March 3, 2017

Kellyanne Conway was on our radar this week, again.

Not because the White House counselor referenced a “massacre” that never happened or coined the term “alternative facts” to use instead of “lies,” both statements that should be — and were — decried.

No, the uproar surrounding Conway this week was because of a photo.

A photo of her kneeling on a couch.

In a dress.

It was taken just after she’d leaned over on the Oval Office couch to snap a cellphone picture of representatives from historically black colleges and universities meeting with President Trump. She was asked to take a photo; the angle she was working with was awkward; she got the job done.

Not that the reason matters. Not that she needed to provide a justification at all.

The fact that we’re spending any time talking at all about how a woman was sitting is too ridiculous and sexist for words.

Because today, in 2017, apparently, adults in the United States can’t handle the image of a 50-year-old woman in an above-the-knee dress sitting with her feet underneath her.

I read this morning that Cedric Richmond, a Democratic representative from Louisiana, was one of many who weighed in recently, adding his much-needed male commentary on the image of Conway kneeling on the couch.

“She really looked kind of familiar there in that position there,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

Please excuse me while I vomit.

He later clarified with the classic “that’s not what I meant.”

Not good enough.

The first time I can remember men commenting on the way I sat at work, I was 19.

“Look at you sitting cross-legged over there!”

“Boy, are you flexible!”

Again, please excuse me while I vomit.

Can you even wrap your mind around the idea of someone saying that to a man?

My experience isn’t unique, and neither is hers. The sexism Conway faces in her work is all too common.

This week, as Women’s History Month commences, it didn’t take me long to click through a few articles — and reflect on my own experiences and those of people I know — and put together a list of other universal situations, comments and attitudes women face.

Some of these examples — all of which also are cited elsewhere — come from a handy Buzzfeed list titled “33 reasons women might be emotional today.” (Oh, please, let us tell you.)

A few of them:

Women continue to make less than men for the same work in the same fields — and the pay gap for women of color is even greater, according to Pew Research.

Fewer than one-third of the nation’s senators — just 21 of them — are women, according to the U.S. Senate’s website.

Although statistics vary, many sources indicate that in the U.S. alone, a woman is raped every few minutes.

Part of the reason those statistics vary is many of those women never report their rape, often out of fear or shame.

Of the brave few who do, many face disbelief or are shamed by those they tell. And many watch as their attackers aren’t punished.

One government survey released several years ago found that almost one-fifth of American women have been raped or sexually assaulted, according to the New York Times.

Several years ago, a Texas company thought it would be a good idea to create pickup decals that are so intricately made that they make it look like the proud drivers have a tied-up, unconscious woman in the back of their truck — and the company’s owner was surprised when people got upset.

A billboard erected in North Carolina late last month reads, “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.”

Honor killings throughout the world target mostly women, and millions of girls worldwide have experienced female genitalia mutilation.

For many women, it’s become second nature to carry keys as a weapon while walking alone at night; to avoid meeting a man alone and to tell friends about where they’ll be if they have to do so; to consider not answering a knock on the door when they’re home alone.

Almost every woman you come across can tell you a story about being catcalled on the street, inappropriately addressed by a coworker or harassed by a stranger at a bar.

Parents and educators continue to tell girls and women not to drink too much, not to wear certain clothes, not to leave their drink alone, not to walk alone at night, not to act in a way that might “encourage” men, rather than telling boys and men not to drug a woman’s drink, not to grab a stranger, not to rape.

Since it’s Women’s History Month, and since these problems remain in existence today, I’m going to write about women this month.

Ugggghhhhh, you might say, she’s written about all this before.

But just yesterday, the guy behind me at the grocery store — here in Carroll — asked me if I’m married, and got snotty when I didn’t respond.

So this conversation isn’t finished.

If you’re a woman, I hope you are inspired and empowered with me.

If you’re a man, I hope you begin to understand — if you don’t already — why women still tense up whenever you drive past them with your window down or walk behind them on the sidewalk.

I hope you begin to understand — if you don’t already — why jokes about a woman kneeling aren’t ever OK.

And although these problems are here and they’re real and I’m afraid they won’t go away anytime soon, the fact also remains that women are pretty awesome, and that should be celebrated, too.

So let’s go on this journey together.

Join me — and if you have any stories about your experiences, I’d love to hear them.