Thursday, May 29, 2014

Not All Men? Shut the Fuck Up.

[TW for misogyny, gun violence, rape culture, rape apologia, victim-blaming, slut-shaming, suicide]

I've been feeling many things since the UCSB attack this past week--sadness and hopelessness definitely come to mind. However, today I'm angry. I'm angry because, instead of talking about the ways that violent misogyny is killing women and what we can do to stop it, we're fighting yet another onslaught of men who are desperate for attention.

"NOT ALL MEN!" they cry. Except we know what they really mean. What they really mean to say is "NOT ME!"

I'm sure most of the people reading my blog know this, but 1 in 6 women will be raped or otherwise sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Many believe that this statistic is highly under-representative of the actual number. As I mentioned in a previous post, every rapist commits an average of ten rapes, so the logical conclusion is that 1 out of 60 men is a rapist. There are 7 billion people on the planet, give or take, at the moment--assuming that the population is about 50/50 among men and women, out of 3.5 million men, about 58,333 men in this world are rapists. They will rape an average of 10 women each--that's 583,330 rape victims. And that's a modest estimate. 

What the men of this world forget is that women are taught all our lives that we are sexual objects and potential victims. We are a commodity to be bought and sold, and if we are ever the victim of an attack, including murder, we must have done something to cause the attack. According to RAINN, there are 237,868 rapes each year in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of women will be attacked this year, and it will almost always be blamed on the victims. Almost no one will think to blame the rapists. There are articles and blogs and comments ALL OVER THE INTERNET blaming the women that Elliot Rodger mentions in his manifesto for the murders that occurred at UCSB, arguing that they should have put out so that this wouldn't have happened.

At this point in time, we need men to stand up with us and fight violent misogyny. We need men to combat the patriarchal culture that bred the Elliot Rodgers of the world, that made it OK for men to kill women (or drive them to suicide) when they don't give them what they want (and sometimes even when they do).

But instead, they're choosing, yet again, to make the conversation all about men.

Before you start screaming NOT ALL MEN, take some time to think about why you're assuming that the women who are speaking think all men are misogynists, rapists, and murderers.

Read the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter. Really digest their stories. Realize that there are thousands upon thousands of stories. Realize that EVERY SINGLE WOMAN YOU KNOW has dealt with harassment, assault, or rape in one way or another at some point in her life. Read through MRA websites that promote the assault, rape, and murder of women. Read the news stories detailing murder after murder, rape after rape, and then go read the misogynist comments applauding the murderers and rapists.

Then think about why women might think that way.

Then think about how you're contributing to that.

Realize that, instead of using your privilege and your voice to speak up for women, you're choosing to use it to make the conversation about you. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Food Shaming and Why This Shit Needs to Stop

[TW for disordered eating, food shaming]

For those of you who don't know what food shaming is, my definition is it's when someone judges you for the food you are eating and comments on it in an attempt to make you feel ashamed of your choices. When faced with the subject of food, a lot of people do something we feminists call "concern trolling," which is when you shame someone for something under the guise of actual, genuine concern for their well-being. This happens with food all. The. Time. People decide that it's OK to tell others (particularly women) what not to eat because it will make them unhealthy, when what they're really trying to say is that they shouldn't eat that because it might (GASP!) make them fat (which, if you know anything about anything, fat =/= unhealthy). Bottom line, what someone eats, how much they eat, when they eat it, how often, etc., is nobody's fucking business except the person whose mouth the food is going into.

Food shaming ties directly into the dieting industry, which targets women specifically and relies on women feeling bad about themselves, their bodies, and their food choices in order to survive; it's more than obvious from the advertisements that we see on a regular basis. For example, there is the recent pushing of the Special K Challenge that challenges women to replace two meals a day with Special K products, asks women to think about what they will gain when they lose (weight, obviously), and whose incredibly problematic and dangerously unhealthy nature Jezebel covered in a fantastic article. There is the onslaught of ads for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, etc., that actively shame women both for their food choices and for (possibly) being fat. There are phone apps that encourage people to count calories and essentially take stock of everything they eat, which is a documented symptom of certain eating disorders. This is not to say that all people who count calories have an eating disorder, but promoting counting calories as an everyday activity can very easily lead people to develop one, especially when you consider the continuous assault of messages that are telling us to stay thin, no matter what the cost.

