Author Archives: Alyson Chadwick

Me and the #MeToo movement

I would like to think that my opinion about the #MeToo movement is barely solely on the fact that I don’t think anyone should be assaulted or abused. I would like to think that my experience with the matter has nothing to do with how I feel. That would be dishonest.

This is a post that I have been trying to write for the longest time. I have had the hardest time organizing my thoughts. This may not be the most succinct way to do this but I am going to give my experiences and then what I think. This is not to engender sympathy. The time is long past for that.

I am one of the four and more

My mother and I took a trip through Mexico by train after I graduated high school. I was sleeping and woke up because I felt something hot on the inside of my thigh. High up. The man next to me had his hand under my skirt and almost to my panties. I whipped my leg away and gave him a look that said, “Back the fuck off.” This was the first time that the real estate that is my body needed to be guarded.

When I was in college, the stat was that one in four female undergrads would be raped at some point. It happened to me when I was 18. It was a friend of a friend. When I cried, the guys (there were two) said they were “sorry.” “We didn’t mean to make you cry.” When I talked to the police, they told me not to report this because “it will only ruin your life.”

When I entered the workforce, I asked a man I worked with (well, he was a staffer and I was an intern but in a different department) for advice about finding a job. We met after work. He was married, I assumed this was just to talk about job stuff. I was wrong. He hit on me and I rebuffed him. We never talked again. Yeah, I was young and naive.

At one job, I looked over at my boss in the cube next to mine and he was looking at porn. Not only that but he had downloaded a trove of it to the network. He and his boss would walk through with their male friends and point out which women they wanted to screw. I complained. Later that year, I left the company for totally other reasons.

These are a few of my experiences. Not all, by any means. Not all the times I have been looked over, talked to as if my being female made me less likely to understand things (at a meeting about increased security at my college campus, one university staffer asked how a woman could be helpful with such matters), or just subjected to unwanted touching. Whether or not it came from a sexual place, unwanted is unwanted.

The right to be believed is not absolute

This is obvious and everywhere. In my life, I have been raped, mugged, beaten, and almost killed. In each instance, I was told either to keep it to myself. I reported the last time I was beaten by my dad and the cops had the same attitude as when I was raped. When I was mugged, I had to practically beg the cop to take my report. This experience has led to me to believe people when they say they have been assaulted.

This could be the most random analogy I have ever made. In Heller vs DC, Justice Antonin Scalia found that while he supported Mr. Heller’s right to bears arms per the second amendment but, “The right protected by the Second Amendment is not absolute.”

People lie. People make mistakes. I have read that eyewitness testimony is often incredibly unreliable because memory is subjective and not set in stone. People deserve to be heard but when making allegations against someone about serious things like crimes committed, they need more than their word. There are few acts that I detest more than lying about being a victim of any crime. It makes it that much harder for real victims to be heard.

Last year, two acquaintances of mine had consensual sex. The problem was that she had a boyfriend who found out. To not ruin that relationship, she claimed she had been raped. It all worked out and she recanted but the damage to the man could have been substantial. I am grateful that the #MeToo movement happened but that does not give women carte balance to say whatever they want.

Nuance has left the building

This is all too true today. We have no taste for subtlety. That is unfortunate because when we treat all crimes as the same, we lose the ability to provide justice to anyone. When it comes to sexual assault, there seems to be no difference between a bad joke (Al Franken) and rape (Justice Brett Kavanaugh, I know it was an alleged rape, I will get to that). We also seem to have no appetite for forgiveness.

After I was raped, I helped start a women’s center on campus and we had support groups for survivors. One guy friend I had told me that rape was worse than murder. No, it’s not, I am not dead and that is a good thing. Each experience I had was very different and deserved a different response. I don’t think the guys who raped me deserved the same punishment as the guy who put his hand up my skirt. Looking at porn is not the same as expecting sex for help with a job search.

Moreover, if we are to really make progress with the #MeToo movement, we need to have some forgiveness. If the only response to an admission of wrongdoing is expulsion from society, no one is going to come forward. Redemption has to be on the table.

What about…?

If it hasn’t been clear, the #MeToo movement needs more nuance, open minds (on all sides) and a healthy dose of forgiveness.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) should have had the ethics inquiry he wanted and not been forced to resign. That bad joke photo was not proof of a predator, just a bad impulse by a comedian.

Brett Kavanaugh should not have been put on the Supreme Court because he lacks the right temperament. I don’t know what happened way back in the day but I also believe that acts done at that age should not preclude adult advancement at work. There is a reason rental car companies have different prices for people under 25. I don’t think the guys who raped me so long ago are the same men today. I hope not.

