A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me about an app called Instagram Reports.
You could see who followed and unfollowed you and some other creepy features that allowed you to track the Instagram people in your life. I’m not a person with a big Instagram base as my friend is, but she had me download it so I could see the kinds of things that it could do. I stopped using it pretty much after she showed me, but it has been sitting on my phone since.
A few days ago I wrote a blog about my thoughts about the Kavanaugh hearings, and my own experiences tied in with the MeToo movement and my experience as a Yale student. It was wading into political waters per say, so I knew there could potentially be a strong reaction to it, but nevertheless some of what I shared in it was personal, and I felt compelled to share my thoughts and experiences around all of what has been going on these last few months.
After writing the blog, I also threw a small blurb up on my Instagram, addressing some of the main points of the blog, which in my mind were fairly benign; my final points being that
1) As women we need to share our experiences. We are worthy and our voices need to be heard.
2) All of us reading this are privileged, as am I. We need to start standing up, male, female, black, white, all of us for those in our society, spheres and world that don’t share the same opportunities, and have the same privileged voice that we do. I think we are getting a preview of what will happen if we don’t.
Because I keep my followers and following pretty close in number (Don’t judge, I’m OCD like that), I noticed the next morning after that post that I lost a number of followers.
I remembered about the app on my phone and I checked, and I saw from my small follower base, that 3 (straight, white) guys, and a girl unfollowed me, immediately after I posted that post.
My first reaction was to think to myself, man, I shouldn’t have posted something that may have offended those people. I like all 4 of them, they are really great people. I should really just keep my Instagram and maybe all my social media to light and happy posts.
And then I thought to myself, this is exactly the fucking problem.
I have always been super gullible and believe anything that people tell me. As a kid, teenager, young adult, hell into my 30’s, I’ve always been a people pleaser. A lot of the messaging I have absorbed and am conditioned with (and actively trying to become aware of and change if necessary) has revolved around being as good of a person as possible, being as nice and helpful as possible, always, always, being concerned about how I make other people feel, and trying to stay out of trouble.
One of my favourite stories on these above notes was when I was 6 years old. I had just learned the song “Hello Operator” (not sure if any of you know it, but it was a timeless elementary school classic in North America in the 80’s).
I decided, as a wise six year old would, that singing it to my parents, other kids, strangers, anyone really, wasn’t good enough.
I needed to next level that shit, and call the operator and sing the song to them myself.
So with my parents distracted, on a Sunday after church when no one was paying attention to me, I picked up the phone, dialed zero and called the operator.
Once the woman said hello, I proceeded to bust out my best version of Hello Operator, and then hung up, pleased as could be with myself, thinking how stoked the operator must have been to have gotten a call with a song all about them.
Until the phone rang moments after I hung up, and my Dad answered it. I just had a feeling that I was going to get into trouble, so I did my best acting, pretending I was absorbed with a toy in the playroom, until my Dad stormed into the room.
Ciara did you call the operator?
No. I responded, straightfaced.
Ciara I know you called the operator, she just called back. Don’t lie to me.
Ok. Yes I did.
And then my Dad with some of the most hilarious, parental-thinking-on-the-spot said very seriously to me, in a manner that I still remember clearly over 30 years later:
Ciara, if you hit zero you call Africa. The operator told me this time that she will let us get away with it, but if you ever call the operator again, we are going to have to sell our house to pay for it. Calling Africa is very, very expensive.
So, I never, ever, ever, called the operator again, and for years later, was afraid to go anywhere near the phone in case I by mistake, dialed the wrong number, and called Africa and caused my family to lose our house.
Until my early teenage years, I wholeheartedly believed and told this story along with one that someone had told me a couple of years after the “Operator Africa” story, that if you hit someone on the back with their eyes crossed they will stay like that forever.
Until one day, when I was maybe 14, while telling one of the stories, I was like, hold on a second and thought:
They all lied to me! Dialing the operator doesn’t take the call to Africa, and I can hit my buddy on the back all I want, and their eyes aren’t staying crossed.
And then I thought, oh my god I’m 14, how the hell could I have believed those things for so long (and yes, in case you’re getting really worried, I had stopped believing in Santa when I was 10).
It was then I realized, the extreme issue that comes with not questioning things that we have been told, and how some things are just so embedded in our minds, that they become truths, until something comes up and makes it clear to us, just how very wrong they are.
