January 20, 2019

Sometimes stories emerge when you need them most. Today is one of those days. We've had a week (Well, two years. HELL, TWO MILLENNIA, but I don't get paid enough for that list) of awful XY chromosomal behavior and testosterone-laden abuse.

Witness the awful response of so many angry men terrified and triggered by the Gillette ad suggesting men can be better humans by not harassing women, bullying kids who are smaller than they are, and not assaulting gay people. The nerve of Gillette.

Witness the gall of the crowd of mostly "Christian" males who gathered in Washington, DC, this weekend to tell women what to do with the most intimate parts of their bodies, that their lives didn't matter as much as a blastula, and when and how many children they could have at the "Pro-Life" march.

Witness the young Catholic males who surrounded, harassed, smirked, and mocked the Native American Elder, Nathan Philips as he stepped between them and a tiny group of (yes, homophobic) Black protestors in an attempt to de-escalate tensions.

Whew. Did I basically get it all? Oh, wait. There was also Trump. And Ben Shapiro, who I blame for my new desire for a t-shirt that reads, "I would totally kill #babyHitler."

Yeah, I'm tired. Toxic masculinity is the worst.

Then author Audra Williams comes along to save the day with a truly lovely story about Kris Kristofferson, one of my many childhood crushes. On Twitter, Williams recalled the reason Kristofferson and singer/activist Sinéad O'Connor became and remain close friends, and it's because of his genuine allyship at a time her activism was under severe fire for tearing up a photo of the Pope on SNL.

Turns out Andrew Dice Clay was not the Host of SNL that night...Tim Robbins was. But she was, indeed, scheduled to perform on an earlier show where Clay was the host, and she cancelled her appearance to protest.

Here's a video of Kristofferson's telling of the story of that moment in the Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden.

You can watch the entire scene in the first video above - from introduction to the moment he guided her from backstage when it was over. Some might take issue with his calling O'Connor "little girl." She was 26. I appreciate being on the lookout and vigilant for dismissive and demeaning language towards women, so this is not a call-out to those people. But I wanted to acknowledge that in this particular case, taken in the context of the entire story, what I find much more significant is that (a), he treated her with great respect in front of tens of thousands of people; (b), he respected her activism, her bravery, and her craft; (c), he refused to be part of silencing her - au contraire, he gave her strength to continue on; and (d), in the end, in the song he wrote, he referred to her as a sister, despite their obvious generation-length age gap, "Sister Sinead." If a man with 20 more years experience and standing in my field referred to me as his "sister" in work, I'd consider it an elevation, not an insult.

Take a bow, Kris Kristofferson. I do hope you're still in touch with Sinéad O'Connor, as you fight your own health battles. And thank you, Audra Williams - that story is just what we needed right about now.

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