Category Archives: Men

A.H. Scott: Do Right, Woman! – A Travesty in Two Acts

Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2019

 

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DO RIGHT, WOMAN! – A TRAVESTY IN TWO ACTS

BY A.H. SCOTT, COPYRIGHT 2019

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ACT TWO

So, as bad as Trump is, the female ‘himpathizers’ who coddle and collude (oh, yes, that word I shall use) with him in the debasement and depression of women’s liberties are the conniving canines feasting on the bones of other women.

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When the most powerful man in the world, The President of the United States of America publicly humiliates, shames and heaps scorn upon women with such damning satisfaction in tone and timber; then, only one conclusion becomes most apt. 

I guess it could be chalked up to this; what happens when a pompous politician and misogynist is actually one in the same.

This is a step far beyond just male chauvinism. No, this is an insidious tide of creeping hatred and control that certain men in power express in their words and actions that affect every person.

To hear a person that is called out for being (pick your poison, pick your choice) and responding back as saying:

Well, some of my best friends are…

Well, my Mother is a woman…..

Then to my way of thinking, we got’s a helluva problem! It’s not your circle of buddies, or the woman who gave birth to you. This is another kettle o’ fish all together that I’m stirring up.

Cornell University professor of Philosophy, Kate Manne has unpacked the issue of misogyny in her book titled, “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny”(18), published by Oxford University Press in 2018. In her book, Kate Manne argues that misogyny is the controlling, policing, punishing, and exiling of the “bad” women who challenge male dominance.

Having coined the term ‘himpathy’(19), Manne explains the level of alignment some men have in giving an overarching empathy for a man in a position of power whenever it comes to dismissing a woman’s accusation. Furthermore, they are often met with misogynistic hostility and may be characterized as pushy, shrill, nasty, or abrasive, among other possibilities.

Doesn’t that word ‘nasty’ sound like one which is favored most by a certain man in the Oval Office? Oh, most definitely he uses it like a clinging safety blanket to make himself feel all that more superior to that certain type of woman who doesn’t behave the way he wishes.

Manifesting that ‘himpathy’, is not just for another man in some cockeyed need of a life preserver being tossed for a face-saving salvation, but Donald Trump’s own hunger for self-control, silencing, and self-maintenance of an oh, too precious ego.

And, THIS is what I mean with that unmistakable vibe coming from that cadre of misogynists – “Do right, Woman!”

Yet, any woman worth a grain of salt will never be silent. And, as for yours truly, my salt shaker is shaking as is my upheld fist shaking in a righteous rage.

Okay, okay; before anybody gets their hackles up and pushes back with putting forward that he has a great cheering squad when it comes to women. You have to ask yourself the question of exactly which women they are.

Some wonder why certain women support him. Well, it damn sure isn’t because he’s singing from the hymnbook of sunshine, candy hearts, and chivalry.

I guess there are many reasons why some women support him. Then again, it also depends on which groups of women they actually are.

There are the ones who are seated at the table and the ones that are the servers. In the catbird seat are those taking their heralded spot in bringing a certain cache of influence to the tantrum twit. As for those who serve the table, they bring their votes to re-elect the rampagin’ ruffian from Queens.

And, yes – the women who will do anything to stay in his good graces are also clawing to keep the status quo for themselves. So, as bad as Trump is, the female ‘himpathizers’(20) who coddle and collude (oh, yes, that word I shall use) with him in the debasement and depression of women’s liberties are the conniving canines feasting on the bones of other women.

To shine the spotlight beyond the man in the center ring of this Cirque de Callousness, one must take a look at some of those females who jubilantly clasp onto his torch of incinerating the aspirations, rights, and franchise of other women.

One of which is the Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey.

As an ‘ethical’ woman, Governor Kay Ivey can say ‘it is what it is’ with that demure Southern grace in reaction to a Presidential tirade in her state over NFL players, mostly African-American who decide to take a knee as a sign of protest against racism, and then add the fact of Alabamians being ‘patriotic’(21) to boot.

Well, patriotism isn’t the catch-all for constructing a false narrative for freedom of speech; just like Kay Ivey’s catch-all of draping herself in Christian values as a victory banner for protecting freedom of religion(22).

In her walk of faith, I wonder if doing a denigrating ‘blackface’(23) skit exemplifies her set of beliefs. But, I digress and let the black paint she smeared upon her face at Auburn University’s Baptist Student Union tell the dirty truth for itself.

Alas, what makes this Governor of a Southern state most despicable in a signing the most restrictive abortion law(24) in America, is that she is a woman.

But then again, it goes back to getting into what kind of woman(25) Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and other supportive ‘himpathizers’ of Donald Trump are.

An increase in donations(26) from women to his 2020 campaign have shown a propensity of being non-phased over the nauseating portrait this man proudly displays day in and day out.

Then there are the women in positions of permanence, whether serving formally or informally. Be it from a think tank, networking activism to a solidified union of duality in both the Administration and the bliss of marital ties. They are the 365 Ladies that will always land on their feet in being graced with the tainted glitter of appeasing a cruel leader.

Of course, there are the women that trot out before the cameras with coquettish compliance in defending the crumbs discarded from his golden throne; in an act that would make Ira Levin chuckle in concurrence.

