream and Shout, Rebel Yell, Silent Scream, Let Me Hear You Scream, etc, but not say, I’m Screaming for Some Equal Pay, Shout Your MeToo Out or Reproductive Justice Yell.

I don’t get why white male rage is a thing in music. And I also don’t get why it happens also in theatre, film and TV. And not just currently. Now, I might understand that white dudes feel a little threatened – but this phenomenon goes back decades. Why? With all the advantages on their side, why should they be yelling?

And then I realized. The rage in those songs is not an expression of powerlessness, the way my rage is. It is an expression of power. It is practice for power. It is grooming for power. It is a flex. It says – this is my anger, watch out.

And for decades, we have heeded that warning. We have been appropriately cowed by the screaming. White male rage is dangerous. It kills women every day. It kills school children. It is nothing to sneeze at. But it might be something to scream back at – in art. If dudes can practice expressing their power in songs, we can, too. I want scream songs for women. I want female rage films. I want to see us flexing, practicing our power. I don’t want another “Luca” or “Voices Carry” – two songs about dealing with men’s rage (two songs I have loved by the way). I want Scream, Yell, Shout – Get All Your Rage Out songs for women. I don’t know if I have it in me to write one – but I really feel I should. And so should you.

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*End Note: I’m being a little bit facetious for effect here. I know men have a lot of very legitimate reasons to be angry and most of them have to do with how the patriarchy screws men, too. I don’t want men to stop shouting. I just want the rest of us to be able to do it, too.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me shift the rage canon?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



My New Coping Mechanism
October 25, 2019, 6:58 pm
Filed under: American, anger, resistance | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A year ago I was so angry, I felt like I could destroy villages with my fury. The Kavanagh hearings gave me a powerful rage. I’d never felt anything like it. I really did feel like a dragon.

But over the last year, despite many awful, infuriating things happening, I have not felt the same fire-spitting rage in a while. The rage doesn’t usually feel good but I have noticed that it is energizing and this last year has felt just low level horrifying – like poison dripping. My rage is just sort of simmering. I’ve become almost numb to it. I read about another atrocity and instead of wanting to kick something, I just shake my head and say, “Oh, this now?”

I worry that the relentlessness of the horrors and bad behavior has immunized me to things that really should make me rage. I feel like this is happening to a lot of us. We can’t reconcile the relentlessness of the news so we sort of numb out.

That numbing out, that pushing aside of the nightmares has not been good for me – not for my physical or mental health. I actually think I was doing better when I was kicking mad. So, I decided I needed to find a way to adapt to these screwed up circumstances. I decided to scream every time I read or heard some new infuriating fact. Screaming is releasing and physical and expressive. I thought it might help get the fury out of me rather than letting its poison build up in there.

But. I do live in a dense urban area. And probably my neighbors don’t need the extra worry of a woman screaming all the time. So I’ve implemented the Silent Scream response.

A Silent Scream has the physical benefits of a voiced one without the sound that might make the neighbors nervous or damage the vocal chords. The Silent Scream can be small or large. It can expressed through just the face or the whole body.

News about a moat filled with alligators? Silent scream. Story about the gag rule’s impact on the country? Silent Scream.

I silent scream so many times a day now. Sometimes I forget and I read some bit of news and start to feel a sinking sensation of hopelessness – but once I notice it, I open my mouth and scream silently and I feel a bit better – more powerful – more energized – less hopeless.

So this is your invitation to join me. Throw your head back and let it out. And maybe eventually we might start doing it in public. The women’s march might feature an epic simultaneous silent scream. Or a voiced one.

I read about a Mexican tradition wherein the population has a good collective shout on the fifteenth of September at 11 o’clock for an hour in honor of independence.

I don’t know if I could scream for an hour – but I do know that a good collective scream (silent or voiced) might just be the thing I need.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to scream along with me?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Who Gets to Rage in American Theatre? Or, Some Stuff I Learned from American Moor

The show nailed the standard white American male theatre director so well, I found I had fantasies of kicking his head down the road a few days later. Forgive me the violent imagery but I guess I’m a little bit furious.

American Moor is a show about an actor grappling with the weight of Othello. Caught in a tug of war between the demands of the racist American Theatre system and his African American peers, the character rails and resists. He wants to rage against the injustices that rain down but he keeps himself in check. He also attempts to audition for the role.

The last half of the piece is a glimpse of both that audition and the internal struggle of adapting to its demands.

