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Why Did I Stay? A Survivor’s Story

Power and Control Wheel

Trigger warning for domestic violence and death threats.

You see it happening in the world. You see how the abused stay with their abusers to be hurt again and again, and you tell yourself that will never be you.

It was never going to be me. But then, at age 19, when I moved from California to Texas with my not-quite-2-year-old to follow my 36-year-old “boyfriend,” I didn’t know that the man I thought I was in love with had a dark side that would scar me for life in more ways than one.

But he was charming and he made me feel loved. We had a nice life and I felt useful and grown up, helping him run the family business and keeping our house while I cared for my daughter. And at 19 I had no real understanding of how relationships are supposed to work. I’m not sure I do at 53.

The first red flag I can remember is when his nephew, an old neighborhood friend much closer to my age, came to visit. When he came in the door from the airport we hugged, and I learned that hugging other men was not allowed. Before long I learned that looking at other men out the car window wasn’t allowed, either.

Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel via National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

(See also: Power and Control Wheel for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Relationships)

But he made me feel loved and he was sweet most of the time and I just kept telling myself that love was enough. Because that’s what I had learned from everything I’d seen in the movies and on tv. If you love someone enough, it all works out. You find your diamond in the rough, polish him up, and bam, happily ever after.

Things got worse. He got more controlling and critical and left me alone for long periods to deal with things like packing our entire house for fumigation while he took his son to play softball and then putting the fear of God in me when I showed up at the diamond to tell him off. I wrote my mom long, anguished letters comparing him to my dad, for reasons that make even more sense in retrospect. I got a job and was terrified to form relationships with my male coworkers lest he catch me laughing with them (he never visited me at work, but he kept me vigilant all the same).

I was miserable and so I got together enough cash for a Greyhound ticket and spent 3 days on that bastard with my toddler. I woke in the spare room at my dad’s house a few days later from a dream that I was back in Texas, back in that house with my abuser, and before the flood of relief had fully hit, my dad was in the doorway telling me that my abuser was on the phone and I should deal with him directly rather than avoiding the situation. But on the phone he begged and pleaded, he said he was getting help for his anger, he wanted to have babies, he was driving out to get me. And I capitulated. And even as I awaited his coming, a sick feeling formed in my gut. But our reunion was sweet and passionate and romantic and we drove back to Texas a family. We went back to our life and things were okay for a while.

The real darkness fell one early evening during the holiday season. We were at a party, we’d both had drinks, and I made the mistake of thinking I could joke with his right-hand man, who I saw every day. I was wrong, and was reprimanded right there and then. Alcohol gave me courage, and I left the party and hitchhiked home in the dark.

He came home in a rage—not only had I left him at the party but I’d allowed a man to drive me home—and knocked me around our bedroom a bit. He picked up a putty knife from the dresser (being a house painter by profession) and jabbed me in the face with it, saying he’d make sure no man would ever find me attractive again (cliché much?). He jabbed fingers into my eyes, and in a certain light, I can see the scars he left there (in addition to the one on my cheek which has faded now). He said he’d bury me out in one of the empty fields near our growing housing development and I believed him.

My daughter woke up crying in her room during all this and he let me go and get her. I don’t know what all she saw, but I know she cried as he shouted and threatened me. It wasn’t long, thankfully, before someone knocked on the door. He left the room and I grabbed my daughter and fled out a back door off the master bath. I’ve never seen a master bath with a back door before or since, but I’ll always be grateful for that one. I ran out the back gate across a field carrying my 30lb child and came to a house where a family let me in and called a local pastor to come and take me to a shelter. I sat in their living room waiting and said “I know about those women who go back, and that’s not going to be me.”

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What is Domestic Violence? via the National Domestic Violence Hotline

We spent the night in a women’s shelter, had breakfast, listened to a sermon, and then I started making phone calls. The first was to a mentor who I truly thought would come to my rescue, but she told me that it was his responsibility to get me home from Texas. Then I called my dad, who told me I probably did something to piss him off and I should go back and work it out. My dad promised to send me some money I could put away if I ever wanted to come home. I don’t remember whether that money ever came, but it wasn’t there when I needed it.

My final call was to the man who had put me in the women’s shelter, and he was SO relieved to hear from me. He said he’d woken up on the living room floor blacked out and couldn’t remember what happened. I told him what he’d done and he apologized, cried, swore he’d never do it again, begged me to come home. So I did.

All was lovely for a time, but of course it wasn’t long before he blew another fuse, and all it took this time was an angry tongue-lashing for me to pack a few things, call a cab, and get out. That cabby drove me all over Katy, TX as I pawned jewelry and he ultimately didn’t charge me when he dropped us off near a bus station. I bought a ticket to Waco, home of Dr. Pepper and the Branch Davidians, and at 2am, I introduced myself and my 2-yr-old to my paternal grandfather for the first time. My grandpa was a flawed man, but in that moment he was my hero. He took us in, paraded us around town proudly for all his friends to see, showed us where our ancestors are buried, and spent his Social Security check to buy us a plane ticket back home and there we stayed, me looking over my shoulder for months and waking up from that same dream of being back in Texas and wondering how the hell I was going to get us out again.

But…that’s where it finally ended.

Why did I stay with my abuser? I thought he loved me and I loved him and I thought that love would get us through it.

Why did I go back? The support network I thought I had—that I should have had—failed me and he said all the right things. Twice.

How did I get out? I was lucky. If he’d found me, he might have killed me like he promised to do the first time and for months I was terrified he would. Most abused women whose abusers murder them don’t die until after they leave

What can we do? We can listen to survivors of domestic abuse when they tell their stories and give them space to do so. We can donate to the organizations that support them before and after they leave. And finally, we can stop asking the first two questions above because they aren’t useful. They don’t help us ensure that when an abuse victim decides it’s time to get out, they can formulate a plan to do so safely. They don’t help us ensure that once they’re out, they are protected from their abuser. What they do—what our society so often does—is focus on how the abused might have behaved differently while ignoring the fact that the behavioral problem here is with the person who perpetrated the abuse.

So, that’s my call to action: Support abuse survivors. Stop putting the blame on the victim. And if you’re determined to ask “why?” 

Ask abusers.


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In the US: The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers phone and chat services for anyone affected by domestic violence. Support is available 24/7/365 by calling 1.800.799.SAFE (7233), 1.800.787.3224 (TTY) or online at thehotline.org.

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In the UK: 24-hour National Domestic Violence
Freephone Helpline
0808 2000 247


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:

A Brief History (the Bad Parts Version) (Make Me a Sammich)

Private Violence: up to 75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners (The Guardian)

National Domestic Violence Hotline (online chat available)


Regarding Grace

Photo/art by Make Me a Sammich

Trigger warning: Sexual assault and rape

Photo/art by Make Me a Sammich

Photo/art by Make Me a Sammich

Let me start by saying that I believe and support Grace and I think Aziz Ansari has some important self-reflection to do regarding his decision to wear a “TimesUp” pin to the Golden Globes in light of his behavior (which, while he hasn’t denied it, he hasn’t exactly taken responsibility, either). He’s certainly not alone in needing to reflect on performative allyship without accompanying action, but unlike some who sported the badge—and yet very much like fellow #MeToo revelation Louis C.K.—he’s also chosen to center an apparently significant amount of his recent work around relationships and a “feminist ally” persona (and, also like C.K, even tackled sexual harassment in a recent episode of his popular tv show, Master of None).

I have lived a life punctuated by abuse starting when I was barely more than a toddler and culminating, hopefully, some time in the past decade. I have been “molested,” sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped. I have experienced abuse so many times, at so many junctures of my life, that when I’ve written about it here in detail, some people have found it difficult or even impossible to believe. Believe it or you might as well stop reading right now—and please believe that there are people out there who have experienced much worse. But that’s not the point because abuse is abuse and most of us fight for all of us when it comes to abuse. Which is the point. Sort of.

I can’t imagine how terrified I’d be if a man shoved his fingers into my mouth and down my throat, gagging me repeatedly—the way Aziz Ansari did to Grace—during a date. I can imagine what I’d be thinking: Oh fuck it’s happening again. Reading about that, it feels like a violent act to me. Who does that as a preamble to sex? Finger-sucking I get, but what Grace described feels to me like a power move of some kind. As a survivor of multiple assaults, I know that this act alone, never mind the insistence that I touch his penis and the suggestion that I suck his dick RIGHT AFTER I JUST TOLD HIM I DON’T WANT TO FEEL FORCED and he said we should just chill, would very likely bring up familiar feelings.

I can’t imagine how I’d react because the truth is you just don’t know until it happens and then you don’t know until it happens the next time. I always thought I’d react differently when it happened to me and then I thought I’d react differently if it happened again. I mean, the Public Defender pointed out that I didn’t use the hammer at my disposal when I was 12, so why didn’t I use the knife I carried when I was 16? Why didn’t I pound the fuck out of the dude who raped me when I passed out on his couch at 34 instead of fleeing his apartment in shame? Why didn’t I push my “friend” off me instead of lying there in blurry paralysis when I was 46? Why didn’t I do the things I—and all the people who think it’s ok to judge what we do in these situations who aren’t us—think I should have done? 

coercionisnotconsent

I don’t have answers for these questions. But I do have more questions. 

Why do we have to keep explaining why we don’t behave the way you think we ought to? Why do we have to keep telling you that abuse is abuse and what *we* do should not be your focus, but rather what our abusers do or don’t do? And why do I feel like I’m writing this not just because Usual Suspects need to hear it again, but because some of the people I thought already knew seem to have forgotten? 

I can’t be certain what I’d do if it was me, but I can’t even begin to imagine how I’d feel or act in Grace’s shoes because I’m not Grace, who was in her early 20s and describes this as the worst experience with a man she’s ever had. I have wondered if this is the problem people have with her story, especially when I see people using the phrases “real #MeToo” and “real victims” and “real assault.” Is Grace “lucky” because she hasn’t experienced what some of us have? Is she “privileged” because this is the worst night she ever experienced with a man?

Should she just shut up, then, and not talk about how a man’s extremely bad behavior traumatized her? Do we not understand by now how this thinking silences victims of abuse?

Do I really need to list all of the ways that people in the #MeToo movement have been mistreated? Shall we, as survivors—because everyone else really ought to take a seat anyway—attempt to create a spectrum of abuse from sexist jokes to dick-exposure to public masturbation to various shades of assault, or would someone like to assign some kind of number value to each of them and tell me where Grace fits in—or more importantly, why on Earth she doesn’t?

Why are some of the same people who usually fight for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse and against victim blaming excluding Grace from the #MeToo club as though she’s somehow cheapened our stories by choosing to tell hers? When did we start requiring a litmus test to determine what “degree” of harassment or assault rates the #MeToo stamp? Who determines which of us—and which of our abuses—are worthy of inclusion in a movement to create change in the power dynamic that allows powerful men to abuse the less powerful? Who approves #MeToo membership? And what is it about the consequences Ansari is facing—a dose of public shame cut with plenty of public defense—that is so dire that it makes a mockery of a movement?

Who decides who gets to tell their story? Who decides who gets to name names?

Because right now the rules seem arbitrary. I can’t figure out what it is about Grace’s story that has people who otherwise understand that abuse is abuse suddenly willing to defend a guy who behaved really badly—arguably worse than others outed in the #MeToo movement, if we are assigning scores—while trotting out all the usual rape-culture reasons to disbelieve a woman reporting on her experience of a man’s shitty behavior.

Part of the argument seems to be that when people claim to have been abused when *I* don’t recognize their abuse because *my* abuse was worse, their claim of abuse somehow detracts from *my* abuse. But…how? Or maybe they think Grace’s “less bad than mine” story gives “ammunition” to people on “the other side”…who are going to make spurious claims about our credibility regardless? I confess I’m baffled.

As others have pointed out, there are power dynamics at work here, as well. A famous celebrity in his mid-30s asked out a young female fan and tried to rush her into sex on the first date (h/t to Ella Dawson for highlighting this point, which has been lost in the controversy over whether Grace was actually abused—whether Ansari acted as an abuser). And again, the fact that Ansari has literally positioned himself as an aware, feminist man fighting the good fight makes his behavior all that much more appalling (and certainly more shocking and confusing in the moment).

Defaulting to rape culture is part of our conditioning. But please let’s recognize it for what it is and fight it. If abuse is abuse; if Louis C.K. masturbating to completion in a potted plant is abuse; if actresses feeling pressured to give Harvey Weinstein back rubs in his bathrobe is abuse? Then Aziz Ansari shoving his fingers down a woman’s throat, pushing her hand repeatedly onto his penis every time she moved it away, or continuing to push for sexual gratification even after she told him she wasn’t into it WAS ABUSE. It may not have qualified as legal assault, but it was most certainly harassment and it was definitely coercion and the fact that this is at all controversial among feminists is mystifying to me. 

I believe Grace was abused. I believe Azis Ansari was abusive. And most survivors and other feminists I know agree with me. I have heard some describe the ideological split as between people who want punitive action and people who want change, though I’m not sure I agree. From what I can see, the hyperbolic worries that temporarily powerful survivors of abuse want to round all men up and jail them because you can’t even “come on” to a woman anymore without it being called assault are just that: hyperbole employed by people unwilling (or unable) to examine their own behavior and/or experiences. I personally just want us to acknowledge that the fact that what he did—what a lot of men have done—was abusive. I want Ansari to hold himself accountable and use his considerable platform to create real change. I want people like Grace to feel as though they can tell their stories and not have people who call themselves feminists do and say the very things that anti-feminists do and say to us whenever we tell our stories.

We don’t have to accept that all abuse is the same in order to accept that all abuse is abuse. And if we accept and agree that abuse is abuse (which seems to me to be pretty foundational to #MeToo), we don’t require a litmus test for acceptance into the club. Obviously, all abusers don’t have to face the same consequences, and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that. But can we agree that all abuse victims deserve to be heard, their abuse acknowledged, and their abusers held accountable to some degree—particularly the powerful ones? And can we agree that silencing survivors of abuse is a bad thing?

It’s clear that survivors on all sides of this are hurting, but my concern right now is less for those of my sibling survivors who are angry because Grace told her story and more for the ones who will now feel that they can’t tell theirs. 

If you’re reading this and you have experienced sexual harassment and/or abuse, even if you didn’t recognize it as such in the moment but do now—even if you think it wasn’t as severe as what others have faced—you can be in my club. And while this very necessary storm rages, I hope you’ll take good care of yourselves and each other. 

#UsToo💗


Note: As is often the case, this post has undergone some post-publication edits for clarity.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:

I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life (babe.net)

Stop Waiting For The Real Aziz Ansari (Andrea Grimes on Medium)

Not That Bad (katykatikate.com )

The Fake Feminism Of The #MeToo Backlash (Claire Fallon on HuffPo)

Aziz Ansari and the Struggle to Trust the “Feminist” Men of Hollywood (Cate Young on Cosmopolitan)


I Was Mobbed and Assaulted at a Conservative Rally

Trigger warning for mob intimidation and physical assault.

trumpmenfacesIt has taken me nearly a month to be ready to write this. It may not be coherent, but it is true to the best of my ability to tell it.

Just over three weeks ago, on May Day, a crowd of Trump supporters swarmed me, trapped me, worked together to intimidate me, and finally one of them physically assaulted me when I fought back. 

I was live streaming from Periscope at the time. I still can’t watch the video, but here’s what I remember:

I’d been streaming earlier in the day without incident at a rally I thought was the one I wanted to be at but turned out to be a pro-Trump rally. I left to go find my rally, and eventually came back past the Trump thing on my way back to my car. It looked like Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 12.10.04 PMsomething was happening, so I started streaming again, but it fizzled out, and I got talking with a guy. Perfectly civil conversation, but I disagreed with his take and he with mine. Then another guy walked up, and another with a MAGA hat. MAGAhat demanded that I listen to what the other guy had to say and I told him to fuck off. 

That’s when they swarmed.

