Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Making Sense of it All

[TW for 9/11]

You don’t even have to say the date anymore, I don’t think. You can introduce a story with the words “That mid-September morning” and people will automatically know what story you’re about to tell. The where you were, what you were doing, why you were there, how much you had seen or not seen, how much you had heard or not heard. I was in middle school. Seventh grade. Twelve years old. In social studies class. I hadn’t heard much of anything save for a really loud plane, and I remember watching it fly past the window of my early morning classroom and thinking, “Gee, that plane looks kinda low.” I try not to think about that part of the day. This is actually probably the first time I’ve ever even mentioned it. Everything had already happened by the time they had told us that something was even remotely wrong.

I had had a dream the night before that I was standing with a bunch of people around this giant Olympic-sized swimming pool and that ninjas came out of the sky and pushed us all in. I woke up just as I was hitting the water. I had no clue what that dream could have possibly meant. I still sometimes am not sure that it was a forewarning of what was to come, my main argument for this being “Why the hell ninjas?” But like I said, I was twelve. I didn’t know what Al Qaeda was, much less how to spell it. I guess ninjas was the only way for my brain to interpret the signals it was getting. Even without the dream, which I probably forgot about by the time I got to school, something just felt different. I never realized what it was until now, ten years after the fact: it was just so quiet. For no reason at all. While walking across the street to get to my school, the heaviness of that previously undetectable silence weighed on my pre-adolescent head like setting cement. I suppose the best way to compare it would be to say that it was like the calm before the storm, although the storm was, as of yet, nowhere in sight.

When our social studies teacher left the room to talk to the assistant principal, I was absolutely convinced that he was getting fired. The AP had never had a problem talking to our teachers in front of us before, so we knew it was something bad. When our teacher walked back in, he told us that he wasn’t supposed to tell us what was going on, but he gave us the news anyway. He said that we deserved to know the truth despite the fact that we were young, and while it was traumatizing as fuck, I appreciated the man’s honesty. My first thought was of my dad; I was pretty sure he was working in the World Trade Center that day, so I was beyond panicked. Turns out, he wasn’t there at all. He was, however, only a few blocks away at 1 Wall. He was supposed to send his apprentice out to get something but forgot to do so. That apprentice would have been walking between the towers just as it all started falling to hell. Lucky break for that guy.

Kids started getting pulled out of school in droves. My brother and I were some of the last people to leave. I was convinced that my mother was going to be the one who picked us up from school or that we were going to be stuck there overnight because nobody was going to be able to get us. My mother is a Physician’s Assistant and, like I thought she might be, was mandated to the hospital. Years later, when I grew older, she told me that the worst she had felt all day was when she was waiting at the hospital for the rush of injured and nobody showed up. She knew exactly why. My dad was actually the one to pick us up; he had walked all the way from downtown Manhattan, cleaning up police officers’ faces as he went by ripping off bits of his t-shirt and using them to wash their faces with the water he had in his water bottle, and hitched a ride on a bread truck while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. I had never been so happy to see my dad in my life, and even though he was covered in that horrible gray dust, I immediately ran over and gave him a huge hug. A big puff of ash and dust bounced off of him as I did so. It wasn’t for another few years that I realized that it wasn’t just the Twin Towers covering him; it was the people who had been pulverized by the Towers, too.

My life is very different from what it was ten years ago, and yet in those ten years I never thought to sit down and try to make sense of it all. I never thought to sit down and write about what I was feeling and thinking about the whole thing. I spent ten years of my life living in a very different world, and yet I never thought to map it out for myself. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t have been so lost for so long. Why didn’t I do this when it had happened 24 hours ago instead of ten years ago? Maybe it’s because when I was twelve years old, I didn’t know the right words. Maybe I figured if I didn’t write about it, I wouldn’t have to contend with the fact that I had been affected by it. Or maybe it’s because it took me ten years to really process what the hell was going on.

Looking back, I have to wonder what it is about this whole ordeal that has me so upset. Obviously I’m sad about the people who were lost in the tragedy, that’s a given. But I was lucky in that I only knew one person who was in lower Manhattan that day, and he was lucky enough to make it out alive. I felt that I really had no personal connections to the tragedy other than that and the fact that I happened to live here. I didn’t even live in Manhattan; I lived across the water. It almost seemed illogical for me to get so upset about something that I basically had no personal ties to in the first place. But just a few days ago, on the anniversary itself, I realized that the fact that I live here IS a personal tie. It’s not nearly as heartbreaking as losing a loved one, of course, but for twelve years, my entire life, I had lived in this city. I had breathed its air, drank its water, walked on its earth and felt the fire of its spirit. When I was a child, my parents used to wake me up early so that I could join them driving my dad into lower Manhattan for his job, and every single time, I would crane my neck and stare up the entire height of the Twin Towers. Every time I took the bus home from school, I made sure to look out the window and catch a glimpse of the Towers rising above the hills of Victory Boulevard. Every time I took the ferry, I marveled at this seemingly impenetrable, indestructible monument dedicated to us, the New Yorkers who gave this city life. This city is the blood that runs through my veins. So it’s no wonder that when the Towers lay broken and bleeding on the ground, I bled with them.

The Freedom Tower is being built swiftly, yet more proof of just how resilient we are as New Yorkers. For those of us who love New York and its previous skyline, watching a new building take the place of the Towers is very bittersweet. The empty, gaping hole in the skyline was heartbreaking, but seeing the replacement is almost worse. It’s a reminder that we’re slowly but surely healing, yes, but it’s also a reminder of what’s missing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look at that Tower without feeling a twinge of grief for what had to be destroyed in order for it to exist.

Perhaps someday.

Friday, August 26, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different: A Rant About Humanity (or the Lack Thereof)

Dear stockholders, stock speculators, news channels, etc.,

As most of you, if not all of you, are probably aware, Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. As most of you, if not all of you, are also probably aware, he has had a SLEW of health problems which are the most likely reason for his stepping down from Apple. Based on his medical history, which includes pancreatic cancer and an extensive medical leave (since January), it's pretty safe to say that he's probably very, very sick. You've referenced this yourselves in your broadcasts and whatnot. To speculate how the company will survive without him I can almost understand; he's basically the cornerstone of the entire corporation. He was there from its conception up until he physically could not handle the job anymore, and he said so himself that this was exactly how it was going to be. However, to speculate about how much money he is costing the company by resigning (and, in a few places, insinuating how much money he might cost the company once he passes) is inappropriate. It's beyond tasteless. Especially considering the reasons he's had to step down.

Seriously, let him spend whatever time he has left in peace and quiet, and let him get cold before you start speculating about how much money he's costing Apple.