While much of the show addresses the specificity of this actor’s experience – specifics that, as a white woman, I do not share – I found myself relating to it deeply.

One of the themes that kept arising was the way the actor’s black male body was a source of fear for white theatre makers. This character had to continually manage the racist fears of the people around him. His getting a job depended on his presenting a minimized self – a nice, safe, unchallenging version of himself, one that has never known anger and would never need express it.

I relate to this despite the fact that, much to my dismay, no one is ever frightened of me. No one assumes I am powerful and aggressive. Not ever. I don’t have to adjust my presence in a room to placate that fear – because no one ever fears it. I have, however, in my acting days, turned myself WAY down in order to appear ladylike, like I could be an ingénue. I have shrunk myself into a girlish form so as to be seen as a possible object. I know what it’s like to bring all my intelligence to a part and then be asked to ingratiate myself, to seduce, to giggle, to be more malleable. And anger? What is anger? Why would I be angry? I’m sweet! And nice!

I know what it feels like to have to hide myself and defer to the patronizing white guy with all the power and authority. It is, fundamentally, why I stopped acting. Because being asked to do only one thing when I am built to do 20 others things was more frustration than I was prepared to handle. And, for entirely different reasons than the character in American Moor, I, too, would never be allowed to express my rage in the theatre.

As I watched the show, the director in me wanted to push aside the character of the patriarchal dolt in charge and take over his show. “Oh, you can’t recognize the opportunity that is in front of you? Oh, you can’t set aside your own limited understanding to make space for the human being in the room with you? You don’t know how to do that? Well – I do. Get out of my damn way, dude.” And in part, this is why I quit directing. There are too many pricks in power. They kept wanting me to be like them.

So much of my experience in and out of classical theatre in America suddenly made sense. It made a kind of sense that made me want to run screaming through the streets – but still…sense!

Seeing the racism that this performer encountered in the worlds I have touched down was chilling. I have seen some of it with my own eyes and failed to recognize how awful it was. I have seen classical scholars or theatre makers look black men up and down and ask, “Have you played him?” I’ve seen that. It happens ALL the TIME. Just the other day, I saw a post about Denzel Washington’s upcoming performance as Macbeth and someone commented that he’d rather see him as Othello. Fact is, that commenting guy already sees Denzel Washington as Othello. It’s the only part that guy can imagine a black guy doing.

This is not something I have had to deal with. There are 1-4 women in each play and there is not one whose race is specified. No one will ever ask if I’ve played “her.” No one would know who they meant. I am lucky that way.

By the end of this show, tears were streaming down my face. I wasn’t entirely sure why. In part, I think, it’s because it ended with a possibility of transformation. The show had a hope, for a moment, that the white guy director could see a way to change and help bring forth that change. I think I was crying, though, because I didn’t believe for a minute that that guy was going to change. I knew he wouldn’t. (Spoiler Alert: He didn’t.) And I came all over mournful for the state of American Theatre and how little hope I have for its doing anything much different than it has always done. I mean, sure, the #MeToo Movement has made waves and we’ve ousted the most egregious examples in the theatre but mostly, if dudes managed to keep their hands more or less to themselves, it’s still their sandbox.

One of the themes of American Moor was how the character, pigeonholed into Othello, really wanted to play Titania and Feste and Juliet. And honestly, if I had my hands on a theatre with a budget, I would cast him that way without even hesitating. I think a lot of us on the outskirts of the American Theatre would make that choice. But the mainstream is stuck in a world where everyone has to look the part, where Desdemonas have to be tiny, beautiful and blonde and black men can only play Othello and it shall always be thus, now and forever.

And maybe it seems like it’s just classical theatre that is like this – but it isn’t. Many of the plays that continue to march through our stages enforce similar status quos. Every theatre wants to do their artistic director’s True West and almost every artistic director is the same variety of white man. White guys raging at each other is American Theatre’s brand.

There are changes coming, I know. I know there’s a wave of people of color stepping into authority at theatres across America – but while it’s still news, still an exceptional shift, it feels like that change is a very long way off.

Anyway, I’ll be over here kicking an imaginary white guy director’s head down the road for a while and hopefully someone stepping into new power and authority will cast the guy from American Moor as Titania soon. I hope his Titania rages.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me support all those who need to rage?

Become my patron on Patreon

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Anger Is My Superpower
January 16, 2019, 1:54 am
Filed under: feminism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Up until my mid 20s, I would have sworn to you that I did not feel anger. And I didn’t. I didn’t experience what I felt as anger. Mostly I cried. There were tears, lots and lots of tears and since I thought tears meant sadness, what I felt was sad, not mad. Anger was so foreign to me during my prime acting years that I worried about playing parts that required me to be angry. I could play anything but anger. My, how times have changed. Now, anger is my super power.

