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

Posts tagged “women

Not All Men, But These Ones

SAYNOTALLMENAGAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s enough.


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


Related on MMAS:

 


Dear John: My 20-Year Grudge Against TMBG’s John Flansburgh

Aw, but he likes cats...

Aw, but he likes cats… 

Dear John,

It was 1994 or so, spring maybe, and I was on my way to work at Electronic Arts in San Mateo, CA. I must have been listening to the rock station rather than my usual NPR, because the dude on the radio announced that They Might Be Giants—one of my very favorite bands of all time—was giving a free concert that day in Golden Gate Park in nearby San Francisco.

It wasn’t even a question. I got to work, made my apologies, and drove to my ten-year-old daughter’s school, signing her out for the day so she could see TMBG live.

Arriving at the park, we spotted you, Big John—John Flansburgh—right away. You stood a few yards away from a rope line near the stage talking with some guy. My daughter was utterly beside herself. She stood at that rope line waving, hoping to catch your eye. She waved and waved and I stood there with her watching as you finally…well, “condescended” is a kind word. You…condescended to wave to her, which sent her over the moon. She loved the concert. She had a great day.

Here’s what I saw: My little girl standing there waving, smiling, thrilled to see you and you, John, turning to us with a look on your face that said, “I can’t fucking BELIEVE I have to do this,” an eye-roll that most certainly offered you a view of your own BRAIN, and a wave that couldn’t have been more exaggerated if you’d thrown your shoulder out of socket and could not possibly have communicated more disdain for this tiny fan.

My daughter turns 33 next year. She rolls her eyes at me when I tell this story. She was thrilled that you waved at her. She was too young then to understand that you were not saying hello but saying, “Jesus, kid, would you fuck off, already?” And so, it didn’t hurt her the way it hurt me.

20 years later, telling this story to someone I know, I realize that it still hurts a lot.

I have friends who tease me about my “grudge.” But dude, you were mean to a kid. My kid. That’s not the kind of thing a mother gets over. And also? I loved your fucking band. I bought every album and went to every show I could. I took my child out of school to see you that day because she loved you, too, and I thought it would be a good experience for her. Thankfully, it was. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt by your behavior. But she could have been, and I think about other kids who came to see you. Were you mean to them, too?

I like to think that this was a one-time thing. I like to think that you later realized what a jackass you’d been and felt so guilty that you started making kids’ records to atone for your behavior that day. I know that’s ridiculous, but that little fantasy has given me some measure of comfort.

The more likely truth is that you were probably just exactly the egotistical jackass you seemed to be. I wonder if you still are.

My daughter’s love for music, partly fueled by listening to your records, grew into a talent. She’s an amazing singer and songwriter, and she and I were in a band together for a few years. This month we’ll sing together at my 50th birthday party.

Though you kinda broke my heart that day in 1994, I’m just glad you didn’t break hers.

All of this illustrates a few things: my ability to hold a grudge for 20 years; your capacity for being an utter dickwad to fans; the fallibility of our heroes and our tendency to put humans on pedestals…but I guess more than anything it’s about a mother’s love for her child.

You don’t fucking mess with my kid.

I have failed her in so many ways, so maybe telling stories like this one (you’re not the only person I’m still angry with over their treatment of her, in case that makes you feel any better) is just my way of proving to myself that despite all of my failures as a mother, I am a mother who loves her child fiercely.

Dear John: you owe my daughter an apology. I owe her a few, too, but that’s between us. If you and I ever meet, I’ll tell you this story and ask you to extend that apology. I don’t really expect that you’ll comply, but I’d do anything for my kid. Even write a silly blog post about a grudge I’ve been holding for two decades.


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)


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

The Dude

Is this dude aware of his privilege?

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

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

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

To Those Dudes:

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

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

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

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

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

rothman_mansplain_post

So, here’s my advice to you, Dudes:

Stop.

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

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

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

Sincerely,
Rosie

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

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



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


The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women

Trigger warning: violence against women.

TL;DR: Sign the petition.

UPDATE 8/29: Refocusing on DuJour

moore24f-1-webI have rewritten the petition letter to focus on DuJour, but have left The Standard as a recipient for now. This campaign is still getting press, and if the petition takes off,  would hate like hell for them to miss out on all the fun.

Please continue to share the petition and contact your media peeps.

Thank you for all your help and support!

UPDATE 8/28: On Fauxpologies and Small Victories

standard-downtown-los-angeles-logoIn activism, we have to choose our battles often accept small victories when we’d rather announce that we got everything we wanted the way we’d like to. In the case of The Standard, I’m pretty sure we’ve heard all we’re going to from them unless we step this campaign up in a major way. (DuJour has not responded yet; more on that in a bit.)

In under 24 hours, we got The Standard’s attention and that of several media outlets, including BuzzFeed. (UPDATE: The Daily Mail apparently also picked this up yesterday, and Business Insider and The Daily Beast both covered it today.) This post has had over 2,600 hits, and has been reblogged many times. We got people talking about an image that for many of us produced a visceral reaction and sent a message that dead women make great advertising fodder. And we got an apology from The Standard.

Now let’s talk about that apology, shall we? Because it looks a lot like other apologies we’ve seen from entities in response to criticism of the type we’ve leveled at The Standard.  I’ll break it down:

“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm.”

Translation: This is art, dummies. Blame the artist, not us.

This avoids responsibility for the content by branding it “art” and hopes, I think, to make us feel a little silly for making such a big deal out of it. I mean, we didn’t ask who the artist was, and the fact that it’s art is completely irrelevant. You spent exactly four sentences on this apology, The Standard. Did this really need to be one of them?

“We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence.”

Translation: We don’t see it that way, but we’re sorry you do, and if you do, it’s not really our fault.

Ok, look, I’m asking a lot here, I know, but couldn’t we get a “We’re sorry we did a bad thing?” “We’re sorry we used this image without thinking of the implications or the impact on survivors of violence?” No, we basically got “we’re sorry you were offended,” and that not only defers responsibility for the perceived “offense” onto us, the “offended,” but it declines to acknowledge that any damage occurred.

“No offense or harm was intended.”

Translation: We didn’t mean to do anything wrong, ergo, we didn’t and/or you should let us off the hook because our intentions were not evil.

Duh. You didn’t set out to cause harm to women or survivors of violence or anyone with this ad. You intended to get people’s attention and you didn’t think about what this image might actually say about your brand–what it might say to over half the population who, presumably, you’d like to attract to your hotel. You didn’t think about the harm it might cause despite your intentions, and now you’re not really admitting to any harm, just assuring us that none was intended.

“The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”

Translation: We were done with this campaign anyway, so here’s a bone.

Yes, I’m being extremely cynical, because we should really call that line a win, dog-boney as it is. We have (as the amazing Jaclyn Friedman (Women, Action, and the Media) kindly pointed out to me yesterday) created an “opportunity cost.” We have caused this company–and anyone watching, including DuJour–to take a look at the cost vs. benefit of using ads like this in the future. That is a GOOD THING.

So yeah, this was a pretty weak apology–but it’s still a win. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As for DuJour, they ran the ad apparently thinking it was acceptable, and so far they have not responded in any way to our petition. I would sincerely like to get a response from them saying they get it, but frankly, at the rate we’re gaining signatures on the petition, I’m not sure how long that will take or whether it will happen at all. As Jaclyn pointed out, there are many ads like this out in magazines around the country and the world, and we have to choose where to focus our energies.

Your Input Needed

What do you think, readers? Should we leave the petition up, removing The Standard so DuJour keeps getting emails when someone signs? Is it worth pushing for more signatures, more media coverage? Or is it time to call this a victory and move on to the next thing? If we had 2,000 sigs instead of under 200, this wouldn’t even be a question, but I’ve only got so much energy to spend and I want your input on this. Let me know what you think in the comments section.


UPDATE 8/27: The Standard Responds

Fewer than 24-hours after we launched our petition, The Standard posted the following response to Change.org:

“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm. We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence. No offense or harm was intended. The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”

I’ll have commentary on this soon. Meanwhile, let me know what you think in the comments section below. Are you satisfied with The Standard’s apology? Have they done enough?


The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women

Last week Daisy Eagan sent me the image below. It’s a partial of a full-page ad for The Standard Hotels in DuJour magazine’s summer issue. The ad contains no text—just this image and the hotel’s logo and a bit of fine print at the bottom.

Click for full page ad.

DuJour is a new fashion/lifestyle magazine published nationally with localized issues for major cities. The Standard is a “boutique” hotel chain with locations in New York, Miami, and L.A. The image above looks to be taken from the NYC edition (based on the small print on the facing page). Somewhere in the offices where each of these companies does business, one assumes that entire teams of people looked at this and thought it was ok. At an ad agency hired by The Standard, some bright young creative type came up with this ad* in response to the challenge to market a hotel chain to rich people, a group that must certainly include many, many women. All three of these companies made the decision to use violence against women to market a product. Apparently, this isn’t the first time The Standard has been criticized for their advertising choices. Claire Darrow, creative director for Andre Balazs Properties has said these choices amount to “surrendering our ads to art, so to speak…We want to contribute to the magazines…We don’t just want to advertise.” (Update for clarity: This piece is part of a series by Erwin Wurm called “One Minute Sculptures”)

I know I don’t have to explain to most of you why this particular ad is (no,  not “offensive”) damaging, but I really have to spend some time talking about how, like recent pieces by The Onion (more info here and here), this ad trivializes violence against women, once again using victims of said violence as bait, once again for the purpose of profiting from our pain. I need to point out for anyone not clear on the concept that by using violence against women for something as crass as attempting to lure people to your “boutique” hotel chain these companies are helping to perpetuate the cycle of violence. They are normalizing it—treating it as something trivial, not worth taking seriously. Treating it as a joke. That teaches everyone regardless of gender that violence against women is No Big Deal. These messages in our media teach women to expect violence and teach men prone to violence against women that what they do is socially acceptable. And apparently The Standard Hotels, DuJour, and the as-yet unnamed advertising agency behind this ad thought that this was the right message to send to potential customers.

Daisy blogged about this ad last week asking her readers to contact The Standard and DuJour and ask them why they think this is appropriate advertising. She had this to say about it:

Dujour magazine ran an ad in its summer issue for The Standard hotels clearly meant to warn women to steer clear of the hotel or face violence and/or death.

I’ve ordered a copy of the Miami edition which should arrive soon, and since TSH has a location in Miami, I assume the ad will be present. When it comes, I’ll update this post with a full image of the ad (now available here thanks to Daisy) and any other information I can find—hopefully including the name of the agency that designed the ad.

Take Action

We’ve started a petition to let The Standard Hotels and DuJour Media know what we think of this ad and the message they’re sending about violence against women. Please sign and share so we can get their attention (tweets have so far had no effect) and make sure they understand that ads like this are not acceptable and that they do harm.

Sign the Petition

You can also write to the parties in question directly. Thanks to Daisy for finding this information. (If you decide to do this, I’d appreciate it if you also signed and shared the petition, which goes directly to their email. Numbers matter. Thanks!)

Andre Balazs Properties
23 E. 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
email: press@standardhotel.com
Twitter: @StandardHotels

Jason Binn
Dujour Magazine
2 Park Ave, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Twitter: @JasonBinn @DuJourMedia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dujourmedia

You can also help by alerting media folks about this campaign (especially local media if you live in NYC, Miami, or L.A.). Bad press is often what penetrates otherwise impermeable entities.

Let’s make some noise.