No love,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Goddess and What She Has to Do With Feminism

[TW for misogyny, patriarchy, erasure of identity]

As many people are well aware of, I am an out and proud Pagan as well as a feminist. These two paths, while seemingly unrelated on first glance, actually have quite a bit to do with one another. When I was first starting out on the Pagan path, part of what drew me to it was the fact that there was a Divine Feminine as well as a Divine Masculine (which in the mainstream religions is all that there is). I wasn't yet consciously a feminist, but even as a child, the idea of being represented by an omniscient, omnipresent, all-controlling male deity didn't sit well with me. I often found myself asking myself (and anyone around me who would listen) why it was that if we were all supposedly created in God's image, then how could it be possible that there was only a male deity? There would have to be a female deity as well, because clearly women exist! As I learned more and more about Paganism, I became intimately acquainted with the triple goddess, this ultimate representation of all things feminine, and all seemed right with the world.

And then I became a feminist.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Paganism and/or the triple Goddess concept, the basic gist of it is that there is one female deity with three different forms: Maiden, Mother and Crone (think of this as the Pagan version of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit). The Maiden personifies youth, purity, innocence, etc., the Mother personifies fertility, sexuality, the cycle of creation, etc., and the Crone personifies wisdom, endings and death. The triple Goddess in all her forms is also represented as being nurturing, caring, passive: all qualities that are traditionally identified as feminine. When I first started out on the Pagan path, I had no qualms about or issues with the triple Goddess, but as I got more involved with feminism, I realized just how restrictive this concept of the Goddess can be, especially considering that most Wiccans and Pagans look to the Goddess as a representation of all women.

The fact that the Goddess is given the traditionally feminine qualities that supposedly "belong" to all women helps perpetuate the stereotype that this is how all women are "supposed" to be; I mean, if the Divine Feminine is just that, feminine, then shouldn't all women emulate that femininity? Shouldn't all women seek to be nurturing, passive, dainty, etc.? It is also pretty observable that most, if not all, artistic portrayals of the Goddess are devoted to conventionally beautiful women; even the Crone aspect of the Goddess is often simply the Mother archetype with silver hair and maybe some crow's feet around her eyes. I have yet to see an artistic portrayal of the Goddess that features a woman who might not be considered conventionally beautiful; a Mother with a pear-shaped figure rather than an hourglass, a Crone with sagging arms and cellulite and varicose veins on her legs, a Maiden with what amounts to an explosion of acne covering her face. According to the popular Pagan song, "We all come from the Goddess," and yet from what I've seen of the portrayals of her, apparently only conventionally beautiful women come from the Goddess; the rest of us are fucked.

Ultimately, the triple Goddess concept restricts a woman's life cycle to three roles; innocent youth, fertile adult and old woman. Obviously, most of us will fit into these three roles at one point or another in our lives, but women are so much more than just youth, fertility and age rolled into one body. We are artists, dancers, students, teachers, academics, lovers, thinkers, creators, doers, actors, therapists, warriors, champions, destroyers, healers, deconstructers, lushes, partiers. We are all of that and more, and we simply cannot fit every single woman, every single aspect of our womanhood, into only three roles. Many people have tried, of course; for example, any act of creativity, of personal fulfillment, is often neatly filed under the Mother category. Any goddess of fertility or creativity is filed under the Mother category and left there. The logic is that motherhood doesn't necessarily mean giving birth to a child and raising it (e.g. you could "mother" a pet or someone else's children) and that fertility doesn't just apply to the creation of new life; it also applies to the creation of everything else.

I agree with this, to a point. While I agree with the sentiment that nurturing and fertility should not be restricted to the act of procreation, I also don't feel that these other acts of creation should simply be filed under the role of Mother and forgotten. In my opinion, it oversimplifies the varying goddesses of the different pantheons, as well as each and every act of creation and fulfillment, and forces women to embrace the role of Mother, regardless of whether or not she agrees with that role. It also erases transgendered women in that physical fertility, while often argued as not being the be all and end all of the Mother aspect, is often touted as the ultimate sign of embodying that aspect of the Goddess. Evidence comes in the form of the fact that, despite many people's insistence that fertility is not cemented to procreation when it comes to the Goddess, I have never seen a depiction of the Mother archetype where she was anything other than heavily pregnant. I have never seen a version of the Mother archetype in which she was taking care of animals, painting a picture, writing a thesis, etc. In other words, the archetype of the pregnant Mother overshadows and erases the copious other roles that women fill each and every day, and for the women who do not feel comfortable identifying with the Mother aspect, they are forced to either identify with the Maiden aspect or the Crone aspect, which many women also do not identify with. For example, at this point in my life, I would technically fall under the Mother aspect of the triple Goddess, but that is not a role I identify with. I would identify more with a Goddess of academia...perhaps Athena? Or a Goddess of kicking ass...Sekhmet or Artemis, maybe? Try filing Kali the Destroyer under one of those three aspects and see what happens!

Once upon a time, I belonged to a Pagan forum where I was told by a fellow Pagan woman that I would never truly know the love of the Goddess because I had not had children of my own nor planned on having any. She then went on to say that I would die alone and unhappy, so I really didn't put much stock into the rest of what she had said either, but she did help to demonstrate how some Pagan women, many of whom come to Paganism as a middle-finger to the patriarchy and who would normally never adhere to the patriarchal demand that all women must become mothers, will readily follow and perpetuate that exact same stereotype as long as it's packaged neatly in a female/Goddess figure. It's much easier to recognize sexist tropes when they come from a recognizable source, but when that same stereotype enters into your belief system, one that you believe is an affront to the horribly sexist system you left behind, it's much harder to identify.

Honestly, in my opinion, the concept of the triple Goddess is vastly outdated. Obviously not every Pagan will agree with me on this, and I don't expect them to, nor do I demand that they do; the beauty of Paganism is that you have the freedom to believe whatever fulfills your spiritual needs. It is simply my personal belief that there are just too many differences between women (and men) for there to be one deity (even one with three aspects) to cover them all. Does this mean I look down upon mothers? Not in the least. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for a woman who wanted me desperately. Does this mean I look down upon the triple Goddess? Not in the least. Just because my understanding of the triple Goddess goes one way doesn't mean I hold a grudge against her. Does this mean I look down upon women who will continue to honor the triple Goddess in their Pagan practice? Not in the least. Just because my personal understanding of the triple Goddess goes one way doesn't mean that every woman on the planet is going to understand her in the same way, nor would I expect them to do so. Every woman's experience on this planet is going to be different, ergo their understandings of divinity and Paganism in general are going to be different as well. I simply believe that we should honor all forms of the Goddess, the warrior Goddesses and the academic Goddesses and the artistic Goddesses, etc., on equal footing with the mother Goddesses.