Tara Reade deserves to be heard. I think whatever documents are out there should be thoroughly searched. Mr. Biden should comply with any inquiries. I think he is doing that. Everything I have read about this case and everything I know of the former VP makes me believe him. When I cast my vote for him, it will not be just a vote against President Trump but a vote FOR Joe Biden.

Hate and anger can’t defeat hate and anger

For too long, women have been treated as property. We have been abused and when we talked about it, we were called liars. Rape was a “he said, she said” kind of thing. We were told to watch what we wore and that “boys will be boys.”

As pendulums are apt to do, the #MeToo pendulum has swung a bit too far. When I see the president, who has bragged about committing sexual assault, watching underage girls get dressed and treat women like objects with no consequences, I am angry and sad. Then I see men who do really bad things, ask for forgiveness and not get it, I think we are sending the wrong message here. Repent and be cast out. Double down on your actions and be rewarded. What is wrong with that picture?

I worry about the president’s words because people take them seriously and they act on them. Mark Halperin is a journalist who admitted to sexual wrongdoing when he was at ABC News. This was a long time ago but he was cast off of TV because of it. He has since apologized and done all the things we hope someone in his position would do. It’s time to bring him back. If he is an example, it needs to be of what not to do when someone admits to wrongdoing.

At the end of the day, every time anyone says they have been assaulted or harassed, they deserve to have their allegations looked into and proven or disproven. We need to stop equating small crimes with larger ones. We need to remember, while there are similarities, all cases are unique and should be treated that way. I know this isn’t a popular position now but we need more nuance.

PS. This was a bit rambly and less sourced than other things I have written. No, I do not speak for all women or all anything. These are only my thoughts on the matter.

Diary of a random white woman

I am probably one of the whitest people on earth. I did the Ancestory.com thing and learned I am 90 percent English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh and 20 percent French and Norweigan.

When people see me, they see a well educated, very articulate woman who grew up in an upper-middle-class area on Long Island. All of that is true. None of that tells the whole story. It is true that I had a lot of advantages from all of that. Advantages that have not always been afforded to people who are black or brown. These advantages have opened doors for me that might not have been opened for other people of other races.

Having said that, my life is not what people may think.

Here’s what that view of me misses:

Neither of my parents was really ready to have kids. My dad was a violent sociopath and my mother is a raging narcissist. After he cheated on her and was physically abusive, she left him. I cannot blame her for that but she left me, too.

She went to Iceland and I was left in an untenable situation. Not only was god old dad physically and emotionally abusive, no one wanted to take actual responsibility for me. We only had food in the fridge because I demanded it. I never had more than two pairs of pants because no one wanted to pay for clothes for me. I love my grandmother, Judy, but she always kept me in the newest tennis attire but refused to buy me clothes for school because “that’s your father’s responsibility.” You can guess what his response was.

Having only one or two pairs of pants is something they notice in the upper-middle-class area I grew up in. I was always the outcast. The teasing was unrelenting and horrible. By day I was teased non-stop (and it did not help that my parents were divorcing — Why are your parents getting a divorce? Is it because they hate you?) and by night I was abused by daddy dearest.

When I was 17, I moved out of my father’s house and in with my grandmother. He had tried to kill me (twice) and I didn’t feel safe. Years later I would wonder why that didn’t happen sooner. The real reason is that Judy didn’t want it to. I wasn’t her daughter or her responsibility. These are issues that haunt me today.

I am writing this from a beautiful house in Stony Brook, NY. My view is incredible. I have this house now because after I moved away from my father, he bought the house I was living in. To put a finer point on this, my grandmother sold her house to the man who had tried to kill me leaving me SOL. At the time, I saw the silver lining. Eventually, I would get the house.

Last year, my dad choked on a piece of meat and I got the house (along with a large mortgage). I feel like, in addition to the second mortgage I am paying, I paid for this place with blood, sweat and tears. I am grateful to be able to live here but this was not an easy row to hoe.

I am hurt when people say things like “white women are the worst” or when they look at me only through the prism of white privilege. I grew up isolated, alone and horribly sad. I am lucky in a lot of ways but my life is not what people think it has been.

I am sorry we all had to say goodbye to Kobe Bryant

So, the world lost Kobe Bryant this week. I read this piece about how white women have reacted to this news. I was offended by it before I read it. Then I did read it and saw way too much of myself in it. Hearing about high profile people raping or sexually assaulting women hits a nerve. It would also not be a stretch to say I am obsessed with serial killers.

