A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Posts tagged “activism

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.


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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.


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Related on MMAS:

 


Another Day, Another Name, Another Hashtag

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image via @KhaledBeydoun on Twitter

August 18, 2015 – Today I added two names and found this, listing the names (and when available, photos) of 100 unarmed Black people killed by police in 2014. In one year.

Last weekend I attend a rally in Seattle where Bernie Sanders was to speak. As you might have heard, some of Seattle’s Black Lives Matter activists staged a protest, following up on the recent action at Netroots Nation in Phoenix in July. At that event, Sanders had complained rather than choosing to listen to and empathize with the activists. (Joe Biden did a much better job dealing with the protest during his speech at Netroots Nation 2014, which by the way is a CONFERENCE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVISTS and there is a protest pretty much EVERY TIME a politician speaks, so why Bernie didn’t see that coming I’ll never know.)

Anyway, BLM takes the stage, and cue the angry white people in the audience and on every social media network criticizing tactics as though their opinions matter one whit to Black people when deciding how to shed light on the crisis of Black lives lost every day to police violence. Angry white people claiming, as the privileged always do when they don’t like the “timing” or target of a protest staged by marginalized people, that this action “did more harm than good to the movement” as if they have the first clue about what the actual goals of such an action might be (hint: pretty sure it wasn’t to make white people like them more). Angry white people announcing that, as a result of one action they don’t agree with, that they would no longer support BLM. From the boos and fuck yous and outright harassment of the activists by white people at the rally to the privilege displayed by white and non-black people since, this has been a stark reminder for me and others that “progressive” liberals just keep earning the “fauxgressive” label, and that as far as we’ve come, those of us who are not Black have so much work to do within our communities to make non-Black people aware that listening to Black people—really spending some time listening to their voices and lived experiences—is the only way they will ever come close to understanding their lives, their struggles, their pain, and how we benefit from the very system that oppresses them. It’s the only way we can ever begin to know what it is to live in this country ruled by white people.

And it’s the only way we can begin to get that while we have a job to do in this movement (see above), it sure as hell isn’t telling Black people what will and will not win us as allies. Allies in a fight to save black lives should not have to be won. If something BLM does makes you turn away from the entire movement, you were not an ally in this fight, and the movement loses nothing. If your allyship requires polite protest aimed only at targets you deem correct at times you deem appropriate, what kind of ally are you, really? (Hint: You’re not an ally.)

Bernie didn’t speak at the rally, but he wasn’t “forced off the stage.” He left after declining to engage with Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford and the organizers decided to end the event. Bernie chose to spend his time out among the mostly white crowd shaking hands and kissing babies. I saw him and thanked him for coming. He’d been smiling, but glanced at my chest where my Black Lives Matter button hung, and his expression changed.

I’ll probably write more on the BLM Bernie Sanders action and rebut some of the white fragility, derailment, etc. I have seen over the past week. For now, suffice to say that I support Black Lives Matter because I love and support Black people. The rally was uncomfortable once BLM took the stage, but the reactions of white Seattle “progressives” made me far more uncomfortable than the protest or the interruption to my plans. And here’s the thing: if we’re dedicated to working for racial equality, I believe we have to be ok with some discomfort in the service of change, and we have to support those Black people doing this work who are brave enough to take chances and make targets of themselves even if we don’t quite understand their choices, motives, or goals. It’s not about us. It’s just not.

Related: Hilary talks with BLM Massachusetts members.


July 27, 2015
 – Yesterday I added six more names to this list. Today I added one more. Since I wrote this post, I’ve added several. All are unarmed Black people killed by police or who died in police custody under circumstances that have caused many to question the official story (and this list is not exhaustive by any means). Sadly, this doesn’t generally include the media, who report as fact whatever the police tell them and waste no time in smearing the victims. And it doesn’t include a lot of ignorant people who seem to think that “Contempt of Cop” is a capital crime.

News Flash: It’s not illegal to be rude to a cop. There is no law that says you must be courteous. A police officer does not have the right to detain or arrest a citizen for talking back, and if one chooses to do so and that citizen ends up dead at the hands of police, the fault does not lie with the victim because they should have been more polite. If police can’t keep from killing citizens because they’re pissed off that said citizens aren’t showing enough respect, the problem is with police culture, not disrespectful citizens. When police kill Black people at a rate of two per week in the United States, and when so many of those people are unarmed, the problem is racism in police culture, not Black people talking back, running away, or being terrifying lethal weapons in and of themselves. And when white people accept this state of things—worse, when we defend it—we are participating in maintaining white supremacy. We are perpetuating the very system that privileges whiteness and tramples non-white people underfoot. And those who lose their lives as a result of this system we benefit from? Their blood is on our hands.

April 30, 2015 – Another day has passed, and another officer of the law has gunned down an unarmed Black person. And still white people argue that “it’s not about black and white” and “we need to focus on the real issues.”

The real issue is institutional racism, and you’re damned right it deserves our focus. The issue is that our justice system supports white supremacy. The issue is that cop culture teaches that citizens are the enemy and that some citizens are less-than-human and at the same time more dangerous—deadly weapons in and of themselves, with the ability to Hulk out when the need arises.

The list below—which includes men and women, adults and children—keeps growing. And as it does, so does the “unrest” among citizens who wonder whether they’ll be the next name, the next hashtag.

Meanwhile, white folks lament property damage and wonder why everything has to be “about race.”

#ChristianTaylor #RalkinaJones #SandraBland #JonathanSanders #KindraChapman #KimberleeKing #NatashaMcKenna #‎TerrenceKellum #‎FreddieGray #CarolineSmall #‎ErvinEdwards #‎EricHarris #‎TamirRice #‎AiyanaJones #‎MikeBrown #‎JohnCrawford #‎RekiaBoyd #‎EricGarner #DontreHamilton #TonyRobinson #‎YvetteSmith #‎OscarGrant #‎ShellyFrey #‎TyreeWoodson #‎WalterScott #‎TanishaAnderson #‎RumainBrisbon #‎AkaiGurley #‎KajiemePowell #‎EzellFord #‎DanteParker #‎ShereeseFrancis #‎VictorWhite #‎TarikaWilson #‎KathrynJohnston #‎JordanBaker #‎JonathanFerrell #‎AlbertaSpruill #‎PearlieGolden #‎EleanorBumpurs #SeanBell #AmadouDiallo #LarryJackson #DeionFludd #KimaniGray #TimothyRussell #ChavisCarter #SharmelEdwards #TamonRobinson #KendrecMcDade #WendellAllen #ManuelLoggins #RamarleyGraham #KennethChamberlain #ReginaldDoucet #DerrickJones #StevenWashington #AaronCampbell #KiwaneCarrington #VictorSteen #ShemWalker #DeAuntaFarrow #HenryGlover #RonaldMadison #JamesBrisette #TimothyStansbury #OusmaneZongo #OrlandoBarlow #TimothyThomas #PrinceJones #MalcolmFerguson #StephonWatts

The other day in the train station I chatted with a Black man who joked that a problem in our station would be solved when the white people complained about it. We laughed and shook our heads and sighed. We both knew he was right on the money.

