Decline and Fall

I grew up learning that the Roman Empire fell because of decadence. This was intertwined with Christianity as interpreted in Texas small towns. I don’t actually know much about Rome and my father, who was fascinated by Roman history, is no longer around to ask.

A quick Google search indicates that, as with many things, the collapse of the empire was the result of many things and decadence is unlikely to have been a major factor. And of course, these days cries of “decadence” come from right wing extremist talking points about drag queens and the idea that women control their own bodies.

So it’s a word one should use with caution.

But I read this Lyz Lenz Substack piece and felt so horrified that my first response was that the world was decaying around me.

What shocked me wasn’t the bros coming out to defend their rapist friend – I knew that happened. It was that there was a TV show called Punk’d over 20 years ago that was a nasty version of Candid Camera on steroids.

The show did appalling things to people for a joke. The one that really got me was the one that set up the pop star Mýa to go on a date with a guy who pretended he was obsessed with her in a very creepy way.

The people who did this had to know about the real problems famous people have with that kind of stalker, not to mention that this kind of obsession is one of the terrible things that happens to many women. But they put it on anyway and then called it a joke.

They got rich making “jokes” like this. And lots of people apparently watched this on television.

Now I think that’s decadent: making entertainment out of people’s very real fears. Continue reading “Decline and Fall”

What We Can Do

Reading Lyz Lenz’s latest newsletter (“Thank You, Dads of YouTube” ) brought me to the edge of tears.

It wasn’t her success at fixing her washer that got me. It was the fact that a woman much younger than I am still grew up surrounded by the belief that there were things women couldn’t do.

As someone old enough to remember how important this issue was in second wave feminism 50 years ago, it breaks my heart to know that so many people are still growing up with these stunted beliefs.

I don’t doubt that it’s true. It’s why I hope to teach some more self defense classes if we ever get enough of a handle on the pandemic for me to feel comfortable in a room full of people learning to yell “No.” Way too many women still believe that the fact that the average man is a little stronger than the average woman means they can’t protect themselves.

Spending half my life in the martial arts watching small people kick the asses of big people did that one in for me. I want to make sure other people know it, too.

We did make legal progress in the second wave, though the recent outrageous action of the partisan hacks on the US Supreme Court in nullifying the right to abortion by allowing a clearly unconstitutional Texas law to take effect is damaging legal rights as well.

(I was in law school when Roe v. Wade was decided. That was also a Texas case and I have met the lawyer who brought it — she was also my state representative back in the day.)

The same hacks also dismantled voting rights laws. It is not just women under attack in our society.

The extremist attacks make me angry, but the fact that so many women are still buying into the myths we fought to overcome in the 1970s is what breaks my heart. Continue reading “What We Can Do”