To be honest, when I heard the news about Bryant’s death, I was just shocked. You don’t expect to hear about healthy 41-year-old men dying suddenly. Like many other women, I hope most, I did not jump on social media to rant against people who are in mourning. I did think about the charges that were leveled against him about 20 years ago and I reflected on that and why that was my first thought.

There are a few reasons for this. One, I don’t follow basketball all that closely so I was not up to date on Bryant’s life. More likely is that as a rape victim and a victim of sexual harassment, it just strikes a nerve. A very painful nerve.

But I reflected on that and read up on Bryant. Like every other person, including me, he made mistakes. Afterward he did so much for so many people in the world of sports and beyond that, I realized that, as I hope to be forgiven for my mistakes, this was a person who deserved more than to be judged on one incident.

This is a quote from that piece:

“In my opinion this all stems from the fact that America can’t see Black people as human. Humans can make mistakes, humans can be redeemed, humans can be exonerated, and humans can be forgiven. Monsters and beasts cannot.”

Neruda Williams, Comedian, NYC

I hate that this is true. I hate that we judge people on things like their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, gender or gender identification to form our opinion of them. I have written a lot about how we need to stop treating people like they are disposable because none of us are.

I was also offended by “Dear White Women” because I felt personally slandered and judged by how other white women are behaving on social media, which is also unfair. No one should be judged by social media. Do people go there to be polite or compassionate? Not in my experience.

I am sorry to everyone who is in mourning for Kobe Bryant, whether you knew him or not. I am ashamed that my first thought was about an event that may or may not have happened decades ago.

Meet Tom Miller

One of the first people I met in Florida was Tom Miller. When I first moved to Gainesville several years ago, I wanted to get involved in my new community. As a comedian, I also wanted to perform comedy but wasn’t optimistic about my prospects. One person I met my first week in the city told me about an open mic/variety show Tom Miiller did. Here is one of my first performances at the Tabernacle and another one.

Enter the Tabernacle of Hedonsim hosted by Tom Miller

The Tabernacle of Hedonism hosted by Tom Miller just celebrated its 35 birthday recently. Some have called it the “longest-running variety show in America.” It has a very dedicated audience who have followed it from venue to venue around the city, which he likes to call “the center of the known universe.”

What is a typical show like? There is no typical show. Every week offers a different experience. No matter what happens at the weekly show, it is always entertaining. But all of this sounds like a very clinical report of something that is not. Miller is a great promoter of the freedom of expression. There is NO censorship. At one show, they had the stage in the windowfront of the venue and the “Naked Poet” took it all off. Passersby on the street had no idea what to think. Neither did I.

Artists need a space to feel safe to create

For me, the best part of the show is the feeling of safety in what I did. I am a comedian. I want to make people laugh. I also am a satirist and sometimes good satire is not always funny. Add to that the fact that sometimes I just want to rail against a society that has turned its back on truth and facts and you get me searching for a place to express that. I found opportunities to do all of that at the Tabernacle. Whatever I did, I always found support for it here. Even when I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, people supported me.

But wait, there’s more

So, Tom Miller is a performance artist. Yes and no. Miller has done some amazing performance art — installations? Exhibits? I am not sure what they are called officially but from his tribute to Truman Capote to staring at Ted Cruz‘s mouth for hours on end, his pieces work on every level.

Lest you think that is all he does, Miller has more for you. He writes stage and screenplays. The Accrosstown Theatre ran his play, UMMU last year. I have been lucky enough to have read several of his screenplays, including Elmer’s Saucer. If that does not get made into a movie, it will be proof to me that everything good in the world has died.

Recently, I started to seriously listen to his music. I am currently obsessed with Little Green Girl, which reminds me of David Bowie and David Byrne but like everything he does, his music is just fantastic. And I have not even gotten to his paintings.

I could go on for days about how impressed and inspired I am by Miller. While I was in Gainesville, he made me want to be more creative. Now that I am in New York, his influence is still there. I am pursuing my creative dreams more than ever before. I also want more of the world to experience the genius of Tom Miller. We all need a little more of his brand of art in our lives.

Here is my most recent video that I have from there. Learn more about him here.

not safe

We are less, not more, safe now

This is not going to be a nice post. This is an angry post. This is me asking all of you Trump supporters to pull your heads out of your asses. The lack of air is destroying your brain. When President Trump, never one to rely on empirical facts, said the United States was in a better position and Iran is weakened now, he was either lying or just as dumb as dirt. We are less safe now.

Here are the reasons we have emboldened Iran and made the world a much more dangerous place for Americans and American interests.

The Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, has said the military strike against us was “not enough.”

