Category Archives: women

End of the year bargains on classes.

Friend and former student, Alessandro, & me at the Trevi Fountain in Rome


Recently, my friend from Kazakhstan told me that in her ESL class the students didn’t understand why American women complained about their rights, because we have more than most countries.

Yes, we do have many rights, but we fought hard for them, and we are still fighting. In the early l900’s, the suffragettes died to get women the right to vote. During the past 100 years we have fought to be equal with men, to have control over our bodies, to earn equal pay for equal money, and many, many other issues. It seems that for each advance we make, there’s someone  who wants to strike it down. Men fight hard to keep women dependent on them. It will be an ongoing issue. It’s about power.

Would you like to continue this discussion, or strike up another one? Take advantage of my year end prices and lets talk. -ruby

Life, The Ultimate Trip-Venice, CA

imageI walked from the house on the 300 block of Windward Avenue. Within a minute or two I came upon a small, full, bright green tree, maybe 8 or 9 feet high. Dripping from the slender leaves were long yellow tentacles, each one filled with tiny bright, yellow balls. The tree reminded me of the fire works that drip long streams of color when they explode. Something about the tree made me feel happy. Maybe its whimsey, the way the yellow, lanky, arms bobbed and swayed as if dancing to the easy breeze blowing off the ocean.

I caressed the fleecy leaves. I put my nose into the blossoms as if I were searching for nectar. I walked on feeling a bit lighter, maybe with more bounce in my step than I before I saw it. I thought of the many ways nature affects us: huge life-giving ways, and small, almost unnoticeable, unexpected ways.

On Lincoln, I encountered a coiffed, white-haired, woman dressed impeccably in a white pantsuit, red blouse, stripped red and white socks, riding toward me on her scooter-chair. She was a good driver, traversing the uneven pavement, handling the dip from the sidewalk into the street, and up again, skillfully, with steady confidence. She looked like she could be in Florida, instead of Venice Beach. But I realized that was an unfair stereotype. When she passed me, both going and coming from the AT&T store, I smiled at her. She smiled back.

At one point a young man on a skateboard sped past her and around me. I flashed on her 40 or 50 years ago: different vehicle, maybe on a surfboard or skateboard, with the same confidence-and him 40 years hence, an old man, on a scooter bike cutting in and out, still skillfully avoiding pedestrians.

imageI left the AT&T building, stopped at a small Thai restaurant for some spicy mint noodles, and continued walking north on Lincoln Blvd. When I came upon a photo of two covered woman with their draped daughters, and small boy outside the Venice arts building, I stopped. The door was open so I went in to see Marissa Roth’s photo exhibition: one person crying: women and war. My timing was good, it was the show’s last day.

The open airy space was bustling with activity. Young students sat at several large tables discussing photos and drawings spread out before them. I was ignored as I wandered around them, looking at the photographs on the walls.

Face after face filled with fathomless pain and sorrow looked back at me from: Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Ireland, Viet Nam, Japan, and Europe, survivors of the holocaust and Hiroshima. None of them have forgotten-will ever forget. Pain was etched in scars, deep ridges, their eyes, and in tight mouths that rarely smile because they some how survived to spend a lifetime mourning their family members who had perished. Because of war; Because men value money and power more than life-over and over again. That women bear the brunt of it.

From photo to photo, my sadness grew heavier, feelings of impotence increased. I wanted to collapse crying on the floor. I walked out of the building into the sunlight knowing that human rights don’t exist anywhere. That they won’t ever. I carried my burden of knowing, heavy in its sack of grief as I continued my walk.

Just past the bus bench on California at Lincoln, a man was sitting on the pavement beside his bike laden with goods only he, in all the world, cared about. Dressed in bright clothes, wearing three hats, the top most a child’s, knitted lime green elephant. He was cursing. Streams of fuckyous, motherfuckers, and goddams burst from his mouth in rage, hopelessness, and fury. I imagined his head was jumbled, the connectors disconnected somehow. I wondered what he had seen, what had been done to make him hurt so. I knew he didn’t want change. He wanted peace. Behind him thick, sweet, aromatic jasmine was growing on a fence.



A few blocks later, feeling weary, I went into the coffee shop at California and Abbot Kinney. I ordered an ice coffee. The smiling young man behind the counter handed it to me. “I’m getting your coffee. Enjoy.”

“Really? Thank you.”
A tiny random act of kindness.

I sat at a table, sipped my coffee, and read the LA Weekly paper. Movies, Theatre, Art, Music. Medical, or Illegal marijuana, Sex. Everything is here in Los Angeles-in Venice. It’s a microcosm of the real world: the very best to the unfathomable. Life. The ultimate trip. Continue reading

Demonstratng in the Street

Woman and child in demonstrating

Woman and child in demonstrating

My first public demonstration was with Mothers for Peace & and Veterans Against the War during the Viet Nam war. Alice was a baby and rode on my back down Pennsylvania Ave.


