#Me Too.

*TW-Contains detailed re-tellings of sexual harassment I’ve personally experienced.*

There seems to be a growing sentiment of victim blaming, shaming, or “damn, she shouldn’t have worn that dress” going around in light of the Harvey Weinstein news. But this kind of rhetoric always pops up when victims of sexual harassment take action.

However, I want to make something perfectly clear–sexual harassment happens to women, men, and those of all or no genders alike, all the time, no matter their sexual orientation, status, weight, dress, upbringing, race, situation or any other factor that anyone uses to blame the victim.

Listen to us.  

It happens in high school, while over a friend’s house. A comforting hug turns into unwanted kissing and touching. Touching suddenly evolves into groping. Cornering turns into being forced upon a bed and the only thing that works because the words “stop” and “no” continue to be ignored, is the power of a forceful push of your legs and arms.   You worry when he screams out in pain for just a moment, wondering if you hurt him. You quickly get over that as your rage continues to build. You don’t use the words “attempted rape” though, because at seventeen, you know you won’t be believed. You know this will fracture your group of friends and high school is hard enough. You stay silent.

It happens as you are heading home from a long day of work. Your tank is on empty and you absolutely have to stop to get gas. You’re wary though, as you’ve been approached three times before while pumping fuel by three different men, at three different gas stations. They don’t stop asking for your number, encroaching on your personal space, or taking the excuse that you are already in a relationship, they continue the barrage until your tank is full and you give them a fake number. You watch your rear-view mirror, while mentally mapping the way to the nearest police station if needed.

It happens as you are walking in a small town while exercising. You’ve already been approached by someone who has stopped their car, run to catch you, touch you to get your attention, only to ask if you are “available.” This time on your jog,  you’ve left your headphones out of one ear to hear someone coming and to keep an ear out for further dangerous situations. The man approaching from the front looks harmless enough, but utters “Nice tits” as you move on by. You rip the other bud from your ear, turn around yelling, “What did you just say to me?” He breaks into a panicked run, and knowing you’ll never catch him, you stop, thankful that he fled instead of holding his ground.

It happens when you are with a group of friends leaving a dance at a convention. Drunk men start yelling inappropriate things. Things they wouldn’t say when they are sober. Or maybe they would. Whether it’s the adrenaline pumping through your system from the night out, or just that you are tired of this happening, or that it is not just happening to you, but now to your friends, you act.  Instead of sucking it down to the depths of your belly like you have before, you turn on your heel, rear-up, and start walking fast towards them yelling back, “DO WE HAVE A PROBLEM HERE?” You know that if you make yourself appear bigger and unafraid, they will either fight or flee. You are prepared for both. They back down, leave, and you catch up with your friends, seething not on your behalf, but theirs. You wonder later why it’s easier to stand up for your friends, but discount your feelings when it happens to you when alone.

It happens while walking from your hotel to a conference in D.C. The wind catches your skirt and blows it fetchingly against your legs. You had just taken a selfie because this was a good day. You liked how you looked. You felt beautiful. You posted the picture to Twitter to share with the world on your terms. As you hit send, a van slows down behind you and starts to keeps pace.  Suddenly, the moment of bliss is over and your eyes begin searching for an escape route. The window slides down and the unwanted catcalling begins.  You stop, cross the street behind the van which has no choice but to continue forward. Ducking into a building, you lean against a wall and let out all the anxiety that replaced that good day.

It happens at a conference that you’ve helped to organize. You’ve worked hard and lost weight, showing off your curves in a sexy and classy blue dress. Playing the good facilitator, you schmooze around the room, making sure everyone is having a good time when you are approached by a legend in the field. His cheeks are red with too much alcohol. He begins with elevator eyes as you address him. You ask him if he’s having a good conference. He shrugs and only replies, “Blue is an excellent color on you.” You know who he is, but he does not know you and yet this is how he introduces himself.

