Saturday, November 18, 2006

strategy vs. conscience

I know, I know, it's been forever since I've updated. But I haven't forgotten about this blog, I swear. It just gets a little hard to keep up with when I'm trying to get through my senior year of college and having crazy relationship problems and insane amounts of schoolwork and intense campaign-induced senioritis.
I will eventually get back to regular updates, although I can't make any promises as to when that will be. Maybe during January, when I'm hanging around Northampton between the fall and spring semesters with nothing but cover letters and resumes and research to do.

But for now, I wanted to write about feminist existential crises. Specifically, the one that I've been trying to resolve since returning from South Dakota.

jen - e-day visibility (brookings)
Election Day Morning Visibility, Brookings, SD
Background: I spent the 5 days leading up to The Big E-day (election day, Nov 7th) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (and Brookings, SD, and Watertown, SD), volunteering with the Campaign for Healthy Families. PPFA/PP Action Fund paid for my plane ticket, hotel room, and food in exchange for my volunteering 5 days of my time to work against Referred Law 6, the abortion ban signed into law by SD Gov. Mike Rounds (who was, incidentally, somehow re-elected this year) last March. See, instead of PP challenging the ban in courts, as the legislators and governor had hoped and prepared for in hopes of overturning Roe, the SD Campaign for Healthy Families collected signatures and put the ban on the ballot for the voters to decide on. Which meant that an extensive campaign was formed to overturn the ban, which is where PPFA (and the ACLU, who also sent a ton of people) came in.
jamia christine gretchen - visibility 11-3
Jamia (from DC), Christine (native South Dakotan), and Gretchen (from New Haven, CT) - a few of the many incredible people working against Referred Law 6.

It was intense, and moving, and frightening, and life-changingly incredible. And, most importantly, WE WON (and yes, that is me in that picture, second from the left. score for me and Jamia, the two darkest people at the election night party in Sioux Falls. nothing like tokenism to gain you some fame.) I met incredible people, and I was actually doing things, things that mattered, instead of reading about doing things like I've done for the past 3 1/2 years while stuck in academia.

But there was something about the fight/success in South Dakota that never quite sat well with me.
South Dakota's demographics necessitated a strategy that I would not have chosen. SD is a red state. It helped George W get "elected" the first time around, and re-elected the second time. To make generalizations that are supported by polling numbers: they dislike gays (they were one of 7 states who passed the gay marriage bans this election), they don't like dark people (I was about as dark as tolerable, as was made perfectly clear while canvassing with Jamia, the only black person I saw in all of Brookings, where we were stationed most of the week), they don't particularly like women, and they're big on military and while they're split on the Iraq war, in the polls, most South Dakotans approve of it and the job Bushie is doing. In short, South Dakota isn't exactly the kind of bastion of liberalism (except in the traditional sense) that I would feel very comfortable in.

fetus truck
As a visual aid, there were a few of these scattered around the state in the days leading up to the election, with little resistance from South Dakotans.
The SDCHF and PPFA/PP of North Dakota-South Dakota-Minnesota conducted polls early on to give them information to shape their campaign strategy.

The strategy they shaped, then, was one that worked. But not necessarily one I was so ok with, given my conscience.
The approach we had to use was one that focused solely on the lack of exceptions provided in the law. The way it was written, the only exception to the full ban on all abortions exists for women whose lives would be in imminent danger if they were to go through with the pregnancy. There were no exceptions for if a woman's "mere" health were in danger, or for if a woman was the victim of rape or incest. This lack of exceptions, according to the polling that was done, was where the majority of South Dakotans felt the law went too far. And so, that was the part of the law that we attacked.
Our spiel (as I spoke it for between 8-12 hours per day, with the slight Midwest accent that I quickly picked up):
Hi, this is Jen, from the Campaign for Healthy Families. We're just calling [coming by] today to remind you how important it is to get out to vote on Tuesday, and specifically, how important it is to vote No on Referred Law 6. That's the abortion ban that has no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, or for if a woman's health is in danger. This election is going to be very close, so we wanted to make sure that everyone voting No on Referred Law 6 gets out to the polls this Tuesday. Polls will be open from 7am-7pm and you can cast your ballot at ____.

That was the GOTV spiel, not the Voter ID/Persuasion spiel, but the Voter ID/Persuasion spiel still spoke specifically about the lack of exceptions, said that the law "went too far." Still created all these ideological problems for me.

By focusing so intensely and specifically on the lack of exceptions, we were able to persuade voters to vote our way - by a 56%-44% margin, actually. (Still too close for comfort, but still a 12-point margin.)
However, by focusing so intensely and specifically on this lack of exceptions, we also reinforced the hierarchy of circumstances and stigmas surrounding the choice of abortion. That is, we didn't challenge - reinforced, actually - the idea that it's ok to have an abortion if your pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, or if your health or life is in danger, but for other reasons, it's not so ok. If your partner's condom broke? Tough shit. If the Pill just didn't work? Too bad - you shouldn't have been having consensual sex anyway, if you weren't willing to take on the consequences of such actions. It makes pregnancy into a punishment. It makes the right to an abortion contingent on how you got to the place where you need that choice.
Which is bullshit. Your control over your body doesn't decrease if your pregnancy was not the result of violence. Control over your body is control over your body. You can't qualify it.
But we had to, in order to win. If we'd gone in there with a message that my conscience would have been totally ok with, if we'd used the whole "my body, my choice" line, we would have easily had our asses handed to us and set up the overturning of Roe v Wade. We would have effectively lost the right to abortion for women throughout the country.

So we had to sacrifice our conscience, to a degree. We had to closet ourselves as "radical" pro-choicers who believe in the unqualified right to abortion and focus on qualifiers that were left out of the law.
We had to, in effect, strategize away our conscience for the good of the movement.

But when does it become ok to sacrifice the rights of some (in this case, women who were impregnated not through acts of violence or who didn't have life- or health-threatening pregnancies) in order to secure rights for others? When do these sacrifices become too much?

If you have to strategize away your conscience, how can you be ok with that strategy? If that's the only way you can get even minimal rights for women, does that make it ok? Is it worth it to put the rights of others aside to gain minimal basic rights for those that the majority will give rights to? Is strategic incrementalism really what the feminist movement should be embracing? Can we ignore the rights of some (even "temporarily") in favor of small gains for others (usually white, middle- or upper-class women)?

I know that as an activist, I'm not going to always be able to take the stands I feel comfortable taking because the situation is not always going to allow for it. I know that you can't be idealistic and pretend that the message you want to send will be warmly received in the majority of America. Because the fact remains that the majority of this country is not as pro-choice as I am. Doesn't believe that bodily integrity is a fundamental human right that should be extended to women. And while that's what we have to work toward changing, that's also what we have to work with.

In the comments on feministing recently, Amanda (of Pandagon said, wisely: "However, feminists have to work with the world we've got, not the one we want."
And I think I need to add to that. We have to work with what we've got, yes, but we also have to work toward what we want.

I wish more than anything that political strategy could work by being idealistic. By being all-inclusive all the time and by always employing good feminist, non-essentialist frameworks. And for a while, when I hadn't really left the liberal bastions of New York state and Northampton, Massachusetts, I thought that maybe it could. The people in my hometown, and especially the people here in Northampton, are actually pretty receptive to inclusive policy. But after being in Sioux Falls and Brookings, SD, and seeing "middle America," and actually finally experiencing people who may not think the way I do and may not have been raised the way I was...I've realized that can't happen. We can't have the perfect, all-inclusive strategy and actually be successful. We can work toward it, but we can't use it, not in the current political environment. Even with the huge gains the Dems, and women, and even queers (in AZ at least, kinda) made on November 7th this year, employing that kind of strategy would be asking to lose. Pushing the envelope is important. If you don't push the envelope, you don't get change. But over-pushing it causes severe backlash, and quite possibly sets you back further than you were when you started.

Something they don't teach you in school, even in women's studies or explicitly feminist academia, something incredibly disheartening:
In making and reading and analyzing theory, and even theorizing about political strategy, we can be inclusive and non-essentialist. We can be "good feminists."
But in strategizing and in political action, we can't be.

We've got to work toward the world we want, but we'll never get that world unless we work with the one we've got.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sweet. Shopping Spree! For Free!

We all know that I'm all about promoting the gay agenda.
After all, I am gay. They send you the manual on Gay Proselytizing and Queerification Of America when you come out. It's pretty handy, really.
Oh, and I'm pro-choice, which means I'm a baby-killer too.
And I'm against the war, so I hate America.
And I'm for sex education, so I want 10-year-olds to be having sex.

But now I can do it for free! No more buying ice cream shakes for 10-year-old pre-gay kids (because, you know, queers are pedophiles too).
You, too, can take money from the wonderful people trying to save the world from baby-killing, pedophilic, anti-Americans like me.

