B: “I am a mirage, I am thirst-quenching, I am brief, I am physically attractive which registers as a meal to men”

4/11/13

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?
#1) and a little #3): I feel unsafe walking to my car after work,  walking from my car to my house, walking at night…I suppose its  because I live in G-town and Im white, while most of my  neighbors are black, and Im usually dressed up in a skirt that feels  beautiful when I look in the mirror, but suddenly feels like bad  idea when I step outside. I usually regret my clothing choice when  Im walking to my front door at 3am. I wish there was a softer way to  close my car door. I wish I wasnt so aware of my fear because it Im  afraid its palpable. I sometimes think my over-awareness and fear  wakes thieves up at night….its blood in the water. Bad men sense  it and know how to find me…sniff me out.
My uncle says to walk with confidence…walk like I have power. So  I do that now.
I must appear wealthy walking out of my great big mansion with my  multiple coats and scarves dressed to the nines.
I want to yell: “NO! am very poor! these clothes were purchased by  my parents! and not even they can really afford them! they should be  saving for retirement, but I think they still feel guilty about  divorcing so I get a lot of gifts! These headphones were an impulse  buy! Im sorry! Please dont break into my home! I collect vintage  things! its all I have, my things!

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?
#2) I am a pretty girl. My family tells me. My friends tell me.  Strangers tell me. Men who have no business talking to a young girl,  tell me. Married men wink at me while their wives backs are turned.  My boss likes my shirts and tells me so, more often than he should.  Old men tell dirty jokes after I help them to their cab. Police men  roll down their windows and ask if I need a ride (cue wink and hat  tip) Old boyfriends want “one more night” before they commit to  meaningful relationships.
After 3rd and forth dates I am pushed up against closed storefronts  on Passyunk and kissed violently. My breasts are ravaged and sore  for days. My hair is pulled on dark porches. I am ran-sacked. I let  it happen because im sexy. I provide an outlet for the beast in men.  I am fantasy and kink and things you do while you’re young…before  the mortgage payments come….before you wed that woman that will  solider through your marriage and always take the kids to school. I  am a last stop on the way to regualr sex, 9-5 jobs, or a mid-life  break from all that.
Men don’t want to marry me, they want to fuck me in soccer nets on  the fields of their high schools in the middle of the night because  they never made the team.
Men want me to give them blow jobs in their new cars because it’s  the first thing they’ve ever really owned.
Men want to take me to Japanese fan exhibits and take me back to  their apartments and dress me like a geisha and spank me.
Men want me to keep my glasses on, take my bra off, leave my high  heels on, turn around, apologize, say thank you, slap them, keep  quiet for three months and do it all over again.
I am a mirage.
I am thirst-quenching.
I am brief.
I am physically attractive which registers as a meal to men.  Sometimes I think Im expected to know how to be on top during sex,  give great head and talk dirty. S actually said to me, “I  thought you would have loved being on top”     ….    What the fuck  does that mean? what about me registers as loving being on top?! I  hate it, actually. WHich turned him off. I KNOW it turned him off  because when I decided to suck it up and try being on top, he lost  his erection. I climbed down like I had lost…utter defeat. “no no  its me…i had too much to drink”  he says…..not an acceptable  excuse. I know it was me. He was expecting some crazy red-head to  rock his world and I failed. Humiliating.
It will all end when my looks fade.
Other girls are jealous because their boyfriends think about me  naked. They want to have three-somes and tuck me in on the couch  after giving me too much wine. They want to give me the spare room  and they peek through the crack in the door while im undressing.
Some women are pretty and travel in attractive circles and dress  well and never pay tabs and dont know their boyfriends over-tipped  me because they paid me for my beauty (as Ani says)
I have been those other women, and sometimes, for a night, they  become me, but we are not alike.
Some women will have backyards.
Some women will never have dates to weddings.

*I think this answers #3….or its a ramble…I AM longwinded, after-all.

Some days I want to hide. I blame it on my profession which is kinda  like a prostitute. The sexier I am, the more likely you will buy  alcohol and get drunk and tip me money. I feel good on Mondays….I  meet my friend for coffee in the morning at a local cafe and we have  gorgeous conversaton with gorgeous women who offer insight from  their classes up the road. I feel filled with ideas and  confidence. I am excited and relaxed and feel like a million bucks.  I call it my girl factory. I need it, because every week, something  or something(s) happen where I want to crawl into a sleeping bag  while at work and change my clothes and put a patch over my eye. Its  a feeling that gives me the start of an anxiety attack. I feel  trapped. I feel powerless. Maybe I overhear my boss talking about a  co-workers breasts to a bunch of regulars, maybe Im at a table, and  this jerk with a sick southern drawl tells me he’ll only tip me if I  can name the republican members of congress. “Dont know that one?  I’ll give ya an easier one” he smirks….his dumpy wife looks  uncomfortable….I imagine very little pleasure in their sexual  life…I am unable to answer his questions about politics. I provide  some sass, and a smile and clear the table to find a “conservative  tip” and all of a sudden I am trapped again. cant go to my girl  factory, cant catch a break, cant name the rebuplicann members of  congress…fuck fuck fuck. I feel a gender gap widening. “we’ll have  two pale ales sweetheart, and make it quick cause my friend here is  thirsy”      “before you say anything, we want napkins because your  table is dirty” They dont speak this way to male servers….i know  it for a fact. Im out of responses that wont get me fired. Frankly,  im out of energy. I cant WAAIT for girl factory on Monday….I may  go Thursday too…just to get a boost.

