me too

Why Victim Blamers Need to STFU

Yeah, not mincing words with this one, so buckle up. I’m going to tell you a story, and I hope it will illustrate the answers to a couple of questions that people bring up when trying to absolve sex offenders and rapists of their crimes.

  1. “Why didn’t s/he tell anyone?”
  2. “Why did s/he take so long to talk about it?”

Let’s go back to 1987. This is by no means the first time I had an experience with sexual harassment/assault/violence, but it’ll show you precisely the answers to those questions. At the time I had started working on the most popular hometown pizza parlor in my city. Before I was even hired, I was warned about the owner, a guy I’ll just refer to as “B”. I was told “he’ll try to hit on you” and “don’t be alone with him; he’s ‘handsy’ “, and “he has a thing for the girls that work here”. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think too much about it at the time. As a girl growing up back then (and since), we basically were told that we’d have to spend our lives fending off men that wanted to touch/kiss/fondle/fuck us whether we wanted it or not. Even when it came to dating, it was accepted that the dating game basically consisted of guys trying to talk us into sex and us trying to be “good girls” and resist. So I took the job.

It wasn’t a month in that the bullshit with “B” started. It was usually just little comments about how good I looked or what a cutie I was or how if he was “___ years younger”…I’d heard all that bullshit a thousand times before. Not bragging. I wasn’t beautiful by any means, but that’s just what it’s like being a woman. Or he’d try to “accidentally” brush against me when I was working. Then at one point, he comes to me, all serious and tells me he needs to talk to me. He pulls me aside and proceeds to tell me that he’d heard from a guy I went to school with that I frequently danced naked in my bedroom window and gave the guys from school a nightly show. And he proceeded to give me the name of a kid that actually rode my bus at one point. I was furious. Next day at school, I confronted the kid and screamed at him, asking him why the fuck he was spreading rumors like that about me. He was genuinely shocked and said, “Listen, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t even know where you live.” And by the look on his face, I knew he was telling the truth. That’s when the reality hit me.

See, I actually did have a habit of dancing around my bedroom pretty much anytime I was at home. Not naked, and I had the curtains drawn, but I’m sure if you looked hard enough, you could probably see my shadow flipping and jumping and acting a fool in my room to my latest Prince album. But the only way you’d have known any of that is if you actually at outside my house and watched. So this fucking 40-something pervert had been sitting outside my house watching me, and not only that, made a point of bringing it up that someone had been watching me so that I’d be scared to death. Add to that the thought that it had been spread about the whole town, and it was just every girl’s worst nightmare – having a pedophile stalker and a ruined reputation. And it clearly got him off because every time I saw him after that, he’d have this nasty knowing smirk on his face.

I mentioned it to one of the crew leaders at one point and she just let out an exasperated sigh and said, “Yeah, that’s ‘B’. He’s like that with all the girls” and walked away. I found out that even “B”s wife knew about the shit he pulled there – that he had touched some of the girls and sexually harassed others. And she got several of them fired for slandering her poor defenseless husband. Yeah. I finally quit that job about a year and a half later, but several years later, my brother’s girlfriend started working there. I warned both of them right away what he was like, told her to avoid “B” like the plague, and yet a few months later, found out that “B” had offered to buy her a car “if she was nice to him”. She declined and left for another job.

Fast forward about 25 years. The business closed for a time, then reopened with another owner and a new name. This new owner decided to call on “B” to go into the business with him because he had been in the pizza business at that point for something like 40 years. I found out later that “B” pulled his shit with the owner’s daughter and was threatened over it, and so the partnership split up. The business is still open, and “B” has since passed away, but that’s an awful, nasty, legacy for one man in a town of less than 20,000 people. So many people hurt by this one disgusting predator.

So why didn’t we tell? Well, some of us tried and were either ignored or worse, fired from our jobs. Why didn’t we go to the police? Well, for one, we had no proof and he was well-liked by a lot of powerful people in this little podunk town, including a lot of the police officers. From the start, each and every one of us knew that the deck was stacked against us. We had no power in the situation and no one was standing up for us, even though, like I said, he was known around town for being a pervert.