Wake the fuck up, white people. It IS about race. And it’s not going to get fixed until the white people complain. It’s not going to stop until we stop it.


Note: I am adding names to the hashtag list as I become aware of them.


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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.

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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”:

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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.


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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)


Why #StopWoody Is Important to Me

A girl very much like I was.

A girl very much like I was.

*Trigger warning for CSA*

Some of you will know that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). When I heard that Amazon has signed Woody Allen to create a new TV show for them, it reminded me of this story:

When I was nine years old, a family friend was sexually abusing me. This was unfortunately not my first experience with CSA, but it was my first experience with ongoing abuse. I was utterly terrified my mom would find out what was going on and *I* would be in trouble. When I say “terrified” please understand that I lived my life in fear. When I finally, in a screaming fit of terror, confessed “my” crimes to my mother, she did her best to help me understand it wasn’t my fault.

Soon after, as we got in the car as a family to go somewhere together, my abuser pulled up in his car behind us and my stomach lurched as my mom told my dad he needed to go deal with it. I had no idea what to expect, but a confrontation of some sort seemed to be on the menu. I watched in the rearview window as my dad smiled, shook my abuser’s hand, and got back into the car.

The feeling I have when I think of that moment is the feeling that keeps coming back to me whenever I think of this—whenever I think of scrolling through my Amazon options and coming across a thumbnail of Woody’s latest offering. It’s that feeling that my abuse doesn’t count—that my abuser is “acceptable” to the society I live in.

I’m not alone in this, I know.

And can you even imagine how Dylan will feel?

THIS IS NOT OK WITH ME. None of it.

I am fighting for the kids who can’t fight for themselves. I am fighting for the kid I was—the kid my dad didn’t fight for.

This is why I started #StopWoody and wrote this petition to ask Amazon to drop him.

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

Click to sign.

Click to sign.

Love,
Rosie


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Related:


Amazon Studios: Stand With CSA Survivors and #StopWoody

Today I learned that Amazon Studios has signed child predator Woody Allen to create a new TV show. That’s all I wanted to know about that, so I don’t have any other details. I’ve been tweeting in protest today on the hashtag #StopWoody along with other survivors and allies, and have also worked up a petition at Change.org. The text is below.

Here is a post explaining why #StopWoody is important to me.

Please, if you can, stand with me as I fight for the kids who can’t fight for themselves. For the kid I was.

Please sign and share the petition.

StopWoody

Click to sign!

We, the undersigned, are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and people who love and support survivors. We stand together against Amazon Studio’s decision to contract with Woody Allen, accused of sexually abusing Dylan Farrow, to create a television show.

While Woody Allen has not been convicted of a crime, the judge in Allen’s custody suit expressed deep concerns about Allen’s behavior toward Dylan:

In his 33-page decision, Judge Wilk found that Mr. Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was “grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect her.” The judge also recounts Farrow’s misgivings regarding Allen’s behavior toward Dylan from the time she was between two and three years old. According to the judge’s decision, Farrow told Allen, “You look at her [Dylan] in a sexual way. You fondled her . . . You don’t give her any breathing room. You look at her when she’s naked.” (Vanity Fair)

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After the judge denied Allen visitation rights, the state attorney decided to drop the case in order to spare Dylan from further trauma:

The state attorney, Maco, said publicly he did have probable cause to press charges against Allen but declined, due to the fragility of the “child victim.” Maco told me that he refused to put Dylan through an exhausting trial, and without her on the stand, he could not prosecute Allen. (Vanity Fair)

What is clear from the facts is that we have every reason to believe Dylan and none to stand with and protect her abuser. By partnering with Allen, Amazon and Amazon Studios sends the message to survivors that you don’t believe Dylan Farrow’s account of her abuse at his hands. This is a tragically common reaction to children and adults reporting sexual abuse. We often contend with disbelief from the moment we ask for help, a fact that is not lost on victims currently weighing whether to report their abuse—nor is it lost on predators rationalizing their own behavior. When Amazon sends the message that you don’t believe Dylan, you tell us that you don’t believe us, either. You contribute to a culture that protects and supports and validates predators while treating victims like liars and criminals.

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You make it harder for victims to report their abuse.

We must make it clear to Allen and other predators that what they do is in no way acceptable. And to do that, we must deny Woody Allen access to a platform. We must deny him and his actions our approval as a society or we are complicit in those actions and in the harm they do. To continue to reward people like Allen, Cosby, and Polanski is to betray every child who has ever been a victim of sexual abuse.

Childhood sexual abuse destroys lives.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, over 62,000 children were sexually abused in the US in 2012. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) revealed in 2010 that 42% of female rape
victims were raped before they turned 18 and 28% of male victims were first raped before age ten. The impact on victims ranges from short-term anxiety to long-term depression to adulthood sexual dysfunction to suicide, and there are millions of us living in the United States.

Click to sign.

Click to sign.

We deserve better.

StopWoodyWilkQuote2Dylan deserves better than to see her abuser rewarded yet again. All survivors of childhood sexual abuse deserve better than this continued culture of acceptance for predators and dismissal of victims.

As survivors of childhood sexual abuse and people who love them, we the undersigned are asking Amazon and Amazon Studios to stand with survivors and take a stand against childhood sexual abuse. Because make no mistake—if you move forward with this partnership, the statement you make will be “We support child predators—not CSA survivors.”

sign


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


Related:


Self-Care Bingo—Play With Yourself for Better Health!

I don’t know about you, I have a hell of a time remembering to practice self-care, and I’ve heard the same from a lot of the people I interact with online. Many of us spend a lot of time and energy online fighting for causes we care about at the expense of our mental and physical health and while we know that we need to pause and do things that are just for us—things like social media breaks, playing with the dog, listening to music, or just DRINKING SOME DAMNED WATER—it can be really hard to do so.

That’s why I created SELF-CARE BINGO!

SCB2

New and improved!

It’s like an act of self-care I can share with all of you. Yay!

The symbols are intended as prompts. For example, I live in Seattle, so there are many days (weeks, months) when getting sunshine is just not in the cards, but I can get outside and breathe some fresh air or use my little full-spectrum light thingy. Not into knitting? Do the craft you love. Already hugged your dog today? Tickle your cat or throw a ball for your ferret. The possibilities are endless!