This is an issue that is particularly upsetting for me because I have dealt with disordered eating as a direct result of food shaming. (This is actually the first time I'm talking about this so candidly.)

When I was a kid, I absorbed the messages that the media was telling me. I was supposed to be small, delicate, proper. I was supposed to count calories and watch my weight, lest I take up too much space. If I had the choice between a steak and a salad, I was always to choose the salad, no matter how much I wanted the steak. Despite the fact that the average human being needs to consume 2000 calories to survive, calories were the enemy and the goal was to consume as few of them as possible. This was "for my own good" and "for my health." I also absorbed the indirect messages that my mother was sending me through her constant dieting and self-shaming. I listened to my dad tell me stories of when she used to diet until she was nearly a skeleton. I watched her weight fluctuate between the holidays and the summertime. I watched her mentally punish herself for eating things she liked. I watched her deny herself foods that I knew she loved and sacrifice simple treats all for the sake of a thinner figure. Right this very moment, she is on yet another diet and she's already talking about her weight loss plan for when she puts on a few "extra" pounds during the holiday season. I want to be clear: I don't blame her for doing these things, because this is the result of those same media messages as well as the messages she learned from her mother, who likely learned those messages from the same places.

As a result of these messages, I learned that eating was not something you did to survive. It was not a necessity to continue living. Eating was something you succumbed to when you were at your weakest. As a result of these messages, I developed a fear of eating in front of other people because I was afraid of what they might think of me. I don't know that what I had was an eating disorder, but it was definitely disordered eating (if that makes sense). To put this in perspective, right now I weigh 125 pounds, give or take. In high school, at the same height, I weighed only 98 pounds because I was so afraid of people thinking I was a slob for eating that I simply stopped eating in public and restricted my food in private. I skipped lunch nearly every day and ate very minimally at home. It took me many years to become comfortable with just the idea of eating to survive, and many years after that before I became comfortable with the idea of eating what I wanted without judging myself or caring what other people thought.

Then, just tonight, at a point in my life where I'm finally comfortable with my body (and its arbitrary, socially constructed "flaws") and no longer shame myself simply for eating or for having a snack when I feel like it--where a simple bag of potato chips no longer sends me into a spiral of guilt and panic--my dad made a comment about a snack that I decided I wanted, and for a split second I went right back to that "I must never eat again" mindset.

It's awful. And it's exactly why this shit needs to stop. Because my story is not the only story out there.

Not even close.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Schrödinger's Rapist and What He Has to do With That Guy at the Bar Hitting on Me

[TW: rape, rape culture, misogyny, sexual violence, denial of autonomy, privileged bullshit]

I posted the above graphic on Facebook a few days ago. Social networks being what they are, I wound up receiving comments from an ex-boyfriend that went a little something like this (my ex was responding to a comment from my aunt stating "Sadly, what they're respecting is the other man's PROPERTY!"):

"I've said I have a girlfriend before, am I her property? Cause I thought it was a polite way of saying, "Nothing personal, maybe some signals were misread. I actually am in a happy relationship and not looking elsewhere."...but that's just me. It's true that traditionally men make the advances, but my point is most will accept a "no" when they see one and it doesn't have to be a matter of possession."
This is a perfect example of male privilege: being able to reject an unwanted advance (or perhaps even multiple unwanted advances) without any kind of negative backlash or retaliatory action taken against him, and then being able to proclaim widely that "most men will accept a no when they see one" (read: a "no" by itself, without any sort of buffers such as "I have a boyfriend/husband" involved) when that is simply not the case. I'm glad that he has never had to go through the truly terrifying experience of someone refusing to take no for an answer in the context of an unwanted romantic and/or sexual advance, but the fact of the matter is that I, and most women on this planet, have.

