Monthly Archives: March 2017

WOMEN RULE THE WORLD

by Wayne T. Dowdy

Womens-History-Month-300x153I live in an abnormal environment dominated by women–a men’s federal prison. On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, I am a scheduled speaker at an event to honor Women’s History Month in America. I feel inclined to do a powerful presentation. Talk about performance anxiety!

I speak often from the podium and have no fear of public speaking. I will speak from the heart to honor powerful women in history, not just in America.

Most department heads at this institution are African-American women, including the one who rules her domain with whips and chains at the Federal Correctional Institution in Edgefield, South Carolina, the Warden, as well as, one of her two Assistant Wardens. Here is what I have written for the Products of a Woman presentation:

Powerful Women

I am Wayne T. Dowdy, a son, father, grandfather, brother, and an uncle, all the products of a woman, my Mother.

The strength I saw in her and many other women has convinced me that the biggest deception in life began when an intelligent woman convinced man that he was the strongest.

Yeah, right! She says, go fight that bear to protect me, honey. Bring me his meat and we will eat. The man risks his life to please and feed her.

Now I’ll touch on history. In the United States, Women’s History Month traces its beginning back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911.

In 1978, the school district of Sonoma, California participated in Women’s History Week. Different events followed that led to President Jimmy Carter declaring March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week, which began a series of Presidential Proclamations of Women’s History Week, up until 1986.

During this trend, Congress got on the bandwagon and passed resolutions for Women’s History Week.

Beginning in 1988, each subsequent president issued Presidential Proclamations of Women’s History Month that continues to this day. These women are a fraction of notable women in history:

Cleopatra (69 BCE – 30 BCE), the woman who ruled Egypt.
Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431), a 17-year old woman who inspired a French revolt against the English occupation, and then led the French to victory at Orleans.
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883), an African-American, female abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner, whose famous speech against racial inequality, as a woman, I will share upon conclusion.
Susan B. Antony (1820 – 1906), campaigned against slavery and promoted rights for women and workers. Her contribution earned her a mark on a U.S. coin.
Emily Murphy (1868 – 1933), the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. In 1927, she joined forces with four Canadian women who sought to challenge an old Canadian law that said, “[W]omen should not be counted as persons.”
Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005), she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, an action that indirectly led to the most significant civil rights legislation in American history.
Indira Gandhi (1917 – 1984), first female Prime Minister of India. She was assassinated.
Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013), the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Condolesa Rice, Secretary of State under President George Bush, Jr.
Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney General under President Barrack Obama.

An old cliche is that, “Behind every good man is a good woman.” These women are examples:

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962), First Lady of President Franklin D. Roosevelt;
Jacqueline Kennedy ( ), First Lady of President John F. Kennedy;
Nancy Reagan ( ), First Lady of President Ronald Reagan;
Hilary Clinton, First Lady of President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State under President Obama, 2016 Presidential Candidate;
Michelle Obama, First Lady of President Barrack Obama, and of African-American decent.

I offer those listed above as examples of thousands of powerful women throughout history. Women are survivors.

The birth process is evidence of a woman’s strength. Most men would not dare to suffer so much pain to give life, if given the option. No, he is too weak for that kind of pain.

Our species would not have survived if man carried the burden of birth. He may go fight a bear to please her and to feed their children, but he dare not to endure such pain for nine months.

Additional evidence lies in the fact that in long-term marriages, if the woman dies first, the man is soon to follow. If the man dies first, the woman keeps on going to nurture her offspring for generations.

My mother outlived and buried three husbands.

Women are fighters, fighting for life, for love, for equality. Ask Beyonce’ Knowles, she tells the truth when she says, “Women Rule the World.”

To celebrate their legacy, a week was not enough, nor is a month, so the fight continues. Women’s History Month allows us to focus on the value of women and reunites the flame to fight for equality in the workplace and in all other aspects of life, because without the woman, there would be no life.

Yes, maybe most men are physically stronger than most women are; however, the facts show women rule the world. Evidence also suggests that she is more intelligent. If she wasn’t, she’d be the one to go fight the bear to feed her family while the man stayed at home with their children.

Now for, “AIN’T I A WOMAN?” by Sojourner Truth, delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio:

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women of the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most of them sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, ‘intellect’] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”

The fight continues until the day all women are treated equal. Let us remember each day, not just during the Month of March, to celebrate Women’s History. Thank you!