The Stranger has an article up on how to get free stuff from Focus on the Family, "Dr." James Dobson's hate-mongering "Christian" group of evildoers.

I just screwed Focus on the Family and James Dobson out of $85!

"Bought" things such as "101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality" and "The Homosexual Agenda" (I should know what I'm promoting, after all).
And, of course, a lovely book called "The Feminist Mistake."

I should receive my items in about 7-10 days.
I can't wait.

*Note: This is not for people who are easily infuriated. Only those like me who can easily laugh off these assfaces should venture onto the site. If you have high blood pressure or a heart condition mixed with any sense of human decency, you should not visit Focus on the Family. If you are prone to high stress, you should also avoid the site.

Happy shopping!


And just in case FoF catches on and somehow makes The Stranger take down the article, I reproduce it in full here:

Shopping Spree
How to Get Free Books, CDs, and Movies from Focus on the Family—Thereby Taking Money out of the Pockets of Anti-Gay Bigots—in 12 Easy Steps


Gay marriage is on the ropes and you may be feeling despondent about the tedious process and dim prospects for any kind of meaningful change in the near future. And why wouldn't you? There are a total of eight states in the U.S. that don't have Defense of Marriage amendments either on the books or in the works, and Massachusetts is still the only state that permits same-sex marriage. The Washington State Supreme Court handed down its anti-gay-marriage decision several weeks ago and Washington's gay community is licking its wounds and contemplating an incremental push for civil unions.

When I'm feeling despondent over the state of gay rights in America—or the concurrent assaults on reproductive freedom, science, and rational thought—there's just one thing that helps me overcome my feelings of despair: getting free shit from Focus on the Family!

Few people know that Focus on the Family—the powerful evangelical Christian para-church based in Colorado Springs—will give you, absolutely free of charge, books, CDs, and DVDs. Usually people pay for these products, and the millions of dollars raised helps Focus on the Family produce yet more books and CDs featuring Dr. James Dobson and other Focus "experts." (Focus on the Family's experts, when they're not chatting on the phone with Karl Rove, run around the country teaching people how to stop being so gay and when it's appropriate to kick their kids' asses.)

Not only does ordering free stuff from Focus on the Family—sent to myself or people I don't like—satisfy a deeply juvenile impulse, it has the added benefit of taking money directly out of homo-hater Dobson's pocket. The one drawback is that getting free shit from Focus on the Family is a tad time consuming and a bit tricky, but it's well worth the effort.

Here's how to do it:

1. Go to and you will see their home page.

2. Once you're at the home page, look for the "Resources" link in the blue bar on the left-hand side, right above the "Search" box, and click it.

3. Under the "Resource Category" menu on the left-hand side, you'll notice categories such as "Homosexuality." Go ahead and click that for shits and giggles.

4. It's time to start shopping! Scroll down a little bit and feel the homophobia flow. How about a nice copy of A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality? Go ahead and click the "Add to Cart" button.

5. Now comes a tough decision: Do you have the book sent to yourself so you can sell it on eBay for cash (my personal favorite) or do you keep it on your mantel as a high-larious conversation piece to point at and laugh when your friends and family come over? Or do you send it to a jerk? I always opt for sending it to myself. Yes, you may end up on the Focus on the Family mailing list (though I've been doing this for some time and have never received anything beyond what I ordered), but reading Focus on the Family's junk mail is a good way to keep tabs on their activities and it will cost them even more money in postage.

Please note: Focus on the Family won't send you more than $100 worth of materials for free in any given shopping trip, so be sure to keep it reasonable and return often.

6. Select "Add New Shipping Address" and click "Proceed to Checkout." Or, hell, continue to shop and pick up a box set of The Chronicles of Narnia on CD.

7. The next screen will ask you to sign up for an account and give your information. Don't worry, they don't ask for your credit-card number. Enter whatever name and address you like, because you won't be paying. You might want to make up a phone number, too.

8. Once you've filled out all the required fields (you can also create a fake e-mail account if you're super paranoid), click "Proceed to Checkout" one more time. You'll now find yourself at the "Here Is Your Cart" field. Annoying thing alert: You may have to reenter your info again after this field to actually set up your account. But just keep going until you get to the "How Much Would You Like to Donate?" page.

9. So, how much would you like to donate? Zero dollars, obviously. Don't be fooled by the field in the lower-right-hand corner that shows you the suggested donation amounts. Simply select "Enter other total amount" and enter 0.00 as the amount you would like to pay. (Don't put in a dollar sign or it will ask you for credit-card information!) Proceed to checkout.

10. You'll now be led to a screen that will try to make you feel guilty about the amount you haven't donated. But don't feel bad! Just proceed to checkout again.

11. Jesus! Here you are on the twelfth step and you still don't have your self-hatred materials! And you thought preventing homosexuality was supposed to be easy! Click "Checkout Now" and you're done.


You have just removed a few dollars from the coffers of a major anti-gay organization. You can further capitalize on your brief investment of time by selling the item/s on eBay. You'd be surprised how much money you can get—a friend of mine makes a few hundred extra dollars every few months on this perfectly legal activity.

And if your conscience begins to bother you, think of it this way: Focus on the Family would probably like for you to have the materials anyway, because there's that minute chance that, once in your hands, the materials may inspire you to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Finally, don't forget to pass this information on to all your friends. Proselytizing isn't just for Christians, you know. Go gay!

Monday, July 31, 2006

thank god for feministe

Seems like victim-blamers aren't lacking in the feminist blogosphere either.

On the 28th, zuzu posted about a NJ woman who had been abducted, raped, and murdered when she and a friend went into New York City for some partying.
As per usual with threads about rape victims, the comments degenerated into a victim-blaming pissing match, with people talking about how "stupid" she was to have too much to drink and so on and so forth. One commenter actually said that the women were "basically hanging a “fuck with me” sign on their backs."

And today, zuzu called them out on it:

For once, just for once, I wanted to try to have a discussion about a woman getting raped and murdered that DIDN’T devolve into an extended rehash of the same goddamn argument we always seem to have whenever a rape and/or murder of a woman is discussed: Namely, we start out on topic, then someone has to come in and blame the victim (she was drunk! doesn’t she know there were consequences! she was dressed like a hoochie! she was a stripper! she must be lying! what was she doing alone at night? what was she doing trusting a man?) and we’re off to the races.

And inevitably, in all the talk about what the victim did or didn’t do and whether the natural consequence of having a few too many and making some poor parking decisions is to be abducted, raped, murdered and your body left in a dumpster, someone disappears.

And that person is the rapist/murderer.

And sadly, this post also degenerated (though luckily not as quickly or as far) into some lovely victim-blaming, and whether saying that women need to report their rapes is victim-blaming or not (again, losing sight of the perpetrator).

I wrote about this too, about a month ago.
But I didn't quite get around to making this point that one of the commenters made on zuzu's post, which I reproduce in full here, because it captures the big picture very succinctly:

We need to make him [the rapist] disappear to keep up the fiction that rapists are scary brown bogeymen who hide in dark alleys waiting to sate their uncontrollable lust for innocent white girls. They’re monsters, born bad, insane, hideous beasts. There’s nothing we can do to control them, so women must take responsibility for protecting ourselves.

If we keep up this fiction we can continue to pretend that men we know and trust can’t be rapists, too. We can continue to pretend that violent porn is “just a fantasy” and there’s no such thing as a “rape culture”.

Blaming women involves nothing more than decrying the rise in slutdom, which we’ve been doing for hundreds of years. Blaming men involves facing harsh truths about our culture, way of life, our sons and husbands and fathers. Blaming women is always easier.

on rape, disclosure, and relationships

I've been contemplating this post for a long time now, which of course means that things have become more, not less, convoluted. But let's see if I can make this somewhat coherent.

People talk a lot about the immediate damage that rape causes for the victim. You see it on TV shows (like my beloved Law & Order: SVU), you hear it talked about when the topic comes up in conversation (however rare that may be), and you read about it when news sources actually cover rape stories (again, a rarity).
You see the immediate effects: the tears, the pain, the complexities of the initial disclosure. Maybe you'll see or hear about these effects a month or two after. They have no qualms with showing that kind of damage. But past that, nothing. It's no longer worth covering or talking about when the pain isn't so fresh. But that, of course, doesn't mean that the pain is any less there.

I talked about this a little bit before, back in my post about the inaccuracy of the rhetoric of the "survivor" a few months back. About how you don't really "heal" or "get better."
I didn't really delve into how that inability to just "get past it" affects every other aspect of life, though.
Specifically, for the purposes of this post, how that plays into getting into/being in a relationship, and how that plays into intimate friendships.