There's a very big difference between a man saying he has a girlfriend and a woman saying she has a boyfriend in order to get out of a situation where there's an interested party and the other person is not interested. There is a power dynamic involved where women, unfortunately, have the shit end of the stick. If we say "no" by itself, we're labeled frigid bitches, and there have been many cases when women have been attacked (verbally and/or physically) for doing so. We say "no, because I have a boyfriend" because many men only respect other men, not women's autonomy and our right to say no to unwanted advances, and because we know we are less likely to be attacked if we use the excuse that there's a man in our lives (the implication, of course, being that the man in our lives will defend us physically, if necessary). We also don't know which men will respond nicely and which men will respond with violence to a simple "No thank you, I'm not interested."

This is where the concept of Schrödinger's Rapist comes into play (which you can read more about in this blog post on Shapely Prose). The fact of the matter is, women have been consciously and subconsciously trained through our social interactions with others, the way we are portrayed in the media, etc., to categorize any unwanted advances as potentially dangerous. We have to be afraid for our safety because the truth is that we don't know which men will not accept a no when they see one. Statistics state that 1 out of 6 women will be raped in her lifetime (and that's only including the ones that are reported: so many more aren't). I found out in the aforementioned blog post that when looking specifically at rapes where the man is the perpetrator and the woman is the victim (which accounts for most rapes), if you take into account that every rapist commits an average of ten rapes, that means that at least one out of every sixty men is a rapist. To put this into perspective, I graduated from Curtis High School in a class of about 700 people (give or take). Assuming the class was 50/50 men and women, that means there were about 350 men in my graduating class. Statistically speaking, 6 of them were rapists. And I have no way of knowing which ones they were. 

Over the course of their lives, between the six of them, they will rape at least sixty women.

These statistics are fucking scary by themselves. Combine that with the fact that women are told that we shouldn't have the right to say no, that a no can eventually turn into a yes if the guy tries hard enough, that a no is just a woman playing "hard to get" and she really means yes, etc., it becomes fucking terrifying. My ex may not believe this is true, but there is an element of possession in all of those examples, a belief that women "belong" to men and don't get the option of just saying "no thank you" and leaving the scene without a struggle. This is evidenced by the high number of rapes in this country - clearly a woman's no isn't really taken seriously.

When women are approached on the street by a male stranger, there's a 1.67% chance that he will be a rapist.  We have no way of knowing whether or not he is that 1.67%. We have no way of knowing whether or not tonight will be the night we become one of the 1 out of 6 women who will be raped in her lifetime.

There's a reason women instinctively use the "I have a boyfriend/husband" excuse.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blog for Choice Day - Why I'm Pro-Choice

From the time I was 18 years old until I was 20, I was in a relationship with someone, and if I were to say that they were not a nice person, it would be the understatement of the decade. He was very controlling and was constantly belittling me and condescending to me. I wasn't allowed to be myself when I was around him; he didn't like my extroverted personality, and he made it known in no uncertain terms when I had displeased him by daring to be happy in his presence by giving me the cold shoulder and telling me that I embarrassed him. Eventually, he didn't have to worry about it, because he effectively killed my happiness. He would sulk and call me horrible names when he didn't get his way, and once he cheated off of my homework (without my knowledge) and put both of us at risk of not only failing the class, but of getting kicked out of the academic program to which we belonged. When I confronted him about it, he got angry at me for getting angry at him. Nothing was ever his fault, and he never took responsibility for anything. The real kicker was the time that, after I gave him a surprise hug, he grabbed me by my wrist, refused to let go, and told me that he was a black belt and that he was trained to react, therefore, if he ever hit me, it was my own fault. Thankfully, the violence never escalated past that, even though I stayed with him for another six months after the incident, but it very easily could have.