We slept in the homes of Unitarian strangers. In San Francisco  I took to the streets again, marching  with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence when Sarcoma Karposi needed to  be recognized as a dreadful, debilitating  medical issue that went way beyond the gay community. And, for several years, I marched (actually tapped, for we were a colorful lot) for animal rights with my friend, Virginia Handley. My last demonstrations were with Annette Kirby and other friends in Tehachapi , CA, against Bush’s insane idea of destroying Iraq for dominion of oil.

Since I decided to get to know our southern neighbors, I have seen demonstrations in several places. It is always the people who have to take to the streets. Wealthy folks have money to fight their battles, we have our voices and our votes if we are lucky.

Yesterday, on my way to the museum, I heard collective voices and musical instruments: drums, flutes, and a couple of guitars. Coming down the street were people representing CERCIA (Centro Rehabilitation Para Ciegos Adultos in Araguipa.) Blind adults, tapping their canes, accompanied by those who took up their the cause, marched beside them, guiding them through the streets. A woman, saw me taking photos and said, pointing to her eyes. Ciego. Que Lastima, as she hurried on. “What a pity.”  Indeed.imageimage

Less than an hour later another, a much larger demonstration filled the main street into the Plaza de Armas. Made up of mostly indigenous, and working class  people  they poured into the intersection. The womaimagen, some carrying babies and toddlers in brightly colored, hand-woven shawls on their backs, and some  with  buckets of food and juice for the marchers bore the heaviest burdens.

Many of the hand-made signs had  ‘agua’ printed on them. Later, at the hostel I found out that there is a severe shortage of water for the poorer folks, those who live away from the city where of course, water is plentiful, because money flows, so does water. At least for a while.

Arequipa is in a deep valley surrounded by desert. It has not rained enough to fill the aquifers, or even close to full. Potable water is scarce. The burden is on the poor. It was the same in Leticiaimage, Colombia where folks demonstrated in the park,  in Brazil, and here. It is or will be, in CA I’m sure. The globe is running out of water, but we are ciego. image

In the US we allow fracking to extract natural gas at the expense of our earth’s water table. “Generally, 2-8 millions of gallons of water may be used to frack a well. Some wells more. A well may be fracked multiple times, with each frack increasing the chances of chemical leakage into the soil and local sources.” (gaslandthe

We are not only ciego, we are stupido.  Maybe folks need to hit the streets, to drown out the sound of the Koch Bros. and oil/gas companies counting their money. To save ourselves.


Domestic Violence- A Family Affair.

The idea that girls are less valuable than boys-women less valuable than men- makes me crazy. Thinking about my female students in China, I recall an incident that happened to one of my students. It’s a common one-still happening in all cultures, all countries- regardless of laws,women’s rights, or women’s lib.

One morning, my student Cassandra texted to say she wouldn’t be at class because she was ill, and she had something important to do. What, I wondered, other than going to the hospital or doctor, would be important for a sick person to do?

 The following day her roommate came to class alone. She explained that Cassandra stayed home because she was recovering from the bruises she incurred when her jealous boyfriend beat her up two nights before.

I asked if the police knew about it. “They do. But, they say it’s a family matter. They don’t get involved in family matters.”

It was such a broad statement that I had trouble wrapping my head around it. She wasn’t related to the boy. She didn’t live with him. Yes. She knew him. Yes. She dated him. Does that qualify him as family? Is hitting a female member of your family OK?

Becaue she was afraid he would come back, Cassandra asked another boy she knew if he would sleep on the couch for the next few nights just in case. Against campus regulations, he agreed to. The boyfriend apparently heard about this so when he showed up again, he brought a partner with him to back him up.

The fight that ensued caught the attention of the campus police.The following day the boyfriend’s parents were called. He was warned that he would be expelled if he bothered her again.

The girls told me that his threat from the university was not because he had beat her up, but because he had been overt about it-had made too much noise. Had it been kept quiet it would have remained a family affair.

Wang Xingjuan, a women’s rights activist in Beijing says,

“Chinese women feel ashamed when this happens to them, and there are still so many people who think it’s a normal event. It’s a slow process. We’ve had hundreds of years where men were simply allowed to beat their wives,” she said. “The culture is deeply rooted, and for many, it’s still taken for granted that women are inferior to men.”

That is China, a developing nation.

Here in the US where we think we have already developed, RAINN, a national organization on rape, abuse and incest, reports that every two minutes someone is sexually assulted- an average of 207,754 women and girls over 12 each year!
54% of these cases are not reported to the police. 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail. 
2/3 of them are known to the victim.
Why is this?

Women still feel ashamed and somehow guilty when they are violated. Whether it’s been two hundred or five hunderd years, women’s feelings of inferiority are deeply rooted.

Men still make most of the laws in the world. They make more money and have more infuuence. Conservative media wonks like Rush Limbaugh are allowed to slander respectable women bcause they advocate for women’s rights.

Not enough women are demandng respect and equality. Not enough of us are speaking out. Women are the only ones who can make the family safer. We must.