#writering: #LGBT icon on Hollywood

Judy Wieder is the author of Random Events Tend to Cluster, Lisa Hagan Books, 2017, her memoir of life at the forefront of the LGBT equal rights movement. This article first appeared on her blog, Intuitionsmedia.com.

Calling them “monsters” is too easy

By Judy Wieder

What’s wrong with making these people monsters?

Harvey Weinstein is the earthquake under the volcano. Bullying women (or anyone) into giving favors—sexual or otherwise—has been going on since the Greeks and Romans—maybe even the cavemen. In this decade alone, alleged sexual predators facing law suits include Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Woody Allen, Bill O’Reilly, Casey Affleck, and the president of the United States.

Though it goes on everywhere, politics and the entertainment business in particular are so jacked-up with this conduct, it’s considered part of the landscape, part of the power, perks and payoffs. What, then, triggered this sudden resistance and potential reset?  If we stay with the metaphor, volcanos erupt when nearby earthquakes destabilize the the area; and earthquakes happen when the pressure building below the earth’s surface can no longer be contained. In other words, the victims said, “Enough!”

Like the proverbial candle in the dark, passed around to light thousands of other candles, when a handful of irate women hit their tipping point and tipped—the spark ignited. I believe at least half the energy blasting up the Weinstein Volcano was amassed over the last 10 months while women waited, stunned and seething, as absolutely nothing happened to Donald Trump after his “Grab them by the pussy/No one respects women more than I do,” psychotic break.

It was time. One thing or another was going to shatter the spell America’s been under since the election, and Harvey pulled the shit card! The mass awakening of the previously silent majority (“me too”), is the long-overdue opening we’ve been hoping for. It’s hard to be an abuser without a victim. And its hard to be a victim when you’re being heard! Speaking out can wipe out both the victim and the abuser in one powerful voice: the abuser loses control, and the victim gains it.

I too have traded my dignity for the wrong perks and carried that regret around for years— just read chapter three of my book (Random Events Tend To Cluster). It took me a very long time to tell myself, let alone others. But, despite the present and heartening roar of the betrayed, I see a very seductive trap we could easily fall into: That ol’ black and white, good and evil, simplification of “the problem.” This month, most of our successful news and entertainment media (you know, the “fake news”), have featured Harvey Weinstein in deliberately distorted photographs. This, of course, is a form of editorializing, clearly executed to make him look like a monster, not a human being. (And believe me, I have no sympathy for this man. That  is not my point. Neither is obstructing Freedom of the Press. Whether subtle or blatant, facts and opinions are all we have to help us navigate our world today. But we, alone, must sort out what is true by dragging it all through our own “shit-detectors.”)

I believe it’s far too easy to take a criminal like Weinstein and portray him as a monster, the “other,” something not human. What do we gain by doing that? Maybe that makes us feel better? Safer? “We could never be him. He’s a monster. Not human like us.”

Unfortunately he is human. Just like the Nazis were/are human beings. Trying to put them in a subhuman category will never allow us to understand them or their actions; thus guaranteeing a rerun. If we never know what drove an entire nation—in the middle of the “sophisticated” 20th century—to try to solve their economic problems by destroying millions of their fellow Europeans, especially the ones they saw as different from themselves—what’s to stop a sequel? Certainly not the terrified deniers. All those “good Germans” who stood around and said nothing were as bad as the Nazis; the entire holocaust could not have happened without them. And yet, they too were just other people. Not treacherous creatures we’ll never meet again. Without enlightenment about the past and present, these easily repeatable catastrophes await us tomorrow. The signs are everywhere.

When we hide any tragedy (sexual harassment, genocide, hate crimes, mass shootings) behind “they were monsters, villains, crazy terrorists, the axis of evil”—then they’ll be back. They’ll be back because we don’t know what happened in the first place. If we label a powerful mogul a “Monster,”  that person can hurt us. But if we let ourselves see someone—anyone—as human, everything changes. Information is available. Education is possible—not just for criminals, but for victims. And knowledge is power.  All the “monster” power we assign these people, can dissolve. Without fear, there is clarity: “Ohh, he’s just a jerk?? I thought he had something I needed, so I gave up my control; I handed him my power.”

Monsters are for Halloween. Damaged people are year round. I’ve always heard the first step to solving a problem is correctly identifying it. Deep breaths.

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#writering: shattered ceilings

Above: Judy Wieder, author of Random Events Tend to Cluster, and 5-year-old Janet Jackson.

What a life. Judy Wieder is the unicorn; a smasher of ceilings every which way. She was the first female editor of The Advocate, the oldest LGBT publication in America, where she published talent such as Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Ethridge.

In a world of no women, she wrote pop songs and hit number one. She was so talented, she was soon working for Motown. Can you imagine, female AND white at the hit factory in Detroit? Did she and her colleagues understand they worked in a place that – like Sun and Abbey Road studios – would become a monument to music? Something big was happening there and the air had to be charged with rock and roll energy. Let’s do an interview with Judy and see what it was like…….