At first it was just a few of them, but they formed a barrier around me, and I aimed my iPad at them and told them to get away from me. Then more of them came, surrounding me in a crowd of mostly men, some in helmets and homemade armor carrying shields, jeering and chanting shouting at me as I screamed for them to let me out. I spun in circles, streaming the whole time, yelling for the cops, who had been literally everywhere a moment before, but probably couldn’t hear me over these assholes. Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, a leering man reached a hand toward me and I swung my iPad at him. The crowd surged and someone grabbed me and started shouting that he’d seen me assault someone and he was performing a citizens arrest on me. I struggled to get away, but he held fast, and I hit the ground. A young man pulled me up and out (I fought him at first but he said he was there to help, so I let him). At this point the cops had noticed something was up and a bunch of them came through using their bikes as barriers and shouting at us, shouting at me, to move. “LADY IN THE BLACK HAT! GET BACK!” I’m hysterical, crying, and I turn to this cop and scream “I WAS JUST ASSAULTED.” He looked back at me with dead eyes and pushed his bike forward another step.

A few minutes later, more dead-eyed cops stood mere inches away and watched me hysterically telling my story to a woman with a camera on the sidewalk. They weren’t even curious.

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Original headline before the man who assaulted me, pictured here, contacted the paper.

My local weekly paper wrote this incident up after talking to my daughter, who was angry that coverage of this event portrayed it as peaceful with fluff stories that celebrated a “peace joint” shared between some members of opposing sides of the political spectrum late in the day. Somehow, though I saw several reporters and a lot of people with cameras, my story fell through the cracks.

The writer who told my story initially did a fairly good job. I quibbled with some details, but my daughter got him to make some clarifications, and I was relatively satisfied. 

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Headline after the man who assaulted me contacted the paper with his “side.”

Then the man who physically assaulted me—who grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go, eventually causing me to hit the ground hard enough that I am still in pain weeks later, contacted the publication and made claims suggesting that I somehow initiated the incident. The paper changed the headline and the story in ways that still make me furious to think about. Without contacting us for clarification, they allowed the man who assaulted me to change the narrative to state that I “initially” did something aggressive that caused the whole thing. 

The kicker? Dude was there. This writer was a witness to what happened to me and apparently tried to help me up, but I screamed at him to get the fuck away from me. But he thought the right thing to do, the “fair” thing to do, was to give “both sides” of the story by giving voice to the man who assaulted me without contacting me (or my proxy) and making sure he got it right.

My daughter contacted him and let them know how badly he’d messed up, and an editor took over the story and removed the most offensive bit that implied I was responsible for what happened to me. He left the headline that implied a two-sided scuffle. 

After that bit of gaslighting*, I had no interest in talking to the press. The fabulous Not Sorry Feminism wrote about my story and did a far better job of it than I trust the mainstream media to do. (*But wait, there’s more! I later learned that our local PBS station profiled a bunch of these guys in a fluff piece on their website and also wrote about the peace joint and the “peaceful” rally, labeling the Trump supporters “patriots” as opposed to their “liberal” counterparts.)

Note that I am not linking to any of the stories with the exception of Not Sorry Feminism, which does contain links. Please take care if you watch the video (incident starts around 10min mark). 

For the past three and a half weeks, I have been trying to come to terms with this event and the betrayal I feel at how my local media reported on it. Recovering physically is a matter of time. In another week, my body will probably not be hurting. But the trauma all of this has inflicted on my already traumatized self is something else entirely. And as brave as I thought I would be in a situation like this (if I’d been able to imagine it at all), I don’t know if I can do what feels like absolutely the right thing and pursue charges against these people because I know what they’re capable of—I’ve seen how they make targets of those they perceive to be their enemies—and I fear for my loved ones. Some of the people who participated in this mob streamed their own video and put it up on YouTube for people to comment on. At least one of them posted my own video, remixed to make me an object of ridicule and also to make it look as though I was somehow the aggressor. I’m honestly surprised, since I let the paper use my full name, that I haven’t been doxed yet. If I press charges, identify these people and make their lives difficult, this will almost certainly happen, and that will put me and people I care about at risk. 

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Two members of the mob we caught up with later. Note the helmets and shields.

It kills me to admit that they’ve made me afraid (apparently I screamed that they were not intimidating as they crowded around me, but I lied, I lied, I lied) but I think it’s important to talk about it because this is their goal. They want us to be afraid. They want us to believe that our time has passed and theirs has come. They want us silent.

But if they can’t have our silence, they’re happy to provoke us to violence. One man stood on the corner early in the day and seemed to be trying to provoke passersby and when I mentioned this to a nearby cop (“I think this guy is trying to get someone to punch him,”) he said “That’s exactly what they said they were going to do.” And when these people surrounded me and shouted at me and reached hands toward me, they were hoping I’d do exactly what I did: defend myself. So they could do exactly what they did: point and say, “See! She struck first!” 

I know what happened. I know what’s true. And I also know that it might be a while before I’m ready to do anything about it besides heal. I’m getting help with that, and I’m determined to process all of this (and the past traumas and pain and vulnerabilities it’s brought up) and get to a place where I can fight back the way I always thought I would. When that time comes, I’ll need all the support I can get.

Meanwhile, add this to your knowledge base. These people are itching for a fight as long as they can say they didn’t start it. They get armored up for it and trade tips on how to provoke us. They are not only willing to bully and assault a 5’4” woman, they take pride in it.

A member of this seething mob literally said to me at one point, “We’re not a violent crowd.” And yet, nearly a month (update: six weeks) later, I’m still in physical pain and spending money I don’t have on therapy to work through the emotional fallout. After all I’ve been through, let’s face it, I needed therapy. What I didn’t need was yet another trauma to process.

I’m angry when I think about what they did. I’m angry when I think of the people just after the fact who told me it was my fault because “you struck first!” I’m angry at my local media for acting like that rally was some patriotic lovefest and for gaslighting me. I’m angry at myself for not having the courage of my convictions in the face of my fear. I’m angry because I’m afraid to do anything that will mean I have to look at or deal with those people ever again. I’m angry that I’m afraid to publish this blog post.

And I’m furious because I know this is exactly what they wanted.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)



We Deserve Better Men

Content Note: SA/CSA/gaslighting

mo2correx

Me, age 3 or so

To the men, related and unrelated to me, who used my body from age four to 48, who felt entitled to take from me without my consent in nearly every way,

I deserved better.

To the men who told me that I lied about what happened to me, that what happened to me was my fault, that what happened to me wasn’t really what it absolutely was,

I deserved better.

 

To the men who pretended until they got what they came for,

I deserved better.

To the men who told me that my emotions were the problem, not their behavior,

I deserved better.

To the men who fled after decades of “friendship” because avoiding the discomfort they felt when I spoke about my lived experience was more important to them than understanding and accepting and dealing with me as a whole person, 

I deserved better.

To the men who claim to care about me who helped elect a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic sexual predator into the White House,

I deserved better.

To the men who tell me that I’m driving them away; that I would have more allies in my fight for equality and justice and truth if I was “nicer” and not so “angry,” 

Please. I deserve better. 

I demand better. I’m not going to accept anything less than your best effort to be a decent human being, and being a decent human most of the time is never going to inoculate you against criticism or accountability when you cause harm.

And you’re really going to have to stop taking every criticism of shitty male behavior personally.

I have come to a stage of life when I owe it to myself to give my energy only to those people whose presence results in enough joy to offset any pain they cause. I’m sick of ignoring bad behavior. I’m tired of “not letting it get to me.” I’m done trying to be “nicer” because men’s feelings are too fragile to handle the truth, even in general terms. When they can’t resist the compulsion to Kool-Aid-man into the room and proclaim “it happens to MEN too!” or drop the ubiquitous and oh-so-constructive “Not ALL men!” 

I have reached an age where I have higher standards for people in general, but it really boils down to this:

If I’m going to have men in my life, they need to be better men.

We deserve better men. 


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related on makemeasammich.org:

Not All Men, But These Ones

A Brief History (the Bad Parts Version)

Dear Entitled Straight White Dudes


The Rape Culture Candidate

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Trigger warning: rape, rape apologism, and all associated awfulness. 

For some of us, it’s been obvious—and ignored by the mainstream—for far too long: Donald J. Trump is rape culture incarnate. His overt misogyny and objectification of women, and the fact that he has a well-documented history of abusing women both verbally and physically, meant that many of us, while disgusted, were not even surprised to hear the GOP candidate bragging to Billy Bush that he forces himself on women he thinks are attractive and they “let him” because he’s a powerful man. My local weekly, The Stranger, recently wrote that Rape Culture is Running for President. I couldn’t agree more.

When anti-feminist men tell us (feminists) that rape culture doesn’t exist, they invoke the following “facts”: 1. Everyone knows rape is wrong. 2. No one treats rape as acceptable, and 3. We jail rapists. The facts of this election should prove the existence of rape culture to these folks beyond the shadow of a doubt by illustrating that points 1 and 2 above are simply not true, and the facts of reality tell us that point 3 is a fantasy. The facts should put it all to rest, but they won’t. And yet, I’m going to break it down anyway because it’s been eating my brain from the inside out.

1. Everyone Knows Rape is Wrong

Rape and sexual assault are certainly things most people would tell you are “wrong” were you to walk up to them on the street and ask them what they thought of these things using the exact words “rape” and “sexual assault.” But studies and recent events have shown that consent is a cloudy issue, that many believe women owe men sex in return for dinner and drinks, and that people who coerce others into sex or fail to obtain consent before engaging in sexual acts or use the bodies of drunk or unconscious people do not always believe what they are doing is wrong and are happy to soak up validation from those who cloud the issue by talking about what the victim wore, drank, or did before or after the event. In other words, when rapists hear the people around them blaming victims and making excuses for perpetrators and laughing at rape jokes, they eat that shit up. And many (if not most) are serial perpetrators, like the GOP candidate for president, if you choose to believe the dozen or so women who have come forward since the Trump Tapes revelation—y’know, the guy who brags about assaulting women to men like Billy Bush, who laugh and egg him on by pimping women for hugs. So give all this some thought the next time you assume that “everyone knows rape is wrong.”

2. No One Treats Rape As Acceptable

Contrary to the ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook apologism from anti-feminists and probably rapists, most voters surveyed said they believe Donald Trump is guilty of most or all of the acts of which women have accused him.

Forty-two percent of Republican voters and 35 percent of Trump’s own supporters think the accusations are probably true. Men and women are about equally likely to think so. -AP

If you’ve been paying attention to the polls, you know that too many of these same voters (68% of Republicans, according to the survey above) are willing to vote for him regardless because he’s not Hillary Clinton or maybe because they think he’s “pro-life.” These people have signaled their willingness to vote for a serial predator for president.

For leader of the free world.

That is the very definition of accepting rape and sexual assault.

No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who believe Roman Polanski and Woody Allen raped children but are willing to work with them and watch their films anyway. No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who ignore the Jane Does of the world while lamenting the impacts of rape accusations and convictions on rapists. No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who believe Donald Trump is a serial predator and are willing to vote for him for President of these United States of America regardless.

3. We Jail Rapists

No, we don’t. Statistics tell us that only 3% of rapists ever do jail time. Most rapes are not reported and among those that are, most are never investigated much less prosecuted (in the best cases this happens because rape is notoriously hard to prove in court unless there are witnesses or evidence of violence, and often even then). The Bureau of Justice Statistics believes at least 200,000 rapes went unreported between 2006 and 2010, and I can tell you from experience and from my discussions with and readings of dozens of other survivors that many of us are victims of multiple assaults and many of us do not bother reporting most of them. It’s just not worth what we go through when we report, and if you’re like me and you reported and endured that painful process twice with zero justice both times, why would you choose to go through it again?

I chose not to. And when I was a child, my parents chose not to put me through the trauma that would have resulted from the incidents of abuse I told them about. And there are many I didn’t. When I do the math, that’s a hell of a lot of predators out there walking free doing what they do to other victims who in turn must make their choices, endure the scrutiny and shame, stay silent, or simply find other ways to work through it. We are legion and no, society does not punish those who harm us.

This is a good time to mention that if you think you don’t know anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault, you are very likely wrong and should examine the possible reasons why the survivors in your life haven’t trusted you with this information.

Oh, and though Donald Trump was, until Friday, facing a civil charge that he raped a 13-year-old girl, his accuser has dropped her case after receiving death threats resulting from an announced—and later cancelled—press conference where she planned to finally break her anonymity. Despite over a dozen accusers, he will never see the inside of a jail cell or very likely any legal consequences.

***

Of course, not all of Trump’s supporters believe his accusers. Some of them have questions. Why did these women wait to come forward? Why speak right before an election? The timing seems “off.” Another tenet of rape culture: assuming the victim is lying if they don’t behave the way we’ve been taught victims behave. But really, let’s look at this question.

Imagine a person has harmed you in some major way (please take a moment to apply this to your experience, if you will), and imagine that this is a person with power over you. Now imagine this guy goes on TV and says he does stuff like that all the time. Brags about it. Laughs about it. You feel vindicated! LOOK! He’s admitting to the world that he’s exactly the person you knew he was!

Then a couple of days later, he goes on TV again and says he never did it. It never happened. Not even once. Not even the time he did it to you.

Now imagine he makes this statement during a presidential debate. Imagine that after getting caught admitting what he did, he now lies about it on national television in a presidential debate. Imagine that he might become your president. Imagine that you never felt like you had any power in the situation (maybe you even felt unsafe speaking up), but now people are talking about it, other people he wronged are coming forward, and maybe someone will listen.

Now ask yourself. What the hell would you do?

Listen. False rape allegations are rare (and did you know that if a victim withdraws their statement due to coercion by police or others or because they’re afraid or for any other reason, that incident goes into the “false” or “unfounded” column, i.e. the 2-10% of “false” rape allegations?) and they generally don’t occur in clusters. (In fact, I’d be very interested to know about any cases where a large number of victims accused a perpetrator and that perpetrator was cleared and the accusers proved liars, but I don’t think there are any.) But that brings us to another tenet of rape culture: the fact that when women are the victims of rape and sexual assault and they give sworn testimony regarding what happened to them, it is not seen by society in general as “evidence” even though it legally is exactly that. So it doesn’t matter if one accuser comes forward or 12 (Trump) or 20 (Jian Gomeshi) or 60 (Bill Cosby), too many will never see that as “evidence” that a crime was committed and will cite “absolutely no evidence” as their reason for dismissing a clear pattern of abuse on the part of a powerful man. Women are simply not seen as credible witnesses to our own experiences.

Listen. There are thousands if not millions of people out there who have been abused by rich, powerful men and who have not seen justice and never will because they’ll never have a safe situation in which to come forward and expect the kind of legal and emotional support one needs to get through something like that. In a case like this, when a victim does overcome the fear and break her silence, and then another one, the damn breaks, just like with Cosby and Gomeshi. That’s why it’s happening now, just before an election. Because this man who is running for president is happy to lie about anything and everything including something he’s already admitted to: the fact that he feels entitled to sexually assault women and has successfully avoided consequences because of his position of power.

As a survivor of multiple sexual assaults who did not see justice even once despite reporting twice, I know how hard justice is to come by. I know that most rapists walk free while victims suffer the consequences. I know the toll that rape culture—the culture that calls Trump’s bragging about sexual assault “locker room talk”—takes on us. As a victim who was not believed when it mattered, it’s frankly heartbreaking to see people behaving as though these women are lying and just in it for some kind of glory. Trust me, there is no glory in being the woman who “cried rape.” These women have made targets of themselves, and one of them has already left the country because of the death threats she received. I believe them, and I believe Donald Trump is a serial predator.

Donald Trump’s history of sexually abusing women has brought this subject to the forefront of the national conversation and for that, I’m grateful. He will walk away with whatever power he has left after this election and his sycophants will continue to believe that he’s innocent while those who held their noses and voted for a man they knew in their hearts to be a serial assaulter of women will have shown us that some people don’t actually understand that rape and sexual assault are wrong; indeed, a large percentage of people in this country treat it as acceptable.