My personal vision of the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine is that they are created from the collective unconscious of every single woman and man (cisgender and transgender) on the planet. In my vision, the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine do not encompass women and men, respectively; they encompass whoever feels drawn to them. In other words, an effeminate man who identifies more with the Divine Feminine is just as much a part of the Divine Feminine as any woman could be, and a masculine woman who identifies more with the Divine Masculine is just as much a part of the Divine Masculine as any man could be. A genderqueer person with no specific gender identity is welcome in both the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine without question, while a person who identifies with both genders is accepted just as readily. In my mind, the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine are comparable to those ripples of oil that you sometimes see in puddles. With every drop of rain that hits those puddles, with every footfall, that oil swirls and changes; so, too, do the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine, and with each person that makes hir way into existence, they change ever-so-slightly in order to meet the needs of the people seeking them out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Welcome to Rape Culture

[TW for rape culture, rape apologia, victim-blaming, patriarchy]

It's absolutely amazing [read: terrifying] to me how hard people will fight to keep the rape culture running. How vehemently people will argue that the rape culture doesn't exist. How passionately people will argue that okay, maybe the rape culture does exist, but aren't we taking this just a little too far? How difficult it is for people to realize why rape prevention programs that place the burden of preventing the crime on the victim instead of the criminal help perpetuate the rape culture. How hard people will argue that yeah, we should teach men not to rape, but we don't live in a perfect world, so we should also teach women how not to be raped, and not realize how that idea also helps perpetuate the rape culture.  

The rape culture has everything to do with the patriarchy and with women being given second class status to men. Men are never told what to wear, where to go and at what times of day it would be appropriate for them to be there, how much to drink (if at all), who to go home with, how many people it's acceptable or not acceptable for them to sleep with, etc. This burden is always placed on women. When you tell a woman she's not allowed to wear certain clothing, that she's not allowed to go out to certain places at certain times, that she's not allowed to drink a lot (or at all), who she's allowed to go home with and how many people she's allowed to sleep with, etc., not only do you implicitly blame her for any crimes that might be committed against her, you take away her agency. You take away her right to make decisions about her own life. This is directly related to the patriarchal idea that women are meant to be controlled, that we cannot (and should not) be allowed to have our own autonomous lives. We are instead meant to live in total fear and submission, and this is where the whole "here's how not to get raped" thing connects to the problem. 

The problem with teaching women how to avoid getting raped is that if they do get raped, the implication is that they didn't listen to the people telling them how not to get raped and that is blaming the victim, no matter how you slice it. There are people who argue that even when teaching men not to rape that some people are going to fall through the cracks, so women should be taught how not to be raped, as well. People are going to fall through the cracks, yes, that is an unfortunate fact of life, but rapists are the only ones who should have to be told anything concerning the prevention of rape. A woman should be able to walk down the street in the shittiest fucking neighborhood fucking NAKED and DRUNK OUT OF HER MIND and expect not to be raped. She should be able to go to the police and expect that they won't put her on trial for her own assault. She should be able to do, dress, talk, act however she pleases and expect not to be raped. Telling women "this is how you avoid getting raped" in this society, a society that condones, normalizes and, dare I say it, encourages rape, is equivalent to saying "if you don't follow these rules, then you deserve what you get." 

No, we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where if a woman is raped, she is guilty until proven innocent and the rapist innocent until proven guilty. We live in a world where her rapist will often never go to trial because either the victim knows how her case will be treated by a court of law and doesn't bother to report the rape because she knows how it will end up, or her rapist is acquitted. We live in a world where rape victims are put on trial by the very people who are supposed to be helping them, where questions that amount to "What did you do to make this happen to you" are ok to ask the victim. No matter how much women do to "prevent rape," it is never enough. If you dressed modestly, you were out too late. If you went home early, you were dressed like a slut. If you were home early and dressed modestly, then you drank too much (or at all). If you were sober and home early and dressed modestly, then you simply gave off all the wrong signals and didn't say "no" loudly enough.

So really, all the ways we're supposed to keep ourselves "safe," in the end, don't really matter at all. It's just a list of things that help rape apologists blame the victims instead of the criminals, and as a result, the victims wind up defending themselves while the rapists walk free.

And that, my friends, is the rape culture in a nutshell.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Learning my Lesson the Hard Way

[TW for STIs, slut-shaming, internalized societal shaming, emotional disturbance]

One of the things that I have fought so hard to end is the stigma surrounding STIs. It seems to be a commonly held idea that anyone who gets an STI somehow deserves it, that they're getting their comeuppance for daring to open their legs, that they're "obviously sluts" and that they're disgustingly gross people. (It's important to note that most of the people who are given this stigma are women.) It also seems to be a commonly held idea that it will never happen to you, that it's just one of those things that happens to someone else (usually those who "deserve it"). None of these things are true. How do I know this?

I was told by my gynecologist last Friday that I tested positive for chlamydia.

I never in a million years thought that  this would ever happen to me. I was always very careful, but for some reason, even though I knew it wasn't true, somewhere in the back of my mind I believed that if you were strictly monogamous that it was nigh impossible for you to contract an STI. I somehow forgot that previous partners of your current partner might have had (or still have) something that they passed on to your partner, who could in turn pass it on to you. Chlamydia is one of the sneakier STIs because most people who get it are asymptomatic, so aside from getting tested at the very beginning of our relationship, there was no way for us to know. Our mistake came in the form of us not getting tested; even if you are monogamous and you think that you're both clean, the only way you can know for sure is if you both get tested.

When my gynecologist gave me the news, despite everything I had learned, despite my vehemence in abolishing the stigma surrounding STIs and the people who contract them, I felt like I was the most disgusting person on the planet and that I was contaminating everything and everyone that I touched.  I cried for the rest of the afternoon of my diagnosis and it took quite a few days for that feeling to go away, although I admit that it's still creeping at the back of my mind. It's just so mind boggling to me just how effective societal programming is; it sneaks up on you without you ever realizing it and then once something like this happens to you, even though you've worked for a long, long time to prevent this from happening to other people, you realize just how little you've actually accomplished with yourself.

Despite the fact that I was emotionally distraught, I knew that I had to take charge of my health and immediately took the appropriate measures to do so, both for myself and my boyfriend, who also had to be treated as soon as possible. Thanks to the fact that I'm lucky enough to have insurance, I was able to get the antibiotics the same day. However, my boyfriend is uninsured and so he wasn't able to do the same. We also wanted to get tested for every other STI just to be safe, so I was going to bring him to Planned Parenthood with me this morning, but he works from 8 am-3:30 pm in Manhattan (we live in Staten Island), and Planned Parenthood is only on Staten Island on Mondays from 9 am-4 pm, so there was no way it was going to happen.

We spent all of last Friday, the entire weekend and all of this morning calling every place we could think of who might have been able to help us. We tried to get appointments at the Planned Parenthood in Brooklyn or Manhattan, but they had no appointments until August 10th, and obviously he couldn't wait that long, so we tried to get an appointment at the medical clinic attached to the hospital my mother works at. They refused to help him because he was over 21, so they referred him to another clinic on Staten Island, but they warned him when they referred him that that particular clinic never picks up their phone. True to form, they didn't pick up their phone, so we tried to call the Department of Health, and they didn't pick up either. By the time I reached the mobile unit, I was in near tears from frustration and near panic.