You ask in your capacity if there is anything else you can do to make his conference better and his eyes light up, responding with “You can give me a kiss.” It’s right there,in that moment that you know this interaction will continue to be uncomfortable. Questions begin to build about what you do for the organization, assumptions are made about how you’ve made it to your position, and how your husband that he’s sure you have (you don’t) feels about the relationships you “made” along the way. You are thankfully rescued by caring friends, as the cycle in your head begins anew. “Do I ruin this man, right here and right now, by slapping him in the face? Do I just walk away? Does this get back to the people who could fire me? If I lose my job, how will I keep a roof over my head and food on the table?” You realize that as a victim in this situation, you are already blaming yourself, because that is what you’ve been conditioned to do.

It happens after exiting the Broadway show with your family and you are walking down the street in NYC. Separated by the crowd, your older daughter and boyfriend walk a few steps ahead. You are holding your younger daughter’s hand through the thickening crowd.  A man selling “Make America Great Again” hats whistles as you walk by,  and you know in that moment, it’s not just going to end there, but you hope it will. You ignore it and continue walking as he actually leaves his post and wraps his hand around your waist, pulling you close, while pushing your younger daughter aside. You freeze because causing a scene on a busy street might be far more dangerous than you could anticipate.  Instead, you use your skills to talk him down, and get him to let go before resorting to other methods. Only once you’ve explained you’re unavailable, and that your daughter most certainly will not be coming too to his apartment for some fun, do you call ahead to the rest of your family. That scares him enough, he finally lets go and disappears back into the crowd. You have to explain what just happened, while keeping a brave face, telling your daughters never to let anyone touch them that haven’t been invited to do so.

 

It happens at another convention where an acquaintance holds a hug too long, or pulls you in by the waist and attempts a kiss. You brush it off in the moment, perhaps too stunned to stay something or already jogging through the mental math of how speaking up will mess things up. You want to like this person. You start making excuses for his behavior. For yours. He doesn’t do this to other people. He shouldn’t be doing to it to you. You convince yourself that if there is a next time, you will take him aside and let him know how you feel. You hope it will make a difference.

It happens standing at a bar on a cruise. You have ordered yourself a drink and are immediately hit on by someone who wants to share a magic trick. You remind yourself that this is the reason you don’t go to bars. You see the plethora of locks he wears around his name tag. He explains his hobby and offers a lesson in lock picking.  You mention you are a writer and how it would be a handy skill to know.

It starts innocently enough, with him showing his skill on a two-pin lock. You get it immediately. There is suddenly a glint in his eye when he then says, “Time to move on to a more challenging piece.” He produces another larger lock, with a complicated pin set and a pair of handcuffs, to see if you’ll bite.  He’s practiced this speech, worming his way in with calming words, “You don’t have to do this” and “Only if you are comfortable” and “I’ll show you how easy they are on me, first.” You wonder how many women have fallen for it, how many he’s gotten into bed this way.

He can unlock the cuffs in seconds, and then places them on you, only to switch out to the wrong tools on purpose. He starts to slide in jokes about visiting his cabin where he keeps the better locks as he brushes a hand over yours to show you that you’re obviously doing it wrong.  Your wrist is now raw from sliding the metal against the skin, determined as hell not to let him touch you again, to show him that you aren’t stupid and are capable at the same time. A friend passes by and stops to check on you, immediately aware of what is happening and offers assistance. But no, you’ve got it. Shaken by the interruption, he finally gives you the right pick and you are out in seconds. You walk away and tell a friend that you were uncomfortable but you handled it. She replies, “What about the women who can’t?”

This still haunts you.

Please believe us.

This isn’t just a movie industry problem. It’s not just a science fiction and fantasy community problem. It’s not just a gamer problem. This isn’t just a pretty, young girl problem.  It’s an everywhere problem.

It’s a balance of power problem.

The minute you feel you can do/say/touch/manipulate someone without their consent or buy-in, you are in the wrong.  The minute you use your status (or perceived status) and offer to advance a career through a “special relationship”, you are in the wrong. The minute you shut your ears to the words “no” and “stop”, you are in the wrong.

Alternatively, if someone wants to share a story, believe them. If they can’t name their harasser, don’t continue to ask why or who. If they need help and subsequently ask for it, give it to them. Do not assume that a “white knight” is needed, but open your eyes and call out behavior if there is no further risk or damage to the victim.

