Bottom line: I was a female soldier in the combat zone. So why do I feel so uncomfortable about formalizing women’s placement in combat roles? I did a lot of soul-searching about why this bothered me so much. Ultimately, though, I’ve discovered there’s nothing I should be uncomfortable about.
When I first read that Defense Secretary Panetta had lifted the ban on women in combat roles, I felt queasy. While I left the military for the private sector in late 2011, I spent the first decade of my adult life in the Army, half of it on active duty as a Military Police officer. I have led and served alongside extraordinarily tough and competent leaders, male and female, while deployed in Iraq and in training all over the world. This was personal.
Yet, even as a woman who had been to combat, I couldn’t endorse lifting the ban. The more I examined my prejudices, though, I realize that they were just that — prejudices. Keep reading »
This piece was republished with permission from Role/Reboot.
This week I read a wonderful article about our generation’s search for meaning by fellow Role/Reboot contributor Kerry Cohen. It spoke to me so deeply that I went out of my way to read the article that had inspired Cohen: Elizabeth Wurtzel’s recent meandering confessional. It made me so angry my hair nearly caught fire.
I had been primed by Cohen to be compassionate and thoughtful about what Wurtzel was saying. So I took off my judgmental hat as I read about her life. I tried to see the world through the eyes of someone who has lived a life so foreign from my own I could barely wrap my brain around it. When she wrote that she was proud to have never kissed anyone for any reason other than desire or written anything that she did not feel like writing, I questioned my own ideas about kissing and writing rather than immediately assuming hers were perhaps a bit shallow. I decided that she could have done far worse things with her life, like becoming a parent who is a narcissistic dilettante. Keep reading »
My son turns six next week, and among all the other wishes I have for him, I have a silent hope that won’t be shared at his birthday party. It’s one that swims in the depths of my mind, surfacing occasionally when awful things happen that force me to think about it: I wish and hope and pray that my son won’t grow up to be a rapist.
I know that sounds horrible and not a wish a mother of a six year old should even have in the back of her mind, let alone flashing loud and red and painful throughout it. But I can’t help it. We live in a society that is steeped in rape culture, no matter how many people refuse to acknowledge that reality. My worry was driven home more forcefully after watching a video that Anonymous posted online of Steubenville High School students talking about the rape of a 16-year-old fellow student. This case is heartbreaking enough — the victim was sexually assaulted while drunk and unconscious, only to have the photographic proof of her rape spread all over various social media outlets. Her attackers, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two football players for the high school’s team The Big Red, were let off relatively lightly, subjected to being under house arrest. However, the victim was also punished, forbidden by the judge in the case from sharing any details of the case, essentially re-victimizing her. Keep reading »
For as long as we’re aware of other people’s dirty bits and sexual desires, we’re aware of how funny it can be to talk about them. My niece, for instance, thinks that “butt” is the funniest word in the English language. But she’s six. The grown-up version of “Ha ha, butt!” are those conversations — either whispered sotto voce or way-too-loud after a few too many cocktails — about other people’s personal lives, particularly the parts we’re not supposed to know. She did what? He wanted to put his thingy where? Oh my God. EW.
I’m not above finding the TMI details of other people’s private lives fascinating. Or sharing my own. Hey, the dude who wanted to lock me inside a dog cage and pee on me makes for an interesting story. (Hopefully he has found someone less claustrophobic to fulfill that pecadillo.) It satisfies the same morbid curiosity that wants to see celebrity nude pics. We want to know what other people are packing, I suppose so we can compare it against ourselves.
