Lived Experience

This morning again I heard the plea. Just believe us. Just acknowledge what we say is true. It was spoken about race relations. A plea for those who are white to acknowledge “white privilege” in this case just a feeling that the police are there to protect and serve for one and someone to fear for the other. A young woman, perfectly normal, everyday, who nonetheless fears the police for nothing more than the color of her skin. The knowledge that you might not be welcome in a neighborhood, a job, a school, a town, a home.

It’s something we have to deal with. A conversation we have to have. There are many of those conversations. Another is the lived experience of women. We know we are strong. We know that we are capable. We know we are more than our bodies. We don’t want to complain. Others deal with it and succeed so why shouldn’t we. The question no one asks is why should we? Why do people have to live with it?

I look at Hillary Clinton – objectively one of the most qualified candidates who has ever run for candidate. I’ve watched her since I’ve been a young woman and I’ve seen her attacked over and over again. In every way conceivable. I’ve watched the Republicans, the conservatives and yes the media build a myth around her. A myth born of innuendo and lies. One that sticks to her far more easily than it would to any of her male colleagues. I watch as people and yes, probably most especially other women judge her and refuse to forgive. She doesn’t apologize quickly enough or thoroughly enough or in the right way. It doesn’t matter. They won’t forgive and why? They can’t answer that. They also really can’t pin down why they want her to apologize or why they won’t forgive. They speak forgiveness in one word and refuse it in the next. When met with one example they are easy to forgive when met with the next they refuse.

Why is it different? Because she is SHE? Because she is a woman who is seeking power? Because she dares?

When faced with a glaring double standard she stands strong. When faced with a candidate whose lies are counted in how many per minute she is spoken of as dishonest. She is called unlikable so often that it is a part of the narrative. The description today by Andrea Mitchell, who be all appearances and all evidence hates Hillary Clinton. Why do I say that? Today she says Donald Trump is a large man, a reality star and Hillary has trouble performing. What is the proof of that? Beyond people saying that for years? When Hillary isn’t running for office she is much admired. The bar for Donald Trump is that if he comes out and can speak in sentences and doesn’t froth at the mouth he’ll be proclaimed the winner. Hillary Clinton is expected to know everything. She has to be “likeable” – I hate that word, she can’t be too professorial, she has to smile. She has to not be shrill, or angry, or… She has to be perfect. And if she’s perfect well it’s because she studied too hard. She too perfect. It’s not believable. We can’t trust it. There is no winning and that feeling is too familiar.

If you are a woman you have probably been in that position. How do we fix a problem when we can’t or won’t talk about it? When we deny someone’s lived experience? I know that men, especially white men, are feeling hemmed in. Some of them are saying what about me? Why do I have to worry about everyone else? I should be able to say what I want. It’s part of what is driving the Trump campaign. In some ways it is what drove the rise of Hitler. It’s what drives wars. The excuse of otherness. It shouldn’t be. We should all just be equal. The thing that we can’t seem to realize is that bringing equality does not have to be a loss for someone else. Treating a woman with respect does not lessen the respect that you receive. Treating someone with a different skin color, a different religion as human as you are does not lessen you in any way.

I pray for a different world. Some young women think that we have one. They don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton, show her respect just because she’s a woman. That’s fine. They shouldn’t. They should respect her resume and judge her by that. But they shouldn’t discount her because she is female. Don’t say she isn’t perfect enough for you. That she should be better and don’t let the dishonest or unlikeable narrative be one that drives you. Just because Republicans have been hurling accusations for decades doesn’t mean there is truth to them. Remember instead that nothing has ever stuck and don’t make her apologize again and again for one word, or ask her to apologize for something she didn’t do. She has too much integrity for that.

The end of the Democratic Convention, a historic moment, was marred for me. Not by anything that happened at the convention but by a message from a young woman I love. She was working that night. Selling ice cream. What can be safer you might ask? Well if you are a woman with boobs it’s not very safe. When you have a customer who thinks its ok to ask to touch your breasts… Can you imagine that happening to a young man? Would someone ever comment on or ask to touch a young man’s private parts? It’s a part of who she is. I can hear the questions – how was she dressed? Was she flirting with him? What did she do?

Does anyone ever ask what did he do? No one cares how he was dressed. It’s part of the creeping double standard that is everywhere in our society. When a policeman shoots a black man they are always afraid. When a white man threatens they seem so much less afraid. I’m tired of it.

When are we going to listen to the lived  experiences of others. When a man who is a known harasser is given a chance at a position of power because his resume and his reputation are such that he cannot be ignored because the women are never believed. OR because accusing means leaving your entire field behind. When a woman is asked why she didn’t apply for the position and the answer is that experience non-withstanding she knows she would not get the  job because she doesn’t have the right letters behind her name, or because simply she is female.

I knew before I got out of high school much less college that I would always be different. I watched my parents put my brother, three years the elder, through college while I paid my own way. I watched them supporting him while I was working well into my career before he had his degree. He was given a home because he spent an inheritance from our great, great aunt on music, and speakers, and frivolous things while I hoarded mine, using it for school and a little extra income that I recognized as an extra hand not many had. It was meant for security not for waste. My brother never saw that and he never learned differently because he was always taken care of. His “antics” much like Donald Trumps were forgiven, were laughed away. He became a father and divorced his wife and ignored his daughter. He refuses to acknowledge her even today.

I know what its like to have to make my male colleagues walk me to my hotel while they can move safely down the streets. I have a lived experience that is full of having to work from behind the scenes, know the implication of having to tell a man no. I’ve been in a position where you have to find a way to tell a man he’s wrong or agree with him and know that you are not telling the truth and deal with the consequences.

It can sound like complaining. It can sound like you are asking for something special when the reality is all you  want is an even playing field. We have to find a way to move forward. When Hillary Clinton says that we are stronger together it’s not a slogan, or a platitude, it is the truth. A white man with no college education out of a job in coal country can have a chance to learn to work with clean energy if we just give him the training.

We can’t keep up this way. This world is small and fragile. We have to work together. I can’t stand the idea of my nieces warding off drunk men. I’m tired of Donald Trump lying constantly and the media calling Hillary untrustworthy. I’m tired of hearing that she has to be more human. I’m tired of the double standard. I’m tired of the media talking about it, and not doing anything to change their own behavior. I’m tired of them talking about Donald Trump controlling the news cycle as if they have nothing to say about it. I’m tired of a man who is so uncouth, who lies all of the time. I’m tired of it just being life. We need to listen to each others lived experiences and acknowledge them and change, for the future, for our children, for ourselves. It is what makes us human





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