After I was taken in, I was given my HIV test and then the woman who tested me asked me some questions. I told her about what had happened with our diagnoses, the fact that my boyfriend is uninsured and the trouble we were having in finding a doctor who'd be willing to help us, and without batting an eyelash or saying a word, she opened a cabinet and handed me a bottle of azithromycin. I stared at the bottle agape and asked her if she could do that, and she replied that, by law, she would have had to give me the antibiotics anyway, and she told me to take them home to my boyfriend so that he could be treated. I literally burst into tears because I was just SO relieved. If we couldn't find a doctor who would help us, he would have been stuck with the infection until at least August 10th, and I was so worried that that was exactly what was going to happen.

Anyone who argues that Planned Parenthood is an "unnecessary" or "evil" organization obviously did not have the experience that I had. Whether they're your first choice for medical care or if you literally have nowhere else to turn, Planned Parenthood will always step up to the plate. The bottom line is, Planned Parenthood helped us when no one else would, and they literally saved our lives.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Birth Control Saved My Academic Career, My Relationships and My Health

[TW for menstrual issues and abortion]

When I first got my period at the age of 12, I was super excited. I was one of the last of my friends to get it and I felt like I was finally a "real woman." (I would, of course, learn later on that one's biological processes do not a "real woman" make, but that's another post for another time!) That excitement soon turned to fear, pain and frustration as month after month, year after year, I dealt with cramps that felt like a vise grip around my abdomen and an extremely heavy flow that lasted for a good five days, with my entire flow lasting about ten days total that eventually culminated in moderate anemia. I finally started taking birth control pills when I was 18 years old in order to control the cramps and the flow, and because of those pills, I was able to get my anemia under control. I truly feel that those pills saved my health, if not my life.

I was also able to get through college without getting pregnant. Yes, that's right folks, not only was I using birth control for medical reasons, but this feminist was also using birth control for exactly what it's supposed to do: prevent pregnancy. I began a relationship with someone not too long after I had started taking the pills, right at the very beginning of college, and it's thanks to those pills that I was able to graduate Magna Cum Laude with a 3.8 GPA and multiple honors in the four years it was supposed to take me to graduate. Thanks to those pills, I was able to focus on my education instead of on whether or not I was pregnant. Thanks to those pills, I didn't have to, and won't have to, miss classes and/or work once a month due to unbearable, blindingly painful cramps, and I will be able to maintain a healthy, stress-free sexual relationship with my current boyfriend and attend graduate school without having to worry about having an abortion or raising a child at the same time. Thanks to those pills, if I ultimately decide never to have children, I won't have to have them anyway.

I'm privileged enough to be able to pay only ten dollars per packet of pills every month, thanks to my insurance, but even that ten dollars adds up. If the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) includes prescription birth control as a preventative health care service that will be covered in full, i.e. without a co-pay or any other out of pocket costs, that's already $120 extra in my pocket every year. If I had had free birth control during college, I would have saved $480 over those four years. For women who are unemployed or underemployed, free birth control can make the difference between forgoing eating in order to afford their pills, thereby preventing an unwanted pregnancy which would put further financial strain on them in one way or another, and being able to eat properly all month. By preventing pregnancy, these women won't have to worry about starving themselves in order to afford the abortion or the costs of raising the resulting child along with any other children they may already have. And with abortion becoming less and less readily available to women, it's imperative to make preventing pregnancy easier and more affordable. As a matter of fact, by making the prevention of pregnancy more affordable for women, it will reduce the need for abortion, as well as make it easier for women with menstrual-related problems to obtain relief. Women do not need to suffer every month just on the basis of being women, and every woman should have the right to prevent pregnancy for as long as she desires.

This is exactly why the HHS needs to include prescription birth control as a preventative health care service that should be covered in its entirety by health insurance plans. If Viagra, the pill that helps provide the erections that help produce children, can be fully covered by health insurance, then prescription birth control, which prevents unwanted pregnancies, helps relieve all sorts of menstrual-related illnesses, shrinks ovarian cysts, etc., should be covered as well. Prescription birth control is one of the most ultimate preventative health care services for women, regardless of whether or not that reason is reproductively or medically related. HHS needs to do right by women and fully cover birth control.

This post is part of the National Women's Law Center and Planned Parenthood's Birth Control Blog Carnival. You can read the rest of the amazing posts at the link!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"It's that time of the month, isn't it?"

[TW for misogyny and gender essentialism]

Have you ever been angry? I know I have. I'm angry every single day of my life. But there's a huge difference in the way in which my anger, the anger of a woman, is valued as compared to the anger of a man. I think it's safe to say that just about every single woman on the planet who has ever been angry has had to deal with comments from men about it "just being that time of the month." As a matter of fact, whenever I find myself ranting about women's issues, or anything else really, in front of my brother and/or my father, they will often tell me to stop PMSing so much instead of engaging my anger and addressing why I might be upset. Or perhaps it's not "that time of the month," and you're just being an inflammatory bitch. Because, I mean, it's not that you have a legitimate reason to be upset: you just feel like stirring the pot because vagina.

What makes the whole PMS excuse so horrifically offensive is the fact that it uses women's bodies and involuntary biological processes as a diversionary tactic to distract men from the fact that maybe, just maybe, the angry woman in front of them has a legitimate reason to be angry. This excuse is, without a doubt, a silencing tactic. In other words, rather than addressing the issues that are causing women to be so angry, rather than accepting women's anger at face value and addressing it as a completely legitimate response to a completely legitimate issue, men are choosing to attribute that anger to an entirely irrelevant source in order to undermine and invalidate that anger. They think that by telling us that we're not actually angry, that it's just our poor laydeebrains and vaginas fucking everything up for us, we'll just stop being angry, or that we'll at least stop vocalizing that anger. What that would do is make it easier for men to continue to marginalize us and continue to invalidate our perfectly legitimate emotional responses to issues that concern us. The reason that men use this excuse so often is because it's easier to invalidate a woman's anger than it is to actually engage it, which would force them to examine their male privilege and the role that it plays in the oppression of women, something that most men are not willing to do.

For those of you who are going "Hey! Women pull this shit, too!" I want you to think back as hard as you can and try to remember the last time you heard a woman tell another woman, "Wow, you must be PMSing" when she was angry.

I'll wait.

Some men try to use this as a "joke" around women and think that they're being funny, that they're commiserating with us women, but they're really not. Is it any funnier coming from a woman? No, it isn't. It's not funny coming from anyone, but at least coming from a woman, I would know that she was being sarcastic and referencing the crap we women face every single day, things that men will never have to deal with. Men's anger is always taken at face value and never questioned, mainly because men are expected to be angry. One of the main traits of traditional masculinity is "rationality," so whenever a man gets angry, it is assumed that he has a perfectly legitimate reason to be angry because of that inherent rationality. Men can get angry at just about anything and they will never have to worry about being told, "Wow, your testosterone levels must be through the roof today!" Their anger will always be engaged in the appropriate manner to the situation, and they will never have to worry about someone thinking that they're just being a raving bitch. That is what male privilege is all about. In the meantime, women's anger is almost always attributed to them having their period or simply being angry cunts.