Press Coverage

See The Ad For The Standard Hotel Accused Of Trivializing Violence Against Women (Business Insider)

The Standard hotel is accused of ‘trivializing violence against women’ in new ad showing a woman crushed by a suitcase (Daily Mail)

The Standard Hotel’s Latest Ad “Trivializes Violence Against Women” (BuzzFeed)

The Standard Hotel Comes Under Fire For Trivializing Violence Against Women In Their Latest Ad Campaign (The Frisky)

The Standard Hotel Accused of Trivializing Violence Against Women (AdRants)

Hotel Pulls Ad of Crushed Woman (The Daily Beast)

Dear Advertisers: Violence against women is not sexy (Mamamia)

The Standard Discontinues Ad Accused of Promoting Violence Against Women (the fashion spot)

Which Luxury Brand Couldn’t Resist Using Violence Against Women In Its Ads? (the gloss)

Related

Stop Violence Against…Everyone (Stuphblog)


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

 


SFFragette: Moving SF/F into the 21st Century

Woman-in-Space-Suit-Reading-a-BookThis week, after news broke of yet another sexual harassment incident at a convention, I decided I needed to do something tangible to help solve the sexism, misogyny, and harassment problem in the science fiction and fantasy community.

I’ve been a part of the community since I was 19 and attended Westercon in Portland, Oregon, and I have worked and played in the field ever since (nearly thirty years). It’s home to so many friends and is part of my family life. I have always thought of it as an accepting community, and it is in a lot of ways. There are few places where people can be pretty much whatever or whomever they choose and not feel judged, and SF/F fandom is one of them.

But it was an incident at Norwescon in Seattle a couple of years ago that helped me come to the realization that I had to start talking about feminism. Living it. That I had to stop being a Feminist Butt.

I was on a panel with two men where I was ostensibly the moderator. One of the men very helpfully took over moderation duties, ran the panel, and he and the other guy proceeded to do most of the talking. I gave up trying to do my job or get a word in edgewise at some point about halfway through and just waited (with what I hoped was a patient, not-bitchy look on my face) for it to be over. It wasn’t until I walked out of the room that I allowed myself to get really pissed. Two months later I started this blog.

It wasn’t an isolated incident (and the Internet is currently brimming with women’s stories of sexism, misogyny, harassment, stalking, and assault at SF/F cons), but my decision to come out as a ranty feminist was certainly not a result of my experiences in SF/F alone. And until recently I’ve been pretty focused on the larger culture and the video games community (my other home) where we’ve finally begun talking about these issues in earnest, and haven’t really given a lot of thought to the need for activism within SF/F. Then all hell broke loose, and it broke loose again, and a writer named Kari Sperring coined a hashtag that gave me one of those “Light bulb!” moments:

The conversation was already hopping on Twitter, so I ran over and created a Facebook page and posted some of the wonderful posts coming across that feed. The idea was to get people all in one place and start talking solutions. And as I thought about solutions, I realized what I wanted to see for starters was a presence at conventions to counter sexual harassment. To that end, I and my ultra-secret partner-in-crime began designing a badge idea to propose to the community as part of a campaign to achieve three goals:

  • Don't Harass Me BroProvide information on how to report harassers.
  • Act as safety liasons (someone you can go to for immediate assistance if security isn’t around).
  • Create an awareness among potential harassers that we are watching and reporting harassment.

It soon became apparent that we were going to need a website* and a Twitter account, so that achieved, I’m now engaging members of the community on the design, the slogan, etc. and am really encouraged by the response. I’ve also learned of two groups doing similar work (Nerdiquette 101 and the Backup Ribbon Project) and I’m looking forward to talking with them about what they’ve learned and how we can work together.

All this to say if you’re a reader, writer, or SF/F con-goer and want to help make positive change in that community, join the discussion. Chime in on the blog, Facebook or Twitter, write a blog post telling your story or giving your perspective, and consider participating in the upcoming campaign to be part of the solution at cons you attend. I’d love to have your help making SF/F the accepting, safe community we all want it to be.

*SFFragette.org domain active soon!


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.


10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You | The Outlier Collective

This excellent post by The Belle Jar appears today The Outlier Collective as part of a guest blogger series on Feminism. (My contribution appears tomorrow.)

10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You 

I’m typically a huge proponent of the idea that feminism is for everybody. Feminism is for ladies! It’s for men! It’s for non-binary individuals! Feminism is for teenagers and small children! In fact, I’m even pretty sure that at least one of my cats is a feminist, although the other one just prefers to think of herself as a cat-ist, because that’s less political. Regardless, I’m usually of the opinion that feminism, as a philosophy, can and should be embraced by everyone.

Lately, though, I’m not so sure. I’ve been seeing a lot of questionable behaviours and comments, many of them coming from purported feminists. I’m starting to wonder if some people might want to re-think whether the feminist movement is right for them. With that in mind, I’ve created a handy-dandy list of ways to tell whether or not this movement is for you.

Read the 10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You.


Six Months Later: Thanks for Being Here

calendar.pngTomorrow will mark six months since I learned that my best friend had betrayed me. Six months since he got caught, confessed, and ran out the door as fast as his cowardly feet could carry him. Four months since I gave up any hope that he was still capable of being a friend or even a decent human being when it came to his treatment of me and broke off all contact with him probably forever.

This has been one of the (if not the) most difficult periods of my life—a life that has included other betrayals as well as beatings and even rape. And though I’m doing much better than I was six or even four months ago, there are times when the whole thing hits me all over again and knocks me back down onto the floor where he left me back in December. A photograph, a dream, the bar where we had one of our first dates which I can’t avoid visiting because friends must support friends—these things and so many others poke holes in the armor I’ve built around myself these past months and stab me right in the heart.

I have felt all of these things and more.

I have felt all of these things and more.

Some folks tell me that all this only has as much power over me as I allow it to have–that it is my choice whether to dwell in the past or move on with my life. It’s true, I have no choice but to move on–it’s that or die. But this healing I’m doing is a process, and I don’t actually control how my body reacts to stimuli such as an image, a place, or just a vivid memory. There’s a sensation like a kick to the gut or chest, and then the tears come, and *then* I get to choose what to do next. And I have chosen life. And there have been good times. I have optimistic days. Sometimes I think I might be ok. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again and that I won’t feel agony every time—at least for a while.

The support I have received from friends and acquaintances (and here I must acknowledge that even the ones who say and do things I don’t find particularly helpful are usually trying to be supportive) has been overwhelming. Social discomfort has mostly been due to the place (my old apartment building, the bar I mentioned above, a local convention, or just downtown Seattle, for that matter) or my state of mind. There are those times when people ask how I’m doing and then change the subject when I tell them the truth and it’s not happy, and that can be awkward and can leave me feeling like they didn’t really want the answer to that question. (I’ve never been one for small-talk anyway, so if you ask how I’m doing, you’re very likely to get an honest answer.) There are those people who I know are still friends with my ex, and that can be uncomfortable for me because he hurt me so much and they remind me of that by their very existence in my social sphere (it’s not their fault—it just is). There are those people I suspect are still his friends, but who don’t tell me so—don’t say anything at all about him (which is as it should be—as I have requested—if they are still friends). All of this can be awkward and painful, but it honestly pales in comparison to the outpouring of support from people from all areas of my life—especially from my online friends and acquaintances (some of whom are also RL friends and acquaintances).

That very much includes you, dear readers. Very much indeed. Without this place to share my stories and my personal…challenges? …this past year, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like. Without this place to vent my pain and rage in December and January, I’m afraid to think what would have happened to me. And without you showing up here, whether just to read or to comment or commiserate, this place would not be what it is for me. I know that I can talk about the things that feel important–whether they are about all of us or just about me–because you have helped me see that our stories are one of the most important ways we learn, grow, and connect with our fellow human beings.

Thank you for being a part of mine.

rosiethankyou.jpg


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


Why #FBrape is Not About Free Speech

Speech is an action.

Speech is an action.

This is an opinion piece I submitted to the Seattle Times in response to an ACLU blog post claiming Facebook’s decision to apply their existing standards to gendered hate speech is bad for “free speech” on the Internet. I disagree for a number of reasons, among them the fact that Facebook is not the Internet-at-large (but one community within the larger Internet that doesn’t allow hate speech–there are many that do), and does not traditionally maintain any sort of existing “free speech” standard as the blogger implied (in fact, they already ban a lot of content that violates their stated terms). As I have said before, freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences, and one consequence is counter-speech–and counter-action if the community you’re in believes that your “free speech” is harmful to the group. You’re still free to say what you want, but you might have to take it somewhere else if you get voted off the island. That’s just life.

All that said, I only had 600 words to play with, so I focused on my belief that this speech not only contributes to rape culture (which teaches us that rape is acceptable) but encourages (read: incites) rape and violence against women, and as such is not (or should not be) protected. By anyone. I’m about as far from a lawyer as people come, and I doubt there’s any legal precedent for my position, which is probably why the Times declined to publish (i.e., they did not respond within the requisite time). Nevertheless, I believe this to be true.

Today [5/30/13] Jay Stanley took issue on the ACLU blog with Facebook’s decision to remove content promoting violence against women in response to the #FBrape campaign, citing “free speech” and the need to protect it at all costs. I would like to point out that where the First Amendment of the US Constitution is concerned (which should be the primary concern of the ACLU), speech that incites violence is not protected, and can indeed be grounds for arrest. I believe that the content the #FBrape campaign objected to has the potential to incite violence.

Some of the images in question depicted real women and girls unconscious, tied up, bruised, bloody, and even dead–all presented as humor. They bore captions like, “Next time, don’t get pregnant,” “She didn’t make my sammich fast enough,” and “Tape her and rape her.”

There is a term that describes the toxic culture we live in where rape and violence against women are trivialized and normalized in this and many other ways. That term is “rape culture.” It’s a controversial term to some who believe it implies that all men are potential rapists. It doesn’t, but that’s beside the point, which is that rape culture is bad for everyone. It teaches boys that girls are objects made for sex and that they are entitled to sex. It teaches girls that their bodies are not their own; that their consent doesn’t matter, only that they play defense and remain pure. It praises men who have sex while shaming women as “sluts.” It makes light of prison rape and male victims of sexual assault. And it makes a joke of rape and violence against women.

You know who loves a rape joke? Rapists. Rape jokes, and people laughing at them, tell rapists that rape is acceptable when what they need to hear is “Dude. No.” And there are far too many rapists out there. They don’t wear a sign—they look just like everyone else. And they’re listening.

A 1987 study (The Scope of Rape: Incidence and Prevalence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Higher Education Students) found that “The frequency with which men reported having perpetrated each form of sexual aggression ranged from 19% of men who indicated that they had obtained sexual contact through the use of coercion to 1% of men who indicated that they had obtained oral or anal penetration through the use of force.” That means that even if you only count “forcible rape” with oral or anal penetration, approximately one in a hundred men are rapists. This is not an insignificant number. When you include vaginal penetration by force, the numbers must increase considerably. And when you begin adding crimes sometimes referred to as “gray rapes” they skyrocket—if not to one in five, then significantly nonetheless.

According to at least one ACLU website, hate speech is not protected:

But this right doesn’t extend to libel, slander, obscenity, “true threats,” or speech that incites imminent violence or law-breaking.

Obscenity arguments aside, one question is this: How imminent is the threat of violence by a rapist against a woman? It is estimated that three women are raped every hour in the US military. In the general US population an estimated 78 women are forcibly raped ever hour (this number does not include those so-called “gray rapes”). Promoting rape as acceptable, inevitable, and funny not only gives rapists tacit permission to rape, it is responsible for the idea that “all men are rapists.” All men are not rapists, but the ones who are thrive on society’s acceptance of rape.

And the ones who aren’t yet rapists but might be under the right circumstances? They’re listening, too.