Lastly, do not use someone else’s pain for personal gain. The worst thing a victim can experience is to be re-victimized by their friends or peers when they speak up.  You may hear news stories where harassment was made up or someone lied to get revenge, but I can assure you, there are so many who for whatever good reason at the time say nothing. The weight of the decision not to speak only adds to the trauma, but until society stops using incredulous rhetoric, it will take instances like the one we’re currently seeing in the movie industry to give some of us the courage to speak.

I Could Never Be A Pageant Mom #fb

 

Two weekends ago, a few towns away, there was a pageant. I was mixed when Allyson asked to participate, but she was excited at the possibility of winning a plastic crown and fake sash.

If you’ve seen Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC, you know what goes into putting a pageant girl up on a stage. Thousands of dollars are spent per pageant on hair pieces, make up and dresses. One grandmother from this clip on youtube  laughs off the fact that she bought her granddaughter’s first gown for $20,000.00.

Um, what? I think I barfed a little in my mouth.

As they introduced each little girl for the local pageant, Allyson ran forward, shouted that her favorite color was red and fidgeted the entire time she was standing there.

When they passed out the white chocolate, “thank-you-for-participating” lollipops to each girl as the judges marked their cards, Allyson asked if she could eat hers. While other moms said no, I unwrapped the pop and happily handed it to my daughter uncaring if the dress she wore got dirty.

Allyson laughed while other girls kept on their plastic smiles and held their hands at their sides like Barbies on doll stands.

Allyson struck funny poses while some mothers dragged little ones in front of judges screaming and crying.

As you can see, my fiery little redhead wore a simple strawberry patterned sundress, with no makeup except for lip gloss and a white ribbon headband that I made myself.

She was the least decorated one there and I really wish at this point, I could tell you in my perfect Katetopia, where personality comes before beauty, that she won. But she didn’t and frankly, I’m glad.

I won’t be that mother that bends over their child and reminds them to smile and wave and act like a Stepford child. I won’t be that mother who anxiously lip syncs the rehearsed line her daughter sweetly feeds the judges. I won’t be that mom who won’t let my daughter play in the mud or let her get branches and grass tangled in her hair. I don’t need to live vicariously though my daughter, and lament missed opportunities in my past.

In fact, I hope Allyson can forgive me one day for subjecting her to such a false circus. I will work hard to instill selfconfidence in all three of my kids. Ultimately, with proper guidance, they should be proud of who they are and not how they look.

I will never be a pageant mom. Ever.

My kids are beautiful with chocolate smeared on their faces and clothes. My kids are wonderful when they smile without cues. My kids are brilliant, fun and most importantly, kids. Why so many of these pageant moms are so eager to make their kids into adults with rhinestones and lip liner is beyond me.

I will revel in their youth and embrace both their successes and their failures. I will love them for being them.

Allyson did ask why she didn’t get a crown, and as I bought her a fairy princess wreath from a nearby craft vendor, I told her that she didn’t need one to be special or loved, because she was; without the sash, a title or a plastic crown that symbolizes beauty above brains. To me, that’s the most unattractive line of thought one person could have or pass on to an impressionable child.

The Horribly Late May Clarkesworld Magazine Post

 So what if it’s almost June! This is a totally strategic post in a brilliant attempt to get you to go visit the Clarkesworld Magazine site for the May issue. This post is in no way a direct result of being so incredibly busy and or wiped out that I couldn’t bring myself to blog. Nope, never. I did share the links on Facebook and Twitter though, so give me some credit!

Now onto the pertinent stuff — Look at that cover. Just look at it. It’s a perfect mix of both mesmerizing and appalling. There are so many interpretations one can derive from this stark work of art. On the darker side, is that an alien race holding the last of our species in jars, the way science teachers displaydead frogs in formaldehyde  for teaching purposes? Could it be a benevolent culture (menacing space suit aside) hoping to regrow humanity with some genetic modifications? Or could it be us behind that re-breather colonizing a planet in the depths of space, growing the population like seedlings in soil?

