#AnonymousSpeaks

For the Men Who Love Us

 Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at  The Miami Herald  broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at The Miami Herald broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

If I were a guy, about now I’d be feeling pretty awful.  You’ve maybe seen your mom or daughter or sister all upset and crying, or mad as hell about the Kavanagh hearings. Maybe you’ve laughed at Matt Damon’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, feeling uncomfortable, remembering times you’d seen guys like him in action, not the least bit sorry for acting like an ass.

Those guys, never sorry as a point of religious practice, like Roger Stone, brag about their philosophy. Never apologize. Never reflect. Lie if you need to, and keep on lying if you have to. You can see Stone say so in this film, Get Me Roger Stone. He openly credits his mentor, Roy Cohn, who was Joseph McCarthy’s right hand man, and also Donald Trump’s guru.

Their priesthood promises that if you’re strong enough, trouble goes away. You’ll outlast all those crybaby complainers, and win. Be sure to call them crybabies, because name-calling hurts and scares pussies. That’s what Alphas call men who reflect or apologize. Winners have to use these mean methods; you’ve been told in a million ways.

And too often assholes do win in exclusively male-constructed, male-populated, and male-governed institutions, which our most powerful institutions have been, in fact, until pretty recently. Until women began to be journalists and lawyers and professors and politicians, shaking things up.

For instance, if you’re a Beta male, and you probably are, because “Nice Guys Finish Last,” you may be as appalled as your girlfriends are by this week’s story of Florida federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta’s immunity deal with a girl sex-trade dealer, a.k.a. hedge fun manager Jeffrey Epstein. The Miami Herald’s pictures of those fresh-scrubbed faces speak of innocence, or naiveté. For them, $200 was a big deal, and he did say he only wanted a massage. Haven’t we heard that one before?

Palm Beach Epstein had money to spend on whatever was needed to protect his bad habits, and so did his rich customers, all wealthy men with similar bullying instincts. That made him a winner, even when caught: got his own suite in a jail for a year, though he didn’t have to stay there, and his clever immunity deal also ended an FBI investigation into Epstein’s out-of-state sex buddies. Acosta the prosecutor won too: he was rewarded by a Trump cabinet position, now Secretary of Labor.

You mean “labor” as in girly “massages?” Sure, why not.

 The mainstream media doesn’t often encourage men (or women) to think complicated thoughts, which usually come with feelings. But this story breaks the norm. I’ll bet you’ve asked some questions in your deep male voice:  What the hell were these men thinking, or feeling?  What awful spirit moves these guys we’ve so often rewarded?

Like a girl, I’ll respond with more questions, wanting more to be joined with you in conversation, than to argue in battle. What would happen if the men who control enough money to buy whomever they want to screw—employees, investors, suckers who pay taxes, the naïve, the snowflake crybabies—had a change in heart. Or were maybe put in jail?

More men, even conservative men, might join their moms, sisters, and girlfriends then—oh, and the founding fathers—to openly call for an end to a corrupt money power, and its fake masculinity coupled with cruelty. Did I mention that high five between Putin and MBS? Have you ever read the Bible story about Judith and Holofernes?

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“Judith and Holofernes” by baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi, who was raped as a girl by an old friend of her famous painter father. She dared take her assailant to court in the early 1600s, testifying under duress, but he got away with it. It inspired her art.

Listening to the Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh Hearing

Editor’s note: When a woman sent us this piece, longer than we usually publish, we knew we had to bring you her brave words. So many have stories!

After listening to both testimonies for the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, like many I ended the day feeling cognitive dissonance fracturing my mind and jangling my nerves. Two completely different possible truths. One was delivered humbly, with strength, but also trepidation: in a one-piece bathing suit she had practiced her dives. The other was delivered forcefully with anger, indignation, and bitter upset: he lifted weights, played football, and drank beers with the guys. The two narratives spoke volumes about the effects of patriarchy. Each voice could be credible, depending on one’s construct of reality, of what’s right and what’s wrong … of what is really going on here.

