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]

Monday, April 2, 2012

How Abstinence-Only Education Nearly Fucked Me For Life

[TW for abstinence-only propaganda, denial of autonomy, menstruation (and all the horrid symptoms that come with it), miscarriage, STIs]
It is a proven fact that an abstinence-only “education” that fails to teach young women how to protect themselves from pregnancy and STIs, that removes women from their bodily autonomy and forces them to make “choices” that aren’t really choices, is the real cause of the physical and psychological harm that abstinence-only advocates claim comes from premarital sex.

I didn’t have my first “sex-ed” class until I was in my sophomore year of high school.  A lovely woman from the local health clinic volunteered, like she did every year, to teach us young folk how to properly use condoms, complete with the traditional demonstration with a banana.  Along with this pertinent and relevant information, she also informed us of the proper ways to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and all was well with the world.  That is, until she was banned from teaching at our school right after that lesson.  According to the school, who as far as I know wasn’t officially teaching sexual education under an abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) curriculum at the time, the lesson was “obscene” and would no longer be available to us.  Instead, the following year (we had sexual education classes every year), we were given a brief summary of the same information that we had heard the previous year, albeit censored and without the demonstrations, and the rest of the lesson was spent teaching us about abstinence.  I actually stood up and told the gym teacher (they wouldn’t even allow a health professional to give the lesson), “You do realize that most of us in the room have already had sex, right?”  She paused for a moment, probably to clutch her metaphorical pearls, and instead of actually answering my question, completely ignored it and continued her speech about abstinence.

The AOUM curriculum is teaching young people that sex is dangerous to their health, when in reality, it’s the AOUM curriculum that is the real danger to young people.  The AOUM curriculum failed me personally in multiple ways, both reproductively and medically. The first time AOUM failed me was when I was having heavy periods that would last anywhere from 7-10 days (one time I had my period for two weeks straight), accompanied by debilitating cramps that left me nauseated and unable to move.  I didn’t know anything about birth control pills.  I knew how they worked, sure, but I was never told how to procure them.  I was never told that I could go to Planned Parenthood and get them without my parents’ knowledge for a reduced fee, or even no fee at all.  So for six years, from the time I was 12 until I was 18, I suffered in agony. 

The second time AOUM failed me was when I was 17.  I was in a possibly-romantic but definitely-sexual relationship with a young man I had met a few months prior.  We were using condoms, of course, because I was a smart young woman who didn’t want to get pregnant or get an STI.  However, when my period was two weeks late, I began to panic.  I couldn’t bring myself to take a pregnancy test after the first week.  “Just one more day,” I would tell myself.  “Just one more day and then if it doesn’t show up I’ll take a test.”  I never did, of course, despite the fact that the thought of food made me feel sick to my stomach and my breasts felt like two heavily-beaten piƱatas.  About three days after the “two week wait,” my period finally showed.  It was the heaviest, most painful period I had ever had, accompanied by strange masses of grayish matter that I had never seen before.  At the time, I thought it was just extra-heavy because it was so late;  the thought of a miscarriage never crossed my mind.  I actually never did find out if I was pregnant or if that period was a miscarriage;  part of me still wonders sometimes, and part of me never wants to know.  The point of this story is that if I had known about how to procure and use birth control pills, if AOUM hadn’t suppressed that information and made me feel ashamed to ask anyone about them, the answer would have had a 99.9% chance instead of a 50/50 chance of being no.   

The third time AOUM failed me was when I entered a monogamous relationship with another man four years later.  While my school hadn’t gone so far as to say you had to be married in order to have sex, you had to at least be monogamous, and the implication was that this somehow made you immune to STIs.  Because I was finally on the pill and, hey, we were monogamous after all, the condom use fell by the wayside.  So you can imagine my surprise when my gynecologist called me at home a few days after my annual pap smear to tell me that not only did I have an abnormal pap smear result, I also had Chlamydia. (I wrote a whole other post about this, which you can find here.) Turns out that my partner at the time had had some not-so-safe fun with another woman before we got together and he had passed what she had given him along to me.  What the school failed to tell me, no thanks to AOUM, was that previous partners of my current partner might have had (or still have) something that they passed on to him, who could in turn pass it on to me, no matter how faithfully monogamous we both were.  Thanks to the privilege of health insurance, we both got treated right away, but if AOUM had given me the proper information in the first place, this whole situation might have been avoided.