I’ve got my SCB card printed out and ready to mark up even as I type this. See?

Proof!

Proof!

Let’s do some self-care, people.


Note: The SCB card above is a new and improved version updated post publication. You can find the old one here and a safe-for-work version here.

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


American Girl: Representation Matters

image: Flickr user terren in Virginia

image: Flickr user terren in Virginia

I missed out on American Girl dolls, and somehow my daughter did, too. But for many women and girls in the US, they were and continue to be a big part of growing up. Their historical character dolls offer a glimpse into the lives of girls who lived through different times and also encourage a love of reading (each comes with a book detailing her adventures). Some characters get “sidekicks,” and each year American Girl releases a “Girl of the Year” doll. That’s a lot of opportunities to give little girls a chance to see themselves represented among other American Girls.

But the overwhelming majority of historical character, sidekick, and “Girl of the Year” dolls have one thing in common: they are white and able-bodied.

AGGoY

Girls of the year 2001-2010. Note that Sonali is a sidekick.

The line of My American Girl dolls, which lets girls order “dolls that look like me,” offers three skin tone choices: light, medium, and dark. There are nearly forty “My American Girl” models on offer to real American girls, but a look at the site reveals that girls who don’t have “light skin” get far fewer choices.

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 11.16.02 AM

That’s twenty-eight eye color, hairstyle, and hair color combination choices for little white girls, including dolls with freckles, so if you’re a little white girl, you’ll have no trouble finding a doll that looks a lot like you. Little dark-skinned girls choose from four dolls (aka hairstyles). Little girls with “medium skin” have a few more choices when it comes to hair and eye combos, though all but one of these dolls uses the same face mold as the “light skin” dolls. No freckles for brown and black girls. And no “dolls that look like you” for little Asian girls. In other words, not much diversity happening here.

L to R: light skin, dark skin, medium skin

L to R: light skin, dark skin, medium skin

While you might conclude (as I did) from looking at the choices for these dolls that American Girl made only two molds and that was that, you’d be wrong (as I was). But I know way more about this than I did when I woke up this morning thanks to Sarah Hannah Gómez (more on why in a moment) and now I can tell you that there are apparently a total of seven face molds, most of which have been retired. The mold used in the “dark skin” dolls is known as the Addy Mold. There’s the mold created for Sonali (from the Girls of the Year graphic above). There’s the Asian Mold and one called the Jess Mold. The point is, it would be a simple thing for this company to do a better job representing the diversity of actual American girls.

“Have you looked around at the America you live in?” asks Sarah Hannah Gómez in her new petition on Change.org. “At the girls who were your first customers? 43% of us are nonwhite. And as for your current generation of customers? Of the approximately 22 million United States citizens under the age of 19, around 36% are nonwhite. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, whites will be the minority.”

This is not the first time women and girls have called on American Girl to do better. Sisters Eva and Melissa Shang created a petition that netted nearly 150 thousand signatures—and a fair amount of press—asking American Girl to consider a disabled Girl of the Year. The company’s response was fairly dismissive:

“We appreciate the enthusiasm and trust our fans have in us to create products and stories that speak to diversity and inclusion, and we applaud Melissa Shang for her amazing spirit and positive attitude … We receive hundreds of passionate requests to create a variety of dolls and books based on a wide range of circumstances, and we are always considering new ways to enhance our product lines.”

So, no plans for the Girl of the Year to represent a disabled child anytime soon. (Positive side-note: You can special-order a My American Girl doll with a hearing aid, and AG-sized wheelchairs are available.)

Sarah Hanna Gómez’ petition goes on to explain to American Girl how their lack of diversity makes an experience that should be happy—sharing something she loved as a child with a new generation of girls—into a painful one, instead:

You made us who we are. You made us readers; you taught us to delve into history; you gave us toys that encouraged imaginative and creative play.

But more important: we made you. It is because of our love for you that your brand still stands strong today.

Now, as adults, we have the chance to share American Girl with our younger sisters, nieces, and daughters. But much as we love nostalgia, there’s something that hurts us when we try to delve into it. You keep misunderstanding your own name – American Girl – and erasing us from the story of America.

click to sign

Click to sign the petition.

Are you listening, American Girl? Because this is a key message companies like yours need to hear: lack of representation equals erasure. When you represent “American Girls” as primarily white and able-bodied, you participate in a system that a) treats people with those qualities as “normal” and thus b) devalues and dehumanizes those who don’t have those qualities and c) fails to tell their stories, erasing them from the narrative. As Eva Shang said,

“What makes girls love American Girl is that it’s not just a doll. It comes with a story. It’s compelling to Melissa because her own story is so unique. So what we are really campaigning for is that her story be told.”

And Sarah Hannah Gómez points out that there are two important sides to the representation coin—mirrors that let us see ourselves and windows into the lives of others:

Without mirrors and windows, white, able bodied, Christian children grow up thinking that they are the norm from which everyone else deviates. Without mirrors and windows, children of color, children with disabilities, or children of different religious backgrounds grow up thinking that they are less than, that they are other, that they are strange.

I highly recommend reading her beautifully written petition in full and, of course, signing and sharing it so that this company gets the message that they must do better when it comes to representing real American girls. (You can follow Sarah Hannah Gómez on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog.)

Bottom line: If you’re going to call yourself “American Girl” in 2015, you need to make it a priority to represent the wide range of girls who live in this Great American Melting Pot. Do better, AG, or expect to keep hearing from us.


Update: Soon after publishing this, I tweeted about it, tagging American Girl. Here’s what they had to say:

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 5.36.41 PM

Well, that doesn’t answer the question, which was “Why are nearly all the Girl of the Year dolls white?” But since I didn’t actually expect an answer to that question (or any answer at all, truth be told), I’ll address the statement above. AG responded within an hour (and from a corporate account on a Saturday!) so I’m assuming they had this one canned and ready. This tells me they have to address this topic from time to time, so you’d think they’d do a better job of it. I mean, if the best you can claim is “one of the most diverse and inclusive” then obviously you can do better in this area, so why not at least go with the “we’re always considering ways to enhance” line they gave the Shangs? But to me it sounds like AG is pretty satisfied with the status quo, so no, they probably aren’t actually looking for ways to improve—just ways to respond to critics that get them to go away.

Update 2 (1/5/15): A live Twitter chat is beginning now (11:30 am Pacific time) on the hashtag #LiveUptoAmericanGirl.


Note: As is often the case, I have made some post-publication edits for clarity.

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


Choosing My Words and Introducing Rosie’s Phenomenal Insult Machine!

BULLSHITwordshurtbr

Trigger warning for discussion of multiple potentially difficult topics.

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words can never hurt me.

