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Men Abusing Power

A newspaper headline catches my eye; allegations that the mayor of Driscoll, Texas, is under investigation for racial slurs and sexual harassment. Driscoll is a small town in the Corpus Christi, TX metropolitan area. I am spending this week in South Texas, doing interviews and research for some theater pieces.

The mayor of Driscoll, Marcos Zavala, is charged with making sexually suggestive comments to female employees and openly commenting about his sexual encounters with various women (not his wife, the newspaper notes). Several female employees have complained that his comments made them uncomfortable.

The women also complained of Zavala's use of a racial slur for black people while at City Hall. The story goes on to note that one of the women has biracial children, and the other was raised by a black man. According to one complaint, when the women confronted the mayor after an incident earlier this year, he told them it was "no big deal" because he had relatives who used the word "often."

The article goes on to report that the city’s governing body voted to permit “Zavala to come to City Hall to fulfill mayoral obligations . . . but must notify city staff when he is coming to City Hall in order to allow female employees an opportunity to be somewhere else.” I read and then re-read the lines, "allow female employees an opportunity to be somewhere else," presumably unable to do their jobs while the mayor is at City Hall. All I can do is shake my head.

I'm offended on ALL counts reading about this pinche idota, and I know there is work to be done to check racism within communities of color. Being on the receiving end of racial slurs, as I am certain Zavala has been, did not sensitize him and create a sense of kinship or protectiveness toward other people of color. A brown man in a position of authority is an enforcer of white supremacy and misogyny. Hijole.

Offensive comments and behavior of the sexual nature described are usually the exclusive domain of men. To be clear, I am not saying ALL men act this way, many men do not, but when you read about this behavior you can bet a man's name is attached to it. Within nanoseconds my fingers tap the keys on my computer and the following names appear on my screen: Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Silvio Berlusconi, Clarence Thomas, Charlie Rose, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, Roy Moore, Tony Mendoza, Bill Clinton, Eric Schneidermann, Alex Kozinski, Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz. I know why some of these seemingly random names found their way to my computer screen, I've been listening to Rebecca Solnit's The Mother of All Questions (audiobooks are great company when I'm out hiking alone). Men abusing their power in entertainment, judiciary, journalism, public office. A notorious college student's name crops up often and these are authors whose work I admire who have been named in the firestorm phenomena, #MeToo. The acts of some of the above men went far beyond sexual harassment: assault, rape, strangulation, death threats.

Stories about men abusing their power are everywhere, and right now many women are emboldened to come forth, but sadly most women still stay silent, knowing they could lose their jobs, that opportunities they deserve may be withheld, or worried that they will be blamed and publicly excoriated and ostracized for daring to complain about mistreatment. Worse yet, that threats against their lives could well be carried out. Thank you sisters for coming forth with the stories that have led to the downfall of so many prominent men. This is some serious stuff, we must continue to speak up, take action.

How do we clean up the mess these guys have made in so many sectors? Would the nasty, crass, creepy, and perhaps even unlawful activities taking place in boardrooms, courtrooms, the White House and the United States Congress be happening if we had a fair representation of women in all these places where great power is wielded? Me thinks not.

A great place where we can make change is via the ballot box. Given that most people begin their political careers at the local level, what can we do to increase the pool of women candidates for city council, school board, district attorney, mayors, state representatives? Why has the number of women elected to the California Legislature declined rather than increased in recent years?

Come hear about the important work of close the gap CA (CTGCA), a campaign to recruit progressive women to run for the California Legislature.

Honored that CTGCA asked me to join Ayelet Waldman for a conversation on the way that gender, power, and culture collide and what this could mean in a year of extraordinary political opportunity for women.

Ayelet Waldman is the author of A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, the novels Love and Treasure, Red Hook Road, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, and Daughter's Keeper, as well as of the essay collection Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace and the Mommy-Track Mystery series. She is the editor of Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women's Prisons, and Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation. She was a Federal Public Defender and an Adjunct Professor at the UC Berkeley Law School where she developed and taught a course on the legal implications of the War on Drugs. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband, Michael Chabon, and their four children.

Please join us.

When: Thursday, May 31, 2018, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Where: The Berkeley Mills Showroom

2830 Seventh Street, Berkeley

(between Grayson and Heinz Streets)

For additional information contact Cynthia Brantly Pierce,

or 510-704-1657.

Your presence supports a really good cause.

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