I took a long walk down my dirt road.

I thought about my sex education as a young woman growing up in the ‘70s, just a few years earlier than Blasey Ford, in a small town. I got a booklet from my mom, but learned the details on the playground, like many of us did. One boy in elementary school told me, as I sat casually, legs sprawled: “Close your legs; the war is over.” I had no idea what he meant. I am not sure he did either. I felt terribly embarrassed and did not feel confident to ever sit with my legs sprawled again.

As I progressed into middle school, some girls already having sex, I learned from peers, TV, movies, and jokes told by adults:

  • Girls with big boobs got male attention. I developed quite late, not until the very end of high school. Strike one.

  • Girls who had sex were desirable, popular, and got the cutest boyfriends. They dated the sports stars. I held out until I was 17. Strike two.

  • “Boys will be boys.” Whatever boys did or desired should get preference. Home run.

The last, most damaging message was: If you teased a boy—if you flirted, made out, or put yourself in close proximity unsupervised by adults—and you got the boy excited, he had every right to do whatever he wished, because … you asked for it. It was your fault. Especially if you were drinking. Because guys, well, they have this “uncontrollable” physical reaction. It was cruel, once arousing them, not to follow through. Girls who teased were chided with the phrase “blue balls.”

I am not sure if these messages were pervasive, then, for all girls my age, in all towns, and all schools, but these were planted in my adolescent psyche, and, I suspect, in the minds of most of my peers.

Fast-forward to my senior year. When I finally went “all the way,” it felt like a badge of honor. I was in the club! Not long after this dubiously victorious moment, I went out with my friends on Halloween. Somehow over the course of the night, in three cars, we got separated. We were hanging out near our high school, thirty minutes away from home, and decided to meet at this party a classmate told us about. Driving alone for some reason, I found my way to the party at a house out in the middle of nowhere on a back road. I waited in my car in the driveway, but my friends never showed up. Not wanting the night to be a total loss and miffed at my girlfriends, I put on my witch hat and cape and went inside. It was packed and loud music was playing. I did not know a soul.

Turns out many there were a bit older and from a motorcycle gang. I didn’t drink anything, or talk to many people. I didn’t stay long. But I remember two encounters: a short, thin woman, wearing a leather biker hat, took a swig from a bottle of wine as she told me she’d just taken two valiums. Then she confided she was pregnant. I remember feeling panicked. Oh my god! I must have looked out of place and startled. The owner of the house, a stocky guy with medium-length blond hair, came over and for the rest of the short time I was there, he was nice to me. I don’t remember why, or what he did, just that he was nice.

Fast-forward to some evening in some month following this party. I visited this guy. I don’t remember how it was arranged, or why. I don’t remember exactly when—not what day, what week, or even what month. I know it was my senior year. I know it was cold out. I know this because he was fixing his furnace, which wasn’t working. That’s what he did for a living. He fixed furnaces. I don’t remember how I got there, or how I got home. I suppose I drove. Who else would drive me way up to this house out in the boondocks? I have no recollection of where it was; I could not ever find it today.

I suppose this was a stupid thing to do. But he had been nice. Perhaps I wanted a boyfriend. Perhaps I hoped for love. Perhaps I wanted to be cool. Perhaps I was simply looking for a diversion. Our senior class was tiny and here was someone new, outside our small circle. I don’t remember what we did after he fixed the furnace. We might have eaten a little dinner, listened to music. I don’t think I had more than a beer, maybe two. If I had any.

What I do remember is this:

A narrow, dirty-white couch in the middle of an otherwise sparse living room. Making out on this couch with this blond-haired guy I barely knew. Saying, “Stop” when he wanted to keep going past making out. His look of disgust. I remember telling him it was my time of the month, hoping to dissuade him with a decent excuse. It did not stop him. He asked me how many days was I into my cycle. I said, “near the end.” I was shocked when he pushed forward, saying, “no big deal.”