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.

4) Age plays a crucial role for women and how they define themselves  in society. I do feel pressure to procreate and marry. No direct  pressure, but there is a lingering feeling of a race to win, a rush  of sorts to complete this selfish goal of taking more space,  breeding and ruining the planet. The other day I overheard two young  Indian girls talking about their friend who had gone astray. This   woman had married a non-hindu man and was living in sin somewhere in  Philadelphia so her parents cut her off. Instead of sympathy, the  two girls criticized their friend for choosing love over financial  stability, suggesting that she would have been much happier marrying  a hindu man and staying in her parents good graces. I was appaled.  Not only because they were drinking white zinfandel which is the  lowest of the low on my wine scale, but because I was raised with  the go-ahead to fuck, marry, elope, and procreate with whomever I  chose. When I brought K home to meet my mother she didnt say  “get that philandering Jew out of my house”,  she bought him a  sweater for Christmas and told me to have sex somewhere else besides  my bedroom because we were waking her up. If I brought home a woman  to meet my mother, she might have a fit, but she’d soften when we  had children. My woman-ness mirrors what my mother and grandmother  taught me, and some things Ive learned on my own from books and  movies. I wanted to be Gigi the outspoken french girl, Nancy Drew  the daring sleuth, and my grandmother all rolled into one. I still do.
I still feel my intelligence is sub-par. That in order to be taken  seriously, I have to be smarter or I will be that wise-ass WAITRESS  forever. I feel stronger for having slept with women….like we  exchanged some feminine power that refueled me. I feel marginalized  without a degree, however. Maybe that’s on my end…in my own head.  What do you say when you introduce yourself though? My name is  B. I am working, I live here, I read these books, I listen to  this music, I went to school briefly here, maybe I give my age, my  relationship status…..It’s strange. Withiin minutes Ive been  compartmentalized to a group “no degree” “single” “almost 30” gulp  gulp gulp.
When people compliment me on carrying multiple plates I want to slap  them. “I can do so much more”! I register this overreaction as  insecurity, but I never get the chance to describe myself with the  details that make me an individual. Its seems unfair.
On the upside, I am a white girl from the suburbs. No one in my  family has ever been incarcerated or killed. I have pride in that.  We managed to keep it fairly scandel-less throughout my familys  history save for some substance abuse and mental illness. I don’t  feel alone, is what im trying to say. Even when Bipolar hits, and I  want to end my life, there is a part of me that has stability within  my family. In the end it makes me feel like I have something to  offer. My family provides a sense of security that in essence helps  me become a woman with values and love. They provide confidence and  care above all. Perhaps thats why I would be unable to live far away  from them. Perhaps Ive been nurtured too much and have lost some  independence.
Essentially I am a caregiver. I am a direct product of the love I  was given. I cherish history and continuity and tradition. I am my  mother, but with fresh ideas. I am my grandmother, but stronger.

S: “knowing I am more likely to get harassed on the street with my hair done”

4/10/13

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 feel safest in middle-class urban environments (this is difficult to pinpoint, but I’m going to go with the parts of cities filled with businesses, moderate-cost housing, with mixes of blue and white-collar workers): this is probably due to being raised in a predominantly white, middle to upper-middle class suburb. Being mixed race, I feel safer around racially diverse areas, and being a sexual minority, the city provides me with a much larger community of other sexual minorities to feel more comfortable around. 
As far as emotional spaces, I feel most safe in spaces that are open-minded and liberal. Because I am often faced with environments in which I am a minority, openness helps to ease my discomfort with being different.

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 perceive myself to have a mildly masculine presence in comparison to most other women. I feel most comfortable in men’s clothing (however, due to the lack of masculine clothing cut for women’s figures, this is difficult to accomplish). I think others perceive me to be more feminine than I feel at times, but this is usually heterosexual women that I feel that from. At least heterosexual women with little exposure to masculine women. I think this is maybe because my face has soft features, and I like to wear makeup, and I have a curvy body.