References:

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/comm/malamuth/pdf/81Jrp15.pdf

http://www.apa.org/divisions/div46/articles/malamuth.pdf

http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/publications/reports/womeninperil/study.pdf

http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/ThatsWhatHeSaid.pdf

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/SOO.PDF

http://www.soci270.carvajal.ca/documents/KossTheScopeofRape.pdf

http://www.musc.edu/ncvc/resources_prof/rape_in_america.pdf

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/36/2/156/

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2009/11/12/rapists-who-dont-think-theyre-rapists/


Related on Make Me a Sammich:


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


Five Things I Know After #FBrape

Oui.

Oui.

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

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

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

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

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

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

largemarge.png


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


#FBrape: We’re Holding Facebook Accountable. Join Us.

wamwedidit

UPDATE: FACEBOOK AGREES TO MAKE CHANGES!

From the official WAM statement:

Last Tuesday, Women, Action & the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and author/activist Soraya Chemaly launched a campaign to call on Facebook to take concrete, effective action to end gender-based hate speech on its site. Since then, participants sent over 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails, and our coalition has grown to over 100 women’s movement and social justice organizations.

Today, we are pleased to announce that Facebook has responded with a important commitment to refine its approach to hate speech. Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy. In a statement released today, Facebook addressed our concerns and committed to evaluating and updating its policies, guidelines and practices relating to hate speech, improving training for its content moderators and increasing accountability for creators of misogynist content.

Facebook has also invited Women, Action & the Media, The Everyday Sexism Project and members of our coalition to contribute to these efforts and be part of an ongoing conversation. As part of these efforts, we will work closely with Facebook on the issue of how Community Standards around hate speech are evaluated and to ensure best practices represent the interests of our coalition.

For details regarding Facebook’s response, please visit here.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped. Let’s all get involved in this conversation and keep them honest, shall we?

Read the New York Times editorial.


NOTE: Trigger warnings for rape, abuse, racism, and corporate assholery. Also, this post is updated regularly with news, FAQ, and new action items. See large headers throughout the article.

It’s gone on far too long. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Facebook’s wacky double-standard (triple? quadruple?) that says this is not ok:

But then, this happens:

Trigger warning: violence against women.

Trigger warning: violence against women.

The woman behind Rapebook did her best, but eventually had to give up the fight because she’d been targeted with rape and death threats and she has a family to think about.

Now Women, Action, and the Media has teamed up with The Everyday Sexism Project and writer/activist Soraya Chemaly to launch the #FBrape campaign to hold Facebook’s feet to the fire by targeting their advertisers (and in turn, holding their feet to the fire). Make Me a Sammich signed on to the Open Letter to Facebook, and I’ve been tweeting about this all week (along with thousands of others), and some companies have responded. Some have pulled their ads. Others have made excuses.

Today I received a letter from WAM founder and activist dynamo Jaclyn Friedman alerting signatories that today is especially important:

We’re writing because today is a KEY day in our campaign. We can tell you that we’re currently in conversation with Facebook, and they’re considering their response. We also know that several of the companies we’re targeting are in “crisis mode” from all the backlash they’ve received, and are putting enormous pressure on Facebook to end this soon. We believe that if we make today our biggest day yet, we could have a real win on our hands.

Loyal readers and friends, I need you to join me in making today count. Take action on the action page, thank advertisers who opted to do the right thing by women and pressure the ones who did not on the follow-up page. Share this post with your networks. Share my Facebook post. Retweet Jenn Pozner’s tweet.

This is a golden opportunity to make some real, positive change. I’m not going to kid myself that if we lose this battle, we’re all giving up Facebook. That doesn’t work for at least two reasons: 1) We all rely on the communities we have built on Facebook and I, for one, won’t abandon mine; 2) This fight, as Soraya Chemaly pointed out on Twitter recently, is partly about public spaces and the fact that women shouldn’t have to remove themselves from such spaces to feel safe.

But I’m in this to win. I hope you’ll join me.


FAQ

Wait, what? I haven’t seen any of these “rape pages”  and  I don’t believe Facebook would EVER allow the sort of thing you’re describing!

Here are some VERY GRAPHIC examples of the pages and images Facebook has deemed acceptable.

Here is an example of a VERY GRAPHIC page a user reported, and the response they received from Facebook. This is the standard response those of us who report these images receive from Facbook. That’s why we’re making all this noise.

Why are you targeting advertisers? Facebook needs to change. Target them!

This fight has been ongoing for several years, and Facebook claims that they are doing everything they can. And yet, reporting pages depicting violence against women results in this statement again and again:

But advertisers can’t choose which pages their ads appear on, can they?

No, they can’t. So the only way to make Facebook take this seriously is for those companies to take violence against women seriously enough to pull their ads if Facebook won’t fix this.

Read WAM’s FAQ with lots more information.


UPDATE: 3/27: Dear Zappos – You Get an F

Yesterday I sent this tweet to @ZapposStyle [TW]:

Screen shot 2013-05-27 at 7.52.04 AM

Today I got this response:

Screen shot 2013-05-27 at 7.55.47 AM

Screen shot 2013-05-27 at 7.57.43 AM

Seriously, Zappos? That’s still your response after all these days?

Ok, just for starters? If we weren’t at the start of this campaign (which most of us were), we’re all very well aware now of how Facebook ads work because companies like yours keep using the Facebook ad system as an excuse for the fact that you are sponsoring rape and abuse pages. Secondly, if it wasn’t clear from the previous sentence: you ARE sponsoring hate and abuse pages by continuing to give Facebook your ad dollars. It’s just not that complicated.

Look, before this campaign started, I was a customer and a fan. I bought my last pair of shoes from a Facebook ad for Zappos. But you are seriously blowing my entire image of you right now (with apologies to John Bender, but I know he’d understand). You are pouring so much money into Facebook that I can’t I refresh one of these rape pages twice without seeing at least one–sometimes two–your ads. You ARE sponsoring rape and abuse pages. You just are.

“We recommend clicking X to delete the ad.”

I dont even know where to start. How about here:

The sentence in bold type above assumes that I’m hanging out on these pages for fun, and the offensive thing is that HOLY SHIT, THERE’S A ZAPPPOS AD! QUICK, HIT THE LITTLE EX AND MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!

Zappos, this response is so full of fail, I’m surprised you fit it into two tweets.

Love,

Rosie

PS: Readers, here’s a sample tweet you can copy and send to Zappos to let them know what you think of this response:

Hey @ZapposStyle: You ARE sponsoring rape and abuse pages by pouring ad $$$ into FB. When will you step up and help end #FBrape?

UPDATE: 3/36

Ok, Facebook is fighting back. Today they pulled advertising from pages like [TRIGGER WARNING] this one and this one and this one, so now advertisers don’t have to worry that their ads might appear next to rapey images. Will advertisers be happy? Certainly. Am I? Not even a little bit. This move is a direct attack on our ability to pressure Facebook via its advertisers–it appears to me to be a statement from Facebook that they’ve heard our cries, but have no intention of changing their internal policies.

Earlier in this post I said I would not abandon my community on Facebook. But their reaction to this so far makes it impossible for me to promise to stand by that. Interestingly, I received a request to fill out a Facebook survey today. Here’s what I told them in the comments section at the end:

Screen shot 2013-05-26 at 1.08.45 PM

Of course, “minorities” is probably the wrong word these days, but I think they’ll get my drift.

UPDATE 3/25:

Today I receive this tweet from a new account claiming to be an official Facebook policy Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 2.50.40 PM

Naturally, I was skeptical, both about the authenticity of the account and about the statement they linked me to:

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 2.53.53 PM

FYI: Here’s a note I received from Trista Hendren, creator of Rapebook:

“I have been talking to FB for over 6 months – directly.  I have all the emails.  They are very much aware of what is on their site.”

Having just received private message to my Facebook page containing a link from a reader to a nasty-ass rape page I could see with my very own eyes, I responded:

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 2.56.09 PM

Nothing. I took a screenshot of one of the images on that page and tweeted it as further evidence. Then I refreshed and the page was gone. And so was “Offensive Humor at its Best,” one of the pages many (but not nearly all) examples have come from. (The @FacebookUO account tweeted that statement exactly six times, then went silent. I’m assuming it was created as some kind of damage control attempt, and that they abandoned it when they realized their statement was a major fail. Then again, maybe someone created an account to defend FB–but that seems less likely. I’m going with Occam on this one.)

Is this victory? I’m sorry, but I don’t think so. Not yet. I mean, the way that page disappeared without a word impressed me at first, but it ultimately felt more like they were trying to support their statement that this problem doesn’t really exist rather than actually doing something to solve the very real problem we’re fighting. And just reread that statement. Here, let me interpret it for you:

“We took care of this a long time ago using our existing system that works very well, but some malcontents on Twitter have been resharing the images as though they’re still online. No fair!”

Sorry, Facebook, but no. You don’t get to claim that your system works. And you don’t get to claim that you’ve made some sort of instaprestochange and this is all fixed. Know why? Because right before this all happened I reported this image:

kkkcrow

…and got this in response:

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 3.03.14 PM

When your moderators don’t recognize a KKK robe as a hate symbol, your system is broken. When your moderators don’t recognize jokes about beating and raping and killing women as hate speech, your system is broken. Facebook: YOUR SYSTEM IS BROKEN.

This isn’t over. I’ve asked @FacebookUO if they’ll clarify the policy changes, and I’ve forwarded this image to them. I’m also looking forward to hearing from the leaders of this campaign regarding what official word they might have received. I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.

Oh, also? These still exist (trigger warnings) [UPDATE: A number of these have been removed. I’m weeding them out and adding new ones as I find them.]:

https://www.facebook.com/HiILoveYouBai/posts/394629313979499

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hope-you-have-pet-insurance-because-Im-about-to-destroy-your-pussy/123711017730757?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=504713129581784&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369534067

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=465266280216071&set=pb.445527162189983.-2207520000.1369534470.&type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=504609859592111&set=a.501611093225321.1073741828.501606319892465

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=503859486333815&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369535804

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=505165316203232&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369611867

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=395212607254503&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369612147

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=503977086322055&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369612258

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=394485250660572&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369612681

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=389219381187159&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369617016

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=388819697893794&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369617097

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https://www.facebook.com/Raith420

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TAKE ACTION!

Tweet the Media:

Please contact media folks and ask them to get up to speed on the campaign and cover us on this week:

Media Matters for America

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC)

Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC)

Ann Curry (MSNBC)

Tamron Hall (MSNBC)

Nicholas Kristof (NYT)

Martha Raddatz (ABC)

Whoopi Goldberg (The View)

Joy Behar (Say Anything)

Sara Gilbert (The Talk on CBS)

Julie Chen (The Talk)

Sharon Osbourne (The Talk)

Aisha Tyler (The Talk)

Sheryl Underwood (The Talk)

The Talk on CBS

Melissa Block (All Things Considered on NPR)

Audie Cornish (All Things Considered)

Fresh Air (NPR)

Xeni Jardin (BoingBoing)

Stephanie Miller (Stephanie Miller Show)

Pressure Advertisers:

Here are some tweets for companies not yet on the action list at WAM. You can copy (more impact coming from individuals) or retweet these to help put pressure on these companies to respond to the campaign:

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338683808159264768

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338444238196981760

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338441099007893505

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338438666923950081

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338438078513434624

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338493663673995265

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338491900107558914

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https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338480248578523137



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


The Perfection Myth

Guest post by FrabjousLinz

86536628I’ve always struggled with body image. Wait, no, let’s be blunt. I’ve always hated the way I look, alternating with thinking I look OK at best. It’s worse the last few years, since I’ve put on weight, and since I’m older and don’t have youth working for me. But truthfully, I’ve never been happy with my body, or my face, or my hair. Or my personality, but let’s not get into that one right now.