All my life, I’d been trying to avoid it. I’d pushed aside any hint of it, suppressed it, repressed it. Then – through this very blog, I began to express some of the things I was “frustrated” by, injuries that made me “upset.” And then I reached a breaking point and I wrote a very angry blog post. That anger led to the most views I have ever gotten.

Again and again, I find that when I let loose my anger, the world responds positively. Some folks appreciate the quiet, considered, intellectual type analysis of things – but the angry posts are the hits. The angry posts have fire in them.

Anger fueled my return to the theatre after a year’s absence. Anger writes me songs. Anger gets me moving. In their recent books on anger, Rebecca Traister and Soraya Chemaly both discuss the stigma against anger – how everyone has always said that anger is bad for you – when it is, in fact, the reverse. Anger can be very very good. Soraya Chemaly talks about her search for anger management for women and how all those classes are really for men. The anger classes women need are how to access our anger, how to feel it, how to direct it, how to use it.

There is a profound release in expressing anger – whether it be on the page or in person. Simply acknowledging its existence is powerful. For a lot of women, the simple act of declaring our anger is profound. Traister pointed out that almost every woman she talked to for her book would at some point declare that her anger had passed – that she WAS angry (past tense) and then she channeled it into action and she wasn’t angry any more.

I will tell you right now that this is not true for me. I am angry. I was angry. I am still angry. My anger moves in waves and some days I am angrier than others but this is all current. And I am not about to push my anger down again. It is fuel for me. It makes things happen.

Sure – it may make me seem like a stereotype of a feminist – the kind we have all been declaring we’re not like, the kind so many women would like not to be. But I really don’t give a damn. Those bad-ass angry ladies were (and are!) fierce warriors and they were fighting for rights that I have benefitted from. I should be so lucky to be seen in their ranks.

I may still look nice and approachable and accommodating to the outside eye. I still smile broadly. I still look friendly. But I tell you what, I don’t mind walking down dark streets anymore. Part of me is waiting for some asshole to try me – just so I can unleash all my fury on him. I learned a nice trick involving a key to the eye recently and my fingers itch to use it.

I mean – not really – of course. I don’t really want to be attacked. But anger is getting me through my days (and nights!) unmolested. It is getting me out of bed in the morning instead of sinking into hopeless despair. It’s getting me fans on the internet. I wouldn’t go back to my earlier life “without” anger for anything. Life with anger is immensely more powerful and rich than life without.

Is this possible for everyone? Nope. Getting to feel and express anger is a privilege. Both Chemaly and Traister point out how this kind of expression is not possible for the vast majority of women. Women of color especially are prevented from expressing their anger from multiple sides.

So…since it is my privilege to be angry, I feel it is my obligation to use my righteous anger on others’ behalf and to express it every way I can to at least be a vicarious channel for others who are not permitted the space to be angry. For those who don’t feel like they can be angry? I can be angry for them. I am angry for all of us.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me develop my superpower?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Books About Anger and The Safety Tax
November 29, 2018, 9:44 pm
Filed under: art, feminism, theatre | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I can’t tell if reading all these books about women’s anger is helping or making things worse. On one hand, it is tremendously affirming to read about my current experience and all the reasons I have to feel the way I feel. On the other hand, I’m newly angry about things I thought I’d already worked through my fury about. Despite my lifetime awareness of the ways sexism has tied my hands, at the moment, each reminder of an old fact or a fresh perspective makes me newly furious.

For example, Soraya Chemaly’s framing of the safety tax on women is at the forefront of my new awareness. She points out that the threat of rape and sexual assault is so ever present that women have to take extra security measures, pay extra money to be safe. (i.e = take taxis, live in safer (in other words, more expensive) neighborhoods, park closer to their destinations.) Now, personally, I’ve always been a little reckless in this fashion. I have been known to take a subway by myself at 2 am. I have generally just refused to pay the usual tax I guess. And I’ve been relatively lucky.

But the other night, after a show, when no subways came for over an hour, I started to get angry about this aspect of things all over again. I got home around 1 am – over two hours after leaving the show. And because the trains were a disaster – I ended up having to take the subway that drops me off ten blocks from my apartment rather than the one that drops me two blocks away. I realized that the MTA basically just made my journey, not just delayed, but exponentially more dangerous. Arriving home at 11pm is a very different situation than arriving home at 1 am. Arriving ten blocks away instead of two means my trip home is many times more dangerous.