Last week, I took my niece on the bus for the first time. She’s 2, and if you want to get super bonus points in the land of toddlers, the bus is one of the more stimulating places you can take a kid.
She was in the height of excitement.
The noises, the people, the dinging when someone called for their stop, she was loving every moment of it, and wouldn’t stop toddler babbling about it. I was loving watching her experience it too, and thought it was adorable and hilarious.
Until some older guy, came on to the bus and sat across from us.
What’s her name? He asked me.
I told him.
And he started trying to talk to my niece, who was clearly shy, not interested, and didn’t want to have anything to do with this guy. And he kept trying, to the point that I just picked my niece up, and made conversation with her clearly trying to give this guy a message that we weren’t interested in talking to him. But he wouldn’t stop, to the point that it made me uncomfortable.
I saw empty seats, across from us, but worrying about offending him, I didn’t want to blatantly move away from him, especially cause my niece was comfortable where we were.
I thought about just getting off the bus at the next stop, but it was in the middle of nowhere, I had no idea when the next bus would come after that and needed to get her home for a nap.
And so I just sat there uncomfortably for the rest of the ride, creeped out that the creep wouldn’t take the hint and just leave us alone.
But I was also ashamed.
Ashamed that I didn’t have the words, the courage, whatever you want to call it to tell him to leave us alone. And it made me just so aware how as women how inculcated we have the message in us from a young age, that we are supposed to be polite, kind, and worry about everyone else before ourselves, including offending people that deserve to be offended.
It was like I was 6 years old again, and instead of being petrified that I was going to be doing something bad by calling the operator in Africa, the grown ass woman version of myself, was worried about doing something wrong by standing up for myself and my niece and telling the creep to leave us alone.
It just made me so aware of how so many of us haven’t been given the tools and the voice to get ourselves out of these kinds of situations and have learned just to endure it, part of why these conversations around MeToo and the Kavanaugh hearings have been so damn valuable.
The events of the last few months have made it so clear that it is desperate times for us as women to start a new normal, because no one else will.
Pink re-posted something fantastic yesterday from an Instagram user @alison, that I think bears repeating.
She captioned it: Listen up young bucks
“Too many young girls don’t know how to act when someone’s being inappropriate with them. They giggle, or they try to brush it off. Don’t do that. Tell them to go fuck themselves-be a bitch. If someone’s being disrespectful to you, be disrespectful right back. Show them the same amount of respect that they show you.”
All I could think was that some of us older bucks could do with that message too.
I did my UEFA B licence in 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. I was the only female in a course full entirely with men, with all male instructors.
To say I was intimidated when I first walked into the hotel lobby to get my gear would be an understatement. In fact, I walked upstairs to change in my room, looked into the mirror and said out loud
Ciara, why the fuck do you put yourself into these situations.
And then I walked downstairs and started the course, one of the most empowering, fun, amazing experiences of my life. Every single one of those guys treated me with respect, and the only hint of my gender ever being a thing, came out in the form of admiration that I had the balls to walk into the situation.
They were amazing men, all of them.
In the course there were 5 guys that played in the English Premiership, the highest level of men’s football, and they were awesome. Down to earth, engaging, fun to be around, just absolutely great guys, up for a chat the whole time. They also were hilarious and ripped to shreds each other, and other people in the course.
At these courses, us the coaches, play in the sessions, while our “classmates” coach us and make the coaching points.
There is an unspoken agreement towards everyone there, that as a coach, you make it as easy as you can on each other.
Which led to a hilarious situation.
It started as I was coaching my session. It was already a little bit intimidating for me, as I was coaching a group of U18 boys, who already were a giving a little bit of a side eye to the girl standing before them, telling them what to do. Joining these U18 Irish boys, a smattering of the guys in our course stepped in as players to help make up the numbers, one being one of the guys from the Premiership, we’ll call Rob.
The session I was running was unremarkable, until I stopped and made a coaching point.
And Rob argued it with me, a definite no-no in the unspoken coaching course etiquette.
I argued back with him, while simultaneously raising my eyebrow. After the session Rob came over apologizing profusely. I’m so sorry, he said, I just got carried away in the session. We had a good laugh about it and I told him it was no big deal, because it wasn’t.