I, personally, can't so much hide the fact that I've got...well, that I've got "a past." My left arm has about as much scar tissue as it has unscarred skin. (I'm right-handed, so my right arm is significantly clearer.) My upper thighs, too, are full of scars that scream "I'm fucked up." But the deal-breaker, it seems, is the scar on my upper stomach, right below my bra line. The scar that just puts it right out there. The scar spells out the word "SLUT."
That scar reveals, in no uncertain terms, that I've been hurt, and that I'm not exactly "healed." Even if someone who I was interested in could somehow get past the plethora of scars on the more easily noticeable parts of my body, that one would (and has) scare(d) them off. Because who wants to be with someone who was (for all they know, is) so unstable that she would brand herself as such?
At least, nobody who hasn't been through a similar situation herself. And even most of the people who have would rather be with someone "normal," not fucked up. (I know I would.)

And this is where things get tricky. Because once they've seen that scar, actual disclosure is somewhat unnecessary. Once they've seen that, they don't really want to know what it's about. And so you don't know how to have the "I was raped/abused/molested" conversation...since by that point, they've probably pretty well figured it out.
And of course, the point at which they figure it out is exactly the point when they decide that they don't want to deal with it. That you're too damaged for them to waste their time on anyway.

I know that sounds harsh. And I've had countless people tell me that I'm not "damaged goods," that I haven't actually ruined my chances of being in a relationship.
But really? It's kinda true.

I remember, when I was reading Lucky (by Alice Sebold), she wrote something about how, as a rape victim, you're perpetually alone. It makes you so different from every other "normal" person out there that people don't really know how to handle you, and they don't really want to.

I wish that weren't the case. I wish that rape didn't have such lasting effects.
But I also wish that people would recognize those effects. That they would actually acknowledge that the damage that rape causes doesn't end after a few months, after the victim "should" be "over it."

This isn't all coming out of nowhere. These are the things you think about when you start seeing (and shortly thereafter stop seeing) one of the lucky, sheltered women whose past is practically perfect. These are the things I've been reading, the things that have hit me pretty hard in the posts I've been reading in the couple past Carnivals Against Sexual Violence. Like the Triggers & Speaking Up post at lelyons. Because there's just something about triggers and relationships and the combination of the two that never seems to get much attention.
And in a way, I understand why it doesn't get that attention. Because really, who wants to talk about that? It's so much easier to pretend that there aren't implications years later, so much less disconcerting to ignore the long-lasting effects. But it's still a completely inaccurate portrayal of the reality.

Yes, I'm sure there are people out there who do well, great even, in relationships with women who have abusive pasts. Mostly, though, these are people who understand because they have similar pasts themselves.
The women I've dated and the women I will date who have practically perfect pasts will never be able to understand where I'm coming from in life. They'll never get why I'll cut away every so often while we're having sex, and they'll never get why I can't just automatically trust that they won't hurt me. Sure, they might say that they "understand," and they might think that they do...but unless you've gone through this yourself, it's not something you can ever fully comprehend.

I shouldn't have to try to explain this to people, though. I shouldn't have to only date people with similarly fucked up pasts just because the "normal" people won't understand. I shouldn't have to continue to deal with this, almost 8 years later.

And I know I do this a lot. I pull the "should" and "should not" thing, even though I know that "should/should not" really doesn't mean anything, and it's not something that I have any control over changing.
So to flip this into something a little more constructive, a little more plausible: I wish that people could comprehend just how deep the damage that rape causes goes. How long it lasts. How inescapable it is. Because even with all of this evidence, even with the huge numbers of victims, people still underestimate the damage and people still see it as a Not So Serious crime. And maybe that's because of our legal system that only recognizes it as such, or maybe it's because of the larger rape culture that surrounds us, but treating rape and sexual abuse as Not So Serious doesn't do anyone any favours...except, of course, the rapist.

Friday, July 07, 2006

a million little carnivals

I've missed a ton during my hiaitus. Sorry 'bout that.

I'll try to go through and talk a little bit about a bunch of these, but for now, a handy little list of the more recent ones (in no particular order):

Similar to the blogging campaign I participated in a while back (Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence), Marcella has started what I guess is going to be a recurring carnival: the Carnival Against Sexual Violence. Number 1 is here, from June 1st. Number two is here, from July 1st.
Next one will go up on the 15th, and I'll link to it then.

And the carnival of feminists...well, I've missed a few, since the last one I blogged about was the 10th, and they're up to the 18th now.
So, links to the last couple:
Carnival of Feminists Number 18 at Ink and Incapability, up as of July 5th.
And the Seventeenth Carnival of Feminists at Bitch|Lab, published on June 21st.

And then there are The Gays with their damn Homosexual Agenda(tm) at the Carnival of Bent Attractions. The couple most recent ones:
The Seventh Carnival of Bent Attractions at 2sides2ron, up on June 10th.
And the Sixth Carnival of Bent Attractions at Multidimensional.Me, up on May 10th.

And lastly, the Radical Women of Color Carnival. I've missed a bunch of these, too, so the last couple:
The Fifth Radical Women of Colo(u)r Carnival at Fabulosa Mujer, up on June 6th.
And the Fourth Radical Women of Colo(u)r Carnival at blac(k)ademic, up as of May 6th.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

On Rape and "Precautions"

This is something that has come up over and over again on the forum on Smith's Jolt, and while my stand on it still isn't completely clear, I feel like it's something I should blog about, because it's something that causes some factioning within the feminist community.*

The issue is rape. And what responsibility women should take for their actions or what precautions she should take. (The "rape threads" on the forum at the Jolt have become kind of dreaded because of this incessant, seemingly unresolvable argument.)

The argument usually goes something like this:
1. Someone posts something vaguely related to rape. (Most recently, it stemmed from a post on the recent WaPo article claiming that rape rates have drastically declined in the past few decades.)
2. Someone replies and brings up the problem with rape prevention based solely or mostly on "teaching women to avoid unsafe situations." (Ok, I'll admit, this time, it was me.)
3. Number 2 inevitably opens up the can of worms, with an equal number of people arguing either that taking precautions is simply logical or that creating a prevention strategy based on women's actions is victim-blaming.
4. The thread eventually devolves into what is pretty typical of the Jolt, with people arguing ineffectively and making no logical point whatsoever. It starts to become an O'Reilly-Factor-style argument, at which point the people seriously trying to argue the point just sit back and watch the stupidity take away their credibility.

It seems that I always get pulled into these arguments, because some of the things people say under the anonymity of the Jolt make me so angry that I can't just stay quiet (some say it's an endearing quality...but sometimes, I fear that I'm going to have a heart attack from the stress by the time I'm 27).
Thing is, I can never make my point eloquently or succinctly enough on the Jolt to make a difference, so I'm going to try to do so here.

What started all of this recently was this line in the article, attempting to explain the reason for the supposed 85% drop in rapes since the 1970s:
Another, more hopeful, explanation is that Americans have actually changed the way they think about sexual assault: Women have been taught to avoid unsafe situations, and both boys and girls have been drilled to understand the rules of consent. (emphasis mine)

The whole sentence is just a little inaccurate, and I could devote an entire blog post to that sentence. But the thing that bothered me the most was the bolded part of the sentence: "Women have been taught to avoid unsafe situations."

In a nutshell, my issue with this is as follows: It is not a woman's job to decrease sexual assaults perpetrated against her.

Now, of course, that is highly oversimplified, and needs expanding.

In theory (if one were to subscribe wholly to the rape culture ideology), it would make sense to not put yourself into a situation where a crime is "likely" to occur.
But that theory itself is inherently flawed, and has very few practical implications.

For one, the majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes, not stranger rapes. These "precautions" (not going out alone after dark and so on) are only even theoretically applicable in stranger-rape scenarios. Not going to help you if you're going out after dark with the person you're trusting to accompany you after dark to protect you from the man waiting in the bushes to rape you, the person who ends up being your rapist.
And then, of course, there's the issue of undue, burdensome limitations on women's mobility. If you can't go out alone, but you have nobody to accompany you, you just can't go out. So much for empowering women. "Ending" and "preventing" rape isn't really going to do much for women's upward mobility if women have to worry about who they're doing what with every second of the day (or, at least, every second of the night).

The argument that continually comes up is the analogy to a mugging. You don't go down a city street that you know to be prone to muggers with a wad of bills in plain sight. So, logically, you would not go into a bar by yourself, flash some guy, and expect not to get raped. Same thing, right?'s so not.
Mugging and rape are not comparable crimes.
That seems like such an obvious statement, but apparently, it's, um, not.