I remember wanting to be pretty from a very young age, about when I realized that it’s a girl’s job to be pretty in this world, and that without it, society thinks she doesn’t have any worth. So what, about 4 years old? 5? I remember my brother pointing out to me what models were the prettiest in the JC Penny catalogue. I remember thinking, along with a lot of girls I’m sure, that my only hope was to grow up pretty, because that was the only way to be happy and have friends. I remember hoping that, like the ugly duckling, I would turn into something gorgeous and show-stopping. Because I knew, just knew, that I was ugly right then and there.

Looking back at pictures of myself, I was not an ugly child. I was just a child. I was even, maybe, a cute child. See? It’s hard to really be objective, even now. But at the time, I remember feeling ugly and ungainly and weird looking. I wasn’t popular among most of my classmates, which didn’t help. I was weird, or at least a lot different from many of the kids I grew up with. And one of the regular insults thrown around at kids by kids is always “ugly.” Which doesn’t have to be true to feel true. As I grew older, I only felt more ugly and awkward and weird and ungainly. Some of the ungainly and awkward is true for all kids at those stages – growing is a strange process, and not everything goes together in a cohesive way. But I was certain I was more awkward, more weird looking, more ugly, than basically everyone else around me. I did not know how to wear the right clothes, or the right hair. Of course, those are skills that can be taught, but no one taught them to me, and not having them only served to make me feel even less attractive. Because even when I tried, I felt like I failed. People told me I failed. The society around me told me I failed.

old photo

Someone else’s mom.

My mom did try to help, but since she suffers from a lot of the same feelings about herself, it didn’t help as much as she would have liked. And while I know that she had no desire to pass on these neuroses to me, she almost couldn’t help herself. She always called herself unattractive and fat. In fact, we all joked about it all the time, which was horribly cruel of us. “Oh, we’re just joking,” we’d all say, even my dad. “Mom’s not really fat or ugly. It’s just funny to say she is.” That joke lived a lot longer than it should have. My mom – tiny, thin, pocket-sized, bird-like mom – is always trying to lose weight. Always. She denigrates the way she looks. She deflects, is humorously negative about herself, makes her own jokes about being awkward and aging and imperfect. Everyone loves her. Everyone – although she would disagree, and laugh that off. Everyone loves my mom. She’s great. She’s funny and talented and articulate and smart and caring, and yes, she’s also very pretty. But she would never admit to any of that. So I grew up watching this fantastic person constantly put herself down.

I am more like my mom than I like to admit. Uh, and I think I just called myself fantastic. I can’t even describe how panicked and weird I feel about that. I want to take it back. Not me – I’m not fantastic. My mom is. I’m just like her in that I hate myself. Uh. That sounds bad. Quick, how do I make this funny?

Moving on. As a kid I was always on the short side, and skinny, shaped kind of like a medium-sized pole. Until I grew two inches and got hips right about 14. (And ended up with an impressive set of stretch marks, which were very confusing and distressing at 14. OK, they’re always distressing.) So then I was skinny, taller than 90% of the people (boys, too) in school, and shaped a bit like a taller pole with saddle bags in the middle. At least that’s how I saw it. Weird-looking. There was a standard of beauty, and I didn’t meet it in any way. I tried different hair, which was a disaster. I tried different clothes, which I didn’t understand and almost always had the wrong ones. I tried very hard to be likeable, with varying results. But I still wasn’t pretty, not really. Not as far as I could tell. And if you’re a girl, and not pretty, then you are close to worthless. That’s the message I received, and whether I wanted to or not, I believed it. Deep down, somewhere in my psyche, I believed – believe – I was worth less, because I didn’t measure up on the attractiveness scale. Some people told me I was pretty, but family members and close friends never count, even though they should. And even if I’d had other outside confirmation, I don’t know that I’d have believed it.

20130419-Women-and-PerfectionOf course, the girls who were considered pretty didn’t have it easy, either. And most of them didn’t even consider themselves pretty. Because it’s not just our job, as females, to be pretty. We have to be prettier. Not just prettier than each other (which is a terrible thing, just by the way), but prettier than we were before. Prettier every day. Fix all the things that are wrong, and then find new things to fix. Continue fixing. I remember one male classmate, at some lazy lunchtime, ticking off how he’d build the perfect girl from our various good body parts, those of us girls who were in the group that day. I think mine was legs. I felt insulted, and also a little sizzle of happy at the same time. He thinks I have good legs! But he was insulting all of us. I said nothing, although now I’m older, I wish I’d said “Each of us is perfect as we are. Pygmalion was an asshole. So what does that make you?” Or something along those lines: possibly more clever. But clever didn’t occur to me at the time. So that guy got away with treating all of us like crap, and none of us said anything about it, that I recall. Not the first or last time general misogyny was present in my high school. But it sticks in my memory. I have (had) attractive legs! That guy was a jerk! I don’t know how to process this! I’m probably not the only one who felt like that. Teenage girls, at least when I was one, were more likely to just ignore sexist remarks than do anything about them. And we internalized that sexism, and believed it about ourselves and sometimes each other.

I was skinny, and continued skinny for a good part of my adult years. When I got out of college, and (due to having more regular income, and food that was not ramen noodles) I gained 15 pounds, I immediately thought I needed to lose 10 of them. I wanted to lose 10 or 15 pounds at all times, as soon as I hit my mid 20s. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my weight. I just wasn’t underweight anymore. I ate plenty, I never had an eating disorder, although I kept thinking I should probably eat better, but never did. I just had the kind of metabolism that all women, and plenty of men, wish for. Heck, I wish for it, now that it’s gone. I could eat whatever I wanted, and I did, and my body mostly stayed the same. Lots of people were disgusted with me for that. For good reason – I was kind of obnoxious with it. Not on purpose, but in that clueless way that a person who is clueless is. But I was still horrified at that little poochy belly, the slightly larger thighs. My mom and I constantly discussed how we could lose 10 pounds. I, at least, never lost any. My mom stopped eating her one small handful of M&Ms per day that she allowed herself as a treat, and lost two pounds. She didn’t need to. She still felt like it was a victory. I felt depressed, because a life lived eating only dry toast, nonfat yogurt, and unbuttered popcorn for a treat just sounds awful. Not that Mom doesn’t sometimes eat cookies, but mostly she eats yogurt. And dry toast. She started eating that way in college because she put on weight then, and hasn’t been happy with her body since. Sometimes she skips the toast, too, because bread. It makes me want to weep.

Here I was in my 20s and then 30s – I was young, skinny, I had healthy hair, my skin was decent, I had (have) basically even features, and while I never had much in the way of a bust, that really shouldn’t have mattered. I had (have) curvy hips and long legs. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me.

I hated my body. I wanted to fix every part of it. My arms were too skinny and shapeless. My shoulders were too wide. My ribcage was too wide. My breasts were too small. My hips were saddlebaggy. I had a little poochy belly. My face was too small and round. My nose was weird. My hair was boring and thin and frizzy. My ankles were too thick. My feet were too big. I liked my legs, but that’s it, really.  I felt this way about myself all the time, adding in new imperfections as I identified them. Now I had more of a double chin, now my thighs weren’t as smooth, now my arms were starting to sag. Always something to be unhappy about.

When I turned 35, a lot happened. Among them, my marriage ended after a long struggle and decline, and I began a new relationship just a few months after its last gasps. I moved from a house into a tiny apartment. Pets died. Lots of big changes. Over those couple of years, I gained 30 pounds. Suddenly I not only felt kind of ugly, and a little fat, I felt REALLY ugly, and A LOT fat. Objectively, I am not fat. I am almost 5’9”, and I’m about a size 14. (I say about, because women’s sizing is arbitrary and ridiculous.) While it’s larger than I’ve ever been before, it’s pretty average. It’s not even considered plus size, although I’m closer to that than I’ve ever been. A lot of stores stop at a size 14, and some stop at 12. So the clothing-sales world is also making me feel huge and ugly and fat. Imagine how it makes people feel who are just a little, or even a lot, bigger? I know some of it is my internalization of our fat-shaming world. But how hard is it to feel good when you can’t find clothes that fit and look good, and most of the clothes on the rack are sized 6 and under? Even when I was skinny, I couldn’t wear a size 6. Too tall, too broad shouldered and wide-ribbed. Hips too curvy. (Of course, the reason those clothes are left on the rack: Average sizes women wear in this country are 10-16, so those clothes go first. But still, it makes you feel worse.)

192388215302202217_bizCSl3i_c1-e1357576849117There’s nothing wrong with being the size I am. There’s nothing wrong with being larger. There’s nothing wrong with being smaller. I mean, health reasons aside, but many people are perfectly healthy at whatever size they are right now, and the health things are between themselves, their healthcare professionals, and their loved ones. But shame feels forced on all of us, anyway. I feel it all the time. I feel judged. I don’t know for certain that I am judged, but I feel it. And I judge myself. All things being equal, I should be able to find love and acceptance in at least one place in the world, and that should be for myself. But I don’t. I look at other people of all shapes and sizes, and I find them perfectly fine just the way they are, beautiful, even. I look at myself, and I find myself awful.

The reasons I gained the weight are relatively straightforward – I’m older, so my metabolism changed. And due to my separation and divorce, my metabolism changed while under a lot of stress, which exacerbated any changes going on. My body feels a lot different than it used to. I have a huge chest now, it seems to me. I always used to want a bigger chest, but now I want a smaller one, because these things are in the way. I had to learn how to wear entirely different clothes, because the kinds of things I was used to wearing don’t work for busty. I call them adult-onset boobage. It’s honestly a real shock – another thing my body has done to betray me. But really, it’s the same basic body. My bust to waist ratio has not changed. They’re just bigger numbers. So I’m still kind of square on top, with curvy hips, and long legs. But none of it feels the same, and I still hate it. So I hated my body when it was skinny and young and smooth and strong. And I hate it now that it’s curvier and busty. Although who wants older and saggier and lumpier? It’s hard to find acceptance for that. I should. It’s just a body, right? Bodies do this. They change. They change all the time, and agonizing over it and wanting something different is just an exercise in futility. So why can’t we all just learn to love our changing bodies?

tumblr_mlpyrcaLpi1qb89uwo1_400I think it’s partly because our society doesn’t want us to. Our society, for whatever reasons (possibly capitalism), wants us to strive for prettier, younger, more perfection, whatever the current definition of perfection is. So I have to hate my body, because that’s how it works. Then I’ll buy the things that I hope will make me prettier. Then I’ll pass on my self-hatred to my children, when I have some, and keep the cycle going. Then we’ll work hard at the impossible. Pretty is still a woman’s main job, even when we denounce it, even when we shout that it’s not true. But to many, if a woman isn’t pretty, or isn’t the right kind of pretty, then she is substandard. Definitions of pretty change, but the job stays the same. And it’s very hard to measure up to the definition, since that definition is always some guy, or corporation, pulling apart different women and putting their body parts back together. Here, this random amalgam of parts, this patchwork inhuman thing we have sewn together as though we were Dr. Frankenstein, this is perfection. Perfection that no one really has, certainly not any human girls, because they are human and not carvings or pictures or statues. Because someone can always find another fault, another reason to nitpick, another reason to hate your body. Something to fix.

pretty

I don’t want to hate my body. I’ve spent my whole life hating this body, and it’s been really good to me, all in all. It doesn’t deserve all this hate. I certainly don’t want my future children to hate themselves, to spend their time trying to figure out how to be perfect. It’s such a waste. And yet I can’t help myself. I know this is a struggle for so many – to love ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with striving, until there is. Striving for better, when better means happier and healthier, is one thing. Striving for perfection is hurtful and leaves people defeated and full of self-hatred. I want to feel kindness and love toward myself. I just haven’t figured out how, yet. Maybe we can all learn help each other with that.


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


Learn This Word: Maybe

Guest post by Joseph Paul Haines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

images (5)Here’s one more example:

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

WYST: Maybe. But maybe not.

 

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


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

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

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

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

Just don’t do it. And you’re welcome.


