Tag Archives: opinion

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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Filed under Feminism, War On Women

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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But I want to see “The Hobbit” too!

I am a nerd. I love scifi, fantasy, you name it – I probably want to watch it. And yes, I probably want to go on opening day.

But there has been a sneaky trend in the last few years, one which made it impossible to see “Thor” in the theater after 4pm or on the weekend. One which made picking a time to see “Skyfall” or “The Avengers” a bit of a challenge. In fact, I’ve taken to asking when I arrive at a movie theater to buy my tickets… .

“Please tell me this isn’t in 3D”

So, let’s take a quick trip through science land!

3D is seen through glasses with different colors over each eye. One of your two eyes sees slightly different images, so that when the final image comes together in your brain – voila! Things jumping out at you, etc.

So, about that having two eyes thing….? Yeah. That’ll be a problem for me.

The trend towards 3D all Day All The Time presents the issue of my never wanting to go see movies. I’d rather stay home and rent. But I want to go see “The Hobbit” with my friends, or when other fantastical films come out on the big screen. I’d be happy with at least one blind friendly showing that isn’t at 11am when everyone and their 3 month old infant is at the movie too.

I get that maybe I’m the only one eyed patron at my movie theater, but there have to be other people who go to the theaters I do that are prone to motion sickness, or simply don’t enjoy 3D. Quite seriously, it’s just not fun for everyone.

And the fact is, there’s the threat that 3D may become the norm on home video as well, making my issue doubly problematic. So if any of you readers manage an AMC or a Regal in the NY Metro area, think of the one eyed and save me from this crap.
{this post is part of the very seldom used “get off my lawn” tag. Because everyone’s cranky about something.}

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So Your Preferred Candidate Lost…

What’s a sad voter to do?

Pick up a new hobby? Find a new political cause you care about? Call your mom?

… Oh. I see. Okay.

You’re going to start a petition to secede from the United States of America. Gotcha. That’s… uhm…. Unreasonable.

Yes. Secession. So very 1860.

In fact, this has almost become a fad. Now it’s not just the dissolution of states from the union that make sense, but those who really don’t. From looking at the We the People Petition Site the following states have filed petitions to “peacefully secede” or “secede” from the United States. A parenthetical indicates the number of times the petition has been put into the system: Commonwealth of Virginia (x2), Iowa, Maine, Missouri, Illinois, New Mexico, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Idaho, Georgia (x3), Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Utah (x2), Ohio (x2), South Dakota, West Virginia, Nebraska, Pennsylvania (x2), Kansas, Oklahoma (x2), Wyoming, California, New York (x2), Delaware, Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina (x2), Missouri (x2), Tennessee, Michigan, Colorado, New Jersey, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Washington.

Alaska and Oregon asked for a vote to be put to all state citizens on if they should secede or not.

45 states out of 50 have petitions filed on their behalf with regard to secession. And one city: Austin Texas would like to remain part of the United States. Because apparently Austin is cool like that.

There’s a popularized myth that Texas has the right to secede from the Union as according to their state constitution – they do not. But their website about secession has a lot of answers (from their perspective). In their case at least, this isn’t just a pouty faced outcry, but actually well thought out reasoning for why they want to leave the United States.

But why are people putting petitions to the White House about secession? Well. I’ll tell you, but it’s not pretty. It’s because we re-elected an African-American President. It’s because it turns out that the country isn’t as conservative and intolerant as many people would like to believe. We are a country populated by differences, and that is showing in this last election. They’re angry because they didn’t win.

So instead of acting like adults, who live in a country that they would have supported had their candidate won, they’re taking the temper tantrum route. They’re throwing a fit because they feel entitled to do so. Fortunately for them, unlike the one petition on the site requests, we won’t deport them for suggestions of secession. Look, we on the left did it too. We threatened to move to Canada (actually, I threatened to move to Europe, but it’s the same thing.) It’s a jerky thing to do, and we should all stop it.

But I’d like to point this difference between the Left and the Right out: The only other time that there has been a secession from this country, has been over race too. Apparently what really pushes people over the edge here isn’t about the choices a President makes, but his actions or affiliations with regard to race. My hope is that no one is stupid enough to throw a John Wilkes Booth-ian tantrum.

The White House has said that they will respond to the petitions which do reach the regularly required number of signatures (Which Texas and Alabama have.) No idea when, or what it will say. But given that the Governor of Alabama doesn’t support secession of his own state, I think it’s likely that the White House will tell them (very politely) to go sit in a corner and think about what they’ve done.

Go read a book. Go drink some whiskey. Volunteer at your school or church, or with the government. Make a difference. But don’t pitch fits about leaving the country when you know that our history still shows the battle scars of the Civil War, and seriously – don’t do it because our President has a different skin color than you. Plain and simple: That’s overblown bullshit racism.

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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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Filed under Feminism, Politics, War On Women

The Power of Hate

There’s a word I’ve been hearing a lot lately: Hate.

I hate white people.

I hate straight people.

I hate republicans.

I hate men.

Hate is a really powerful word.  I feel pretty strongly that blanket statements of hate don’t get us anywhere – but I especially feel that way when it comes to those of us who fall under the blanket of “liberalism”. I’ve always found myself believing that being liberal is a part of being accepting.

Where has the ability to agree to disagree gone? Furthermore, where has the ability to get along with those who aren’t like us gone? We live in a difficult political era. There are people who want women to have no rights to their bodies, there are those who say that gay marriage is a sin. There are those who don’t believe that being trans is real.

But those people have always been a reality. Since forever,  there have always been conservatives, there have always been people more interested in removing rights rather than giving them to people. There have always been those who do not believe they have equals. There are always those who put down others.

We don’t need to speak in this way.

We don’t have to shriek that we hate a blanket group, just because portions of that group are difficult to live with.

I do it too. I’m trying to learn how not to hate people I’ve never met. It’s difficult to not hate the Wesboro Baptist Church, for example. Because they do things I find unspeakable. I find it difficult to not hate Mitt Romney, because to me he presents a threat to my way of life. It is difficult to not hate those who ascribe gender normativity to those who will not conform. It is difficult to not hate those who want to keep gay men and women from marriage.

But I need to learn not to. I need to learn that there are better ways to make my point known than to hate. I can disagree vehemently with another person and not hate them.  Hate is such a deep-seated emotion – but the word almost loses meaning with how much I see it used today. If we all hated as much as we say we do, then I fear for the very fabric of society. I fear for feminism, because if we hate men, then we’re just falling straight into the trap of being precisely what the anti-feminists fear. Strength is not hate. We can have strength and conviction without the means of rage.

Not only that, but it hurts. It hurts when you area straight ally and don’t participate in gay bashing, but you hear that your friends hate straight people. It hurts to think that just because of orientation, you end up being lumped in with the very people you disagree with.

Hatred creates so many things. It is responsible for lynchings, for murders, for rapes, for many things which I would never do, and you probably wouldn’t either.

Stop hating. Start disagreeing. Start having convictions. Start talking rationally.

I’m not saying to stop being angry, but I want us to voice our anger differently than through hate.

Just stop hating your fellow human beings, and start talking in productive ways that change things.

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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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