Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Memoire of Life Altering Events: Growing up female, white, poor, abused, overweight, talented and educated in America. {A response to BLM and MeToo! movements}

 UPDATE: Dereck Chauvin was found guilty of murder in the second, third-degree and manslaughter.

{ The trial of the killing of George Floyd began this week, I decided to post this blog that  I have been working on for several months. The 9min 29 secs it may take to read it, is my knee bent in reverence to acknowledge what has to stop in this country. To dismiss the life of another human being that is perceived and judged as beneath you, undeserving to breathe,  as his neck was restricted by this officer's knee.......)

[ A comment made by the prosecutor struck me as memorable and relates to my theme of love. He referred to the defense team implying Floyd's heart was diseased, too big, and affected his death.. and he felt if so then the officers was "too small".]

Out of a deep sleep..........

I awakened one morning to a nightmare, I was yelling for help and it startled me out of a deep sleep when I heard my own voice of helplessness. This was not a fantasy dream it was true. I am going to trust this memory has surfaced from my soul to heal itself and that I am courageous enough to do so at this time. This memory is linked to the current "Me Too" movement. Women who are finally speaking out about abuse at the hand of men in positions of power.  In this dream, I yelled, screamed out against the rapist and this was with courage I did not have 45 years ago.

The "Me too!" and "BLM" movements are both meaningful and healing for me and all who speak up, even for the first time. As a woman and living in this country, this post also shares my racial experiences, the only way I can get to an understanding that is remotely familiar to the "life of color" in our culture. I am white and therefore automatically privileged already. Yet as a woman I am still being held back and dismissed. Most recently by the traditional medical profession for my apparent weight issues, yet healthier than 10 years ago after not following medical advice and medicine prescribed.

[ Note: In 2000 I knew a man of color would be elected in this country to the Presidency before a woman. This was true in 2008. This makes Election 2020 historical for women AND women of color to be represented for the first time by this Democratic party nomination.]

(As of Nov 6, 2020 elected to be next Vice President of the USA)


          The following events have formed and continue to influence my understanding of these struggles.

" Time to head to the kitchen."

MY grade school teachers would announce a half-hour before lunch hour. As a poor student being raised by a single mother, eligible for the free lunch program, it required me to go to the kitchen, put on an apron, and get ready to serve the meal to my fellow students, even from my homeroom. The stigma of being "poor" and becoming a servant to my peers was humiliating. We would eat after the other students and miss our playtime outside with the others.


"Not her!"

I was usually chosen last to be on a sports team in elementary school because of my weight, until 6th grade and I would reveal how skilled I was. After proving myself, I was always wanted as a teammate on the winning team after that.


"Why does he pick her every time, look at her!"

Fellow popular female students would whisper, loud enough for me to hear them. A basketball star on the middle school team, Tom, would choose me on Friday to be his partner in dance class. This continued for two years. I was clearly a poor student living with a divorced parent..Quite a stigma in the 50s-60s.


"You were 10 years old at the time and I was so ashamed of my brothers."

My aunt Adele, the only sister of my father, Carl Anderson, revealed how she was denied permission to invite Marion Anderson to join us for Christmas Eve dinner [1959] on behalf of the Portland Oregon Opera Association. My aunt had been a light to me about how to navigate this world of dark inequality since I was a young child. She shared this event with me as a 30-year-old niece, while living and working with her [1980].  My aunt a former opera singer, Madame Butterfly, the lead performer, in Oslo Norway, was a member of the Opera Association since retirement. When I watched Marion Anderson's performance for the inauguration [ 1961] of John F Kennedy, I did not know I was denied the opportunity of meeting and possibly hearing her sing a duet with my aunt during our family's holiday celebration.


"Did you see your father raise a knife to your mother?"

The judges question to me in court at the second divorce trial of my parents. I was 9 years old in 1957. Divorce then was granted if one partner was proven a 'bad' person. Her child support never came through. She could only put my dad in jail for non-payment. He could not work then!? So we went without financial help until my mother remarried.


"What's happening?"

I asked my freshman dorm roommate Suzanne.  A group of male students surrounded both of us as we exited the cafeteria and pushed us into the elevator leading to the men's 6th floor of the dormitory. Suzanne was held and released after I was forced to walk down 5 flights of stairs with shaming comments by the men all the way down. Soon after she attempted suicide. She never told me what happened to her that afternoon in the elevator. 1967


"Take a look at the quad!"

As a class was in session my classmates were heading to the windows. We could hear a commotion outside. A group of black athletes was gathering in the middle of the quad, at the crossroads. And it was for the students involved. They had petitioned the college officials to establish a Black Student Union and to create scholarships for black women to attend the university. They were being harassed for dating the white female students on campus. All were denied, so every black athlete walked off campus together. Leaving behind their educations and future prospects for sports careers. I did follow-up research to find Benton county where the Corvallis college is located was one of two northern US counties to have strongholds of the KKK. The other in the Chicago area.  To this day OSU has not been a serious contender in the college league for sports competitions. The legacy of one day in the spring of 1970


When I was awakened from a drunken sleep with his knees on my arms and his hand on my mouth about to be raped by my cousin's friend from Germany. We gave him a welcoming party the evening prior at my cousin's university apartment to celebrate his engagement. It was 1970. I did not tell anyone except for my cousin after he awoke and found me locked in the bathroom. His response was "Are you sure?"


" It is done, never again,"

A call in 1970 to meet on the quad at the University of Oregon to surrender the symbols of our imprisoned views of our culture. and our roles in it...Our bras! My commitment was to open my eyes to new ways of viewing both women and men in our society. Fifty years later I  have kept this group pact.


