The Game

The Game:

Modern life and the American dream;

catharsis at best, dangerous at worst.

The opportunity behind both is the potential to rise above, step out of our current chapter in our story, even step out of the story itself.

Letting go of our stories, not identifying…

then how do we identify, and with what, with whom, for how long, and when?

When does our identity shift again?

What about reality, authentically being in the moment?

Being mad, being hurt, being happy, being confused, being scared, being joyful, being connected, being disconnected, being obsessed…

being human.

Marketers and Gurus are one and the same…

don’t let them drive your idea of what you are supposed to be;

don’t let them tell you what that is supposed to look like.

We’re caught up in this illusion of individualism,

yet we crave connection above anything else

And spend our time and our lives trying to buy it, earn it, sell it, create it, rate it, sing it, write it, play it, act it, trade it, legislate it, kill it.

We perform;

even in our own space.

This tug of war between what we want and what we think we need

and the only way I’ve ever found

to get out of that space

is to love,

to give,

to receive,

to speak kindness,

to touch,

to give my time and attention.

For love is the only freedom that allows us to be fully human with one another.

While the world continues its demand that we stifle everything which defines our humanity…

conscripting our best qualities for its own purposes,

and discarding the rest, so that we always have a void to fill

from which someone else can profit.

Where is the freedom in that?

© 2018 HAWilcox

#me too… We’re all in this together.

A few weeks ago, millions of women on social media have been trending the phrase “Me Too”, to bring awareness to rape culture in light of the scandals behind Harvey Weinstein and the infamous “casting couch”.  Since then, at least 23 other men (as of 11/14/17) who are public figures have been accused of sexual harassment and/or assault, most by several women, and some by men.  These accusations and the self-disclosure of people on social media exposes a quiet epidemic of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse in our society, and I am grateful that public discourse is taking place.  I am also grateful for the many men who are not only speaking up in support of women, but also to let us know that this affects men who do not meet the definition of “masculine” in our society.  Just as women are socialized to compete with each other for the attention of men through jealousy, and are taunted by media and marketing that continually promote low self-esteem, men are socialized to be more masculine through bullying that calls them a sissy or a girl, and through violence, and even through sexual assault.  It is no less traumatic, and every man experiences some level of this in their childhood as a form of gender-policing.

It’s important to emphasize here that men (regardless of sexual orientation) and transgender (across the gender spectrum) people suffer from rape culture as well.  Sexism drives how we shape our cultural notions of masculinity, which is based on belittling men and boys by comparing them to women and girls in an effort to get them to conform to masculine ideals.  Men have a higher rate of rape by both men and women than most people realize (around 9% reported, actual numbers are more difficult to estimate because of the stigma attached to reporting rape).  Transgender people have an the highest rate of sexual assault across the gender spectrum at a whopping 50%.  It’s also important to recognize that women can be equally abusive toward both men and women with behaviors that are included in the definition of, and stem from, rape culture.  However, this article is relatively hetero-normative because rape culture stems from the concept that gender is a binary construct and that heterosexuality is the prevailing norm in our culture.  Future articles will be posted that address these issues as they specifically and respectively affect men and transgender individuals, and the LGBTQ community.

Rape culture is not solely about sexual assault; it is about a myriad of concepts, behaviors, traditions, and idioms in our culture that promote misogyny and the subjugation and objectification of women.  Its very definition is the pervasive normalization of the above-listed behaviors that minimize and excuse sexual harassment and assault.  The phenomena isn’t new to sociologists.  Multiple studies have exposed several layers to rape culture.  The first, and most universal piece is the account, or the social script… which is a story that a person will give to re-frame their behavior to remove guilt by using either an excuse (reason why), or a justification (circumstance) to avoid stigma, shame, and culpability for their behavior.  Both recognize the behavior as wrong, but deflect responsibility for the behavior.  The second, and equally universal piece, is the Neutralization technique.  These are a type of justification that a person gives for their behavior to assuage their guilt.  Criminologists Gresham Sykes and David Matza found 5 neutralization techniques to be common across various criminal and ethically questionable acts, and they are pervasive in rape culture.