I chose to be in a sexual relationship with this person, and if it weren't for my birth control pills, I might have gotten pregnant by him. There were a couple of times where I thought that I might have, and each time I knew immediately that I would have an abortion. I knew from a very early age that I never wanted children, and I also knew that having his child would tie me to him forever. Despite his attempts to control everything I thought, said, and did, being tied to him forever was not an option for me, and while his controlling, abusive behavior killed everything else in me, it thankfully did not kill my belief that I had the right to make a choice. This is one of the many reasons why I am pro-choice--because there are so many other women who are in similar (and worse) situations. For many women, the right to a safe, legal abortion is their only saving grace in an abusive relationship, whether the abuse is physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, etc. Leaving an abusive situation is difficult enough--add a child/children into the mix, and it becomes nearly impossible.

Somewhere along the line, the term "pro-choice" came to mean "pro-abortion," and apparently any person who is pro-choice wants all pregnant women to terminate their pregnancies regardless of whether or not they want to. These accusations come from the anti-choice crowd, which is comprised of the Republicans, the "Religious Right," etc., who want all pregnant women to continue their pregnancies regardless of whether or not they want to...sound familiar? Apparently, it's perfectly ok to control women's bodies as long as your agenda falls into the right category. Unfortunately for the anti-choice crowd, pro-choice does NOT mean we want all pregnant women to indiscriminately terminate their pregnancies--it means we want all pregnant women to have a choice in the matter, whether she chooses to have an abortion or continue the pregnancy and parent the child or put hir up for adoption. Whether a woman is in an abusive relationship, she was raped, she had a casual encounter, or she's in a relationship, whether a woman had a consensual encounter and used some form of contraception and had an "oops" or didn't use contraception at all, she has the right to say no or yes to a pregnancy. It is her choice, and nobody else's.

If a woman chooses not to continue the pregnancy, for whatever reason, she should have the right to access a safe, legal, affordable abortion. If a woman chooses to continue the pregnancy, she should have the right to a safe and healthy pregnancy and birthing experience, whether it's in a hospital or at home. If she chooses to place the child up for adoption, she should have the right to ensure that the child goes to a loving, healthy family, free from abuse and neglect. If she chooses to parent, she should have the right to financial assistance should she need it, as well as parenting classes, support groups, etc. The fact of the matter is that pregnant women, whether they choose to terminate a pregnancy or continue it, have very little agency when it comes to their reproductive health, and this has to change.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'll Wear my Hair However I Please: Why Rape Prevention Tips Don't Work

(TW for rape, rape apologia, rape culture, victim-blaming, slut-shaming)

I just finished reading this link (which also carries the same TW as this post and which I highly recommend you read, as well, but the Reader's Digest version is "Here's yet another tutorial on how not to get yourself raped"): Through a Rapist's Eyes.

I've actually seen this before on various other sites and in various incarnations, but every time I see it, it makes me RAGE. I get it, I really do; the authors of these posts think that they're doing us wimminz a favor by showing us how not to get raped, but the reality of the situation is that NOTHING WE DO AS WOMEN WILL PREVENT RAPE. The clothes we wear, whether or not we take the elevator or the stairs, how much we drink, what time of day we decide to venture outside, will not prevent us from being raped. The fact that we still have to remind people of this is truly sad: the only people who can prevent rape are rapists and those who would be rapists, and all that these "rape-prevention" tactics accomplish is the perpetuation of the belief that the safest place for women is in the home.

You didn't actually think the public/private sphere dichotomy disappeared, did you? The only difference is that there's a more obvious threat inherent in the rhetoric: "If you as a woman don't do as you're told, something bad's going to happen to you. Something very bad. And nobody will believe you when it does." These articles rest on the presumption that every woman who is ever raped in her life will only be raped by a stranger while walking down a dark street at night (which we shouldn't have been doing in the first place, natch); they completely ignore the fact that more than half of all rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.