Presidential counselor, Kellyanne Conway and the former White House Director of Strategic Communications, Mercedes Schlapp (current Trump 2020 aide) have been the faces of serenity under the careful care of 24/7 news cycles, which most of us have seen or heard as they’ve defined, diverted, defended and deflected on behalf of Donald Trump.

Kellyanne Conway and her husband, George are well known Washington figures, as are the up and coming ‘it couple’(27) of Mercedes and Matt Schlapp, whom by the way is the chair of the American Conservative Union.

Propagandists tell of ‘alternative facts’(28) surrounding a puny inaugural size and an imagined ‘massacre’(29) to shift criticism over a Muslim ban(30) with steadfast backbone and a straight face. Along with Conway’s tongue-twisting word salad, are Schlapp’s defense of a cruelest(31) of comment aimed at a then gravely ill Arizona Senator John McCain and proclaiming the compassion(32) of the President in the face of a ruthless chant; proves each of their breathless cravenness in the swamp that is Trumpland.

In the chorus of the Trumpettes, there is also press secretary for re-election Kayleigh McEnany, who calmly says that a man who lies as easily as he blinks his eyes doesn’t ‘lie’(33) to the American people.

But, for me what is a whopper of a defense for the lies of this man is from White  House Director of Communications, Stephanie Grisham, who explains his untruths in some sort of  jujitsu way he ‘communicates’(33), which comes off so unorthodox that it obscures his ‘love for this country’.

Well, then if anyone takes what is said by them earnestly, the next logical conclusion is; up is down, black is white, and the gas-lighting has taken all of our common sense, sanity and sight.

In comparison to those that propose lines of falsehoods and outright lies to the public which seems most corrosive; are the policy pushers who are far more destructive than any doe-eyed diva that peddles the party line of pabulum.

Under the radar and in the shadows of the spotlight’s glare, are some within the administration that are in the process of reversing progress on issues involving primarily the breadth of women’s hard fought rights.

Policy pushers are the stealth steamroller in Trump’s misogynistic offensive against the legislative infrastructure that has been built up brick by brick over many decades.

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” – Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, United States of America(34)

Taking a brief glance at three women who have a seat at the table of cache are Trump cabinet secretaries Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos.

Lastly, the third person on this brief list of influencers is Dr. Diane Foley. Now, there is a name many people are probably not too familiar with. Well, I’ll get back to telling you about her a bit later.

First woman in the Trump lineup is Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation.

Having been Secretary of Labor in the administration of George W. Bush and now current Secretary of Transportation, no one will deny that Elaine Chao is a very accomplished woman. Saying that, she is not above being taken to task for her performance when it comes to the intersection of varied interests.

Being married to Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao and her husband are one of the nation’s most prestigious couples. Hooray for love!

Yet, that same prestige holds the keys of conflicted interests that have the power to affect the balance of fairness to anyone who isn’t granted the seat at the table which the Secretary of Transportation holds.

Pet projects for her husband’s state of Kentucky have been prioritized in getting almost $78 million (35) in grants, as a she’s designated a ‘special liaison’ through her position as Secretary of Transportation.

Whiffs of other conflicts of interest seem to touch upon things that are all in the family for Secretary Chao and her husband, who have proficiently advocated for the Trump administration’s tax bill; not boasting publicly that a transformation of the tax code into a territorial system would benefit her family’s foundation and shipping business.

Never disagreeable in public, Elaine Chao has a consistent ability to brush off the dismal disposition of her boss and rise above it all.

Take for example, when Secretary Chao remarked to reporters after Donald Trump spoke about ‘fine people on both sides’, she later quipped at that same press conference in the lobby of his gilded NYC tower that “I stand by my man..(36)” which she then gave brief pause and added, “both of them”. At the time between the first five words before that pause, some wondered which man; Her President or Her Husband?

She wasn’t repulsed in the moment of his heartless equivocation and did not resign. She did the old soft-shoe and quipped to reporters when asking her thoughts on what was said by President Trump.

To be honest, it didn’t matter which of the two men she stands by, because she sure as hell wasn’t standing with Heather Heyer(37) or anyone else of us who treasures progress.

I’ll applaud in giving it to the women of this administration on their ability to definitely remain consistent. Yep, they are consistently vicious in standing behind lurid leadership from out of that top office.

In moving onto the next lady in the administration’s lineup, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, I’ll start by taking you back a ways on how her feelings for the man who hired her have changed with the title she possesses at this moment in time.

I guess DeVos’ description back in 2016 as Donald Trump as him being an ‘interloper’ who ‘does not represent the Republican Party’ (38) is irrelevant now, for now as President of the United States of America, everything he says, is and does is the Republican Party.

Betsy DeVos is HIS Secretary of Education.

Part of the permanence class, Betsy DeVos and her family have a long history of ‘investing’ in a fostering of a conservative philosophy with an emphasis on smaller government and that nebulous term ‘traditional American values’.

Funny thing when some people talk about limiting the size of government, they are the ones first in line who have their hands out for a position or financially flourishing arrangement with that same ‘bloated’ government. 