Donald J. Trump is the Rape Culture Candidate—proof that rape culture is alive and thriving in the United States of America.

So vote.


Note: As is often the case, this post has undergone some post-publication edits for clarity.

PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:

Why I Won’t Publish Your Comments About False Rape Accusations (Rethink the Rant)

Most Believe Allegations About Trump and Women
(AP/GfKPoll)

The Four Women Who’ve Accused Donald Trump of Rape (FOCUS)

An Unbelievable Story of Rape (Propublica)

I Am A False Rape Allegation Statistic (The Orbit)

Lots of Men Don’t Think Rape is Rape (NY Mag)

Not All Men, But These Ones (Make Me a Sammich)

A Brief History (the Bad Parts Version) (Make Me a Sammich)

 


Not All Men, But These Ones

SAYNOTALLMENAGAIN

Trigger Warning for the many ways we experience violence at the hands of (not all) men, including CSA, SA, rape, VAWG.

I saw a quote a while back that hit home for me. I can’t find it now, but it went something like this:

The issue is not that all men are violent. The issue is that nearly all women have experienced violence at the hands of men.

The sad but true fact is that while not all men are violent, men do commit violence against women and non-binary people (and other men—in fact, according to the FBI, most violent crimes are committed by men).

I have told parts of my story before here and there. And I suspect that I will do so again. In this case, I’m reprising my tale now in order to join others who have shared their litanies of violence as a counter to the superfluous yet oh-so-ubiquitous cries of “not all men.” Because FFS, dudes. Enough already.

derail“Not all men” is a derailing tactic and serves literally no other purpose than to focus attention away from male violence and center it on the man decrying the unfairness of it all.

When people who are not men say “men do this,” we’re reporting that our experience is that enough men do this that it stands out that men do this. The fact that men do this contributes to an overall feeling of oppression. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate patriarchy. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate sexism and misogyny. Men do these things without even thinking about them because the men who came before them did it and because too often no one does so much as turn away in disapproval when it happens.

Not all men did these things to me, but these men did.

The man who sucked my tongue, fondled my genitals, and taught me to give him a blow job when I was three.

The man who was my uncle by marriage and came in my mouth when I was six, then spent hours trying to get into my underwear as we camped out in the yard.

The man who fondled my nipples when I was seven or eight during a nighttime hide-and-go-seek game at my cousin’s house.

The man who flexed his exposed erection at me and my friend when we were 9 via the leg of his shorts.

The man—a trusted family friend—who gave me music lessons when I was 9 and performed oral sex on me while my parents weren’t home.

The man who used a finger cot to make his penis small enough to fit inside me when I was 10. Who also gave me a cigar tube to practice with at home.

The man who pulled his truck over as I walked down the street, opened his door, stepped out naked and masturbated while staring at me.

The 14-year-old boy who violently raped me when I was 12 and smoking weed with him in a fort behind my neighbor’s house.

The man who had sex with me in his van knowing that I was a 12-year-old rape victim (but probably not really believing that second part).

The boys and men who repeatedly “pantsed” me over my loud objections and ridiculed me when I was angry.

The two men who took turns raping me while I was passed out drunk at my first kegger when I was 14.

The many, many men—adults—who gave me alcohol and drugs and got their rocks off on me when I was a troubled teen.

The man who exposed his genitals to me in a grocery store parking lot when I was 16.

The man who spent a drunken night trying to coerce me into sleeping with him when I was 16.

The man who raped me when I was 16 because I said no after a night of partying with him and his friend.

The man who attempted to grab me on a dark street as I rode my bike to a friend’s house, 16 and pregnant, and only stopped because I scared him with my primal and guttural GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.

The man who beat the shit out of me in front of my 2-year-old for leaving a party when I was 18.

The man who decided that the fact that I was unconscious on his sofa meant he could go ahead and rape me.

The man who thought because we were friends and had been sexual in the past, it was ok to straddle my drunken body and ejaculate on my chest after I said no to sex.

The many men who have wished me harm here on my blog and on social media.

How many men is enough? How many men must commit violence upon my person before it’s ok if I just say “men did this”?

Men did these things. Not all men. But enough of them that this list is not even complete. Men did these things. And every time some dude Kool-Aid-Mans into a thread where people who are not men discuss male violence to declare that not all men did these things, the only thing he makes clear is that he is utterly ignorant and unwilling to listen to people who are not just like him.

Not all men. Just dozens of men in my case. Hundreds if you count my circle of friends and relatives. Thousands if you count their friends and the people they love.

And that’s enough.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related on MMAS:

 


10 Reasons We Need to #StopWoody

Trigger warning for discussion of childhood sexual abuse (CSA)

As many of you know, I launched the #StopWoody campaign over a month ago when I learned that Amazon Studios was teaming up with Woody Allen to create a new TV show. Here are ten good reasons to join over 600 supporters and sign the petition asking Amazon to reconsider this partnership.

Click to sign.

10.  Because Woody Allen’s contributions to the arts are not more important than his victim(s).

9.  Because for our society to continue celebrating predators like Allen, Cosby, and Polanski is a message to all sexual abuse survivors that if an abuser is powerful enough, he can do whatever he wants to us and no one will hold him accountable. It sends a message to other powerful abusers that they can continue abusing with impunity.

8. Because a search of photos of Dylan with Woody Allen show a heartbreakingly miserable child. Because photos of Woody Allen with his and Soon-Yi’s children show more unhappy girls with body language that reads like they’d rather be anywhere else.

Note: I haven’t included childhood photos of Dylan or of Soon-Yi or her daughters because I don’t want to be part of victimizing them in any way.

7. Because the judge in Allen’s 1993 custody case found no evidence Dylan had been coached and had this to say after hearing all the evidence:

StopWoodyWilkQuote

6. Because while Soon-Yi is now a grown woman who makes her own choices, at the time she and Woody’s relationship began she was a very young woman (possibly even an underaged girl) involved with a man who had been an authority figure in her life, regardless of legalities. Woody Allen was in a position of power over Soon-Yi and that dynamic cannot be ignored when evaluating their relationship. The sad fact is that some people marry their childhood abusers, but that does not change the fact of abuse.

sign

5. Because the state attorney found probable cause to file charges against Allen but chose not to proceed because he believed (and her mother agreed) that it would further traumatize “the child victim.”

4. Because like Mia Farrow, many parents of CSA victims choose not to pursue criminal charges against their child’s abuser in order to spare them further trauma. (This was even more often the case when Dylan was a child.) This means that many child predators have never been charged with or convicted of a crime and that presumed innocence in the court of public opinion—i.e., demanding “proof of guilt” in order to believe and support survivors—actually favors the abuser and leaves survivors out in the cold.

3. Because Allen’s films and plays are full of everything from blithe references to jokes about child molestation and fantasies about older men played by him having “relationships” with underage girls. Because Woody Allen is a predator who very likely has harmed multiple victims and who, like Bill Cosby, feels so confident in his position of power that he says things like this and we’re supposed to take the “joke”:

StopWoodyHeader3med

2. Because when I was nine, I watched my dad shake the hand of one of my abusers and never forgot that image, and other CSA survivors carry similar memories of times when they felt unprotected, unsupported, disbelieved. Because there’s a good chance that not only will Allen get a tv show, but that actors we like will work with him, people will talk about how great the show is on our social media feeds, Allen will win awards, and Hollywood and society will continue to treat him as though he’s too important to face consequences, and whenever I think of those things, I feel the way I did that day when I was nine years old: like the world keeps shaking Woody’s hand instead of telling him to get the hell out of here and never come back. Because so many CSA survivors know what it’s like to tell their stories and be treated like liars or worse by the people who should be protecting and supporting them.

Because survivors deserve better.

1. Because Dylan had nothing to gain from telling her story, and she knowingly risked—and endured—public abuse as a result. Because as some of us know from life experience that what Dylan describes in her account is an accurate portrait of childhood sexual abuse. Because false CSA allegations are rare.

Because believing survivors means you’ll be right nearly 100% of the time.

I think that’s more than enough reason. So let’s do this.


sign

Please stand with Dylan and me and all CSA survivors. Sign the petition. Tweet on the #StopWoody hashtag and at @RoyPrice, @Amazon, @Amazon_Studios. Help us fight this culture that uplifts powerful predators at the expense of their victims. Help us #StopWoody.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


When Bad Allies Get “Good Guy” Awards

NOTE: Charlotte Clymer is a trans woman. This article was written several years before she transitioned.
Clymerquote3

Victory!!! See updates at the bottom.

A while back I wrote about fake allies—specifically, Charles Clymer, a cis white dude who used to run a popular Facebook page called “Equality for Women” but shut it down amidst accusations that, among other things, he was deleting comments from and banning women who questioned his views or the way he ran the page. And then there was his abusive verbal flaying of Stephanie Kay in a private conversation that went public a year or so ago and revealed the dude beneath the Perfect Feminist Ally act. It didn’t help that when called on that tirade, Clymer basically stood by his remarks and went on to admit—almost proudly—that his goal is to become a professional Feminist Leader. And he dug himself in deeper when, following the many accusations leveled at him directly and via the #StopClymer hashtag (by nearly every woman who had been a moderator at the EFW Facebook page, among others), he tweeted promising to address his “mistakes” with an apology and dropped off the Internet for several weeks. When he reappeared, he deleted the aforementioned tweet and went back to promoting the “Charles Clymer: Feminist Ally” brand.

As more people become aware of this behavior and lack of accountability, you would think his stock would plummet. And it has taken a hit: PolicyMic (now Mic) first deleted him from a listicle of male feminists and then further distanced themselves from him, explaining that he is a “freelancer” and promised to investigate. Activist Millennials recently removed him from their advisory council. But he apparently still serves on the Board of Poetic Change, “an organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of social justice leaders.” He has retained a large following on Twitter (which he grows by taking up more space than most women in any feminist hashtag he can appropriate and saying all the right things) and on his personal Facebook page. He gets speaking gigs at feminist rallies. The frakking BBC had him on to comment on Emma Watson’s UN speech, for heaven’s sake.clymerquote1

Now the National Women’s Political Caucus has announced that Clymer will receive their 2014 “Good Guy” award for being “vocal” on behalf of women.

“We salute men who stand up for women’s rights, especially men like Charles who are so vocal about feminism,” stated NWPC President Linda Young. —NWPC press release

This news upset me in a way that surprised me a little. I mean, I get angry about stuff. But this has been…deeply upsetting, I guess is the best way to put it. When I first learned the truth about Clymer, I was pretty shaken up by everything I saw: the abusive and/or manipulative language he used when women challenged him, the creepy chats with his moderators, his use of EFW to hit on women, and the arrogant ambition to get paid to do the thing that most of us do purely out of passion and need, just to get through this misogynistic world. Just to survive it. I realized that this guy who said, “I think I do a pretty good job of standing with women, not in front of them,” was indeed standing directly in front of women and anyone who isn’t a cis white male. Now he’s getting AN AWARD from a NATIONAL WOMEN’S POLITICAL ORGANIZATION? I’m just…

4811836+_b5cc0717c7b1b2fd763ab77adbaac28e

artist unknown

I spent most of a day emailing and tweeting about it, my stomach in knots, heart pounding, hands shaking. Others had been tweeting about it for several days. None of us, to my knowledge, has received a response from NWPC.

NWPC gives Good Guy Awards to men who have proven, through their actions and words, to be strong advocates for women. Past recipients of the award include exceptional men such as Martin Abzug, President William Jefferson Clinton, and Julian Bond. —NWPC press release

clymerquote2Emphasis mine because NO and HOLY SHIT NO.

My first question was, “Did they not Google his name?” It’s almost impossible to miss that he’s a controversial figure, at best. The second result is a petition to have him removed as a Huffington Post contributor. Due diligence is a thing, people.

My second question was, “Did they Google him and decide to ignore what they found?” I mean, that petition has under 200 signatures—that’s a mere 200 people who think this guy is an abusive fake ally who needs to NOT take up space in feminism at the expense of women and nonbinary people. And maybe it’s easy to write #StopClymer off as just a few angry people (of which I am one) at this point, but back in the spring I saw plenty of testimony (again, much of it from women who had been EFW mods) and other compelling evidence that Clymer is not nearly the ally he pretends to be. And it’s also not difficult to confirm that he has failed to address most of the accusations against him—to discover that, in fact, he tends to label criticism as “abuse” and “bullying” and even “hate speech” and bans or blocks those who challenge him in any way. These are not the actions of a “Good Guy.”

Look, I shuffled my feet for weeks before I finally wrote about this the first time, and even then I never participated in the #StopClymer hashtag. I really didn’t want to go all torches and pitchforks on his ass. But this straw broke the camel’s back, and I am done pussyfooting around. You do not get to dismiss, silence, manipulate, and abuse women; you don’t get to privilege yourself above women again and again with your words and actions; you don’t get to do these things in the name of feminism, utterly fail to hold yourself accountable or do any work to reach out and rebuild trust, and then get a “Good Guy” award for being a feminist ally. Not without a fight from me. Charles Clymer needs to get his house in order before he pretends to be anything other than part of the problem.

clymerquote4I have tweeted and emailed the NWPC via their website. I have sent separate messages to several board members and to my local chapter. I have emailed my U.S. Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell because I assume they are NWCP members. I have tweeted several other congresswomen and will continue to email and tweet this week. I’m also reaching out to some friends and acquaintances who may have ideas as to how to get a response from the NWCP, which currently seems to have its fingers in its ears while it sings “La la la I can’t hear you.”

I will make them hear me. Enough is enough. clymerquote5

Feel free to join me (contact links below) in letting the NWPC know that to give this man an award like this is to ignore the women who spoke out for this story and the ones who have spoken out on #StopClymer to say that this man’s behavior toward them (us) has not been that of an ally but that of an opportunist, a manipulator, and an abuser. I’ll be tweeting at members of congress and the media and anyone else I think might listen. I’m not shutting up until I get a response.

Giving Clymer this award sends the message that a man can use his privilege to silence and berate women and still be a celebrated feminist: a “Good Guy.” And that’s just not ok with me.


Contact NWPC:

Via Email: 

  • Linda Young, NWPC President: President@nwpc.org
  • Paula Willmarth, NWPC Vice President, Communications: pjowen49@aol.com

You can also use NWPC’s General Contact Page or the one that purports to email their board members directly.

Via Twitter: NWPC_updates has ignored all contacts to date on this topic as far as I know, hence my inclusion of the following twitter accounts:

Find and contact your local chapter.


Note: Images have been altered from their original state. All quotes are directly from Charles Clymer via this story.


VICTORY!!!

This morning I received the following email from no one in particular at NWPC:

Thank you very much for reaching out to the National Women’s Political Caucus. We appreciate that you took the time to write a thought-out message to us regarding this issue, and we have therefore taken your feedback, as well as the feedback of others, into consideration. Please see our agenda update for the Exceptional Merit in Media Awards regarding the Good Guy Award: http://www.nwpc.org/emmasagendaupdate.

Thanks again,

NWPC

The link above goes to their announcement, which claims a “scheduling conflict” and a “record setting turn out for the EMMAs this year” which is dishonest at best, but allows them and Clymer to save face, so I’m not shocked. The key takeaway is that they claim that they listened and this is the result. We are meant to believe that they will not be giving the award to Clymer, and I’m calling this a WIN. But I’ll keep my eye on them, and I won’t be the only one.

I’m so grateful to all of you who helped with this. Your emails, tweets, and calls all chipped away at a wall of denial. We made them listen.

Thank you.
Rosie


Update #1 (9/26/14): I am tweeting under #NoGoodGuy as well as #StopClymer. Join me.