The way AOUM chooses to educate young people about sex is atrocious.  As Michelle Fine and Sara I. McClelland state in their article "Sexuality Education and Desire: Still Missing after All These Years," we are “being educated to mistrust condoms and contraception, to feel shame about [our] premarital sexuality, and to remain silent about [our] own sexual development…by condemning premarital sexual activity, contraception, and condoms—educators, policymakers, and families are placing young people at risk” (24).  Despite the fact that sex education doesn’t increase sexual activity among young people, and instead increases the sense of sexual responsibility held by each person getting involved in a sexual relationship (25), more often than not, AOUM is the chosen curriculum for sexual education for our young people.  Rather than arming young people, particularly young women (who will feel the brunt of the reproductive and social responsibility should they get pregnant or contract an STI) with the knowledge they will need to navigate the world of sexuality without reproductive or health consequences, we are sending them into battle unarmed, and the evidence proves it.  I hope that by sharing my real-life examples and adding them to the evidence pile, I have made this fact as crystal clear and as salient as possible.

Fine, Michelle, and Sara I. McClelland. "Sexuality Education and Desire: Still Missing after All These 
Years." Graduate Center, City University of New York. Print. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why the MRA (Men's Rights Activist) Movement is Dangerous for Women

[Serious TW for MRA related content, forced pregnancy, abortion, rape apologia, rape culture, victim-blaming, slut-shaming, denial of autonomy, misogyny, patriarchy...pretty much if you can think of it, it's probably in here]

For those of you who don't know what the MRA movement is, the unofficial definition that I've come up with is that it's a bunch of over-privileged men who are throwing a temper tantrum because women have realized that they're not doormats, and so they're rolling on the ground, kicking their feet, and holding their breath until we women shut the fuck up and go back to being barefoot and pregnant. They seem to believe that women have it incredibly fucking awesome (because misogyny, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, etc. totally don't exist anymore), and they basically think that the feminist movement is a bunch of bullshit and is no longer necessary because, hey, women have it incredibly fucking awesome!

One of the incredibly dangerous aspects of the MRA movement is the father's rights movement, which believes in preventing women from having an abortion without the father's consent, arguing that it is discriminatory for men not to have the ability to participate in a decision to terminate a pregnancy. Forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term is tantamount to physical, emotional, and psychological torture. Furthermore, forcing a woman to obtain consent from the father in order to have an abortion not only perpetuates the infantilization of women, wherein women are believed to be so fucking stupid that we can't make decisions on our own without the help of a man, as well as the patriarchal belief that women shouldn't be allowed to make decisions without a man's consent, but it also puts abused women in serious danger. Can you imagine what it would be like for a woman who has been abused to tell her abuser that she's pregnant and wants to abort? Can you imagine what the consequences would be for her? There are a few things that could happen, but the most likely scenarios include her being forced to endure the pregnancy and keep the child against her will, thereby tying herself to her abuser in one way or another for the remainder of her life (which might not be for very long, statistically speaking), or her attempting to abort the fetus herself, which can result in serious injury (including sepsis, a perforated uterus or intestines, etc.) and even death.

Another very dangerous aspect of the MRA movement is their stance on rape. MRAs believe that there is an epidemic of false rape accusations sweeping the globe, and these are the men you will find, after a high-profile male has been accused of rape, screaming that the woman just wanted money/fame/etc., she wasn't actually raped, she just has "buyer's remorse," etc. These men are also the same men you will find concern-trolling and stating, for women's benefit of course, that if women just dressed modestly, didn't drink, didn't go out at night, didn't go out alone, didn't go out at all, etc., we wouldn't have to worry about being raped. I've explained this before, but if rape had anything to do with any of that, women who dress modestly, don't drink, only go out during the day, only go out in groups, never go out at all, would never be raped. And yet, with a statistic of 1 in 6 women being raped in her lifetime, this happens ALL THE FUCKING TIME. I don't think I have to explain why this MRA viewpoint is dangerous to women, but just for shits and giggles, the reason this is dangerous is not only because of the obvious, which is that it perpetuates rape culture, slut-shames and blames the victim, and prevents rape victims from coming forward and pressing charges, but also because they fully believe that because of a few false accusations, all accusations of rape must automatically be assumed to be false. This is clearly more than problematic for women who are raped.