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

When I am by myself and my hair is down, I am more aware of being stared at and am more alert, knowing that I am more likely to get harassed on the street with my hair done. I don’t necessarily feel unsafe, but I feel mildly uncomfortable. This discomfort is heightened when I am alone in lower-income areas with a predominant Black/Af Am population. This could be for a number of reasons, but sometimes I feel it might be that I’m perceived as more attractive in these communities, or it is just more culturally normative, but I’m not sure.

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.

I enjoy being a part of the LGBTQ community, because I don’t feel as much pressure to conform to the generic expectation of what a woman should look like. I still cave partly to this pressure in professional settings (like I won’t wear a tie to an important interview even though I want to). Also professionally, there is always a women majority in any setting I’m in, which I think actually helps in expressing myself as whatever type of woman I want. I think that’s because I expect diversity in a large group of women, whereas if I’m in a group of men, I feel like I’m almost representing all women in a way.

“Things I’ve Learned From Writing Under A Gender-Neutral Name”

4/9/13

MAR. 3, 2013

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

When you write on the internet a lot, you tend to notice patterns in your feedback and what pushes peoples’ buttons. If I plan to write about race, gender or rape culture, I have to mentally gear up for the blowback, and the couple times I wrote about Rihanna (who encompasses all three), I planned to just stay off the internet altogether. Best to just take up croquet that day.

But the comment I get more often than any other is people questioning my gender — which I often don’t make explicit. At first it wasn’t a conscious decision, but as someone who dabbles in dating columns, I noticed that respondents would automatically assume that I was female. They would look at my name, which could go either way on the gender divide, and check the female box every single time. Even in pieces where I did briefly bring up the fact of my assigned sex, the comment board would somehow miss that part. Any fact that didn’t support the discourse of my femaleness would be left out, not part of the dominant narrative of my gender.

I’m going to take a moment to just say it. I’ve been working up to it for a year, scared if you would accept me if I told you, Thought Catalog readers. But I was born a male. Twenty-five years ago I shot out of my mother’s vagina with something that would later look much more like a penis between my legs. As a kid, I had long hair, and people mistook me for being female. As an adult, I have a shaved head, a nose ring, tattoos and a beard, so nobody has that problem anymore — except on the internet. Varying perceptions of my gender don’t bother me, as I don’t see anything wrong with being female. As long as pronouns and genders are invoked with respect, who cares? I’m a myriad being.

On my birthday, I threw a Bridget Jones-themed birthday party, and I planned on going all out. I even got a damn karaoke machine, because if you tell me we’re going to be celebrating Bridget-style, I expect singing. It was a costume party, and I initially planned on going as Colin Firth, so I could wear a reindeer jumper and pretend to be mean to people. However, as the host, I knew that would be shirking my responsibility. Bridget herself needed to come to this party. I would have to bring Bridget Jones realness. Luckily, I had the clothing left over from my ill-fated Halloween costume, where I attempted to be Chloe Sevigny (from the videos) and ended up Very Mary Kate. I just frumped Mary Kate down and threw a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt over it. And then I threw out my bra. Bridget doesn’t need that.

Throughout the night, guests accepted Bridget as a natural consequence of the costume party — and hardly out of the ordinary. Drag was an expected part of social behavior and didn’t violate any expected norms. However, this changed when I had to leave the party in the middle of the night to go let someone in my building. I hopped in the elevator and pressed Ground, daintily tapping my Converse as I waited for the doors to close. I had to share the elevator with two frat-looking guys from my building, and I did the “dude head nod” out of social politeness, intended to make the experience of sharing a small, dark space with two total strangers less awkward. What (s)he said, I know.

The moment the two of them got a look at my face, which still had a beard on it, they started laughing hysterically. Naïve creature that I am, I didn’t understand why at first. Did I have a banana peel on my foot? Was my underwear showing? Had my mascara started to run? I then realized that they were laughing at me because the sight of a “man in a dress” is funny in our culture, even though a woman dressing in male clothing is comically neutral. When Diane Keaton and Coco Chanel embraced menswear, it was a revelation in style. For me to wear a dress was a joke, a debasement of my own masculinity. Because otherwise, who would want to be a woman?

This sort of thing happens to me all the time on the internet. When I’m writing a dating piece, commenters automatically assume that I’m a woman. If I’m writing on the Women’s section on Huffington Post, that makes sense to me—because the title of the section interpellates my gender. However, on Thought Catalog, my columns give the reader no marker by which to assume my gender, yet it’s projected onto my work in telling ways. That readers assume a dating columnist would be female isn’t a shock, because society tells us that women are supposed to be the only ones that obsess over a relationship and analyze everything to death.

Trust me, ladies: guys do it, too. They just don’t talk about it because it’s “not masculine.” They get nervous when you don’t call. They want to know what your text messages mean. When they meet you for the first time and they find themselves liking you, a moment flashes in their mind where they picture themselves married to you. Guys dream about their wedding days, and they want children and a home to ground them. Because it’s America, we like to pretend that every guy is Jim Belushi and every girl is the nag who has to trick him into staying married to them with a three-course meal, fuck-me pumps and fifteen minutes of strictly missionary.

