I’m Graduating from Feminist to Nasty Woman

“Are you a nasty woman, Mama?” daughter Andrea asked me recently.

Her question took me off guard. Then I remembered the third Presidential debate and knew exactly what she meant.
For those who didn’t watch, here’s the exchange:

Hillary Clinton: “I am on record as saying that we need to put more money into the Social Security trust fund. That is part of my commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy. My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald’s, assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it.”

Donald Trump: “Such a nasty woman.”

Following that debate, his “nasty” comment became a “feminist battle cry,” on social media. T-Shirts with “Nasty woman” printed on them are now in demand, as are hats emblazoned with, “Make America Nasty Again.”

Streams of Janet Jackson’s song “Nasty” skyrocketed after the debate, according to Spotify. In the song, Janet calls men, who display bad behavior toward women, “nasty boys.”

No question Trump’s “nasty” comment has struck a powerful cord. I’ve never seen so many women open up and describe in detail how they’ve been discriminated against and treated differently than their male counterparts. Women are sharing their stories as never before. They’re talking about how they’d been grabbed and abused. How they were told to be nice, not bossy and to smile, not frown. They’ve shared their stories about being sexually harassed, and how they were shamed, demoted or fired when they reported the harassment.

All of these conversations have sparked my own painful memories, and I’m thinking it’s time to share two of those memories with you.

At 19, I was sexually assaulted in New York City, where I was living at the time. My attacker was a successful businessman and owner of the business where I’d worked. Ashamed and traumatized, I left NYC without reporting the assault.

Fast forward many years, I’m walking to the Marta train in Atlanta. It’s the end of the day, and I’m heading home from Georgia State. It’s raining. I’m in a great mood, happy I remembered to bring an umbrella.

A strange man steps under my umbrella and says, “Are you from out of this world?”
I’m caught off guard, but I sense he’s a psycho, his eyes wild, glassy. “Get lost,” I tell him.

He grabs my boobs, squeezes them brutally. I yell out in pain and horror and swing my open umbrella to defend myself.

He runs inside the nearest building and disappears.

I’m shaken, but I continue on to the Marta Station, hop on the train and go home. Once I feel safe, I call the campus police to report this psycho and try to stop him from hurting anyone else.

I describe to the officer what happened, but before I can give him a description of the man, the officer asks, “What were you wearing?”

Stunned, I don’t how to respond at first. “Dressed casually, like any college student.”

I should have demanded to speak to his supervisor or to a female officer who would empathize. But I didn’t, I played nice, when I should have been assertive and nasty.

It’s interesting how that word “nasty” has changed through urban interpretations, but it appears more complimentary when referring to men. Men can be nasty cool, skillful, as in “He plays a nasty guitar.”

While with women, the urban definition usually refers to sex: “freak-nasty, blatant, unhindered sexuality, and has an undertone of kinkiness.” Unlike the traditional definitions, which are: “smelly, bad, filthy, repulsive, malignant, ugly, spiteful, disgusting, incredibly mean and stinky, very loud, obnoxious.”

But getting back to the question Andrea asked. In answering her, I said, “Yes,” although I prefer the “cool, skillful” definition of the word, and hereafter I’ve decided to graduate from feminist to nasty woman.

For Halloween, I’m leaning toward dressing up as the good witch in The Wizard of Oz, with a hat that reads, “Good Witch, aka Nasty Woman.” What do you think?
As an afterthought, Andrea sent me this recipe for The Nasty Woman drink, a Quartz cocktail, created by Jenni Avins:
Three parts silver tequila (made by the “bad hombres” of Mexico)
Two parts cherry juice (Avins likes the one from Trader Joe’s)
One part lime juice
Pour over ice and top it with sparkling wine or sparkling limeade.
This drink should get a wedge of lime, but Avins says she too nasty to fuss over a twist.
Whatever you prefer to drink, be sure to enjoy it like a nasty woman should.
To read more, please visit my website:
Also would love for you to purchase my latest novel, A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES. This story is loosely based on a murder trial I covered as a newspaper reporter in Atlanta, and it’s also a love story.


I’d Like More Peace in Today’s Bloody Politics by Sandy Semerad

I’ve been reading a book on nonviolent communication, hoping to achieve more harmony in my life.

I write about murder, but I prefer to live in harmony and get along, rather than argue. This particular book gives the following advice on how to do that: Don’t judge. Observe and listen. Mirror back what the other person is saying. It also provides tips on how to express feelings.

When I express my feelings, rather than keep them bottled up, I’m less likely to get angry. It’s helpful to use words like I’m feeling happy, sad, frustrated, angry, etc. and not use judgmental words like rejected, abandoned and attacked, this book advises.

As I was learning how to communicate better, my mind wandered to the tumultuous political climate and the heated rhetoric spouted by some of our Presidential candidates. I’m wondering what the experts could do to diffuse their anger.

What would they advise Republican front runner Donald Trump? He wants to “Make America great again,” he claims. “Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.”