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


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


The “Friend Zone” is Total Fucking Bullshit

b03I know, I’m late to the party, but it’s my turn to chime in on the ubiquitous Friend Zone conversation/debate/debacle. And like many other sensible people, I’m here to tell you that this is a non-issue invented by dudes who don’t understand how attraction works and believe if a woman likes them well enough to be friends, that ought to be enough foundation for True Love to bloom. They believe that time spent with a woman is an investment, and when that investment doesn’t pay off, you’re not only in the Friend Zone, but you were obviously not man enough for the job.

As Erin Riordan points out in her post, The Friend Zone is a Sexist Myth, the movie Just Friends contains a scene that sums up the Friend Zone perfectly. It also does a great job of illustrating what some men believe it means to be (or not to be) friends with a woman:

Chris: What about Sheila? You making any headway?

Ray: We’ll see. I’m taking her to lunch today.

Chris: Oh, whoa, whoa whoa. Don’t – don’t do that. Okay? Don’t do lunch.

Ray: Why?

Chris: That’s like the express lane to the friend zone.

Ray: What the hell’s the friend zone?

Chris: See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.

Ray: I don’t want to be a lamp.

Chris: Yea well then don’t be her friend, okay? Take that guy for example…

[points to a clumsy guy and a gorgeous girl skating together]

Ray: You mean that couple?

Chris: No, I mean the guy that *wishes* they were a couple.

Ray: What is your point?

Chris: My point is – Call Sheila, Ray. Call her right now. Move your day date to tonight. Play the entire thing aloof and no matter what you do, kiss her at the end. ‘Cause friends don’t kiss.

Dude is confused.

Dude is confused.

See, dudes who think like this are confused. They think that there’s this window of opportunity with a woman, and that if they miss it, FRIENDSHIP will set in like an infection and all hope is lost. There are so many things wrong with this philosophy. For one, it assumes that once a man and woman are friends, there is no longer potential for sexual attraction. That is patently false: I know from (repeated) personal experience an attraction can spring up at any time between people for whom it just didn’t exist before. And because of its ignorance of this, it also ignores the fact that some of the best relationships start as friendships. It paints friendship between a man and a woman as a sad, pathetic thing and implies that the man wasn’t man enough to make it something more than that. (This, my friends, is one of the ways that patriarchy hurts us all.)

And that brings me to my next point: Choice. Let’s talk about the mistaken idea that a woman a) can choose to be sexually attracted to a person whom, for whatever reason, she currently isn’t, and b) that a woman should somehow be obligated to “choose” a man based on how much time he’s spent with her, how many favors he’s done for her, or any other such perceived “investment.” The former is about chemistry; the latter is about entitlement.

More on entitlement later. Let’s start with a science lesson, shall we?

Pretty chemicals!

You see, “attraction” and “liking” someone are two completely different things. I like my postal carrier, but I’m not attracted to him. Attraction is a physical thing that happens within people, and at the heart of it, it’s a chemical process. Person A’s chemicals and Person B’s chemicals are either compatible at any given time or they aren’t. No, I’m not a scientist, but I understand the basics and I think I’m right about this. The only thing I can figure is that the people who believe in the Friend Zone have never once had someone crush on them and not feel the same way back. (That or, sadly, they have never been in a relationship where attraction was reciprocal.)

Yes, I have been “guilty” of not being attracted to men who were attracted to me and really wanted me to return their feelings. And believe it or not, I (and many other women) have wished fervently for that attraction for a friend who meets so many other criteria. Sometimes we’ve even given in to the idea that you don’t have to feel an attraction for someone in order to be happy with them, and then we have learned the hard way that for many of us, that’s just not true. And ultimately, we’ve had to walk away not only from those relationships with people who were once friends, but from the friendships as well.

Though there seems to be some controversy over the actual meaning of the song “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon, for me it has always spoken to those times when a close friendship had everything but physical chemistry:

He’s everything you want
He’s everything you need
He’s everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
He says all the right things
At exactly the right time
But he means nothing to you
And you don’t know why

And I have been in the place they call the Friend Zone. I have been crazy about people who didn’t return my feelings. But it never once occurred to me to say “Guys only like women who mistreat them and do X, Y, and Z for them, and there’s no winning, waaaaa.” Because other times in my life, the attraction has been mutual. (And again, I’m sorry for anyone who hasn’t experienced that. But it doesn’t mean women are evil bitches who want rich bad boys who treat them like shit.) For the times it wasn’t, the second chorus of the above song was me all over:

I am everything you want
I am everything you need
I am everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
I say all the right things
At exactly the right time
But I mean nothing to you and I don’t know why…

Now let’s talk about entitlement.

People who believe in the Friend Zone seem to think that if a guy is nice enough to a woman for long enough, he’s entitled to something. (Spoiler: He’s not.) Again, this assumes an awful lot about a woman’s right to choose who the fuck she has a relationship with and pretty much anything else–in fact, it actually removes that right to choose and transforms it into the man’s right to be her boyfriend. In other words, a dude is entitled to a woman once he’s made a sufficient investment in her. If she disagrees, and heaven forbid if she’s interested in someone else, she’s a bitch–or worse, a slut.

Can you even imagine the situation in reverse?

jstfrnds

Chris: So, how’s it going with Sheila? Any progress?

Ray: She’s really nice, and I love hanging out with her. We’ve got a ton in common. But I’m just not attracted to her, you know? I like her as a friend.

Chris: But you’d still do her, right?

Ray: If I was a total asshole, yeah, sure, but I’m not, so…

Chris: Ok, glad we got that out of the way. Next question: you’ve been hanging out with her a lot, right?

Ray: Yeah…

Chris: And she made you dinner that one time, right?

Ray: Lasagna. It was really good. From scratch.

Chris: And she picked you up at the airport what, three times?

Ray: Four.

Chris: Dude. You’re in the Boyfriend Zone.

Ray: What? But I don’t want to be her boyfriend. I’m cool with things how they are. I mean, I wish there was something more there, but…

Chris: Doesn’t matter. She’s been super nice to you. You owe her.

Ray: I what? No I don’t. I just don’t feel that way about her. I wish I did, but I don’t. Besides, I met this other girl I really like. Lisa. I’m attracted to her. We’ve got a lot in common, too, and we’re going out tonight.

Chris: You can’t do that. If you do that, you’re a slut.

Ray: I’m a…WTF?

Chris: Sorry, dude. I don’t make the rules.

Poor Ray! He’s stuck in the BOYFRIEND ZONE. Now he has to have a relationship with someone he’s not attracted to (though he really does like her) just because she was nice to him! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

But what about this poor guy, Rosie? And all the guys like him?

Sigh. Deep breath…

Yes, there are women who take advantage of good men just like there are men who take advantage of good women, so if you’re this guy and she doesn’t have a sprained ankle or something? Yeah, she’s not very nice and you’re not being very nice to yourself by letting her do that to you. But that’s about individuals with low self-esteem and inconsiderate assholes who take advantage of them, not some global phenomenon of women mistreating men.

The Friend Zone as described by the dudes who whine about it doesn’t exist. In reality, it’s just the place each and every one of us finds ourself when we get our hearts broken. And broken hearts are a global phenomenon. They’re the reason poetry gets written and songs get sung–or one of the big ones anyway. If you’ve got a broken heart, I feel for you. I really do.

But seriously? Quit with the Friend Zone bullshit.


Related:

We Need to Talk About the Friend Zone (Feminists-at-Large)

The Friend Zone is a Sexist Myth (Hello)

There’s No Such thing as Being “Friend-Zoned.” She Was Just Never Attracted to You. Get Over it. (People Are Dumb)


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


The Kitten Setting: An Experiment

kitteh

This is how I will imagine trolls from now on….

Recently Mandaray told me about the Kitten Setting: a method for dealing with trolls on the Internet. I’ve been dying to try it out. Behold my first attempt at employing the Kitten Setting. For SCIENCE!

Kittehfied.

Kittehfied.

See the ongoing saga here (see warning below):

The Kitten Setting: An Experiment (with tweets) · MMASammich · Storify.

Now including…

Part I: FUN

Part II: The Troll Came Back…

Part III: Disappointment (sad trombone) [Warning: Contains porn.]

Part IV: The Silence of the Kittens

Part V: Kitten Claims VICTORY


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


I Found Your Old Wallet.

ImageIt was empty except for two things: a photo of me and one of us together.

You asshole.

Really, I ought to capitalize that: Asshole. Because that’s my name for you now. Used to be, when you popped into my head, I thought words like “love” and “sweetie” and “baby” and “honey.” Now, without even thinking about it and without my permission, I think–and say out loud every single time–“Asshole.” Or “Fucking Asshole.” Or “What a Fucking Asshole.”

I can’t believe I ever thought you were one of the Good Guys. That I ever thought you were my friend. I’m so sorry that I trusted you–that I didn’t retain some modicum of protection that might allow me to see you for who and what you really are. I can’t believe I let you hurt me–that you still have the power to hurt me.

I once told you I’d forgiven you. I really wanted that to be true. But it’s not. I can’t forgive you. I don’t know how. I know how to say the words, but not how to make them true. The last time I talked to you I told you how hard the week of our anniversary was for me, and you responded by ignoring me on that very day. Ignoring every attempt at communication and then claiming paralysis, and THEN whining about the unfairness of it all when I told you what an asshole you were. You just kept piling hurt upon hurt, but really, it didn’t matter. You had already done the unforgivable by doing everything you did and then leaving me alone to deal with it all by myself.

I truly hope you get better and cease to cause pain to every woman foolish enough to become involved with you. But my experience has taught me this:

You are a narcissist. You are a serial monogamist. You are a sex addict. You are a man who pretends to be good and then lies and cheats and hurts women over and over again. You are a man who believes you are entitled to have your needs met at the expense of other people. You are a man who has learned what he needs to say after he destroys a life (or several) that will make people see him as a good guy who just makes mistakes and never meant to hurt anyone even though you set out every single day for several months fully intending to lie to me, betray my trust in you, and fuck another woman behind my back in downtown hotel rooms while wondering aloud at home where all our money went. You are a liar and a cheater and you don’t know how to be a friend or a partner or even a good human being.

You are an Asshole.


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


How Many of Me Equals One Man?

by Sid

talking to a brick wall

Is this thing on?

I work for a game company. Of late, I’ve taken issue with some of the content we’re receiving, and I’ve been everything but quiet about it. I’ve written letters to management and blatantly refused to work on it. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably heard me talk about it.

I was actually the second person on our team of three to get up in arms about it. The first was my boss (we’ll call him Joe for ease of storytelling)—the only male on our team. Joe was far and away the angriest person in the building about it—up until the day he quit over it. Before he quit, though, Joe made plenty of noise about it himself. We were deep into this discussion before we realized the higher-ups thought he’d been raising such a fuss on behalf of his team, comprising two females.

I spoke to HR about the content a few days later, and many aspects of my most recent letter came up. As we spoke, however, I discovered that everyone assumed my female coworker and I were the truly upset folks—despite the fact that Joe never implied a single thing to that end. When I corrected HR, she was shocked. “Joe??”

She said he needed to tell the company how he felt about this content. As a man.

Yes, he was my boss, and had she said “as a manager,” that’d be a whole different story. But those weren’t the words, and that wasn’t the intent. He had written numerous emails, attended a number of meetings, and made his feelings very plainly known, but the whole time, management assumed he was batting for us—myself and my female coworker. His words would have inherently carried more weight if he had made it clear that he had been speaking for himself as a man rather than speaking for two women.

So here’s what I can discern from this:

  1. The automatic assumption is that a man simply wouldn’t disagree with this content; therefore, he must be speaking for a woman.
  2. When the assumption was that he spoke on behalf on two women, his words carried almost no weight.
  3. Were he to speak explicitly for himself as a man, the words would carry significantly more weight than when he was thought to be speaking for two women.