Even if you were to talk strictly about stranger rapes, these "precautions" that women are supposed to take are, I would argue, nothing more than victim-blaming techniques dressed up as "protecting women."
You can have the best intentions when telling a woman to make sure she doesn't walk home alone at night, but what are you going to say when that woman doesn't heed your well-intentioned advice and is raped as she's walking home alone? It is very straight logic to go from "You shouldn't walk home alone," to "Well, I told you to not to walk home alone."
The latter, of course, is telling the woman that she put herself in that situation, and is therefore at least partially accountable and responsible for the actions that resulted from her "allowing" that situation to arise.
a.k.a. Blaming the victim.

Unfailingly, the pro-"precaution" crowd then argues that of course the man is culpable...but (and here comes the victim-blaming) she should have been more careful.
Or, even better, "Well, now you know not to walk home alone." Or "Bet you won't get that drunk in mixed company again, eh?"
The latter two are very thinly veiled examples of the victim-blaming, but they are all cut from the same cloth. All rely on using the victim's lack of "precautions" to not only blame the victim (non-maliciously, for the most part) but to make themselves feel better about their own actions; specifically, to make themselves feel safer, like they do enough to make sure they won't "get themselves raped" like Susie over there.

And going back to the mugging example...rape, given the reliance on it to uphold the patriarchal culture and the gender/power element, is simply an inherently different crime. Mugging undoubtedly has socio-economic undertones, but rape has centuries and centuries of gender oppression built into it. So much so that people don't even question the basis of it anymore, which is where the biggest problem with this "precaution" prevention line of reasoning comes in.

Saying that women should take precautions because of the hostile, dangerous environment does nothing to question or undermine that hostile, dangerous environment in the first place.
And rape is not going to end until said hostile, dangerous environment is obliterated.
The man's responsibility and motive - especially their motive - is almost never questioned. Rape, for men (as perpetrators), is highly eroticized -- obviously, they're doing it to get their rocks off. Or something like that. The question of power or motive is never addressed. This assumed motive -- that they're doing it because they "can't help it," because they need the sexual release -- simply plays into the perpetuation of the threat and culture of rape. If you assume that men do it because they have to, then rape is inevitable, and nothing but women taking (often ineffective) immobilizing precautions even has a chance of decreasing the numbers.

So yes, in theory, given the current dominant ideology, telling women to limit their lives according to precautions will decrease the rape rates.

But how is anything going to change if you base all of your theories on the current
dominant ideology?

*NOTE: This piece deals specifically with male-perpetrator female-victim rapes. Of course, there are instances where women rape other women, men rape other men, women rape men, and everything in between and above and beyond. The most prevalent, however, is male-perpetrator female-victim rapes, and the gender dynamics and social implications of other instances of rapes are far too complex to delve into here.

Ireland and Women's Rights

For a long time now, Ireland has been seriously lagging behind the rest of Western Europe in regards to women's and reproductive rights. I'm inclined to believe this seemingly out-of-place oppressive ban in Ireland is probably due to the overwhelmingly Catholic population, but despite their Catholicism, recent polls have shown that the majority of Irish people are pro-choice.

The Irish Family Planning Association has been mighty busy lately, trying to get Ireland out of the repro rights doghouse, so to speak. That fact in itself is perhaps not so noteworthy, although it's fabulous. What I love most about this is their strategy. A strategy which we seriously need to start thinking about here in the U.S. (even if it is currently not so feasible due to the U.S. being a collective jackass).

The IFPA is tackling the abortion ban from a human rights standpoint, arguing that the denial of access to abortion is a violation of the human rights agreement (the European Convention on Human Rights) that the Irish government has signed. They have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the Convention, arguing the following:

Ireland's restrictive abortion law violates their human rights on four grounds protected by the convention:
"the right to privacy in all family, home and personal interests, and entitlement to no public interference from any public authority in exercising this right;
the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment;
the right to protection of the law to safe-guard the life of an individual"
and the provision that affords
"rights and freedoms without discrimination on any grounds.

(via PPFA's choice! magazine)

Too bad the U.S. doesn't really believe in human rights and such....

Sunday, June 18, 2006

classifying trauma

New York, being my home state, will always hold a place in my heart. Even though I hope to never ever return there after I graduate and move out into the "real world," the things that happen in New York, politically and socially, still concern me, and probably always will.
(Please note: By "New York," I do not mean the city. I have never been to the city, don't particularly want to go to the city, and don't particularly like the city. Contrary to what legislators in Albany or people residing in the city may think, the rest of New York State does exist, and the people in those areas deserve consideration by the state too. /rampage)

By reading pretty much any group of five posts on this blog, you will also realize that I am equally, if not more, concerned with the rape culture in our society and the lack of sufficient legal or other recourse and support for rape victims/survivors.

It follows, then, this potential repeal of the statute of limitations thing in New York strikes a rather resonant chord with me.
(Yes, I know this is about a month old. Sorry.)

It seems that the push to repeal the 5-year statute of limitations on the prosecution of rape has finally garnered some serious support.

The statute of limitations is, quite simply, stupid and, as the Women's eNews article puts it, an archaic remnant of a fucked-up, (more) misogynistic past.

Rape, at most, can be considered a Class B Felony. Other Class B felonies? Kidnapping and robbery that don't result in physical injury. Kidnapping and robbery that do result in physical harm are automatically bumped up to a Class A felony -- and Class A felonies cannot be subject to a statute of limitations, because they're seen as Very Serious crimes.
Not so serious.

Thing is, this legislation doesn't address that part. This legislation simply repeals the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases in particular. This legislation is only symbolically acknowledging that rape is a (sort of) serious crime.
Even though the Manhattan DA, Robert Morgenthau, had the following to say: "After murder, the crime that causes the most permanent damage to the victim is a rape."
Sadly, this well-informed Manhattan DA cannot change the felony classification of the crime, even though he seems to understand it far better than those who do have that power.

I know, I know. Repealing the statute of limitations is a good thing, and it's more than we've been able to get accomplished in a long, long time. I'm not saying that we shouldn't do it, because we absolutely should.
But it would just make more sense to make rape a Class A felony. Then we wouldn't have to go through this whole statute of limitations debate at all, and you'd have the added bonus of actually acknowledging the damage that rape causes.

Because I'd like to see a New York legislator try to make the case that rape Isn't Really That Serious and then try to get re-elected in the next election cycle.
(At least, I'd like to think that said scenario would be impossible...)

i heart (former) n.j. gov. christine todd whitman

For this, my first post after a looong time, I'll try to get back into the blogging groove with a woman who I've recently fallen a little bit in love with.

Christine Todd Whitman.

I don't know what it is with my penchant for kickass Republican women lately. Maybe it's because most of the Republicans I hear about make my skin crawl, and these women don't, and so their lack of heeby-jeeby vibes is just astonishing to me.

Christine Todd Whitman, former two-term governor of New Jersey, is a Republican. She used to be the GOP's "It Girl"...until the party realized that she had a conscience and supported things like same-sex marriage and reproductive rights and other similarly evil, hell-raising atrocities. Now, the GOP kind of hates her/ignores her, but she's been making some waves lately despite their priggish dislike for/fear of her.

Women's eNews (specifically, J. Trout Lowen) recently did a story covering Whitman's work on taking back the GOP for the moderates. (And, awesomely enough, mentions the conference call that WCF held with her last week, which should be up on the new website in a bit. The relevance here is that this conference call is totally what made me fall in love with her.)

See, most Republicans aren't priggish douchefaces who hate women and gays and (shh don't tell anyone, this one's on the d.l.) those awful dark-skinned devils. A lot of Republicans are socially moderate and fiscally conservative. And while I still disagree with a lot of their fiscally conservative politics, these "socially inclusive" Republicans are actually decent people who I wouldn't mind in our political environment. As it stands now, those wielding the power in the Republican party are far from decent, blatantly misogynistic assholes. And dealing with them or watching other decent people have to deal with them kind of makes me want to vomit. Projectile. Onto their ugly shoes.

Ahem. Moving on.
Back to Christie.
She started this PAC, It's My Party Too, or IMP-PAC (and, btw, also wrote a book by the same name, which is one of the first books on my reading list this summer). Said PAC supports non-crazy extremist Republican candidates, since these candidates are the ones that are so often pushed out of the race due to lack of funding. The Republican "base" isn't all crazy fundies, and she's trying to get the moderates and centrists to actually grow some metaphorical balls and not let the extremists take the party somewhere frightening. There are already about 25 chapters of IMP-PAC in different states, and the PAC is rather new, so that's great progress for her and, therefore, for the Republican party. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not a Republican, nor will I ever be, but I do like it when the good kind of Republican tries to move her party back to a more decent, less hateful place.

And thus, I'm slightly in love with Christine Todd Whitman.

