J: “It’s like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way about my own body because I’m loaning it out at the moment.”

4/9/13

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in? Emotional spaces? How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

I tend to feel unsafe in certain public spaces when I’m alone. I didn’t always feel this way, but it’s fairly recent that since I’ve been pregnant (currently in my 7th month), I tend to feel more vulnerable. This is especially true here in the south (living in SC – if you can believe it). I actually don’t feel that way as much when I’m visiting back in the Philly/Jersey area. I think it has more to do with the culture down here. It’s very conservative and women are more obviously objectified or ignored (one or the other).

Before I was pregnant, I worked as a waitress for over 16 years. I felt incredibly unsafe in the restaurant environment. A lot of it has to do with class, but it was mostly about being a woman that led me to feel this way. In fact, the more that I learned about power dynamics, oppression, and sexism, the worse I felt about my position as a server. I felt kind of like a whore because my income was based on whether people liked me or not (although it was really based on what kind of a tipper they were to begin with). Because restaurant owners only pay 2.13 per hour, it felt to me like I was nothing more than a charity case – even though I worked in some pretty high end places and learned how to provide excellent service. It’s just an internal feeling I always had.

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women? How do you think others perceive you physically? What elements contribute to these perceptions?

I used to perceive myself as attractive, but had some minor things that I would have changed about myself if I could have – although nothing too drastic. I tend to think that most humans feel that way. Before I got pregnant, I had gained 25 pounds fairly quickly and felt like I was inhabiting a different person’s body. Now that I’m pregnant and have gained another 25 pounds on top of that, I feel disgusted with my appearance. I get really annoyed when I express how I feel about myself and someone tries to talk me out of it. That seems a bit insensitive and unsupportive to me. It’s like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way about my own body because I’m loaning it out at the moment. I do, however, keep that in perspective – because I have made the commitment to have this child and therefore my personal feelings about how I look are sort of silly right now…since I know it’s only temporary. I feel a bit worried that I might be stuck this way, but I’m extremely motivated to get back into shape after he’s born.

I don’t really measure myself up to other women because I was raised by a crazy woman who always told me I was ugly and I learned how to ignore a lot of the opinions of other women. I really don’t know how other people, in general, perceive me – except from what they say directly. Pre-pregnancy, not many people would comment (besides sexual/romantic partners). Now that I’m carrying a baby, it feels like everyone (including strangers) feels like they have permission to comment on my body. A lady at the bank insisted that I must be having twins and was very quick to tell me how “huge” I am.

I find certain women incredibly attractive. I think I have a “type” that I’m specifically drawn to when it comes to sexual attraction. I have no idea where that comes from, but all I can say is that petite women with small boobs that have a certain style, certain features, and a certain personality really turn me on. Although I don’t really label my sexual orientation as anything, I’d have to say that on the KInsey scale I’m leaning a bit towards the middle, although I’m mostly hetero-identified.

Aside from sexually attractive women, there are plenty of other women I find physically attractive because I appreciate the diversity of beauty in general. I don’t really follow a lot of the typical standards of beauty because I’m not usually a fan of the barbie doll look. I think that understanding media literacy helps me to say, “fuck that.”

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman? Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

It does depend on where I am, who I’m with, and who else is around. Mostly I feel vulnerable though, unfortunately. I really don’t want to feel that way – especially being a feminist. I want to feel empowered and strong (which I’d like to think I’m still empowered and strong, despite vulnerability at times). It’s just that once my eyes had been opened to sexism, there was no going back. I learned that at a young age instinctively, but then I studied about these things as an adult and it only added more to what I was already feeling inside.
I’m happy that I’m a woman. I enjoy being a woman very much and I love women, but I don’t like feeling like I have to prove my intelligence or worth (outside of what my body may be worth) constantly.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you? I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

For me, personally, it’s always been my woman-ness and my class placement in society. I suppose there’s also a mental health component that is very much a part of me. I grew up in an abusive and highly dysfunctional household. So much of who I have become is in response to being female, growing up blue collar, and being raised by a woman who has many serious pathological issues.
I think that I’m lucky to have had a rebellious spirit. My family looks down on women (which is one reason why they are SO happy that I’m having a boy – and that grosses me out to no end that they have this preference). And I ended up a feminist. My family doesn’t understand why I’m still in school, but I am working on a second master’s (and racking up student loans that would make a doctor have a heart attack). And, lastly, my mother’s pathologies continue to haunt me and affect me, but I have differentiated myself enough to understand that I will never be like her in those ways.

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TRIGGERING

4/2/13

 

Annotation:

When I found these shirts via a link from a friend, they were already pulled down.  Should that make me feel better? Relatively speaking, better not for sale and general consumption by the public than for sale and general consumption by the public.  I guess.  But someone MADE these.

Someone thought of it, then thought it was funny enough to invest time and energy into doing it, then weighed the pros and cons and was relatively unafraid of backlash of any serious kind, then thought enough other people would find this FUNNY that they would make money off of it.  Someone hates women enough to make this.  You can not sell them but you can’t- “unexist” them.  It’s only a matter of time before someone prints their own.  And then they will be out there in the world, where I walk down the street, possibly next to someone who, had these remained for sale on amazon, would have bought it. In a world where people think it is okay to feel and advertise your desire to hurt and rape women.