A few years ago, I posted to my Facebook page a wish that parents would stop (or at least stop and think before) repeating this to their children. Words can and do hurt, I pointed out, and parents argued, “Yes, but this is a tool that maybe empowers them. Something they can say back to a bully.”

Ok, but it seems to me that two things happen when we give them this “tool” to wield: 1. We lie to them (because those words do hurt!) and tell them to go forth and lie some more. 2. We we tell them that their feelings are invalid or abnormal or both, and that they should hide those feelings from others. So the “tool” is a weapon to help them feel/seem stronger and they must hide the hurt lest they be seen as (or heaven forbid feel) weak.

This doesn’t seem healthy to me. The people my age who grew up using this “tool” became adults who often believe that words don’t have power and that people who claim to be hurt by them are either attention-seekers or whiners or both. In other words, the people who claim harm are either lying (because words don’t hurt!) or they’re weak. But…

Words hurt.  

privilege (1)Another symptom of this belief that words are “just words” is the fact that the idea of using “politically correct” language is a Bad Thing even among some progressives. While the term itself was coined as a jab, the “PC” movement was really just an attempt to create awareness of the harm some words do to people on the margins of society. I remember people joking years ago after making an off-color comment that it wasn’t “PC,” half-heartedly apologizing for the potential offense while effectively dismissing any criticism preemptively. Now there seems to be a culture of intolerance of tolerance itself which has spawned (or partly spawned by?) a misguided backlash against a misunderstood idea. Whereas the point was to remind people who gave a shit how simple (if not always easy) it is to choose words that don’t cause harm, the people who complain about it the most are ones who seem to feel persecuted because they have to worry that if they say something people don’t like then consequences might result.

Dude, it doesn’t affect you, so you don’t give a shit. We get it. But crying “WORD POLICE!” and “FREE SPEECH!” every time someone calls you out just makes you look like a jackass (and kind of a whiny one, at that). Because this is Earth and on Earth (say it with me now)…

freedomofspeech

As an activist, I have learned to choose my words more carefully partly because I have listened to marginalized people who express how though it might seem like a small thing to someone who doesn’t deal with it regularly, a single dehumanizing word is a drop in a bucket that collects those drops all day every day until that person feels like they are drowning in them. Recently a commenter on my Facebook page (one of the many dudes who stop by to tell me I’m doing my feminism wrong) said that focusing on microagressions like this is somehow detracting from work done in other areas. Yeah, no. Like drops in the bucket, these microaggressions become a part of a storm that beats people down until depression, anxiety, even PTSD result. When you consider that you could be a part of that storm or not, well…I’d rather not.

So many words we (we as individuals with varying levels of privilege and power, we as a society) use casually reinforce stereotypes or make insults of things that shouldn’t be insulting or trivialize things that are not trivial…the words we use to tell boys not to ever get caught behaving like girls and to practice strict masculinity at all costs (words which also tell all the girls who hear them that to be a girl is to be less-than); the words we use to tell girls and women that we are, as a group, unstable and prone to hysteria, not credible as witnesses to our own lives; the words we—cisbodied people—use to tell trans and nonbinary people that we don’t view them as quite “real” and that their role is comic relief, and the ones straight people use to tell gay people that who they love makes them abnormal; the words we—able-bodied and/or neurotypical people—use to dehumanize people with mental and physical differences, that paint them as everything from inspirational tragedies to animals to jokes; the words we—white people—use remind Black people that it is our privilege to go from birth to death with zero understanding of their experiences; the words we use to tell victims of sexual assault that if their attacker didn’t come out of a dark alley or if they drank or wore a short skirt, we will not believe them.

alisonrowan.com

alisonrowan.com

Words matter.

And so I am trying to be conscious of the words I choose and yes, it’s sometimes uncomfortable. Learning is hard. Growing pains. What’s the alternative? Ignorance. Stagnation. Regression. No thank you.

Still with me? Good. This is the fun part.

As a woman who is a feminist who is also on the Internet, words hurt me more than I let on, partly because of my social training and partly because I would rather laugh than rage or cry. So, as often as possible, I find a way to laugh or otherwise release some stress. Sometimes I make comics. Sometimes I write angry blog posts.

And sometimes (like since the baby anti-feminists found my Facebook page) I find that I need (ok, want—ok, no, need) to employ an insult in response to or about someone who is wrong on the Internet (usually some antifeminist with the privilege of being utterly unaware of their own privilege or a company or organization or website or…). When I do, I want that insult to hit only one target with zero collateral damage. I want an insult that sums up the problem behavior/person without participating in the dehumanization of marginalized people or perpetuating oppressive systems in any way.

In other words, I want a precision strike.

That’s why I created Rosie’s Phenomenal Precision Insult Machine. Behold:

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 10.38.30 AM

RPPIM takes terms from two columns and randomly combines them into one insult. You can choose how many insults to display in the upper right where it says “Amount.” Click “DO IT!” or refresh to generate new insults. I made this a while ago using RandomGen by Orteil and have shared it a few times, and friends have helpfully suggested additions. (If you’d like to do the same, use the comments or hit me up on Twitter.) It was mostly just a way to blow off steam and also a reminder that there are SO MANY alternatives to some of our go-to words and phrases. I love the fact that the people who tried it said it made them laugh and that they couldn’t stop clicking.

DO IT!

DO IT!

Words can do harm. But we’re not going to stop using them to describe bad behavior and the people doing bad things. So as long as that’s true, I’m going to make it a point to use fewer words that contribute to the problems in the world in the ways that contribute to those problems.

And I’m going to keep finding ways to laugh.


Note: As is often the case, I have made some post-publication edits for clarity.

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


Make Me a Sammich: The Comic #4 – Cubs at the Door

MMASCOMICheader

CubsAtTheDoor2

Yep, they’ve found me. Tiny MRA larvae. They’re not nearly as cute as baby slugs. ;)


My Birthday Wish

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.57.25 AMIn a few days, I will celebrate my 50th year on this planet. I haven’t done as much as I guess I hoped I would by now. I have, on the other hand, survived a lot. And that’s why it’s especially important to me to make a big deal out of this nice, round number. It reminds me that I’ve reached an age my depression and anxiety made me fear I’d never see. It is a way of giving myself some credit for making it through and not giving up—for continuing to strive for wellness and to reach for a place where I will once again feel satisfaction with the way I am using the days I have on the earth. I’m not there yet, but I know that I deserve that, so I’m celebrating the fact that I can celebrate myself. And not insignificantly, I’m celebrating the fact that two years after a major trauma, I am able to celebrate my birthday again. This time of year will likely carry some weight of grief for some years, but I am taking this day back.