Let me just cue you in on something: no matter what stage of her menstrual cycle she is in, a woman's anger is ALWAYS LEGITIMATE. If she is menstruating, if she's just about to menstruate, if she's nowhere close to menstruating, her anger is always valid. That in and of itself is a perfectly acceptable reason for women to be pissed off about this "joke" whenever it is told. For ME to be pissed off.

But maybe I just have my period or something.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The "Who Deserves AIDS" Epidemic

[TW for homophobia, AIDS-related death, slut-shaming, etc.]

In the last week or so, I have encountered a phenomenon that is not entirely new, but is still entirely reprehensible. I've named it the "Who Deserves AIDS" epidemic as a nod to the AIDS epidemic (although according to my research, it is now officially classed as a pandemic) that has swept the world. For those of you who are unaware of the story, AIDS was first officially reported in mid-1981, and it was given the name GRID (Gay-related immune deficiency) and 4H (standing for Haitian, homosexual, heroin and hemophiliacs, the four groups "most likely" to get the disease) before being properly named. Misinformation and stigmatization abounded; it was believed that you could get AIDS from holding hands, sharing a drink, kissing, even simply breathing around someone with the disease. For a very long time, research into the spread and prevention of the disease lagged, if it was even being done at all, because people believed that the disease only affected certain groups of people, people that they didn't care enough about to help. It was only when people realized that it wasn't a "gay disease" that they started paying more attention.

My first encounter with the "Who Deserves AIDS" epidemic occurred when I was still in middle school, long before I became a feminist and an LGBTQ activist. We were discussing the AIDS epidemic and one girl in my class proclaimed that (I'm paraphrasing due to the fact that I don't remember what she said word for word) AIDS was God's way of saying that homosexuality is wrong and that LGBTQ people deserved to get it. I was absolutely aghast. I don't remember what the reactions of the class and the teacher were towards this statement, but I remember them being mostly negative, thankfully.

Another experience I had with the "Who Deserves AIDS" epidemic involved Facebook (shock and awe!). I had watched a Biography special about Queen a few nights ago, and being the HUGE fan that I am, I was feeling a bit depressed about Freddie Mercury's untimely and incredibly unfortunate early death. I posted an innocuous status about the whole thing, ending with a melodramatic, half-joking "WHY FREDDIE WHY?!" The response came in the form of a Facebook friend's comment: "Because he liked to have sex?" And therein was my enlightenment! Mercury hadn't died because he had been exposed to a debilitating disease; it was because he just HAD to open his fucking legs! This poor person was not aware of the fact that having a lot of sex (even with multiple partners) does not mean you will automatically contract a deadly illness. It also does not mean that you deserve said illness. My friend and I attempted to educate this deluded soul, but alas, as with most instances of this type, it was to no avail.

The most recent experience I had with the "Who Deserves AIDS" epidemic was on Investigation Discovery, a cable channel that broadcasts crime shows. I was watching a show, "20/20 on ID," about a man named Philippe Padieu, a man who had seduced and knowingly infected his sexual partners with HIV. Padieu's defense attorney argued that Philippe was under "no obligation to disclose his HIV positive status" to his sexual partners, and to that I cry "BULLSHIT!" If you're intimate enough with someone to have consensual sex with them, especially unprotected, then you're intimate enough with them to disclose your status. The defense lawyer went on to blame the women he had had sex with (anyone surprised?), saying that it was their responsibility to protect themselves (it wasn't Philippe's responsibility to prevent himself from giving them HIV?!), and that it takes two to tango, resulting in the implication that these women got what they deserved by contracting the virus. I think that one of the women said it best when she said, "Yes, it takes two to tango, but it only takes one to pull the trigger, and that's exactly what Philippe did."

It is important for this part of the post to note that all of his sexual partners were white, middle to upper-middle class, presumably straight women, and at one point in the show, they were sitting in a group and talking to the host (also a white woman) in an interview. When asked why they allowed Philippe to have sex with them without a condom, the women replied that they had not received the education that is available to people today and so they were unaware that they were at risk. This is the same logic that I had used when arguing Freddie Mercury's case. However, they then went on to say that the reason that they didn't feel they were at risk was because they weren't intravenous drug users or prostitutes and those things just didn't happen to women like them. The host said, and I quote, "You weren't women about town!" And the women replied, "No, we were not," the implication of course being that if they were prostitutes, they should have expected to contract HIV and would have somehow deserved the diagnosis that they received. It really saddened me to see these women so readily putting down other victims of the disease, arguing their case under the presumption that there are actually people out there who deserve to get AIDS, while suffering from the disease themselves.

The argument that someone's sexual appetite and/or behaviors, sexual orientation, occupation, etc. is to blame for their deaths is asinine at best and incredibly hateful at worst. My friend said it best when she said that "Blaming someone's sexual appetite for their [AIDS-related] death is like blaming someone who enjoys long walks for getting hit by a car." It isn't someone's sexual appetite and/or behaviors that kills them; it's the AIDS virus that does that. The only thing that kills people with AIDS is AIDS and the related diseases that come along with it. Attributing one's death to their sexual behavior is tantamount to slut-shaming and arguing that they deserved to die because of it. The bottom line is this: nobody deserves to get AIDS. You don't deserve to get AIDS if you have a voracious sexual appetite. You don't deserve to get AIDS if you've had one partner. You don't deserve to get AIDS if you've had more than one partner. You don't deserve to get AIDS if you've had a THOUSAND partners. You don't deserve to get AIDS if you're a prostitute. You don't deserve to get AIDS if you use intravenous drugs. You don't deserve to get AIDS for ANY REASON.

The last thing that people with AIDS need is other people living outside of the reality of the disease judging and condemning them for the horrible prognosis that's facing them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Modest Proposal, Part II - Marriage Equality

AN ACT to prohibit heterosexual
couples from engaging in the act
of marriage and from receiving
the more than 1,138 rights and
protections of marriage provided
by the federal government, as well
as from receiving the benefits of
common-law marriage as defined
by Meister v. Moore
(96 U.S. 76 (1877))

WHEREAS, it is illegal for same-sex couples to marry each other while allowing heterosexual couples to do so in a country that claims to be “the land of the free,” and

WHEREAS, we are a country that is founded on the principles of the human rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” therefore


Section 1. 

(a) Any heterosexual couple who attempts to obtain a marriage license in any government office, attempts to be married in any religious institution and/or attempts to receive the federal rights and privileges of marriage and/or common-law marriage benefits shall be summarily denied and turned away.
(b) The marriages and common-law marriages of all heterosexual couples that took place prior to this act taking effect will be immediately annulled. 

Section 2. The law enforcement officers of all existing fifty states may arrest any clergyperson or government official discovered to be aiding and abetting heterosexual couples in their nuptial ceremonies and/or receiving of government marriage benefits. 