However, that’s not the way it works in this thing we call “real life.” If you’ve ever actually been in a relationship that isn’t a cartoon depiction of what women and men are like, you know that gender norms are more complicated than popular discourse or Steve Harvey give humans credit for. People just like bounded categories, to place us in either/or, masculine/feminine, us/them or familiar/other because it’s simpler. It’s what we know. Thus, when you’re dating someone of the same sex, straights will often ask which person is the “man” and which of you is the “woman”—because it reaffirms gender models they’re already familiar with. It might not be the reality, but it’s a comforting myth.

Gay men get offended by this because a) it assumes heteronormativity and b) if they’re being honest, neither of them want to be the woman. Both of them like being the man.

But this question should be equally insulting to heterosexual couples, as it assumes total masculinity and total femininity. Being the “man” and the “woman” reaffirms limiting power hierarchies that we should be problematizing. We should be challenging what those terms mean and building a society where femininity is seen as strong and positive. We should all want to be the woman. Who wants to live in a society where little girls will grow up being ashamed of their gender and learning to hate other women, in order to externalize their own self-hatred? When we ask women to tear each other down, it’s because we’re asking them to be punished. It’s that Eve bullshit all over again.

As someone with a gender-neutral name, I’ve experienced this first-hand. When someone wants to tear apart my writing — because I had the gall to suggest that society is racist or sexist — they often bring up my presumed gender to do so. I’m interpellated as “that girl,” “a chick on the internet,” “this whore” or just “some c*nt,” and my femaleness is never mentioned with respect. No one ever says, “O’ wise woman, thou hast shown me why fat-shaming is bad form.” They say, “Stop being so easily offended, bitch.” Femaleness is used to discredit me in a way that maleness is not. No one has ever said, “This guy is an asshole” or “Dude doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Because maleness is our societal default setting, it’s never mentioned.

Interestingly, the only time that my maleness comes into play is when respondents dismiss me because of my perceived sexuality. I interchangeably call myself bi- or pansexual, which really just means that application is open to all (especially Christina Hendricks), but my queerness usually gets coopted by the binary. I’m never silenced for being a “heterosexual male” but a “faggot” — another marker of feminization.

In the feud between Azealia Banks and Perez Hilton, the reason she used that word against him had nothing to do with homophobia, because Banks herself is queer and to suggest otherwise erases her identity. (Frankly, Hilton should have stayed out of it to begin with.) As someone who raps in a male-dominated industry, Banks is forced to out-masculine many of her male counterparts — to be the “top dog” in the room by having the “biggest balls.” By always having to prove she’s one of the guys, Banks is likely experiencing Stockholm Syndrome, when it’s her femme fierceness that’s truly powerful.

To use a term like that against him wasn’t a signifier of his sexuality but his perceived femininity — because the ultimate dig isn’t labeling someone as gay. It’s calling them a girl.

Katy Perry’s music displays the same tendencies. One of the reasons I loathe her is that I find her music a magic combination of sexist and homophobic, and her debut album under the Perry moniker contained tracks like “Hot and Cold” and “Ur So Gay.” The latter was a put-down song where Perry compares her rotten ex to a woman, which is an unfavorable thing. The gay metaphor gives it a putrid veneer of homophobia, but the song is really about his femininity, which is worse than being gay. Similarly, the object of critique in “Hot and Cold” is her beloved’s indecisiveness, a stereotypical female trait. Perry insults him by singing, “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes/You PMS like a bitch I would know.”

Of all things, that album was called One of the Boys.

Perry reminds me of one of those girls who doesn’t like hanging out with other women, so she hangs out with gay men instead — because it’s “like being around girls without having to deal with girls.” Sure, it’s casually homophobic, but it doesn’t come from a place of hating gay people. It’s about hating women.

I see the same tendencies in my father. He doesn’t personally have a problem that I intermittently recreate Samson’s “What What in the Butt” with men of varying ilk. (For my grandma, it’s just so long as they aren’t, you know, black.) It’s that on top of going to football games and being a loyal Cincinnati Reds fan (#socloseguys), I’ve seen every episode of Sex and the City and idolize Tina Fey, who I feel is my soul twin. I just get her. When I went through my first romantic comedy phase, at twelve, I devoured Julia Roberts’ entire catalog—and begged him to take me to see Erin Brockovichin the theatres. He told me to stop acting like a girl. I was just being me.

I hear that voice sometimes when someone attacks me for having breasts and an opinion, which are intended to be mutually exclusive, or tells me to shut my vagina. Before I wrote this piece, part of me didn’t want to come out and talk about my gender—because I knew that coming clean means affirming my own gender privilege. When I use gender neutral pronouns in my pieces, it’s because I want respondents to think about what gender means and how the ways in which we construct gender norms affect people. It’s not just a pronoun. These are realities that people live with, and if being called a “twat” in a message board helps me see that more clearly, I was fine with that. I’ll be the woman. I’ll be all the women.

