Tag Archives: body politics

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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PTSD in the Age of Social Media

I opened my regular news reading to find photos of yet another rape victim. Yet another violation of a woman’s rights. In full color. The imagery stark against my retina.

I wonder sometimes if the reason why I cannot get the images of my own trauma out of my head is because every day I have to relive something of someone else’s sorrows. Media is spectacularly exploitative. Of course media is. Journalism is about telling other people’s stories, and because of it there is a trend towards exposing the most painful parts of a story without protecting the reader from their own pain.

This is part of why I strongly believe in trigger warnings. Do they seem stupid sometimes? Do we need to make sure we don’t overuse them? Oh, absolutely. If I didn’t read the articles labeled trigger warning half the time I’d miss out on valuable dialogue. But we need to be cautious with our readers. We need to be kind and thoughtful.

The images of gang rape coming out of India will not leave my head easily. The images of the girl in Steubenville, or the eleven-year old in Texas will not escape my dreams.

I wonder if the reason why so many survivors of assault, of rape, of abuse have not been able to heal properly because they are consistently given images to resurrect their own personal nightmares.

I cannot offer any solutions, because I cannot tell the editors of the world that showing us these photos makes our personal experiences sing louder than the present. I cannot deny that some days, all I want to do is throw in the towel and discontinue my fight, knowing that there will be days where the hurt is louder than the sound of my own voice stemming the tide against violence.

Can we heal when we know that the violence continues outside our own safety nets?

I know I can. But sometimes I cannot know it loudly enough.

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Dolls for Disabled Children

I grew up with American Girl dolls. I had a Kirsten (because my heritage is Swedish American) and a Molly – because she had glasses! I loved that I had a doll who had to wear glasses like I did.  It definitely helped me to understand that glasses were a normal part of my image and nothing to be embarrassed by.

I only wish they’d had the hearing aids for their dolls when I was a child. When I was 10 or 11 I got my first hearing aid. It was a behind the ear, purple, and you could see through it to see all the gears and pieces that made it work. When I first got it, I thought it was really cool. But then my classmates figured something out – they could tease me using the hearing aid. Whistling into it, yelling into it. One kid chewed gum right next to me as loudly as possible.

So I stopped wearing my hearing aid.

Like the glasses, I feel like having a doll who can wear a hearing aid, or who uses a wheelchair, or crutches – it normalizes the disability for children. American Girl is doing something which could theoretically help make growing up disabled a lot easier. Being able to show your friends or classmates “My doll has a hearing aid like I do” might help. Or maybe it won’t. But at least on the inside, you can play with a doll that has your disability, and you can take out your dolls hearing aid just like you do yours, and it would help YOU the child normalize being a person who needs adaptive devices.  It isn’t just adaptive devices which the company is offering, however. They are also now offering dolls without hair – so that sick children can have dolls that look like them too. Again, acceptance is power.

To me, this isn’t just dolls having accessories – it’s a company choosing to help children understand themselves better, and to bring acceptance of themselves into their lives. There’s not a lot of movement when it comes to helping children with disabilities be accepted as “normal” in mainstream society. The wheelchair using Barbie named Becky was still used to reinforce the inspirational rhetoric surrounding people with disabilities, whereas the American Girl doll isn’t trying to say how amazing people with disabilities are, it’s trying to say that they just ARE.

The intention behind these dolls is almost as important as the dolls themselves, because their packaging, advertising, and description does impact children and how their families interact with the toys themselves. The presentation of a wheelchair Barbie may be significantly different from that of an American Girl.

I for one am pleased to see a mainstream dollmaker beginning to accept difference in ability, as they have always accepted difference in skin color, and in eyesight. I look forward to their continued push forward for diversity and acceptance.

 

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I Am Not Your Motivational Poster

This is What We Call a Pedestal.

People With Disabilities (PWDs)  are not living motivational posters. Please stop using us as such.

I get it. You’re able-bodied. You don’t want to go to the gym. Oh man, you really don’t want to go to the gym. Then someone shows this picture. A little boy, running on cheetah feet to replace the legs which he does not have.

And you think “Oh WOW. If that little kid is running why aren’t I?”  Because the child without legs can run, clearly you don’t have a reason to not go to the gym.

Now, if I were to express that I am tired, or that I don’t feel like dealing with the lights in my gym (they’re flourescent and fluorescent lights give me migraines), I’d be told that I should really look at this quote: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude”

Great. Now I’m in the Great Disability Paradox.

If I’m successful. then I’m placed on a pedestal for doing things that able-bodied people can do without help. I’m labelled as “brave” because I can ride a bicycle, labelled as “inspirational” because I have college degrees. But if I am frustrated because I cannot drive, or because I need an adaptive aid to help me get around a city, or if I get tired and overwhelmed by the city that I live in – then I’m whining. And here’s a picture to prove it:

The Only Disability In Life is.... Uh... Having one?

I… Right. So as long as I have a good attitude and don’t whine, I’ll be not disabled? The power of positive thinking and whatnot? I think it’s AWESOME that this little girl is learning how to run from Oscar Pistorius I think that whatever was happening when this photo was taken was probably really great. However, the fact that so far I’ve only seen photos of white children using the feet, well, that indicates a level of privilege that I’m not comfortable with. And furthermore, that little girl may someday be super frustrated and hate that she doesn’t have legs – and that’s okay. It is okay to be angry about having a disability, because sometimes, it’s just not fair.