  • The first is Denial of Responsibility, where the perpetrator claims to be a victim of either situations beyond their control or circumstance.
  • The second is Denial of Injury, where the perpetrator believes that their actions did not actually cause any harm to the victim.
  • The third is Denial of the Victim, where the perpetrator believes that their victim deserved what happened to them.
  • The fourth is Condemnation of the Condemners, where the perpetrator minimizes the response of those who condemn the act in an effort to shift the blame and focus from themselves to those who are condemning the act.
  • The last is Appeal to Higher Loyalties, where the perpetrator holds some belief (often religious or moral in nature) that their actions are justified as part of a scriptural or other “moral” prerogative.

Another study of Convicted Rapists Vocabulary of Motive by sociologists Diana Scully and Joseph Marolla found a common theme of 5 neutralization techniques to construct rape as acceptable in the rapist mind.  Not surprisingly, these techniques are perpetuated in everyday life: in the court-room from defense attorneys, in hushed conversations about what she was drinking or wearing, in trainings offered to girls and women to prevent themselves from being raped or assaulted (and the lack of training for boys and men on how to not harass or assault women), in the porn industry, and even in women’s fashion magazines.

These five techniques are:

  • Framing Women as “Seductresses”- Her fault, slut shaming, how she dresses or behaves. Essentially, this frames the rapist as being helpless to control his urges and a victim of the woman’s seductive powers.
  • “No Means Yes”- She didn’t really mean no… women are the gatekeepers of their virtue, they are supposed to say no to save face, but they don’t really mean it. This is rooted in the idea that a woman is supposed to be sexually coy and a man sexually aggressive.
  • “Most Women Relax and Enjoy It”- Sound familiar? Recently touted by top government officials in talks about laws regarding women’s health issues.  This idea continues to prevail despite the long-term physiological and psychological effects of rape, including injury, future sexual dysfunction, PTSD, depression, and stigma.
  • “Nice Girls Don’t get Raped”- Another form of slut shaming. Often used against sex workers, minority or otherwise disenfranchised or marginalized women such as single mothers, women who have been part of an extra-marital affair, women who have had several sex partners, women who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of rape, and women who are dressed provocatively.  Yet another way of deflecting responsibility for the actions of the perpetrator.
  • “Only a Minor Wrongdoing”- Rape isn’t as bad as it seems. It’s just sex.  It’s ok for men to be aggressive.

These were the justifications used by rapists when interviewed extensively, and these patterns are pervasive in our society.  We see and hear these daily, in terms that are summarized nicely on the Only With Consent website, which includes a list of beliefs and actions that we see and hear every day, and often dismiss as benign.  The current exposure of perpetrators in the public eye is just the tip of the iceberg, and a very important one.  It is helping victims of sexual harassment and assault speak their truth and find solidarity with others in their community, many of whom were not open about this shared experience.

Even more importantly, men are beginning to step up and ask us to define the elements of sexual harassment, consent, assault, abuse.  Some are asking about ways to communicate with their partners, families, and friends about their experiences.  Men are realizing their culpability and stepping up and admitting that they have been a part of this phenomenon.  Men are opening up about how they feel, often stating that they feel that they are walking on eggshells around women for fear of saying or doing something that could be construed as harassment or unwanted touch.  Men are also stepping up and admitting their own experiences with being sexually harassed or assaulted.  This is a good sign.  We need more of this.  A great blog addressing men’s relationship to how we perpetuate and can begin to change rape culture can be found here.

In short, men have many ways to stop participating in rape culture.  Stop engaging in jokes that demean women.  Think about the language we use regarding women… is it demeaning?  Dehumanizing?  Objectifying?  Learn about enthusiastic consent.  Don’t assume consent… communicate with your partner.  Pay attention to examples of how media, music, and marketing perpetuate rape culture.  Call out other men when you see or hear them engaging in these behaviors.  Check your beliefs about gender roles, sexuality, and violence.  Admit when you realize that you have engaged in these behaviors.  Call out sexism the way you would call out racism.  Go a step further and study power dynamics and privilege in society.

Rape Culture isn’t going away.  It is another shameful part of our culture and history that we need to address, and it takes all of us to find our voice, to learn and speak up about it.

#metoo = #we’reallinthistogether

Gratitude, Patience, and Compassion

A friend of mine called the other day sounding distraught, and left a message saying that I’m one of the most grounded people she knows, and of course, my mind immediately started arguing with her statement instead of accepting the compliment.  Strangely enough, she’s one of the most unfailingly positive people I know, so I guess that makes us even… if we’re playing that game.  We constantly compare ourselves to those around us, and fail to recognize our own attributes.  There is value in comparison, but it is important to maintain perspective.  In this case, I mean a realistic and positive perspective about our own value and inherent worth.  For me, this starts with the ability to be vulnerable and feel safe.

