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The Shame Game

I recently made a comment on Facebook (my first mistake) that sparked some curious responses. So I am doing what I do best. Not responding on Facebook in a comment, but writing an entire blog arguing my point. Because I still value critical thinking skills, especially in today’s age. Having an opinion and using logic and informed decisions to defend that opinion is crucial to understanding opinion can co-exist with respect. So, as I was taught so well as a public policy major, I present my case.

Here is the very comment I posted on FacebookAre fitness leggings and sports bra / crop top a new airport attire trend I am not aware of?

While some people supported my statement whole heartedly (mostly those over the age of 40 — shit now I’m an ageist!), others immediately got defensive and made their case for why they wore leggings to the airport or dressed as if they immediately walked out of a gym to step on the plane. Others commented that my statement was body shaming and judgmental — that I was tearing down other women and contributing to a culture that shames victims (I assume of rape and sexual harassment) and slut shames.

There are several points to make here.

First, there is a difference between an opinion or a judgment and shaming. I said nothing about the size, shape, or appearance of the women’s bodies themselves. I didn’t go up to any of the women at the airport and tell them they shouldn’t dress like that. Or that they looked terrible. Or that they should be ashamed of their bodies and request they cover them up. I made an observation. This observation led to yes, I admit it, an unspoken opinion: that gym wear is not appropriate to wear to the airport. Of course there are extenuating circumstances, however, as I mentioned, this seemed to be a trend.

If these women were comfortable in that outfit, God bless them. I don’t care if Giselle cruised by me in Terminal 4 with a sports bra and leggings. I’d still think it was inappropriate to wear in the airport.

If you’re my friend and you wear a sports bra and leggings to the airport, I will think that you could have made a better choice. You still have a right to make that choice regardless of my opinion. I’ll still love you. Your personal choices have nothing to do with our friendship. (Unless you are choosing murder or cocaine or wearing Birkenstocks out in public . . . then we’d have to talk.) Lord knows what my friends have thought of my choice of men over the past twenty years. And honestly, they probably were right and I should have listened to them.

It also depends on the friendship. Is this a friendship built on years of trust and mutual respect? Or is it a Facebook friendship? There is a difference.

Which brings me to my next point. Why does everyone take an opinion as a personal affront these days? I think people are taking Brene Brown’s famous TED Talk a little too far. Yes, it’s terrible to grow up with constant shame from a parent or being bullied when you’re little. This leads to developmental trauma, which, if remains unexamined, can spark unconscious reactions that may not be warranted as an adult. And yes, shaming also occurs as a method to keep victims silent.

But I wasn’t talking about sexual assault or even something I considered remotely serious. (Please take everything I say on Facebook with a grain of salt. Have you seen my last two videos?) I assume if you are reading this you are a grown adult. Get a backbone. Not everyone is pointing a finger. Even if they are — who cares? Do you know the person making the comment? Do you love them or care about what they think? If the answer is no, move on. Is it a Facebook post? If the answer is yes, move on.

This is called critical thinking. Being able to discern thoughts from behavior. To potentially have a judgment and in the moment know that you’re having a judgment and choose to not react in the moment is called discernment.

(It’s also called using social media for what it’s worth which is frivolous opinion and not important issues, but I’m old school.)

Even if I did have the audacity to go up to one of these lovely young women and say Excuse me, I feel like your outfit is totally inappropriate for airport travel, she would be well within her right to say Piss off old lady. My reaction to that is up to me. Would I throw down and start a fight? Hell, no. I’d walk away and say fair enough. Her life.

And why are we so afraid of shame? Wouldn’t you want Derek Chauvin to feel a smidge of shame? How about a cheating husband? Shame, like every other emotion in the range of humanness is valid and it belongs to no one else but ourselves. It’s how we process it that counts. Can our shame be used as a force for good and move us to positive action? Or do we allow others to leverage it against us and defeat us? That is a choice.

I’d also like to address the comment saying “I’m surprised coming from you . . .” Why? Because I have an opinion? Or because I’ve promoted body positivity and been candid about my struggles with my own f’d up body image? Yes, absolutely — I am sensitive to women’s emotions and attitudes towards their bodies. Very sensitive. But I also believe there should be some set of decorum in airport attire when traveling. One has nothing to do with the other.

Isn’t this, by the way reverse shaming? Shaming me for having an opinion? Now you want to silence how I feel? Shame on you.

When does anyone comment on men’s airport attire? one comment asked. Right now. I am an equal opportunity judge. Find me a guy walking around the airport in a tank top, basketball shorts and Adidas pool flip flops with socks underneath and I’ll say the same thing — inappropriate. Will I go up to him and tell him he’s wrong or to get his shit together? No. But you can’t stop me from thinking it. He’s still free to wear them but if he asked me out on a date I would say no.

This is called human decency and it’s why we don’t all go around telling people what we think. But if you’re one of those people who let everything roll from their brain out their mouth — God bless you. Doesn’t bother me either way. Unless you’re my mother. And then my shit gets triggered.

If you think you carry no judgment let me ask you how you feel about people who vote for Trump? Or Biden? Or a pro-lifer? Or a pro-choicer?