At the end of the day, when his resignation letter made it clear exactly who he was speaking for, the content still went through. Even so, that doesn’t negate everything that came before it. It doesn’t take this bad taste out of my mouth.

How many women equal one man? Obviously more than two, but how many? Three? Five? How many female voices carry the same weight as one male voice?

How many of me do I need to be taken seriously?

This doesn't add up.

This doesn’t add up.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Life Sentences

by Robert J. Howe

Note: This story may be upsetting to some.

“Life Sentences” originally appeared in Salon in March 2004 as “Miscarriage of Justice.” It also appeared in Aeon Speculative Fiction, Issue 9 (2006).  

Author’s Note:

This story is about how authoritarian regimes deform human relationships, even—especially—the most intimate ones. It is also a story about how people can’t be controlled, and the unintended consequences of trying to do so.”

via Aeon

via Aeon

Spring at the Phyllis Schlafly Correctional Facility in Broward County. I’m here to visit my mother, who will be fifty-eight in a week. This is no kindness to her, or me. It is a state-mandated visit. I am a living reproach.

I have never seen my mother when she was not in one phase of pregnancy or another, and today is no exception. She looks tired and done to death. The lines around her mouth have solidified since my last visit; they are set in the stone of her face. She looks—she is—angry. She has been angry ever since I can remember.

“Hello, Bryan,” she says. Despite her angry expression, this comes out almost gently.

I have spent a lot of time in therapy, ostensibly coming to terms with the fact that my mother didn’t want me. I am still required to check my weapon at the prison’s armory, lest I take revenge on her. This is absurd: she could not have had any feelings on the matter one way or another, as she didn’t know me then. What she didn’t want was to raise any children for whom she couldn’t adequately provide. The alpha and omega of her life problems revolve around what she considers adequate.

She has a crooked smile, when she smiles, from where her jaw was broken. The arresting officer stepped on her face to keep her from swallowing evidence. If her dead bolt lock had held three more seconds, we would not be facing each-other across the scarred wooden table.

“Hello, Elena,” I say.

She eases herself into a chair, unnaturally skinny except where she is unnaturally round. Half a lifetime of bearing rich women’s children has left her calcium-depleted and stick fragile, and her pale, sweaty face is made more unattractive by the reflection of the green visiting room walls.

We don’t talk much during these visits; it hurts less that way. It is part, too, of my mother’s strange Bushido. What we can do, is look into one-another’s green eyes without flinching. My mother understands, as do I, that between us there can be no feelings of guilt or regret. At least, this is what I like to think. Almost everything I know about my mother, I know from reading the official reports. Prison has a way of making everyone’s life into roman à clef.

There are no guards in the room, a strong reminder that every word and gesture is being recorded. This is another reason for our sphinxlike communion. It is harder, though not impossible, to get blood from a stone. All this notwithstanding, there is something she wants to tell me.

***

My mother was almost as old as I am now when she had me; that pregnancy was no childish fling.

“You have got to be kidding,” was my father’s sole, and last comment to my mother. He never came home from work that day. The Legal Aid lawyer told my mother it would cost more money than it was worth to have him skip-traced, so that was the end of that.

Abortion was still legal in a few states then, but Florida wasn’t one of them. My mother regretted the necessity of an abortion, both because she had wanted what she thought was her “twilight baby,” and because she’d have to have it done illegally; New Jersey, the closest free state, was as financially inaccessible as the moon, what with residency requirements and medical records transfer fees. The day my father walked, money became the big issue. My older sister and brother were just six and seven, respectively, and no one else was going to pay to bring them up. My mother couldn’t work pregnant, and they couldn’t live on what the anemic AFDC provided.

There was a doctor who would do it at Misericordia, in Pompano, and list it as a Dilation and Curettage, and her health plan would have even paid the bill. But two days before the operation a couple of suits from the National Reproduction Administration took the doctor away in the middle of the night. It seems she’d established a questionable pattern of performing D&Cs on women with no significant medical history.

That’s when my mother started answering the classified ads in the back of women’s magazines. She was careful. She was patient. She almost got away with it.

***

My desk is always heaped with paperwork, and today is no exception. So many case folders cover the tabletop that I can’t find a place to set my coffee. In those folders, more often than not, is all the information I need to do my job. By the time I have finished my coffee, I’ll have closed three cases over the phone. Three more anonymous buff folders will then take their place. It is a rare day that I go into the field.

I have been asked, more than a few times, how I feel about my job. The unspoken subtext is always, Does it bother you?

There is, I’m afraid, not much to be bothered about. It isn’t a case of not seeing the forest for the trees; I am so mired in the minutiae of the profession, that it is more like not being able to see the tree for the bark. It is all statistics: looking for the deviations from the norm. I wouldn’t know half my clients if I saw them on the street. What I know are their telephone bills, mortgage payments, medical histories, grammar school grades, even preferences in movie rentals.

Some would argue that it is easier to do my job thus insulated. They are right, but not the way they mean it. It is simply that there is less to remember this way.

***

My mother’s wrists are chafed from the restraints. Two years ago she dove from her bed stomach-first onto the floor. The D.C. lawyer and his wife who were waiting for the baby got a million-five from the Broward Special Corrections Department for mental anguish. My mother got padded leather handcuffs.

When I look at the raw spots on her arms, I notice that she’s tensing her muscles so hard the veins stand out like the surface of a relief map. Her face is completely composed for the cameras, however. I don’t know what to make of this, but I am careful not to stare, nor look away too quickly. I’m rewarded with the ghost of a smile too quick to register until it’s passed. So, I was meant to notice the flexing.

A guard comes in, they call them matrons here. This is a deliberate choice with 1950’s connotations, I think. She stands next to the table, stolid and dumb in her blue blouse and skirt, and signals us that the visit is over. It is less than half the time normally allotted to mandated visits. This is my mother’s small victory: our silence makes them too uncomfortable to endure watching for long. I think my mother would like to say that she is proud of me today, but cannot. To say that would be a tacit confession of her guilt. Any approval of me would mean she was wrong thirty years ago when she tried to flush my fetus out of her body. Still, it is this tacit understanding that allows me to go on with my life and my job.

Our eyes do not meet while the matron is in the room, and my mother is led away without looking back.

***

My mother finally narrowed it down to three advertisements that looked amateurish enough not to have been planted by the NRA, and were ambiguous enough so as to draw minimal attention. All three were for Riviera Diet Supplements—bootleg Roussel Uclaf pills—black market abortions being too dangerous, too easy to track, or both. She went to the library then, and looked up back issues of the magazines. Two of the ads had run for several prior issues, so it was a good bet that they were already under surveillance. The third was brand new.

The next step was a driver’s license under the name of a cousin who’d died as a child, with an SRO address. The rooming house address served two purposes. First, when it was time to get a post office box, it was less likely that an SRO address would trip a flag in the postal computer; it was entirely reasonable for someone living in a rented room to get their mail at a p.o. box. Post office boxes in middle-class residential neighborhoods, which ours was, usually alerted the Postal Inspection Service to a violation of the mail obscenity laws. The second reason for the SRO address was that, in Florida, there were far too many to register their tenants weekly, or even monthly. The annual, retroactive registration would turn up my mother’s nom de guerre, but by then she’d be just another desperate, half-remembered face in the clerk’s mind.

All of this cost money—a mid-quality forged license, (ones that could pass at a DWI checkpoint cost much more than paper good enough to fool a bored postal clerk), p.o. box rental—and the pills. They came in lots of six, packaged like vitamins. Some unlucky women had gone through all this, in fact, and had gotten nothing but vitamins. There were six to make sure the job was done. The feminist underground calls them étui, French for “small purses.” The NRA agents call them six-guns.

In the long run, of course, it was still cheaper than having another baby and staying home for the prescribed two years. That same week she found work as a secretary in an insurance company.

***

I come back from lunch and find that the pattern section has left a list on my desk. Only two names are in my area of responsibility; Evans, Theresa J, and Frawley, Taneka (none). Evans can be put off; I request a background jacket and set her name aside until it comes through. The Frawley folder is on my desk, so I will start with that one.

It is, as I recall, a fairly obvious case. Multiple postal flags, feminist literature subscription—cancelled fairly recently, unmarried, works as a B-girl in a beach club on the strip. Associate’s degree in accounting. Dangerous because she is smart enough to know she’s got a high profile. If at all possible I will perform the search while she is at work.

I bring the folder to the Warrants window, where an NRA administrative justice signs, dates, and seals a premises/vehicle paper. I kill fifteen minutes waiting for the warrant to register by Teletype with the local police. I use the time to check my weapon: I don’t often go into the field, and I go to the shooting range even less frequently. My Glock automatic has a seventeen-round clip, and I carry a spare clip in my jacket pocket. If this is not overkill, I am in the wrong line of work.

The folder stays on my desk—too many classified sources to leave the building—but I slip Frawley’s photo I.D. out, an enlargement of her Florida Driver’s License, to take with me. She is a common looking Black woman, over thirty, with an old-style “natural” hairdo. In the picture she is smiling.

***

The light in the visiting room is always bad—the cameras can record in the infrared if need be—adding to my mother’s washed-out look. She has just delivered the thirty-fifth baby of her sentence. There is no telling how many more she will bear; she has, in the grim double entendre of Special Corrections, consecutive life sentences.

Since she did not try to throw herself on her stomach to crush the fetus, drink her own urine to poison the fetus, or commit any other act of fetal assault, my mother is entitled to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee during her seventy-day recovery period. Then it’s back to a strict pregnancy regimen as an incubator for some other privileged couple.

She draws hard on her Marlboro. In the silence of the visiting room the stale, dry commissary cigarette pops and crackles like a miniature forest fire. We stare at each other through the smoke. Her arms are no longer raw from the restraints, but she’s built up a pad of callus tissue on the inside of each wrist. There are other changes, as well.

I suddenly realize that she has a facial tic, even though she seems otherwise composed. I have never, in fact, seen her other than utterly composed, so this pad of flesh twitching under her right eye seems the equivalent of a scream. I almost comment, but then the tic stops, and reappears under the other eye.

Could she, I wonder, be doing this deliberately? If so it is a phenomenal display of fine muscle control.

The tic stops again, and for a few minutes we sit in companionable, if absolute, silence. She stubs the cigarette out and sits forward, her arms resting on the table. After a moment, I realize that the flesh on the inside of her forearm jumps every few seconds. This reminds me of the last visit, and her vein-popping muscle tensioning. That will have to be enough for today, whatever it means. The matron, battleship-like in her stiff blue uniform leads my mother back to her dormitory area.

***

One of the most common mistakes women in my mother’s position made was using the p.o. box solely for their illegal transactions. As camouflage, my mother used the p.o. box for all kinds of things under her assumed name: she sent away for free recipes, subscribed to inexpensive magazines, ordered little things from mail-order catalogs, and wrote herself long, innocuous letters on her word processor at work, signing them with one of three fictional childhood friends’ names that she’d picked at random from out-of-state telephone books.

She said at one point, that if nothing else, assuming her whitebread, straitlaced, alter ego’s mindset had replaced her contempt for women on the rolls with sympathy. It was always the good girls who got into trouble; too timid to go through the NRA’s red tape to apply for birth control, and too afraid to buy on the graymarket. As a result, they bred themselves deeper and deeper into poverty, using their own loneliness and the scant infant stipend as justification.

On the day the pills arrived, my mother was careful to not vary her routine. She checked her box at lunchtime, as usual, and put the pills in her purse, then went off to lunch with her friends. After work, she picked my brother and sister up at daycare, took them home, made dinner, did homework with them, and read them their bedtime stories. She put the pills in a waterproof container and hid them inside the toilet tank float, a place, in her limited experience, she thought startlingly novel.