Section 3. Upon conviction in a competent Court of law, the judge shall sentence the clergyperson or government official to a sentence of no less than 6 months, no more than 1 year in prison at his or her discretion. 

Section 4. This act shall take effect immediately.

Come on, America. Don’t deny us the rights you take for granted every second of your lives. We deserve to marry the person we love just as much as you do. Don’t treat us as second-class citizens. Otherwise, you just might find yourselves right beside us someday. Either everyone gets a slice of the pie or nobody gets any at all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Just...Don't Want to be a Mother. There, I Said It.

[TW for severe gender essentialism and sarcastic violent imagery]

Actually, that's not 100% true. I'm about 95% sure that I don't want to be a mother. The other 5% is telling me that I will change my mind someday, but I can never be sure that it's my actual instincts telling me this or if it's the patriarchal idea that's been drilled into my head since day one that all women MUST WANT to become mothers or else they fail as women. Almost any time I find myself in a conversation about parenthood and my lack of desire to become a parent, I am made to justify my decision. It's interesting to note that, in the same conversation, any woman who expresses a positive attitude towards, and a desire for, motherhood is not made to justify her decision.

Most misogynists and gender essentialists seem to think that nurturing a child is the ultimate thing a woman can do with her life. Forget a career, forget traveling the world, forget everything else you've ever wanted to do with your life; unless you have a child, you're nothing. And gods forbid you ever express your complete non-desire to have children. At best, you will be told that you will change your mind in the future. At worst, you will be told that you are a selfish freak of nature and that you're not a "real woman." I actually had a woman in an online Pagan forum tell me that I was sick in the head and that I deserved to die alone and unhappy because I didn't want to have children.

Is choosing not to have children selfish? Yes. And I'm not saying that choosing not to have children is selfish as a bad thing; I think it's fucking great to be able to look at your life and what you want to do with it and realize that having children is truly not something you want. For example, there are so many things that I want to do with my life where children would just not fit. I want to be a college professor and write research papers for a living, which is going to take up a HUGE chunk of my time. I also want to travel the world, go out with friends on a regular basis, take in shows, go to a week-long Pagan festival in the woods, pick up and go to the beach on an arbitrary sunny day just because, spend a weekend doing nothing but relaxing in a bubble bath and reading, etc. etc. If I were to have children, I would never be able to do any of these things. I just wouldn't have the time. And, simply put, I just don't have the patience for it. Crying children, rather than warming the cockles of my ovaries, make me want to shoot myself in the face just to end the suffering.

Although I suppose there is an altruistic aspect to choosing not to become a parent; there's that whole "not having a child you don't want and fucking up all of your lives because of it" thing.

What it boils down to is this: parenthood is a deeply personal choice, a choice that nobody but the person and/or people involved in the process of creating (or not creating) the child can make. It is not a decision that anyone has to justify to anyone else. Do I have an agenda against women who want to become mothers? Not at all. I give the utmost credit to and absolutely applaud the women who are ready and willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary in order to take on motherhood. Notice the key words there: "ready and willing." These women made a choice to become mothers, and that is what feminism is all about: CHOICE. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, great. If you want to be a working mother, fantastic. If you don't want to be a mother at all, more power to you! You are not any less of a woman because you have chosen not to make use of your ovaries. So many people seem to think that wanting children is this inborn, biological force of nature that nobody can escape, but the fact of the matter is, ever since I was a child, whenever I envisioned my future, it never had children in it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Modest Proposal for the War on Women

"If (Planned Parenthood) wants to receive taxpayer money," he said, "they can simply stop practicing abortion." - State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis

And if you fucking asshole cisgender, white, straight Republican men want to see the human species survive, then you can simply stop the war on women. Imagine how quickly this whole debate would end (in women's favor) if women simply took their own reproductive systems hostage and refused to produce any more children until they ended the war on women. Better still, we would all get tubal ligations one by one until they complied. If they refuse to guarantee that every child is a wanted child, then they don't get any children at all. It's no different than what Schneider is doing with women's healthcare and abortion services.

But maybe that's just crazy talk.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Not Rude to Say "Stop" When Enough is Enough

[TW for harassment, misogyny and socialized forced silence]

Every woman I've ever met in my life has had at least one instance where they felt that they were being harassed but felt incapable of stopping the harassment because they didn't want to appear rude. They didn't want to react because even though their gut was telling them that the person was infringing upon their boundaries, they felt that the people around them might think that they were overreacting. The women who decided to press on with their repeated requests for the harassment to stop, including myself, were told that they were killjoys, oversensitive, hysterical, overreacting, etc. This, in turn, resulted in them minimizing the person's actions in their own heads and questioning their reaction to the situation, ultimately deciding to just let it go because hey, maybe it really wasn't that bad.

I'm here to tell you that yes, it was that bad, and no, you weren't overreacting. You weren't being hysterical or oversensitive or anything else that they told you you were being. You were simply defending your physical, emotional, sexual, mental, psychological, etc. boundaries, and there is nothing rude about that. What is rude is taking someone's boundaries and treating them as if they are negotiable and/or nonexistent. 

Women have been socialized since the dawn of time to be demure, non-confrontational and passive. Any time we have stood up and protested an act of harassment, we have been told that we were overreacting, that we were being hysterical, that we were reacting over nothing. That is exactly what the patriarchy wants; it wants us to believe that we are being rude to say no to someone who is stepping on and over our boundaries. It wants us to question ourselves. It wants us to second-guess ourselves. It wants us to believe that every reaction to every instance of harassment is an overreaction so that it will be easier for harassers to get away with infringing upon our boundaries. 

The thing about boundaries is that they are different for every person. What works for one person will not work for another. My emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, mental, etc. boundaries will not be exactly the same as the boundaries of the woman standing next to me on the elevator at school. Her boundaries will not be exactly the same as those of the professor standing at the front of the room. Her boundaries will not be exactly the same as those of the woman sitting next to her on the train on the way home. Everyone's boundaries are different. However, these boundaries do have one thing in common: they do not have to be justified. Your boundaries are your own, regardless of the reason (or lack of reason) for them, and you have every right to expect other people to respect those boundaries. When someone crosses those boundaries, you are well within your right to tell them to stop, and if they don't, you are not being rude for being aggressive in your defense of those boundaries.

They are being rude for aggressively ignoring them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Miniskirt is NOT CONSENT

[TW for sexual assault, sexual harassment and victim blaming]

About two years ago, I was walking down the street with my then-boyfriend. I was wearing shorts and a tank top because it was fucking summer and it was hot and that's what you do when it's hot outside. As we were walking, some random dude yelled from the car, "You have a nice ass!" I expressed utter disgust and contempt, and as my then-boyfriend so lovingly mansplained to me, "Well, look at what you're wearing. What did you expect? Take it as a compliment."