Now – the MTA is a disaster for everyone right now. Our governor has tanked the whole system and everyone is having a miserable time. However – a series of decisions around it have also made things incredibly more risky for women. For example – trains used to shift to their late night schedules around 12. If you made it on a train before 12, you should be okay. Then the late night schedule shifted to eleven. Not great but still do-able – still time enough to see a show and grab a quick drink after. But now the “late night schedule” begins at 9:45 pm. For women who are better at safeguarding themselves than me, this means that seeing a show means taking a taxi home. Every show women see just became much much more expensive.

While still at the beginning of my two hour journey home, I saw a woman hit the door of a trash train that was slowly passing. She was so furious. All she could say was, “I’m so angry.” I thought maybe the driver had said something to her but when I asked, she explained that due to the lateness of the trains and the misinformation on the train countdown clocks, she was going to miss the last train back to her neighborhood in Brooklyn. It was not yet 11. And I understood completely why she was at her rope’s end.

When I started this blog, it all ended there. But then I went to rehearsal in a space that I have rehearsed in dozens of times before. I arrived in the neighborhood not long after six in the evening but it was already dark. The neighborhood is not well lit and there was no one around. It’s not as if I didn’t know the place was the way it was. I have been there before. But this time, I realized that I was asking almost a dozen women to come there. This time, I realized that the building is dark. This time, I realized that it was a little foreboding. This time, I realized that the handy magnetic door entrance that only the renter has the keycard for is not safe for anyone who might be stuck outside with no way to buzz in. On the way out, several of our actors waited in the lobby for car services. It was 10pm. It was dark. The walk to the subway may have been short but it was deserted. A car service was a good idea. And car services aren’t cheap. And you know what? That’s a freakin’ safety tax that women are paying all the time. Already under paid or unpaid, women in the arts are either taking giant risks to tough it out in out-of-the-way arts venues or are spending money on cars. I never noticed it before, I think, because I was in a headspace of “being a cool art chick who’s super down to be anywhere, even dark deserted urban areas, man.” Anyway, this is one cool art chick who is now trying to raise some extra cash to compensate those ladies for their safety tax. (Fundraiser still open, contribute if you like!)

So, after all that, I have to say that reading these books about anger and rage is, in fact, helping. I may be angrier in the short term but in the long term, it’s helping me make space to talk about something we never talk about in the arts. I have been working in theatre for over twenty years, I have literally never heard anyone discuss women’s safety in this way.  It’s about time. Now I can do something about it in my own little pocket of this universe. I recommend reading and I recommend doing.

I got to see both these badass ladies speak in the same week.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me pay my safety tax?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



I Am a Dragon Now. The Fear of Men Is My Food.

I am nice. I am so nice. My whole life I have been told I am nice. When I received criticism, it was that I was too nice. And not just once either. Over and over and over again. “You’re too nice!” they’d say.

But that’s over. It’s over. I am a dragon now. Tell me I’m too nice again.

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It didn’t have to be this way. The arc of the universe could have bent toward justice a little sooner and I would have remained as I was. I could have stayed that person who wrote sweet plays that mostly worked out in the end – you know the kind, the ones where smart women hook up with slightly dorky temporarily clueless men and everyone’s happy. You could have had more of those plays. You could have had love songs and dream novels and light sparkling in the trees. I would have happily smiled my way through the rest of my life. I would have looked past a lot of bad behavior to have a seat at the table. But you didn’t give me a seat at the table so I brought a folding chair, as the great Shirley Chisholm advised. But now I am a dragon and every chair and the table will be burnt to the ground.

Yesterday a man sat at my table when there was plenty of other space at the café. He could not tell I was a dragon. He chewed his ice loudly and ostentatiously, oblivious of the fire and fury so close to him. He was not afraid. I was hungry. So I ate him.

Going up the subway stairs, I was behind a man. I was in his blind spot. He did not see me. But he could feel my wrath. He was afraid. I ate his fear and it nourished me so I let him live so he could feed me again.

Across the internet, men are terrified. If white men endowed with every privilege can be accused of sexual assault, then who’s to say you are not next? “Who is safe anymore?” they say. Who is safe? Not you. I want you afraid. All those years of fearing violence, particularly sexual violence, have given me a hunter’s instinct. I can spot a predator from very far away and I am coming for your fear.