I don’t remember if I said stop again. I might have just gone along with him, because, well, boys will be boys. He was stocky; I didn’t know him very well. I had aroused him, so it was my duty to deliver. I remember my humiliation when he removed my monthly protection and dangled it in the air, almost mocking me. I don’t remember the act itself. I think it was rather quick and business-like. I remember a sick feeling when we were done. Something wasn’t right. But I didn’t know what. And I remember the month of terror after, hoping I wouldn’t become pregnant. Luckily I did not.

I might have told a friend or two. Otherwise I filed this incident away as one of the dumb things I did as a teen. It was my fault. I filed it away initially as evidence that those early messages were true. But one was not true: I was not cool or desirable to have put myself in such a position. I filed away a sense of my powerlessness as a young woman, as a woman of any age. My “Stop” did not matter. Not to him. Not to our culture. I had no name for this until I was in my early 30s—date rape.

The snarky, hateful comments about Blasey Ford on social media run the gamut, but one refrain, even chanted by the President, ridicules her spotty memory of her trauma: How can she not remember how she got there and back? Why can’t she remember how much she drank? When it was? Where it was? Why she went in the first place?

Walking down my dirt road, thinking back on my own trauma, I realized I was missing all the same puzzle pieces. Yet, like Blasey Ford, the moment of violation was crystal clear some 36 years later. I have a similar residual trauma from the incident, though it has manifested in me differently than hers.

But Blasey Ford has at least one memory I don’t have. She remembers his name.


The Benefits Cliff

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"Ok, Screwnomics, here's a story of how the economy works against women. As a single mother, graduate student, I had more income from student loans, food stamps and fuel assistance than I do working full time as a mental health therapist. I fall into the gray area, the 'cliff' where people fall off - where you earn too much to qualify for assistance, and too little to pay the bills. So—am I being forced to share housing with a workingman, so that I can pay the bills? What if I prefer to be independent?"

Good question, Cliffhanger! We know some earnest souls believe the best welfare reform is marriage—your taxes even helped pay for programs, dangling this solution. But we’re with you. Even should you marry, you’re wise to want independence. Economic vulnerability is a gateway to other risks.

 One clue you mention is that word “mother.” There’s evidence that moms, especially single ones, are the worst paid of anyone, regardless of their field, regardless of education. Mom’s Rising names it The Motherhood Penalty. We looked up the starting pay for mental health therapists and found it was about $42,000 a year. Assuming a 40-hour workweek, that’s about $20 an hour, before taxes. Your contract could well be less.

Then we went to the MIT Livable Wage calculator that estimates basic costs for living, which varies in all 50 states. We looked at Vermont (where WE live) and saw an adult living with one child annually needs $13,511 for housing; $7593 for transportation; $8209 for childcare, and $6871 for medical insurance and copays. Your livable wage here would be: $45,660. Just losing your childcare alone costs an arm and a leg. Jana Kasperkevec at The Guardian suggests that minimum wage legislation needs always to be considered in tandem with the benefit “cliff” that too many learn about the hard way.

Are there ways to preserve benefits to help moms and young people bridge to better paying jobs? Are there some benefits, like food stamps or childcare, that should be more universally subsidized—and with living wages for child care providers? (They’re often on welfare, like fast food workers.) Could the government provide a universal cash allowance for the time and care families invest in readying the “next generation” of our nation? You can learn more about Eleanor Rathbone and England’s “Mother’s Allowance” and other solutions in Screwnomics.

Livable wages need to be more widely understood by state legislators and business organizations, the public and the private sector—and also by students who are taking out loans. Stagnant and shrinking wages have been the majority’s lot since 1970, and the recent tax cut for corporations? It should have been a tax cut for mental health therapists. If this keeps up, more Americans will need your help!

We believe EconoGirlfriend peer groups and problem solving can make a difference—thanks so much for sharing here.

Hey readers, can you relate? Do you have a story to share? Tell us here!