"Why are you leaving the department now? You are doing so well."

The OSU Architecture department head comments as I informed him I was not returning the next year. I went from a C grade the first term to an A grade the third term in his theory class while being ignored as his only female student the previous 9 months. 1970.


" Your signature is required to continue receiving your quarterly grant for college. The contract reads, if any government property is damaged while you are protesting, you will lose your grant."

Intimidation by the financial department head of the University of Oregon to stop protesting "the war" or I as a low-income female student would have to leave school. I signed the form and kept on protesting. I was willing to take this to court and challenge govt funding practices of denying financial assistance versus my right to free speech and peaceful protest. 1970-72.


"Help me make the coffee for the men."

My manager directed me, a woman, while on a college work-study job assignment as an engineering assistant for a local highway construction company. She dressed in heels as men wore relaxed clothing. I was amazed how far she had come in her profession,  yet was held to a service position amongst the men and she wanted me to understand this, "my place" at work. Later, I was called into the office and pushed up against the wall, chest to chest, by a male supervisor for refusing to wear a dress. I climbed all over a Kelsh plotter machine [ 6lx6wx8h feet} used for cartography mapping of areas to be under road construction. I kept my job for two years with off-and-on harassment. It was the highest-paying job I could find to finance my college education. I kept wearing slacks! 1970-73

Kelsh plotter

"This is very fine work. Where are you from?"

A critique after transferring from OSU to UofO in 1970 and taking my first oil painting class taught by the Art department head. As my advisor, he admitted after my second year in the Art department was completed, he seldom invested in his female students because they are " only there to find a husband".


" Your studio space for BFA graduate work will be in the corner of the painting classroom".

The Art department head informed me after I committed my own money to receive a BFA degree by working three jobs with no scholarship funding. The other male students in this program were given private studio space to paint and prepare for the final "Art Show". After a requested grievance hearing, I was assigned a private studio space to work and completed my "One-woman Show" in the spring of 1973. Note: my teacher was in attendance at my 1973 fall wedding as a friend, mentor, and personal photographer of the event.


"She stole the doughnuts from the receptionist desk. I saw her carrying them out of the office."

 The accusation of a fellow male employee during our weekly staff meeting. I was seen taking them to the bus and NOT seen providing them for my newly formed "Movies in the Afternoon" activity in a nearby low-income housing apartment building. I was the only one in our group establishing the goal of our agency to facilitate community relationships with the lonely and isolated disabled seniors in this city project. 1974.


" I realized after reading your resume, that we must hire you. Can you start working this weekend as a busser and start as a cook in two weeks?"

The call I received after returning home that day from my interview and was told they were not hiring for a position at a newly opened lunch restaurant in Anchorage. After bussing tables the next weekend, I went on to become the manager/cook after 6 months and developed it into a dinner place on weekends. When I went to most job interviews I was easily dismissed by my appearance alone. It was assumed I had little energy for the position or skill. 1980


" You closed the men's bathroom!  You locked it up, open it now!"

The comment made to me by the construction camp manager alongside the military commander of the naval base, Adak Island Ak. One of the 4 restrooms was trashed daily out of disrespect for the all-woman housekeeping crew I managed. Sexual graffiti on mirrors and nonuse of trash cans.  I warned them of "closing it down"  in the future. I knew if one was closed they would have to use the other three and crowd them. 200 men in the camp. It was so important to keep my word. I was asked and immediately opened the restroom doors. It established respect that was not challenged for the remainder of the year. I was the only woman living in the camp and the head of the kitchen and housekeeping crew. Even at 1000.00 a week, I was the lowest-paid employee in the camp


" I don't know why you are here? Wasting time?."

The comment by my Abbot at the Zen monastery. Other comments include references to my weight not being ok with him. These abusive comments over a 6 year period were not singled out for me. Other women revealed a similar relationship with shaming comments from the current primary male teacher available to us. I asked for a meeting with his top student assistant also to be present. She chose a public setting where any or all fellow practitioners could see his reaction to my withdrawing my honor and respect for him as my Abbot. No longer would I ring bells, chant or play drums for his lectures. I considered him a fellow practitioner, no more than that. He answered loudly so anyone near could hear his voice and perceive I was the cause of his outburst. " What do you want from me?" Out of my own awareness, I moved to a less naive yet equal place of practice and not because of his conscious awareness of a practice issue to benefit me. 1989


" You are just drug-seeking!"

The nurse commented after technicians cleared me of brain trauma at the Harborview Trauma Center, Seattle. I had fallen in the bathroom resulting in a head injury from my collapsed left knee. The Director of the shelter insisted I go for tests. When paramedics loaded me into the ambulance at the local homeless shelter, my home at the time was noted on my chart. I was treated as a second-class citizen. There was no regard for my need to be covered by a blanket on that cold rainy day. The trip was very painful and no urgency was given to travel time to the hospital. After all, tests were completed,  no trauma miraculously was found. The nurse left me to dress while my face swelled and went black from the bruises. My back was in spasms, I could not even get off the gurney without further pain. 2012


I have seen even more of this basic attitude of dismissal by men of authority and women also and my peers. It is well communicated to me "you don't matter!"  Has my life been threatened on a regular basis? No. I  have been singled out and profiled as to my abilities and basic human rights. So these are some of my experiences that fully support both movements to speak out about their lives. THEY MATTER. And for myself to stand up in my own life for others deserving of love and compassion.


Thank you to all that speak out in a nonviolent way. I am just beginning to express myself and my life as it was. God's Grace ensures "we are all enough".