And why am I talking about it now? Well, first of all, it’s not the first time I’ve talked about it; just the first time I’ve talked to a wider audience about what I endured. And I’m talking about it because I want to illustrate the kind of power one creepy, middle-aged, middle class asshole had over the people in this town. Now multiply that times 1,000 and you’ve got a Harvey Weinstein, a Bill Cosby, a Kevin Spacey, etc. “B” and his wife had the power to get any of us fired from our jobs or ruin our reputation and at 17 years old, that sounded like the end of the world and I felt completely trapped. His actions, and the complacency and even complicity of everyone around us made us think that there was no point in telling because we’d never be believed. If some little no-name pedophile in a small town in Ohio can do that, what kind of power do you think a billionaire producer or a powerful actor or well-respected public figure has over the victims he’s harassed or assaulted or raped?

THAT is why we don’t tell. There’s a system in place that tells victims that they won’t be believed and that system is invisible most of the time. Abusers are able to operate because they make you think you’re powerless and that no one will believe you. Think I’m wrong? Check out the scandals in the Catholic church. We’ve come to accept that there were hundreds and hundreds of priests that abused men, women and children because the proof is irrefutable now. Because a few brave souls were strong enough to take a stand even when the tide was completely against them, and nobody believed them and they probably never thought that it would lead to any type of justice at all. But in the beginning, they were doubted, too.

We also don’t tell because in most cases, there’s no proof except our scarred psyches. It turns into a he said / s/he said situation, and the victim at the very least has to relive everything that’s happened in the hopes that just *maybe* something will be done about it. And if it’s a highly publicized case, they get the added trauma of being vilified in the media and by victim blamers in every corner. For the record, according to the FBI, less than 8% of rape reports are considered “unfounded”, which doesn’t even mean that the complainant was lying. It just means they can’t find proof that it definitely happened. And if someone retracts their statement or decides not to file charges, that doesn’t mean an assault hasn’t occurred.

So why do these cases always seem to bring new accusers out of the woodwork? Simple. Because once someone’s been brave enough to tell, you know that the chances are better that they’ll believe you. You know you aren’t the only one. You’re giving support to someone that’s endured something horrible and the chances are you’ll get support, too.

Trust me when I say that the #metoo is not a bandwagon people want to jump on. The attention that you’ll get for reporting a rape or assault is not the kind of attention people want. No amount of money is worth being treated like you’re less than human. No one wants to be in this club. There are much easier ways to get attention and money, and the statistics just don’t support the idea that all of these people are lying.

So please, if you feel the need to start blaming victims and calling them liars and golddiggers, etc. – kindly STFU. It’s quite likely there’s someone sitting next to you that’s endured the same thing, and your doubt and ridicule will just ensure that they won’t feel safe sharing what’s happened to them.

It costs nothing to be kind.

 

 

SUCKER PUNCH

Me, Only Bolder

So I just got back from 4 1/2 days in Vegas, and what a ride it was! I was there for our corporate conference – “Hoopla” and I’m gonna be completely honest – it got off to a bumpy start. But I had so many tiny breakthroughs, I can tell you – I’ve come back a changed woman.

Let me preface this by saying I’ve always been terrified of flying. It’s not rational, it’s not logical – it just is. I know that it’s because I’m not in control of the plane and because I’m the type who’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and is there any bigger shoe-drop than plummeting 50,000 feet to your death? I don’t think so. So, 3 years ago when my husband and I were planning our trip to Paris for our 25th anniversary, I decided I was going to do something about it because I didn’t want to be sobbing and panicking for 8 straight hours on the plane. I found a great training course, completed it, and made my way to Paris with a minimum of tears. Fast forward to 5 days ago, and I got onto a plane again, and even though takeoff still has me a bit freaked out, I didn’t cry even once. Even looked out the window and saw the Grand Canyon on the way back (HOLY SHIT Y’ALL – it’s HUGE!) .

So there I go being all proud of myself and feeling like a badass in my short little wrap dress and sandals with all my KEEP jewelry on and as I’m leaving the plane, some jackass makes a comment about me being pregnant. Spoiler: I’m not. In one instant, I let all of that badassery slide right out of me. Notice that I said “I let” because that’s the truth of the situation. He didn’t do shit to me. *I LET* him make me feel small and ugly and ashamed. And as I generally do, I went to Facebook to rant, and as my friends list usually does, they propped me right back up. And I heard this tiny little voice in the back of my head saying, “Did you ever stop to think that maybe those people who actually know and love you are right and that random dude (who probably wasn’t actually trying to be an asshole) isn’t?”.