Anonymous Speaks: Master's Degree and $16/Hour

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“Even with a Master's in Accounting, I face the fact every day when I go to work that I'm not getting paid what I'm worth. I can't afford many things, including paying back my student loans because I've worked the past 10-1/2 years for a family-owned multi-million-dollar construction firm, making $12 to start and $16 an hour after 10 years. That's only a 40-cent raise per year.

I no longer have my medical benefits, because I can't afford my half, so my employer gets away with not even paying that benefit. I am too old to look for another job; I will retire at 70 in about seven years on only Social Security. Yes, I have the value of 10 years experience, but what good does that do me now? I'm nearly 63 years old, and no one is going to hire an aging, overweight, gray-haired woman!”

                                                                                                        —AnonymousSpeaks

(Got a story to share with other women? Click here and we'll share your story in confidence.)

Screwnomics says: You are not alone! A 2016 report from GlassDoor, which examines the gender gap in accounting in five countries, found it a fact in all five. The “unexplained” US gap between women and men is a whopping 30 percent difference. Here’s what GlassDoor says about the reasons for “explained” differences in accounting job placement (with boldface, ours):

WHAT’S THE MAIN CAUSE? The single biggest cause of the gender pay gap is occupation and industry sorting of men and women into jobs that pay differently throughout the economy. In the U.S., occupation and industry sorting explains 54 percent of the overall pay gap—by far the largest factor. For example, Census figures show women make up only 26 percent of highly paid chief executives but 71 percent of low-paid cashiers. Past research suggests this is due partly to social pressures that divert men and women into different college majors and career tracks, or to other gender norms such as women bearing disproportionate responsibility for child and elderly care, which pressures women into more flexible jobs with lower pay.

Others in the industry point to better prospects than usual right now. So don’t overlook the possibility of taking your ten years’ experience to another position. Even a small improvement plus benefits would make a difference to your retirement. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a great resource for learning how to negotiate a pay raise with benefits! 

Why an #EconoMeToo Movement Matters

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Ten years ago, Tarana Burke began encouraging women to share their stories with each other. She knew they weren’t easy stories to tell. She herself had experienced sexual assault, and seeing how common it was, and how often women blamed themselves, she began #MeToo. Women learned they weren’t alone. Far from it. When they united, they became survivors and stronger. They could support one another to make change.

My book Screwnomics, more than ten years in the making, puts forward a similar idea. Screwing is not a woman’s word. It is a male vernacular made common in the world of money. It describes someone cheated, humiliated, and dominated. Most often we laugh it off.  But whatever your gender, or sexual preference, to be screwed means essentially to be made "female," or used against your will by a more powerful someone, who demonstrates he cares nothing about you. The use of this metaphor is now so common, we seldom think about its gendered nature.

Like Tarana, I encourage women to share their story with other women. Money tales are also difficult to confide. Money’s our last taboo, as loaded and shameful as sex—and often connected to sexual messaging and racial and gender identity. But together women can face what so often is painful and infuriating—and can be changed when we end our silence. Because of Screwnomics and  its workbook, Where Can I Get Some Change?, designed to help women claim their own economic story, women often confide in me. In the past month, I’ve heard diverse but similar tales. When asked if I can share them, they're afraid, and say no. They don’t want to go public, or be recognized. It feels too dangerous—and probably is. Until we unite.

That’s why we’ve introduced our new blog spot: AnonymousSpeaks. It’s an easy way to tell your story, which we promise to share in confidence, without using your name, unless you tell us you want to make specifics public on our website. How’s it work?

Just go to: https://www.screwnomics.org/ and you’ll see: What Is Your Economic Story? A big red button says: Click here to share!

We’ll respond and get your confirmation to make sure it’s really you. We may also request style edits, and reserve the right to publish only stories that our editors believe will be helpful to others. Feel free to share any solutions that worked for you, also. We’ll share it with our followers on Facebook and on Twitter, using #Screwnomics #EconoMeToo. Together, we are powerful.