In way, I wish they had sold them.  That way I would know you if I was walking down the street next to you, sharing a pole with you on the subway car, behind you in line at the supermarket.  If you can’t announce your LOVE of RAPE and VIOLENCE, how do I know who to be scared of?

It is at these moments that feminists, women, are accused of “over-reacting,” of “having no sense of humor.” I’ve stopped caring about these comments. The world is sometimes too scary to laugh at.

Update: I returned to this after several lengthy discussions concerning the race and class of certain acts of misogyny, specifically the common perception of street harassment as done primarily by men of color in poor and working-class neighborhoods. Although I later heard that this was an “automated” design- which further presents the problem of how a verb list could let this one “slip through, which I find fairly unbelievable- the person responsible for this “fluke” is Michael Fowler, a White company CEO. This requires that we think of harassment in broader terms, no matter how much we like to keep it in a race and class box.

Assuming this “fluke” though: how were no shirts printed that “accidentally” said, “Keep calm and rape HIM”?

Nab the Victim

3/15/13

Reposted without permission from:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/nypd_nab_the_victim_lXiQhecmrcMWX01cMEJ5JJ

  • By JAMIE SCHRAM and DAN MANGAN
  • Last Updated: 9:15 AM, March 15, 2013
  • Posted: 1:15 AM, March 15, 2013

EXCLUSIVE

Women who report domestic violence are exposing themselves to arrest under a new NYPD directive that orders cops to run criminal checks on the accused and the accuser, The Post has learned.

The memo by Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski requires detectives to look at open warrants, complaint histories and even the driving records of both parties.

“You have no choice but to lock them up” if the victims turn out to have warrants, including for minor offenses like unpaid tickets, a police source said.

“This is going to deter victims of domestic violence . . . They’re going to be scared to come forward.”

The directive tells detectives that when they are investigating cases of domestic violence, they should run a search that cross-references all NYPD databases.

Beside warrants, a person’s criminal record and history of making criminal complaints should be checked, the directive says.

A source said that even if detectives wanted to take pity on someone who was battered by a spouse, they would feel pressure to make an arrest to avoid getting in trouble with superiors.

“We have every right to arrest that person at that moment,” the source said.

Reacting to the March 5 memo, another source fumed, “There’s a lack of common sense in this department right now.”

Marilyn Chinitz, a matrimonial lawyer who often represents abused women, said the policy harms those police should be protecting.

“You’re arresting the victim?” Chinitz said. “That is crazy.

“That is very, very frightening. It would absolutely dissuade people. They would not report a crime because they would fear getting locked up.

“It would empower the perpetrator, and there’s going to be more domestic violence as a consequence, and you’re endangering children,” Chinitz said, noting that kids often live in households where one parent is being abused.

Joseph Tacopina, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, said the new policy will have a “massive chilling effect” on domestic-violence victims, particularly women reluctant to call cops on their partners.

“The majority of domestic-violence cases go unreported,” Tacopina noted. “This is just going to increase this percentage.”

Pulaski’s memo is the latest in nearly 90 instructional memos the former civil engineer and lawyer has issued to NYPD detectives since he was appointed their boss by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in the fall of 2009.

Those memos range from the most mundane tasks to how to grill a suspect.

10 Things to End Rape Culture

2/4/13

Reposted without permission from:

http://www.thenation.com/article/172643/ten-things-end-rape-culture#

Rape culture exists because we don’t believe it does.  From tacit acceptance of misogyny in everything from casual conversations with our peers to the media we consume, we accept the degradation of women and posit uncontrollable hyper-sexuality of men as the norm. But rape is endemic to our culture because there’s no widely accepted cultural definition of what it actually is.  As Nation contributor and co-editor of the anthology Yes Means Yes Jessica Valenti explains, “Rape is a standard result of a culture mired in misogyny, but for whatever reason—denial, self-preservation, sexism—Americans bend over backwards to make excuses for male violence.” But recent headline-grabbing instances of sexual assault, from Steubenville, Ohio, to Delhi, India, are prodding Americans to become self-aware about the role we play in propagating a culture that not only allows but justifies sexual violence against women. Activists Eesha PanditJaclyn Friedman, filmmaker Nuala Cabral and The Nation’s Valenti believe that we can end rape culture. They’ve suggested the following “Ten Things” to end our collective tolerance for violence against women and create an environment that empowers both men and women to change the status quo.

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1. Name the real problemsViolent masculinity and victim-blaming. These are the cornerstones of rape culture and they go hand in hand. When an instance of sexual assault makes the news and the first questions the media asks are about the victim’s sobriety, or clothes, or sexuality, we should all be prepared to pivot to ask, instead, what messages the perpetrators received over their lifetime about rape and about “being a man.” Here’s a tip: the right question is not, “What was she doing/wearing/saying when she was raped?” The right question is, “What made him think this is acceptable?” Sexual violence is a pervasive problem that cannot be solved by analyzing an individual situation. Learn 50 key facts about domestic violence. Here’s one: the likelihood that a woman will die a violent death increases 270% once a gun is present in the home Remember, a violent act is not a tragic event done by an individual or a group of crazies.  Violence functions in society as” a means of asserting and securing power.”

