Category Archives: War On Women

Has Everyone Lost Their Goddamn Minds?

The Anniversary of Roe v. Wade was this week, and with it my attention turns to the legal issues surrounding the fetus. Except that I’m not doing that in the traditional sense this week, I’m doing it in extra special roundabout ways where I feel that my head is turning like the little kid in the Exorcist.

In New Mexico, a bill is pending which would prevent rape victims from getting abortions, otherwise they’ll face jail time for tampering with evidence.

A rape victim should not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term because the law thinks it will break the chain of custody in evidence. Rules of Evidence should not apply to the womb.

Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime. (Thinkprogress.)

Oh, and did I mention this would carry a 3 year sentence in prison? This would be a felony? Why can’t they simply compel that DNA evidence be taken from every abortion procedure when related to a rape? Isn’t that a better solution – a more humane solution than to compel a woman to remain pregnant after a sexual assault. And how exactly is the pregnancy evidence? Are they going to demand paternity tests on the rapist suspects? Are women going to be forced to have procedures done to prove who the father is? And once it’s done, why would they want to know? I would hope that the state would assist women in adoption procedures if they so wished, but I do not hold high hopes.

It would seem that the conservative end of these debates feels that a fetus is alive only when politically convenient, it would seem that when a woman should carry a pregnancy to term it is only when it is the least reasonable for the woman, and the most “useful” to the state. Does this mean that because she’s pregnant, you’ll believe she was raped? Are we really going back to the “well, women’s bodies know how to shut that sort of thing down” argument, from Fall of 2012? Are we really this incomprehensibly unkind to women in this country? And if we are, how do we stop it?

There is an implicit expectation of privacy built into the Constitution in many places. This right to privacy can be found through the 4th Amendment in our protections against an unreasonable search and seizure. How is this bill in New Mexico NOT a violation of those expectations? This law places pregnancy into the public sphere in a way that no other law would, especially given right to privacy afforded within Roe. We cannot allow women to be placed so publicly into the sphere of debate when they are experiencing what many consider the worst possible act of violence which can happen to a woman. We simply cannot remove these rights of privacy under the guise of “saving evidence”. It is a direct violation of the 4th amendment because this fetus is being unreasonably seized by law enforcement, the government.

Tomorrow in WTF Roe v. Wade Is On The Books Week: Catholic Health Services in Colorado denies that a fetus is a person.

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“They’re Trying to Help a Dead Girl”

The hacking collectivist group Anonymous released a video of the Steubenville football players who took a 16-year-old girl from house to house and sexually assaulted her. They simultaneously posted evidence on twitter, pushing the gang rape into the territory of pure unadulterated public torture.

Anonymous released this video on the same day the House of Representatives refused to vote to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Since when is it not in the best interest of the United States to protect women from violence? I have hope that when the next Congress comes into session we’ll have a different result, but I can’t get the feeling of fear out of my bones over this one.

The young men who are featured in the video of Steubenville are the kind of predators whom the Violence Against Women Act is supposed to protect us from. Sen. Patty Murray (from my state of Washington) put it best:

“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right-wing of their party always comes first.”

There’s absolutely no reason for House Republicans to have done this. Absolutely none. This is an action which is shameful in the eyes of the state.

The actions of the boys in Steubenville may not seem related, but if we don’t expose this kind of behavior as violence, we’re not doing our jobs as a society to protect one another. This young football player is giggling about raping a 16 year old young woman. (Allegedly. Except for the part where there are photos.) This isn’t the only reason the two are linked. Even with VAWA we’re not doing enough.  Like the football team, people who are well-regarded in their communities tend to be above reproach when it comes to the issue of sexual violence. A woman whose husband beats her every night is less likely to be believed, if she reports it, when that husband is a well-respected man. It was the Violence Against Women Act which helped to institute marital rape as a crime in all the states of the Union, as prior to 1994, there were still some states which allowed it.