Yes, you’re right. Being accused of sexual assault is, of course, just as bad as experiencing it. Worse, even! Yes. Be afraid. You are not safe. Not from me, certainly. I ate an ice chewer whole. What do you think I’ll do to you? I don’t care. I’m a dragon now. The thousands of years of women’s fear of men are stoking my craving for destruction, for the terror on the other foot.

I am all rage. All fire. All destruction. It did not have to be thus. But this week of patriarchal entitlement paroxysms and the reenactment of the trauma of innumerable women has made me a dragon. Now might be a good time to finally enact some of that gun legislation you’ve been so loathe to get going on – because my dragon self is keen on getting her hands on the tools of war, on the tools of men’s rage. If you do not fear me yet – perhaps you will fear your own death machines. The dragon will lap up the flop sweat and your terror.

But #NotAllMen, right? Wrong.

Yes. Yes. ALL MEN. Is that what you’re afraid of? That we mean all men when we talk about these things? That I mean all men now? Is that your big fear? Then, yes. ALL MEN. All of them. Especially if you are asking this dumb ass question. Then yes. I mean you. I am coming for you. Your fear of “all men” is especially tasty. Yes. ALL MEN, then.

Do you want to be saved from my path of destruction through ALL MEN? Do you want to be an exception? Try smiling more.

I will be inclined to exempt those that love me and be merciful to those that please me. Try laughing at my jokes. All of them. I am hilarious. I am a genius. Don’t you think so? Oh, women aren’t funny? That’s funny. And now you’re my lunch.

I will pardon those who understand. Try listening. Those who have heard me – even before I was a dragon will escape my wrath. They will be treasured in my castle along with the rest of my dragon horde.

My fury has become indiscriminate but I can be placated. I can be soothed. But I cannot be reasoned with. Explaining why I should not turn you to dust will not save you.

If you need some survival tools for adapting to a world full of indiscriminate rage, ask your grandmother. Or any woman who has soothed angry men around her all her life. I think those same tricks might work on me. Maybe. That doesn’t mean you should not be afraid. My fire is sudden. It is fierce. And I do not look like a dragon. I look like a nice friendly lady who won’t cause any trouble.

But I will. Oh, I will. You should be afraid of every single one of us now. We are coming for you. And your fear is delicious.

If you’d like to read my follow up to this post, you can just click through to: I Am Also Part Witch

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And as this post travels around the world, I am delighted to report that I have heard of the changing of many a social media profile pic to dragons. If you feel so inclined, please share your dragon developments and inspirations with me!

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About a year after I wrote this piece, a world of women becoming dragons, inspired by this one, came into my imagination. I made a podcast of it and you can now listen to The Dragoning wherever you get your podcasts.

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Songs for the Struggling Artist is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read this on Anchor, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Even dragons need support.

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



This Post Is One Big Trigger Warning

If you’re a woman, you’re probably totally triggered right now and I hope you’re taking care of yourself and not actually reading anything on the internet. Including this.
TW: All of it.

Anyway – here we go.
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I thought I was younger. But when I looked up the dates of Anita Hill’s tribulations in the Senate, I discovered I was not the young teen I thought I’d been – but 18 and in college. I thought I was younger because of how much those hearings impacted me. I thought I was only just learning about the bizarre sexual politics of the adult world – but I guess I’d already gotten an inkling.

I’m thinking a lot about my teen self and how she experienced Anita Hill’s experience for reasons that are probably obvious, given what’s going on in the Senate now. Those who are teens now are much savvier than we were and are already full participants in the digital world. Emma Thatcher’s tweet is incredibly self aware.

While the content is different, this response reminds me of my experience of the Hill Hearings. In that case, the picture the hearings painted of the working world ahead of me did not make me relish the prospect of growing up into it.

As Katie Anthony said in her blog post This Is What Triggered Looks Like – I’m also triggered. I have been trying not to be – trying to pretend that none of this has anything to do with me. But in fact, I am triggered, triggered, fucking triggered by all the rape apologists coming out of the woodwork.

The subtext of much of what I hear coming out of the GOP defenders amounts to, “Who among us hasn’t raped someone? Or at least tried? Who among us hasn’t covered the mouth of someone to stifle their screams?” There are GOP women saying this sort of thing is completely normal and happens all the time and there’s nothing to see here.

Someone call some more hearings, I think we have a whole lot of cold rape cases to prosecute.

But why am I triggered? No one ever did anything so horrible to me as what happened to Dr. Ford. I am lucky. I am so lucky.