Granted the title of the piece is “The Biomarket” which is pretty sinister in it’s own right. I instantly imagine a bounty hunter, tracking down pregnant human colonists in the first trimester, only to kill them and extract fetuses. Our race commands a high price on the extraterrestrial black market. We’re so easily manipulated in the early stages of life both chemically and biologically.

Okay. Shudder. (That might just be a story in the making.)

So where was I? Oh yeah, the May Issue. I got to narrate for one of my favorite authors — Tobias Buckell. I was also reintroduced to a brilliant writer by the name of Tony Pi. While I knew the name from the Campbell Award ballot from last year, I was eager to read something new.  I continue to be quite honored to get to read for some of the best in the SF/F field. Did I mention how much I love my job?

In other news — “Spar” by Kij Johnson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story this past weekend down in Fl. Not only was the event super cool, but judging from  Tweets and pictures, the launch of the space shuttle was both awe-inspiring and humbling. I really wish I could have gone. So, a big hearty congratulations to Kij and Clarkesworld!

If you want to read her winning story — here are both the print and audio…for free, cause we’re awesome like that.

Here is the TOC for the May Issue of CW. Enjoy.

Fiction

A Jar of Goodwill
by Tobias S. Buckell
 
A Sweet Calling
by Tony Pi

Non-Fiction
Revealing How the Elements Cohere: A Conversation with Elizabeth Bear
by Jeremy L. C. Jones
 
The Border between Writing and Life: A Conversation with Marly Youmans
by Jeremy L. C. Jones
 
Stranger Than Science Fiction: Into the Alternate Dimension of Mainstream Literature
by Ryan Britt

Audio

Audio Fiction: A Jar of Goodwill
by Tobias S. Buckell, read by Kate Baker
 
Audio Fiction: A Sweet Calling
by Tony Pi, read by Kate BakerArt
 “The Biomarket”
by Rodrigo Ramos

Does Nancy Pelosi Come With A Money Back Guarantee?

Because I would have called for my RMA a while ago and I would have had the distributor pay the shipping costs.

Let me make something perfectly clear.  I am not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. I am a law-abiding, tax-paying, middle-class citizen who votes according to her conscience. I guess most people would consider that an Independent these days. I’m a mix of Libertarian and Centrist. You know, someone who values rights and liberty while being fair and just to as many people as she can.

Part of what I do in a full time/day job capacity is plan out meetings and logistics. I’m pretty good at if I say so myself. In fact, I am currently getting contracts together for a customer event in Miami. You would think having an event in such a high profile place would be really expensive. However, with some careful consideration and just a little bit of effective persuasion and forethought, you’ll find people are willing to work with you on budgetary management.

So it actually makes me wonder how in the world the Pelosi delegation to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit was charged $734.00 per room/per night? I’m am also confused how they were exorbitantly screwed up the ass by a hotel chain who charged a minimum six night stay for two nights of use? $4046.00 was spent for two nights/per person at the Copenhagen Marriott 5-star hotel. The total bill for the 60 member delegation ended up being around ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Why were family members and spouses were treated to lavish meals on my dime? (I don’t particularly give a crap they got their air tickets and hotel charges “thrown in”.)

Why in the name of climate change control, were they allowed to leave a trail of carbon footprints from the US to Denmark with nothing to show for it except some Botox smiles and waves?

Did I suddenly enter into crazy town or does this actually make no sense to reasonable folk?

I can’t describe how incredibly angry I am about this. I know tons of social programs that would kill for half of that money to keep their doors open or hire just a few more staff to take the pressure off overworked employees. What hurts the most is that this is ultimately coming out of every hard working American’s pocket. What makes me even more incensed is that Obama is starting a spending freeze on certain programs in order to play Robin Hood to the middle class. Why not start where the spending is the most egregious and abused? Why not start with a woman who has seemingly lost touch with what the word “frugal” means in a fragile economy.

I don’t think Pelosi gets the fact that she pulled the same bullshit the corporate CEO’s did back when they flew to Washington in private jets to ask for bailout money. I don’t think she gets that people are out of work. I don’t think she gets or cares that we continue to raise the debt limit and whore ourselves out to countries like China because we can’t afford our own system of government. It’s okay though — it will be years before our children’s children must speak Chinese in the classroom. If she did “get it” and did care, she wouldn’t be avoiding reporters questions on the lavish expense report she filed.