My birthday wish is honestly too big for words to encompass. The only word that remotely comes close to the thing I would most like to see in this world is LOVE. I have no wish for romantic love in my life—another thing to celebrate, I suppose, since every year up until age 41, I wished for that on every star and birthday candle and dandelion seed and though it was trauma that brought me to this place, I can focus my wishes elsewhere. The love I’m talking about is a more universal thing: THE thing that so many prophets and philosophers and poets have been trying to tell us all along. The thing that is very likely our only hope.

lovecropped

Big, right? It feels unattainable, but I don’t think it is. I believe that if we keep this word in our minds like a mantra, then it can’t help but make bad situations better. So my wish is that everyone reading this remember that word when anger and frustration flares up, not as a reminder to love your enemies necessarily, just as a reminder of what’s inside you that needs expressing out into the world and of what’s important—really important.

This is not the post I set out to write. I came here (inspired by a friend—thanks Britni!) to tell you about a few people and organizations I care about and suggest that you consider them in your holiday giving. But I asked myself what I truly wished for and wanted to answer authentically, so here we are, as close as I could come to putting my wish in a word: LOVE. A big wish, but a small ask. Keep it in your mind and in your heart.

AND if you could show some love to these people and organizations, I would be grateful. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll thank you publicly. (Do let me know if you don’t want that!) Give whatever you can afford, though I do like the numbers $5 and $50, for some reason. And if you can’t give, please consider sharing this post.

egarnerfamilyEric Garner Family

Eric Garner’s family lost a father and a husband when a police officer used an illegal chokehold, killing Garner on video as he told officers again and again, “I can’t breathe.” The Garner family’s lives have been shattered.  You can help ease the financial burden on the family by donating to this fundraiser (I have committed to $5 a month for 2015):

Donate to Eric Garner Family


Ferguson Organizers Johnetta Elzie & DeRay McKesson

Johnetta and DeRay are Ferguson organizers, publishers of the Ferguson newsletter, and all-around badasses. You can help them stay fed and housed and support the work they do by donating to their PayPal account.

Donate to Ferguson Organizers


Brianna Wu is Making Games

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 9.28.42 AMBrianna Wu is one of several women in the video games industry that has been targeted for relentless harassment by the scum that is GamerGate (all together now: “Actually, it’s about ethics in video games journalism!”). From her Patreon page:

I got into videogames to make video games – but right now the majority of my workweek is wasted on fending off BS from people harassing me.

Wu goes on to describe some of this harassment, which continues to be brutal. These people used her dead dog as a prop with which to torture her and her husband, Frank Wu. Brianna Wu is asking for help:

If you appreciate what I do, please chip in so I can hire some help with the Women in Tech advocacy I do. I need someone to help me with the medial parts of dealing with my attackers so I can focus on my work, making and shipping games.

Donate to Brianna Wu


Joyful Heart Foundation

*Trigger Warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault*

As some of you know, I’m pursuing closure in a thirty-year-old rape case. I have contacted a number of organizations that purport to help people like me, and Joyful Heart Foundation is the only one that reached out and offered to speak with me, hear my story, and provide knowledge and assistance as I navigate the legal system. I’m so grateful for that support.

Joyful Heart began as a dream of helping sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of hope, possibility and joy in their lives. We have evolved into a national organization that is paving the way for integrating holistic approaches in treating trauma, transforming the way people think about, talk about and behave around the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and advancing public policies to ensure justice for survivors.”

Donate to Joyful Heart Foundation


Thanks for reading and helping me celebrate my 50th birthday.

Love,

Rosie


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


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


Trigger Warnings: It’s About Empathy and Choice

Trigger warning for multiple topics*.
EMPATHYsmI am super irritated that I have to write this. That I feel like I have to write it today, right now, because not only did a concern-trolling article come out in the New Republic a couple of days ago, but people were already complaining about trigger warnings as though they were some kind of censorship (some even using the word). As though the people using or benefiting from them were proposing banning words or ideas. As though we want our world scrubbed clean of all references to traumatic topics. This is not remotely the case, and I feel the need to clarify for anyone who’s listening and isn’t sure they get it. 

What’s a trigger warning? The top Urban Dictionary entry does a fairly good job of defining them:

Used to alert people when an internet post, book, article, picture, video, audio clip, or some other media could potentially cause extremely negative reactions (such as post-traumatic flashbacks or self-harm) due to its content. Sometimes abbreviated as “TW.”

Trigger Warning for sexual violence

The New Republic article adopts a slippery-slope argument, pointing out among other things that UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Student Senate has passed a proposal, now presumably before university officials, recommending required warnings before graphic material. The author doesn’t seem curious about how this might help people. In fact she states quite plainly that it doesn’t:

As a means of navigating the Internet, or setting the tone for academic discussion, the trigger warning is unhelpful. … There is no rational basis for applying warnings because there is no objective measure of words’ potential harm.Of course, words can inspire intense reactions, but they have no intrinsic danger. Two people who have endured similarly painful experiences, from rape to war, can read the same material and respond in wholly different ways.

This tells me that the author a) has missed the point entirely and b) didn’t bother to speak to anyone who uses or benefits from trigger warnings (she certainly doesn’t quote any). If she had spoken to some of us, she might understand that trigger warnings are actually very helpful to trauma survivors. They allow us to choose when and how we engage with content so we can do so in a way that results in less harm. It doesn’t mean we won’t view the content. It just means we have a choice—that it doesn’t hit us like a slap in the face and possibly to our great detriment. But people who pooh-pooh trigger warnings often (though not always if they take the time to listen) seem unconcerned with the everyday battles survivors face on the Internet. In fact, like the author of the NS article (quoted again below), some are now wringing their hands over how this practice is apparently harming us as a society and will lead to trigger warnings on cereal boxes and shit:

What began as a way of moderating Internet forums for the vulnerable and mentally ill now threatens to define public discussion both online and off. The trigger warning signals … a wider cultural hypersensitivity to harm and a paranoia about giving offense. And yet, for all the debate about the warnings on campuses and on the Internet, few are grappling with the ramifications for society as a whole.

… it’s only a matter of time before warnings are demanded for other grade levels … it’s not inconceivable that they’ll appear at the beginning of film screenings and at the entrance to art exhibits. Will newspapers start applying warnings to articles about rape, murder, and war? Could they even become a regular feature of speech? “I was walking down Main Street last night when—trigger warning—I saw an elderly woman get mugged.”

