Reposted without permission from: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/lifestyle/4867253/pre-op-transgender-woman-takes-revenge-on-childhood-bully.html
Bloke who ogled me in bar called me Glenda the bender when I was a boy
Nicole’s revenge as she waits to have sex op
PULLING pints behind the bar, stunning Nicole Gibson’s slender figure and long blonde hair never fail to get attention from men.
At 6ft and with shapely curves, the barmaid loves the compliments but admits she is still getting used to them.
Because despite her striking good looks, Nicole, 32, was born a BOY and, although now living as a female, is still pre-op transgender.
Born Glen, Nicole — who changed her name last year — was relentlessly bullied as a child and cruelly named “Glenda the bender” by some boys at school.
But now she has had the last laugh, as one of her childhood bullies flirted with her at the bar, unaware who she was.
Nicole, from Horsham, West Sussex, who is due to have the operation to complete her sex change later this year, explains: “No one can believe I’m the same person.
“When I was at school I tried to fit in with the other boys but I was a target for bullies.
“I was working a shift in the local pub last year when I heard a guy behind me say, ‘Who’s that behind the bar? Phwoar! I would’. When I turned round, I realised it was one of the boys who teased me at school.
“I couldn’t resist confronting him so I walked over and told him who I was.
“The look on his face was priceless and it made up for how terrible they made me feel at school. It’s funny that the boy they bullied for being gay is now a 6ft blonde woman they all fancy.”
Nicole changed her name by deed poll last year and is now legally recognised as a woman on her passport and driving licence.
On hormone medication to help her develop breasts since June 2011, she now has a 34B bust and will have a full sex change operation later this year on the NHS.
She says: “When I was referred for treatment I wished I’d done it sooner.
“I couldn’t wait to start taking the hormones and I was shocked at how quickly they worked and I started developing hips, a bum and boobs.
“If I’m honest, I always worried people would be able to tell I was transgender.
“But I’ve been amazed at how well I carry it off and 99 per cent of people I meet have no idea. It is very flattering and has made me realise just how feminine I really am.”
After developing her new curves, a photographer friend was so impressed that he invited her in for a photoshoot.
She says: “I was shocked that he asked me and didn’t think I’d look as womanly in just my underwear. But I loved the pictures and realised I was actually quite sexy.
“People who have seen the photos tell me I could give the Victoria’s Secret Angels a run for their money.”
It is not just her friends who think Nicole has the ability to wow. She attracts the attention of a lot of men.
She says: “I get chatted up a lot but I’m always aware there is a bit of a time limit on things, as I can’t let things get physical — it’s not fair on the guy.
“It’s important to be honest so I don’t want to trick a guy into bed only for him to have a shock when we get there.
“I met an amazing man last year and he knew from very early on about my gender change.
“He was OK with it and said he was shocked with himself that he fell for someone like me, but we decided we didn’t want to take things further until I’d had my operation. We’re still friends but it just didn’t feel right when we couldn’t be a couple in the normal way.”
Now Nicole is counting down the days to her sex change op, where surgeons will remove her penis and create female genitalia, giving her the body she has always dreamed of.
She says: “I can’t wait to have sex as a woman for the first time, and having seen how much interest I get from men it’s something I can’t stop thinking about.
“I’m sure there are some guys out there who wouldn’t mind experimenting, but sex as a man doesn’t feel right to me.
“I enjoy a snog but that’s as far as it goes now. I’m saving myself.”
As a youngster, Nicole could not understand why she was not allowed to wear pretty dresses.
Coming out as gay aged 16, instead of feeling relieved she knew something was still wrong.
By 21 she was secretly sneaking out at night wearing heels and make-up.
She says: “At school I was bullied a lot by boys who couldn’t understand why I was different and they used to taunt me about being gay.
“They used to shout ‘Glenda the bender’ and made me feel horrible throughout my education. It was a very hard time for me.”
As she grew older, Nicole’s female urges only got stronger.
She says: “It sounds silly but I used to get jealous when I walked past a building site with my female friends and the guys wolf-whistled at them.
“I wanted for that to be me and for people to find me sexy as a woman, not as a man.
“I had relationships with gay men but it never really felt right.
“I didn’t feel good about myself unless I looked feminine.”
At 25 Nicole began growing her hair and wearing women’s clothes, but she did not approach her doctor about surgery until three years later.
She says: “My friends and family knew I wanted to become a female so no one was shocked when I made the decision.
“My family were supportive and as I’ve always been open with them, nothing has come as a surprise.
“I’m really lucky as my mum’s been brilliant and loves having another girl around.
“My dad’s been great too — he totally accepts me for who I am. He’s so sweet and always panics when he slips up and calls me ‘son’.”
Nicole began intensive counselling in October 2010 before psychologists decided she was emotionally ready to start hormone treatment the following June.
She says: “My GP was amazing and told me she had been wondering when we would have the sex change conversation.
“I was her first transgender patient but I think she knew instinctively that I would never be happy as a man. I had to attend a lot of counselling sessions to make sure I was ready to start the hormone therapy.
“But I already had long blonde hair and a wardrobe full of girl’s clothes so I knew I couldn’t live as anything other than a woman.