In Communications courses, a certain exercise forces students to be cognizant of gender construction. The exercise asks students to describe their weekend without signifying any kind of gender—no masculine pronouns, no female best friends, nothing. When the students complete the assignment, the responses consist of complaining about how hard it was to take gender out of everyday life. They say that they never would have expected the problem would be so difficult. In the exercise, the instructor then asks them why that is. The student will think about it for a moment. They will pause. They will bite their lip. They will whisper something to the friend next to them. They don’t know. They never know. TC mark

Rehtaeh Parsons

4/9/13

Reposted without permission from: http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/1122345-who-failed-rehtaeh-parsons#.UWPfLERNjaM.facebook

Who failed Rehtaeh Parsons?

April 9, 2013 – 6:10am BY SELENA ROSS STAFF REPORTER
Rehtaeh Parsons. (Family photo)

Rehtaeh Parsons. (Family photo)

Rehtaeh Parsons had a goofy sense of humour and loved playing with her little sisters. She wore glasses, had long, dark hair and was a straight-A student whose favourite subject was science.

On Sunday night, the 17-year-old’s family took her off life-support.

Three days earlier, on Thursday night, she hanged herself in the bathroom.

It was 17 months before that when “the person Rehtaeh once was all changed,” her mother wrote Monday on a Facebook memorial page.

“She went with a friend to another’s home. In that home, she was raped by four young boys,” wrote Leah Parsons.

“One of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community, where it quickly went viral.”

Rehtaeh, a 15-year-old Cole Harbour District High School student at the time, was shunned, wrote her mother.

“They all go to the same school. She couldn’t go back to the school,” Parsons said Monday in an interview.

Rehtaeh spent the past year and a half trying to handle the fallout from that night, said her mother, who runs a dog rescue.

Her daughter moved from Cole Harbour to Halifax to start anew and she checked into a hospital at one point to cope with anger, depression and thoughts of suicide.

SEE ALSO: Justice minister won’t review police actions in case
WHERE TO GET HELP: A few resources
WEDNESDAY CHAT: We talk to psychologist Vicky Wolfe from the IWK

Rehtaeh ultimately made some new, supportive friends and heard from some old friends who decided to stand by her, Parsons wrote on Facebook. Rehtaeh returned to Dartmouth, where she was attending Prince Andrew High School.

However, lately the girl had struggled with mood swings, and after an outburst on Thursday, she locked herself in the bathroom, Parsons said in the interview.

“She acted on an impulse, but I truly, in my heart of heart, do not feel she meant to kill herself,” her mother wrote on Facebook.

“By the time I broke into the bathroom, it was too late.”

There are things to be learned from the girl’s death, Parsons said in the interview. That is why she is talking about what happened, and why her daughter did the same.

“Rehtaeh would want her story out there,” she said.

For one thing, social media can be toxic, said the mother. After Rehtaeh left her school, other kids were relentless.

“People texted her all the time, saying ‘Will you have sex with me?’” she remembered. “Girls texting, saying ‘You’re such a slut.’”

But then there is the question of how the adults handled the alleged sexual assault that Rehtaeh described to her mother.

The RCMP investigation took a year, said Parsons.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae confirmed the police are now investigating a sudden death involving a young person.

“An investigation into an earlier sexual assault was completed, and in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to lay charges,” MacRae said.

Out of respect for the family, and because of privacy laws, he couldn’t discuss details of the investigation Monday, and the force sent its sympathy to Rehtaeh’s loved ones, he said.

Parsons said she was unhappy with what she saw of the investigation.

“They didn’t even interview the boys until much, much later. To me, I’d think you’d get the boys right away, separate them.”

When it came to the photo or photos taken that night, “nothing was done about that because they couldn’t prove who had pressed the photo button on the phone,” she said.

She was told that the distribution of the photos is “not really a criminal issue, it’s more of a community issue,” she said.

“Even though she was 15 at the time, which is child pornography.

“The whole case was full of things like that. We didn’t have a rape kit done because we didn’t even know (anything had happened) until several days later when she had a breakdown in my kitchen.

“She was trying to keep it to herself.”

Rehtaeh’s former classmates at Prince Andrew High were sent counsellors Monday to provide support, said Doug Hadley, spokesman for the Halifax regional school board.

“We’ve been working very closely with the family for several, several months to provide supports to her,” Hadley said.

“Right now, we’re very saddened by what has taken place.”

Rehtaeh always cared for the underdog and was interested in social issues, a girl who “read everything she could get her hands on,” said her mother.

On March 3, Rehtaeh posted a photo of herself on Facebook next to a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

K: “it’s hard for me to think about misogyny without thinking about how damaged men are the ones who create damaging situations for women.”