Trigger warnings aren’t about not giving offense. They’re about taking the time to consider how material might affect survivors of trauma (empathy) and allowing them to a) brace themselves emotionally for the material or b) skip it entirely (choice). They serve as a helpful guide for people who might want or need to prepare for—or choose not to experience—content that might trigger reactions that they aren’t ready to deal with right now—reactions that can range from mild discomfort (which is what most people who have a problem with TWs seem to assume we’re talking about) to outright panic to self-harm. In an age when most of us are suffering from information overload, it’s about giving people more awareness of possible emotional landmines so they can make informed choices as they navigate their day. Believe me, we’re going to encounter plenty difficult material without the benefit of a trigger warning. We’re not living in a sterilized environment. But we do appreciate a heads-up when something might reopen our wounds. To me, it doesn’t seem like much to ask, and it doesn’t cost me anything to include trigger warnings on my content.

As yet, no one is obligated to provide trigger warnings. It’s something we do out of consideration for those who might appreciate and benefit from it. A simple [TW] before a tweet about a difficult topic gives readers a chance to steel their gut or skip it if they don’t feel like dealing with hard stuff just now. Ever read or watched something that made you cry at work? If so, you might know the feeling of wishing you’d waited until later. Have you ever said something insensitive in front of someone who was hurt by your words and wished you hadn’t opened your mouth? Would you knowingly walk through the world causing people to feel either of those ways…or much worse?

No, the world cannot and should not be free of all references to rape, abuse, domestic violence, racism, slut-shaming, fat-shaming, suicide, war…but knowing what we’re in for allows us to reduce emotional stress and strife in an environment that—for at least some of us—feels like a barrage of those things on a fairly constant basis.

It’s about self-care, and those who think trigger warnings are unnecessary or asking too much are basically saying that they don’t care whether we’re able to practice self care, or whether being blind-sided by something might cause us to engage in self-harm or flip a switch in our brains and trigger anxiety that can last for weeks (or months and require medication or even hospitalization to overcome)…this is what we’re talking about here, folks. We’re talking about caring enough about survivors of trauma that we allow them to choose. The National Institute of Health estimates that over ten million people suffer from PTSD in the United States alone. We’re talking about avoiding doing or saying something carelessly that might cause real harm to people who are already struggling every single day.

Here’s where the concern-trolling really gets going:

Issuing caution on the basis of potential harm or insult doesn’t help us negotiate our reactions; it makes our dealings with others more fraught. As Breslin pointed out, trigger warnings can have the opposite of their intended effect, luring in sensitive people (and perhaps connoisseurs of graphic content, too). More importantly, they reinforce the fear of words…

*scraaaaatch*

Go read the article if you want. I’m done.

Yes, there is a good chance that trigger warnings will rise in popularity as people become more aware of why they are a thoughtful thing to do. And people who think they’re useless will continue to wonder “What’s next? A trigger warning because you don’t like the brand of beer I drink?” And I will shake my head and wonder why it’s so difficult for them to consider the lives of others—lives which are clearly quite different from theirs when their reaction to our trauma is “This is the world. Deal with it.”

Well, this is empathy, and it’s what allows people to care for each other and not hurt each other. I recommend that everyone take a spoonful with their tea in the morning and see if your day and that of everyone you interact with doesn’t get just a bit better. At the very least, maybe you’ll cause less harm.

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 10.58.17 AMSpeaking of lack of empathy, here’s what Dan Savage had to say about the NR article:

Any article in which I’m cited as triggering needs to have a trigger warning. Because that totally triggers me.

Way to be an insensitive fuckwad, Dan. High five.

I mean seriously: aside from some people’s snide reaction to the idea that some people need to be a bit more gentle with themselves than others, what is the problem with a warning before a particularly graphic film or tv show (many of which already feature them and have since I was a child)? What is the cost? Do we really think this is going to lead to everyone walking around in full-body armor and darkened goggles that filter out anything objectionable? Why don’t we start by worrying about survivors and concern ourselves with the Great Trigger Warning Dystopia later? Because at this point it sounds to me like some people are just irritated by other people’s sensitivities, and to that I say, get out into the world and meet some people whose lives are completely different from yours. Listen to what they have to say. That’s where your full dose of understanding will come from.

I’ll close with a quote from the always-amazing Anne Theriault of The Belle Jar:

Life is an ongoing exercise in empathy. As a human being, your job should be constantly learning how to make your own way in this world while causing as little harm as possible.  Which is why I’m ultimately baffled when people wonder aloud if they’re supposed to look at everything critically and worry about its potential to harm others. Because yes. Yes, that is exactly what you are supposed to do.

tortoise

Me empathizing with a baby tortoise, in case that’s helpful.

*See how easy that was?

UPDATE: People have argued here and elsewhere that trigger warnings might be harmful to someone who really ought to face their triggers as part of recovery. This argument assumes that a) we are all in the same place in our recovery and b) we all need the same thing with regard to our recovery. It seems to me that people making this argument are telling people who appreciate trigger warnings that they (the arguers) know better what we (the triggered) need than we do. While I think these people’s intentions are in some cases good, I strongly disagree and I ask these folks to examine their own privilege in making these assumptions for others.


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

Related:


I’m Not as Strong as You Think I Am

rosie

(art by Norman Rockwell)

Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m a persona.

(Hi, Rosie!)

I exist to protect the person who hides behind me. I allow her to say things she has trouble saying with her real mouth, but I am her True Voice. Through me, the person who writes this blog has found a way to talk about her life and what it’s like to be a woman in what is still very much a man’s world in so many ways.

I can be a bit rough around the edges. Ranty, sweary, short-of-temper, unlikely to take crap. She’s like that too, but my knob is tuned way higher than hers. And I think that sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that the fact that she and I have strong opinions about things and fight for what we believe in means we’re super tough and impervious to harm. I think sometimes people have the impression we’re so sure of ourselves—this real-life-person and I, her avatar—so confident and secure, that words, judgment, implications that we are what’s wrong with feminism, that we see problems where none exist, that we’re too angry and intense and that we spend our energies on all the wrong things…that none of this gets through the armor of this persona and reaches the real person.

But she’s in there, and she’s tired and sad and it’s taking everything I’ve got to help her find the words to admit it. She has learned that life is different now and unless she’s willing to give up on the dream of making positive change, she’s going to have to get used to encountering resistance not just from the faceless Internet, but from friends and allies.

She’s sad and tired and sometimes she feels like giving up, but she’s got hope and she clings to it and it’s what gives me whatever power I’ve got to pull out words when all she’s got are tears. Hope that all this will end up being worthwhile (and faith that it must), and that those friends and allies who doubt and resist will let down their guard and trust that when she says “this hurts me” it does. Hope that the fact that she hurts is enough to make a thing—or even a movement—important enough to them that they won’t dismiss it out of hand or imply that she’s not seeing clearly or that she’s “too angry.” Hope that if they disagree, they’ll remember that it’s not philosophy to her—that it’s something she feels deeply.