Also, I received a reply from the NWPC Washington State chapter president. She has granted permission to post it here:

Thanks for your email and information about Mr. Clymer. As you noted, NWPC-WA is the local chapter and we operate fairly independently from the national organization. We do not have a representative from Washington state who serves on the National Executive Committee. They made the decision to honor Mr. Clymer. I am happy to pass your comments onto the national office. No one from Washington state plans to make the trip out to New York for these awards due to the distance. 
I read the stories with great interest and appreciate you contacting us. As an advocate for women’s issues, I would love to engage you more in our work locally. 
Best,
Liz Berry
President
NWCP-WA

Update #2 (10/6/14):

Earlier this update was about the fact that the original press release announcing this award is returning a “page not found” error. Apparently they took the old one down and reposted it yesterday? I dunno.

I’ve removed a petition previously linked here due to some controversy over the creator and associated discomfort expressed by allies. Nothing is simple.

Update #3 (10/8/14):

Clymer has posted a response to #StopClymer. It’s pretty gross on a number of levels.

Update #4 (10/10/14):

This story has now been covered on Feministing and New York Magazine’s The Cut.

I have now been tweeting at @NWPC_updates for two weeks with no response to that or my several emails to general contact and board members. One caller reports in the comments below that NWPC hung up on her as she when she called to comment on the award. Clymer’s response (see above) has caused no small amount of outrage, especially given the fact that he referred to criticism as “insanity,” took zero responsibility, cherry-picked the criticism he wanted to respond to, blamed Suey Park for the whole thing, and called critics on the #StopClymer hashtag “hateful, small people.” Traffic on the hashtag has increased, and more and more people are tweeting at @NWPC_updates asking them why they are giving such a man their “Good Guy” award. Today, the creator of the #YesAllWomen hashtag tweeted an open letter to @NWPC_updates telling the story of Clymer’s bad behavior during the height of that hashtag’s popularity and asking them to reconsider this award.

More updates as they happen. Watch this space.


Related reading:

PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


They Are Not Trolls. They Are Men.

Oliver Rawlings

Oliver Rawlings

Trigger warning for discussion of the various types of abuse perpetrated by those humans known as “trolls” incuding rape and death threats and suicide.

Back in July, during Netroots Nation 2014, Zerlina Maxwell spoke on a panel about online harassment. I wasn’t there, but someone tweeted a quote that stayed with me:

“Don’t call them trolls. They’re assholes.”

I think this is important. By calling these people “trolls,” we are basically letting them off the hook. It’s a lot like the “boys will be boys” mentality that helps to keep rape culture thriving, but it’s also different, because boys are expected to be human. By calling these people “trolls,” we relegate them to non-human status, and we make it clear that we don’t expect them to live up to the same behavioral standards as human beings.

So, who are these assholes? Well, the subset of the population we refer to as “trolls” is mostly (almost exclusively, in my personal experience) made up of men who—for reasons that range from angry entitlement to I-don’t-know-what—make it their business to perpetrate harassment and abuse on targets who are mostly not men.

As a woman online, I’ve dealt with and watched others deal with all of these things and more:

Michael Brutsch

Michael Brutsch

Men who insist that we engage them because they disagree with something we’ve said.

Men who keep tweeting at us or commenting when we’ve asked them to stop.

Men who keep tweeting at us after we’ve told them in no uncertain terms we’re done and have blocked them.

Men who create sock-puppet accounts pretending to be women and use them to harass us, gaslight us, threaten us.

Sean Duffy

Sean Duffy

Men who haunt hashtags they disagree with so they can harass people who are not men who speak out about issues that matter to them.

Men who haunt hashtags about gender violence, sexual assault, and other painful topics and target the people there telling their stories.

Men who band together to create armies of sock-puppet accounts to harass us and discredit the work we do.

Men who reply to our stories of rape to tell us that it wasn’t rape. (And who are very likely defending their own behavior.)

Men who play devil’s advocate on issues that disproportionately affect people who are not men.*

Men who chime into conversations about sexual & domestic violence to speculate on what the victim should have done differently.

Neil Law

Neil Law

Men who attack those of us dedicated to fighting for equality simply because we fight for equality.

Men who call us “feminazis” and “white knights” because we identify as feminists and talk about feminist issues.

Men who use racist and sexist and transphobic slurs to attack marginalized people, often for months on end, with no consequence.

Men who send us graphic photos of everything from sex acts to gaping wounds in order to punish us for talking back.

Men who tell us all we need is a good fucking to set us straight.

Wesley Meredith

Wesley Meredith

Men who tell us we should get raped.

Men who tell us they hope we kill ourselves.

Men who tell us how they hope we die.

And of course, all of this is in hopes that we will simply STFU, or better yet, cease to exist.

I think Zerlina’s right: we need to start calling them what they are. Assholes, yes. But also, men who choose to harass and abuse others online, sometimes to the point of driving their victims off the Internet, out of their homes, and even to suicide. So, when you talk about these men, consider using words that describe what they actually do and are, such as “harassers” and “abusive assholes.”

These men are human beings who treat others as less than human—who purposely cause pain and suffering and sometimes even death. It is time we stopped letting them off the hook.


Note: This post has been updated to include the suggested term “harassers” per my friend Mandaray.

*Post pub note: The idea that I would include “playing devil’s advocate” in a list like this seems to have confused some folks, so I want to be clear about what I mean, here: There are people who innocently wonder about the other side of an equation and there are dudes who use “I’m just playing devil’s advocate” as an excuse to argue with women and other marginalize people simply for the entertainment value of engaging us and wasting our time and energy (and even when there’s no ill intent, it’s often really unhelpful and can even be harmful, such as when “devil’s advocates” engage in victim-blaming). Yes, there are degrees of trolling, and this is the least of what anti-feminist trolls do, but feminists—especially those of us who engage in online activism—must, on a daily basis, deal with a barrage of people who are primarily cis white males telling us what feminism really is or isn’t, what misogyny really is or isn’t, what street harassment really is or isn’t, what rape really is or isn’t, and “devil’s advocate” is one of the flags they wave when they’re reminded that they are being part of the problem, as though it excuses them. I hope this clarifies my meaning. Also, if you’re pulling this one item out of the list and ignoring everything else, you may be missing at least part of the point.

Oh, and just for good measure:

scut farkas-nAm


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The Missing Stairs of Feminism

NOTE: Charlotte Clymer is a trans woman. This article was written several years before she transitioned. 

Ugh. I’ve been working on this post on and off for weeks, but have been so disgusted and discouraged (and clinically depressed, as it happens), it’s been really challenging to get it finished and put it out there. It’s not the sort of thing I like having to write about, and I think some part of me was hoping that the person who sparked it would address the issues and somehow make it less necessary, but alas, that was wishful (one might even say “magical,”) thinking. Also, I recently learned that this whole thing came out a whole lot longer ago than I thought and some of us just missed it. See my apology toward the end.
—Rosie, 7/28/14

Image: Flickr user kke227

Image: Flickr user kke227

Perhaps you’ve heard the analogy of the “missing stair.” It refers to a phenomenon wherein women warn one another about predators and other creeps in their social group because the social group is unwilling to oust said creep, makes excuses for him, or doesn’t even realize that the fact that he’s a creep is a problem to be solved. “But he’s a nice guy,” they’ll say, and list all of his good qualities, ignoring the fact that he’s at best an annoyance and at worst a danger to the women in the group.

In feminism, a missing stair can take many forms, as the author of the “missing stair” piece points out. Today I want to talk about one particular form: that of the faux feminist ally.

It recently (for some of us) came to light that a man who calls himself a feminist ally (and who many of us believed to be one) has behaved in ways and harbors attitudes that are decidedly un-ally-like. This is a person who, at first glance, seems like the perfect ally. He says all the right things, and he says them often. He just seems to “get it.” I mean, how many guys get it like this guy does? Wow. Everybody loves this guy.

Everyone, that is, except those who have already discovered that there’s more than one side to him. Or, perhaps more accurately, that there’s just one side, and it’s cleverly hidden under a fluffy sheep’s skin.

This guy is accused of silencing women on his once very popular (now defunct) feminist Facebook page as a matter of daily business. He has been accused of a number of things I’m not going to go into here, but suffice to say accusations abound. And the fact that there are so many accusations is an important piece of data. Perhaps emboldened by others speaking out, people seemed to flock to Twitter to share their stories, and many had screenshots to back them up. Put it all together, and the picture is not pretty.

And then there are the things he has admitted to: He has admitted to sending a very ugly message to a woman who criticized the way he ran his page. He has admitted that he used that page to meet women. He has freely—and one might even say proudly—admitted that his interest in feminism is at least partly based in “self-interest.” And I don’t mean in the way that feminism is good for everyone. No, this guy wants to be a professional feminist.

While dozens loudly criticized his behavior in a recent Twitter campaign to bring it to light, the dude in question ignored them and tweeted this quote:

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Numerous people attempted to engage him and from what I can tell, he responded to very few (many were apparently blocked). His feminist Facebook page disappeared after folks who tried him there got the same treatment. The Twitter hashtag calling him out is still active after several weeks. So yeah, people have been talking.

But I believe when Mrs. Roosevelt said the words above, she was talking about gossip—e.g., whose car was parked in the neighbor’s driveway—and gossip is not what has been happening here. It is not “gossip” that this dude berated a woman and used his privilege to mock her for using the word “privilege.” It is not “gossip” that he called her an “idiot” for expressing her views on how he ran his page. It is not “gossip” that he has expressed a desire to make a “career” of being a prominent male feminist and that he estimates he’s about “80 percent” dedicated to the cause, with the other 20% being about him. These are all things he has said and admitted to, and reducing these criticisms to gossip indicates that he does not take them—or his critics—seriously in the least.

No, gossip is not what has been happening. Here’s what has: People have been talking about what it means that a self-styled male “feminist” does these things and continues to have a speaking spot at a major feminist rally, a platform in major publications, and a place in a movement that is meant to empower women and everyone else who isn’t a straight cis white man.

Some of us are disappointed and sickened that a man who said all the right things and really should have known better has privileged himself above women; that someone who talks so often about following women leaders thinks that what the feminist movement needs is a man who berates, verbally abuses, and silences women (and probably others), who disagree with him, insists on an apology from a Black woman who confronts his racism, thinks what we need is a man to lead us.

Some of us are angry that this person who ought to know better so often uses the word “vagina” (even as he verbally abused a woman who dared question him) in ways that ignore and even erase trans people from the equation; that someone who claims to be an expert on feminism can be so clueless about intersectionality.

Some of us are shaking our heads in disbelief and even embarrassment that we didn’t see through this facade sooner; that we didn’t take a clue from how much space this man takes up in feminist discussions—from how often he talks about himself and the good deeds he does on behalf of feminism; that we held him up as an example of what an ally looks like.

Some of us are disgusted that (though he vaguely laments his tone) this dude not only stands by the things he said to one woman he abused—which, for one thing, firmly privileged him above her in all things feminist—but fully admits that feminism is an ambition for him and that much of what he does (i.e., posting on social media) is to promote himself as a feminist “leader.”

Some are relieved that a thing they’ve known for some time is finally coming to light; that the experiences they’ve been trying to talk about for months or even years are finally validated by public disclosure of this harmful behavior.

Some of us are wondering how we can—how we should—help prevent others from falling prey to a “feminist leader” who believes it’s ok to privilege himself above women and verbally abuse them when he thinks they’re wrong. We’re wondering if the right thing to do is to name names, join in the pile-on, and drum this guy out of feminism before he can do more harm, or to quietly remind people that allies who promote themselves* as allies seldom are and thereby avoid making targets of ourselves. Because make no mistake, not only is this dude willing to verbally abuse and shame people who disagree, this “ally” has allies who have made it their business to chime in and “explain” to women who speak out about this that they are everything that is wrong with feminism. And in an ironic twist, the MRAs have joined in to support this dude and to gleefully accuse us of eating our own. And frankly? Most of us get enough of their crap on a daily basis.

Some of us are developing a better understanding of why some of our sisters have been so suspicious of men who claim to be feminists.

I have long believed that men not only can but should identify as feminists or at least feminist allies, because I believe that men have to be part of tearing down the systems that benefit them and oppress everyone else or it just won’t happen. But a man who strives to become a professional feminist is taking the concept of dominating feminist spaces to a whole new level. Men who use the feminist movement to further their own ambitions do so at our expense, which means that instead of helping us to tear down these oppressive systems, they are using feminism to benefit from them, which is pretty fucking sick if you think about it.

And men who set out to use feminism as a launchpad for, say, a talk show career ignore the fact that (as others have said before me) for us, feminism is not an ambition. It is our lives. It’s not something we do to promote ourselves—it’s what we do in response to oppression. I don’t believe that men who strive to become “professional feminists” are in it for the right reasons—not to any degree that makes a difference. And quite frankly, it is my firm belief that if anyone gets paid to do feminism, it should absolutely not be a straight cis white man. Period. (Update: Clymer has announced that he is gender non-conforming.)

That’s one big difference between guys like this and real feminist allies. Good allies understand that it’s not appropriate for men to presume to lead the movement. They get that it’s not their place to teach women about feminism any more than it would be a straight person’s place to teach gay people about LGBT issues. (What might be more appropriate would be for men to teach other men about feminism, assuming they actually know what they’re talking about and won’t do more harm than good, like this guy would.) Good male allies understand that their place is at the back of the room. Men who want to be allies need to study the behavior of failed allies and learn how not to be That Guy. Because That Guy is not only not an ally, he has the potential to do harm to our movement from within, not least by silencing people who already have a hard enough time being heard.

That Guy, these guys—men who use feminism for their own gains and do harm in the process—are the “missing stairs” of feminism. They look perfectly safe (in fact, they can look so safe that they’re practically begging you to step on them) but they will break your ankle just the same. And it will hurt, if only because you trusted them and they turned out to be just like every other entitled straight white dude on the planet.

I think we do have a duty to warn one another about these missing stairs. And then we have to work to fix the staircase. We have to raise up the voices of the marginalized and privilege them above these men and we have to deny these men access to leadership positions. Because for us, this isn’t a thing we do to make a name for ourselves. It’s what we do to live an authentic life and make our world better for our sisters and daughters and for boys and men and for everyone everywhere on the gender spectrum.

And yes, talking about this means talking about people who place themselves in our spaces.

For my own part, and to get around to the real reason I felt like I needed to write about this, I want to apologize for every instance in which I touted That Guy as a feminist ally, be it a Follow Friday on Twitter or a gushing share of a pithy feminist post on my Facebook page or the inclusion of his photo on my blog as an example of how men can do good in feminism. In doing these things, I helped give him credibility—I helped him perpetuate this image of himself as the perfect male feminist when what he turned out to be is the perfect faux ally.

Here are a few things I learned from this experience. It all seems so clear to me now.

  • When a straight, white man takes up more space in feminist conversations than most women, he may be in it for the wrong reasons.
  • When 99% of his Facebook posts are about the Good Feminist Deeds he did today, he may be in it for the wrong reasons.
  • When he is called out on bad behavior toward women and ignores his critics (many of whom are the very women making the accusations), posting passive-aggressive quotes instead of responding to criticism, he may be in it for the wrong reasons.

And from my own personal experience (because friends have urged me to share), when an “ally” solicits donations to his feminist charity event in return for pluggin your blog on his feminist network, then never seems to get around to it despite multiple promises, you might be tempted to let him off the hook because “he’s such a good guy; he does so much good” and “he must be so overwhelmed, poor bunny,” but when you find out that this behavior is part of a larger pattern of promoting himself as a great ally but actually being an awful one, you realize that you’ve been had** and…wait for it…he may be in it for the wrong reasons.

Now, because I held him up as an example of a good ally on more than one occasion and he turned out to be a missing stair (and because I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror if I didn’t), I’m going to say the thing that needs to be said out loud:

Charles Clymer can call himself a feminist if he wants to, but I do not believe he is an ally to feminism, and I’m sorry I ever helped promote him as such. In fact, I believe that he displays the same behaviors and attitudes of some of the worst MRA fuckwads who show up here and on my social media feeds to tell me I’m doing feminism wrong, except he’s way more dangerous because he does so in the name of feminism and at the expense of the people he claims to uplift and empower. He has expressed a wish that people would have come to him personally about all this, but he blocked those people. Also, if you have a strong stomach, you can see what happens to women who challenge Charles and I highly recommend you check out the discussion on Twitter for additional data. As for me, I sincerely hope he finds a different career aspiration for the sake of all the people who daily continue to be taken in by his words, knowing nothing of his bad behavior or his continued unwillingness to address it in any meaningful way. And if he really wants to be a feminist ally and not part of the problem, I hope he goes back to feminism school and also how not to be a complete jackass school.