And I suppose that’s what’s triggering me. I have some intense survivor’s guilt.
I was always a hair’s breadth away from such an event.

There’s been a lot of talk of “This was the 80s. It was different back then.” And sure, I suppose it was. And realizing retroactively how many rapes I dodged is part of what’s freaking me out about all this. It’s also making me furious.

I mean – I’m finally getting some perspective on the teen sexuality of the 80s and early 90s and have realized that it was a goddamn war zone. Rape and sexual assault bullets were just whizzing past me and I just happened to have never caught more than a light grazing. Meanwhile, so many of my peers ended up with bullets lodged deep and scars that will never heal.

I mean, sure, I knew at the time, that boys were encouraged to try push past girls’ boundaries and it was up to girls to figure out how to avoid getting raped. But I think we all recognize how Dr. Ford’s experience goes the extra awful mile. At least all the women do. Yes. If you were a girl who wanted to make out with boys in the 80s, you probably got really good at moving hands away from places you didn’t want them, at pushing boys away, at saying “stop,” at saying “No.”

All the rapes I missed so narrowly are coming forward in the current climate. What’s cycling through my brain and body are all the times I had to raise my voice, push harder, shout, get out of the car, call a taxi or walk swiftly away.

If only one of those boys had turned up the music or covered my mouth or decided he enjoyed a fight, I’d have not been so lucky. It would have only taken one.

What I find myself turning over is how I experienced sexuality entirely on the defensive as a young women. Every time I went on a date, I was fully prepared to defend myself against rape and I fully expected to have to. Every time.

Where was the joy in sexual intimacy? I had no idea such a thing was even possible then. There was no opportunity for pleasurable exploration. There was no hope for shared experience in that paradigm. Boys tried to get some and it was up to girls to stop it. That’s just boys will be boys stuff.

Like most of the women I know, these proceedings of the last week or so, have made me furious in ways I thought I’d figured out how to manage these last couple of years. I was mad about Kavanagh’s nomination before this parade of rape apologists began. Now I have become a mass of stones just ready to smash anything before me. I am stone piled on stone and I want to smash things to dust.

After discussing my rage with my therapist, I told her she’d done a public service by seeing me as I was now a lot less likely to murder random men on the street for no reason at all. Before I got some mental health care, I was ready to go full Dietland on any unknown man I saw, extra points for total destruction if he was in a fancy suit.

Luckily, I did get some mental health care (and I am, in reality, not interested in violence) but not every one is so lucky and I’m going to guess that a lot of women have recently developed murderous impulses that they never imagined before.

The rage is real. It is powerful. It reaches backward and forward in time.

I am furious for the current moment and for what happened to Dr. Ford and all the other victims in the past and what’s happening to them now.

I’m furious about the rape culture of the past that is so much worse than I realized. I’m someone who knew the stats that 1 in 3 women would be raped in her lifetime even back in the 80s but somehow didn’t put it together until I saw Adrienne Truscott’s amazing show that that ALSO meant 1 in 3 men were probably rapists. (#NotAllMen – just 33% of them.)

I’m furious about that for the past and for the present moment.

I’m furious about the teenagers getting these messages now and furious about the messages I got when I was a teenager.

I’m furious about the cupcakes that Kavanagh’s wife handed out to the press.

I’m furious that #WhyIDidntReport is necessary and furious that so many women feel like they have to disclose some of the most painful moments of their lives in order to save the country.

I’m furious that I can’t really bear to read the writing of some of my favorite women writers right now because we are all furious at once and I have to regulate how much rage I can be exposed to each day so as not to accidentally self-immolate.

I’m furious that I am here writing about sexual assault again even though I don’t want to write about sexual assault but I have to because I will be furious either way and it’s better to get this out of me than allow it to fester.

I’m furious about what the future will hold if this doesn’t change now. I’m just fucking furious and furious that I have to be furious some more. I do not know when this fury will end. And that makes me furious.

Me at the National Walk Out #BelieveSurvivors

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m working on Dionne Ferris’ “Don’t Ever Touch Me Again” for this episode.

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You Had One Job, Man

I will preface what I am about to tell you with the fact that I spent much of the evening before this day wading in the mucky pool of the aftermath of the news about Louis CK. While stand-up comedy is not technically my field, it is a sister field and therefore painfully close. So I began my day still marinating in both the horrors and the hope of this world laid bare and I felt pretty ready to tear it all down. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Just read Laurie Penny or KatyKatiKate or Laurie Kilmartin if you want to talk about it amongst yourselves.