Dressed for success...and also so I can drink my rum and coke on the plane in comfort.
Dressed for success…and also comfort.

 

We got to Vegas, got all checked in, headed out to conquer the city and amidst a clusterfuck of missed communication and misunderstanding, wound up missing out on the group of girls I was trying to hang out with and as a result of walking 2+ miles in the 110 degree heat, got a ginormous blister on my foot which really had me in a foul mood. Hoopla hadn’t even started, and I knew I was going to have to do a ton of walking over the next 4 days and already my feet had betrayed me. What upset me most was that I had earned a special honor – Sparkle Reception – which is a dance party just for people who promoted into leadership – and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear the heels I’d brought with me. And here comes my husband to save the day. After walking me to the MGM for my day of Bold Leadership (that’s our theme this year: “Be Bold”), he stopped at a shoe store on the way back and was sending me pics of sparkly sandals that I could swap out for my heels. Yes, while I was in training, my Prince Charming was out shoe-shopping for me. And no, I won’t share him, so don’t even ask.

The shoes...commence drooling.
The shoes…commence drooling.

 

So I went to the Sparkle Reception, nerves and all. Social situations like that generally make me want to crawl inside a shell and hide out, and I was still stinging from the day before (oh and I was rocking a killer cold sore – did I mention that?). A few drinks and a couple of line dances later and I ran into our Chief Happiness Officer Mike. And in a spontaneous moment of boldness (and maybe insanity) basically tackle-hugged him. Now I admire the hell out of Mike. He’s one of the happiest, most positive people I’ve ever seen. But there’s no way I’d feel comfortable approaching him normally and certainly not hugging him around the neck like I’d just been called to Contestant’s Row on “The Price is Right”. Bless his heart, Mike laughed and said, “Congratulations on being here! It’s great to meet you!”

And then came Friday. Friday is opening session for ALL of KEEP Collective – meaning there are hundreds and hundreds of women in the audience, and at the beginning, they have a parade for new promotions. Which meant that I had to walk across the main stage  as a new Star (something that would normally cause at the very least anxiety and possibly the dry heaves as well.) I sat in the audience last year and thought for a split second, “I wanna be up there next year” and then just as quickly “There’s no way.” because in my mind, everyone on that stage was somehow something other than what I was. They were somehow better, smarter, more successful, prettier, braver, more outgoing – the list goes on and on. Yet there I was, lined up with my star wand (they freaking give us star wands – I mean, how perfect is that?!?) And somehow, when the time came, I was ready because I knew that I had earned that walk and I wasn’t going to let anxiety ruin it for me any more than I’d let it ruin my trip to Paris. 20170714_095223

Me and my KEEP sisters Laila, Genevieve and Julianna getting ready to walk that stage! And believe it or not, smiling big is another bold move for me ever since getting braces at the age of 46. 😀 (Edit: No clue why this pic is sideways when you view this but it looks fine when I go in to edit it so screw it – tilt your head. Lol)

Over the next couple of days, I was forced out of my shell a bunch of times – meeting new people, talking to strangers instead of avoiding it by staring at my phone, dancing like a fool, crying and yeah, even getting pulled into the pre-show of “Zumanity” (the Circue du Soleil show) from my comfy seat in the audience to dance with one of the performers and be part of a sexy little vaudeville scene. I watched my personal heroine, Danielle Redner walk out on stage in skyhigh heels and jeans with a fauxhawk, black and grey eye makeup on point and head-banging to “Down With the Sickness”. And yep –  I rode back on the plane without crying again.

danielle IMG_20170204_173503089

Professional badass Danielle Redner at Hoopla and when I got the chance to meet her in February in Chicago. 

But my boldest moment has yet to come. Because my boldest moment has been building for months and years now. I’m finally learning that there’s something fierce in me and always has been. Oddly enough, I was the last one to notice it. I’m not any different than any of the women (or men) who’ve inspired me – I just haven’t felt comfortable enough in my own skin to jump in with both feet instead of dipping my toe in the water. But I am so damn done with living life in half-measures. I’m tired of doing things the way I think I’m supposed to. I’m tired of living according to someone else’s rules. And I’m ready to do something about it.

lil badass

I am ready to rediscover this little badass again, because I used to know that I was Wonder Woman without any doubt at all. 