What does that mean? Iran could have hit the sites with much more lethal weapons. Why didn’t he? Because Iran doesn’t want a full-on war with the United States. To make that problem go away, they launch a less than lethal strike. Iran informed Iraq that the attack was coming so they could move people out of the way. Also, an Iranian commander has vowed “harsher revenge on the U.S.” Using the Don’s favorite medium, the supreme leader tweeted this:

How are we safer again?

But Iran doesn’t have the ability to attack the U.S.

How would they alone fare against the U.S? Not well. The problem is they are not alone. First of all, they have proxy groups all over the region. Their allies are all over the Middle East. Who are they? They have Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and others. What Iran may not want to directly, they have friends to do the job. Then, they can claim “we had no idea” and avoid that all-out war with us. This means the world in a much more dangerous place for us and our friends (Israel, I am looking at you.) Does that look like increased safety?

Let’s not forget about cyber attacks.

If North Korea can hack into Sony’s systems, leak unflattering emails and force a film to go directly to streaming services, you can bet Iran can do something similar or worse. This is one of the ways it works its terrorist mojo around the planet. Remember the entire U.S. intel community said Russia hacked a number of systems around our country. Check this out if you need a refresher course on that.

When we killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, we killed a national hero .

We also made him a martyr. We united a nation against us when they had been against their own government. From that Los Angeles Times piece:

“Religious leaders in Iran are extremely apt and capable in producing symbolism and creating a culture of politics in which they can incorporate nationalism and faith,” said Ali Akbar Mahdi, a sociology professor at Cal State Northridge. “They are utilizing all kinds of symbolism and tying it in sense of victimhood and how Shiites have suffered and now have to fight.”

The people of Iran were mad at their supreme leader for a number of reasons. Reformers railed against him and wanted real changes to the way things are done there. If you believe the whole, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, you can see why killing a national hero is going to bring some backlash. If you think they all just hate Americans for the sake of hating Americans, you should do a Google search you can find reports of the candlelight vigils they had for us in the aftermath of 9/11. You can do some of your own research. Time Magazine put it this way:

For several months this fall and winter, tens of thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets in giant protests against government corruption and against Iran’s dominance in their country, nearly bringing Iraq to a standstill and forcing Iraq’s Prime Minister Abd Al-Mahdi to offer his resignation; he remains as a caretaker head of government while the fractious parliamentary groups squabble over who will succeed him.

Vivienne Walt — Time Magazine

Iran has pledged to go “full speed ahead” on nuclear weapon development.

Sure, #ConDon has told the world that by withdrawing from the Iran deal, they have stopped but they just announced they are going back to it. When that deal was in force, they had stopped. What incentive do they have now? None. And if you think the money they received was some kind of gift, I reiterate my call to take your head out of your ass. That was money they had paid us for military technology they were buying but we never delivered because of the revolution of 1979 and the ouster of the American backed Shah. Look it all up. If you don’t believe something I write, I invite you to look it up. I am not making this up.

Iraq will kick our troops out of their country.

There has been a movement to get us out for a while and who can blame them after we assassinated a high ranking member of the Iranian military on their own soil. Do you think the Iraqis wanted to be stuck in the middle of a U.S./Iran war? Would you?

The war on ISIS has been paused making us all less safe.

In the first place, some Iraqis think it will harder to fight ISIS now that Suleimanu is dead. Did your jaw just drop? From the aforementioned Time piece:

The U.S. strike against Soleimani has handed the ISIS remnants an unwitting victory, by stoking anger among Iraqis against the group’s archenemy, the Americans, and diverting their attention from other grievances.

Vivienne Walt

Not only that but NATO has scaled back their work to fight ISIS and have paused their work on this Iraq completely. While Trump has proposed getting out of NATO in the past, this week he asked for their help and after his statements about article V, they don’t seem to be inclined to step in. Can you blame them? We have said we may not follow through on our commitments unless we are paid for it. That is not a good way to keep us safe either.

I am not going into the long American history of harming people in other nations to advance our national interests and assassinating political leaders with whom we disagree. (Don’t believe me? Do some research. There are many reasons we aren’t always trusted and sometimes hated.) We have not always been seen as the “shining city on a hill,” that Ronald Reagan spoke of but I think we strive to be.

When I think of America, I see that shining city on a hill. Assassinating people we don’t like is not something we should be doing. That is what dictators do. That’s what leaders of banana republics do. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said it best when she said, “This is not about how bad they are but how good we are.” I saw her say that this morning and am sure I butchered the quote but you can see the point.

Bottom line: Neither Americans nor American interests are safer today than when this saga started. This is President Trump’s tale/tail wagging the dog to get attention off the impeachment process.