“One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes... and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

She also said this.

I further apologize to anyone upset by this news (however, if you’re angry that I named names, I don’t know what to tell you—I’m doing what I think is right). For me, finding out about this felt like getting punched in the gut. I felt (still feel) sick and betrayed and sad and angry because not only did I trust this guy, I told other people they should trust him (again, sorry), and his actions show that he is not worthy of that trust. Ultimately, I hope my writing this helps you avoid not just this particular faux feminist ally but also others still out there saying all the right things while doing all the wrong ones behind the scenes. I know I will be less trusting in the future (I already am), and that’s sad, but it’s a difficult thing we’re doing and we have to protect ourselves. There’s an old saying about friends and enemas that applies here.

I guess I’ll just leave it at that.


*In fact, one big takeaway for me from #YourSlipIsShowing (a recent campaign launched by Black women to out fake “feminist” Twitter accounts) was the louder and more often it quacks, the less likely it is to be a duck.

**I don’t regret my donation in the slightest, as it went toward providing abortion access (I had already donated once before he made the promo offer). Also, I don’t think he set out to defraud me, just that he was far too busy promoting himself as a great feminist ally (and silencing women who disagree) to actually be one even in such a small way as this.

Note: I have made some post-publication tweaks for clarity and inclusivity.

Update #1: (9/26/14): The National Women’s Political Caucus has announced that they will present Charles Clymer with their “Good Guy Award” at their EMMA awards ceremony in October. I have emailed them to explain why this is not a good idea. Please consider doing the same. [Update to update: Victory!]

Update #2 (10/8/14): Clymer has posted a response to #StopClymer. It’s pretty gross on a number of levels, but I don’t have the energy to dig into it.


Related reading:


PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Dear Entitled Straight White Dudes

Eviction-PhotoThis is formal notice that I’m evicting you from my life. I’m utterly and completely over you. Your privilege allows you more platforms than anyone and ensures that your voice is always heard first and foremost. It lets you be pretty much anywhere you want anytime you want. But the one place you can’t be is in my face or in my life any fucking more because it’s my face and my life and I’m sick of hearing from you.

I’ve written about splaining and been splained at. I’ve written about privilege and been devil’s advocated at or simply ridiculed. I’ve talked about sexism and racism and been reverse-sexismed and reverse-racismed at. I’ve written about sexual assault and been gaslighted. I’ve attempted to talk about issues that affect me and other women and been barraged with comments from you, ESWDs, telling me how wrong I am (because what a woman really needs is for a man to tell her she doesn’t know what she’s experienced or what issues affect her life). You insist on our time, energy, and attention even when we make it clear we don’t want to engage and then you act as though the fact that we don’t want to engage with you means we don’t have the courage of our convictions (i.e., we’re full of shit). I’ve pointed out that it’s ALMOST ALWAYS you who does these things and asked you to please stop, and when I do, you show up in force to tell me I’m being divisive and women do it too and that I’ll draw more flies with honey.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care what you think anymore. I’m not interested in your opinions because you’re not interested in mine, which is clear from the way you talk at and down to me, make proclamations tied to bullshit conclusions, and generally behave as though you’re the teacher and I’m the student. I’m sick of you thinking that every post you disagree with on social media is an engraved invitation and that the rest of us are just waiting to be enlightened by you. I’m not interested in your opinions because you seem completely unwilling to learn about the role you play and how you can stop making things worse and I’m tired of giving you the benefit of the doubt.

I am an opinionated woman and I speak my mind, so you may be wondering how what I do is different from what you do. The difference as I see it is that I don’t walk through life believing that everyone is entitled to my opinion on every subject even if they aren’t talking to or about me. I don’t believe that my opinion is so important that I must inflict it on other people and their friends at every opportunity. Because I was not raised in a culture that taught me that I am the most important person in the social hierarchy. (In fact, the same culture that taught you to be brash and opinionated taught me that I’m supposed to use honey and draw flies.) And because I wasn’t, it actually occurs to me that my opinion might not be required at all times—that other people might just want to be able to talk without someone disagreeing with them about every fucking thing. That people less privileged than I might like to have a conversation about how they see the world without me butting in to tell them how I see it differently because it turns out, it’s not about me.

carlsonI’ll tell you what I’d like to be able to do: talk about privilege without you showing up to wave yours around like a fucking flag you don’t even realize you’re holding. The problem is that even when we point it out to you, you still can’t see it. In fact, you absolutely refuse to see it even as you brandish it at us like a club. You refuse to see how that club you’re armed with creates a power differential that can’t be ignored. So you continue to ignore it and say things like “women do it too” and “stop making everything about race.” You become the perfect illustration of the problem that is you.

But here’s the thing: I know that not all straight white dudes are ESWDs. Many straight white dudes have learned that their privilege is something to be aware of and that awareness allows them to navigate the world without walking all over everyone else. And that gives me hope for you—each and every one of you—that one day you’ll pull your head out of that warm, wet place you keep it and realize that what you have been is part of the problem.

It’s the E that’s holding you back, ESWD: that sense of entitlement that is part and parcel of your privilege and your biggest weakness because it blinds you and keeps you from challenging yourself to truly do better by your fellow humans. Right now, you’re an Entitled Straight White Dude waving your flag and knocking shit over, and as long as you’re doing that I have no use for you. But you can choose to shed that E and join the ranks of regular straight white dudes who are out there working to make things better for everyone who isn’t a straight white dude, and if you do that…

Well, if you do that, I’ll be rooting for you.


Related:


Note to straight white dudes offended by this post: Is that your shoe?

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ANITA the Documentary: See it and Send a Message

ANITAIn 1991, Anita Hill captured my country’s attention when she testified before congress that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor. I was in my late 20s at the time, and I remember how brave she seemed, but the power dynamics were frankly lost on me at that point. In fact, they were lost on a lot of people. Prior to Ms. Hill’s testimony, we weren’t even talking about sexual harassment in the workplace as a nation. Like so many societal ills, it was a silent current running through our culture, accepted as just “the way things are.” Anita Hill changed that.

Now, watching the trailer for the upcoming documentary ANITA, I look at the sea of white, male faces that confronted her (literally) as she testified, and I have a far better sense of just how much courage that must have taken as a woman and especially as a Woman of Color. She spoke a hard truth to the most powerful men in her country and made herself a target not only for politicians but for racists and comedians and anyone else with an axe to grind against a Black woman who dared talk about how powerful men treat women who are subordinate to them. She did so with a grace I know I couldn’t muster in similar circumstances, and I am in awe of her. I expect I’ll be even more in awe after seeing this film.

Watch the trailer:


Yeah, this looks really, really good.

I’ve worked on Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) campaigns before and hoped at one time to start a Seattle WAM! chapter. Life got in the way and I have had to take a step back from my activism until further notice, but I’m still kicking, and when Jaclyn Friedman asked me if I’d help WAM! get people out to a local ANITA screening I was happy to oblige. But I don’t want to stop there.

Initial screenings are taking place in March and April in select cities (see below). Based on ticket sales for those screenings, distributors for the film will decide how many cities will get the film and for how long. WAM! wants to get as many people as possible out to these screenings to ensure that the film gets wide distribution and in doing so, send a message to Hollywood that “woman-helmed films about women are a good investment.”

I think this is a worthy endeavor—don’t you? I’m hoping you’ll help me get the word out so these initial screenings are as successful as they can be. And BONUS: WAM! has arranged for discounted tickets (see links below)!

From WAM!:

Just past the 22 year anniversary, Freida Mock revisits one of the most controversial watershed events of the past century, the Anita Hill – Clarence Thomas hearings, the weekend of shocking television that made Anita Hill a household name and smashed the door open on the issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.

tumblr_static_webanita_background_1960x1304

Attend a Screening

Screenings are happening in the following cities (courtesy of WAM!—follow links for discounted tix!):

MARCH 21 – 23, 2014

APRIL 4 – 6, 2014

  • CHICAGO, IL – RIVER EAST 21: Email us ASAP to help make a Chicago WAM! screening happen

  • ATLANTA, GA – REGAL TARA CINEMAS 4: Email us ASAP to help make an Atlanta WAM! screening happen

Help Make ANITA a Success!

Watch the trailer. Spread the word about this film, these screenings (and discounted tix!), and our goal to turn out as many movie-goers as we can. If you live in one of the above cities, attend a screening! Any screening! And if you live in one of the above cities and would like to help ensure the success of ANITA in your city, or if your city is not listed and you’d like to bring a screening to your areaemail WAM! and let them know.

Let’s send that message to Hollywood so more films like this one get made and seen.


I’m Tired of All the Damned Splaining so Check Your Privilege, Please

STOPI’m tired. So tired of all the splaining and the related derailing and domination of conversations about issues facing less privileged people by those who have more privilege in our society.

I have written about mansplaining before. Many men (who seem not to have read past the headline) get their feelings hurt by this because they automatically assume it applies to all men. If you do not engage in mansplaining, it does not apply to you. The same goes for what I have to say here: if the shoe fits, wear it.

All of us sit somewhere on a scale of privilege. Some are more privileged, some less. My wish is that when someone from a lower rung on the ladder of privilege speaks out about an issue that affects them, everyone above them on the ladder would take the opportunity to listen and learn and allow room for that voice to be heard. Too often what I see instead is the people from higher on the ladder jumping in to splain to the people on lower rungs why their perspectives are flawed. I see threads about women derailed and dominated by men. I see threads about People of Color derailed and dominated by white people. And it’s not cool.

I am tired of being splained and watching other people get splained. I’m tired of women never being able to speak out about an issue that affects them without half a dozen men jumping in to splain “it’s not just women” or telling us how wrong we are when we try to talk about our lived experiences and how we feel about them. I’m tired of seeing People of Color speaking out about their lived experiences and issues affect them only to have white people splain that “it’s not just Black people” and “that’s not racist.” I’m tired of straightsplainging and cissplaining. I’m tired of abandoning threads I started because even when I say I’m done arguing, the splainers keep on splaining (often becoming more and more condescending as the discussion “progresses”). I’m tired of dealing with people who are more interested in having their opinions heard and being right than in sitting back and listening to people whose lives and challenges are different from theirs and maybe learning something.

You know what? When people less privileged than you are use their voices to talk about an issue they face, it really doesn’t matter whether the issue also affects you. The point is that it affects the less privileged group to a (chances are much) greater degree, and they are trying to talk about that, and it is not helpful or wanted for you to splain that you were once poor or that you got sexually harassed one time so it’s not just them. In fact, when you do that, you take up room in the conversation that really ought to be reserved for other voices in the less privileged group who want to discuss the issue. What would be helpful would be for you to listen and learn about how other people experience the world—other people who do not benefit from the privileges you enjoy—and the challenges *they* face. Consider whether your opinion is required on every topic on which you feel tempted to comment, or whether you are simply exercising your privilege when you and people like you end up dominating a conversation that wasn’t about you in the first place. Consider how your privilege allows you to feel comfortable doing that.

Your privilege means that your voice carries more weight in almost every situation. Do you really have to chime in on every single thread on which you have an opinion? Must your voice be heard, possibly at the expense of others? Want to talk about an issue that affects you? Maybe go start your own conversation rather than taking over one a person on a lower rung of privilege is trying to have.

If this pisses you off, then maybe ask yourself why, and consider whether you’re actually willing to allow less privileged people to talk about issues facing them without splaining how it’s “not just X” or how their perspectives are flawed. Consider whether you are willing to make room for voices that carry less weight in our society. If you’re not willing consider these things, then you are not being an ally to those less privileged than you are.

I’m tired of all the damned splaining. And I’m about to start culling my social media feeds to reduce the amount of it I have to deal with in my life. I have already revised my comment policy here to reflect the fact that I’m not nearly as tolerant of various flavors of bullshit as I once was. This is one of my least favorite flavors because people who do this are often unaware of what they’re doing and consider themselves to be allies, which means that people like me end up wasting a lot of time and precious energy trying to help them understand. False allies are worse than trolls because at least they seem like they have good intentions, but what they end up doing is sucking all your energy as you try to engage them when ultimately, they can’t see past their own privilege to actually listen. They end up dominating conversations instead of learning. And the less privileged end up leaving these conversations because we’re tired of arguing with people who have no intention of hearing us, and so our voices we are effectively silenced. False allies are people who think of themselves as “progressive” but behave in ways that become part of the problem.

If you want to be an ally, learn how to be a good one. If you want to argue about this, go argue with someone else. And please stop splaining.

Because I’m so fucking tired of it.

BE AN ALLY.png


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Rape Culture at UofO: Come at Me, Bros

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and rape culture.

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 2.59.43 PMMy friend Anne Thériault of The Belle Jar wrote a post a few days ago about an incident at University of Ottawa wherein several male members of student leadership gathered to chat about Anne Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. Ms. Roy had apparently beaten a dude for the office, and these dudes were not happy. They went on for several screens talking about how someone should “punish her with their shaft,” speculating about what venereal diseases she might have, and offering to buy beers for a guy who says he’s going to “fuck her in the ass” on someone’s desk. You’ll find the whole disgusting mess over on The Belle Jar. Here’s an excerpt from Anne’s article, which you should go read right now.

Someone punish her with their shaft. Someone punish her with their shaft. This is the type of thing that’s said about women in positions of power – not a critique of their policies, but a threat of sexual violence. Not a comment on how they do their job, but graphic fantasies about how they should be sexually degraded. Nothing about their intelligence or capability, just a string of jokes about how riddled with venereal disease they are. This is misogyny, pure and simple. This is slut-shaming. This is rape culture.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Anne was immediately subjected to verbal abuse of the sort women who dare to speak out on the Internet will be familiar with. But then Anne Marie Roy received a cease-and-desist letter. From CTV News in Canada:

The letter — which identifies the four participants as Michel Fournier-Simard, Alexandre Giroux, Alexandre Larochelle and Robert-Marc Tremblay — threatened legal action against Roy if she did not “destroy” her copy of the online conversation and stop sharing it with others.

It wasn’t long before Anne Thériault received a similar letter. These individuals have now withdrawn their threats with regard to Ms. Roy. Anne is still waiting to learn whether she will be sued for her blog post.

Every single day, women are silenced when they try to speak out about rape culture. Every day we are told that “it’s not rape culture” or “it’s just how guys are,” which sound to me like conflicting statements. Why are guys just “like that”? Duh, because of rape culture, which Matthew G. P. Coe defines thusly in his follow-up at the Good Men Project:

Rape culture is the gradual normalisation, through, for example, jokes, commentary, and apologia, of the exertion of one person’s will over another, through the use of coerced or forced sex acts, such that such exertions become acceptable or justifiable as either hypothetical or practical actions.

Every time a conversation like the one Anne Marie Roy and Anne Thériault have helped bring to light takes place, it reinforces this culture of rape as acceptable. It reinforces a culture that treats women as objects, as products for men’s consumption, as sex toys, as less than human. And it reinforces a culture where women remain silent when things like this happen. Or as Anne says,

If these men face no consequences for their actions – indeed, if they are able to press charges against Roy for publicly addressing their comments – what are the students going to learn from this? They’ll learn that rape is a joke, that women can be terrorized into silence, and that it’s useless, maybe even dangerous, to speak up. Are these the lessons that we want our student leaders to be instilling in the heads of seventeen and eighteen year old kids?

I’d like to ask each of you to think about how you can help shine a light on this bullshit and show the world that we will not be silent. As for me, I’m looking forward to my cease-and-desist letter. Oh! I probably won’t get one unless I include at least part of the conversation, so here you go, bros:

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And here’s my call to action:

Join me by writing your own post, reblogging/sharing Anne’s post or this one or Matt Coe’s or all of them, and tweeting on #UofOrapeculture. Let’s shine a frakking Klieg light on these assholes.