This kind of violence is unconscionable, and the fact that the GOP will turn its back to violence against women makes me question their privilege. I hope none of them have known women who have suffered at the hands of abusers,  that none of them have had to listen when they heard the story of a friend or family member who was raped or beaten. Because, if they had, surely they would have voted with their conscience rather than with their party.

Yes, the supporters of VAWA  are trying to help a dead girl. They are trying to help a lot of dead girls, all of them who needed help and didn’t receive it. I am sickened today by the notion that there are people in this country who are likely laughing along with the boys from Steubenville – and I hope you’ll reconsider if you cackled at his jokes about Marcellus Wallace and Obi Wan Kenobi, because at the root of those “jokes” is the willingness to condone violence against a person and to use her for her body alone.

We should all be helping to end violence. We should be doing better.

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Steps to Prevent Rape

Sometimes, inventions are made because we need them – sometimes they come too late. Today I want to talk to you about an indiegogo campaign that could change a piece of rape culture – combined with another thing I’ve seen bars do. Rape culture is pervasive, and we can’t fix it all by talk. The goal is ending rape, obviously – but the baby steps that lead up to the end of rape culture are many and sundry. I think one of these steps could get funded by internet crowd sourcing. I’d like to introduce you to the Safety Cup.

Do I think this is a permanent solution? NO.  But I think that tools to stop rapists are important, and I think humane tools to stop rapists are even more important.  This is such a simple thing which bars can do to help prevent the use of GHB. Color changing straws and cups. Combine that with attentive bartenders who know what it looks like – and attentive drinkers who use it to their benefit, I think we might have a good thing coming.

The second piece to this of course, is what bars can do as bartenders and as humans. The bar “The Black Sheep” in Ashland, OR has a sign up. It reads as follows:

Photo by Kenna Kettrick

Photo by Kenna Kettrick

Basically, they’re offering to help keep people safe. The bar has actually had trainings to make sure that their bartenders know how to handle situations where patrons might be in danger. At my local bar in Jersey City, one of the bartenders has given me the signal where if someone is ever bothering me, she’s happy to help me get out of a nasty situation by physically removing me from it if necessary. Bartenders should be able to do this for anyone in danger. Does it make their job harder? Sure it does. But alcohol makes living safely a hell of a lot harder too. Bars can be dangerous places, but we should be able to drink in safety.

Does this mean we should stop watching our drinks or being responsible for our safety? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But focusing on what we can to protect women is a step, a seriously important one. Please fund if you can, or encourage your local bar to put up a sign like the Black Sheep’s. Focusing on the steps that lead up to the end of rape culture shouldn’t stop us from recognizing the big picture. We can’t end it in one fell swoop, but everything we do that makes it harder to rape, or harder to blame rape victims is a positive.

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How We Learn Not to Stand Up

I remember the first time that an adult made excuses for someone being mean to me. I remember when my training began to not know when to say no to people, or to not stick up for myself

I was seven.

I was being teased by a boy at school, and I was told “It’s ok. He’s doing it because he likes you.” I would be told variations on this theme until i was in high school. He likes you, it’s why he tries to following around at school. He likes you, it’s why he wrote an essay comparing you to Helen Keller. He likes you. It’s why he tripped you down the stairs. It’s why he stole your lunch. It’s why he tied your shoes together. It’s why he put plastic snakes in your backpack.

As an adult, if someone were to trip you down the stairs we would call it abuse. If someone follows you around, and refuses to leave you alone even when you ask nicely – that’s considered stalking. If someone puts plastic snakes in your backpack (even though you’re afraid of them) you’d call it  mean.

The notion of being liked because he’s teasing you wasn’t just told to me by family (in fact, I can only remember one adult in my family doing so) but I can recall instances where teachers told this to us. We were fed this line to create playground unity.

Other women I’ve spoken to in my age group have said the same. We have all been told that it is acceptable for people to tease us and make us feel sad, or hurt, or frightened – in name of being “liked”. I asked one of my friends if she had been taught this, and she said that it had taken so much work to stop making excuses when her feelings are completely rational and reasonable. We as women are taught to make apologies in our heads. We are taught to make excuses for those individuals who harm us.