In her own words involving opposition to reforming campaign finance spending, Betsy DeVos unashamedly admitted what she desired in exchange(38)  for putting more than a few coins in the cans of needy candidates.

The United States Department of Education oversees that federal civil rights law known as Title IX, which Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been in the rapid process of reversing (39) policy guidelines, including the cancellation of supportive policies of affirmative action, disabled, and LGBTQ rights.

Enacted in 1972(40), Title IX was an addendum to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It has been one of the pillars of progress within the past century.

Although most of the times when the subject of Title IX has been in the media spotlight when it comes to the field of sports, the actuality of the law is far more expansive than beyond athletics. This includes the area of sexual assault and harassment, in which cases before the Supreme Court have been ruled as each being a form of discrimination based on sex.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposals and processing of guidelines are not moving us forward, but propelling us backwards through the decades of institutional gains.

Trump’s turgid tide is more than just a mumble, grumble or multiplicity of rambling howls leveled towards any woman he furiously wishes to crush.

If only it were that simple to ignore what he says and just shrug it off for the sake of his having freedom of speech as we all do.

Yet, when those words come from a President’s lips and actions signed by his pen transform into statutes that will take some of us back to the past; then that’s when truth has to rise and reveal.

Beyond the person in the Oval Office, there are members of the Administration who are running parallel in that race of regression of regulations, which happen to mostly affect women.

When an ideology encroaches on another person’s autonomy then those solemn footsteps of oppression begin to march upon us.

Now, let me introduce you formally to Dr. Diane Foley. As deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Foley(41) is in charge of the Office of Population Affairs.

Before you start to snooze off when hearing about this somewhat stealth cog in the Trump Administration’s governmental bureaucracy, I would advise you to STOP and WAKE UP to realize the programs which the Office of Population Affairs runs in distributing federal grants across the country.

I, as a woman who was already awake, is more woke now than I was before the moment that hand of his was placed on that bible on January 20, 2017.

Cacophonies come and cacophonies go, but one thing which the current man who sits in the Oval Office has done is turned on the flashing red light of warning to the Constitution and the uprooting of democratic principles.

Public Law 91-572, comes under the direction of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

But, you may wonder what a stale and staid code could possibly have to do with the attempted reversal of autonomy for women in the United States.

Although, its’ official name is Public Law 91-572, it is more broadly recognized as Title X.

Title X is the Family Planning Program, which was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, as part of the Public Health Service Act.

Noted at the time when he signed this piece of legislation, this Republican president praised the bipartisan support for this bill. Yes, it was THAT Richard M. Nixon who was the man who placed his signature onto parchment.

In fact, the beginnings of the aspects of this program went back to 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, providing assistance to low-income families in need of birth control with federal subsidies.

Title X’s services allow reduced and no-cost access to those uninsured or at a lower scale of income, with an overall purpose to promote positive health outcomes.

A vast array of services distributed under funding through Title X include sexual education, counseling, treatments and screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); as well as screenings for breast and cervical cancer. 

Birth control, pregnancy diagnosis, and pregnancy counseling are also under the umbrella of areas covered under the program.

There is one aspect of family planning which opponents of a specific procedure cling to with a virulent extent on the verge of obsession.

A B O R T I O N!! – And, that’s the word that rings the blaring bell of ideology in such a Pavlovian pitch from the aforementioned Dr. Diane Foley.

Publicly, when it goes to the subject of abortion, the name of a single entity comes to the forefront. Yet, in reality, Planned Parenthood is legally prohibited from using any federal funds for abortions.

“Many politicians still act as though the top threat to our national security is Planned Parenthood”- Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, United States of America(34)

Any abortions which Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood Affiliates or their associated clinics provide are privately funded.

Now, that’s where the policy, politics, and essence of ideological extremism intertwine in the implementation or cessation of grants.

Dr. Diane Foley controls the Title X program and has the discretion in deciding which organizations and groups are given the federal grants.

Going a little deeper on who Dr. Foley is, takes a turn down the road of her background of being the former president of Life Network, which is an operator to a pair of crisis pregnancy centers.

Colorado-based, Life Network has a mission statement on their website which includes the following: ‘life affirming alternatives to abortion’.

They call themselves ‘pro-life’, while I consider them ‘anti-choice’.

We all can believe whatever we wish based on whatever reasoning; from religion to science, or maybe nothing at all. But, to clasp a legal right from another adult is smothering that other person’s choice to do whatever they wish to do with their own body.

In that vein, those who operate crisis pregnancy centers (otherwise known as CPCs)(42) are only posing as health providers. Yet, they do not provide effective family planning, even including birth control. Or, have only non-medical staff on the premises.

Life Network prioritizes abstinence only sexual education, while leaving the full spectrum of sexual information out of their talk they give to needy women who come to them for assistance and counseling.

Private beliefs of a private citizen are one thing; but, when those same beliefs of a public person in the position to control policy and the federal funding for an essential program of health services for women and men, then that borders on something tiptoeing towards a theocracy(43).

In a 2016 speech at Charis Bible College, Dr. Diane Foley remarked on the subject of abortion with this: “a battle that is happening in the heavenly realms that Satan doesn’t want to lose.”(44)

Being appointed in 2018, Dr. Foley did not have to go through the process of being confirmed by the United State Senate, which would have had given her views extensive, public scrutiny.