Hi. I’m Rosie. And I’m here to tell you that activism isn’t fun. It can be very, very rewarding, but when one of us launches a campaign like the one I helped launched yesterday, we’re putting ourselves out there to be criticized by the whole entire Internet, and if you think I haven’t spent the last 24 hours second-guessing myself, alternately shaking with rage and crying tears of frustration, then you think I’m a lot stronger than I really am. I’ve been told I’m part of the problem and that my perceptions are flawed, that I’m wasting my time, and that I’m aggressive. None of these are firsts, but when every ping from your blog and social media elicits a moment of panic, you know you’re stressed. And when some of the doubt comes from within the tent, that’s particularly hard to take—but it happens every single time. And while it’s certainly healthy to entertain differing points of view, by the time I’ve gone all-in on a campaign like this, I’ve gone over and over it and I know how I feel about it, so the second-guessing is just a mind-game I play with myself. I’m in no doubt, for example, of how I feel about that hotel ad.

And that’s what I left out of my post yesterday: Me. Why this campaign is important to me personally.

When I was 20, the man I was with beat the shit out of me and promised me I would not live through the night. He smacked me around first, then gouged my eyes with his fingers (leaving scars I still see when I look at a blank wall), cut my face with a putty knife, then threw me across the room. Somewhere in there he told me he was going to bury me in a field where no one would find me. About half this he did in front of my two-year-old daughter. That’s just one of my stories of violence, but it’s the one that comes up like bile when I see this image.

A reader yesterday said the ad in question looked like slapstick to him. Someone else said she looked like she was just lying there—no violence implied. Me? At a gut level, without any analysis, I see a dead woman lying on concrete (I get “alley” or “parking lot”) at a glance. When I see this image, I see her story. The story this image tells me is of a woman to whom violence has been done (she didn’t throw that suitcase at herself) and who has been left for dead on a stained concrete floor. On closer inspection, she’s sprawled in a decidedly lifeless way (I now have a copy of the magazine and it looks like she’s in a parking garage—there are oil stains), her hand palm-up. She’s certainly not conscious—not struggling to get up under the weight of the heavy suitcase she accidentally dropped on herself. In fact, to me, it doesn’t look like she’s getting up at all.

And when I see that, I think of all the women who—like me—have had violence done to them but who—unlike me—did not survive it. And I feel sick. And I feel like this is a crass fucking way to sell a product. But at the heart of it, this image causes me pain and given the response I’ve received privately, on the post, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments section of the petition, I’m not alone.

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m not as strong as you may think I am. But I’m not alone. For that, I’m more grateful than I can say.


Related

The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women (makemeasammich.org)


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


Happy Birthday to Me!

ImageMy bloggiversary came and went back in late June while I was attending to other things, and while I’d love to do a clever recap of the year, I’m afraid I just don’t have the energy right now. Instead, here are a few things I’ve learned this year as a baby blogger/activist right off the top of my head:

  • Blogging is fun! And sometimes hard. But mostly fun!
  • I love my readers. The ones I love, that is. You know who you are. Especially you.
  • Some of the coolest people in the world are bloggers, and a bunch of them are now my friends. (An alarming number of them are Canadian for some reason. I blame Le Clown.)
  • Trolls are really sick and sad and I wish I had a superpower to defend the world against them. But as long as they exist, they serve a purpose in the fight against them, so I’m learning to live with them the way I’ve learned to live with the fact that bacteria grows on my teeth while I sleep.
  • When people care enough about an issue, when we join our voices and demand it, change happens.
  • This blog is whatever it is, critics be damned, and I love it more than I ever thought possible. (See “I love my readers.”)
  • I’m grateful to everyone who was a part of this first year (even some of the trolls, though I’m not grateful for the way they treated me and continue to treat women on the Internet).

Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting. Thanks for reading even if you don’t ever comment. Thanks for commenting even if you don’t agree (this goes to those of you who do so politely and thoughtfully–everyone else can fuck off). It’s been a particularly rough year, and this blog has been a huge part of getting me through it and helping me to work out where I’m going from here.

Oh, and before I forget: Thanks. :)

Love,

Rosie

 


Confessions of a Feminist Butt | The Outlier Collective

Today I have a guest post up at The Outlier Collective for their week of conversation about Feminism. Have a look at this and the other contributions, as well as the conversations that have ensued. Fascinating stuff. I’m proud to be a part of it!

Here’s an excerpt from my post:

Why it took 47 years and six months or so for me to get to that place, I’m not certain, but I do know one thing: I had met the type of feminist who feels the need to speak up every single time someone says something that might be construed as sexist in any situation, and I did NOT want to be one of them. I don’t remember ever saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” but if I did, then I was–I was a Feminist Butt. I wanted everything feminists want, I disliked everything (most) feminists dislike and work to change, but I did absolutely nothing to promote equality, and I certainly didn’t call myself a feminist because yikes, what if someone thought I was one of those feminists?

Read Confessions of a Feminist Butt at The Outlier Collective.


No Sacred Cows

Holy CowI’ve been at this blogger-activist thing less than a year, but I know I’ve said it more than once: I strongly believe we have to hold ourselves and our allies to the same standards we do our opponents. This means we can’t allow ourselves to place anyone on a pedestal where criticism can’t reach them, and we can’t sweep bad behavior under the proverbial rug. It means we don’t let one another off the hook when we slip up and contribute to the problems we’re all trying to fight.

It means no sacred cows.

It doesn’t mean we have to point fingers and assign blame—at least not in my personal best-case scenario. To me, it means we point out the problems we see with what someone said/did/wrote, and then we stand back and let the person respond, hopefully taking some time to consider and form a thoughtful rebuttal or explanation or mea culpa. I know this can work—I see it all the time. But people have to be willing to ask the uncomfortable questions, like “Did you mean to say X? Because that’s what I heard.” And then follow up with “Here are all the ways that’s problematic.” And that’s difficult to do. But I think there’s too much at stake not to at least try to do it more often.

Lately, I’ve had a number of encounters with people who are fairly hardcore about responding when a stranger or celebrity or faceless entity they care nothing about says or does something out of line, but seem very reluctant to call out people (or entities) they consider allies even if they behave really badly. And some of these folks can be extremely critical of those who do call out bad behavior from people (or entities) they deem “good.” For example, some critics point to a given target of my activist ire and a) tell me all the things to like about them and b) draw comparisons among the issues I could be focusing on and finding my choices lacking—particularly in the face of how awesome the target is if I could only see all the good they do. But the fact that a person or company or organization might be otherwise awesome is precisely why I have to speak out when they do something less-than-awesome. If I let someone off the hook for bad behavior because they also do good, I’m making a conscious decision to condone that bad behavior under certain very particular circumstances (i.e., ones that suit me in a given situation). There’s a word for someone who does that: hypocrite.