We shouldn’t.

This idea that being liked is attached to teasing and meanness opens us up to abuse. Mostly, it opens us up to emotional abuse, because it feels the same as some of the teasing which we have experienced, and if in our hearts we are trained to brush it off, to think of it as cute, to make excuses for others… we don’t know how to say no when it is the most important thing we can say. Yes, it also opens us up to physical abuse, but in this case I think the more pernicious side effect is that of not knowing whether it’s emotional abuse – or teasing.

The instincts which are trained out of us aren’t just the ones that say “get out, get out, you’re being abused!”  They are the same instincts that teach us how to tell our partners we’re uncomfortable. I still get all nervous and uncomfortable telling my husband when he does something I don’t like. My voice gets all soft and quiet and I shift from foot to foot. I don’t actually need to be afraid, because we’re adults and we’ve made a commitment to be together – and yet I still get nervous that if I tell him I didn’t like the way he handled something on my behalf, I’m afraid he’ll divorce me. You see, these interactions don’t just hurt women – they hurt men too. From not knowing what’s an appropriate way to express affection, to having partners who don’t know how to express their feelings without fear – men are also those who deal with the consequences of being told “It’s just because he likes you”.

I’m not the only woman to feel this way. Asserting dominion over our emotions and our physical beings in relationships where we’re consensual participants still feels difficult, and I firmly believe that the root cause of this is how we’re taught to handle teasing and bullying as children. Without the tools to tell people “no” as children, we’re not able to do it as adults – and it’s harder to recognize the hurtful things from the harmless things when we never learned how to do that in the first place.

N.B.: Yes, teasing can be a way of being affectionate, and in many relationships it works. The difficulty of course is knowing how to use it and when, so that the laughter isn’t masking pain.

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Women Know How to Shut That Sort of Thing Down

Last night was definitely an all around win.

We got President Obama for another four years. And in his acceptance speech he acknowledged all creeds, disabled Americans and gay voters. In other words, he recognized that his constituency is not the 47%, but 100% of the people.

In Missouri Claire McCaskill (a woman!) beat back rape apologist Todd Aiken for her senate seat. In his concession speech, Akin thanked God, who, he said, “makes no mistakes.”

In Indiana, Joe Donnelly defeated Mourdock – showing that rape is not a platform and will lose you a republican seat, even if it has been held by republicans for years on end.

In New Hampshire there is a female governor, and TWO women in the House! Which may be a record, I’m not sure.

In Colorado they voted to legalize Marijuana.

In Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren  won, which just makes me happy on principle.

In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth became the first Thai -American woman elected to US Congress. Oh, and she’s also disabled which makes it EVEN MORE AWESOME.

Oh, yeah, and speaking of firsts – Tammy Baldwin? First Openly Gay senator! And from WISCONSIN.

And then there’s my home state, Washington. We voted to legalize marijuana as well, and it’s looking pretty damn good that WA will legalize gay marriage (The governor called it last night, but hopefully it’ll be official SHORTLY)

In Maine, gay marriage was voted in, as it was in Maryland! And Minnesota voted to ban future bans on same sex marriage.
Puerto Rico voted to pursue statehood – possible 51st state! This should be an interesting thing to watch.

The evening was highlighted by firsts, and by important steps in our nation. I’m proud to say that the voters came out, and they voted for equality, and for the future.

The Moral of the Story: Stopping people from getting married isn’t something which wins approval, the war on women doesn’t make you friends, and blaming rape victims tends to make you the bad guy.

Congratulations, America. We’ve got another 4 years before this nonsense happens again.

Have a picture of a kitty, you deserve it:

Kitty in a (ballot) box

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Bullying – It’s not just for kids anymore.

I was bullied in middle school. I was the kid you made fun of.

Well, as an adult I’m tired of watching the scenes of bullying play out again and again and again. Over the internet, in workplaces, during lectures. And it’s not just about the middle schoolers anymore. It’s about adults.