The whole point of this article is apparently to explain to women what we can do to avoid getting ourselves raped, and it appears that their goal is to educate women on these varying tactics. What I learned from this post are the following things:

1) Don't wear your hair in a ponytail or a fact, don't grow your hair out at all. Just shave your fucking head.

2) Despite the fact that many of these rapists apparently carry scissors to cut clothing, please make sure you don't wear clothing that will provide a rapist with easy access. This rule is arbitrary and the police officer who takes your report will get to decide if your clothing was too "slutty"...I'm sorry, I mean if it gave the rapist easier access to your body.

3) Never multi-task while walking. Also, since the top places for a rapist to attack you are grocery store parking lots, office parking lots/garages, and public restrooms, never go grocery shopping, never go to work, and never use a public restroom. As a matter of fact, just stay home.

4) If a man is attempting to rape me, I must ALWAYS put up a fight. This is because there is absolutely no chance that he has any sort of weapon on him, such as a knife, gun, etc. that he can use to injure me or kill me should I resist. There is also absolutely no chance that I was drugged and physically can't fight. If I don't fight off my attacker, then I was clearly making myself an easy target, or perhaps I wasn't really raped.
  • Should my attacker have a gun (despite the fact that this is clearly improbable) and (this one is a direct quote from the article) "you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times. And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!" This is perfectly reasonable because there is absolutely no chance that the person attacking you will run after you and rape you and/or kill you the instant he catches you. Also, in the 0.04% chance that your attacker does succeed in shooting you and he doesn't hit a vital organ, there is absolutely no chance that you will be completely debilitated by the injury, giving your attacker ample opportunity to finish the job.
The commonality that I notice in all of these "tips" is that each one acts as a restriction of what a woman can and cannot do, should and should not do, in a public space, if she should even be in that public space to begin with. None of these tips act as a restriction of what rapists can and cannot do, should and should not do, in a public space...such as not sexually assaulting women. The problem here is that the onus is put on the victim to prevent her attack, not on the rapist not to rape. Women, by very virtue of rape culture, are forced to limit our activities and our comings and goings so that gods forbid we are ever attacked, we will be more believable. These articles about preventing rape do nothing to ameliorate this, especially since the police officers, lawyers, judges, jurors, etc. who hear our case will more likely than not ask us in one way or another if we followed these tips, and if not, why didn't we (with an added tinge of suspicion of our innocence, of course)?
Now granted, the kicking out the back lights trick is pretty good to know for if I'm ever put in the trunk of a car, but articles like these that give advice about how to prevent getting yourself raped do nothing more than perpetuate a misogynist, rape-apologist culture that says that a woman shouldn't be allowed to go out at night and drink and dress sexy and have a good time, etc., and that if she does so, she made herself an easy target and she deserved what she got. These articles, while oftentimes written and shared with the best of intentions, do nothing more than perpetuate the belief that if a woman does everything on the list exactly as stated, she will not be raped; if she does get raped, then she didn't do a good enough job.

Bottom line: These "rape prevention tips" prevent nothing - all they do is promote the belief that it's always the victim's fault.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

If You're Not Pro-Choice, You're Not a Feminist, aka What Pro-Choice Actually Means

[TW forced pregnancy, denial of bodily and sexual autonomy, death, abuse, descriptions of violence, abortion, rape, incest]

I'll repeat myself. If you're not pro-choice, you're not a feminist. True story.

Pro-choice does NOT mean pro-abortion. 