In relation to the previous paragraph, many MRAs believe that it is discriminatory to name accused rapists while providing the accuser with anonymity. Clearly, they have never experienced what it's like to come forward with a charge of rape, only to be told that they're obviously lying because of their clothing, their past sexual behaviors, their level of sobriety at the time, the time they were outside, etc. In other words, they've never experienced the same vitriol that they throw at rape victims all the time. They also clearly have no idea of the kinds of repercussions that a rape victim faces from not only her attacker, but from the friends of her attacker, etc. It's not uncommon for rape victims to have threats of further sexual violence and death thrown at them for daring to come forward with the charges. Not only this, but some MRAs actually question the criminal status of marital rape, and when having sex outside of marriage, they have suggested the signing of a "consensual sex contract" by partners before sexual intercourse in order to protect men from accusations of rape. So, in other words, according to MRAs, women who get married to men cannot possibly be raped because men are entitled to sex with their wives, even if it's forced, and when having sex outside of marriage, instead of obtaining enthusiastic, clear consent from their partners and only performing the sexual acts that said partner has consented to, they place a ridiculous burden on their partners in the form of this ridiculous contract, which doesn't actually prevent the man from raping his sex partner; it only prevents him from being accused.

I only have one question when it comes to this contract: what's going to prevent the man from raping his partner and then using the contract as evidence that he didn't rape her?

If there are any MRAs reading this right now, I hope your eyes have been opened a bit, and I hope you realize that there is no supposed War on Men. There is, however, an increasing demand that you men take responsibility for your words, actions, behaviors, etc., particularly those that perpetuate misogyny, rape culture and the patriarchy. There is a VERY big difference between a "War on Men" and asking men to take responsibility for their actions, and if there is a conflation of the two in your mind, if you equate the cessation of the continued subjugation of women with a "War on Men," you have serious fucking problems.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pro-Life = Anti-Woman: A Rant

[TW for forced pregnancy, misogyny, slut-shaming, pro-life bullshit]

I am getting SO SICK AND TIRED of people emotionally blackmailing women into carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. The physical and emotional toll is bad enough when the pregnancy IS wanted, but fuck it, women are just breeding machines anyway, what's the difference if the woman didn't want to continue the pregnancy and have a life of her own? All women are good for is popping out babies. And let's face it, if you're gonna be a slut and open your legs, you deserve to be punished with nine months of pregnancy, the agony of childbirth, and the emotional toll of raising a child or putting it up for adoption. It's not like it takes any REAL effort to raise a child, nor does it have ANY effect on you whatsoever when you give that child up for adoption and sit there for the rest of your life wondering how they are.


How about this: if you don't want an abortion, DON'T FUCKING GET ONE. And for all the people who are gonna come out of the woodwork and be like OH YOUR MOTHER CHOSE LIFE, OTHERWISE YOU WOULDN'T BE HERE HURR DURR, the point is she CHOSE. SHE HAD A CHOICE. And if she had decided to end her pregnancy, I wouldn't be conscious to know that she did it, ergo I wouldn't care. And not for nothing, this whole pro-life thing has nothing to do with saving babies and preventing abortions. If that were true, the pro-lifers would be all over birth control, which is proven to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and therefore prevent abortions. But, you know, that would involve giving women choices and rights.

And we just can't have that, can we?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crawl Inside (A Poem)

[TW for abortion, misogyny, forced pregnancy, STIs, domestic violence, graphic bloody violence, death, pregnancy symptoms, stomach illness]

January 28, 2012

Crawl Inside

If you want to crawl inside my uterus, Mr. Rich White Republican
Then I want you to see everything
Not just the parts that are supposedly meant to nurture another human life
Not just the parts that you want to control and turn into a fetus factory
Not just the fantastical, sparkly wonderland that you seem to think pregnancy is
(Which is funny coming from someone who has never been, or will ever be, pregnant)
I want you to see me shaking, locked in my bathroom
Pregnancy test in hand, praying for that negative
Crying with relief when it comes
I want you to see my womb
Ravaged by a silent sickness that went unchecked for months
I want you to see the fifteen-year-old girl shaking in silence
Staring at the little plus that will change her life forever
Knowing that her father is going to beat her, possibly to death this time
I want you to see the thirty-year-old woman doubled over the toilet
Heaving up the only meal she was able to even attempt eating that day
Writhing in nauseated agony and cursing God, despite how much she wants that child
I want you to see the mother of six whose birth control failed
Who finds herself pregnant again and desperate
Who finds herself in a back-alley abortion clinic because every other reputable clinic has shut down
Who finds herself in the morgue because the “doctor” pulled out her intestines along with the fetus, and her blood went septic, killing her slowly and painfully
Crawl inside my uterus, Mr. Rich White Republican
See that all of these women who are screaming, groaning, pushing, laboring
We are not screaming in the agony of contractions
We are not groaning through the pain of birth
We are not pushing out anything from between our legs
We are not laboring to bring forth new life
We are laboring to bring forth our own