So watch out because here I come.

xoxo,

Michelle

 

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Day 30: Purple Rain (the untold story)

Well, we’ve come to the end of the month. I hope you’ve enjoyed the songs and a bit of the stories behind them. When it comes right down to it, for a real appreciation of Prince’s genius, you have to go past the amazing lyrics and powerful music to find the stories about HOW he made the music. Like the fact that he had the “Purple Rain” album completely written when the record company decided none of the singles were suitable for a debut single, so he went back and wrote TEN songs overnight, including “When Doves Cry”. Like the fact that his first few albums were completely written, produced, and arranged by Prince alone and he also did all of the vocals and played all the instruments. Before getting his first major record deal, one of the conditions was that he prove to the record company that he had done everything on his demo by himself (they thought he was faking) When he went into the studio and did it all solo again, they knew what kind of talent they were dealing with.

And then there’s this video. Everyone knows the song. It’s his magnum opus, and undoubtedly one of his best. But many people probably didn’t realize that the recording that’s on the album, and is shown in the movie is recorded almost note for note from this performance from a charity event at First Avenue almost a year before the movie debuted. It’s also the first time the band had ever played the song in public, and the first time Wendy Melvoin played in public as a member of The Revolution. If you listen closely, you can hear some of the crowd noises that you’ll hear on the album. The song was cleaned up a bit, some orchestration was added, a verse was removed, but other than that, this performance is what’s on the album.

One of the few blessings of the last year has been the discovery of footage like this that shows some of what went on behind the scenes in the making of his music. It has been a blessing getting a chance to see videos that many of us haven’t seen in decades, and learn new things about this man we all love through interviews with his friends and loved ones. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the genius that it took to constantly reinvent himself with each album. I used to think that it was sad that he never achieved the same success that he had with “Purple Rain” again, because he did release plenty of music that was as good, if not better. But in the end, if the greatest thing you ever make is something of the magnitude of “Purple Rain”, what a tremendous gift you’ve given the world! To ask for more than that would almost be greedy.

So here is the video of the first time “Purple Rain” was ever performed in public. I apologize for the quality, but after all this is a video from a nightclub performance in 1983! I don’t own this video, so please don’t share it or the link. I don’t want to get any record company lawyers breathing down my neck. I’m only sharing it because the story behind the song and the way it was recorded is almost as powerful as the song itself.  (Click on the photo below to watch.)

purple rain

Thank you for coming along for the journey this month. It’s been a pleasure sharing so much of his amazing work and it has helped take a bit of the sting out of missing him so badly.

I wish u heaven.

xoxo,

Michelle O(+>

dmsr mix

Day 29: DMSR

I really hope everyone’s heard this one, but I don’t really want to take any chances. Talk about your straight-up, no question funk anthem – this is it.

“DMSR” (or “Dance Music Sex Romance”) was a sure way to drive everybody to the dance floor back in the day.  I believe it even made an appearance in the movie “Risky Business”.  It’s from the “1999” album. And it’s not such a bad philosophy when you get right down to it. Later on in his career after he converted to Jehovah’s Witness, he switched up the lyrics a bit, but it didn’t take away from how absolutely amazing this song really is.

So here, without further ado, “DMSR”. Enjoy your Saturday night! (Click on the photo.)

prince dmsr

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

greatest

Day 28: The Greatest Romance Ever Sold

If you go on any Prince fan message boards, there’s bound to be at least one board devoted to interpretations of the lyrics to this song. And given that it’s Prince, there’s every chance that not one of us got it *right*. I won’t try to interpret it for anyone else; all I can say is that lyrically, I think it’s one of his finest songs. And it’s one of his sexiest, as well.

“The Greatest Romance Ever Sold” is the third track on Prince’s “Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic” album.  Various remixes of the song were also released with Eve, Maceo Parker and The Neptunes taking part.

It’s sensual and slinky and gorgeous. Enjoy the video by clicking the image below.

prince greatest romance

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

god

Day 27: God (Instrumental)

Yep – an instrumental today. I’ve been in a yoga/meditation frame of mind and I think this song is just perfect for it.

If you’ve ever seen “Purple Rain”, you’ll recognize this as the love song that’s played when Apollonia and Prince make love for the first time. The instrumental version is the b-side to “Purple Rain”. Prince actually recorded a version of the song with lyrics that are a sort of Prince version of the beginning of the book of Genesis. But I think that the instrumental version has so much more impact, simply because the music is so beautiful and transcendent.