While his supporters agree with him, the Republican establishment would like to stop Trump. Former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Trump “a fraud,” but Romney’s denouncement didn’t seem to hurt Trump’s campaign.

Many of Trump’s adversaries have entered the fray. Even popular author and liberal democrat Stephen King has criticized the billionaire businessman. King wrote this slogan which he thought best represented Trump’s philosophy: “If you’re white, you’re all right. Any other hue, I don’t trust you.”

Trump usually fights back, going for the jugular. He shouts, “Get them out,” referring to protesters attending his rallies. Or he might yell, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” Recently, a Trump supporter did just that at one of his events.

Supporters of nonviolence have recommended a much more civilized approach, but I doubt the angry rhetoric and name calling will stop anytime soon in this heated political climate.

Trump called Texas Senator Ted Cruz a liar, and referred to another competitor Marco Rubio, as “little Rubio,” and the battle escalated. Rubio responded by saying Trump’s hands were small, insinuating his manhood was also small.

Ohio Governor John Kasich wants to position himself above the fracas with his “positive vision for America,” he says. But Kasich’s message doesn’t seem to resonate with the majority of voters. He won his home state, but trails in the polls, and claims he wouldn’t accept a Vice Presidential nod from either Trump or Cruz. Senator Rubio failed to win Florida, his home state, a death knell for him, so he dropped out.

Cruz says he’s “Reigniting the Promise of America.” But I’m uncertain as to what this means. When I think of America, I think of the American people, a conglomeration of men and women and children, all nationalities, all races, religions, enjoying the freedoms stated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and the Emancipation Proclamation, although I would add the word women, to insure all women and men are created equal.

Cruz also wants to “Take America back.” Does he want to take us back to the time when the thirteen colonies declared independence from Britain in 1776? I have no idea.

I prefer clearer messages, and I cringe when I hear name calling and combative words coming from someone who wants to be hired as our next President.

On the democratic side, the candidates appear more cordial. They focus on the issues and the differences between them. Although Senator Bernie Sanders has riled up voters by saying, “A political revolution is coming.” When he asks his packed audiences of young voters “Are you ready for a revolution?” they yell, “Yes.”

While I don’t “feel the Bern,” I see his appeal. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I wanted to be a rebel, too.

Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton offers a more practical approach. “I will work for you,” is one of her slogans. “I’m fighting for you,” is another one. She has also countered Trump’s message. “America is already great,” she says. “I want to make America whole,” and recently I saw this sign attributed to her: “A woman’s place is in the White House.”

When Hillary Clinton ran against Barack Obama and lost to him in the 2008 election, her slogan was, “Solutions for America.”

President Obama, a dynamic campaigner, used this saying, “Yes we can.”

In President George W. Bush’s campaigns, he had several different slogans: “Compassionate Conservatism,” “Leave no child behind,” “Yes, American can,” “Moving America Forward,” “A Safer World and More Hopeful America.”

President Bill Clinton used these: “Building a Bridge to the 21st Century,” “Putting People First,” and “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow.”

One of my favorite Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, used this catchphrase at a time when we were embroiled in a Civil War. “Don’t Swap Horses in Midstream.”

But as far as avoiding conflict, many of these political figures, past and present, seemed to have subscribed to the adage, “Politics is a blood sport.”

As for me, I prefer to avoid bloodshed and combative behavior. I’d rather leave that to the characters in my novels.
Please visit my website to find out more: http://www.sandysemerad.com/

Posted by Sandy Semerad at 1:00:00 AM
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A Great Book can Transform us by Sandy Semerad

I once heard a teacher say, To Kill a Mockingbird teaches us about equality and has the ability to change us. I believe that’s true.

This great book has certainly changed me, and after I heard the news of Harper Lee’s death at 89, I thought about the power of her masterpiece.

“Did you hear Harper Lee has passed,” I asked Hubby Larry.

“Yes,” he said, and our conversation segued into Lee’s wonderful novel.

“Why did she name it To Kill a Mockingbird?” Larry asked.

“I’ve heard she originally called it, Atticus,” I said, “But she changed the name before it was published. There’s a mockingbird reference in the book.”

“What does it say?”

I had to unearth my copy of Mockingbird to answer his question. Here’s part of the quote, inspiring the title:

“Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ ”

Flipping through the pages, I found myself identifying with the gutsy Scout as I had as a child, and I wished I’d been able to know the author who wrote such a trans-formative novel.

I’ve worked on many projects for the chamber of commerce in Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee’s hometown, for more than 20 years, but somehow we never crossed paths.

A few months ago, I visited the assisted-living facility where Lee resided. I was going to a business meeting there and hoped I’d get a glimpse of the reclusive Lee. As I walked into the facility, a security guard stopped me.

“Who are you here to see?” he asked in a stern voice.

After I told him, he ushered me into the administrator’s office.

As I was leaving, I spotted the guard again. “Do you stop everyone who comes in here?” I asked.