(Ok, so she's not perfect, and her actions as the head of the EPA leave a bit to be desired. But hey. It's all about bipartisan cooperation on important issues. Specifically with this, important issues like reproductive rights. You're never going to like every single elected official or follow them on every issue. And since there are going to be Republicans in office who have to work with my (New York, so they're almost bound to be Democratic) elected officials on a federal level, I'd prefer to have people (women, specifically) like Christine Todd Whitman sitting in those Congressional seats, people who will at least protect basic human and civil rights.

still alive

Just a quick post to say that yes, I'm still around. I've got about 10 things saved in my email that I want to blog about, and I keep meaning to do so, but I just haven't gotten around to it quite yet. Things have been kind of crazy, what with the end of the semester (ok, it was like 4 weeks ago, but it's taken a while to recuperate) and settling in down here in Washington, DC for the summer.
My internship (at the Women's Campaign Forum) has also been providing lots of things I want to blog about...and I will, soon. I swear.

For now, though, I'll leave you with something I've gleaned thus far from said internship; some Republicans aren't all that bad. Like Martha Rainville, who's running for Congress from Vermont. She's one of our endorsed candidates, and I met her (well, kind of. I gave her a name tag and found her a cab) at the event we had a couple weeks ago, and she's awesome.

Pro-choice and fabulous, of course. Sometimes (not often, but sometimes), I really love Republicans. Specifically, Republicans named Martha Rainville. Oh, and Christine Todd Whitman is pretty fucking awesome too.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Call for Submissions: Speak Out Against Domestic Violence

A project I'm working on for a class (and which may end up being much further-reaching than the halls of Smith College, and longer-lasting than that of a final project):

Disclaimer: If submitting your story will in any way put you in danger, please do not attempt to do so until you can ensure your own safety.

I am in the process of creating a compilation blog to illustrate the various intersections of identity and societal influences that play a role in the differing experiences of domestic violence (including physical, sexual, emotional, or similar kinds of abuse). Instead of the largely white, heterosexual, middle-class stories of domestic violence that dominates the sphere of knowledge, this blog project will include a truly diverse array of experiences. Domestic violence is not limited to white/heterosexual/middle-class populations, and neither is this project.

I am therefore sending out a call for submissions. If you have been a victim of domestic violence (as defined, for the purposes of this project, above), or have been directly involved in another person’s experience of DV, and wish to speak out about your experiences, please email your submission to: speakup(dot)speakout(at)yahoo(dot)com

There are no style or length limitations. The one request I have is this: in order to aid in the reader’s (and my) understanding of your experience of DV, I would appreciate if you included your location in the world - e.g. a general geographic region, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background, etc. Feel free to include as few or as many locators as you wish.

The deadline for submissions is: Monday, May 1, 2006.

More detailed information about the project is available at the blog: Speaking Up, Speaking Out…Against Domestic Violence. If you have further questions, feel free to email me at the address listed above.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

blogging against sexual violence #3

(The last...)

I have a problem with the fight against rape and sexual violence.
Don't get me wrong -- I loathe sexual violence, it needs to end, and we need to be vocal - hypervocal, even - about it before it ever will. I've done numerous final papers about the rape culture, how all the different things like race and class and sexuality (and so on) intersect with and work within the patriarchy in order to create the rape culture.
My problem doesn't lie in the ideology behind the fight. There, I'm behind you all the way.
My problem lies in the rhetoric employed in the fight.

Specifically, the rhetoric and model of "The Survivor."

In every anti-rape, anti-sexual-violence form of activism I've been a part of, the message (apart from "good god, let go of the rape culture already and let us control our own bodies") has been centered around "Healing" and "dealing with it" (but never really "getting over it") and mostly, about crossing that line from "victim" to "survivor."

The thing is, the dichotomy of "victimhood" and being a "survivor" is absolutely false. Many, many people who have been victims of sexual violence go their whole lives with one foot in both worlds, stuck in between and never fully fitting into either category. Some people might never get to that place of "survival" at all, and will never be able to "heal" or "deal with it" in any meaningful sense. Like me.

There are lots and lots of reasons that I know I will never reach that place of calling myself or being a "survivor," which I won't go into here. Some of them are entrenched in the rape culture that makes me blame myself for my abuse and my rape(s), but some of them are simply because I don't have that capacity to "heal." You might be thinking, "Oh, don't be silly, you're only 20 years old, you don't know what you can heal from yet," and maybe, just maybe, you're right. But you're probably not. But that's exactly the problem I have with this fight against sexual violence. There's always the assumption that everyone can heal. That someday, if you just work hard enough at it, you, too, will be able to be a "survivor."

I reject that notion. It's simply not true.
But more, I reject the entire model of "The Survivor" as the universal model for all victims of rape/sexual violence. No (or almost no) victim's experience of sexual violence is identical. So why should the form that their recovery (or lack thereof) takes be the same?

I know, I know. Nobody wants to hear the story about the girl who was victimized for 7 years of her childhood and never got over it. They want to hear about the girl who was abused, but went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with children in Uganda. And while that girl who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize is no doubt extraordinary and amazing, that's not every victim's story. That's not how everyone's story ends. But just because my story, or four hundred other women's stories, don't end in sunshine and rainbows and the extraordinary (sometimes out-of-reach) achievement of overcoming one's victimization, that doesn't mean that those stories are any less worthwhile, any less valid. Our stories need to be told too.

Yes, thinking that you can get over this and you can "heal" is vital for recent victims of sexual violence. But not at the expense of alienating those who don't fit that model, of ignoring their stories of non-recovery.

So, with that, here's my story of non-survival:
I was abused by my brother from the time I was 6 or 7 until I was 13. I told nobody until I was 15. My mother walked in on us once when I was 9. She had a talk with me, told me, "don't tease your brother. Boys can't always control themselves." When I first told, I was in the hospital after telling someone I was slightly suicidal. The hospital would not discharge me if my brother were still at home, so my parents (my mom, begrudgingly) sent him out to live in San Diego, where my other brother was. I spent the rest of high school pretty much going from boyfriend to boyfriend, but not attaching myself to anyone, and never letting any of them in, really. I gave one boyfriend a blow job a few times, and he reciprocated each time. I never orgasmed.
I didn't orgasm until I was 19, the first time I was with a woman. Even then, we had sex three or four times, and I only orgasmed once.
I started cutting when I was 13. I still haven't stopped. I bruise, too, and burn sometimes. Occasionally, I go through cycles of disordered eating (but really, it's not an eating disorder), sometimes lasting a day, sometimes two months. I still think about suicide, in the abstract, even though I'd never do it.
I can't say no, even when I want to, especially to a woman. To men, it's slightly different, but it's not like they listen anyway. This past summer, I got drunk at a friend's party and ended up in a threesome situation with one woman and one man. He was sober. We were not. We both went down on him. I said I didn't want to once or twice, but never really assertively.
At a new year's party this year, I was raped by a boy I've known since preschool. Again, I was far more intoxicated than I should have gotten. It was a threesome situation, and I was into the girl, but not him. Somehow, he ended up inside of me even though I said over and over that I was gay, that I didn't want to, and once he already was, I said that I was done with the hetero part, that I wanted him to stop. He didn't. I told nobody until last week. I told my best friend, who had been trained as a rape advocate/educator. She asked me if I'd made it worse in my mind since January. She told me not to think so much about it, that "it was just an accident."
I can hardly function as a student. I've had to ask for extensions on most of my work this semester, and have to go talk to my class dean on Thursday about taking incompletes and/or getting extensions for my final papers past finals week. Not a day, hardly an hour, goes by that I don't think about my brother, or the boy this summer, or the boy I've known from preschool.

So, no, I'm not ok. And no, I probably never will be. But at least this story is authentic. At least with this story, there is no happy ending.

blogging against sexual violence #2

A poem, this time (written as spoken word style), that i read/performed at the TBTN speakout:

because see now, there's this demon that
rises up inside
rises up from the semen you
left inside
this demon that calls me dirty
calls me stupid
calls me useless.

and usually...i agree w/ him
usually, he's got me pinned to a T
because this demon you made,
this semen you left --
makes me all of these things
makes me a whore
makes me a slut -
makes me your slut.

and maybe, you own me now
maybe you own me now
from the vagina you penetrated
to the breasts you violated, but....

but what?
there is no "but"
there's no revival
there's no renewal
there's no "survival."
there's no "getting over," no "getting past"
this thing you left behind

because this will always be with me
and you will always be with me

when i stare into her face -
i stare into yours
and when i'm kissing her -
i'm kissing you/you're kissing her
and when she makes me come -
you make me come
you seep out of me
you seep onto her
you've. contaminated. me.
you've. contaminated. her.

and recovery? is a fucking lie.
survival is a myth.
the only thing that survives is

blogging against sexual violence #1

I lied.
I still have a ton of work to do, but my momentary return from my work-induced hiaitus will be a little less temporary. Because I started reading through the other posts in the Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence blogathon.
And I need to do this.
Three times. This is the first.