What I want to talk about is this incredibly weird moment in an incredibly weird alumni lunch I was a part of. In the middle of the lunch, a tall middle-aged man stood up at the mic and proclaimed that he did not have his glasses and was going to mispronounce everyone’s names. His job was to point out the various alumni volunteers so that students could find us. This job should have taken two minutes. He had maybe 17 names to read. And this reading of the names took, what with the hemming and hawing and the “oh, you see I need my glasses” and the repetition of needless instructions, probably ten minutes. The man had ONE VERY EASY JOB and he was appallingly bad at it.

And you know, in some contexts, I could be very forgiving of such incompetence. If we were at a senior center, for example, I’d not have given it a second thought. But it’s 2017 and the world is run by incompetent men who have gotten away with terrible things and stupid things and I have zero patience with any old white man who has power over women. There was, at this event, a staff of incredibly capable women standing to the side, watching this moment and wanting (I imagined) to jump in and help the car wreck in front of them but unable to because this guy has a fancy title. He’s the President of the Alumni Association. So a room full of people just quietly sat there (well, truthfully I didn’t sit quietly – I cracked jokes to the student next to me) while a buffoon rambled on. ONE JOB, man. YOU HAD ONE JOB.

Listen, I sympathize with missing glasses (I need them too) but I can come up with six ways to solve this problem that would not have involved putting a room full of (mostly) women through that terrible show. And anyone who has had to fight their way into a room would do the same. And I know that my fury about this is out of proportion with the offense. I spent a day trying to unpack why this event made me, at dinner that night, want to disembowel the air with my chopsticks. And I don’t yet have an easy answer.

Here are some factors that seemed to be driving my violent chopstick impulses:
1) I’m furious in general. I have been enraged for over a year now and it only gets worse the longer this political disaster goes on.
2) This particular mediocre white man has pushed my buttons before when he advocated for the Board of the College in cutting my beloved Florence program. (More about that here.) That corporate sucking up is antithetical to what I valued about my college experience. So yeah. I’m not inclined to think of him favorably. Also I saw a little clip of him speaking at graduation wherein he said something like, “Either Key or Peele went here, I can never remember which.” – a comment I found so shockingly racist, I gasped and had to stop the video. I mean…so yeah. He pushes my buttons.
3) That a mediocre white man is representing a college that is mostly women is not an insignificant factor. And I am suddenly aware that there may have been elections for this alumni board that I have likely ignored and here is yet another area of my world where not paying attention has led to circumstances not to my liking. This guy is the President (of the alumni board) because he wanted to be and believed he could do it and because most of us have other things to worry about. So now, I’m pissed because I’m thinking, “Do I have to run for the alumni board now? My god, I do not want to. All I really want to do is make art. I don’t want to tweet and make calls to congress. I don’t want to sign petitions and campaign for people and write postcards. And I don’t want to be President of the Alumni Board of my alma mater nor do I have the resources to do such a thing. Because here’s the thing – I’m an artist, a struggling one, in case you hadn’t worked that out by the name of the blog, and you know, it cost me $16.50 to go up to the college and a whole day to try and be helpful and I really don’t have $16.50 to spare and a decent lunch might have made it feel worth it but a sandwich and a bag of potato chips ain’t really doing the trick. So it’s like, the people who volunteer for these sorts of positions like president or board member have something to get out of them and resources to spare. And they’re the sorts of people who make their forgetting of their glasses the problem of a whole room of people.”
4) I am not feeling logical or temperate anymore. I am having an Unforgiving Minute, as Laurie Penny beautifully put it. I have made excuses for, apologized to and made space for men to be right for too damn long and I will rage about the smallest infraction. I was nice and accommodating for forty years but time’s up and I’m done.
5) Sorry. No, I’m not sorry. But you know probably this guy is perfectly nice and pleasant to talk to at parties but I’m sorry – no, I’m not sorry, I don’t want this guy’s head on a platter, I just want the career I don’t have because incompetent overly confident mediocre white dudes blustered their way into gigs that more qualified people should have had. And this guy is now just a symbol of the ego-inflated oversize mediocre white dude balloon hanging over the world and all I want to do is stick a pin in it anywhere I can. So, I’m sorry. No, I’m not sorry. I’m done being sorry.