“It’s my job to guard Miss Lee, to make sure she isn’t bothered. You wouldn’t believe the schemes people use. They’ll say or do anything to try to get their books signed or get an interview with Miss Lee.” She rarely ventures outside, he said.

I told him I’d recently read the long-awaited second book, Go Set a Watchman, which features a grown up Scout and a somewhat racially prejudiced Atticus.
I much preferred the inspirational Atticus in Mockingbird, I said. I always cry at the courtroom scene in TKAM. You probably know the one. Atticus Finch is walking out of the courtroom after hearing his client, Tom Robinson, has been found guilty. Scout and her brother Jem are sitting in the balcony, among members of the black community. The Reverend Sykes, a local black leader, tells Scout, “Miss Jean Louise. Stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
Amazing when you think about it, so much talent in such a small Alabama town, population is now around 7,000. I love going there and during my recent trip, my sister Alice Kay, who lives in Idaho, wanted to accompany me.
“I haven’t been to Monroeville in 30 years,” she said. She wanted to tour the town, the courthouse and museum, and we did.
Unfortunately, one of Monroeville’s finest restaurants, the Prop and Gavel, owned by Tanja Carter, Lee’s attorney and friend, was closed, due to the tragic death of Tanja’s husband. He was killed when his single-engine aircraft crashed, taking off from Missoula International Airport in Montana.
“Tanja found the draft of Go Set a Watchman, the parent book of Mockingbird,” I told AK. Alice Kay wanted to read Watchman, so I bought her a copy.
“I want it autographed,” she said.
“That’s impossible,” I told her. “Only Harper Lee’s closest friends are allowed to see her, and she is no longer autographing books.”
At the bookstore, AK and I spotted a signed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. The steep price was much more than either of us planned to spend, but I’m sure someone will eventually pay that amount for an autographed copy of this masterpiece that earned a Pulitzer Prize and continues to be a bestseller, second only to the Bible, it has been reported.
The movie adaptation won Academy Awards in 1962. Gregory Peck won for best actor. Lee gave Peck her father’s pocket watch, a friend in Monroeville said.

Lee dedicated Mockingbird to her sister Alice Finch Lee, who lived to be 103, and their father Amasa Lee. He once defended two black men hanged in 1919 for murdering a white shopkeeper in Monroeville.
In 1934, when Nelle Harper Lee was only eight, a black man (Walter Lett) was tried in Monroeville for allegedly raping a white woman. Lett was sentenced to death until a group of progressive white citizens had his ruling reduced to life. The character Tom Robinson in Mockingbird is thought to be patterned after Lett.

Through the years, I’ve heard a few people say they think Truman Capote wrote Mockingbird. These accusations are false, which I discovered after reading Capote’s letters at the Monroe County Courthouse. In one of those letters, Capote writes about Lee authoring the book and compliments her skill as a writer.

It is widely known Lee helped Capote interview and type notes for In Cold Blood. She and Capote were childhood friends in the 1930s. Capote spent his summers with his cousins in a house next to where Lee grew up. (The character Dill in Mockingbird is Capote).

Both houses have since been torn down, but there’s a plaque, marking where Capote stayed. Lee would not allow a plaque on the property where she once lived.

The homes were located about two blocks from the old courthouse, which is now a museum. (The courthouse is in the center of town square).

In memory of Nelle Harper Lee, I’d like to share a few facts about her. She was born in Monroeville on April 28, 1926, the youngest of five children. Her father’s name was Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee. Her mother was Frances Cunningham Finch. Amasa, unlike Atticus, was not a widower. Lee’s mother was termed mentally ill. So Harper Lee and her siblings were raised by their father.
Her longtime friend, Truman Capote’s real name was Truman Persons. He was two years older than Lee. Truman spent his summers in Monroeville, and during that time, he and Lee became close friends. Lee’s father recognized Lee’s creativity and gave her an Underwood typewriter.
She earned a degree in English from Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama and was an exchange student at Oxford for a short while. She attended law school for two years at the University of Alabama, but dropped out to pursue a writing career.

She moved to New York, where Truman Persons, then Capote, had become a well-known writer. While in New York, two of Capote’s friends made it possible for Lee to quit her job as an airline reservations clerk and write full time.

These generous friends–famous Broadway lyricist Michael Brown and his wife, Joy Williams, a ballet dancer–gave Lee a Christmas present, paying all of her expenses for a year to write whatever she wanted, but it took Lee two years to write Mockingbird, I was told. The publisher said it might not sell more than a few thousand copies, but upon publication in July 1960, the book became a best-seller and continues to sell millions each year.

It is estimated she earned and continues to earn royalties of more than $9,000 a day. However, her fortune never influenced her life.

She lived like a spartan. Before she moved into the assisted living facility, she had no air conditioning or television set, until a caretaker demanded them, I was told.

She never married and had no children, but she birthed a great book that I believe changed lives and has certainly inspired me to write, not simply to entertain, but to transform with words. For that I’m thankful.