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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.


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