The next day, another one of the Premiership guys, who we will called James was running his session, again this time with Rob a part of his player group. As we do, he stopped the drill to make a coaching point.
To those of you non-coaches out there, when we do that, the idea is, that we stop, explain what was done wrong, and then show the athlete how to do it and then ask them to do it again correctly.
So this time, James, told Rob, his fellow Premiership player, and the one that had argued with me the day before, to take the ball as the center back and play it out to his right back.
After James demonstrated what he wanted, and asked Rob if he understood, Rob said yes, and James gave them back the ball. Play, he barked.
So Rob, then, hilariously, whether meaning to or not, took the ball, and instead of playing a pass on the ground to his outside back next to him, instead smashed a 40 yard ball in the air to a midfielder in the other direction.
James, one of the funniest guys I’ve ever been around, threw his arms in the air and said, ok Rob, you just do whatever you want to do. Play on guys.
Later that day we were dying laughing, talking about Rob unintentionally fucking up all of our sessions, when James made the comment to the group of us that were laughing about it,
Someone needs to tell Rob that they are handing out more than one UEFA B badge. It’s like he thinks it’s some kind of last man standing TV show, where he’s trying to win the only prize.
The thought of Rob intentionally messing up our sessions thinking it was a race to get the one coaching badge was hilarious, since most of us would pass the course.
We died laughing and continued to tear “one UEFA B Coaching badge” Rob for the whole week.
I thought about this UEFA B story today when I woke up this morning, in light of my lost Instagram followers, and worries that I pissed people off with my blog.
I thought about my white Ivy League guy friends, many of whom were in same frat as Kavanaugh, and many of whom I am guessing could be feeling some wrath these days for just being a straight, white guy. Nevertheless a few of them messaged me talking about my experiences and what I wrote, and they are and continue to be, as I said in my blog, some of the best and most supportive guys I’ve ever met.
I also had one of my former Yale athlete guy buddies message a response to an Instagram story of my happy niece playing with her dog:
Seems so happy, must not know any straight white males 🙂
After we chatted a bit, he followed up with, guess how many times I rolled my eyes reading your last blog.
Likely as many times, as I rolled my eyes, at you rolling your eyes at my blog 😉
And we laughed. But I appreciated that both of us, could joke while still making our point of our differing points of view. That we both stayed in the metaphorical room to talk so to speak. That we’ll likely grab a drink and make fun of each other in person when we’re in the same city next, something I appreciate.
The UEFA B story is significant I think because this isn’t about one group losing so another can win. There’s not one badge up for grabs so to speak. If you speak out and as a female ask for a bigger voice, for changing rules, it’s not a zero sum game, where men will lose all their power. You are not a raging feminist that hates men for asking for a bigger seat at the table and a microphone. Its not an either or game. You can both love the white man and demand for them to step aside so other voices can be heard (and hopefully with no apologies or fucks given).
If any of us, male, female, black, white, whoever, are uncomfortable with these conversations ask yourself why. What about them are triggering you on the inside? It’s the best kind of knowledge for self-growth and awareness and lord knows we could all do with some.
And if you are someone that is in the privileged place, that you just want to feel the sunshine and smell the roses, uninterrupted by all this, I get that too. But like a raging fire, sooner or later it is going to show up at your door. It’s the ecosystem we all are living in and all you have to do is go through the history books in this century alone to know what happens when large groups of privileged people turn a blind eye to awful shit going on around them.
And for those of us that have been silent:
As I have learned, the more afraid we are to speak, the more people we feel that we could offend by sharing our truths, the more likely it is that we are the ones that should be speaking loudest into the microphone. Your story, your experience matters. And it is the catalyst for change when people are aware.
Changing these messages that have placed women or minorities as lesser and lower for centuries, is going to take time. And it will get uglier before it gets better because for those that have held power, they will fight back hard and ugly when the foundation starts to shake. But the positive is now that many of us who have just sat back and let others speak have finally started to know how important it is to get involved. Every vote, every voice shapes the world that we have around us and things aren’t going to change unless people step up and demand that they do.
But the fact is, all of us need to take as collateral, the people that aren’t going to like us or that we’re going to piss off along the way, by using our voice. That goes against everything we’ve had indoctrinated in us for years, about how important it is to be nice, to be liked.
But we still need to do it anyways.