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Wayne T. Dowdy writes Straight From the Pen. Visit the website to purchase his books and essays (http://www.straightfromthepen.com) and eBooks at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy. Follow his blogs at https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com and https://waynedowdy.weebly.com

DAMAGE and PRISON

solitude

by Wayne T. Dowdy

[Updated with comments on August 9, 2019, a year after walking out of the prison gates (08/28/2018), still attempting to recover from the damage caused by thirty-years and ten-days inside the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.]

Prison damages people.  Those who spend decades in prison are damaged in many ways, all of which I will not go into.  For instance, exposure to violence or physical abuse that people deal with, or repressing natural tendencies to fight when having to comply with irrational demands; e.g., like ones I wrote about in “The Truth About Incarceration, Part I” (https:/straightfromthepen.com) and “Authority and a Prisoner’s Story” (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/508702).

DON’T GET PERSONAL:  A less than obvious example of damage, occurs for someone like me — a southern gentleman by nature who likes to assist people I see carrying a heavy load or otherwise look to need help; especially, women, who represses the natural desire to help.  To engage in a personal conversation may also create difficulties.

At times, I resist the desire to offer help due to fear of causing a conflict for the damsel in distress.  I still offer to help in certain situations.  Because of prison regulations and the warped, unwritten code of prison ethics, I may avoid speaking openly about an issue I would normally speak about to a person I feel I can help by offering a suggestion.

The person may or may not accept a helping hand.  In such a situation, an inmate may decline assistance at the fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable.  A staff member may decline due to fear of another staff member suspecting improprieties between him or her and the compassionate prisoner.  Personal conversations and any type of transaction between staff and inmates are viewed as inappropriate by many prisoners and staff alike.  Humanity prohibited!

INSTINCTS DENIED:  My instinct is to help others.  Sometimes I don’t because of the risk I may put the other person in by doing what comes natural.  Knowing that my act of kindness may harm the other person, makes me reluctant to offer the assistance my ethics and natural instincts tells me to do, as a decent human being.

Upon release, I will have to undo decades of damage done by the prison experience:  suppressing healthy emotions and needs.  I must learn to be a normal.

[I continue to work on behaving as I normally would do as a free citizen, if not for the damage caused by the extensive incarceration. I still struggle when it comes to relationships. I am a decent, loving, kind, and gentle human being, who doesn’t have to pretend to be bullet proof.]

I sent out the following message to a friend who posted it on social media for me.  A lot of people liked it so I will share:

“03/05/17:  To all my Faithful Friends:  I hope March brings each of you lots of love and success or whatever your hearts desire.  For me, I’d be happy to be able to walk through a park or to sit on a lake to listen and observe the beauty of nature; to give someone a hug, kiss someone special, or to just be able to sit and watch animals; or to pet a dog, cat, rabbit, or a chicken.  🙂  Hell, I’d be happy to watch some fish swim around in an aquarium.  I am looking forward to going to the Georgia Aquarium to see some really big fish!  So much in life people take for granted until it’s gone.  One day soon I will be reentering the human race.  Then I will be able to interact with each of you like a normal person.  Have a great day!  Wayne”

[Georgia Aquarium: I walked by the Georgia Aquarium en route to a job fair at the City of Refuge, but have not been to watch the fish swim. I will go soon now that I’m working and can afford to buy the tickets. Everything is expensive!]

The above indicates the desensitization of prisoners.  For over 28-1/2 years, my physical contact with other humans and mammals has been severely restricted.  That is definitely true on an intimate level about lovers and sexual intercourse!  During this sentence, I have resisted romantic-relationships.  I’ve only been involved in three since 1988, and only one of those included physical contact (hugs and kisses on a visit).

At U.S.P. Atlanta, I had one female visitor I got to hug and kiss, and some mice to pet.  🙂

In Lompoc, California, I got to take care of a friend’s pet house sparrow, and to go outside to feed the seagulls, crows, other birds, and ground squirrels.  I fed the ground squirrels until the administration poisoned them.  😦

In a relationship, I love to hug and touch, to put my arm around my mate’s waist or shoulder, to sleep with my arm around her to maintain contact.  I guess I am by nature, a “touchy-feely” kind of guy.  In prison, I sleep alone and touch myself.

SEXUAL REPRESSION:  In 1980-81, when I took psychology in college, I seem to recall that a prominent psychologist or psychiatrist wrote about the damaging effect of suppressing sexual feelings and desires.  If that is true, I must be more damaged than I realize.  Perhaps I need a therapist, now!

In my opinion, sexual repression is a leading causes of mental illness in America.