“The hormones were amazing. I grew in confidence and my curves helped me pass as a woman even more convincingly.”
When she started work at a local bar Nicole’s colleagues were all amazed she was born a male and she says they agreed she was the most feminine person there.
Nicole adds: “I passed so well that people were actually shocked when I told them.
“I couldn’t believe how well I fitted into life as a woman.
“Then when my old school bullies came into the pub and were leering at me it was the ultimate confidence-booster.
“It serves them right for bullying me as a child and I hope they feel bad for causing me so much stress.”
Now looking forward to the future, Nicole says she has never been happier.
She explains: “I’ll be on the hormone treatment for the rest of my life, and every woman knows that sometimes hormones can make you a bit loopy, but it’s worth it as I feel more like myself every day.
“People not knowing I was born a male is very comforting.
“Now I can’t go anywhere without men staring at me and trying to chat me up.”
Additional reporting: GERALDINE McKELVIE
Narrative for ISMS class
What ARE you?
they asked me again and again with my bushy eyebrows my 18 year old breasts on a 10 year old chest my flying away nest of hair as it stood
three inches from my head
until I was furious with my straight-haired mother who never owned a pair of tweezers or a cup size above B
“can I turn you over and mop my house?” they asked until my father offered to walk me to the busstop
jewish is never the right answer, never the satisfying answer
I am not pretty to you like this
you do not know this type of beauty and you will not. Stop. Talking. Until I am not
pretty to me either
what ARE you
Tell them you are tired of trying to make other people happy with labels that do not belong to you.
it is the small spaces, the cracks on the edges
that belong to me. 14 is not enough,
when I crawled beneath my bed and couldn’t breathe for hours or
is there a name for this dyingness
Is it okay as long as you’re quiet about it? As long as you feel ashamed?
Don’t pretend not to notice.
Make it a joke. Make it funny.
Make it not real.
I spend only 3 dollars a week on hand sanitizer because I know all the bargain brands
I know the bargains for everything
that makes you clean
I wish sometimes I could bathe in it
I think sometimes if you sliced me open I would bleed lysol
beneath the desks I sanitize five times each class but you will never say a thing
until three beers after finals and then you say, oh I wondered about that
there is no section of me until intersection I am
wide open and barely here
I call myself crazy before you can so when you think it
I can pretend not to notice
so why still do I want to show you the dark-spotted rashes
of my wrists
What IS that?
What ARE you?
why do I want to tell you about the summer I was sure
my mother was trying to kill me or my friend who’s bi-polar and every three months
like clockwork, drops her phone into a glass of wine because
she just. can’t. pick up.
I could love a woman, a non-man, a trans person, a non-man, a gender-neutral person, I could love someone else.
“Stop calling yourself queer, you date boys!”
“You, bi? You’re boy-crazy!”
Boy-crazy boy-crazy boys are easier
boys are so easy I know how to do boys how to do
maybe if I can feel bad enough about being the white one in this thing I will not notice you are the one in this thing
whose dick is in my mouth how did you not notice
your dick was in my mouth
you are not sorry so I am not
sorry for saying it
24 is not enough, “should I say she or they? How can you not care?” I will say she because I knew her when she
or never she
I want to say the right thing.
What ARE you?
27 is not enough, “you no longer
meet this diagnosis”
no shit because you stuffed me full of pills
till I was choking
Is it okay as long as you’re quiet about it? As long as you feel ashamed?
only tell the truths you are sure about.
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) 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.
By NICO LANG
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.
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.
India’s recent brutal rapes have inspired a new invention.
Three engineering students in India have developed “anti-rape” lingerie, which they claim will help women fend off unwanted sexual advances.
The garments—named Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE)—have been wired with pressure sensors and equipped with an “electric-shock circuit board,” which delivers up to 82 electric shocks when the garments detect unwanted force. Using a GPS system, the undergarments can also apparently send an alert to parents or police.
As the students described the project, the inside of the garments are insulated with polymer—with a circuit placed near the bosom, “because in the attempt of rape or roadside eve-teasing, as per survey, women are attacked first on their bosom.” (Eve-teasing is an Indian euphemism for harassment.)
One of its creators, Manisha Mohan, an engineering student at SRM University in Chennai, told The Times of India: “A person trying to molest a girl will get the shock of his life the moment pressure sensors get activated, and the GPS and GSM modules would send an SMS [to the Indian emergency number] as well as to parents of the girl.”
According to The Times of India, Mohan says she is working on finding a fabric that will allow for the garment to be washed and that they are planning to begin “commercial rollout” this month. It’s still unclear how the garments will be able to differentiate between unwanted and wanted sexual advances—or if they will be smart enough never to shock the woman who is wearing them. Because of the complexity of the engineering, it’s also unclear how accessible the product could ever be.
A website for the project reveals what looks like what looks like a white nightgown with wiring between the breasts. Mohan cited India’s recent Delhi and Bangalore rape tragedies as inspirations for the development of the product.
“The lawmakers take ages to come up with just laws and even after that, women are unsafe,” the students wrote on their website. “Hence, we have initiated the idea of self‐defense which protects he women from domestic, social and workplace harassment.”