In another incident, while I was studying abroad in London, I went to a beach-themed party in the student union. I wore a Hawaiian-print bikini top, a white button down shirt, unbuttoned halfway, and a pair of shorts. While dancing with a fellow student, he attempted to unbutton my shirt. When I told him no, he continued to do it anyway. I wound up asking two of my very good friends to escort me back to my room because I was afraid he was going to follow me; judging by what had just occurred, I already knew that he was hostile to the idea of consent.

In yet another incident, while I was walking to the train from my friend's house, some random guy whistled at me from his car and honked his horn while leering at me. I was wearing a tank top and shorts, again, because it was a hot summer day and that's what you do. When I told my current boyfriend, who wasn't yet my boyfriend at the time, he told me something similar to what my ex had told me, that I should take it as a compliment. Thankfully, at this point in time, he is well aware of why exactly it isn't a compliment, and I will reiterate the basic gist of it here: it is not a compliment because our clothes are not our consent. 

I have heard SO many people say that if a woman dresses in what could be considered a skimpy or "slutty" way, she shouldn't complain if she is sexually harassed. Many men have stated that if a woman is scantily clad and refuses their attentions (aka harassment), then she is being a tease and she shouldn't dress that way, the idea being that she is dressing that way to get their attention and that, by doing so, she is automatically consenting to any and all sexual advances. First of all, telling women what they can and cannot wear, both via words and societal norms and "punishments", denies us the autonomy and agency to do what we wish. Secondly, it does not matter how a woman is dressed, nor does the reason she is dressed the way she is dressed; if she has not explicitly asked for a man's attention and/or if she has refused his advances for ANY REASON, then it is HIS responsibility to cease his behavior. Full stop.

What is particularly disheartening about this whole issue is that so many women blame their clothing for these incidents of sexual harassment that happen to them. As a matter of fact, I blamed my clothing for all of those events up until a few months ago. Even to this day, I still don't feel 100% comfortable going out wearing what many would consider a "skimpy" outfit without having at least one man around to "protect me." Unfortunately, that is exactly what society wants us to believe; it wants us to believe that we, and our clothes, are responsible for the behavior of the "men" around us (I place quotation marks there because I hesitate to call anyone who is hostile to consent a man). The idea is that men cannot control themselves and so it is up to us women to dress "appropriately" in order to help them control their erratic behavior; if we don't do so, then clearly it isn't the man's fault for misbehaving because he simply can't help it and we haven't done our job correctly. Unfortunately for society, more and more women are realizing that it is not their clothing that is to blame for sexual harassment; the people we need to blame for sexual harassment are the people who are hostile to consent. Just like the only common denominator in rape cases is a rapist, the only common denominator in sexual harassment cases is a harasser. 

Keep this in mind: the people who don't have a problem continuing to verbally harass a woman are the same people who would have no problem with continuing to physically and sexually assault a woman long after she has said no. People who are hostile to consent in one arena of life do not suddenly agree with it in another arena.

This is exactly why sexual harassment is the fault of the perpetrators and not the victims. This is exactly why it should be taken more seriously.

And it is exactly why it shouldn't be taken as a compliment.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Nice Guys aren't actually nice

[TW for denial of autonomy and entitlement]

There's a phrase floating around in the ether that goes: "nice guys finish last." It might be true, it might not be true, I don't know. The validity of the statement isn't what I'm talking about here. I'm here to distinguish between Nice Guys and nice guys, and believe me, there is a huge difference. Everyone, I think, has that one friend that complains about how they're always so nice to women and yet they get nothing in return for it. Despite their best efforts, their best girl friend always winds up with the jerks, and they get nothing. Despite everything nice that they've done for that hot girl at school, they simply cannot "get it in." They feel that they deserve some sort of recompense for their good behavior. Most of these guys will probably receive an abundance of sympathy, mostly from other Nice Guys; I mean, they HAVE been nice, after all, don't they deserve a little something in return, whether it's sex or a relationship or what have you?

No. No they do not.

Why is that, you ask? First of all, no woman is obligated to give of herself, whether it's physically or emotionally, on demand. Let's get that clear right now. It's fantastic when men want to do nice things for us, and we are very appreciative, but we are not obligated to have sex with you or enter into a relationship with you because of that. Therein lies the difference between Nice Guys and nice guys: truly nice guys do nice things for women because they genuinely want to be nice. Nice Guys do nice things for women because they expect to get something out of it; they consider the woman as obligated to reciprocate, either with her body or her heart, and they, because of their actions, feel entitled to her. They don't care about what the woman wants, and they do not respect her freedom to decide, nor do they respect her feelings; the only thing that concerns them is their own desires.

You can tell which is which by the reactions they have to rejection. Truly nice guys, when faced with rejection, will be disappointed, of course, but they will respect the woman's decision and eventually move on to someone else who reciprocates their feelings. Nice Guys, on the other hand, will often spiral into self-deprecation so badly that even Robert Smith would look at them askance. However, it is not the self-deprecation that makes them Nice Guys: it's who they blame after being rejected. You've probably heard it before: "I've been so nice to you and you've done nothing in return for me. All women are bitches. You all say you want a nice guy but you're lying: you all just want douchebags. Well, guess what? Now I'M gonna be a douchebag, and I'm gonna bag all the women I want! And it's all YOUR fault! Bitch."


There's a million and one things wrong with this reaction. First of all, holy entitlement Batman. Like I said before, the act of being nice does not automatically entitle someone to sexual favors or romantic involvement as a result. The woman is not obligated to fulfill those demands. And they are indeed demands, no matter how you slice it. Also, the statement "all women are bitches" isn't going to get anyone any brownie points; mass generalizations generally do not help one's case. Neither does telling all women that they're lying when they say they want a nice guy, and by proxy telling that one woman that she's lying to them. It's not that she doesn't want a nice guy; she doesn't want you. Which, yeah, sucks completely, but if that's how you're going to react I don't fucking blame her; she certainly doesn't want a Nice Guy complaining that she's not fulfilling an obligation that she never agreed to in the first place.

And as for the "I'm gonna be a douchebag to get women" part, not to burst your pretty little Nice Guy bubble, but you're already a douchebag. No drastic change in personality is necessary. If you really want a woman to have sex with you or get involved romantically with you, try respecting her autonomy and giving her the space to make her own decisions about her life without freaking out when they don't include you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blame Rapists for Rape, Not the Victims

[TW for victim blaming and rape apologia]

Stop me if you've heard this one: "If you go out, don't drink too much. Don't dress like a slut. Don't walk around by yourself. Don't don't don't."

This speech has probably been given at every single high school and college campus in existence. There are pamphlets everywhere dictating what a woman must do and must not do in order to prevent herself from getting raped. Normally, I am all for prevention, such as cleaning out the lint trap in the dryer so your house doesn't catch fire, taking vitamins to supplement your diet so that you get all the nutrients you need, etc. I do not agree with these speeches and pamphlets and what have you that tell women how not to get raped because it implies that if you get raped, you must not have done something right because we gave you this ENTIRE list of things to do and not to do in order to prevent this.