Pro-choice means pro-making contraception (that, NO, you are NOT paying for, you ignorant asshole) cheaper and easier to obtain, so that abortion isn't fucking necessary in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Of course, it's easy to understand how contraception can be considered evil in a society that teaches us that we're not "real women" unless we become mothers. The real evil comes in the form of people who, rather than allowing us freedom of choice, rather than trusting us to make our own decisions about our bodies and our lives, rather than admitting that just because we have uteri doesn't mean that we all want and/or have to become mothers, would rather force us into motherhood, regardless of whether or not we want to be there, because they feel that's where we belong. It's all about controlling women's bodies and lives; if that weren't true, then they wouldn't be fighting to make trans-vaginal ultrasounds a necessity in order for women to have abortions; they wouldn't force waiting periods on us so that we can go home and think about what we're doing, nor would they force us to look at the ultrasound images so that we'll have some glorious revelation about what we're doing (believe me, women seeking an abortion know what pregnancy means: it's why they want an abortion, and 72 hours isn't going to change that); CPCs (Crisis Pregnancy Centers), whose sole purpose is to lie to us and try and emotionally blackmail us and shame us into keeping a pregnancy that we don't want to keep, wouldn't exist.

It means pro-not forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term that she does not want to carry to term, whether that pregnancy came from consensual sex or from rape or incest. If she wants to carry to term, that is HER CHOICE, and nobody is going to force her to abort the pregnancy if she does decide to carry to term. HOWEVER, if she DOES NOT WANT to continue the pregnancy, she should have the choice to end the pregnancy on her own terms, because let's face it, if she's seeking an abortion, she likely didn't get pregnant on her own terms. Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy for 40 weeks and endure childbirth is not teaching her the lesson you think it's teaching her; it's not going to teach her to keep her slutty fucking legs closed. It is, however, going to teach her that, the next time she's raped by her abusive partner and is forcibly impregnated in the process, the next time her birth control that her doctor swore up and down would protect her fails, the next time the condom breaks and the pharmacist refuses to give her Plan B and she can't afford the bus trip to the pharmacy in the next town over, the safest place for her to go is a back-alley abortion clinic, the internet black market, or a closet.

On that note, pro-choice also means pro-not forcing women to attempt to self-abort and kill themselves in the process, and instead giving them legal and medically safe options so that they don't DIE. Abortions are going to happen whether or not you approve of them, and whether or not you allow them to remain legal. Making abortion illegal does not save children; it kills women. Listen up, you alleged pro-lifers! WOMEN ARE ALIVE. We are not just uteri on legs, human incubators, or however else you choose to de-humanize us. We are alive. And when you force us into the back-alleys for unlicensed medical practitioners to butcher, when you force us to drink industrial strength vinegar out of desperation, when you force us to use the wire hanger that once held up our prom dress in a frantic attempt to self-abort, causing us to pull out our own intestines, puncture our wombs, give ourselves sepsis, cause us to bleed out, and end our own lives, you are not saving babies; YOU ARE KILLING US.

So I say again, if you are not pro-choice, if you are not willing to treat women like adults, and instead want to treat us like children who need to be told what to do because we can't possibly know what pregnancy means or what abortion is; if you are not willing to give us the benefit of the doubt and trust us to make the best decisions we can for our bodies and our lives; if you would rather watch us die than watch us exercise our right to prevent a pregnancy and end it if our efforts fail, then you are not a feminist.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post: Sulay A. Thompson

Hello fellow WTFers! I apologize for my lengthy absence; I'm getting ready to start on my Masters thesis and I'm working a job and an internship this summer, so things have been somewhat hectic! That being said, I am so proud to introduce an amazing, beautiful woman, someone who I am PROUD to call a friend and fellow godmother. Her name is Sulay A. Thompson, and her story is one that is going to be hard to read, but necessary. It's a story that you need to show to your best girlfriend, to your mother, to your grandmother. It's a story that you need to show to your brother when he starts making misogynist abuse jokes, to your father when he laughs at that image of the bruised woman in that Facebook post, to your uncle who thinks that punching his wife in the shoulder is "just a joke" and that she needs to learn to have a sense of humor. It's a story that you need to show to everyone you love.

[TW for abuse (emotional, verbal, physical), severe violence]