June 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
The amazing humans over at the Fembot Collective have just put together an SOS map visualizing the discrepancy between expected incidence of college sexual assault (based on the White House’s recent report on the subject) and the assaults that are actually reported and disclosed per the Cleary Act. As anyone even remotely familiar with sexual assault on college campuses (or sexual assault generally) will be utterly unsurprised to discover, the discrepancies between these numbers are staggering. Here is that map, as well as Fembot’s explanation of the research process (full disclosure: I helped with some fact-checking).
On that same note, here is the story of one woman –one woman amongst thousands and thousands of women– whose experiences are not reflected in the Cleary statistics. Not reflected because she did not report her assault; and not reported because she didn’t think it would do anything, and more insidiously, because she’d internalized the idea that it was her fault for “letting” it happen. As writer and Yale grad Amanda Ruggeri explains of her decision to remain silent:
As the years went on, I became only more aware of just how commonly this happens — and how few of us have come forward. In our senior year, I was in an all-female secret society. There were 13 of us. We were 21 years old. As each of us gave our “bios,” or life histories, the traditional way to jump-start what was meant to be a lifelong bond, I kept count.
The number was four. And all four assaults had gone unreported, un-investigated, and uncounted.
A few years later, I was having dinner with two good friends. Somewhere between our second and third cocktails, we found out that each of us had, at one point during our university years, been raped. We were all strong women, and none of us had pressed charges. We were all smart, and none of us seemed to realize, deep down, that we were entirely blameless for what had happened. We were all writers, and none of us had published a sentence about our assaults.
“I was roofied and raped in college,” I told a different friend about a month ago. She took a swig of wine and laughed wryly. She had been, too, it turned out. A bartender. A glass of water. A ten-hour blackout. A naked wake-up. Vomit on her hands. She did a rape kit, but she wished she hadn’t: invasive, traumatizing. She did not press charges. She did not know where he was, these days.
“It’s like women are the walking wounded,” a friend commented to me once. Dealing with it on our own, quietly — whether because that’s what strong women do, or what good girls do, I’m not sure.
But one thing is for certain: Most of us don’t speak. No matter how strong we are, no matter how “feminist,” we carry around with us a sense that, somehow, we brought the assault on ourselves. We were too flirtatious. Or we didn’t say “no” loudly enough. Or we were wearing the wrong thing. Or we should have known better than to go to his room, get in his car, go for a drink, accept that shot.
I’d say I’m not sure where we pick up those signals, so much and so early. Except, of course, that I do — because they’re everywhere.
I won’t even try to throw together a tidy conclusion.
April 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
SLOW CLAPS FOR MATT LEMAY OVER AT MEDIUM, who just gifted me with the following glorious introductory paragraphs:
So, first things first, Shanley Kane wrote an essential guide to the steps that men in tech can take to address systemic sexism. You should read it.
I’d like to chime in with my own, less thoughtful suggestion: Men in tech, myself included, can grow the fuck up.
Men: If your response to that is “BUT I AM TOTALLY GROWN UP I MAYBE EVEN HAVE A WIFE AND SOME KIDS AND STUFF HOW DARE YOU,” then you fell into my devious trap because that is not a very grown-up response, is it? Growing the fuck up means being able to admit that you still have learning to do. It means opening yourself up to narratives in which you are not the expert or the hero. If you believe that your exceptional smarts make you an authority on other people’s experiences and perspectives, then you have some growing the fuck up to do.
Growing the fuck up is an excellent idea for everyone; as LeMay says in the world’s greatest concluding sentence, “‘Grow the fuck up’ isn’t an attack, it’s an invitation.” Link here!
April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
Harrowing article out of the Guardian today, which challenges the “monster rapist” narrative in which only the most aberrational, violent, and outright psychotic men commit acts of sexual violence against women. Sometimes this is true, author Tom Meagher writes; sometimes men who do bad things to women are in fact psychotic. But much more frequently, they aren’t. Much more frequently, these men are average dudes, the problem being that average dudeness is often predicated on and actively normalizes violent sexism.
Some quotes, though you (particularly if you are male) should go read the whole thing immediately:
While the vast majority of men abhor violence against women, those dissenting male voices are rarely heard in our public discourse outside of the “monster-rapist” narrative. Indeed, the agency of male perpetrators disappears from the discussion, discouraging male involvement and even knowledge of the prevalence and diversity of male violence against women. Even the term “violence against women” sounds like a standalone force of nature, with no subject, whereas “men’s violence against women” is used far less frequently.
While not attempting to broad-brush or essentialise the all too abstracted notion of “masculinity”, male invisibility in our discourse can be compounded by masculine posturing, various “bro-codes” of silence, and a belief, through the monster myth, in the intrinsic otherness of violent men.