Update: All four members of student leadership involved in this conversation have resigned their positions. (I missed this article previously. Apologies.) No word on whether legal actions will continue.

PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

Related:


An Open Letter to B

Dear B,

Today will be a crying day. I can’t always tell when I wake up, but when I wake up and burst into tears and cry until snot runs down my face, that’s a sure sign. Last night I fell asleep acknowledging that there’s a part of me still waiting for her baby to come back, and this morning I dreamed that I followed you and your girlfriend around like K did when we were first together, trying to give you gifts and be affectionate while you mostly ignored me.

Waking up my first thought as the tears came was “But I don’t want to.” I’m still trying to work out what that means. Don’t want to be over you? Don’t want to walk away like I did at the end of my dream? None of this makes sense because what I want more than almost anything in the world is to not feel anything where you’re concerned. Anger protected me for a lot of last year but as it subsided—as my brain started forgetting to hate you—I began to remember who you used to be to me: not a villain but the man I loved.

You’ve done a lot of crappy things. First there is the original betrayal—it seems so wrong that I can sum it up in three words like that when a) it went on for so long and piled betrayal upon betrayal and b) it has left me more broken than anything that came before including rapes and beatings I wasn’t sure I’d survive. Telling me over and over again via email about your new love and your bullshit philosophical “types of love” and how I fit into this one box over here, but that one didn’t really count, and your wishes for multiple lovers in the future and your hope that she would accept that, as though that information could possibly help me heal. Then ignoring me on our anniversary after I told you how hard just the days leading up to it were and how I dreaded it. Then promising to leave me alone about the house for six months and then sic’ing your lawyers on me after only three. These are the bigger ones, but once in a while I realize that some part of me still feels that your worst crime was not loving me—not loving us—enough to stay and try to fix it. The absolute worst thing about this for me is that you don’t love me.

For the past 14 months I have been in a state of illness. For several weeks I could barely get off the couch. It was four months before I felt ready to move back to our bedroom and since I did, I’ve barely left it. I am unable to earn a living because depression keeps me from working more than a few hours a day for a few weeks at a time (which means I can get through a book editing project, but a full-time job feels out of the question). I am fighting a constant, uphill battle just to get back to the level of depression I occupied when you were still here. For the past six months I have been largely unable to blog. It’s like I’ve run out of things to say and confidence in my ability to say them.

J told me that you said your actions were hurtful. They weren’t just hurtful—they were harmful. Nothing in my life has ever left me this broken. She said you mourn the loss of your friend. My first thought, and what I said to her, was this:

“He killed his friend. And he killed mine. I will never, ever be the same person I was when I met him. I will never start a relationship with that trust. 8 years ago today I met the man who would murder the person I was that day.”

I know you’ve read things I’ve written before and come away thinking that I hated you. I have tried to, but I don’t. The honest truth—and the most excruciating thing I have to accept on days like this—is that I still love you. And accepting that, it takes everything I have not to hate myself. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year it’s to be gentle with me because I have been on the edge and I know what it feels like to want to slip over and lose myself. I can’t let that happen.

Now you see where I still am 14 months after you left and a year and ten days after we last spoke. I am still crying over you. I am still dreaming about you. I am still waiting for you to come back to me. And I am still agonizing over all of these things and trying not to despise myself. The best thing my anger did was to protect me from that hope and I really wish I still had it. Since I don’t, I’m just trying to get through the time it will take for the hope and love to fade away. I really thought a year would be enough.

I painted this for you back in the early days. For me it expressed what I thought was happening between us: something so big and important that it threatened to burst out of the confines of this mortal existence.

Art by Rosie

Art by Rosie

Now I realize that it was big and important, just not in the way I thought. Now I see the flaws in a painting I once thought beautiful and I look for meaning in them. Where is the line that shows you falling out of love? Where is the one that predicts your betrayal? Which lines represent not love but pain? Which ones are the signs I should have seen that would have allowed me to prevent us from falling apart?

So, this is the state of things. These are some of the things you need to know before you make any attempt at another apology. I wish I could tell you everything. I wish that I could make you experience what I have experienced this past year. I want you to know what it is to be the one left behind instead of the one always leaving and leaving destroyed lives behind you. I wish I could communicate the sadness I’ve felt watching friends and even my family members choose to remain in contact with you even when they know how much it hurts me. I want you to feel what I have felt and know the pain that your choices—and complete lack of empathy for me—have caused. And I want to understand, I think, but maybe I don’t because every time you’ve tried to explain you’ve only caused me more pain. What I really want is for things to be ok, and on days like this it’s hard to believe they ever will be again.

Sincerely,

Me


If You’re Arguing With Me, Chances Are You’re a Dude

The Dude

Is this dude aware of his privilege?

This week it finally hit me like a piano out of the sky: nine out of ten* people who argue with me on points of problematic representations/treatment of women in the media and by society in general are…wait for it…dudes.

I’ve come to use the term “dude” (as in Those Dudes) ironically to mean men who are not trolls but are not my allies (though they may believe they are)  and who tend to engage in a thing the Internet has come to call “mansplaining,” specifically in response to women speaking out about sexism and misogyny and anything related to it. They seem unable to understand the concept of differing experiences and perspectives or listening and learning from others, and if they disagree on a point, they a) feel they must convince you that you’re wrong or b) believe you owe it to them to convince them you’re right. Or both. Entitlement issues, much?

So here’s a note to Those Dudes. May they give it some serious thought over their next White Russian, or whatever Those Dudes drink.

To Those Dudes:

I’m writing to you today to ask a question and offer some information and advice I hope will be useful to you in your endeavor to be a decent human being.

Here’s my question: Why is it so difficult for you to understand that experiences exist outside your own; that your perspective is yours alone; that you can’t know what it’s like to live in someone else’s skin—a woman’s skin?

Because you just can’t. You can say that you empathize, but that only goes so far because it is actually impossible for you to walk in our shoes. And most of you wouldn’t if you could. (If you bristle at that, I dare you to challenge yourself to pass as a woman in public for 24 hours, because that’s as close as you’ll get, and I guarantee you it’ll change your life.) And because you can’t know what it’s like to be us, you’d think that logic (that thing you’re always telling me my arguments are lacking) would dictate that you cannot be an expert on us, on being us, on how to be us, on how things affect us, and all that stuff you always want to advise us on. I’m really hoping that if you give it some serious, logical thought you’ll understand how your telling us how wrong we are when we talk about how we experience the world doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And yet you crawl up out of the woodwork every time we speak to tell us we’re mistaken and misguided, that we’re not seeing things clearly, that our perspectives are out of true, that we’re far too sensitive and emotional and are just creating “drama”–that because you don’t see it the way we do there’s nothing to talk about and why do we make such a BIG DEAL out of everything.

This behavior has a name. There was a time when I didn’t use the name because frankly, I didn’t want people to think I’m one of Those Feminists who hates men. I don’t want to use gender-specific terms to describe bad behavior if I can help it. I’d rather just say “That guy’s a pompous ass.” But there came a day when even I had to admit there’s a damned good reason that term exists, and that’s because it’s a fucking problem. The problem I’m talking about is “mansplaining,” and the word describes what so many of you engage in when you try to sit us down and tell us how our experiences as women are not what we believe they are and that the issues we feel passionate about are the wrong issues and that we’re going about all this in the wrong way and that you’ve got all the answers.

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So, here’s my advice to you, Dudes:

Stop.

Stop telling women they’ve got it wrong** when they speak out about the problems they see in the world. Stop telling us we’re thinking, writing, and saying the wrong things. Stop telling us the things we see as problems aren’t—your belief is not required, and your disbelief doesn’t magically erase an issue from existence. Stop insisting on our time and energy like needy children—if you’ll read the fine print, you’ll find we don’t actually owe you a debate, a conversation, or even a hello. Stop pretending you have any idea what it’s like to be us, and for Petunia’s sake, stop whipping out your “woman-friend-who-agrees-with-me.”

Stop with the fucking mainsplaining, and I promise I’ll stop using the term. Until then, I’m going to call you on this crap, because I’m sick of dealing with it. Learn some listening skills and some humility. Put some skill points into Self Awareness and Tact and Not Being a Dick.

If you want to be an ally, you’ll take this to heart. If you don’t, you really ought to find another hobby.

Sincerely,
Rosie

*I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote “9 out of 10.” It’s honestly more like 99/100.

**(Added post-publication for clarity.) This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree. There are ways to communicate disagreement that don’t include telling a woman she doesn’t know what she’s talking about (or implying you know better than she does) when she’s talking about woman things or her perspective as a woman. But do stop and consider whether your presence in a given conversation is necessary or you just want to disagree, because sometimes it’s just not. Read some of the articles below for tips. Also, because I feel I must say it: this article is directed at men who exhibit specific behaviors, not men in general.



PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


And the Award for the Most Vile Piece of Crap on the Internet Goes to…

Trigger warnings for rape, rape apologia, victim-blaming, and general rape-culture fuckery.

This week, two popular Internet publications—The Onion and The Daily Beast–apparently engaged in a competition to see who could publish the most disgusting piece of rape-culture-perpetuating clickbait on the whole entire Internet. It was almost as though TDB saw the steaming pile The Onion excreted on Tuesday (in which they appeared to be competing with their recent Chris Brown piece for some sort of internal fuckwit prize) and thought, “You know, I’ll bet we can get something out by Thursday that gives them a run for their money.”

I’m not linking to either of these pieces, but I will tell you a bit about each and how you can let these pubs know what you think, if you’re so inclined. We’ll start with The Onion’s attempt to point up the tragedy of child rape. Here’s the headline:

Adolescent Girl Reaching Age Where She Starts Exploring Stepfather’s Body

When I saw this, I tweeted something about finding a way to get their attention and make them aware of the damage they’re doing with this type of piece. Predictably (and I predict this will happen here, as well) I almost instantaneously got a reply from a guy who didn’t get what the big deal was. “IT’S SATIRE!” he explained. “Where’s the damage?” he wanted to know.

Many if not most of my readers will not need to read past this headline to understand—if only at a gut level—what the problem is. But here are just a few of the ways I and two fellow feminists attempted to clarify it for him.

The headline is probably the worst thing about this piece, second only to the image choice, which I’ll cover below. It tells a story not of a predator and a potential victim, but of a young girl “coming of age” and getting ready to explore sex with an adult. It practically makes the victim the aggressor, for Christ’s sake. I just can’t believe I have to explain to anyone why this is a problem.

Satire is meant to point up: to sting the people in power—the ones who perpetuate the problem the satire is spotlighting. Satire should sting the perpetrators—not the victims. This is what I call lazy or just plain bad satire: it points in the wrong direction and makes its point at the expense of the people it claims to want to help.

As was the case with the Chris Brown/Rihanna piece they did a few months ago, they made the victim the punchline. I have been a professional writer for 25 years, and I know that there’s always a way to write around a problem. There was a way—there were multiple ways—for The Onion to make the point they wanted to make—that child rape is tragic and sick and all-to-prevalent—without making the victim the joke. Why not write from the POV of a child rapist? Why involve the victim at all? And tell me why in the name of all that is good and holy you would lead with this image?

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Seriously? My brain is just a whirlwind of everything that’s wrong with this, from what it does to my insides seeing it in this context, to the fact that there is an actual little girl out there to whom this face belongs. I just can’t even with this shit. FUCK.

And finally, survivors of rape do not benefit from satirical stories that make light of their pain and terror and trauma and abuse.

Again, predictably, we got nowhere. I don’t know how to make it any clearer: This type of piece perpetuates rape culture and hurts the people it purports to help.

You can contact The Onion at publicfeedback@theonion.com. Let them know what you think. I personally think they are a) failing at satire, b) whoring for links, c) becoming no better than their hack competitors, d) perpetuating rape culture and violence against women by trivializing same and making victims the punchline.

On to The Daily Beast. When Chelsea Manning announced yesterday that she was a woman, the Internet exploded. I watched as the press flubbed pronouns and terminology left and right, as folks on Twitter corrected one another, got angry, called for calm, asked questions, learned things. Then TDB published a piece of rape apologia that made my hair stand on end, and if I thought the tweets had been flying before, well…it wasn’t long before TDB issued a Twitter fauxpology (and I mean a SEVERELY weak thing of weakness) and posted an editor’s note at the top of the piece pointing out that the original draft had been even worse. Then they quietly began editing out the most outrageous bits, like this:

Indeed, the vast majority of experienced convicts know that “true” rape is not a common occurrence in prison. That doesn’t mean that homosexual sex doesn’t occur—it certainly does. But it’s really not that unusual for a new prisoner to show up on the compound and begin walking around the yard in pants far too tight. Before long they drop the soap in the shower, get a little close to another naked man, and then— simply because they’ve never been able to come to terms with their own sexuality—tell anyone who will listen (but, interestingly enough, they usually never complain to the guards) that they were “raped.” And a week or two later it could happen again, and then again.

Quiet as it’s kept, this is one reason for high recidivism rates. In prison, closeted homosexuals can receive what they desire but are able to maintain to the world they really find such behavior disgusting; in this manner they don’t have to take responsibility for what happened to them.

I can only imagine that the editor had an emergency root canal and this piece somehow slipped by without anyone with the words “fact-check” in their job description laying eyes on it. And if that was the case, removing the piece and issuing a sincere apology for publishing it would probably have meant that by now, we’d just be shaking our heads wondering how such a thing could happen. But removing what they perceived to be the “offending” chunks of the article without making note of the fact is sneaky as hell and this purposeful attempt to rewrite history has stripped TDB of all credibility with many of us. They’ve got a lot of work to do to fix this mess.

Prison Culture has published an article containing contact information for TDB and a list of demands they need to meet in order to start making things right. Please take a moment to let TDB know what you think about their rape apologia and utter lack of journalistic integrity.

And the winner is…The Daily Beast because they’re actually supposed to be journalists and they have failed at that in a major way. But The Onion is a very close second for learning absolutely nothing this year when they’ve had so many opportunities.

Let me know what you think in the comments (but if you’re considering explaining satire to me, please fuck right off).

Update:

The Daily Beast has issued an apology acknowledging how wrong they were to publish the piece in question. On the other hand, they have opted to leave the piece up, and have so far not edited the note at the top to include this acknowledgement. I really hope they do, and that they apologize to Chelsea Manning.


PS/Update: Here’s a video by The Onion showing that they do know how to do satire that sheds light on a problem without perpetuating it–instead ridiculing rapists, rape apologists, and rape culture and leaving the victim the hell out of it:


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


It’s Not a “Mistake” If You Plan It

Sad woman

(original image via fotolia.com)

I’m still thinking about cheating and how we, as a society, accept it as just something that happens. I think this is a huge problem for a number of reasons, not least because it gives the perpetrators a pass for their damaging behavior and leaves survivors feeling as though the crime committed against them—though it leaves them as broken and requires as much healing as many other types of abuse*—just doesn’t count.

Today I imagined, as I have been a lot lately, what might happen if I ran into the ex in a public place. I imagined a dialog wherein I told him to leave and he refused, telling me that he’d made a mistake but that didn’t give me a right to…whatever, that’s as far as I got before the following list began forming in my mind. It’s a response to the ghost of the ex and anyone else who wants to write this behavior off as a simple “mistake” to be forgiven and forgotten.

  • A mistake is typing “ass” instead of “ask.”
  • A mistake is putting your shoes on the wrong feet.
  • A mistake is getting into a car accident when you did everything you could to prevent it.
  • A mistake is an impulsive kiss or even a one-night stand.
  • A mistake is something you do by accident in a moment of distraction or thoughtlessness or passion and then you stop and say, “Whoa. That was wrong. I’m not going to do that again.”
  • When you are in a committed relationship and you purposely seek out a person outside the relationship for sex unbeknownst to your partner, that is not an accident. That’s not an impulsive action that takes place in an instant. That’s not a “mistake.”
  • When you set out to deceive your partner on a daily basis, lying to her multiple times a day for months about where you are, making up elaborate stories about searching all over town for the right “surprise” when you’re actually having sex with your secret lover, that’s not a regretful misstep. That’s not just something that happens. That’s not a “mistake.”