Two days after the pills arrived, my mother was ready to go through with the abortion. She waited until a Friday night so that she would have the whole weekend for the pill to work. She called the three girlfriends most likely to phone her, and said she was taking my brother and sister upstate to an amusement park (one she’d taken them to before—no break in the pattern there), and wouldn’t be back until Sunday night. She unplugged the phone and set the answering machine. Then she sat down at the kitchen table and tried to think of anything she might have missed.

All of this, she said later, made her feel as if she were planning her own suicide.

***

I swing by the bar where Frawley works, to make sure she’s there. There are enough businessmen in jackets drinking lunch so that I don’t stand out and spook her. It takes almost a quarter of an hour to find her, since she has changed her hairstyle and looks younger in person than she does in the picture. She is making change for a customer when I leave for her apartment.

I could just shatter the lock and walk in, but then, even if I find nothing, she will know her apartment’s been entered. Better, in all cases, to use finesse. It takes ten minutes of finesse to get the heavy tumbler to click over, during which time two neighbors have walked by. Each time I managed to slide out of their line of sight—not that they would interfere—but if Frawley discovers that there’s been a man in a jacket and tie at her door, it might spook her as much as finding the lock smashed.

Inside the house is neat and organized, but somewhat dirty. It is the house of someone who isn’t home a great deal. There are, however, clothes in the closets, half-used toiletries in the bathroom, and fresh food in the refrigerator, all indicating that this is her real address and not stage dressing.

The current telephone bill is on her desk, opened. I don’t need to look, however; I’ve seen it already. I look through the personal papers in her desk, then get down to searching the apartment. The key, more than cleverness or intuition, is method. In my mind, I divide the room into imaginary grids, and search each one minutely. This not only insures that no spot is overlooked, but that each square foot is seen with a fresh eye.

I turn up nothing. I resist the temptation to research the odd places first, and start at the beginning of my grid again. The first search was entirely non-destructive. I left everything the way I found it, and used only my fingers to probe soft objects like pillows and cushions. This time I cut open what cannot be easily palpitated, and I pry up any loose hardware, tilework, and woodwork I find.

Still nothing. I am about to start my third, deep search when I hear the door. As much as I dislike confrontation, this one seems unavoidable.

***

My mother’s recovery period has stretched to two months because there are currently no sponsors. Summer is always the slowest season for surrogate wombs, and increasing competition from the private sector has lessened the demand slightly in the Special Corrections system. Whatever the reason, my mother seems to be enjoying this period of relative freedom.

“Hello, Bryan. What’s it like in the real world, these days?”

This is more than she has said to me in twelve years of bi-monthly visits. I wonder if this hiatus in her sentence is wholly the cause of her good spirits.

“About the same,” I say. “You look well.”

The truth is, she looks better—she has put on some weight, and it makes her face look years younger. Anywhere but in here, though, she could pass for someone who has just overcome a serious illness.

She sits for a long time, studying me. It is not like our usual silent communication—it is as if she is seeing me for the first time. The scrutiny makes me uncomfortable. I feel it is somehow a violation of our tacit understanding.

It occurs to me, forced back on myself like this, that it is possible my mother has finally gone insane. I have always assumed she was harder than any person or institution she came in contact with, but insanity is the second most common cause for termination of sentence. Of course, the insane trade one kind of prison for another, and if they are cured, they are returned to Special Corrections. There are precedents, though few of them.

Her voice pulls me out of my reverie.

“I’m sorry,” I say, “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“I asked if you’ve ever seen your father.”

This, of all things, I am not prepared for. In the six months from her arrest to conviction, my mother never once uttered a word about my father, or at least none that were recorded.

“No,” I say. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious.”

You were never curious before, I want to say, but I can’t bring myself to break our unspoken agreement, even if she has.

The silence grows again, and though she doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable, I am. I begin to wish for the matron to come, silent and implacable, and lead my mother away from me. Instead I stare at the wooden tabletop.

“I wish I had gotten to know you better, son.”

That admission is shocking, in front of God and the cameras, as it were, but no more shocking than her calling me son. It is a word that has not passed her lips in my presence in thirty years.

“Your brother and Vivian were here to see me last week. Ed apparently pulled some strings. Do you know they have three children now?”

“No,” I said, numbed by this spate of information. It is as if Reagan’s face, carved into the South Dakota hills, had suddenly come to life: the oracle of Rushmore.

“Do you ever see them, or your sister?” she asks.

“No. I know I should…” I cannot believe I am saying this.

“I don’t really think they want to see you, anyway.” She says this seemingly without a trace of spite or malice. “You would make them almost as uncomfortable as I do.”

I don’t know what to say about this. I have never been so acutely uncomfortable in my life. Mercifully, the matron enters the room then and stands next to my mother.

“Well, Bryan, goodbye,” she says, looking me directly in the eye.

I fumble for a response, but by the time I can force out the words, she has passed behind the gray steel door.

“Goodbye,” I say for the cameras.

It occurs to me, as I collect my weapon from the prison’s operations room, that none of my mother’s feats of muscle control were in evidence today. I suddenly wish I had asked her what it all meant.

***

The last thing my mother did, before she took out the pills, was to call her National Health Clinic branch and complain about abdominal pains. The triage nurse asked the usual questions, including whether or not my mother was pregnant. She said she didn’t know.

The nurse told her to call back if the pains got worse, or if there was any bleeding, and to stay off her feet. My mother hung up and went to get the pills from the toilet tank.

She was drying her hands when they knocked at the door. My mother started to hide the pills again, then she heard the ram against the door. She ripped open the foil package too quickly, sending the pills scattering across the floor. By the time she retrieved one, the police were through the front door and searching the apartment. There weren’t that many rooms to search.

The bathroom door exploded in just as she put the pill in her mouth. The next second her head was crushed against the tiles and something in her face snapped. She felt the officer’s blunt, bitter tasting fingers probing her mouth as she passed out.

She woke up in Broward Special Corrections’ hospital wing, and has been in one part of the compound or another since. I was born seven months later, in the prison Nursery.

I was placed in the same home as my brother and sister—though they were moved out within a year of my birth. I stayed until I was eleven, then I was sent to a military boarding school because I had become a disciplinary problem. The state paid my scholarship to the private school, with the understanding that I would enter government service as soon as I was eligible. That was pretty much what happened.

I really don’t regret it.

***

Frawley has just set her purse on a table in the foyer when I turn the corner. She looks at me for a split second, then snatches the purse up again and dives out the door. We burst out of the building’s lobby, she several yards ahead of me. She is wearing black tights and running shoes—her off duty clothes, I gather—and is opening up the distance between us rapidly. I have to make a split-second decision: do I continue to chase her, or do I draw my weapon now, while I am still close enough to steady myself for a shot?

Had I known I was going to arrest her today, I would have brought backup. I draw my weapon and pound to a stop in front of a parked car. She opens the distance even further while I get my sights steady. I hold my breath, using the car’s roof as a rest, and squeeze off three shots.

The last one drops her. I’m completely winded by the time I am standing over her.

She is shot through the backside and lower stomach. Blood is everywhere, and she is vomiting weakly. A woman is screaming as I go through Frawley’s purse—sure enough, the pills are there. Two packets of them, in fact.

The ambulance arrives after the local police, but before my colleagues: if they are going to save the fetus, they will have to get Frawley’s body to the operating room very quickly.

Far from being over, this incident is just starting for me. I will be held over the next two shifts writing reports, having the pills tested by the lab, being counseled by the service psychiatrist, and making my obligatory appearance before a grand jury.

At least I will get the next five working days off.

***

“I heard you got one,” my mother says before she’s even seated at the wooden table. “You must be proud.”

I realize that it is going to be as difficult a visit as the last one. I did only what was necessary. I don’t relish the grislier aspects of my job, as do some of my colleagues—I prefer to avoid conflict, where possible. I decide the best tack to take with my mother is silence, at least until I can puzzle out her mood.

“I heard she bled to death right there on the street.”

Where, suddenly, is all this antipathy coming from? Who knows how these rumors get started? The paramedic said Frawley died almost immediately—from shock.

“Are you embarrassed?” she asks. “That would be something, at least.”

I see that this line of questioning is not going to wither away in silence.

“I’d rather not talk about my work.”

“Not to me, at least,” she answers. “So, what would you like to talk about, son?”

That word again. Inexplicably, I feel my eyes prickle.

“How come you’re not smoking?” I ask. My voice sounds perfectly level.

“I’m back on the production line again,” she says, laughing. “You know, I was beginning to think you’d actually thrown your weight around a little to keep me off the breeding line.”

“I can’t do…”

“No, no. Don’t apologize,” she cuts me off. “I’m not blaming you. It was a crazy notion to begin with.” There really is no rancor in her voice.

For the first time ever, I am uncomfortable that the cameras are recording all this. I cast around for a safe topic, then something occurs to me.

“I noticed that you had a facial tic, last—no—the time before last. Is it some kind of medical condition?”

“Your concern is a bit belated, I think. But no, you know it wasn’t a medical condition, I think.”

“Then what?”

“I was doing it on purpose…”

“Nobody can control their muscles like that.”

“You can, if you practice. I have nothing to do here but practice. Did you know Indian holy men could stop their heartbeats?”

I look at her blankly.

“No, I don’t imagine that’s the kind of thing you know much about. Well, it’s true. If you practice enough, you can control all the muscles in your body.”

“Why?”

“So I can control my body.”

We have, it seems, skated back onto thin ice again. The radical feminists have always referred to women’s reproductive offenses as taking control of their bodies.

“It’s all right,” she says, “you don’t have to say anything. I just wanted you to be here.”

“You know I come whenever…”

“No, I mean for this.”

“For what?”

She smiles at me, then she closes her eyes. When she opens them again, they are unfocussed and her face assumes an expression of unconscious concentration, if there is such a thing.

I see, suddenly, that the muscles of her abdomen are tensing mightily under her prison smock. It takes another few seconds for me to realize what she’s doing.

I knock the table over trying to get around it, but it is already too late; blood gushes from underneath the smock, making a crimson blotch from waist to hemline.

Guards rush into the room, and less than a minute later, the medical team.

“Christ, she’s bleeding out,” the doctor in charge says.

“What’s going on?” the guard supervisor, a man, wants to know.

“She’s got a massive hemorrhage—looks like a bad miscarriage.”

My mother’s eyes focus again, and she looks into mine. I am unable to look back without flinching.

She coughs, spraying flecks of blood across my face.

“Oh, man,” the doctor groans, “She’s bleeding from everywhere.” He’s young, and sounds afraid.

She is loaded onto an aluminum stretcher. I think about taking her hand, but the moment passes in a blur, and she is being bustled out the steel door, presumably to the prison hospital.

There are, I notice, bloody footprints left everywhere by the medical team and the guards. I right the visitor’s table before I leave.

***

According to the trial transcript, the triage nurse at the National Health branch—a fifty-year-old widow with the improbable name of Meredith Sanction—called NRA to report a possible reproduction violation. NRA, of course, already had a folder on my mother. Since they could not get an agent there in time, however, they authorized the state police to make the arrest.

Meredith Sanction testified that my mother’s call fit the classic self-abortion pattern. Meredith Sanction’s own marriage had been barren. It is on the record that the magistrate admonished the defense lawyer for pursuing irrelevant testimony during Mrs. Sanction’s cross examination.

The magistrate took less than fifteen minutes to reach his decision. Sentencing was delayed until my birth—presumably so that my mother would not self-abort in the face of a life sentence.

The minister concludes his ceremony over my mother’s grave, then hurries in out of the rain. My brother and sister stand as close to the grave as they can without having to look at me. My brother cries openly, and my sister stares, dry-eyed, at the brown rectangle in the turf. Only I can see the casket.