Sacred cows are everywhere, even in our social circles. Like that one guy people apologize for because he’s a “good guy” who goes to church or gives to charity or volunteers with underprivileged puppies or whatever even though he did something really awful to another member of your social circle (this probably sounds like I’m talking about someone specific, but it happens all the time—see Captain Awkward #322 & #323 and #393 for examples). Or that woman who really is a great person who helps people and does all kinds of good, and when she says or does something really awful, no one will call her on it because she probably didn’t mean it the way it sounded, or she was just having an off day, someone provoked her, or don’t pick on her because look at all the GOOD she does. When we let these people off the hook, we’re sending a message that they can behave as they wish without consequence. We’re sending a message to anyone these people have wronged that the wrongs they suffered don’t count. And that can be pretty harmful. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. (In fact, Sid wrote about it here.)

So what is at stake? Because we’re all tacitly condoning it, the behavior will very likely continue. Within the framework of activism, allies may decide to adopt the behavior and perpetuate the problem, while opponents will certainly make as much hay out of the offense as possible—especially since we’ve chosen to ignore it and laud the offender’s accomplishments instead. These are just some of the risks we take when we apply a double standard.

But the most important thing at stake here for me? My integrity.

When I do this thing I am describing—when I choose to apply my standards to only those unfortunate enough not to be among my sacred cows—I compromise my principles. And what value is there in anything I do or say if I don’t defend my principles with everything I’ve got?

barack_obama_haloThe most high-profile sacred cow we liberals hold dear is President Obama. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy as hell that he became president and that he got reelected. But there are things he does that have me scratching my head and I have spoken out about them in the past (not here I don’t think, but on my previous blog for certain). I had a (very unrealistic) hope that we would get modern-day equivalent of a fireside chat out of this guy where he loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves, parked his butt on the corner of his desk, and leveled with us on the day-to-day struggles of governing this country. I want to understand why we’re killing civilians with drones, why Gitmo can’t be closed (yes, I’ve read the reasons), and why the HELL he thinks fracking is a good idea. I wanted him to explain how he didn’t agree with some provisions of the NDAA but had to sign it into law anyway (for reasons I’ve also read).  And that’s just for starters. The President of the United States is the very LAST person we should be letting off the hook.

Penny Arcade, PAX, and front-men Gabe and Tycho, are sacred cows in the games industry where I’ve mostly made my living for the past 25 years. When I asked friends recently whether PA had ever acknowledged what the real problem was with the way they handled what’s now known as the Dickwolves Debacle (i.e., did they ever apologize, or did everyone just sweep it under the rug and keep going to PAX?), I heard two things: 1) No, they haven’t done anything to illustrate an understanding of what they did wrong. 2) PAX is too important a networking opportunity for some folks to miss, especially given the current economic climate. I sympathize, but I think we have to demand better from people with as much pull in the industry–especially among youth–as Penny Arcade enjoys. But we don’t, and so Gabe goes along his merry way being a rape apologist (he recently decried the unfairness of Kickstarter’s decision to pull a game called “Tentacle Bento”–in which the player’s goal was to accost as many schoolgirls as possible as an alien tentacle monster) and all around ignorant ass, and steadfastly refuses to hear anyone who attempts to help him understand people whose experiences differ from his and correct his course to avoid causing harm in the future. He consistently trivializes issues people ask him to take seriously, poking fun at or even ridiculing critics (and thereby encouraging his followers to do the same). And anymore, Tycho just seems to pretend none of it is happening. PA continues to be a major influencer, with the industry flocking to PAX where a lot of people still think Dickwolves was a kick in the pants because PA never stood up and said “We were wrong–here’s what we learned.” They have explicitly chosen not to use their influence to help solve the problems they continue to help perpetuate. And frankly, too few in the industry have asked them to.

The rape joke that got Penny Arcade into trouble in the first place (but was ultimately minor compared to their handling of the fallout) fell into that oh-so-holy space just outside reality where people are supposedly allowed to say and do anything: comedy. I’ll let Lindy West speak to that (via Jezebel):

But it’s just a joke. Calm down.

Yeah, dude, but this shit isn’t magic. It’s not a game. It’s not like you get to declare the comedy stage “base” and the rest of the world “hot lava” (spewing from the vaginas of feminazi gargoyles, I’m sure) and everything you say on the stage exists in some sacred loophole that’s exempt from criticism and the expectation of hard work. Rape, domestic violence, brutalization, marginalization, the struggle to make yourself heard—all of this shit is REAL to a lot of people. They’re not cute little thought experiments for you to mess around with without pushback. You can lie to yourself all you want, but if you say something awful to somebody in the course of your regular day, it is exactly the same as if you say it on stage. If anything, its emotional impact is magnified.

And anyway, anyone who says “but it’s just a joke” has never had their life profoundly changed by a joke.

In the same article, Lindy has this to say about sacred cows:

But Louis CK!

Ugh, this part is so boring. Okay. Do you know what else Louis CK does? He changes. He evolves. He thinks. And when he fucks up, he gets criticized like crazy, and some of that criticism makes it into his brain—and, eventually, his act. Also, just because one of comedy’s sacred god-kings manages to be funny and smart when broaching certain sensitive topics doesn’t mean they can’t also be harmful. You know, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Etc. Just because Jeffrey Ross can (debatably) pull off a “haha, faggot” once in a while doesn’t mean that identical “haha, faggot”s aren’t actively moving gay kids to kill themselves all over the fucking country. It’s real, and it deserves critical thought, not kneejerk defensiveness.

Also, you’re not Louis CK. Maybe don’t invite the comparison.

It’s not easy to realize your behavior might be contributing to the very problems you claim to want to solve. But if you’re lucky enough to reach a certain level of self-awareness, you realize that you’d rather be right—really right—than be wrong and defend your wrong position like a stubborn jackass. I have been known to say you can be Jesus H. Christ and heal the sick all day long, but if you’re an asshole, I’m going to say, “Jesus! Don’t be an asshole!” But even I didn’t want to heap criticism on the president at election time in 2012. And that made me a hypocrite. A well-meaning hypocrite with what felt like good reasons for being so, but a hypocrite nonetheless.

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So, this is my mea culpa for that and for how hard it is for me to call out my sacred cows when I think something they have said or done has caused harm. I can’t say it will never happen again. I’m not going on a witch hunt; believe it or not, I’m actually non-confrontational by nature. But I want to do better. I’d like to call on anyone reading to consider joining me in making a commitment to hold ourselves and each other to the highest possible standard so we all strive to do and be better. At the very least, we’ll give our opponents less ammunition. At best, we will raise the level of discourse, which is always worthwhile.

Either way, we’ll have our integrity.


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


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

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“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.