Government waste is nothing new. I realize this fact. As my anger subsides, sadness overwhelms me. I feel sorry for Nancy and this clueless delegation for the simple fact that they have no idea what it means to live in the real world. In my real world, people are starving, out of work and aching for a government who does what they promise. So far, I see nothing but crumbling pie crusts.

2009 Podcast Wrap-Up

So I was updating all of my pages on my site today. I just wanted to give you the impressive count of podcasts/specials I’ve done for 2009.

For Clarkesworld Magazine:

For 2010 – Neil Clarke and I’ve planned on doubling the podcast output. Released on the 1st and 15th of every month, it’ll add more content for you to enjoy. Some will be read by me, and others will be read by their authors.

For Escape Pod:

For StarShipSofa:

  • Stories and Poems Read: 8 since January 2009
  • Authors: Ted Kosmatka, Mark Rich, Tim Pratt, Mike Allen, Charles Saplack, CL Holland, Aliette de Bodard
  • Words Read: 15,000 words

For Fantasy Magazine

  • Stories Read: 1 for podcast promo CD
  • Author: Jessica J. Lee
  • Words Read: 2000 words

For Mythic Delirium:

  • Poems Read: 4 poems
  • Authors: Holly Dworken Cooley, Lindsey Nair, Constance Cooper, Ann K. Schwader
  • Words Read: 700 words approx

For Peter Hodges:

  • Stories Read: 3
  • Words: 10,000 words

For A Magazine Which Shall Remain Nameless Who Had Me Do Three Stories, promised to post them and then they disappeared:

  • Short Stories Read: 3
  • Words Read: 15000 words

Total For 2009

  • Stories and Poems Read: 29
  • Words Read: 98700 words

Holy crap! That isn’t even counting the other projects I had relating to voice over work, including company training videos and phone greetings.  You do realize that around 100K words is a standard science fiction/fantasy novel length. I read a whole book to you guys! Man, my lips are tired! 🙂

When you break it down, it’s a little over 2 narrations a month. Hourly commitment to a standard 5000 word story is about 3-5 hours after recording and editing, some were longer and some were most certainly shorter. So if I were to guestimate the amount of time it took over the year to podcast, it would be upwards in the 150-200 hours range. 100 hours would be if they all took 3 hours to complete. Again, some where really short, others were all nighters.

This is just mind boggling to me. The average cost and industry standard for a narrator to complete an audio book is around $150.00 – $300.00 per finished hour. Sometimes, depending on who you are, a famous actor or something) You’ll get paid a lump sum to read a popular book. So if I treated this as an actual business, and expected compensation from my clients, I would have made, (we’ll go with 20 hours of finished audio here) $3000.00 on the low end and $6,000.00 on the high end of that price range.

Haha – well here’s to volunteer work. May 2010 prove to be a little more fruitful in the terms of compensation. Mama wants a new MacBook Pro.

**Granted, I’m not going to say that I wasn’t compensated this year for some of the work I did. So thank you to those (you know who you are) who did. The whole narration compensation discussion is definitely a topic I will be bringing up later. There are some things I’ve learned which makes me kinda mad.

Why Sarcasm is Dangerous…

I am banning news from my computer. If something happens in the world, I’m hoping one of my good friends will clue me in. Only of course, after the facts have been checked through various credible sources, like, “The Daily Show”.  (Insert eye roll here) Why have I finally thrown in the towel? Keep reading, please.

This is a screen shot from my local news station’s website:

(You can click to embiggen)

unbelievable

Do you see on the lower half of the main content where is says, “Talk of the Town”. Yeah, now read that.  Just in case you can’t — here is the quoted text.

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt; Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee; Britney Spears and Kevin Federline — they’re just some of the celebrity couples who have gone from wedding bliss to calling it quits. Now there’s talk of banning all divorces i…n the state of California. One man has set up a Web site dubbed California Marriage Protection Act 2010. What do you think?