We want the safety of being vulnerable with others, but we rarely allow others to be vulnerable with us… or perhaps we don’t recognize vulnerability when it hides behind a mask of anger, anxiety, or frustration. Paradoxically, we are often more compassionate with others than with ourselves; yet we place people on a pedestal, and when they act human, unless they are in our “circle”, we demonize them for being so.  I meet women every day who admire so much in others, but don’t recognize their own worth… I’ve been that woman too. It still sometimes shocks me when another woman tells me that she admires me.  Those people we have placed on a pedestal are our role models, and we can’t bear to see them as fallible, vulnerable human beings, because our own self-image might be shattered.
We are socialized to always look like we have it all together, and we spend enormous amounts of energy on self-deprecation and striving to be more like the people we see around us.  We are taught from an early age that we must work three times as hard as the guys, and not receive praise or validation for our work, and that we must compete with other women for validation from others.  We are taught that our value is not inherent, but dependent upon our relationships to others…  daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, mother, grandmother.  But Never. Just. Woman.

Perhaps it’s time to be more of ourselves… warts and all, and more accepting of the same in others.  As long as we are constantly comparing and competing, we will never be happy.  I’ve found this to be true for myself…  I’m not competitive with others for the most part, but I’m constantly competing with myself, trying to be better, do better than I have before.  When I slip, I find myself in a spiral of self-deprecating thoughts intended to motivate me, but often does the opposite.  This is that vulnerable space of which I speak. What I’ve found is that gratitude is the key to being patient with myself and with the world around me.  When I sit in a place of gratitude, even for the negative experiences in my life from which so many opportunities have taken root, I am able to hold space for the patience, curiosity and tenacity necessary to nurture those opportunities into fruition.  In this space, I find a sense of awe and wonder that feeds the compassion it takes to work through those places in which I feel stuck so I can move forward.

It’s often easier to hold this space for others whom we love, but not for ourselves or for those with whom we experience conflict.  So there is my new challenge for myself.  I hope you will join me in finding ways to practice more patience and compassion for ourselves and for those with whom we are in conflict, through gratitude.  And perhaps, our own vulnerability will lead us not only to compassion, but to seeing that connection which binds us all in the space where “other” does not exist.



Some days we feel helpless
against the tide of lists and details
which plague our existence
our livelihoods
our thoughts
Needing to create order
to induce a sense of control
Order is a neurotic symptom
and control an illusion…
There must be a point on this spectrum
where my need for these is sated
Where the routines and constants
that enable the quiet contentment in the soul
are not disrupted
even as the world rushes by
or as we run to catch that bus headed for success
Where we can sit
right where we are
and start with whatever is right in front of us
and make order
of that place in the universe
which we occupy
in any given moment.



Priorities~ A Rant

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but it seems that every time something important is happening in Washington DC, most corporate and social media outlets re-direct our attention to scandals and frivolous details instead of the main story.  This week, 3 main stories are happening, but only one is flooding social media and consistently mentioned in the news.  First, Hurricane Maria is no less devastating than the recent Harvey and Irma, but because it hasn’t hit the US Mainland (just one of those pesky territories), it’s not at the top of anyone’s list.  Second, the current ACA Repeal bill, the Graham-Cassidy bill, will be put to a vote within the next few days, and if passed, will deny millions of Americans basic health care and strip some of the protections for women’s health care.  And third, many NFL players are joining Colin Kaepernick in silent protest of police brutality against African Americans.  All three are life threatening, but only one is receiving major attention by our president and media, and that one, though no less devastating or important than the other two, is the one that has been twisted into a free-for-all debate over free speech rather than honoring the actual intent of the protest, and which overshadows the immediate threats to millions of American lives (including Puerto Ricans and American Citizens living on the island in the case of Irma and the millions who will not be able to get healthcare without the ACA).

This morning, I’m truly ashamed of our national priorities.  Ok, so I’ve been ashamed of them since the 2016 Election, but that’s another story.  I think that the question is, Where do we go from here?  Perhaps it’s time that we stop fighting each other over the details of who is more important and which threat is more immediate and what constitutes free-speech vs dissent vs disrespect, and focus on the fact that all of these are important.  All of these point to a system that is inherently racist, sexist, ableist and cares nothing for the working poor without whom our economy wouldn’t exist.  They also point to the fact that our infrastructure cannot support the sheer numbers of people affected by natural disasters, which are increasingly more dangerous and more devastating due to climate change.  Additionally, they show how unsustainable our system is when it’s workers cannot take care of their basic health and work, and those who do not work will not be able to afford the goods or services being produced.