Dr. Diane Foley’s extreme views were raised forward by United States Senator from Washington Patty Murray(45) in a letter(46) to fellow Senators, when she was being appointed to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

What is revealed by a memo(47) prepared by the Democratic staff of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee are some of Foley’s beliefs; such as seeing everything through “a biblical worldview,”(11-memo) to making unfounded conclusions about women who have had abortions, as to ‘shut down their emotions and become very cold and unapproachable’”.(13-memo)

You probably figure as a virulent opponent of abortion as Dr. Foley is, she would be a rejoicing cheerleader for women to place children born from an unplanned pregnancy up for adoption. But, oh you don’t know Diane. She believes adoption is ‘a double death’; not based on reality, but her thinking of the ‘interruption of a parent’s plan’ and the adopted child feeling ‘abandoned’. (24 -memo)

In 2019, she is now the person who is final arbiter of doling out the entirety of Title X funding for all persons who participate in this vital program.

It is an example of when misogyny and policy mix into an elixir of debasement, brewed from a caustic well of inflexible ideology.

And, it just happens that a woman is the tool or in this case the straw of bitterness which stirs the cocktail of poison which other women will have to swallow or remain parched in maintaining any droplet of dignity and governmental rights.

“Show some respect for me” – Aretha Franklin

Those five words are contained within a classic melody from 1967 titled “Do Right Woman”, which came to my mind when I began to write this article. As the unexpected dichotomy of The Queen of Soul’s heartfelt grace and the occupant of the White House’s depravity of any shred of gravitas peppered my psyche, a sole punctuation took the stage.

With the use of a comma between the three words of ‘Do Right Woman’(48), that hymnal reverie of Aretha Franklin’s angelic voice singing lyrics of a Chips Moman and Dan Penn penned song, the tone of this travesty in motion is re-imagined in an acrid aria of male orthodoxy with my title of “Do right, Woman!”

For me, those lyrics held in this spiritually affirming tune means so much beyond anything on an envisioned scale of a romantic back and forth of her to him or him to her; but for how we all as human beings should have that mutual bond of respect for one another. Because, if we don’t exchange and confer that equal level of parity within the human family; then we will sink in a morass of our own disillusion.

For those lacking the compunction within their heart and the touch of humanhood isn’t in your soul, as if you feel that you can’t meet the mutuality; then I’ve got one thing I’d like to leave you with – just go and tweet ya’ self!

Footnotes:

18-Oxford University Press, “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” -https://global.oup.com/academic/product/down-girl-9780190604981?cc=us&lang=en&#

19-Brett Kavanaugh and America’s ‘Himpathy’ Reckoning –https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/opinion/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-himpathy.html

20-‘Himpaathy’ Is A Societal Illness, But At Least We Have A Word For It -https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2018/09/30/himpathy-is-a-societal-illness-but-at-least-we-have-a-word-for-it/

21-“It Is What It Is”: Governor Kay Ivey on Alabama, Roy Moore, and Donald Trump -https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/it-is-what-it-is-governor-kay-ivey-on-alabama-roy-moore-and-donald-trump/

22-Kay Ivey: Putting Faith First – https://www.alreporter.com/2018/04/06/opinion-kay-ivey-putting-faith-first/

23-Gov. Kay Ivey Apologizes For Appearing in Racist Sketch -https://amp.montgomeryadvertiser.com/amp/2154394001

24-Guttmacher Institute – https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2019/03/surge-bans-abortion-early-six-weeks-most-people-know-they-are-pregnant

25-Alabama Governor Kay Ivey Is Just the Latest White Woman To Advance American Misogyny – https://www.qz.com/1620691/alabama-abortion-law-kay-ivey-and-the-white-women-for-trump/amp/

26-Trump Is Finally Catching Fire With Female Donors -https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/14/trump-campaign-women-donations-1319877

27-Meet the Schlapps, Washington’s Trump-Era ‘It Couple’ – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/us/politics/schlapp-trump.html

28-Kellyanne Conway Defends White House’s Falsehoods as ‘Alternative Facts’ -https://www.time.com/4642689/kellyanne-conway-sean-spicer-donald-trump-alternative-facts/

29-That MSNBC Interview Was Not the First Time Kellyanne Conway Referred to the “Bowling Green Massacre” – https://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a8674035/kellyanne-conway-bowling-green-massacre-repeat/

30-Establish A Ban on Muslims Entering the U.S. – https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/trumpometer/promise/1401/establish-ban-muslims-entering-us/

31-5 White House Staffers Leak Details of Meeting About White House Leaks -http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/05/white-house-staffers-defy-huckabee-sanders-on-leaks.html

32-Trump Campaign’s Mercedes Schlapp Says Trump Is Not A Racist – https://www.newsweek.com/trump-campaigns-mercedes-schlapp-says-trump-not-racist-trump-tweets-new-attacks-congresswomen-1450369%3famp=1

33-The Trump Team is Now Lying About Lying -https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/29/politics/donald-trump-kayleigh-mcenany-stephanie-grisham/index.html