Around 1997, a Nevada, Holier-than-Thou politician, pushed a bill through Congress that prohibited federal prisoners from receiving magazines or books containing nudity. [Ensign later resigned due to negative publicity about his extramarital affairs.]

CENSORSHIP & COMPLEX REASONING:  Several years ago, the prison mail room staff rejected an issue of Smithsonian I subscribed to because it contained nudity.  I appealed.

The program statement makes an exception for educational or anthropological content, as one may see in National Geographic; however, understanding an “exception clause” requires cognitive thinking; an ability to comprehend the subject matter and its relation to the provision; to then analyze the situation and decide whether the matter before one’s eye, does in fact, contain what constitutes a permissible exception, a far too complicated process for someone who may not have a GED, I reckon.

The Smithsonian Board of Directors has Supreme Court justices and politicians.  If I was wrong in my assertions, the justices and politicians on the Board of Directors support publishing and distributing pornography.

I appealed the decision to reject my Smithsonian.  I took it to the highest level in Washington, DC.  No one involved comprehended the “exception clause” and upheld the denial of my magazine.  Censorship won because I didn’t want to spend $500.00 to litigate the matter in federal court, where someone with the required intelligence could understand the educational/anthropological, “exception clause.”

PERVERSION & THE POLITICIAN:  Since that policy took effect, I saw a dramatic increase of inmates put in the hole (confined to a cell 23-hours per day, restricted from purchasing most commissary items, using the phone, email system, etc.) for “gunning down” female staff members (masturbating or exposing genitalia while watching the woman).  That may qualify as abnormal behavior.

The politician who sponsored the censorship bill, later came under fire for getting caught cheating on his wife.  Throughout the years, many of the politicians who come up with such bills did what prisoners in the Georgia prison system called “Shifting the Heat,” which is to say or to do things to put the focus on other people to keep it away from themselves.

[U.S. Senator John Ensign, Author of Ensign Amendment, Falls From Grace, https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2009/nov/15/us-senator-john-ensign-author-of-ensign-amendment-falls-from-grace/ ]

CELIBATE BY CHOICE:  In prison, I remain celibate because I choose not to participate in homosexual activities, my only other option since I do not have or attempt to have sexual affairs with staff members.  Even if involved in a heterosexual relationship with someone, I still couldn’t engage in sexual activities, even if someone visited me.  While visiting, prison rules limit physical contact to hugs and kisses when greeting and leaving.  Therefore, I remain celibate and will do so until I reenter that part of humanity upon release from prison.

LOMPOC CA:  In 1999, while I was at the United States Penitentiary in Lompoc, California, a tall and pretty, female staff member worked in M-Unit, along with a male staff member known to create drama with staff and inmates alike.

M-Unit is where those of us with high profiles were kept.  I lived in it because I was a maximum custody prisoner.  The administration scored me as Maximum custody due to violence and an escape in 1981, when I was a 24-year-old knucklehead in the Georgia prison system.  Today I am a model prisoner.

PRETTY WOMAN:  That tall and pretty woman was a mother of three.  The male guard wanted her to sit in a booth where the correctional officers, who worked in the unit, had a phone, small desk, drawers, and a cabinet to store their personal and work-related items.

She rebelled.  Instead, she chose to speak with me, within his view.  We stood talking on a tier, in an open area, where others could hear our conversation.  To learn how she might help raise her children, she asked about my childhood and history, and wanted to know what I thought lead to me spending my life in prison.  Our conversation was wholesome, no improprieties of any sort.

The next time I saw her, she asked if I’d be willing to give her an affidavit about our conversation, if she needed it.

“Sure,” I said.

The male guard wrote a complaint against her for fraternizing with an inmate.

Because of that experience, I sometimes avoided conversations with female staff members, who may have only wanted to engage in conversation to ease their tension from working in a male prison.

When sexually attracted, I must resist the impulse to flirt or to make an advance.  A rejection might result in a trip to the hole and a damaged ego, the damaged ego being the worst casualty of rejection.

[Today, I resist the urge to flirt or ask for a date because of some of the BS generated through the ME TOO movement, where many people filed complaints and alleged sexual abuse by those in power positions (most of which were legitimate complaints, I suspect). The main reason is because of personal circumstance and for reasons I wrote about in previous blog posts, and because I don’t think it’s what I need until I become more accustomized to living on the outside.]

As damaged as I may be from the prison experience, I will blend into society when I am released.  With a little help from my friends, and maybe a therapist or two, I will be okay and become a success story.

[Returning Citizen: I am a success story, as are all of the men and women who returned to society and have not returned to prison life.]

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