Click on the photo below to enjoy “God”, and I hope that it has the same effect on you that it has on me.

prince god

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

prince 2

Day 26: Temptation

This is another song from “Around the World in a Day” – the final track on the album.

The song starts right away with a blistering guitar solo that leads immediately into a classic bump and grind and all of this melts into one of Prince’s sexiest songs ever, in my humble opinion. He does some amazing vocal theatrics in the song, but at its core, it’s just sexy, but it’s also much more. He begins the song talking about how everyone in the world has a vice (and his is obviously sexual) and by the end of the song, a higher being comes to him and shows him the error of his ways. He now understands that “love is more important than sex” and promises to be good. Yet another example of Prince’s mixing of sex and faith and his constant effort to reconcile the two, given society’s beliefs and some religious beliefs.

Click on the photo below to listen to “Temptation”.

Prince-4
Talk about purple electricity…

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

prince controversy

Day 25: Controversy

“Controversy” is the title song to Prince’s 4th studio album, “Controversy”. It also marks a radical shift in his music and his career. Enter the trademark purple trench coat, immaculately trimmed facial hair, skintight pants and heeled boots. In the video, he’s jumping off the stacks, and most of the players that would eventually become The Revolution are in place.

prince controversy

Just as fine decades later. 

The song’s lyrics show that Prince had obviously become famous enough at this point to draw the attention of the press and the public in general. The opening lines of the song show his feelings on the intrusive nature of some of the attention:

I just can’t believe all the things people say (Controversy)

Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? (Controversy)

Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me? (Controversy)”

Prince was always a very private person, so it’s not surprising that he wasn’t keen on interviews and constant probing into his private life. It seems he never really understood why people were curious about such things. He felt that he showed what people needed to see through his music and wasn’t interested in being a tabloid story. And the more secretive he was, the more curious the public became. He always had a love/hate relationship with the media, often deliberately feeding them false information about himself, and creating an aura of mystique that lasted through his entire lifetime.

Click on the photo to watch the “Controversy” video.

controversy

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

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Day 24: The Ladder

Prince was as notorious for his faith as he was for his risque songs. And in his younger days, he had no problem reconciling the two. He viewed sex and sexuality as a gift from God, and seemed to also see it as a way to commune with the Divine.

“The Ladder” is the eighth track on “Around the World In a Day”, and is a funky, straight up gospel song. The song starts with the story of a mythical king living in the land of “Sin-a-Plenty” who was looking for the ladder. The ladder is a metaphor for whatever we are looking for in life – a deity, the meaning of our existence, the answers to our most basic questions.

atwiad

Cover art for “Around the World In a Day” featuring The Ladder in the middle. 

The song was co-written by Prince’s father, John L. Nelson, and the strings were composed by Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin. This song really was a family affair. In addition to Prince’s father working on the song, two of Wendy’s siblings (Susannah and Jonathan – who later went on to play for the band Smashing Pumpkins) and Lisa’s brother, Jonathan did as well.

The song wasn’t released as a single, and wasn’t regularly featured in his live shows, but was widely considered one of his best gospel songs.

And here is “The Ladder”.

Peace and b wild,

Michelle O(+>

adore

Day 23: Adore

My intention for this month of blogging was to cover some of Prince’s lesser-known works, but this one is just too good to ignore, even if it is a bit more well-known.

I love Prince’s music no matter the style – funk, R&B, rock, pop, soul, psychedelic, hip-hop – you name it. But nobody does a love song the way that he does. I mean, “The Beautiful Ones”? “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”? “Forever in My Life”? “Slow Love”? I love them all. But “Adore” is one of those songs that is sure to get every woman (and probably a lot of the men) in the audience all twitterpated. And he knew it. He absolutely knew how to write a love song that was sure to make you fall in love with him. “Adore” is a perfect slow groove from a man who wrote quite a few of them.

adore prince adore

“Adore” is the last song on the second disc of the “Sign O’ The Times” album. Prince does all of the vocals and plays all of the instruments in the song with the exception of the horns. His last performance of the song was on April 14, 2016, during the first of two shows at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Those would be his last performances.

Enjoy “Adore” by clicking on the photo below.

prince adore

Peace and b wild,

Michelle  O(+>