34-Madeleine Albright: My Undiplomatic Moment -https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/opinion/madeleine-albright-my-undiplomatic-moment.amp.html

35-McConnell’s Wife Gave Him a Special Reelection Present: $78 Million in Federal Funding – https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/06/mitch-mcconnell-elaine-chao-kentucky/

36-Elaine Chao Is a Stealth American Nightmare – https://www.splinternews.com/elaine-chao-is-a-stealth-american-nightmare-1825893029/

37-Man Who Killed Heather Heyer at Charlottesville Sentenced to Life – https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/heather-heyer-james-fields-charlottesville-murderer-859182/

38-Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Big-Donor Education Secretary – https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/betsy-devos-trumps-big-donor-education-secretary

39-Assessing Betsy DeVos’s Proposed Rules on Title IX and Sexual Assault -https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/assessing-betsy-devos-proposed-rules-on-title-ix-and-sexual-assault

40-Public Law No. 92 318, 86 Stat. 235, Cornell Law School – https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1681

41-Health and Human Services Leadership – https://www.hhs.gov/opa/about-opa/leadership/index.html

42-Trump’s New Head of Family Planning Is an Anti-Choice Extremist – https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wjbpnm/diane-foley-crisis-pregnancy-center-title-x

43-Remarks by Dr. Diane Foley, Charis Bible College, September 15, 2016 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgYZ63dXlWM

44-Diane Foley, Trump’s Title X Chief, Suggested Abortion Is “A Lot Like” Slavery – https://www.bustle.com/p/diane-foley-trumps-title-x-chief-suggested-abortion-is-a-lot-like-slavery-the-holocaust-9682619

45-President Trump’s Ideological Appointee –https://www.help.senate.gov/ranking/newsroom/press/murray-help-committee-staff-raise-alarm-about-president-trumps-ideological-appointee-overseeing-family-planning-program

46-Diane Foley/DASPA, Dear Colleague Letter -https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4575632-Diane-Foley-DASPA-Dear-Colleague-07052018.html

47-Update on President Trump’s Appointments at HHS: A Dangerous Direction for Women’s Health –

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4575881-Diane-Foley-DASPA-Memo-7052018.html

48-“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”(Billboard Magazine) -https://www.billboard.com/music/aretha-franklin/chart-history/

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read Act 1, go here: http://tonyward.com/a-h-scott-do-right-woman-a-travesty-in-two-acts/

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, commentary, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, History, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Elaine Walters: Fear and Age at 50

 

. Text by Elaine Walters, Copyright 2019

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

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Fear and Age at 50

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I feared the idea of turning 50. That number just began to hover over me around the age of 45. I sailed through my 30’s and early 40’s as if I was still a 20 year old. Those ages didn’t slow me down in the least. I felt like I had my entire life ahead of me and I had so many ideas about who I wanted to become. I lived passionately, pretty carelessly, and a bit on the wild side. I was a slave to my heart and quite impulsive because of that. But I had time, so much time make it all happen.

Then, before I knew it, I was looking in the mirror, seeing the changes. The person staring back didn’t quite look like me anymore. Then came the realization that nothing in this life is forever. I think we know that, but it’s different when the time actually comes. It’s definitely a stop and pause moment. It’s scary, the impermanence of everything, health, family, friends, careers, and the seemingly simple gift of movement. To quote a friend, “the correlation between age and loss is not unfounded.” It has definitely been a turning point in my life. A lot of reflection and “what will my legacy be, what have I done that’s important, and what happens now?”

So, here we are ~ midlife. I’m still scared, but you know what? I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone a TON in this last year. I joined CrossFit after debilitating back pain when everyone told me not to, I started a business (at fucking 50!), and last week I got in front of the camera for this photoshoot.

The photoshoot was a big one. For as long as I can remember, maybe as far back as 9 or 10, I have been hyper focused on my body’s every flaw. Every dimple, every roll. Where I’m too flat and where I’m too full. I got into bodybuilding because that’s where I was going to reshape everything that was wrong with me. I worked hard, as I always do when I want something, but the harder I worked, the harder I was on myself and my shape. The closer I got to being on stage, the more my imperfections were magnified. Then, came a moment where I thought, this isn’t what this is supposed to be about. I do this because I want to be strong, I want to feel powerful, but mostly, I want to love who I’ve come to be.

This is when my original no, I’m not comfortable enough with my body to be photographed changed to, yes, I love who I’ve become, I want to do this. I couldn’t have been more comfortable being photographed on this lovely farm. The horses, the sun, the beautiful barns. These are things that have always brought me peace, a deep connection to my soul, and all that is important to me. All of the curves that I cursed were no longer even a thought. I was at home. Maybe this is what midlife brings, realizing the things that truly matter in life, finding where beauty and strength truly exist.

In retrospect, I think I’ve lived chasing my future so intently (where will I be tomorrow), that I’ve never actually been present. I’ve never loved the moment. I’ve never loved ME in the moment ~ this moment. And the deeper truth is, I’m not sure it was my future I was chasing at all. I was chasing a better version of me. So maybe my 50’s needs to be less about fear and more about what is now, who I am now, and just loving her, in this very moment.