4/8/13

 

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 feel safe in my home. not only am i physically safe here, but i am emotionally very safe within my marriage.  one of my favorite things about my home and my marriage (which for many intents and purposes are the same space, one being the physical embodiment of the other) is that i feel completely accepted. i also feel (and this may sound odd), genderless. i’m just a person here and my husband and son are just people too. i can do stereotypically feminine things like bake cookies or stereotypically masculine things like re-tile the kitchen floor and it’s just what *i* do, it doesn’t have to stand for anything or mean anything to anyone beyond that there are cookies to eat and the floor looks awesome. not sure if that makes sense.

not having been any other sexual orientation or race. i’m not sure i can reflect on how those things would be different there. sometimes i think it would be even more awesome to be in a same-sex relationship because there are NO prescribed gender rules, but i’m sure there are other complications i can’t imagine.

i do think that our SES (more education level than income for us) helps because my husband and i both grew up in worlds where men have a wide range of identities to choose from, not just “be strong and build stuff” — because we come from very knowledge/education-based families. we also both had stay-at-home dads when we were very young (which was even less common in the 1970s than it is now) so being smart or great with the laundry is just as masculine (or feminine) as anything else for both of us. and so the freedom my husband has to feel like he’s still fully masculine even when he is not the breadwinner (as he is not right now), does not excel in athletics/manual work, or takes longer to do his hair in the morning 🙂 allows me the freedom to enact whatever feminine identity appeals to me. i don’t have to worry about hurting his feelings or making him feel somehow emasculated. i feel for boys/men who grow up without this freedom, and by extension the women who love them. it is not hard for me to see how hunting and other “manly” things take on so much meaning for working-class men who have been sold a version of “man” that hinges on strength, primarily through breadwinning…in this economy, those men have nothing but violent past-times to make them feel whole, and it f*cks things up for them and everyone else in their lives. it’s hard for me to think about misogyny without thinking about how damaged men are the ones who create damaging situations for women.

as for unsafeness, i’m not wild about parking garages at night.  🙂

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 have no idea how others perceive me physically (except my husband, who i can tell finds me attractive). i lived for our 4 years in nashville without a full-length mirror (not by accident, this coincided with pregnancy and my first 3 years as a mom) and it was extraordinarily freeing. we have one full-length mirror now but it’s in morgan’s room and i look in it exactly once per day (in the morning, to make sure i’m actually fully dressed, not always a given i’ll remember two socks, etc.) and i don’t miss it. i think being over 35 (!) and someone’s mother has allowed me to go back to the way i felt in childhood — i’m just a person in a body who has THINGS TO DO! so who has time to think about how it looks? i’m surrounded by women most of the day at work, and the things that stand out to me about my students is how young and skinny they are, how effortless their beauty is, particularly when they are in class, not all dolled up to go out, just wearing sweats and thinking about things.

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?

i think my age (again) plays a role here. i can remember, in my 20s particularly, living in philadelphia, feeling the male gaze in public spaces very strongly. sometimes i enjoyed it and other times i did not. i went through a phase where i thought muslim women have it all figured out because they control who gets to perceive them sexually (by covering their hair). unfortunately, in my later years i’ve come to see that less as empowering and more as central to a rape culture — the hijab (as i understand it) is worn because of a belief that men can’t/shouldn’t have to control themselves when they can see women’s hair. and that’s messed up.

but back to now, i just feel busy most of the time, pre-occupied with things i have to do or ideas i’m grappling with. i almost never go out at night bc i’m busy being someone’s mother. i also don’t live in a city, don’t take public transit, hate to shop, and almost never go to bars anymore, so i don’t spend much time in so-called “public” spaces…i spend most of my “outside” time on the playground at my son’s school with almost exclusively other moms my age. sometimes i walk across campus but there i am constantly struck by how much i feel like i should be one of the college kids walking around, not someone who is old enough to be their mother!

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.

as is captured in my responses above, i think, the intersection of woman-ness and age has been most interesting as i’ve gone from adolescence to adulthood to mommy-dom. sometimes i miss the feeling i used to have that men were paying attention to how i look, but most of the time i’m too caught up in the business of living to worry about it, and i think it’s freeing that i don’t care much about how i look at preschool dropoff in the morning (sweats and a hat? yes please!) because i’m not trying to impress anyone or get laid.  🙂  a friend once told me how excited she was to be turning 30 because no one expects you to look good after 30 so you can stop worrying about it. indeed. also, not sure if you ever watched “six feet under” but in one episode, kathy bates’s character convinces another character (also a woman in her late 50s/early 60s) to shoplift at a nice department store — she says “women our age are invisible, so we can get away with anything” — so true. my mom is that age (and single) and very bitter about it, but it doesn’t bother me now so i can’t imagine it will when i’m her age. i think my marital status has a lot to do with my gender-based perceptions w.r.t. myself.