And the bullying isn’t targeted at straight, white men. It’s targeted at women. Smart, vivacious, intelligent women. Women whose bodies are used to attack them. The bullying is anti-feminist rhetoric. It is anti-woman rhetoric. It  has in one instance been anti gay rhetoric. And it has to stop.

The one year anniversary of the Tyler Clementi suicide was last month. He committed suicide because his roommate secretly streamed a “romantic interlude” on the internet. Tyler Clementi was gay. His roommate outed him to the entire world, and as a result he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.  The individual who outed him was sentenced to jail for a mere 30 days. 30 days for outing someone, and causing them to jump to their death. 30 days for bullying someone into such a state of depression.

Amanda Todd was a fifteen year old Canadian girl. She is the youngest person I write about today. She posted a YouTube video about her experience of being cyber bullied as a cry for help. A year ago she started befriending people on the internet and was convinced to flash a topless photo.

One year later, a man contacted her on Facebook, threatening to send around the picture of her topless “if [she] don’t put on a show.” Terrifyingly, the stranger knew everything about her: her address, school, friends, relatives, and the names of her family members. Soon, her naked photo had been forwarded “to everyone.” – Huffington Post

She was found dead, bullied with the image of her own body, and the shame that she felt knowing that everyone had seen her topless. It is possible to bully someone to death, and both Tyler and Amanda are examples of how it is done.

But bullying isn’t just for teenagers and college students. Adult women are receiving the same kind of treatment.

” Anita Sarkeesian runs Feminist Frequency, and writes similar things to what I do, except that she critiques video games. After her kickstarter in order to fund a project called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  She seeks to interrogate the kinds of stereotypes which permeate gender dialogue in video games. And because of that, she has been attacked by the internet. The kind of bullying she has been the target of has made video games about punching her in the face, photoshopping pictures of her being raped by Mario, She’s not relenting because of the attacks, she’s standing up and telling everyone what is happening to her. But this doesn’t change the fact that this is what’s happening to her, and it’s scary. (Please follow the link. Anita has documented her harassment thoroughly, and as upsetting as the information is, I think it’s important for everyone to see it.)

This morning, I found out about yet another woman being attacked for speaking out against sexism – Rebecca Watson, a member of the skeptic community has been attacked for speaking out against feminism. In her own community. “It wasn’t until I started talking about feminism to skeptics that I realized I didn’t have a safe space.” she said to slate.com.

She had very good reason to say this, the paragon of atheist thought Richard Dawkins even spoke against her “whining” about female genital mutilation and sexism. But it was because of this that people said they’d like her to be raped and killed. And they laughed about it. But it’s when the tweets start getting personally threatening that I really begin to fear for her:

Wow. Okay. So now we’ve stepped away from creepy photos, and from obnoxious comments on blog posts and YouTube posts to actually threatening to grope a woman in an elevator. Ha. ha. That’s so funny.

Oh, wait. No it isn’t. And the conference mentioned in the tweet (which both Rebecca and Bill attended) took no mind of this threat and allowed Bill to attend, despite the sexual threat towards a woman in their community. Shouldn’t this be taken more seriously? Why is it that when women speak up against bad treatment, they are given no reason to think they’ll be protected by their communities?

Here’s the thing: I was afraid to write this article. I was afraid because I knew that I might be opening myself up to the kind of attacks that these women are receiving from the internet. That I might get dead body photos in my comments, that people may try to find me where I live. But here’s the thing – I believe down to the very fibres of my being that this behavior is wrong. I was bullied as a child and I refuse to be bullied now. If I see that something is wrong, if someone is being abused by society, or if they are being attacked because they speak truth about sexism, or feminism – I’m going to stick my neck out and stand with them. Because that’s the only way to beat the hordes of anti-feminists out there on the internet. The only way is to speak louder, rather than bury our heads in the sand.

So – what happened to Amanda Todd was cruel. What happened to Tyler Clementi was cruel. What is now happening to Anita Sarkeesian is unspeakable, and the fact that Rebecca Watson cannot feel protected by her own community is sickening. We have to stop allowing those who fear us to push us down, even if it means stepping a little closer to the flames of hatred.