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About The Author: Elaine Walters lives and works in Wilmington, Delaware.  Outside of the office, all of her time is spent riding horses and running her nutrition and fitness business where she coaches clients that are fed up with the diet industry.  This is Elaine’s first contribution to Tony Ward Studio.

She can be found on Instagram @elainecoale

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Robert Li: Acro Yoga

 

Text by Robert Li, Copyright 2019

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Acro Yoga

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Ikigai. Have you heard the term before? It’s a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” Essentially, it’s a reason to get up in the morning. There is a sense of purpose and a reason to enjoy life.  If you take four elements – That which you love, That which you are good at, That which you can be paid for, and That which the world needs – and put them in a Venn diagram, your Ikigai is the intersection of all four. Someone told me that I found my Ikigai in Acro, and I believe she was right.

I came to the US from Taiwan when I was 11 months old and grew up in Huntingdon Valley before attending Drexel University, though I studied abroad in Berlin while working for the German government. I majored in International Area Studies with concentrations in Chinese and German, and minored in Business Administration and History.

After college, I was a professional party promoter and professional cheerleader for the Philadelphia Soul as well as the Philadelphia 76ers while becoming familiar with the point of sale industry. The combination of food and tech seemed like a perfect place.  Food has always been a passion of mine, so it was great to work with staff, managers, and owners all across the country.  Still, I was either working or on call from 10am to 3am every weekday and on call every other weekend.  There were a lot of perks, including working from home and free food when clients insisted I eat, but I felt like a slave to my phone because I had to answer at all hours, no matter what.  When I discovered Acro, something clicked. I wanted to do it all the time.  I realized that the other aspects of Acro align with what I enjoy in life as well: travel, meeting amazing people, and potential for beautiful photography.  At first, Acro was a hobby, but by the time my thoughts, actions, and even dreams involved Acro, I knew a life-changing decision was coming.

With the #ridetherob project, the timing was right. When I started Acro four years ago, I didn’t know what to wear. I figured others must have the same problem. Why not create something that could fill a need? The concept of creating a clothing line became more than a fleeting thought. As my passion for Acro grew into a full blown love affair, I knew I had to take actions instead of just thinking about it. My heart and mind shifted focus from my job to the possibilities of what I could do with Acro. The #ridetherob project was building a lot of momentum, and studios started approaching me to teach. With so many amazing opportunities knocking at my door, I needed to answer the call and see what adventures await. Here was a big step towards the unknown, comforted by the thought that I have a whole community of amazing people supporting me in this adventure.

I wanted to create quality apparel for active lifestyles, and I had no idea where to begin. The first step was to make my intentions known and to make the time for this endeavor. Leaving a stable job with steady income was necessary to see this through. I was a motivated and knowledge-thirsty sponge, soaking in every piece of information and detail. Then I started making moves and developing my brand and products. Active Elixir was born (www.active-elixir.com). It’s the “perfect solution for people of movement.” I would address issues people have with apparel in various movements and provide solutions for them. My focus would be on all the various niche markets, starting with which I was familiar – Acro. Now I am developing Pole Wear, Swimwear, and in the next year, Belly Dance Wear and Social Dance Wear. Items are designed with ideas I’ve had, recommendations from friends, or random inspirations, and once they were realized, I test the prototypes on people who are actively involved in the practice. I listen to what they want, gathered feedback on the piece, made changes, and try again until it’s perfect — functional, comfortable, well-made, and stylish. I offer a direct line to someone who can make the changes you’ve always wanted to see in apparel, especially for your practice. I just hope that when all is said and done, I don’t end up with an absurd amount of women’s clothing in my apartment; I want to give them happy homes. In the near future, I’m looking towards fashion shows and collaborating with yoga studios.

My other pet project is #Ridetherob.  Funny enough, the idea for it came in the shower.  I recently got into Acro, and I wanted to show people how much fun it can be. I didn’t know this little project would evolve into something more and inspire others to create challenges and personal goals beyond expectations. At first, it was to show the world what Acro was, and then it was to make people feel good and happy while creating a deeper connection between human beings. At least, that’s what I observed the first couple of years. Now I realize it shows that people can learn and do things they thought was impossible. I’m also working on adding a philanthropic element to this project as I collaborate with various charities and other events.  My current count is 5,323 people I’ve lifted up on my Journey to 10,000.  The heaviest person I lifted while on the ground was my former rugby teammate who is 360 lbs. The heaviest individual I lifted standing was 250 pounds and almost 7 ft tall. I’ve also lifted a family of 6 at the same time and did a Triple Cupie with 3 flyers standing on my hands.

The Philly Mag article was great.(https://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2018/02/13/rob-li-lift-acro/) It was the first published article about the project. Being on Good Day Philadelphia and lifting the anchors as well as just about everyone in the Fox 29 office was also a lot of fun.  When CBS3 asked me to come in, I lifted anyone that wanted to be part of the project, and it seemed to make everyone’s days seeing how happy they were. (https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/video/4121404-local-acro-yoga-instructor-on-mission-to-lift-as-many-people-as-possible-to-spread-teaching/?fbclid=IwAR0sqCjL4QA5dneLLk4BaJO3qCCljjCwiYJeDAIBUSQOpWp0yTsD-1W57x4)

Growing up, I was quite chunky. I would eat everything in sight. Then I got into sports one summer. I lost about 20 pounds unintentionally and just have been active ever since. I played football, wrestled, ran track, fenced, did cheer, and played rugby.  I coached Temple Co-Ed Cheer because the head coach wanted to bring back a co-ed stunt team and asked me to help out. It’s amazing seeing the cheerleaders progress in their skills season to season.   