Hold up a mirror. We all do it. How you handle your judgment is up to you.

There is no Utopia. Humans are messy, sloppy, feeling, wrong-doing, right-doing people, opinionated and God bless us, judgmental people.

We are all swimming in vomit of shame and blame. From where I stand, as long as you clean up your own puke, you’re good by me.

Finding My Feminine

I was gladly traveling in London and Paris while the debacle of the Kavanaugh hearings were unfolding. I did not hear or see much of anything until one day I opened Facebook to a slew of posts referencing Kavanaugh’s impulsive and juvenile responses to the accusations from Dr. Ford. And in contrast, her cool, collected posture in the face of what was likely a pressure cooker. Watching just a half hour of the shit show was enough to bring me back to the reality of what’s happening in our society – at home and abroad.

Over the past year or so, I have chosen to, for the most part, stay silent concerning the #MeToo movement. With exception, when the movement began, I posted one blog about my own sexual assault while in college – a memory I had blocked until May of 2017. I have been marinating in the up and down emotions of that trauma ever since, attempting to shield myself from the outside influences from the hashtag movement. I wanted to go through my own healing process and come to my own understandings of how my story shaped my life and how I could learn and grow from the incident.

At first, I thought resurrecting and coming to terms with the events of the night of my assault was my solution – my key to freedom from a heaviness that weighed on my heart for over twenty years. And while I did feel a not insignificant load lift, the truth of what happened so many years ago simply nudged the door open, allowing a sliver of light in. It turned out to be just the beginning of what has been a consistent and growing understanding of the contrasting Masculine and the Feminine energies – in myself and the world.

Let me come clean – I am not a feminist. I have struggled with the #MeToo movement since it began. Something just hasn’t sat well with me. It seems to put women in the role of victim, taking men to task and retaliating at them for all the wrong they have done. Frankly, it feels like a lynching of the Masculine. The I am woman hear me roar voice stronger than ever, castrating anyone with a penis. “Time’s up” seems to be a masculine response to a masculine issue. In my opinion, women have far more to gain from an I am woman, watch me love and forgive battle cry.

I am by no means suggesting that women stay silent. We need to keep exposing all the dirty, ugly reality of the massive disrespect for the Feminine. But maybe we can focus less on the stories of what happened to us as women and more on what those stories are teaching us and how to heal and move forward.

I don’t believe we can simply stand on our Goddess podiums and point fingers. We need to turn some of this scrutiny on ourselves. When I realized how much I myself contributed to a society that values, above all, the shadow masculine qualities of power, achievement, prestige and social status, I cried for days.

I am the queen of take control of the situation and kick ass. Get it done because you can’t rely on anyone else to do it for you. But for the past 18 months or so, more and more, I’ve been forced to surrender. To find my strength not in fighting but in faith. To turn it over to something bigger than me. To find fluidity and dance with grace. To embrace my mercurial moods and shifts. To sit with myself – my Feminine self – over and over again and watch my own resistance to it. In a world that doesn’t seem to honor this way of operating, I continue to learn to embrace everything fluid and divinely Feminine about me. For She is a part of my essence, more than I could have ever imagined.

Yet everything I learned growing up became a shield to protect the sensitive, feminine, highly intuitive woman that’s always been inside me. I learned to play in the sandbox with the men – I was the ‘guy’s girl’. I drank beer. I watched football. I thought it was the only way to succeed. I wanted men’s attention, their praise. Simultaneously, I shunned women that were too ‘girly’. I dismissed many women as petty and jealous. I always ‘just got along better with the guys.’ This worked for a long time. Except in romantic relationships. Because I was a wounded female, I attracted wounded males, with a couple of exceptions. I tried to play the games these men would play but wasn’t very good at it. Mostly I got my heart broke.

As I began to dismantle the masks of masculinity that I wore, I uncovered more of who I truly was. Returning to my most authentic Feminine form has been and continues to be a lot of work. A lot of reprogramming. But I’m finding the more I honor and respect my Feminine the more I meet men willing to do the same. I’m learning not to hate men and expect the worse from them. I’ve begun to cut them some slack and allow them the space to heal, as I have needed to do the same for myself. At the same time I’m raising the bar a little higher than what previously has been acceptable in all of my relationships.

We need men and their ‘dude’ ways. The strength, stability, confidence and purpose a self realized man brings to the table is attractive. It’s valuable and it’s necessary. We need more of these ‘real men’ in the world and we need to help them get there by encouraging them to heal themselves and embracing them as they go through their own grieving process. The more we shame and degrade them, the more they will feel the need to ‘man up’ and defend themselves with the shadow side of the Masculine. The side that puts the accumulation of power, prestige and wealth on a pedestal.

Yes, men need to take responsibility for assaults and abuse they’ve perpetrated. Especially those that have taken advantage of their rank and position. However, women, so do we. How have we diminished the most beautiful and sacred Feminine qualities of ourselves to fit into this society? How have we stepped aside, stepped down and allowed it? How have we given away our power? And most importantly, where have we failed at honoring ourselves?

We don’t need to change the rules, ladies. We need to change the game. We can start with changing ourselves.

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