The title – Random Events Tend to Cluster – is the perfect way to sum up a life. In Judy’s case, her life does not seem so random. Far from it. Each step has been towards the right to be an individual, to be equal, respected and free. She marched through one of the wildest times in 20th century America – the 60s, 70s and 80s – and came out the other side. She helped shape the world of women’s rights and the LGBTQ community in more ways than we can ever know.

Thank you, Judy. We owe you a lot.

Beth Wareham is the editor-in-chief of Lisa Hagan Books, a writer and editor based in New York City.

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#writering: get jiggy with it

#writering is a random blog  by Beth Wareham, editor in chief of Lisa Hagan Books.

Memoir seems to fall from trees these days…and the maddening thing is that sometimes it’s by someone who hasn’t lived long enough to fill up 75 pages.

Not that I’m saying Judy Wieder is old; I’m saying she’s lived. Oh boy has she lived. She broke barriers left and right, including writing for Motown and becoming the first female head of The Advocate. She’s lived in some of the coolest places on the planet. Her human rights activism is renowned.

One of the reasons Lisa Hagan Books wanted to publish Random Events Tend to Cluster is the reason big box publishers did not. We loved the imaginative leap she took by including a look into important lives being lived in other parts of the world.

The times we live in shape us and so do the people. We read and take their stories inside. Here’s how Judy put it:

Why I wrote my memoir this way

Why did I write my memoir in this format? Why didn’t I just tell my own story? Why complicate each episode of my life by mixing in the stories of people whose only apparent connection to me is that we’re living in the same timeframe. If I wasn’t consciously connected to them then, why bring them in now? What will these layers add to my story?

Like anyone’s existence, mine did not unfold in a vacuum. The world and its commotion have been reaching out and into my life since I was born—whether I registered it or not. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more and more aware of all the influences around me and what I do with them. Watching the news can break my heart. Hearing a great melody can lift me. Getting a call from an old friend can make my week. My feelings link me to everything.

But even that kind of connectivity gets more subtle when, say, an emotion I can’t deal with during the day gets pushed away, only to come back in an unsettling dream the same night. Then that dream spills over and influences my spirit and behavior the next day, which, in turn, produces still another dream! Are my days influencing my nights, or are my nights influencing my days?

To me, it’s the chicken or the egg, and it doesn’t matter. Everything is bound together in some manner. Actions and reactions are taking place continuously throughout the universe in a very real, scientific, holistic, systematic way. Although it’s now impossible for me not to see this, the truth is, I didn’t have to see it for it to be happening all along. “It” didn’t need me to catch on. I’ve lived long enough to experience that things don’t always happen to me in the moment they occur. They “happen” when I comprehend them. That’s when the event finally “emerges.”

Although I have always been aware of—and interested in—significant occurrences taking place around me, never did I grasp the astonishing synchronicity of how the universe works until I sat down to write this memoir. Twenty-twenty hindsight allowed me to notice the historic events going on in the world during particularly meaningful episodes of my own life. Was that a coincidence? Was there a connection? Would my life have unfolded the same way if these other events hadn’t happened? I’ll never know.

Again, if you don’t consciously know about something, can it affect you? And what are the many forms “affect” can take? What if it’s affecting the people around you? Won’t that affect you? For example, on the day I was born in 1944, I had no awareness that my father was in Basic Army Training on the other side of the country from my mother, who was in hard labor with me in New York City. Like so many isolated WWII wives, my mother was surrounded by other anxious, first-time mothers whose husbands were God-Knows-Where, fighting in Europe or the Pacific. Or maybe they hadn’t even made it through the day’s battles?

From notes I’ve kept about details my father and other relatives told me, I am able to revisit what was going on while I was being born in a bustling midtown Manhattan hospital. But for me, a missing piece didn’t fall into place until I found my old notes from a trip I’d taken to Amsterdam in the 90s. I’d visited the famous Anne Frank Haus there several times, even making friends with a staff member. She let me see the actual pages surrounding the days of my birth, March 22, in Anne’s original Diary. From this information, I learned that Anne and her older sister, Margot, spent their long hours hiding in the secret Amsterdam Annex playing cards and talking about boys. Their “silly, banal” conversations about one particular boy hiding with them, distracted Anne from the unspeakable terror of the fast-approaching Nazis. It’s clear from her diary that Anne had no idea she and her family were only weeks away from being discovered, captured, and ultimately destroyed by the Gestapo. Only her father survived.

By understanding a little of Anne Frank’s day occurring at the same time I was being born 3,641 miles away in New York City, I can feel a much deeper understanding of my first day on earth. What was happening to Anne in Hitler-occupied Holland, was directly connected to the rising panic and dread surrounding me in that hospital.

Because there are literally thousands of historical events that take place every single day, what I picked from the world to write about in each chapter of my book, is not accidental. Naturally there is a great deal of information about me hiding in any of the story choices I made to layer each chapter. What we are drawn to says a lot about who we are. Like the friends we choose or the clothes we wear.

So why did I write my memoir this way? Because I believe it’s a fuller picture, a whole-r truth. My life, without something from the life of the world at the same time, is incomplete. And so, I have included a small selection of influences that I imagine were shaping me, as I was getting into shape to live the adventures I now share with you.

 

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