I am so thankful that I did cheer. I did not know that people tossing would be such a valuable life skill to have. Having a strong foundation in the fundamentals of standing Acro has helped me achieve a variety of skills. It also led me to teaching Acro. One of the people I lifted had her own yoga studio, and she insisted I teach an Acro workshop. I told her I wasn’t certified and have just been doing Acro for a couple of years, but she told me that the way I instructed her into her pose was evidence enough that I would be good at teaching. I taught my first class and really enjoyed it. Having about 20 years of cheer experience also helps out. Because of this foundation, I was able to learn skills in 20 minutes that people work on for a year or more.

Even though I have a strong personal practice, teaching people who are trying Acro for the first time has been really rewarding. Sometimes I find myself in random situations– I’ve been invited to a number of Bachelorette parties, and I would come in and lift everyone. One of my personal goals was to hit a Rewind, which is a dynamic cheer stunt in which the flyer essentially does a back tuck while the base tosses her in the air and then catches her feet as she comes out of the tuck. I was so thrilled that I even did a Happy Dance while holding the flyer in the skill. Unlocking new skills is such an amazing feeling, especially when you work for it. Some other stories include me lifting a flight attendant while 34,000 feet in the air. I’ve done Acro on top of bars at clubs and lounges. In the kitchen or counters of restaurants. At a few gentlemen’s clubs. On stage at a gentlemen’s club. On boats and yachts. On paddle boards. At hospitals. In offices. Every day is an adventure, and I’ll do Acro wherever. The pose depends on who is flying and what feels safe and what I call concrete-ready. 

Acro has even led me to perform and compete in one of the country’s largest competitions of this kind. When I went to see Diamond G a few years ago to support my friend, I saw some Acro in one of the performances. My thought process quickly went from I can do that, to I should do that, to I will do that. For a whole year, I was thinking about who should be on the team and what I should do. I recruited very talented acrobats, aerialists, pole dancers, and exotic dancers to compete for the coveted Diamond G-String title and $15,000. Despite being new to this, we came home with the title and prize money, and I met some amazing people in the process and have the utmost respect for anyone that puts on a show of this magnitude. 

It was a challenging and exciting endeavor, much like starting an apparel company, and I’m learning more about the industry each day. Almost every night before bed and every morning when I wake up, I am talking to my contacts in Asia. There has been no shortage of delays or mistakes that needed to be addressed in a timely manner. My search for reliable manufacturers that can take my ideas and create quality products has led me down some interesting roads. For those who might be thinking about embarking on a similar project, do your research. Be prepared for a lot of things to go the way you don’t expect them to go, and learn how to overcome those challenges.  Learn from your mistakes and apply that knowledge to future situations. Take lots of notes. Make sure you have money put aside because you will be spending more than you think. Believe in yourself. Take calculated risks and put yourself out there. Be kind to everyone. You never know who you’re going to meet who can help you in some way.

It also helps to listen, and I mean really listen to what women (and male consumers too!) have to say.  I’ve learned so much about bras and boobs. It’s still very confusing though. There are many body types and preferences to consider. I’ve learned about various tests women try when deciding which pieces of apparel they purchase—squats, jumps, and inversions. Learning from women firsthand means that I can develop clothing that fits their needs directly. I’m also studying shopping habits and learning about marketing through social media. This is a lot for someone who basically posts twice a month on Instagram. Yes, I’m working on that.

The support from my friends and various Acro communities has been tremendous. I am so grateful for the amazing people that have helped me and believed in me in realizing my vision. It’s heart-warming to see how happy people are with my products. They tell me stories about how great they feel and the amount of compliments they’ve received from wearing my clothing line. It’s really rewarding to hear that after putting so much time, energy, and money into such a huge endeavor.  It can definitely be difficult at times, but it’s been incredibly rewarding, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

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About The Author: Robert Li grew up in Huntingdon Valley, PA and resides in Philadelphia. He majored in International Area Studies with concentrations in German and Chinese and Minors in Business Administration and History at Drexel University. He is the Founder of Active Elixir, a clothing brand focused on creating solutions for people of movement through apparel. With his experience as a cheerleader for Drexel University, the Philadelphia Soul, and the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Cheer Coach for Temple University, he is also an AcroYoga instructor teaching at various studios in Philadelphia and Acro festivals across the country.

www.active-elixir.com

If you want to get in touch with Rob, you can find him on Instagram – @themojoshow and @activeelixir or email him: activeelixir@gmail.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, lifestyle, News, Philadelphia, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Sports, Video

Bob Shell: The Loss of a Fine Photographer

In Memorium: David Bogen Brooks

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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THE LOSS OF A FINE PHOTOGRAPHER

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When we get older there comes a time when we have to update your address book regularly because friends have died. I’m seventy-rwo now, and I’m having to do this more often than I like.