The website they are pointing to  is this one: Rescue Marriage

Anyone with half a brain and who spends five seconds on the site, quickly comes to the realization that this is what intelligent people might just call sarcasm. Its purpose is to criticize the ban on gay marriage in California. If the front page didn’t give you a clue, the site is full of hysterical stuff.

This is a great example of creatively countering an ongoing argument. I think it’s brilliant.

The problem is that not everyone visiting the site (including news organizations) have the brains to comprehend satire. If they were able to discern, the question then becomes: Why is this “news” organization intentionally misleading it’s readers?

Is this really a platform for discussion? Would it have been better served to phrase the question differently? I don’t know, something like — “Opponents to the Californian ban on gay marriage have come up with creative ways to illustrate their points. What do you think? Is it effective?”

By leaving out both the link and misrepresenting the content, people immediately follow the logic that credible news site= credible web site on banning divorce. This “news” organization has crossed a rather interesting line that continues to grey. Day by day, the public (part of which contains a growing population that subscribes to the ideas of government conspiracy and messages of hate) is encouraged to open up debate on hot topics which center around real people. When a great majority of the populace is not above an eighth grade reading level,  it’s hard enough to have balanced conversation. Add what was once a reputable news agency blurring the lines of truth and sarcasm becomes dangerous.

It’s a numbers game and so far, the intelligent who can decipher the difference in cases like this are losing.

Update: I sit here wondering how many donations that the site has received (to ultimately help overturn Prop8) have been from people who truly believe in the cause of banning divorce. Tricking stupid people out of their money is both brilliant and sad at the same time.

WTF? Really?

So I was debating on installing Windows 7 and I saw this article on Gizmodo. This photo is a direct screen shot. Not photochopped. You have my word as a human.

wtf Not only did the browser crash, but the computer locked up, making everything else I did useless. This is a month after a fresh install as well.

Children Have Better Control When Watching The President

Just think, hundreds of thousands of children (even the ones raised by Republicans) probably didn’t shout out at the President of the United States while he spoke to them on Tuesday. They apparently have better self control.

I am not faulting the man for having disagreements. If everyone got along, we’d have my ideal Katetopia and I would be extremely happy. Once we toss this impossible reality aside, it’s not exactly unheard of to argue with people. They aren’t called “hot-button” topics for nothing.

Yet, what Joe Wilson fails to understand is that there is a time and a place. We are not England. We don’t have MP’s who vocally disagree with their leaders during session. We have always tried to be a courteous state in debate. When it comes to public discourse, there have been the very rare occasions where proper decorum does not win out. In those exceptional moments, like the one last night — most people are horrified at the lack of disrespect.

Which brings me to my next point. As I read the article this morning on CNN, I am always amused at the people who find this type of thing acceptable. There were attributed quotes to people who gave credit to Joe Wilson for his courage to interrupt the President as he had the floor. I’m sorry, but it’s these morons who find uncivilized behavior acceptable that should really be forced to take a class in manners and proper debate.

Unless you are a newbie to the whole “grown up” talking thing, it should not be surprising that even the most heated debates are structured. The speech the President gave wasn’t a town forum. There was no question and answer session at the end. There was no reason for this heckling to take place unless of course it was as suggested by some, preplanned. In that event, it would behoove Joe Wilson to just resign now. I don’t care how angry this health care reform bickering makes anyone. The basic rules of arguing simply state that once you’ve lost your calm, you’ve lost your case.

 If Joe Wilson wanted the attention of crazies, he certainly achieved it. I won’t be surprised if he’s hailed by every right wing talk show host for sticking it to the emerging socialist regime. If that is what he wanted, he placed his name and life long political ambitions in jeopardy. It’s quoted in that CNN article that more than $40,000 was donated to his political opponent in the hours after the incident. 

If his apology was indeed genuine (I’m tending to believe it wasn’t) and he wanted something more, I would respectfully ascertain that he lost all his credibility in two simple words. I didn’t know Joe Wilson before this, and it’s quite sad that I do now; and not from what he built or diligently fought for in his career, but for what he destroyed in seconds in front of the world.