This was not a mistake. This was a campaign of deception and betrayal.

Let me tell you about mistakes I’ve made:

  • Spending seven years with someone because you believe what they tell you is true: that was a mistake.
  • Wanting so badly to believe that someone loved me that I ignored the signs that he was not capable of it: that was a mistake.
  • Trying to remain friends with the man who perpetrated what I have come to think of as abuse* against me: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he was even capable of being my friend after not only what he did, but the way he continued to treat me after the fact: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he would figure out how badly he’d fucked up and come back and do the work to make things right: that was a mistake.

These last few are mistakes because they held me back from healing. Who knows where I’d be now if I’d written him off in December, when I first tried to, rather than in February when I finally felt ready to?

Yeah, I know, it is what it is. But I’ve made my point: mistakes are not things you plan and execute like a serial killer. Mistakes are forgivable. Crimes like the ones this man perpetrated require more than forgiveness: they require redemption, and redemption requires sacrifice from the one hoping to be redeemed. It’s not something I can offer him—it’s something he has to want and work for and make happen for himself.

And maybe that’s one reason I’m having such a hard time with forgiveness—maybe it can’t happen without redemption. Or maybe I’m just not ready.

Maybe I never will be.


*I know, my use of the “A” word is a sticky issue for some. I am a survivor of many types of abuse and I don’t use the term lightly. I’m going to be writing more about it soon, but in the meantime, if it’s bothering you, ask yourself why. Ask yourself about power relationships and intent and consequences and damage. For some background, read this. We’ll talk more soon.


Related:

Unexpected Bullshit

And everything here.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Their Fear is Justified (or Why Speaking Out In Your Community Is Important)

Guest post by Zachary Jernigan

I asked Zack for a post in response to recent kerfuffles, debacles, and all-out flame-wars in the science fiction community. For background, read Chuck Wendig’s series (links to third post, where you’ll find links to 1 & 2), “Calling for the Expulsion of Theodore Beale” on Amal El-Mohtar’s blog, and “The Readercon Thing” at  Under the Beret


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Created with Pulp-o-Mizer

Hi. My name is Zack, and I’m a science fiction and fantasy (sf&f) geek.

To be clear, I’m the particular kind of geek who only really cares about sf&f literature (novels and short stories, in other words). Movies, comic books, video and tabletop games: I think they’re neat on a theoretical level, but I have no practical interest. Nonetheless, I know a lot about them because I associate with other geeks, most of whom are enthusiastic partakers of all forms of media.

lf there’s one thing that’s true about being a geek, it’s that one can’t escape being inundated with information about all of geekdom.

Most of the time, this situation produces awesome results. I get to see what other geeks are crazy excited about, what they hate, and what arouses their disdain. I love passionate people and their strongly-held opinions, and geeks are among the most passionately opinionated people you’ll find in this world.

Of course, I said “most of the time” for a reason.

It stops being awesome when geeks open their mouths to espouse hate.

It’s happened a lot lately, which is why I’m writing this now.

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Before I go on, one thing:

There are no links in the following post for a couple reasons.

One, I’m fairly sure this blog’s (amazingly cool) owner Rosie is going to provide a few, from which point you’ll be able to ping-pong around to a whole slew of other links, many of which will anger and inspire you by turns.

Two, if you’re really interested in the subject I’d encourage you to do a little experiment in order to see just how pervasive the problem that I’ll be discussing has become. Just type in “science fiction sexism” into your Google machine and see how many hits you get. You’ll end up in many of the same places that Rosie’s links took you, and a whole lot more besides.

Why do I endorse this activity? Because I think it’s important to see just how simple it is to be informed about the happenings in a scene — a scene you may never have thought twice about. If you’re inspired to look a little further into (the mostly) wonderful and welcoming world of sf&f fandom, so much the better.

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You know when you’re at a gathering of extended family — let’s say it’s a 4th of July barbecue — and you overhear a conversation you wish you hadn’t? Someone, an uncle or aunt maybe, says the word “nigger?” Or “cunt?” (Or whatever other words you associate with prejudice?)

And you’re like, Whoa, whoa, whoa… WHOA. Hold up. We’re not that kind of family.

That’s how I’ve felt lately, over and over again.

Now, in all fairness I was only adopted into the sf&f community recently — around 2010, three years before the publication of my first book — but I’ve grown to love the folks in it. To say they’ve welcomed me with open arms is to do them a great disservice: they have, so often it shocks me, been my advocates in trying to get my career off the ground. People who are as different from me as one could imagine have offered heartfelt congratulations on my small accomplishments, debated me with civility, and forgiven my occasional trespasses.

My experience, in other words, has been overwhelmingly positive.

And so it hurts — it angers to white-hot flame — to see how vociferously the men (clarification: mostly men) of my newfound and much-beloved community have behaved of late. The defense of a way of life, of a mindset so retrogressive and thoroughly lacking in compassion, makes me afraid for people.

I was at Readercon last year, when Genvieve Valentine was harassed repeatedly. I didn’t know about it at the time, but you can bet I was horrified to hear of it. And then I watched in even more horror when the convention’s board gave her harasser a slap on the wrist in direct contradiction of its own harassment policy. Hardly an encouraging development for women who want to attend the convention this year.

(Just so you know, the organizers did eventually do the right thing. I’ll be at the convention again this year, in part to see if the controversy produces a positive result.)

Anita Sarkeesian? She’s receiving rape threats. Why? For simply challenging the video game industry on its portrayal of women. Trolls line up to tell her what an insufferable bitch she is, to tell her what she needs is a good cocking. They are, point in fact, an almost neverending legion — which I suppose is not surprising: Yesterday it was reported that a Microsoft employee made a rape joke while playing a new game in front of thousands of people at the recent E3 conference.

These are just two examples among many, more of which are being reported all the time.

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Of course, I’m not just afraid for people (though that is obviously the most pressing concern).

I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to be associated with any scene, no matter how tangentially I’m related to parts of it, that produces and endorses the kind of mindsets recently on display. I hate how it misrepresents the rest of us, how it warps perceptions of what is overall a very well-intentioned group of people.

I want better for my adopted community than to be relegated to the status we are increasingly in danger of being relegated to.

In order to avoid this marginalization, we need voices shouting in opposition.

We need people — men just as much as women, all of us unafraid of stepping on toes (I don’t kid myself that this isn’t riskier for women; it always is, and will continue to be until the situation changes) — insisting that equality is not a subjective matter.

It is not open for debate, the issue of prejudice, of undeserved privilege. I’m tired of hearing that it is.

It is not a matter of free speech. You are not being censored. I’m tired of hearing that there is a force telling you that you cannot be you.

You, Mister (or Misses) Bigot, will still be free to be as fucking stupid as your atrophied heart desires, but you will not be free to have a voice everywhere. If you espouse a hateful rhetoric, one that objectifies women and encourages violence against them, you will be shouted down by our culture, by our collective weight of Objective Rightness. You will not be allowed to act on your hate publicly and push others down. You will not be able to get away with pinching asses, putting your arm around the shoulders of complete strangers, making unwelcome suggestive comments.

You will find yourself increasingly marginalized by your baseless judgments and entitlement, pushed ever further into the corner.

You will be put on Time Out until you can behave like a rational adult. Sometimes, you won’t be forgiven at all, because it’s too risky to trust you again.

#

It would be easy to say goodbye to all this, to quit thinking about The Problem of Being a Geek and go live in some virtual land free of idiots. I don’t need to concern myself with this crap. As I said, I haven’t been in the community for long. I could be like the respected author Nick Mamatas, who early this month announced his retirement from the sf&f community over some of the very issues I’ve outlined — and it would be easier for me than for him, being that I’m a relative noob.

And yet I won’t do that.*

Why?

Love.

I love how sf&f causes the reader (viewer, and/or participant) to look at the world in new ways. I love what I’ve already accomplished in the genre, and the potential I have to accomplish more. I love my friends, and the potential they have to do great things — as authors, as commentators, as people simply taking inspiration from what they read (view, and/or participate in). I love so, so much about the community that continues to bolster me.

More than anything, I love that I see change happening. The confidence I displayed above, when I used all those “You will…” statements? That doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from seeing more and more people stepping out and asserting what is right. It comes from seeing our enemy on the ropes, throwing weaker and wilder and ever more desperate punches at us.

This is a war, and we’re winning.

#

The sf&f community, of course, can be a metaphor. For anyone not in the thick of it, it’s perhaps best viewed this way. All communities, large and small, meatworld and virtual, have their problems. Sexism (and its even more disgusting neighbor, misogyny) is a normative throughout all of the world. It’s a universal problem, and perhaps always has been.

It’s important, for those of us who would have the problem solved for good, to take courage from developments. To not feel too much despair.

All those rape threats Anita Sarkeesian is getting?

They’re proof that she’s struck a nerve, that she’s aroused a defensive reaction from her attackers. They’re proof that the bigot’s bluster is just that — a pretense, a façade of confidence to cover what they really feel, which is fear.

Oh, yes: the fact that such men (in my particular community, but also throughout civilization) are frightened, desperately trying to hold onto what they have, is obvious to anyone with a brain. They’re scared of living in a world where they don’t have that one unearned thing that makes them automatically higher on the ladder than the “other” half the population. They’re petrified by the thought that they won’t continue to be listened to — coddled and made comfortable — simply because of that Y chromosome. They’re worried to death that someone, somewhere, is going to call them out, and that the voice will have hundreds of thousands behind it, a clear moral weight.

They’re afraid that the sun has already set on their unearned privilege.

And you know what?

Their fear is justified.

#

*This isn’t said in criticism of Mamatas. I respect his decision to leave the sf&f community. I think it’s a gutsy, principled move, and I applaud him for it.

#

Author Note, for those even more invested in this subject:

It may seem odd that I haven’t touched upon the recent SFWA controversy (which has been one of the most recent spurs to conversation on the matter of sexism and misogyny in sf&f), and I understand that. I chose not to comment on it for a few reasons.

One, I don’t want more people to make the following leap of ill logic: “The SFWA Bulletin had sexist stuff in it, thus SFWA must be an awful organization.” This is hardly the case.

            Two, I wanted to concentrate on more obvious examples of aggression towards women. As much as I disagree with some of the SFWA Bulletin’s content recently, it is mild compared to some of the reactions it has inspired, many of which are in my not-so-humble opinion bordering on the kind of behavior toward women I talk about above.

            Three, I had no intention of politicizing this post. The SFWA debate has become very politicized, and though I stand firmly on the left side (as I very nearly always do) I recognize that it is false to assume that encampment signifies actual conviction. The more politicized an issue becomes, the harder it is to convince would-be allies — those who’ve fallen on “the other side” of the debate because others of their political stripe did so before them — of your position. I’m speaking to anyone who cares about equality in the sf&f community, not simply to those individuals who are likely to agree with me on all fronts.


Zachary Jernigan is a writer living in Northern Arizona. His novel No Return (Night Shade Books) was published in March 2013. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction and elsewhere.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


A Quick Note to Those Who Threatened Lindy West (and People Like Her)

[Trigger Warning for Rape and Rape Threats]

To Whom it May Concern:

 “You’re too ugly to be raped. I want to rape you just to shut you up.”

Look at what you just did.

Seriously. Stop, right now, and reread that.

You started by pretending that you believe rape is about sex and desire. That rape is something you do when you can’t control your hormones any longer and must bed someone immediately, with or without their consent. You want to continue to push the idea that rape is about sex and desire because it helps you keep control, and it helps you silence those who speak out.

But you immediately betrayed yourself.

Immediately, you demonstrated that you actually know that rape is about violence, that it’s about control, that it’s about power. You know it isn’t about sex or desire. You push that it’s about sex because that helps you continue to use it as a control mechanism. If I convince you that my machine gun is really just a fluffy bunny, you’ll stop trying to take it away from me, and I can continue to use it against you.

You aren’t stupid. Rather, you feign stupidity in the hopes that your opponents will believe you or finally shut up and submit to you. It won’t work, though. You’ve shown your hand. You’ve shown that you do understand rape, and you do know exactly what you’re doing.

You can’t hide behind your lies anymore.

xoxo,

Sid


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Penny Arcade’s Gabe is Willfully Ignorant (Again)

Update 9/4/2013: And again.

Update 6/21/13: Gabe has issued an apology. See bottom of post.

I didn’t intend for this to be a post in and of itself, but trying to export from Storify to WP posted it, so here it is. (For additional context, read No Sacred Cows.)

Note: This post has been updated. Last update on 6/21.

It’s not his ignorance that drives me insane. It’s the way he clings to it as though to even consider learning something might cause his head to implode.

  1. “not all women have vaginas.” thanks Kotaku. You teach me so much. kotaku.com/a-game-that-wa…
  2. they wanted to make a game for people with vaginas. I bet they felt pretty safe saying it was for women. Poor bastards.
  3. @pikoeri that game was for vagina havers. I don’t think it is exclusionary or unreasonable to lable vagina havers as women.
  4. @q0rt I am happy to treat/refer to people however they like regardless of their genitals.
  5. @q0rt I don’t think it makes me a monster to think boys have a penis and girls have a vagina though. I guess I could be wrong. It happens.
  6. @q0rt I am not denying any ones existence. I totally get that there are transgendered people.
  7. @q0rt I think gender is the same as genitals. I don’t think it has anything to do with sexuality or what you think feel like.
  8. And this sums it up nicely:
  9. Luckily, having @cwgabriel believe you are a woman is also not a requirement of being a woman.

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 4.19.51 PM

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 12.46.03 PM

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 1.01.20 PM

Seriously, it’s time to stop pretending he gives a shit.

UPDATES:

Gabe gives a shit: Here’s what I think is a lot closer to a real apology for “being an asshole.” Your thoughts are welcome (but insults and telling me to shut up aren’t, so don’t bother).

Here’s a great article by Matt Baker that does an AMAZING job summing up what’s really wrong here.

Also, The Fullbright Company pulls out of PAX.


Related Articles:

Gabe: We Made a Mistake Removing Dickwolves Merch

No Sacred Cows


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Virgin: We’re Not Flying It (#notflyingit)

Image

“Hi, there…”

UPDATES: See bottom section for news.

Imagine: You’re all settled in for a long flight and ready for a bit of solitude (as much as can be afforded on an airplane these days) and a drink, when lo and behold, a flight attendant appears with a daiquiri. You didn’t order a daiquiri. In fact, you haven’t ordered a drink yet.

“It’s from the gentleman in 21A,” the attendant tells you, still holding the drink as though you really ought to take it. Across the aisle, the “gentleman” in 21A winks at you, and raises his glass. And introduces himself as the flight attendant sets the drink on your tray table and walks away.

This is how I imagine Virgin’s new “get lucky at 35,000 feet” promotion (for their seat-to-seat service) panning out for women. The actual service is pretty cool: It allows passengers to buy items for other passengers, so for example, adults traveling with multiple older children can feed and water them easily all with a swipe of a credit card in a seat-back terminal. But let’s face it: though some women will probably take the bait, this promotion is aimed at men and encourages them to aggressively pick up on women on Virgin flights. That’s not something I want when I travel. And it’s certainly not the attitude I want from the airline I fly with.

Virgin has long been my favorite airline. Their “Fear of Flying” program helped me fly again after years grounded by my terror. My daughter won’t fly any other airline. And now she very likely won’t fly at all until Virgin gets their act together and realizes that this promotion–aimed at men–targets women and essentially turns Virgin flights into flying meat-markets. For women–many or even most of whom experience unwanted sexual attention in public spaces on a regular basis–this means that Virgin flights will be potentially uncomfortable and even unsafe spaces. Certainly for women who don’t seek male attention when they fly.