The world of photography lost a shining star recently, and I’d like to tell you about him..

My first interaction with David Bogen Brooks was in the early 1970s, when he rejected an article I’d sent to Petersen’s PhotoGraphic, one of the best of the photography magazines of the day. I was running a photo shop in Salem, Virginia, called Camera, Inc., in those days, and decided I wanted to write for photo magazines.

I’d written an article on closeup photography with bellows illustrated with some of my photographs, and hopefully mailed it off to PhotoGraphic. A month or so later it came back, but not with a form letter saying it was rejected. Instead there was a personal letter from Brooks, complementing me on my photographs, but saying the article just wasn’t right for them at that time, and encouraging me to try again with other articles in the future. For some reason I never did, though.

Run the clock forward to the 1980s and I’d succeeded in getting my foot in the door at Shutterbug, and was their Technical Editor, but acting more like the Editor, since the rest of the staff, although very good at their jobs, were not photographers, so they relied on me to select and assign articles. I bumped into David at one of the photographic trade shows, maybe the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show in Las Vegas or Photo+ in New York. He was between jobs at the time and looking for work. That was an opportunity not to be missed, so I brought him aboard to write for us, and over the years of working together, we became close friends. If I assigned David a product review, I could rely on getting not only a good article, but excellent photos to illustrate it. David had gone to college studying design in California after serving in the Air Force. Even though he was Canadian, he was able to join the U. S. Air Force and later become a U.S. citizen. After college he got a job working for Elektra Records and went on tour doing photography of The Doors and other Elektra artists. He told me once that he didn’t like working with Jim Morrison and considered him a dangerous sociopath.

David had what I call the “photographer’s eye.”. He could find the right angle and cropping to turn an ordinary scene into an extraordinary image. He worked with 35 mm cameras up to large format, mastering all, becoming an early adopter and expert on digital imaging.

Once, in the early 1990s, David and I met up with photographer Wayne Collins in Las Vegas for a photo shoot with model Roxanne, a featured Playboy model, and took her to the Valley of Fire State Park. We spent a day photographing lovely Roxanne nude among the orange-red rocks, which cast a warm glow on the skin of our model.. No question, David’s photos from that day were the best. Not only was he a master of composition, he had a manner that put models at ease and got the most out of them.

Another time we turned a hotel room at the Rio into an impromptu studio. David was also a master of lighting (and wrote a book about it), and we both brought studio flash for the session. I have some large prints he gave me from that session that are among my most prized possessions.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonyward.com/bob-shell-learning-photography/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Announcements, Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, History, News, Photography, Popular Culture

Racquel Ward: A Practical Artist

TW in his Elkins Park office. Copyright 2019

Text by Racquel Ward, Copyright 2019

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Making Money and Art in 21st Century Philadelphia

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Philadelphia is expensive. That’s what grass-to-profit artists who have been in the game for 40 plus years will tell you about our transformed city. Consider this a public service announcement for artists of any age who are looking for stability. World-renowned and Philadelphia-based photographer Tony Ward has stuck around to see everyday life in Philly change and evolve. That means everyday life for an artist in Philly must change and evolve.

Since making money has always been the bane of the artist’s experience, Tony Ward has expanded into real estate development and education. At 63 and in his golden years, Ward has figured out the perfect recipe for a balanced life – selling art, securing property, and teaching at Haverford College in the Spring of 2020. A longtime professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Ward has chosen to sustain his creative lifestyle by working closer to home and continuing to illuminate his innovative skills through teaching photography to young artists at Haverford.

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Tony Ward Studio Apartment

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As a blogger, his well-trafficked websites tonyward.com, tonywardstudio.com, and tonywarderotica.com keep him busy publishing articles by a great supporting cast of creative writers including; A.H. Scott, Bob Shell, Katie Kerl, and Mikala Mikrut.

Through property development, Ward has recently created a stylish home for renters; making a beautiful, modern space in the historic Elkins Park neighborhood. The recent purchase and subsequent renovation has been a creative outlet for Ward. The project happily supports his photographic endeavors and allows room for his 5000 print photography archive to be stored at home instead of an offsite storage facility.

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TWS: Tennant Apartment

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Artists of all ages, take note. Non-artists are doing it, why shouldn’t you? Better you in the neighborhood than a bank. Educate yourself on the bustling real estate market in Philly, sell your art whenever you can, and pass your knowledge onto the next generation – wherever you can.

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Tony Ward Studio Apartments

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About The Author: Racquel Ward is a writer and educational therapist living in Los Angeles. She holds a BA in Culture and Media studies and a BFA in Contemporary Music from the New School University – Manhattan, New York. Racquel also holds a Master’s of Science in Teaching. She has been published on ThoughtCatalog and most recently finished her first children’s book. To access additional articles by Racquel Ward, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/racquel-ward-expo/

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Editors Note: This article first appeared athttp://dosagemagazine.com

 

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Family Legacy Project, History, lifestyle, News, Philadelphia, Popular Culture, Portraiture