The idea of the lurking monster is no doubt a useful myth, one we can use to defuse any fear of the women we love being hurt, without the need to examine ourselves or our male-dominated society. It is also an excuse to implement a set of rules on women on “how not to get raped”, which is a strange cocktail of naiveté and cynicism. It is naive because it views rapists as a monolithic group of thigh-rubbing predators with a checklist rather than the bloke you just passed in the office, pub or gym, and cynical because these rules allow us to classify victims. If the victim was wearing X or drinking Y, well then of course the monster is going to attack – didn’t she read the rules?
It’s an upsetting read, but I could not recommend this article highly enough.
November 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’m in the process of packing for and generally freaking about my TED talk (fly out to Spokane early tomorrow morning), but Chris just sent me the above video with the message “The video is a parody of Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus and seems to be taking some notes from Lorde. Racially, I don’t think I fully understand what’s going on, but the feminism in this is just awesome,” which is one of the reasons I married his ass. (also: Lorde is this)
My take on the racial stuff (and I may be wrong; I’m drinking oh let’s say more than one glass of wine as I pack for my trip and might be wishfully thinking) is that it’s the old white men who benefit most from “accessorizing with black people,” which was one of the significant (and importantly, not slut-shamey) criticisms of Miley Cyrus in the wake of her VMA twerkfest. This video (critically? I hope critically) puts the “black accessory” front and center, all while showing the conniving white bastard staging every scene for his own financial gain. And hurray for framing the music/entertainment industry in terms of cynical business transactions, which is quite literally what “industry” means (this point should be a given, but mass mediated pop culture is so often framed –most vocally by stakeholders– as some sort of organic invisible hand, which nope).
So, I guess you could say, I like this. I think. Caveat: I most certainly do not like the idea that “shaking one’s ass” is somehow mutually exclusive to “having a brain” — I don’t care how hard a woman shakes her ass, or where, or under what conditions. That doesn’t have anything to do with her level of intelligence. The problem is when someone other than the ass-haver makes a profit; but that’s a different issue, and still has nothing to do with how smart the woman in question might be. Anyway on the whole, this video intrigues me (especially the sarcastic claim that “we’ve [as in women] never had it so good/uh-huh, we’re out of the woods”). The “Lily Allen has a floppy pussy” balloon art is a nice touch (a nod to horrifying sex monster Robin Thicke’s “Robin Thicke Has a Big Dick” balloon display from the “Blurred Lines” date rape advocacy campaign I mean music video), the excessive use of “bitch” and “tits” is interesting, and I appreciate the inversion of “it’s hard out here for a pimp,” because let me tell you, it really is hard out here, for a bitch.
Update: Lily Allen has since insisted that her video isn’t about race/that she doesn’t even see color, which is disappointing (and regarding the claim that the video “isn’t about” race, wrong). I guess it really was wishful thinking that she would deliberately call people out for accessorizing with people of color. Like I said, disappointing, but…golf claps for first world white lady feminism, I guess?
October 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
The great bell hooks just posted an awesome, fiery response to Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in” brand of feminism, i.e. Hey Ladies! If You Really Want to Achieve Gender Equality, You Better Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Patriarchy. Per hooks:
Sandberg’s definition of feminism begins and ends with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. From this perspective, the structures of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy need not be challenged. And she makes it seem that privileged white men will eagerly choose to extend the benefits of corporate capitalism to white women who have the courage to ‘lean in.’ It almost seems as if Sandberg sees women’s lack of perseverance as more the problem than systemic inequality. Sandberg effectively uses her race and class power and privilege to promote a narrow definition of feminism that obscures and undermines visionary feminist concerns.
This is a long but worthwhile read; particularly important is hooks’ emphasis on what Sandburg omits from her narrative — the issue of money (which coming from the half-billionaire COO of an enormous multinational corporation is…striking), the issue(s) of race and class, the issue of patriarchy (the elephant in every boardroom), or even the slightest whiff of institutionalized systems of oppression. Then again, that’s not terribly surprising, since Sandberg directly and explicitly benefits from those same institutional systems of oppression — largely because she refuses to denounce, or even to acknowledge, that they exist. Start making a ruckus about the “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal corporate world,” as hooks states, and you’ll find you have far fewer conversations into which you have the option to lean.
In her conclusion, hooks states:
Even though many advocates of feminist politics ere angered by Sandberg’s message, the truth is that alone, individually she was no threat to feminist movement. Had the conservative white male dominated world of mass media and advertising not chosen to hype her image, this influential woman would not be known to most folks. It is this patriarchal male dominated re-framing of feminism, which uses the body and personal success of Sheryl Sandberg, that is most disturbing and yes threatening to the future of visionary feminist movement. The model Sandberg represents is all about how women can participate and “run the world.” But of course the kind of world we would be running is never defined. It sounds at times like benevolent patriarchal imperialism. This is the reason it seemed essential for feminist thinkers to respond critically, not just to Sandberg and her work, but to the conservative white male patriarchy that is using her to let the world know what kind of woman partner is acceptable among elites, both in the home and in the workplace.
Basically, bell hooks is great.