I do not agree with most programs concerning rape prevention because they place the blame and the burden of preventing the crime on the victim instead of the rapist. 

The fact of the matter is, women should be able to get shitfaced while naked and parading around a back alley at two o'clock in the morning and expect not to be raped. Women should be able to go to the police when they are raped and not expect to be questioned about their sobriety, their clothing, their actions, their location and the time of day they were at said location, their sexual history, etc. Women should be able to do whatever and go wherever they damn well please and expect not to be raped. Women should NOT have to curtail or adjust their behaviors in any way in order to prevent rape because that perpetuates the falsehood that the victims are responsible for the actions of their rapists. And if you think that victim blaming doesn't exist, then read this article about a town meeting where a mass group of people blamed an 11 year old girl for her gang rape by eighteen fully grown men and this article where a Republican lawmaker also blamed the girl, saying that she was "dressed like a prostitiute." We live in a society where it is perfectly acceptable to blame a child for her rape, and that is absolutely fucking sickening.   

Many people argue that we need rape prevention programs because "Oh, well, it would be fantastic if we could let you women loose on society and allow you to do whatever you want, but our society just doesn't work that way. Those darn rapists are out there looking for you so you have to do this, this and this to prevent them from gettin' ya!" This would be great if these things actually prevented rape from happening, but they do not. Rapists attack women no matter what their level of sobriety, no matter what they are wearing, no matter where they are and no matter what time of day it is. As a matter of fact, just recently, an elderly woman was raped in broad daylight in the Upper East Side of NYC. This also happened in Kansas, where a woman was attacked in the middle of the afternoon in front of a crowd of people at a bus stop.

Rape does not happen because a woman is drunk, because she's dressed in a sexy manner, because she was walking around alone at night. The two cases that I've mentioned alone prove that.

The only thing that all rapes have in common is a rapist.

Maybe instead of focusing on blaming the victim and telling women how not to get raped, we should focus on telling rapists not to rape. I have a strong feeling that this would be way more effective.

The Privilege of Not Being Angry

[TW for social and political misogyny and denial of bodily autonomy]

My brother asked me a few weeks ago why I'm so angry all the time. In the moment, I had a difficult time figuring out a decent explanation, but now that I've had the chance to sit down and really think about it, I think I have a basic idea.

I'm angry all the time because I don't have the privilege of not being angry.

First of all, I should define what privilege is; my personal definition of privilege is when you face a social and/or political issue and you don't have to think about the consequences as they pertain to you. It doesn't even cross your mind because you will never have to worry about the consequences for a single day in your life. For example, when a woman gets paid 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns, it is highly likely that the man will not think about the fact that there is a gendered pay discrepancy. Why? Because he doesn't have to: it doesn't affect him. The same thing goes for all of the other issues facing women today; most, if not all, men will not have to deal with the consequences of the social and political warfare that has been declared on women in recent years. It simply does not affect them, and therefore, they don't have to be angry about these injustices every second of every day.

I do not have that privilege. Neither does any other woman living today.

There is so much injustice and outright hatred facing women, both on the social and political spectrum. I don't have the privilege of being able to be complacent and brush it off when a presumably cisgendered male politician tells me that I'm not allowed to do what I wish with my body, that I'm not allowed to obtain birth control, that I'm not allowed to have an abortion if I get pregnant and I don't want to be.  I don't have the privilege of being able to smile and laugh it off when that same politician is allowed to cover his Viagra with his Medicare insurance, because there is a deep double standard there that begs not only questioning, but outright protest. If a man can insure a penis pump with his medical insurance (and this is absolutely true), then I should be able to insure my fucking birth control pills.

I don't have the privilege of not being angry because I want to be able to obtain birth control if I so desire, because I want to be paid the same amount of money for the same amount of work as a man; because I want to be able to walk the streets at night without worrying about the possibility of being raped; because I want to be able to do what I please with my sex life without worrying about being labeled a slut; because all it takes is one angry feminist to rouse up an entire crowd of angry feminists eager to keep women from falling back into the Dark Ages.

I don't have the privilege of not being angry because angry women make the difference between whether or not we keep our rights.

I am Sick and Fucking Tired of the Patriarchy

[TW for victim blaming, rape and sexual violence]

I began engaging in actions of a sexual nature at age 15 and lost my virginity when I was 16 years old to a guy I dated for a month and a half. I've had four other sexual partners since then in the span of four years, including my current boyfriend. I have had sex on the first date just about every single time. I have had sex with people with whom I did not intend to enter into a relationship. I have had a one-night stand. I am what many people would call a "slut" because of these behaviors.

Many people will probably question my decision to post my entire sexual history on the internet, but my reasons are crystal clear in my mind: it is because I want to make the point that I do not deserve to be raped and/or murdered, and neither does any other woman, regardless of her sexual behaviors (past, present and/or future), her occupation, the way she dresses, etc. It is because people have taken to throwing around the word "slut" to degrade and dehumanize women for decades now in order to make them "other than" so that when institutionalized and gendered acts of violence happen to them, such as rape, the general public can brush it aside with the simple statement that "They deserved it."

Most of the common conceptions of a slut seem to be a woman who dresses in an overtly sexual manner and/or is blatantly open about her sexuality and her sexual behaviors. There are plenty of women who do dress in a sexy manner, engage in sex frequently and are indeed blatantly open about their sexual activity. There are plenty of women who dress in a sexy manner and do not engage in gratuitous amounts of sex, but will still talk about sex with their friends. There are women who do not dress particularly sexily, but will have sex with the entire neighborhood and will broadcast it from the rooftops. There are women who dress in a sexy manner who engage in sexual activity so frequently that you'd wonder how they got anything else done during the day, but they keep it to themselves. There are so many different types of women who are a combination of all these factors, but the point is that it does not matter how you dress, how much sex you have and with whom, or how open you are about it. YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE RAPED OR KILLED BECAUSE OF IT, and you are NOT a bad person or a bad woman for being sexual!

The wonderfully patriarchal society that we live in (/sarcasm) has made it social suicide for women to be sexual in any way, shape or form. When women step one toe out of line in terms of what's acceptable sexual behavior for them (which changes on what seems like a daily basis), they're termed "sluts" and are given Other Than status. When women are raped, they are often put on trial in place of their attackers. The defense seeks to prove to the jury that the victim deserved what she got. Victim blaming is so rampant in this country that it's sickening. We are not told not to get robbed, not to get murdered, not to get run over in a hit and run accident, and yet authority figures tell us not to get raped instead of telling rapists not to rape. When those poor women's bodies were found in Long Island, victims of a serial killer, I heard so many people saying how their deaths weren't worth investigating, that the killer was doing our society a favor. Why was this? Because they were sex workers.

Anyone who believes that women are lesser than or deserve to be raped and/or killed is fucking sick, and while I'm willing to make concessions on just about everything else I believe, this is not one of them.