But there’s a point where a line needs to be drawn. It needs to be drawn hard. We need to stop posting people’s real-life personal, private, sexual information on the Internet for the purpose of mocking or shaming them. Keep reading »
Hello from out here in Man Card America, where proving your masculinity to the dude-friends who are vigilantly looking to revoke your “Man Card” if you get caught engaging in unmanly activities like being scared, doing what your girlfriend wants to do sometimes, enjoying a song by a woman, or drinking the wrong kind of cheap light beer is an ongoing campaign. If you look at the advertisements of the past several years, you’d think that having your Man Card revoked was, like, a real thing that could actually happen. Keep reading »
As our entire nation follows the story of a senseless massacre in Connecticut, people are weighing in with their opinions. We don’t have all of the facts straight yet, but the media and government officials are already pointing fingers at each other, at the NRA, at violent video games, at “not allowing God in our schools,” and at a myriad other reasons. We’re all asking one question — a question for which we will most likely never have a full formed answer: why?
You’re probably wondering why my thoughts on this question have any merit. I’m not a newscaster, a government official, someone linked to the tragedy or an expert on violence. Why should I have any say in the matter?
The only reason I can give you is that my high school suffered a violent attack — but one with incredibly different consequences. The difference between what I experienced and what happened yesterday raises important points in the ongoing discussion of what went wrong. Keep reading »
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would — as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”
– President Obama’s statement on the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
I have never been happier to see my daughter than the moment on Friday evening when I picked her up from her Girl Scouts pizza party. I made a beeline for her, hugged the stuffing out of her, kissed her and repeated. The repeat treatment was on behalf of a friend who does not have children, but loves her friends’ children as her own. Keep reading »
There are many conversations to be had about the tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha, the King Edward VII nurse who took her own life last week, after she learned the “Queen” and “Prince Charles” that she patched through to Kate Middleton’s private ward were actually Australian radio DJs with the show 2DayFM. The pair, named Michael Christian and Mel Greig, gave an interview on the Australian show, “Today Tonight,” on which they explained that they never expected to make it all the way to Kate’s private nurse, who then told these DJs confidential medical information about the duchess’s condition. (She had been hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum, an acute form of morning sickness.) By their own description, the call was intended to be ridiculous: they spoke in posh British accents and barked like there were corgis in the background. ”The call itself was not malicious,” Christian said. “From start to finish, there was no harm intended.”
“The accents were terrible,” Greig explained. “You know it was designed to be stupid. We were never meant to get that far from the little corgis barking in the background – we obviously wanted it to be a joke.” Added Christian, “I suppose, you know, the joke was always on us, not anyone else. It wasn’t about trying to fool someone. I mean we just assumed that with the voices that we put on, you know, we were going to get told off and that was the gag – on us.”
The pre-recorded segment was first vetted by producers and lawyers before it aired. Although the royal family had not complained about the breach of security, Saldanha apparently could not live with herself. She allegedly took her own life in a London park on Friday morning. She is survived by her husband and two teenaged children; by all accounts, she was an excellent nurse.
We could talk about suicide prevention, warning signs for mental anguish, medical privacy, intrusion into celebs’ personal lives. I’m sure plenty of other conversations are being had on other blogs. But what I want to talk is the cruelty of radio show prank calls. Keep reading »
Almost a year ago, I wrote an essay about having been date raped in college. The piece got a strong reaction from commenters, many of whom debated whether or not I had given or not given consent for this guy to have sex with me. Much of the back-and-forth centered around the fact that I didn’t realize that penetration had actually occurred until days later. I had had a few beers, it was dark, I was a virgin and generally sexually inexperienced, and I had told him explicitly that I did not want to have sex yet, all of which added up to me not realizing what had happened until he told me.
I perceived this man to be “a nice guy.” (We had a good date. He was funny and smart and liked animals. He seemed trustworthy.) He genuinely seemed surprised that I hadn’t realized he had penetrated me, that he wasn’t able to “help” himself. That’s what he said: “I couldn’t help myself.” I still clearly remember his tone — it was sort of sheepish, but also complimentary, as though he was trying to flatter me by saying he couldn’t stop himself from doing what I said earlier not to do. As I thought about it in the days after, I excused his raping me as a breakdown of communication. He hadn’t meant to rape me, so therefore it couldn’t be rape. Besides, he was a nice guy and nice guys just don’t rape. Keep reading »