I propose a hashtag campaign on Twitter similar to the #notbuyingit campaign aimed at companies that exhibit, promote, or support sexist behavior. Please help me tell Virgin we’re #notflyingit until they drop this promotion and apologize for putting women on the menu.

What you can do to help get this rolling:

  • Share this post on all your social media networks. Here’s a handy Twitter button so you can tweet it out now:
  • Tweet to @VirginAmerica and let them know this is a bad idea. Here’s another handy button for you:
  • Sign this petition asking Sir Richard Branson and Virgin to take a stand for women and end this promotion. While you’re at it, sign this one, too.
  • Use the #notflyingit hashtag to tweet CEO @richardbranson and tell him what you think about this “get lucky” promo.
  • Use the #notflyingit hashtag on Google+ to alert people to this campaign and make it easy for us to track who’s talking about it there.
  • Email your friends and allies and ask them to participate!

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UPDATE:

6/4/2013 4:30pm
This morning, I received an email from Jennifer Thomas, Director of Corporate Communications at Virgin America. Here’s an excerpt:

First off, we are sorry to hear your disappointment re: the promotion of the new seat-to-seat ordering feature. Please know it was absolutely not our intent with the service or the promotion to make anyone uncomfortable, and we’d like to chat with you (and our head of marketing Luanne Calvert) to discuss the intent of the campaign and your concerns in a bit more detail as well as explain the mechanics of the feature (namely that there is an anonymous block feature built into the service). I also wanted to pass along that the Get Lucky promotion itself actually endedthis Friday, so that campaign is no longer live and in the market. In addition, the only official photo we released of the service was of a woman ordering for a man (for what that is worth). Please know that we do take your feedback to heart – and will bear it in mind when evaluating future campaigns. But would love the opportunity to chat with you more if you were open to a call.

I was. So this afternoon–after sending along some links so they could make themselves familiar with the issues as some of us see them–I spoke with Jennifer along with Luanne Calvert, VP of Marketing for Virgin America. Jennifer seemed to do most of the talking, but Luanne chimed in a few times, especially with regard to the marketing side of things. They had, from what I gathered, four primary goals for the conversation:

  1. To explain how the seat-to-seat system works (again, there is a decline feature) and how it is being used by customers (primarily as I described previously: among people who already know one another or are already chatting amiably);
  2. To point out that the “get lucky” promotion (which ended on Friday 5/31 [yay!] but is still on their Facebook page and a contest was still running on their website the last time I looked) was launched in conjunction with their new Los Angeles-to-Vegas direct flights, and was intended as a “tongue-in-cheek” play on getting “lucky” in Vegas.
  3. To assure me that regardless of how I may have interpreted their marketing campaign (marketing being one of those things that “people interpret differently” according to Luanne Calvert, and I agree–to a point) they were absolutely dedicated to passenger comfort onboard their flights and would never tolerate any abuse of the system or harassment of one passenger by another. (In fact, they said that if they believed the service was being “abused” they would turn it off or otherwise address the problem.)
  4. To assure me that they had heard our concerns and would take them into consideration when planning future promotions.

I’m going to break this stuff down and fill in some details of our conversation, along with my own takes on…well, everything.

How STS Works

In her email this morning, Jennifer Thomas included the following:

The function itself was designed to accompany the existing seat-to-seat chat feature (something we’ve had onboard since 2007). There were actually similar concerns raised about that feature when we launched it – yet we have never received complaints since its inception six years ago. Most people use the service to chat with friends, family or co-workers traveling in the same party. Built into the feature, there is a function that allows guests to block all chat requests – or just a specific one, and as a result — we have not seen issues arising.

In our conversation today, Jennifer reiterated that the seat-to-seat system has a “decline” feature so you don’t have to accept anything purchased for you by a stranger. I explained that I would much rather opt in to such a service than have a request pop up on my screen while I’m watching my movie to intrusively alert me that “someone wants to buy you a thing.”

This brings us to the second part of point 1 above:

How People Use STS Now

Many people use the STS system. I’ve used it. It’s great! Here’s another excerpt from Jennifer’s email:

In fact, guests have enjoyed — and provided overwhelmingly positive feedback about — the chat feature since its launch: it makes the flight experience a bit more social. And as you note, the seat-to-seat delivery feature grew out of a common request from family members and friends flying together in different rows — with the addition of the new remote ordering feature, for example, a guest in one row can now order and pay for their friend who may be traveling in a separate row.

Yes. This is how people mostly use it. And I sincerely hope this promotion doesn’t result in more men inflicting unwanted attentions on women. But again, that’s only part of the problem.

The “Intention” of the “Get Lucky” Promo

Luanne Calvert wanted me to know that the “get lucky” campaign was meant to be “fun” and “cheeky” and that they didn’t intend to offend anyone. I explained that the promotion appeared to be encouraging people to use it as a pick-up tool, and since the primary aggressors in these situations are traditionally men in our culture, that means encouraging men to hit on women on an airplane, and that many women don’t relish that idea.

“I’m not sure what your experience is,” I said, “but a lot of us feel like we run a gauntlet of unwanted attention wherever we go.”  A moment of silence, then they assured me that they wanted people to be comfortable on their flights and again, this was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, a Vegas tie-in, etc.

I read Sir Richard’s quote: “I’m not a betting man, but I say your chance of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent.” They pointed out that the promo video (from which that quote was taken) was full of silly stuff like puppies and space ships and was meant to be funny. I pulled up and read to them from another article where Sir Richard talked about “dating” being the next big thing, the feature people wanted on airplanes that he was going to give them. They repeated that no one seemed to be using STS in any objectionable way and that they would take action if they ever did get complaints. (They also said they keep a close eye on alcohol consumption, which reduces the likelihood of drunkenness contributing to any potential problem.)

Dedicated to Passenger Comfort

Thomas and Calvert seemed genuinely to want me to feel like I could comfortably fly Virgin America without fear of harassment by other passengers. They reiterated several times how important it was that people feel comfortable on their planes. Unfortunately, they seemed to think that the discomfort with the “get lucky” promotion was based on a) lack of context and b) misinterpretation of the intention of the campaign.

Resolution?

Throughout the conversation, I pointed out that the feature itself was not the problem, but that the marketing was problematic. At one point Luanne said, “It’s regrettable there has been some misunderstanding of the campaign,” and reiterated that with marketing, a lot is open to “interpretation.” I think it was around this time I explained that, to my thinking, intention didn’t let them–or anyone–off the hook. That when you realize you’re contributing to the problems we all face, sometimes you have to take a step back and say, “Ok, that wasn’t what I intended, but I understand why it was problematic (here is me explaining my understanding of the issues) and I apologize.” I said this is something people like me do all the time. And that those of us who care about this were counting on them to do that: to say–not just to me on the phone, but to all of us–we get what the problem was with that promotion, and if we had to do it over again, we wouldn’t.

I recommended several times that they consider publishing such a statement: the apology we requested for making us feel commodified. Each time my requests were met with silence followed by assurances that they heard me and that this feedback would “inform our thinking” in the future. “We’ve responded publicly to feedback about this in the past,” they said at one point. There was a news story out there, and they promised to send me a link.

Finally I took a deep breath, sighed, and took another.

“Ok,” I said, “I just have one more question for you: Would you run a promotion like this again?”

Laughter. “We’d call you first!” someone said. I think it was Luanne.

Jennifer Thomas and Luanne Calvert listened. They gave me some of their time today and treated me with respect and for that I’m grateful. I received a link in email to the news story containing Luanne Calvert’s statement. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Using the seat-back computer on all Virgin flights, passengers can order drinks or food to be delivered anywhere else on the plane. Perhaps you want to treat a travel companion — or perhaps you’ve noticed a cute brunette in 14A?

Luanne Calvert, the head of marketing, said Virgin America always wants to stay a step ahead of competitors with in-cabin features. The idea for seat-to-seat delivery, she said, grew out of the existing seat-to-seat chat feature on the seat-back computer system, called Red.

“Our in-flight system is about fun,” Calvert said.

She said it has been received well on recent flights since its rollout. But she squashed any suggestion that the service has turned flights into a 30,000-foot-high singles bar.

“The way people are using it in reality is with someone they know already. They say, “it was fun hanging with you. I want to buy you a drink.’”

So, the promo is over. Virgin America listened and apologized to me, but they have pretty much outright declined to make any sort of statement (which I would happily have helped them craft) that communicates their understanding of the reasons their “Get Lucky at 35,000 Feet” left a bad taste in my mouth and at least some of yours. I’m not at all convinced they get it, but I do believe they’ll think about all this the next time they plan a promotion. And I thank everyone who got involved for helping me to get their attention. In less than 24 hours, we made something happen–just a few of us working together. Thank you.

I’m still chewing on all this and will write a bit more later. Meanwhile, I welcome your comments (as long as they’re polite).

6/4/2013 9:00am

I just got off the phone with Jennifer Thomas, Director of Corporate Communications for Virgin America who says they’re anxious to discuss my concerns. I’ll be talking with her and Luanne Calvert, VP of Marketing, in a bit. Watch this space for news.

FAQ:

Why can’t you just refuse the drink?

Oh, I can and will refuse drinks from strange men on airplanes. But that doesn’t change the fact that many women will feel obliged not only to accept the “gift” but to pay some attention to the giver. Because that’s the point, isn’t it? And she’s on an airplane, so she can’t just excuse herself when she wants to get away. If the guy is nearby, she’s stuck.

What’s your problem? Buying drinks for women is a traditional entry point to dating!

Yes, it is. And when I go to a bar full of men and women hoping to meet the next love of their life, I am not at all surprised to receive a drink compliments of some man or other. I can take or refuse it, and if I’m at all uncomfortable, I can leave. When I get on an airplane, it’s for completely different reasons, and I can’t escape. That’s my problem with encouraging this kind of behavior as a way to “get lucky” on an airplane.

Why a boycott? Why not just write a letter?

This post and the hashtag campaign are sort of a letter to Virgin. Boycotts–or threats of them–are, in my experience, the most efficient and effective way to get a company’s attention. And I wouldn’t advise any woman who wants to fly peacefully to book a flight with Virgin until this changes.

Have questions? Ask in the comments below.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Five Things I Know After #FBrape

Oui.

Oui.

I’m exceedingly proud to have worked on the #FBrape campaign to end gendered hate speech on Facebook, and of our success in getting the corporate giant to back down. It was an exhausting week, but the rewards were many, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Not even to avoid the inevitable trolling that has followed.

Yeah, they did. It’s amazing to me how many people seem to think that rape culture on Facebook is something to be protected and defended by coming to #FBrape and calling campaigners “bitches” and “cunts” and “fascists” and claiming that our victory is some kind of blow to everything thinking people ought to hold dear.

I just can’t even. But as I said, I’m proud, exhausted, and mostly satisfied. We did an important thing, and we’re still doing it.

Here are a few things I took away from the campaign:

  1. We need each other: Women are sick and tired of being in the majority and yet being treated as though our right to safe public spaces don’t matter. We are fighting back. Thousands of us pulled together, and we couldn’t have done it any other way.
  2. We need men: Rape culture will not go away unless men participate in the fight. Many men joined us in the #FBrape campaign, and their voices helped so much to counter those who showed up to ridicule us. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, men who campaigned, for being with us during this week of intensive work.
  3. We need our allies to be present during our struggles, not just during our successes: Feminists who couldn’t seem to find time for the campaign while it was happening are jumping on the bandwagon (and the popularity of the hashtag) now that we’ve won. I can’t help but wonder where they were when the hard work was getting done. I hoped for better.*
  4. We’re ending rape culture: Ending rape culture on Facebook is a huge step toward ending it in society as a whole. Facebook is a microcosm of our society. It is a community that has set a standard of behavior for its members, and finally, it has stated for the record that violence against women is strictly counter to that standard. Their response was very corporate, but it was a complete turnaround from their “our system is working” response three days previous. There is work to be done. We have to keep them honest. But this is a WIN and I’m CELEBRATING.
  5. This is not about free speech: Free speech, while important, is only one of our civil rights. Much as your right to own a gun doesn’t preclude my right to not get shot, your right to free speech does not trump my right not to be surrounded by images suggesting that beating, raping, and killing people like me is acceptable, expected, and funny. This is hate speech, it encourages (read: incites) violence against women,  and it cannot be tolerated in civilized society anymore than we allow racists to harass and threaten people of color in public spaces. We don’t. We can’t. My right to exist safely trumps every rape-joker’s right to free speech, and I will fight to ensure that my right—and every other woman’s—is protected.

*This is not directed at anyone who is likely to read this, but at high-profile professional feminists (the most conspicuous of whom was Sheryl Sandberg, of course) who suddenly had articles in major publications after Facebook caved. It just made me a little sad, that’s all.

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Learn This Word: Maybe

Guest post by Joseph Paul Haines

Joe posted this “rant” on Facebook yesterday and kindly gave me permission to share it here. Enjoy. ~Rosie

thinkAfter listening to a bunch of misogynistic bullshit lately I’d like to make a small suggestion. Learn this word: Maybe.

Hell, I’ll even show you how to use it with a series of statements and where it applies.

Statement: Women only pretend to be interested in cons.
WYST: (What you should think): Maybe. That could be true, depending on the woman. I’m sure that there are some women in the world who couldn’t give a flying fuck about geek culture but see it as a great place to meet fairly affluent single men. Then again, some of them could school your ass a hundred ways to Sunday on almost anything you think you know.

Statement: Women are physically weaker than men.
WYST: Maybe. Some women are, due to their physique, less able to perform certain feats of strength than a similarly built man. Then again, I’ve also had my ass handed to me in sparring matches with women of all shapes and sizes, depending upon their skill level and mine.

Statement: Women are more emotional.
WYST: Maybe. I’ve known women who on the surface seemed to react more strongly to certain external stimuli than other men I’ve known. Then again, it seems I keep running into men who I would classify more strongly as “little whiny bitches” than any woman I’d met in years.

Statement: Women need someone to take care of them.
WYST: Maybe. There have been people on this planet who have experienced situations and trauma that left them temporarily incapable of tending to their own needs in a proficient manner. Then again, maybe you can move out of your parent’s basement before you start whining about it.

Rodin_ThinkerStatement: So maybe? How am I supposed to operate off of maybe?
WYST: The same way you do with every other human being on the planet. Some people are better than others at certain things. It has absolutely nothing to do with their gender. As a matter of fact, the gender should be the last thing you consider when getting to understand another human being. Is it true that some women are hyper-emotional? Damn straight. Some men, too. You should deal with the state of being, not the gender. It’s not your job to somehow behave in a different manner with women than you do with men. You don’t have to behave like a “knight.” You don’t have to behave like a “perfect gentleman” although manners never hurt anyone. (Side note: If you think that your behavior has to change in so-called mixed company, you might take some time to think about your manners in a general, overall sort of way. Just a thought.)

Most of all, when you consider a person’s abilities or behavior, it should be based upon their actions and demonstrated talents. So in other words, all this clichéd nonsense about women? Yeah, it could possibly be true in specific instances when dealing with one particular human being.

images (5)Here’s one more example:

STATEMENT: Most men aren’t capable of getting past their own cocks and learning this lesson.

WYST: Maybe. But maybe not.

 

See now? That wasn’t so difficult, was it?


Note: Today Joe posted this PSA, which I know he won’t mind me adding here:

Gentlemen, I’m going to provide you with another safety tip here today. Never, and I mean EVER, start a sentence to a woman with the following phrase:

“Jeez, don’t get so hysterical,” or “Calm down, already,” or “Let’s not get all emotional now . . .”

If you don’t understand why not, well, just take my word for it. If she’s standing in front of you and waving a gun or a knife or hitting herself in the face with a sledgehammer, then and ONLY then would the use of any of these phrases be justified.

Just don’t do it. And you’re welcome.


600402_226783124129220_998911497_nJoseph Paul Haines is a fiction writer and feminist ally. His short story “Ten with a Flag” was recently made into a short film. You can find his books on Amazon.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.