What’s not fair is this: they’re wearing cheetah feet, a device which costs 15-18k, and will have to be replaced when they grow. What happens if their families cannot afford to continue providing him with the means to run? Shouldn’t we find it amazing that the technology exists – and sad that the technology isn’t accessible for everyone? The reason why I bring this up is because whenever I see PWD’s in the media there are two archetypes. Either the sad dejected veteran (who we admire because they became a PWD through a war) or people using new technology. And if they’re using their new technology and that’s all the public sees- what’s stopping people from understanding that this isn’t the norm?

My  point is this: By being trapped by these two sides of the perceptions of disability PWD’s end up not really being able to express their feelings about their lives – and this is where the last trope ends up coming in.  The Nice Trope.

We are often told that we need to be “nice” to people when they ask questions. That we need to not get angry. That we need to be calm. The trope of the Angry Disabled Lady (or man) is one that I fear I fall into frequently. I’m not being mean, though. I’m just tired of being expected to be friendly JUST because I have a disability. Just because I carry a cane, means that people get to ask me questions like “are you really blind” or “Do you have extra spidey senses?”

The only people whose questions I will answer are children’s queries – because educating them means that perhaps when they grow up they’ll know how to handle sharing a planet with PWD’s. Perhaps someday, we’ll be seen as equals – equals with differences, but still.

Please find your own inspiration to go to the gym, whether it be a famous runner, or a swimmer. But don’t use children whose futures are uncertain to get your ass in gear. The lives of PWD’s are not community property to be gawked at and used by example, it’s not right that every day, we must educate the public because of societal expectations that we be friendly and helpful.

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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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Flying The Flag

In the Castro, there is a flagpole on Harvey Milk Plaza. It flies the Rainbow Flag 365 days a year, unless a specific group under the LGBT umbrella has requested that they fly a flag for them. They’ve done it for the Bears, and they do it for the Leather community.

So why was the Transgender Flag on the International Transgender Day of Remembrance any different?

The Merchants of Upper Market and Castro (MUMC) run the flagpole, and when asked in early September to fly the Transgender Flag to honor those who have died because of who they are, the MUMC chose to deny the request. It was rejected on the basis that the request had been made to fly the flag at half mast given the purpose of the day.

Had the organization simply said “We’d be happy to fly the flag so long as we are provided with the flag and we can fly it at full mast in order to comply with safety requirements. It is also a part of our goal to never put the flag at half mast, since we want to represent the strength of the LGBT community” it would have been fine. But no. Instead of offering to fly the flag and demonstrate solidarity with the transgender community, the MUMC chose to deny the request in full.
I am very glad that after 1000 signatures and many emails they chose to remake their decision and are now planning to fly the flag on November 20th. However, even their acceptance letter leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as they state “This has been a difficult conversation and emotions run very high in both directions on the issue.” and I have to ask – why? Why is it so divisive to fly this flag when others have been accepted in the past? The whole thing has notes of discrimination, and in a community of minorities, during a time when equal rights are being fought for, dividing the community makes little sense.

I hope that the organization considers widening their gaze to include all people under the LGBT umbrella in their considerations with less snark in the future.

 

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Halloween Costume Debacles

Last Friday I was at New York Comic Con.I saw a lot of people with eyepatches. But I’m not going to go into that here, because you can simply read my thoughts on eyepatches elsewhere. Suffice it to say, it’s a little frustrating to see able bodied people walking Very Slowly because they cannot see out of one eye. If you have to give yourself an actual disability in order to wear your costume, some rethinking might be in order.

There’s a photo series that’s been floating around for a while, and the title is “This   is  my culture, not a halloween costume”. Cultural appropriation, making fun of cultures, confusing one culture with another, all of these are things that conflate together to make the choice of halloween or cosplay costumes super complicated.  While I was at comic con, a couple of people assumed that my right eye was a special effects contact.

Please don’t think that my disability is part of my costume. I know. It was comic con. I know, it’s halloween MONTH. Guess what? I look like this every day. I’ve had people enroll me in half hour conversations about how they don’t believe that my eye is real – on Halloween. I’ve had people ask where I bought my special effects contact – and just for the record, I looked. There is no special effects contact I can find on the internet that would make your eye look like mine. The “Blind” contact is supposed to give you that “infamously creepy, hazy blind look.” (Oh, and I found a pair that actually make you blind. What FUN!)

There are two issues for me – there’s the issue of able bodied people playing disability dress up for fun, and there’s the issue of me not being able to put on a costume without people assuming that my eyeball is a part of my costume. Yes. I carry a fancy cane, but I do so because I want to be able to dress up and cosplay, and an actual white cane tends to take away from the whole effect of steampunk, or other costume choices for myself.

Furthermore, it’s incredibly frustrating to know that if I were walking down the street on a regular Tuesday in April none of these people would come up and ask me where I bought my eyeball. Nobody would ask me whether it was real or not. It’s a symptom of the season, but since I love dressing up, I’d like to be able to do it with everyone else, and still be able to use my cane so that when I go wandering through thousands of people at a comic convention, I can do so in safety. Nerd culture seems to value my eye as something pretty, or awesome – but it would be nice if it could be ported out of the context of a super awesome costume into just being pretty because it is.

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