The first post I read was under "Stories About Survival," entitled Anonymous.
The content of this story was simply as follows:

i have been raped a lot.

And so that, I think, is where I will start this post. I wish so much that sentence wasn't so true for so many people. I wish so much that it wasn't true for anyone. But you can't wish away our rape culture. And you can't wish away people's experiences.

Last week here at Smith, a student organization I'm involved with, AWARE (Activist Women Advocating Rape Education), sponsored Sexual Abuse/Assault Awareness Week. (We don't have the resources or time to do the whole month, so we condense it into a week.)
We hung the Clothesline Project, which Smith has been participating in since 1994, and now includes well over 400 shirts.
We held a (poorly attended) student/faculty/administration panel, entitled The Importance of Discourse, meant in part to address the controversy around the Clothesline Project (which I will discuss shortly).
We sponsored a (poorly attended) "Wounded Heart Workshop," facilitated by a woman from the Everywoman's Center at UMass Amherst.
We held a (poorly attended) Take Back the Night march and speak-out/candlelight vigil.

And we encountered some pretty hefty resistance, not so much from the administration (this year), but from our fellow Smithies.
The Clothesline Project controversy centered around the location and prime visibility of the Project. We hung the CP around Seelye lawn, which is a central, largely unavoidable location on campus. We did this very intentionally. We could have displayed the CP in a room in the Campus Center, where people could choose to go in and look at the shirts or not. We did not choose that.
That is a form of silencing.

Many Smithies thought we should move the CP to an out-of-the-way room in the campus center. Their argument was actually almost compelling: seeing the shirts, reading the shirts, walking by the shirts every day on your way to class or the library can be really distracting and upsetting if you aren't ready or don't want to have to deal with your past experiences right then. Which I fully acknowledge. It was not easy for most of the members of AWARE to deal with it either, and we had to sit at an informational table for most of the day, help to hang and take down the shirts every day, and so forth. I understand that we, being members of AWARE, are in a different position, because we chose to be a part of an organization specifically targeting sexual violence issues, and we chose to be a part of SAAW. Other victims/survivors on Smith campus may not be able to make that choice, and they're partially right -- it may not be fair of us to, in a sense, make them deal with it if they're not willing or ready to do so.
But what's even less fair is that they were victimized in the first place. What's even less fair is that we need to put up the Clothesline Project at all. What's even less fair is that they're still not putting the blame for their discomfort/instability/inability to deal on their abusers, and are instead projecting their anger at a visibility/awareness campaign like CP.

And while Smith should have much, much, much more adequate resources to help victims/survivors deal with such issues, it does not (yet). But that doesn't mean that people don't need to be made aware of this. That doesn't mean that victims/survivors should be silenced because there aren't adequate resources for those who need them or because it makes never-victimized people uncomfortable.

But what people don't really address is the thing that is so deeply entrenched in this controversy surrounding the CP (and, later, the speak-out): Smith's very own rape culture.
So, so many people use the "even at Smith" rhetoric, implying that Smith, in its liberal, gay-loving, mostly-feminist bubble, is somehow immune to the social implications of the rest of the world. "Even at Smith, people get raped." "Even at Smith, there are (gasp) Republicans." "Even at Smith, students aren't always safe."
But the truth is: Smith is still a part of the larger culture, and as much of an oasis as it may seem to be, it's not immune from the patriarchal system in "the rest of the world." And while it may be true that Smith and Northampton are both much, much more liberal than your average Massachussets town, both -- yes, even Smith -- have their own unique rape culture.

Smith's rape culture is interesting, because Smith is a "women's" college. (I put "women's" in quotation marks because a lot of Smithies don't necessarily identify as women, and sure as hell don't fit into the social construction of what "women" are.) People assume that Smith is, then, a safe space for all kinds of more sensitive issues. And in a lot of ways, it is. Smith is probably the most gay-friendly (and, actually, at times, bordering on heterophobic) place I've ever been.
But when it comes to rape and sexual abuse...that liberal attitude seems to end.
Sure, the silencing is couched in rhetoric of "protecting victims" and "discomfort" with hearing people's stories, surrounded by phrases like, "Wouldn't you be more comfortable if..." and "Are you sure you want to be so public..." but silencing is silencing, even when couched in "good intentions."

We held our Take Back the Night speak-out on the steps outside the campus center. We had a microphone, a (rather large and intimidating) speaker, and a podium. After the woman from the Everywoman's Center spoke, people - as happens in a speak-out - got up to tell their stories or just talk about sexual assault abstractly.
I thought the speak-out went really well. It was a decent enough turnout -- up to maybe 50 people at the peak time (people would stop to listen on their way to the library or wherever). I spoke, for the first time ever at a speak-out. It was empowering, and moving, and powerful, and everything a speak-out is supposed to be.
When I got home later that night, I saw a thread started on our campus message board.
I reproduce it (mostly) in full:

So, I totally support the openness and availability of resources to sexually offended students. Although I myself am really uncomfortable hearing about personal stories, I think its great that people are willing to share and be open about experiences to help others.
HOWEVER...tonight, I was walking to the lib from Henshaw Ave and when I got to the other side of the CC, there was a mic set up and women were speaking about experiences. Awesome idea, but I think the choice of placement was poor. I was extremely uncomfortable listening to this horrible and depressing story as I walked from the doors of the CC almost all the way to the doors of Neilson. I just wanted to make it known that although I'm in full support of talking about problems and experiences, I was not prepared to listen to these personal and extremely upsetting stories while on a walk to do work.
So, please, CC or whomever set up the area that it was held in, please make it in a more private place, aka not on the steps of the CC where I felt rude in just walking up the stairs. Thanks and definitely keep up the awareness- just be more sensitive to the community as a whole. Please don't take any of this the wrong way- its in good intention...

News Flash: Saying that you're not silencing victims/survivors as you do something that silences victims/survivors does not negate you silencing victims/survivors.

(Not to mention...what if it was my story that made her so "uncomfortable"? While I might get defensive about it, say something like "Well it made me uncomfortable to be abused," the fact is: I'm not going to be as willing to share my story now. Because chances are, if it was my story she heard, or if she even heard my story, it would have made her uncomfortable. And even though I acknowledge that as a mechanism for silencing victims/ doesn't take away the power of the mechanism.)

As infuriating as this was, mainly because of the "good intentions" rhetoric, it wasn't the worst.
This was:
There seems to be an awful lot of "abuse survivors" and rape victims at Smith. Does the place attract people who have had such experiences or is there maybe a little false memory syndrome going on here? I mean, look at the number of people in the student body who are making these claims. It just doesn't sound statistically credible.

As much as I hate the "even at Smith" line...I was not expecting this here, at a place where so many of the students call themselves (or don't, but are) feminists.

Because the thing about Smith's rape culture is: it doesn't fit in with our otherwise smash-the-patriarchy attitude. For example, Smith is just about the queerest campus on the East Coast. One of the responses to the thread is as follows:
How is saying: "I approve of this, but it makes me uncomfortable. So please just do it where I don't have to see it or know about it." any different from "It's ok to be gay, just as long as you don't talk about it or show it in front of me."?
The latter would never fly at Smith. Almost every single Smithie, queer or not, would jump on that person as soon as something like that came out of hir mouth.
But when that same rhetoric is applied to sexual violence...somehow it's ok. Somehow, it's ok to silence victims of sexual violence, where it's not ok to silence queers.

What is it about sexual violence that makes it so much easier to silence at a place like Smith? What is it about rape, about sexual abuse, that makes people who call themselves feminists, who call themselves liberals, who call themselves openminded and enlightened, so absolutely uncomfortable? Obviously, it's not a fun thing to talk about. It's not supposed to be.

But if you don't talk about it, and if you don't make people talk about it or at least think about it, nothing's ever going to change. Sexual violence is so, so easy to ignore for so many people. I don't know how, but most people manage to look at a rape victim, say, "Oh, that's too bad," and move on with their lives and never think about it again. But that rape victim might never move on, and she will almost definitely think about it again...and again...and again.

And somehow, people are ok with being apathetic about sexual violence, or only caring when it's convenient. Somehow, people aren't outraged all the time. Somehow, they'll put more energy into being angry about being made "uncomfortable" over a speak-out or a display, into being angry about something that might actually raise awareness and eventually help stop sexual violence -- way more energy than they will put into being angry about the fact that these people have stories to tell in the first place.

And to me, that seems like something much more worth your anger.

momentarily ending my hiaitus

But only for a linkage, since it is April, and it's Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (I have soooo much I could write, and absolutely no time to write it, so go read other people's stuff.)

Lots of amazing posts here, all of which warrant thorough readings (even if the blogathon coordinator does employ the model of "The Survivor," which I have lotsandlots of ideological problems with....)

Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence.
And go.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

FYI/10th Carnival of Feminists

It's just about the week before spring break. Which means it's time for the crazy midterm stuff. Which is also why I've been so off-and-on for the last week or so.

So I'm on hiaitus until I get home for spring break, when I'll finally have time to do more than skim through other people's blogs.

In the meantime, the Tenth Carnival of Feminists is up at indianwriting.

Good stuff, it looks like. As always.
Eleventh will be up at angry for a reason on March 22. I promise I'll do some worthwhile blogging by then. For real.

Monday, March 06, 2006

SD abortion ban signed into law

I hate this man right now:

Today, at about 2pm, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed the abortion ban into law.

It wasn't unexpected, but still no less disappointing.
It won't go into effect until July 1st, but a federal judge will probably issue an injunction on its enforcement until it goes through the court system. All the way to the Supreme Court. Which now most likely has enough anti-choice assholes to overturn Roe.

Oh, it's a bad day for women and their reproductive autonomy, or what was left of it. A bad, bad day.

Planned Parenthood's press release.
To donate to Planned Parenthood to help cover the costs of the lawsuit they'll be filing post-haste: go here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

carnival pimping*

Second Radical Women of Color carnival is up.

Fantastic, as carnivals always are.

*Note: I use the word "pimping" in the reclaiming-the-word way, not in the objectifying-women-who-mostly-don't-have-a-choice-but-to-enter-into-prostitution way. Obviously.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

quick mini-roundup, pro-choice style

I definitely do not have time to blog about everything that needs blogging about, but a little baby pro-choice/anti-choice link dump:

1. Wal-Mart has agreed to sell EC at ALL of its pharmacies. Of course, it includes a bullshit "conscientious objection" clause, so that if assface pharmacists decide that they don't "believe" in dispensing EC, they can send the woman away. Which is bullshit, and especially a problem in most of the more rural parts of America, where that Wal Mart pharmacy might be the only one within a reasonable distance. But it's a start.
(The official concession on the WalMart website.)

2. South Dakota is now only one among many with proposed legislation that would criminalize and ban abortion.
State Sen. Jason Crowell proposed an abortion ban in Missouri this week.
State Rep. Steve Holland proposed an abortion ban in Mississippi this week as well.
(The South Dakota ban is still waiting to be signed by the governor...and I highly doubt he'll veto, so it's just a matter of time.)

3. In other anti-choice news, Tennessee is considering legislation that would require women to inform and receive consent from the person who owns the sperm that got her pregnant before she receives an abortion.
At least it's not an all-out ban. Yet.

4. There's legislation pending in my home state (New York) that seems almost sorta kinda like a good thing. The good is that it would allow pharmacies to dispense EC over-the-counter:
The amended legislation would allow pharmacists to dispense only a single dose at a time and only to women. Information about sexually transmitted diseases would also be made available and prescriptions could only be dispensed within the same county as the patient's residence. It does not set age limits.

However, the "same county" thing is shitty, because there are A TON of counties in NY state whose only pharmacy is Wal Mart, and even though Wal Mart did just concede and will carry EC, that's no guarantee that they'll actually dispense it OTC if women need it. And then they'd be shit out of luck, 'cause they can't leave the county (provided they had the resources to cross county lines to get the drug, that is, which is also a problematic assumption, but at least it'd be something).

5. The most frightening post amidst this recent rush of anti-choice legislation comes from Molly, in the form of a do-it-yourself abortion manual, based on techniques that Jane (an amazing Chicago-based group that provided [illegal] abortions in the pre-Roe days) used way back when. As unsafe as most illegal abortions were, Jane only lost one patient out of 13,000, which Molly points out is a lower rate than that of actually giving birth. While it's scary as hell that this information may soon be necessary in South Dakota (and Missouri, and Mississippi...), I'm really glad that the information is being made available. Because, legal or not, women will get abortions. Maybe if they have information like this, there'll be less unnecessary deaths because of this kind of anti-choice, and anti-woman, legislation.

Friday, February 24, 2006

almost forgot

The Ninth Carnival of Feminists is up at Mind the Gap.

Damn, this one is gooooood. (And wicked long.)

I'm in it!

My favourites from this carnival (which is really difficult, because all the posts are fabulous):

"They asked for it," on gender politics in sport. How when female athletes get injured, it's not because that's the nature of the sport (like what's assumed with male athletes), it's because they shouldn't be doing such crazy athletic stuff anyway. That's men's stuff, you know. What can they expect, doing something so unladylike, other than to get injured?

Brownfemipower's post at Women of Color Blog on identity politics. Really really good. She doesn't give "The Answer" to the issues surrounding identity politics, but she asks a lot of really good questions. A teaser, and my favourite part of this post: "I know that women of color *must* centralize their identities in their politics. We get attacked and violated *because* we are Chicana, Mexican, Indian, Asian, black, Iranian, Arab, etc. We get attacked and violated *because* we are queer, poor, mothers, uneducated, prisoners."

A poignant poem by Kelley Bell, about the dissonance between what we're taught as kids (American Dream, bootstraps, blah blah) and what the real (sexist) world is.

blac(k)ademic's post on black women's sexuality. Especially black lesbians' sexuality. A teaser: "i am invisible. you do not see my face television or in cinema. you do not hear my voice in the popular songs rotating on bet, mtv, or the radio. you do not see me because i am a black lesbian and we do not exist."

Anti-Music Blog analyzes homophobia in NBC's article about male figure skater Johnny Weir. (Whoa, homophobia directed toward male figure skaters? Who'da thunk it?) Discusses how closely homophobia is tied w/ sexism.

Molly's post about the 'mommy wars', or the question of who the better mother is: stay at home moms or working moms? Good questioning of the assumption that stay-at-home moms, those who "opt out" of working, are implicitly better mothers.

Tom Head on the anti-feminist left (mostly male) bloggers. Like, you know, the assfaces on the DailyKos, who think that us feminists should just shut up and stand behind them.

And then, every single post in "Section 3: The Body." And I mean every single post.

Tenth Carnival of Feminists will be at Indian Writing on March 8. To submit, email indianwriting AT gmail DOT com.

Oh, feminist blogosphere, I loooooove you.


(via culturekitchen)

The women of South Dakota have just been screwed by their legislature.

I wrote before about how a bill was making its way through the legislation that would ban abortion in the state.

Yesterday, the SD Senate passed the bill that the House passed a couple weeks ago. They changed the language slightly, but not in a way that changed the purpose and scope of the bill. Because of the language change, though, it had to go back to the House for re-authorization.

Today, the SD House passed the bill again, by a vote of 50-18. (The Senate passed it 23-12 yesterday.)

Now, the only potential obstacle to the legislation is the (anti-choice, Republican) governor, Mike Rounds. And he's not looking to be much of an obstacle, since he's already said that he's inclined to sign the bill.

This is absolutely terrifying.

My guess for how this will go over when it makes it to the Supreme Court (which it will, since Planned Parenthood has already pledged to sue as soon as the Governor signs it):
5-4. In favour of the ban. Overturning Roe v. Wade.
My prediction for the majority: Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy
The minority: Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter, Breyer

Something even more frightening? Molly is posting about how to perform an abortion if when Roe is overturned. *sigh*

Jill at Feministe is slightly optimistic, in a weird way:
And so what Molly has posted could be potentially helpful to a lot of women, which is why I link to it. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the post, or the safety of the procedures described therein. But I trust other feminist, pro-choice women. We will create communities, and we will help each other, even if our government finds it acceptable to infringe on our most basic human rights to decide what does and doesn’t grow in our bodies. We did it before Roe, and we’ll do it after.

(Mikhaela's newest pro-choice cartoon)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

more on the Wal-Mart/Massachusetts EC controversy

The Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy declared today that Wal-Mart must stock (and, presumably, dispense, although I realize that making presumptions is dangerous when it comes to places like Wal-Mart) EC at all its pharmacies state-wide. (Also in The Boston Globe)

The Board reviewed the state law requiring all pharmacies to dispense "commonly prescribed medications in accordance with the usual needs of the community," and decided that, yes, EC did fall into this category.

Small victories make my heart happy on this otherwise Bleak Day known as Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

wait, you mean evolutionary psychology serves the patriarchy? no way!

The woman with the very unfortunate surname is at it again.

Daphne Merkin, a contributing writer for the NY Times, recently contributed this useless article that frighteningly reminds me of the awful evolutionary psychologists (David Buss, for example) we had to read in my Human Sexuality class last year.

A disturbing little excerpt:
Men move away from older women, I would argue, almost instinctively, because they sense the impending shadow of nongenerativity like a negative pheromone. They don't need to want to have children, either consciously or subconsciously, for this to happen; they can, in fact, be childless and adamantly against the notion of procreating. Still, they like their eggs ready to rock just in case.


