Saturday, November 11, 2017


I watched it unfold with horror. The little girl – maybe five years old – wanted to climb up the slide like the bigger kids were doing, when a boy pushed her out of the way and she shoved him back.

“Be nice!” her mother scolded, pulling her out of the pack of kids, “You can’t do that. You can’t go up the slide. You have a dress on” – as if this little girl should learn early and often that the clothes she wears will limit her freedom – “Don’t shove people!”

The grown up was embarrassed that her little girl had asserted her place in the playground queue and didn’t understand the decorum involved in climbing up a slide. Mom didn’t address the boy bully behavior, of course, but panicked and went into girl default mode: Be nice – dear God, what is that? We continue to teach our little girls to be “nice” when we should be teaching them to be fierce.

All this hullaballoo about sexual harassment. I’m 61, and from the time I was an 18-year-old waitress I’ve had some guy in just about every environment try to push me around using sex. When I rebuffed the “advances” of the chef at the Jersey shore restaurant where I worked he ruined every order I put in, throwing the plates at me with burnt meat or watery vegetables. The customers yelled at me, my tips diminished and I quit. The pattern continued when I practiced law, from the time a male attorney grabbed my ass at the copier to the time a “rainmaker” state senator (who was a partner) asked me if he made me “wet.” The guy was notorious for talking dirty trash to every woman in the office but the big boys thought it was funny. I didn’t think it was funny. Who was I going to complain to? The male partners who loved the political power that brought them more money? Seriously?

I have a very deep advantage over that little girl on the playground. I grew up with three brothers in an Italian household. They taught me how to fight and Italians are not shy; the culture supports guts and moxie, so when this slimy politician cornered me in the library and asked that horrible question I turned to him, slowly, and said:

“You ever talk to me like that again, and I will be your Anita Hill. I will take you down.”

He stood there, frozen, and his face went pale. Anita Hill was testifying on television daily about Clarence Thomas, and his career was in shambles. That’s all this dude cared about – his political currency – and he never spoke to me again. Fortunately, the older I got the less aggressive men became about sexual bullying and one fabulous side effect of aging is that you become invisible and men leave you blissfully alone. No doubt, sexual harassment is geared toward younger women and no one would want to (or dare) mess with me now. Now all that happens when I sit in a meeting with men is they stare intently at each other, marginalize me completely, and talk about Important Things.

As an attorney, I litigated sexual harassment cases and they were brutal. Defendant/employers had several tactics for discrediting female complainants – everything from casting her as a crazy liar to subpoenaing gynecology records to look for other causes of “emotional distress.” The legal system is the worst place to address these behaviors. I love that social media is outing a lot of creeps and women and men now know there is safety in numbers when coming forward to expose gross and unconscionable actions. Public shaming is a fabulous and effective means for taking people down. And I’m happy that Kevin Spacey’s career is over, as is Louis C.K.’s, Weinstein’s, and the other salacious man-boys who think they can do whatever they want, wherever they want. Go down in flames, all of you.

But what about the secretary in the tiny office who may not have a band of sisters she can rely on? What about the nurse who needs her job badly and is too scared to go to HR? When a woman feels isolated and is trapped financially, what should she do? Be nice? Parents are not preparing their little girls at all for what they will face when they tamp down assertiveness, put them in dolly clothing that limits their options, and urge them to quietly conform. We should be teaching our girls to roar. To be fierce. To stand their ground and look bullies in the eyes and say, with confidence, “Do that again, and I will take you down.” Niceness gets you nowhere. We should be compassionate, collaborative and civil in our dialogue. But fuck “nice.”

In addition to ballet and cheerleading, how about we supplement our girl activities with jiu-jitsu classes where they can learn about using mental strength to support physical safety? Maybe we stop scolding girls who are “bossy” by nature – like I was – and cultivate the tendencies that would be considered “leadership” in boys: directness, assertiveness, strategic thinking, a desire to reach goals and get things done. I’d rather my granddaughters sit in meetings where their voices are heard and this doesn’t much happen if they are getting the smack-down to be “nice.” Although many people are not assertive by nature, these skills can certainly be taught.