“Is America A ‘Rape Culture’?”

4/8/13

Reposted without permission: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/03/28/is_america_a_rape_culture_117710.html

Is America A “Rape Culture”?

By Cathy Young – March 28, 2013

This claim, advanced by a cadre of feminist activists and bloggers, has been gaining mainstream currency—particularly in the wake of the nationally publicized Steubenville, Ohio rape case which exposed some very ugly attitudes and behaviors.  While no one would deny that sexual violence is a grave problem, the crusade against “the rape culture” is a dubious cure: it distorts truth, fosters anger and divisiveness instead of respect and equality, and ultimately endangers justice for all.

There is, of course, some truth to the feminist argument that traditional sexual norms have often led to tolerance toward sexual coercion in certain situations (especially when the woman’s conduct is seen as “loose” or seductive).  Even now, such sentiments are echoed in vile Internet comments bashing the 16-year-old Steubenville victim as a drunken slut—very much a minority view, but voiced frequently enough to be troubling.

But it’s quite a leap from acknowledging these attitudes to depicting modern Western—and especially American—culture as a misogynist cesspit in which rape is routinely condoned and validated. Indeed, indictments of the “rape culture” typically rely on falsified or out-of-context “facts.”

Thus, according to Nation magazine blogger Jessica Valenti, “we live in a country where politicians call rape a ‘gift from God’”—a reference to Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock.  But what Mourdock actually said, in explaining his anti-abortion stance with no rape exception, was quite different: that “life is [a] gift from God … even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape.”  What’s more, the comment was roundly condemned, and the outrage over it helped ensure Mourdock’s defeat in a traditionally Republican district.

Equally misleading is Valenti’s assertion that “a rape victim may see her case fall flat because she isn’t married.”  This example comes from a bizarre California case in which a woman was assaulted in her sleep by a fellow houseguest at a relative’s house; prosecutors argued both non-consent due to her being unconscious and deception due to the defendant impersonating her boyfriend (who had been sleeping next to her earlier).  The conviction was reversed on appeal because, under a 19th Century state law, rape by deception requires impersonating a spouse.  However, the appellate panel sent the case back for retrial—with the charges based on non-consent alone—and urged the legislature to revise the antiquated law.

Or take the claim that thirty-one states allow rapists who impregnate their victims to seek child custody or visitation rights.  In fact, these states simply don’t have laws explicitly barring such suits—not due to concern for the rights of rapist fathers but mainly, says activist and attorney Shauna Prewitt, because the issue is assumed to be non-existent.  While recourse may indeed be needed, no one has cited a single known instance of a rapist (or accused rapist) actually getting parental rights; Prewitt appears to be the only woman on record as stating that she had to fight a custody suit from her assailant.

Is the Steubenville case, as the crusaders claim, prime evidence of “the rape culture”?  The incident in which a severely intoxicated, unconscious or barely conscious girl was stripped, penetrated with fingers, and otherwise molested by two boys during a party—and several other boys took photos and made videos of these acts—certainly shows something rotten in large swaths of adolescent culture.  No decent person could fail to be sickened by the text messages in which one of the perpetrators, Trent Mays, flippantly discussed the girl’s abuse and shared her nude photo, or by the YouTube video in which an ex-classmate delivered a drunken monologue about “the dead girl” along with a string of rape jokes.  The story also offers real evidence of the seamy side of the “football culture” that caused many locals to rally around the boys—star players on the Steubenville High School football team—and, in some cases, malign the girl.

Yet the sordid details also rebut a key premise of the “rape culture” argument: that our society generally does not view non-consensual sex as rape.  The Steubenville boys used the term repeatedly and seemed well aware that intercourse with the unconscious girl would have been rape—though apparently not that Ohio’s legal definition of the crime includes digital penetration.  Judging by the text messages, they also knew early on that they might be in trouble with the law if the girl and her parents found out what had happened.

To blogger Amanda Marcotte, the mere fact that the attackers were initially eager to broadcast their deeds shows that they expected social support and even approval.  But maybe it shows simply that they weren’t very bright; Mays and his friends actually discussed deleting incriminating messages in case their cell phones were seized by the police, but never followed up.  There is nothing new about adolescents flaunting socially unacceptable behavior.  Consider girls making videos of beating up other girls to post them on the Internet; or a recent incident in Homer, Alaska in which an unconscious 16-year-old boy at an alcohol-soaked football team party was sodomized with a beer bottle while other teens, boys and girls, looked on and some took pictures. The case got virtually no national media attention, perhaps because it does not fit the “rape culture” paradigm: no sane person would argue that our culture views male rape with beer bottles as normal boyish hijinks.

The Steubenville story is a cautionary tale not only about attitudes that facilitate sexual assault, but also about the dangers of the war against “the rape culture.”  The Internet warriors who championed the victim, including the “hacktivist” group Anonymous, have been praised for bringing the case into the national spotlight and exposing social media items that documented vile conduct by the attackers and their friends; but their crusade also had a darker side.