My first problem (of many) with evolutionary psychologists trying to explain human sexuality? They have absolutely no explanation for queerness. None whatsoever. I don't remember the exact words of David Buss, but it was something along the lines of lesbians and gay men being "mysteries" that he could not quite figure out. Mainly because they didn't fit into his bullshit evolutionary theory...which of course wouldn't mean that the theory was irrelevant, but that the queers were just, well, "mysteries" - presumably, that needed to be solved.

Second, my problem with this specific article: I've found a number of older, 50+ women very attractive. Now, maybe this is just because I'm one of those mysterious queers, but I'm fairly certain that the heteronormative fascination and lusting for younger women has less to do with the fact that her eggs are ripe for the fertilizin', and more to do with the societal construction of "sexy" young women as Teh Sex Objects.
If this "ripe eggs" theory really worked, you would see men lusting after the 230-pound 20-year-old girl in equal numbers as the 110-pound 19-year-old. Medically speaking, the not-super-thin girls are better equipped to perpetuate the species than the super-thin girl who could ostensibly be America's Next Top Model.
And then, of course, if this theory really worked, there'd be no queers. And we're back to where we started.

And then, there's this little piece, which bothers me to no end:
The distinction between women as sexual beings and maternal figures that men, poor befuddled creatures, are prone to confuse is that much harder to parse as women begin to look less like Lolita and more like Charlotte Haze, Lo's hapless mother — which brings up the specter of incest. And although some transgressions beg to be violated, I don't think sleeping with their mothers rates high on the list for most men.

Oh, so many problems...
First: Just because a woman is a sexual being doesn't make her any less maternal, and vice versa. I don't understand why the line between the two is so thickly drawn. Perhaps if we didn't valorize motherhood into this Cult of Republican Motherhood, women would be able to be both sexual and maternal at the same time.
Second: The Lolita reference? Just creepy in the context of this article. It's all about how men lust after younger women because they're fertile ground to plant their seed in...but Lolita is a 14- or 16-year-old girl (depending on which version you see). Not exactly the typical "ripe for the plucking" woman.
Third: All of this hearkens far too closely with Freudian concepts of maternal desire and the Oedipus complex. And, as I loathe (but respect) Freud, this doesn't really convince me.

I could go on and on, but my brain is starting to hurt.

What confuses me most? The picture accompanying the article, which is really, really homoerotic:

Seriously. Go ahead, try to tell me that's not two (older?) women gettin' it on.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

disciplining the body; or, anorexia as a feminist protest?

I recently discovered the hidden gem that is the Mind the Gap blog. And after my continuous struggles to put eating disorders/disordered eating into feminist terms, this blog is basically the answer that I've been trying to articulate.

The most recent post that I absolutely fell in love with is here.

An excerpt:
Feminist theorists such as Susie Orbach and Susan Bordo have both argued that anorexia is a kind of unconscious rebellion, a female protest. Wrong headed and hideously self-destructive, “counterproductive” and “tragically self-defeating,” of course, but a protest nonetheless. Little wonder that we use the only we’ve thing got – our bodies – to mount protests; if our bodies are being surveyed anyway, this is the obvious place to demonstrate. In a sense, the anorexic body throws body surveillance back in the face of culture: “Go on look at me, I am in pain. Do you like what you see? Is this what you wanted?” For women, it is not surprising that the adult female body becomes the object of such intense hatred, because it seems to be the source of our suffering. Many anorexics will tell you that it’s as much about being in “control” as it is about being thin. This is certainly not the whole story, but it is an important part of it. I know that I don’t have any great desire to be thin simply for the sake of it, but I do want to control my body, because for years it seemed to have been taken out of my control, owned, surveyed and grabbed at by other people. Eating disorders are also a way of saying “this body is mine, I will do what I want with it and not one of you can stop me.” I guess death is the ultimate escape from the pressures of womanhood. Anorexics feel this to be true. What we have to realise is that, if we are to survive, there are better ways to resist than destroying our bodies.
I wish I knew what else to add to this, but I don't.
If I were some crazy hippie back in the 70s, this would definitely merit a "Right on, sister!" But I'm not. So I'm just going to extend that sentiment, and sit here and brood for a while.

carnivals, carnivals, carnivals...

(Numbered only in the order that I discovered them, not in order of importance or whatnot)


1) The eighth carnival of the feminists is now up at Gendergeek.

The ninth will go up at Mind The Gap. Submissions to mindthegapcardiff(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk by Feb 19th.
Optional theme: feminism and the body.


2) The First Radical Women Of Color Carnival is up at reappropriate.

Being the first radical WOC carnival, a lot of the topics are pretty basic, "this is how my racial identity applies to blogging" and resolving-race type things, but still of course very pertinent stuff. And it makes me happy inside that it includes all kinds of radical women of colour, from Asians to black women to Latinas to Chicanas, etc, etc. Oh, and I love love that Jenn at reappropriate adds in that extra "u" to "colour." Because it's just such a prettier word that way.

Second Radical Women Of Colo(u)r Carnival will be up on March 1st at Mamita Mala.


3) The third Carnival Of Bent Attractions is up at daily dose of queer.

This one is fantabulous, especially given the inclusion of a post regarding the infamous "teachercrush". And I'm staying silent as to whether or not I currently have one (or five) of those.

Third Carnival of Bent Attractions will be up at Transcending Gender on March 10th. Go here to submit a blog post.

Friday Random Ten: the love and rebellious revolutions edition

And yes, I'm fully aware that today is Saturday, not Friday.

1. "We Didn't Start The Fire" Billy Joel
2. "I'll Stay With You" Beth Hart
3. "Talkin' Bout A Revolution" Tracy Chapman
4. "Loom," Ani DiFranco
5. "Friday I'm In Love" The Cure
6. "Rebel Girl" Bikini Kill
7. "In A World Without You," Beth Hart
8. "Stupid," Sarah McLachlan
9. "Bitch," Meredith Brooks
10. "Power of Two," Indigo Girls

It seems my itunes is telling me that I either really need to find someone to fall in love with, or I need to start/continue the revolution. And I'm pretty sure the latter is the more probable.

and it begins...

I blogged a few weeks ago about South Dakota's plan to criminalize abortion.

After avoiding most news sources for a couple days, I found out this morning that their plan was actually successful.

See, now that we've got Alito on the court, the anti-choicers think they've got a surefire way to overturn Roe. And I wish they were wrong. But I'm afraid that they might be right...

While I don't hate the entire state of South Dakota, and I'm sure it's aesthetically pleasing and has some good people populating the state...I'm quite frankly frightened by the entire state. Obviously, the elected legislators don't represent every constituents' concerns, but....South Dakotans elected these people. These people who have now successfully passed legislation whose sole purpose is to challenge Roe v Wade, and criminalize and ban abortion.

When I first read about this, I wasn't too worried. I naively believed that there was no way that legislators could really pass something so explicitly unconstitutional. I was still holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, the legislators would actually look out for South Dakota women's health. Hell, at that point, I was still holding out hope that our Senators would actually block Alito.

I really wish someone had warned me that my naive idealism was showing.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

PPLMA and Wal Mart

Exciting new direct action scheduled for Massachusetts re: Wal Mart and EC (emergency contraception):

On Saturday, February 25th, volunteers and activists from all over the state will be flooding Wal Mart pharmacies with prescriptions for EC. And, yes, I will be one of them.
We're well aware that Wal Mart stores in Massachusetts do not carry EC, and will refuse to fill these prescriptions. The point is to make it abundantly clear that EC is a "commonly prescribed" medication, and therefore, by Massachusetts state law, all pharmacies, including places like Wal Mart, must carry it.

If you are in Massachusetts, or will be/can be on February 25th, you should participate. Contact the following Grassroots Organizers depending on your location in the state:
Eastern MA/Boston area. Katie:
Central MA/Worcester area. Misty:
Western MA (woo!). Diana (who's absolutely FABULOUS):

If you cannot participate in the direct action, you can do the following:
(From the PPLMA email)
Last week, Wal-Mart's spokesperson was quoted as saying that Wal-Mart is now reviewing their policy nationwide because "Women's health is a high priority for Wal-Mart". Let's help this review along by encouraging Wal-Mart to do the right thing and reverse their policy!
Send an email to Wal-Mart's CEO, Lee Scott, demanding that they complete their review without delay, and change their policy. Emergency contraception is the first and only prescription drug that Wal-Mart has banned from its shelves, denying thousands of female customers, including rape victims and women who have experienced contraceptive failure, a last chance to prevent an unintended pregnancy.
To send an email, use Wal Mart's feedback form here.
If you receive a response to said email, forward it to

I *heart* Massachusetts more and more every day....