Anyone who uses power to intimidate others deserves the kind of humiliation and fear Twitter and Facebook can offer so let’s keep on outing these asshats. But at the same time let’s change our language with girls and young women and stop asking for cuteness and conformity. Teach girls to find and use their voices so when that inevitable creep suggests that she’ll get what she wants if she complies with some sexual act or listens quietly to the disgusting and foul language of men without boundaries, she will not be “nice.” She will be clear and she will be fierce. Teach her to stand her ground, without violence or hate. Teach her she doesn’t have to have or use physical strength to take down a bully. It’s no wonder so many women who are taught to be nice are totally paralyzed when the boss rubs himself in front of her. We don’t need to be paralyzed; we can speak up.

There is always something that predatory man cares about more than using his power to bully you with sex. Threaten to call his wife, call the police, call a lawyer; find what he loves – power, status, fame, his fake marriage whatever – and threaten to blow it up. Silence that parental voice that taught you that “niceness” is important to survival in this world, because it’s not. Don’t cripple your daughter so that you feel comfy knowing she’s “socially appropriate.” Arm her with the self-esteem and certainty she will need when the bully moves toward the prey. Teach her that pushing back is often absolutely necessary, it’s good to draw clear lines, and she can stand her ground. Find a script that works and use it.

Here’s what I found that works, because people in power will always listen to this: Do that again, and I will take you down.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump's Second Term

          Donald Trump is on a path to re-election and all indications are that he has a good shot at a second term.  The economy  is better than it’s been in years and unemployment is at a record low of 4.3% -  the best in 16 years.  Trump already has $17 million earmarked for the next campaign because in politics, the only thing that matters is getting re-elected.  Forget Nazis, pussy-grabbing, and Russia.  All indications are that Trump can and may have another four years.
            “It’s the economy, stupid,” – the mantra of the Democratic party in the 90s – still holds true and we fail to see this, tearing our hair out over bigotry and trans-gender prejudice when voters ultimately only care about how they and their families are doing.  Trump was elected by the marginalized working class and they forgave a multitude of horrors to elect someone who would get them to work.  And he has.  This is all that matters I assure you.
            While we fixate on and twitter about his ghastly amorality, working folks in the Rust Belt are likely pretty okay with where we’re headed.  Social issues do not matter in the long run to people who can’t pay the mortgage.  It’s the economy, stupid, and politics is based on emotion not fact.  The greatest driver of voter support is not hate, love, or anything in between.  It’s jobs.  We haven’t even begun to address the unheard popular majority who elected Trump in the first place.
            Who’s going to elect Trump the second time?  Well, you are.  When was the last time you voted in a primary election?  The fact is that only 20% of registered voters bother to show up for primary elections and of course this is where we make the most important choices.  Eighty-percent of us stay home during the primaries, lazy and disengaged (as we remain, despite our self-aggrandizing high minded moralistic FB rhetoric).  Democrats and Republicans trot out a panoply of mostly spineless politicians, we ignore the primary process and then rail at the lousy choice we have.  The plurality of registered voters (42%)  in the US are “independent” or unaffiliated voters, like me.  In most states, independents can’t vote in a primary election.  Here’s what you don’t know:  to vote in a primary all you have to do is affiliate with a party “x” number of days (check your state law.  Stop being “outraged” and lazy.) before the primary.  So, if there’s an excellent candidate in either party, I will simply become a member of that party before the primary, vote for that person, and then switch back to being unaffiliated because frankly, both parties make my skin crawl. 
            The “meat” of a party’s base support are those rabid fundamentalists on both sides.  They always show up.  They are blindly devoted and will pull that lever for (R) or (D) no matter what.  The rest of us stay home and we end up with chumps like Trump.  In a perfect world, everyone would be registered as an Independent and then politicians would have to scramble to figure out how to get re-elected.  Right now, all our representatives have to do is appeal to those who always show up, the devout twenty percent.
            This is why Trump will get re-elected.  Very few people understand the civics of voting in this country and most would rather watch SNL mock our “leaders” than get involved in electing decent people.  I don’t see the Democrats making any headway in repairing the colossal screw up of pushing Bernie Sanders off the podium so their inflated ego-driven party could score the next “first.”  Hubris writ huge, the Dems got what they deserved and we got the president we deserve.  We are a lazy and self-indulgent electorate.  You post some righteous anger on FB and think you’re all that, but where are you on primary day?  Where are you 30 or 60 days before primary day when you should register with either party that you want to support?  Oh wait, you’re on Facebook screaming about the haters.  Nicely done.
            I’m personally outraged because I’ve seen this coming since 2010 when I ran a congressional tea party campaign in the third district of Colorado.  While deeply disagreeing with 90% of what my candidate stood for (it was a family thing), I saw first- hand how the masses and the media mocked the Tea Party.  Disdain, scorn, cartoons, SNL, laughter abounded but nobody really listened to them.  I met thousands of “tea party” folks and guess what?  They were mostly terrified grandparents.  They felt lost, forgotten and unheard. They were worried about their future and their grandkids’ future.  So, while you were busy laughing at Sarah Palin they were busy getting to the primaries.  It’s exactly as Mahatma Ghandi told us:  First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
            And they’ll win again if we don’t listen to what’s important:  jobs and family security.  Period.  I’m a kid of the 60s and 70s so of course I know there’s nothing more crucial than civil rights and social justice but these high minded and deeply important principals do not get people elected.  Jobs get people into the Oval and onto Capitol Hill where everyone hangs pictures and then immediately starts planning for reelection.
            Your moral outrage is useless unless you know how to register for and vote in a primary.  Please stop tweeting your high-minded bullshit and figure out how to educate people about this fact:  eighty percent of us do nothing and don’t care enough to figure out what we learned in fourth grade.
            I’ll give you a total pass if you can answer these questions: (1) when do you have to register as a party-affiliate in your state in order to vote in a primary; and (2) when was the last time you voted in a primary?  If you don’t know the answer to #1 and #2 is “never,” then it’s Donald Trump in 2020.  Take it to the bank.  That's where people vote.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Yo Scaramucci. How Bout You Shut Up?