Perhaps it’s time that we focus on the reality that we have so many systematic failures in our current government, lifestyles, economy and priorities that no one will be unscathed in the end, and that unifying for solutions is a necessity if we give a damn about our future as a nation, and even as a species.  There are solutions out there, and many people are doing what they can to be a part of it.  However, the energy that we are wasting over every little distraction and scandal that comes down the line could be better put to civic and civil engagement.

I may be wrong.  I may not have all the answers…  but I’m not giving in to the latest sensationalism and I’m not giving up on our potential to create a sustainable and equitable solution.


Every ray of morning sun is a promise

just beginning to discover itself…

and every sunset, a passionate tribute of that promise fulfilled.

We go through life, trying to catch our breath,

holding on, pushing harder…

yearning, reaching, grasping,


to quench our desire

in the bottomless well

of a human heart.

Every tear is made of crystals of truth

yearning to be set free.

And in every constellation,

lies the inspiration

of legacy and the fates.

Every moonbeam is a reflection of that promise,

allowing us to exhale…

to let go,

of desire’s grasp on the soul,

shedding light on the love that never leaves

when the world changes faster than the seasons can blink.

Each day is a new dance between the sun and moon…

And those shafts of light from the heavens

remind us

that the promise we seek is realized

when we are grateful for what we already have.



Common Sense Ain’t so Common Anymore…

My son and I have been having a lot of conversations about how people communicate.  It is one of those life lessons that isn’t taught in school, or often even at home.  Nuance, sarcasm, reading between the lines, being assertive versus being aggressive or passive-aggressive, feeling heard, re-framing an argument, accusations, tone of voice, expressions, gas-lighting, body language, and the hardest of all, listening to hear the other side.  Unfortunately, most of us pick up these skills on the playground long before they are somewhat addressed in school.  Those who don’t learn them are misunderstood and often disciplined by adults for not understanding what is expected, or left to be picked apart by bullies socially, and often have a low-self esteem for not being able to live up to social standards.

We’ve had tons of fodder recently.  Watching clips of 45’s speeches and his tweets have been a lesson in how a person can twist the truth to accuse others of what he himself is doing.  They’ve been a lesson in how people try to shape our reality by telling us what is real and what isn’t, despite our actual experience, or by telling us that our experience is wrong. They’ve been a lesson in how people over-use words like “Ok” in a forceful way as an indication that they are right, and you’d better understand that point of view, as though you are a 4 year old being told that this is how things are, period.  They’ve been a lesson in every type of fallacy of logic that exists. They’ve been a lesson in mudslinging and character assassination as a tool to deflect responsibility for one’s own actions or emotions.  They’ve been a lesson in deconstructing and separating valid points from the rest of the above, to see the meaning behind the rhetoric and form our own conclusions based on our own experience.  And they’ve held many more lessons.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to engage in these kinds of discussions with my kid, because I didn’t have them when growing up myself, and had to learn many communication and social skills the hard way.  The assumptions we make about how to interact with other humans can be devastating when we don’t have this kind of information.  It puts an individual at risk for abusive relationships, miscommunication on the job, social difficulties, and being gullible in many areas.  It puts their future families at risk for perpetuating the inability to listen and communicate well, and sets them up for difficulties in getting the most out of an education.  It puts a society at risk for being scammed by politicians, businessmen, clergymen, and pundits who were groomed to manipulate people with language, ideals, and rhetoric.

For myself, common-sense communication is a matter of asking questions and slowing down enough to listen to the answers, rather than trying to think of the next thing to say.  It’s also about slowing down enough to make sure I’m understood, and to re-evaluate my communication methods and even my position.  This way, it’s not a matter of being right or wrong as a matter of character, but instead as a matter of fact and experience… neither of which can be changed, only redefined (hopefully for it’s meaning for the greater good).  I’m grateful for this opportunity to learn with my son…  and these times are ripe with opportunity and possibility to shift our trajectory, if we only take the initiative to work past our initial reactions to follow the possible prospects for a better experience.