2. Re-examine and re-imagine masculinity: Once we name violent masculinity as a root cause of violence against women, we have to ask: Is masculinity inherently violent? How can you be a man/masculine without being violent?  Understand that rape is not a normal or natural masculine urge. Join organizations working to redefine masculinity and participate in the national conversations on the topic.

3. Get enthusiastic about enthusiastic consent. Rape culture relies on our collective inclination to blame the victim and find excuses for the rapist. Enthusiastic consent — the idea that we’re all responsible to make sure that our partners are actively into whatever’s going down between us sexually — takes a lot of those excuses away. Rather than looking for a “no,” make sure there’s an active “yes.” If you adopt enthusiastic consent yourself, and then teach it to those around you, it can soon become a community value. Then, if someone is raped, the question won’t be, well, what was she doing there, or did she really say no clearly enough? It will be: what did you do to make sure she was really into it? Check out this Tumblr page on enthusiastic consent.

4. Speak up for what you really really want. Because so much victim-blaming relies on outdated ideas about women and men’s sexuality, taking the time to figure out what you actually want from sex for yourself and learning how to speak up about it can be a revolutionary act, and inspire others to follow suit. Bonus: it will almost always improve your sex life, too! Jaclyn Friedman wrote a whole book on the topic.

5. Get media literate. Media, like everything else we consume, is a product; someone imagined, created and implemented it. Ask the right questions about who creates media that profits off the objectification of women, especially women of color.  Feed your mind and heart with media that portrays women as full human beings with the right to bodily autonomy. Go to FAAN Mail to learn how to “Talk Back” to media creators and browse their Facebook page for alternative artists. You’ll not only be healthier yourself, but you’ll be simultaneously calling into being a media ecosystem that will be healthier for everyone.

6.  Globalize your awareness of rape culture. Yes, different societies have particularities when it comes to gender based violence, but it is counterproductive to essentialize entire nations/cultures/races. Look to global strategies—like creating momentum for the US to ratify the global Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and participate in addressing the phenomenon of rape as a tool of war. Also, let’s reauthorize Violence Against Women Act before we cast aspersions on the misogyny of other cultures, shall we?

7. Know your history: For those of us who live here in the US, we must acknowledge and learn from the US’s long history of state sanctioned violence. Consider the genocide of Native and First Nations people, the ever-present legacy of slavery, the lackadaisical relationship we have with due process (i.e. Japanese internment, Guantanamo) and the gendered nature of all this. There are no quick links for this one: you’ll have to read some big books.

8. Take an intersectional approach. The numbers tell us most but not all of what we need to know. What the numbers can elide is the lived reality of women, LGBTQ people and others of us whose stories don’t make it to the headlines. Don’t forget that sex and gender are different and there are more genders than two. People who are gender-non-conforming, gender queer, trans and/or those who complicate the gender binary experience violence at disproportionate rates. Think about how a person’s income, race, sexuality, and citizenship and immigration status would impact their ability to use the criminal justice system as recourse, and come up with strategies that addressthose challenges. Move the most vulnerable from the margin to the center to develop effective solutions.

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9. Practice real politics. You may be crystal clear about your own rejection of rape culture, but when someone you know calls a woman a slut, approach him/her from a place of empathy. Try telling them that you know they probably meant no harm, but that you’re concerned that they may be doing some anyhow. And then explain why. And be patient: very few of us change our views in an instant. It may take time and repetition for it to start to sink in.

10. Lobby your community. Rape culture thrives in passive acceptance of female degradation, victim-blaming and hyper-masculinity in our communities, both physical and digital. Report abuse on Facebook. Lobby college administrators for more safe spaces to discuss sexual assault on campus. One in five women are assaulted during their college years, yet many colleges don’t have a competent system for reporting incidences and punishing perpetrators.  Go here to learn what to do about rape on your campus.

Two More Ways to Fight Rape Culture

Don’t laugh at rape. Most people aren’t rapists. But most rapists believe that everyone does it. What’s more, you can’t tell if you’re in the presence of a rapist. They don’t look any different from the rest of us, and may be perfectly good company. So while it might seem harmless to you to laugh at a joke that makes light of rape, your laughter could be telling an unknown rapist in your midst that you think rape is hilarious. And what’s worse: letting go of a laugh once in a while, or accidentally enabling a rapist? Your call.

Tell your story. Every political issue has a personal narrative that helps form connections to the issue and bolster support for present and future victims. Read Akiba Solomon’s account of the how she bridged the personal and the political in the struggle over reproductive justice. If your personal account is not ready for an audience, start by telling your story to yourself.

It is not enough to bring individual perpetrators of rape and sexual violence to justice.  Since the problem lies in a culture that is entertained by degrading acts and images of women, the solution is to look at the individual acts as a symptom of rape culture and solve it holistically.  We all have a part to play in allowing rape culture to exist—so, we can all do something to eradicate it.

Conceived by Walter Moseley and co-edited by Rae Gomes.