Hey Tony.  If I was sitting next to you at Sunday dinner I’d smack you so hard on the back of the head it would make your kids dizzy.  What a dumb ass you are.  You get a seat at the big boy table and what do you do? Put your Guido aviator shades on and act like you’re in waste management in the Bronx rather than the goddamn White House.  You better hope my Aunt Rita doesn’t run into you cause I’ll tell you what brother: we Italians are not happy with you and you know what happens when the family’s not happy.
            So, your narcissistic bully boss – from another ethnic background of some kind – pulls you in, you know,  close to the vest and Tony-Soprano-like “hey ho yo”, grabbing at your balls and being all tough guy. And Trump says Yo Tony kill the leaks, man! Make ‘em all shut the f—up”! and you swear some inane mafia-type oath about being loyal to him and firing people and you bring your stupid New York WOP act to DC.  Thanks a lot jack ass.
            Sit down and shut up and listen to me and I don’t give a rat’s ass if you don’t want to hear about my grandparents from Avellino in Italy who came to Philly and worked as bricklayers, tailors, and shop owners so that their kids – my parents – could go to college, and become, doctors (like my Dad and uncle) and nurses (my Mom) and make each generation better.  And yes, Italians were seen as louds, stupid, greasy, dirty people - the image you so readily portray, thanks very much.  Just when Italians could go quietly back to our raucous and happy family-centric lives, you show up and it’s right back to the stereotypical bombastic idiot Italian, a White House press secretary who doesn’t even know what “on the record” means.  Madonna Mia.  Italians have about fifty different words for stupid and you measure up to every one of them.
            I can appreciate the notion that you “want to be yourself” but don’t.  Your self sucks.  Your knucklehead boss is of the same ilk – oh, I’m just gonna be me.  Both your personalities are just terrible, dude.  Hide it.  Don’t be the strutting street corner thug you think you are.  Class it up, asshole.  Lots of immigrants have learned this:  dial it down when you’re around white people.  And the White House is full of those, so act like a grown up – you mameluke – and try to find a measure of dignity and smarts.  Not sure you have either, but on behalf of Italians everywhere, I’m telling you – not asking – to knock off the “made guy” routine.
            Somebody had to write about this.  The minute I saw your name and heard you open my mouth I was like “oh f--- me.  Here it goes. A Scarammuchi in the White House who thinks he’s all that.”  You’re not all that, Tony.  You know what you are?  A disgrace to every hard- working Italian-American who honors the hard-working ancestors that got us here.  You think surgeons, lawyers, teachers, business owners of Italian descent just act any way they want?  You think anybody does?  There are freaking rules of civility you stupidone.  Put the hair gel away and learn them. You want to be all mouthy schmooz boy?  Save that for your friends, you feckless braggart.  And don’t even think about Sunday dinner.  My little Aunt Rita would kick your ass.