6) Like Rebecca Traister talked about in her article about the current moment – I’m also waiting for the backlash. As a woman who was writing about sexual harassment and sexism before it was trending, I know the backlash is coming and I’m bracing for it even while half hoping that this article in Time about women having reached a critical mass in all these fields is right and maybe no backlash is coming but really I’m still bracing for the terrible ugly backlash just in case and I think that makes me a bit tense, you know – so one incompetent asshole who could have just turned over the reading to someone who had their glasses or bothered to ask how people pronounced their names ahead of time or written names in a size he could read just gets right under my skin. It’s like a small scale diversary/diversity moment happening right in front of me.

So it’s obviously all really simple and stuff and I guess chopstick air evisceration is logical given the swirl of feelings. And for me that rage is relatively new. I will confess that my socialization as a feminine creature was so intense that I literally thought I could not feel anger until I was in my mid-twenties. In my early years of acting, I got nervous when I had to play characters who got angry because I worried that I had no capacity for rage. Those years are over and perhaps I’m just making up for lost time. I’m angry now about all those things I pushed away and smiled about instead of kicking over – so now I will rage about the littlest things. From a stupid speech to a shitty radio show, I know how to rage now and I can feel how much more productive it can be than pushing things aside or making excuses for stupid behavior. Not that there won’t be consequence for my rage and I’m worried about those, too because – come on, man. Just…I don’t know…bring your glasses next time and get on with it. Also, I’d like to know when the alumni board elections are. I’m paying attention now and I use my power to vote at every chance I get. And I rage.

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My Customer Service Whisperer

My boyfriend is a genius at calling customer service, or anything like it. He manages to stay calm and collected and get what he came for. When I get on the phone with customer service, I become almost instantly furious. And I am not, in any other area of my life, a particularly furious person.

Watching him negotiate a call system, immediately after I’ve hung up blinding mad, is like watching a miracle in progress. I’m trying to understand what’s going on here. Why is he so successful at it and why am I so terrible? And is it gendered?

When my first pass at my most recent customer service exchange failed, he jokingly offered to call them back with his “authoritative male voice” (said with some irony) – and we laughed about it, especially when I said, “Yes, please!” in my damsel in distress voice. But I think there’s really something TO this idea of authority.

The fury that builds in me when I’m on the phone with customer service (or tech support or whatever) is related to a sense of extreme powerlessness – a feeling that nothing I do will yield the results I’m looking for.

The National Theatre produced a fantastic podcast about the Female Voice and in it, one of the participants mentioned that she noticed her voice getting higher whenever she talked to customer service. I do something similar. And it is what I try to do in life as well, I think. I think I’m going to win by charming the person, by seducing them with my niceness and if all that fails, I’ll attempt to have them empathize with my plight. I try to get what I want by smiling. These can be feminine strategies for survival in life in general. But they just don’t work for me in this context of calling customer service. They almost never yield results.

One of the things that my boyfriend does with customer service is to immediately establish his own authority, to see the phone call as HIS and not the operator’s. This seems to me to be a key aspect of the success of his call. He controls the conversation rather than letting the conversation happen to him. He never feels helpless while talking through endless circles of bureaucracy because it’s always his space and he’s just patiently waiting for other people to behave appropriately.

This sense of ownership of space feels like the key missing ingredient for me. I’ve been socialized to defer. The world belongs to men and I’m usually just asking for what I want from that world, even if I’m asking a woman. When I come in to a space, I wait to see where and how the space will make room for me, I do not come into a space and posses it.

I recently watched a Ted talk by Soraya Chemaly called the Credibility Gap.  She talked about the various ways the world is built for men and not for women. Her thesis was that (aside from the home) all spaces were men’s spaces – even women’s restrooms. She points out that our understanding of this starts very early – that socialization teaches all of us that women are not to be trusted or listened to. We (teachers, parents, everyone) interrupt girls and let boys talk. We affirm boys who take up space and shame girls who do. Chemaly wrote an article called 10 words every girl should learn  which gives us concrete ways to be heard, just by saying “Stop Interrupting Me,” “I just said that” and “No explanation needed.”

I have found ways to be heard in a lot of areas of my life – but sometimes when I get on the phone with customer service, all the ways I have been dismissed over the years rise up and the circular logic and bureaucratic red tape add up to make me vibrate with fury. Explaining what I need for the 10th time to the 10th person is all too familiar in this heightened concentrated form. It is concentrated helplessness.

I think I could use some of the tips my customer service whisperer uses the next time I have to make a call like that but I know, because of the way the world has always been, that I will never be able to put it to use in quite the way someone with a male voice could. It just goes that way. For now.

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