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Election Issue #2: Women’s Rights

The main reason that I won’t be voting for Romney has to do with my gender, my sexuality, and my inability to accept that gender is a binary. I’ve already talked about how important marriage equality is to me, but today I’m going to talk about the politics of pregnancy and a woman’s right to choose.  I’ll be blunt – I believe in the right for a women to have a choice in whether or not they want to carry a pregnancy to term. I believe that abortion should be a viable option.The tactics used legally to stop women from making choices of their own accord are ghastly, and most of them are based on the desire to remove Roe v. Wade from the books. I wish I were being dramatic – but I’m not.

There are women in the United States who are being charged with feticide, the crime of murdering a baby before it is born. Phrases like “depraved-heart murder” jump off the page and into the courtroom. Given the stories told by the Guardian about the issues of pregnancy in America,  “indifferent to death or harm” indicates a level of distaste for the child which feels a little hard to prove here. Callous disregard for human life seems to be precisely the opposite of several of these stories – especially that of the woman whose downs syndrome baby was born premature and died of natural causes – yet still she was accused of wanting to kill her own child.

In Mississippi the right of choice has been taken away de facto, if not de jure,  by way of the lack of services. There is one operating abortion clinic. In many conservative states lawsuits consistently crop up demanding that abortion clinics keep their waiting rooms a certain temperature, get their doctors operating privileges, and various other specific and challenging requirements in order to prevent abortion clinics from operating without specifically closing them down in one fell swoop. Similarly, Charges under fetal homicide laws are pressed against the pregnant women who lose their babies, rather than against people who attack pregnant woman and thus kill the fetus.

What does this have to do with the Presidential Election when all these issues are primarily ones of states rights?
For one, Mitt Romney wants to privatize insurance and do everything state by state – allowing for discrimination against women’s bodies within the text of insurance laws and health care bills. Furthermore, Romney wants to remove the Affordable Care Act, and even though he didn’t admit to it during the debate. The fact that the ACA promotes women’s health is a problem. Birth control being paid for, STD testing being paid for, breastfeeding counseling being given freely – why does all of this scare the conservatives? Especially given that a study shows that the birth control mandate actually lowers abortion rates?

The issue comes down to power dynamics. Men want control over women, and their bodies. With choice, comes power. With power, comes equality. I may not like the idea of abortion, but the ability to make the choice to be a mother is a choice about freedom. Freedom from the consequence of rape, freedom from medical emergencies, freedom from raising a child who won’t take a first breath. Having never had to make that choice, I can’t say how easy or hard it is, but I can say that I will never forget hearing a classmate tell me that of course he’d expect me to carry a baby to term if I had been raped, because it was the will of God. The question I ask of this concept, is what about my own will? Women should have the right to take their free will into their own hands, and make the choices which are right for them – that’s why Roe v. Wade was taken on by the Supreme Court, and why their decision was to legalize abortion on a federal level – so that the state didn’t have the option to tell women what to do.
This isn’t really just about abortion either. It’s about the way that women are protected. Rape cases aren’t handled properly, neither is the attitude about sexual harassment, assault, or abuse helpful. The fact of the matter is, we live in a country where it’s still OK to discount the cry for help of a mentally disabled woman in Connecticut. She said she was raped, and the state said that because she can’t scream, or move her hands, she didn’t exert enough force for it to be considered a rejection of the sexual advances of her rapist.

We cannot allow our country to abuse women. We cannot allow various states to criminalize miscarriage in order to punish women for what their bodies often do without warning. These laws were written to protect women from violence against them, yet these laws are now being used to attack the women themselves, marking their fetuses as more important members of the society than the women who carry them.

I do not trust Mitt Romney to protect me from society. I do not trust Mitt Romney to give me autonomy over my body. I do not trust him to respect my choices and beliefs.

This is why I vote. To protect myself, and the other women who need protection from the clear violations of our rights.

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