The activists have disseminated wild rumors about the victim being drugged, kidnapped, repeatedly gang-raped, urinated on, and dumped on her parents’ lawn; about a (named) female accomplice luring her into a trap; about a “rape crew” of Steubenville football players that systematically assaulted young women while an adult fan of the team mentored them and collected photos of the attacks.  (“Proof” of the latter was that one of the man’s hacked emails contained a photo supposedly resembling Savannah Dietrich, a high school student who went public last year about being sexually assaulted by two lacrosse players at a party—in Louisville, Kentucky, some 350 miles from Steubenville, and not Louisville, Ohio as Anonymous claimed.)  Even respected feminist academics joined the rumor mill: on the Ms. Magazine blog, State University of New York sociologist Michael Kimmel averred that the girl had “an iron rod shoved inside her.” Many of these stories still circulate, despite being completely unsupported and often directly disproved by trial evidence.

In Steubenville, at least, the activists were on the right side (which does not excuse their methods).  But their brand of righteous zealotry could easily raise a virtual lynch mob against the falsely accused, as the Duke University rape hoax from a few years ago should remind us.

To the zealots, any talk of false rape allegations is itself a part of the rape culture.  But, while it is hard to get reliable statistics on false accusations, there is plenty of research to show that the problem is not negligible. There are real-life stories, too: last May, another former high school football star, Brian Banks, was cleared a decade after a rape charge sent him to prison for six years and destroyed his hopes for a professional athlete’s career.  Banks’s “victim,” Wanetta Gibson—who had received a settlement from the school district for failing to ensure her safety—contacted Banks to apologize for her lie but still refused to come forward; a secret recording of her confession allowed him to be exonerated.

The women’s movement has made invaluable progress in lifting the stigma of rape and reforming sexist laws—ones that, as recently as the 1970s, required women to fight back to prove rape and instructed juries that an accuser’s unchaste morals could detract from her credibility.  The fact that today, a rape case can be successfully prosecuted even when the victim was drunk and flirtatious, or engaged in consensual intimacies before the attack, is a victory for justice as well as women’s rights.  Yet the fact remains that charges of sexual assault involving people who knows each other in a “he said/she said” situation are very difficult to prove in court—not because of “rape culture,” but because of the presumption of innocence.  Gender equality requires equal concern for the rights of accused men.

Let us, by all means, confront ugly, sexist, victim-blaming attitudes when we see them.  But this can be done without promoting sexist attitudes in feminist clothing: that a woman’s word automatically deserves more weight than a man’s; that all men bear responsibility for rape and “normal” men need to be taught not to rape; or that a woman who is inebriated but fully conscious is not responsible for her actions while an equally inebriated man is.

These ideological shibboleths will do little to help real victims of sexual violence, and may even hurt them by inviting an inevitable backlash.

How they really feel

2/24/13

Reposted without permission from: http://freakoutnation.com/2013/02/19/trending-on-twitter-republicans-created-a-hashtag-making-jokes-about-rape-since-last-night/

Trending on Twitter: Republicans created a hashtag, making ‘jokes’ about rape since last night

February 19, 2013

By 

A politician made a ridiculous statement, which somehow empowered Republicans on Twitter to act more obnoxious than the politician. Since last night, the right wing created hashtag #LiberalTips2AvoidRape has been trending. For a party to feign there is no War on Women while firing shot after shot is the epitome of hypocrisy.

On gun control Democrat Rep. Joe Salazar said:

It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop around at somebody.

He promptly apologized:

I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That was absolutely not my intention. We were having a public policy debate on whether or not guns makes people safer on campus. I don’t believe they do. That was the point I was trying to make. If anyone thinks I’m not sensitive to the dangers women face, they’re wrong.

I am a husband and father of two beautiful girls, and I’ve spent the last decade defending women’s rights as a civil rights attorney. Again, I’m deeply sorry if I offended anyone with my comments.

Sure, it was offensive. But, even more offensive are the ongoing rape jokes on Twitter.

A few examples:

#liberalTips2AvoidRape.. just go with it…you get free birth control right?

— Tommy Knockerz (@BenghaziGhostz) February 19, 2013

I felt compelled to jump in.

Even if we discounted them using a politician’s fucked up statement to make jokes about a very serious topic about violence, their ‘jokes’ really suck. You guys aren’t funny and neither is your topic.

This hashtag is trending and their party voted against the Violence Against Women Act. Republicans claim they created the hashtag to point out that women have a right to defend themselves. I agree and this post is us — women — defending ourselves against their classless jokes. Because, they are the joke.

2016 is looking good.

Update: 

It’s not too surprising that Michele Malkin’s site Twitchy takes no issue with these offensive tweets.