I still have two days off before I go back to work.


Robert J. Howe is a writer and editor whose fiction has appeared in Analog, Black GateElectric Velocipede, and other publications and anthologies. He is a graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop (1985). Learn more about him at his website.


Related:

Crimes of the Uterus: Imprisonment and Death in the US

Patriot Girls


How Complex Our Predicament…

Poem by MMAS reader Karl Jesse, published with permission.


AlliesWhen I was young, I thought this would get easier,

when I was young, I didn’t care.

The other was a fascination.

A mystery I wanted to swim with.

Now, seeing how complex is our predicament,

I begin to understand.

But I am not afraid.

Because I have walked with you.

Talked with you.

We have wound together.

Stronger, wiser, inseparable.

Something I will never forget.

No, it never got easier,

but it sure got a lot more interesting.


Occupying Feminism

femisnot“Why does feminism matter?”

That’s the theme question and writing prompt for Day 2 of #FemFest. This is my answer–today, anyway.

Yesterday I spent a considerable portion of my day thinking about how to talk to two young women who–independent of one another–pooh-poohed the very idea and existence of feminism as something that either didn’t concern them or that they didn’t feel a part of. In talking to the first woman, I learned that as a “working-class black woman,” she didn’t feel at all welcome in or comfortable with feminism–in fact, she believes feminism is pretty exclusive. Being white and new to active feminism, I don’t feel equipped to talk much about why that is (I’ll write more about this in a future post), but I did my best to assure her that my brand of feminism, and that of most of the feminists I’ve encountered, is the inclusive kind.

In the second case, a young blogger declared that feminists are a bunch of whiners who feel inferior–who believe they’re not yet equal to men and are fighting to become equal, which is silly because duh, we already are. She declared that, as a strong woman, she couldn’t possibly be a feminist, because feminists are obviously weak if they think they’re not equal.

In both cases I gave it my best shot, but I have no idea whether I got through. Frustrated, I turned to Jenn Pozner for help during her daily waiting-for-the-subway-Q-and-A.

While I waited for her to respond, I pondered whether my question was a) stupid, and b) answerable via Twitter. After ten minutes, I was certain I’d caused poor Jenn to roll her eyes so hard she passed out. I wondered whether I should call 911. Then this popped into my feed:

I went back over my attempts at communicating with these two women, and I felt pretty good about them. And I realized how close I’d come in the second case to not even trying. Who was I to tell a young woman that she was wrong in her assumptions about feminism? And why would she listen to me? I’m one of THEM! I even closed the tab with her post in it and tried to move on, but it just kept niggling at the back of my brain, so I went and found it again and I told her some of the reasons I think feminism is important:

It took me many years to get past the lies society taught me about feminists and feminism and to call myself a feminist. Feminism is not about seeing your gender as unequal. It’s about noticing that our society doesn’t treat us as equal and deciding we’re fed up with that and want it to change. Feminists are the reason women have the right to vote, own property, get a bank account without our husband’s signature.

I still shave my legs and wear makeup, and I don’t hate men. I don’t feel inferior–but I am tired of being treated as though I’m inferior, and I’ve decided not to tolerate it anymore. Believe it or not, I’m stronger than a lot of people. I’ve survived some of the worst humanity can dish out, and I’m still here. Still fighting for what I believe in. As for things that aren’t fair, I’d much rather write about them and talk about them and work to change them than do nothing, but I certainly do my best not to whine. ;)

I think you’ll find that there are as many kinds of feminism as there are women (and men) who identify as feminists. Some of us are pretty cool people, once you get to know us. :)

That comment has not been approved and published, and it may not be. But I believe there’s a good chance that blogger will see things at least a little bit differently over time because I took a few minutes to be patient, provide clear and concise information, keep things light, and most importantly, to pay attention to what she was saying and respond to her specific criticisms.

And this is why my feminism is important. Because when I hear that something I wrote helped someone “get it” or made them feel something or helped bring them to a place where they felt comfortable declaring, “Yes! I am a feminist!” I know that I have to keep writing and talking and working for change. When I see my daughters’ eyes opening to the patriarchy that oppresses all of us (male and female), I know their lives will be better for that understanding, and that they will go forward and carry on the fight until there’s nothing left to fight anymore.

feminismFeminism is important because there are still people out there who think women ought not to vote, work, or have a place in government. Because rape culture teaches us that our bodies are not our own, but made for men’s pleasure. Because boys are taught that it’s bad to be “girly.” Because the patriarchy hurts us all.

I am more than my body. More than my role as a mother and lover. I am more than a vehicle to transport my breasts and vagina to a man’s bed. I am more than a baby-making machine. And so are my daughters. And I will fight until the day I die to create a world in which they don’t feel the need to apologize for being female.


This post has been part of Feminisms Fest (#FemFest on Twitter). Learn more.

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What is feminism to you? Why is it important?


Victim Blaming by Any Other Name

Guest post by Sid

domestic-violence-400x258I have had five full-blown relationships in my adult life.

Three of those relationships were abusive.

Guy one (G1) was fine in this regard, as was guy five (G5). They each had their own issues, of course, but they weren’t abusive.

Guy number two (G2) choked me one day. We had been together for well over a year, closing in on a year and a half. Some months later, he dragged me with his car for about twenty feet. Any time I tried to break up with him, he sobbed and sobbed, berating himself until I recanted. He yelled at me if I disagreed with him, prayed before a meal, or called him out on one of dozens of pathological lies.

Guy number three (G3) also choked me, but it was much softer. It was as though he didn’t intend to actually hurt me, but wanted to remind me what being choked was like (because of course he knew G2 had done it) and wanted to show me he could do it just as easily. To my mind, this is just as bad. It was more threat than act, but it amounted to the same. Some months later, he was holding my hand while angry and crushed it. It hurt for several days.

Stop_Domestic_Violence-150x150Guy number four (G4), though…he’s the tricky one. He didn’t choke me. He didn’t drag me with a car or crush my hand. His thing was all about how much I wasn’t listening to him. He was also quite tall, so when he felt I wasn’t listening to him, he would bring himself up to his full height and grab me by the arms—tightly, so that I couldn’t get away. He would then push his face into mine so that my head went back, and he would scream at me.

I struggled away whenever I could, but often I was backed up against a wall or into a corner and had nowhere to go.

I would scream back, of course, because I felt trapped and threatened, and I was trying to understand what was happening. Any time we had an argument, if I tried to step away from it to calm down and sort my thoughts, he would follow me after just a few minutes. In one of our homes, as soon as I closed the bedroom door behind me, I would sneak out the sliding glass door and walk down the street so I could get some peace. It wasn’t long before he figured that out, though, and ran down the street after me. A couple times, when I’d gotten far enough that he couldn’t see me, he came after me in his car, window rolled down and sobbing for me to get in.

Honestly, I just wanted thirty minutes to be alone. I couldn’t get five.

When we moved, my office didn’t have a sliding glass door (or a window on the first floor), but that’s still where I went when I wanted space. When he still wouldn’t respect my request to be alone, I started sitting in front of the door. It didn’t have a lock.

abusealoneThis worked for about ten minutes, at which point he panicked and forced himself into the room. This happened so many times, I couldn’t even tell you how many. I often ended up hurt because the door would throw me into the wall or would hit me, or he would step on me on accident because I was right there on the floor. Once he was in the room, he would start calm, but would eventually escalate, sobbing about how we had to work this out right now and no I couldn’t take any time to work through the problem on my own. Often, it would take us back to him grabbing me by the arms and pushing his face into mine, and screaming.

Like I said, my office didn’t have a lock. But the bathroom did. Once I locked myself in there with my back against the door. He used a credit card and forced his way in. I got hurt this time because I was leveraging myself against the door by pushing against the toilet with my feet, and eventually my knees gave out.

I started leaving the apartment when we argued. But I would literally need to run, because he would be after me in about two minutes. It was kind of amazing, actually. The first time I went to leave, he looked at me and said, “Really? You really think you have to leave the apartment?” He was aghast at my lack of trust—after all, he’d agreed to give me time to think in my office. Again. Two minutes later, he was behind me on the street, begging me to come back with him.

Finally, I started heading for the stairs instead of the elevator—but I went upstairs instead of down. That was the one thing he never figured out. I finally had some time and space to think—about being a grown woman who was hiding on the floor above her own just to escape her boyfriend who literally made a habit of chasing her.

This relationship did not last.

Now, was I an angel in this relationship? Good God, no. I mean, I tried. The good times were so good that we were engaged, and we both thought our relationship was fine. (I didn’t notice the pattern, see. Not at first. Not for a long time.) At the end of the day, though, I was not my best in this relationship, as much as I wanted to be. As much as I tried to be. But that doesn’t mean—and will never mean—that I deserved what I got.

1-800-799-SAFEWhat makes him tricky, though, isn’t that he never choked me or took a direct swing. What makes him tricky is how entwined he was with so many of my other friends. They had become our friends, and it didn’t seem right to air all our dirty laundry to them. I told two of my very closest friends, though, which was difficult because they were also very close to him. And then one of my friends said something I didn’t expect.

“Well, you know, I think a lot of it came down to you two just not being right for each other. I mean, I don’t think that’s his real personality.”

I could have the very specifics of the words wrong—it was a few years ago now—but the sentiment is dead-on. And I was confused. I had been trying to attach the word “abusive” to this relationship as I sorted through the wreckage (I say “trying” because, as with many things, it is difficult for a victim to call out what is true), and this reaction made me feel all the more like I shouldn’t attach that word. It made me feel even more strongly that the problem wasn’t him—the problem was that I evoked the reaction.

I fought with myself for a long time on this one, and honestly I don’t know when in the last three years I settled on the word “abusive,” but I know it was more recent than not. Maybe it was when I heard this same friend say that she couldn’t imagine what goes through people’s heads when they defend a friend of theirs who was called out for assaulting another friend. “How can you look someone in the face and say that he wouldn’t do that? That it was just a misunderstanding?”

I don’t know. How can you?

Or maybe it was just this last week when I stood two feet away as she hugged Rosie and said, “I unfriended that guy because I couldn’t stand to hear him say on Facebook how he was…” something. I didn’t hear the end of the sentence. I was too far inside my own head trying to figure out how it was that B was so despicable she couldn’t stand to be friends with him on Facebook, yet she had managed to remain very close friends with my abuser since I left him.

Abuser. That’s such a strong word. I look at it even now and think, “Come on now, Sid. Surely that’s not the right word. He didn’t even hit you.” Honestly. That’s the thought: “He didn’t even hit you.” I know better than that, and still.

oneinfour

The thing with a lot of victim blaming, I think, is that it comes from a place not of malice but of pleading. When you say, “You must have misinterpreted the situation,” you’re not really saying, “You’re a liar and I don’t believe you.” At least not most of the time. Sure, there are people who outright say that, but I think even they are really saying, “Don’t let this be true. Please, just leave me any margin for error so I can continue to hang out with my friend who has never shown this horrible side to me.”

It works like this, I think:

  1. You acknowledge the accusation is horrible.
  2. If the accusation is true, then you feel you can no longer be friends with the accused.
  3. You have never seen the accused display any behavior like this; in fact, you would declare the accused to be one of the nicest fellows you know.
  4. As a result of (3), you choose to believe that it couldn’t have been as bad as it sounds. Your natural inclination is to assume there was a misunderstanding.
  5. You report this to the accusing party.

Voilà.

You aren’t trying to disregard your friend’s feelings—in truth, you’re just trying to protect your own—but what you’ve done here is opened the door for second-guessing. Second-guessing something that was probably hard to talk about in the first place. Without even intending to, you have silenced her.

Victim blaming isn’t something any friend sets out to do. (Anyone who does so openly and candidly is honestly not a friend—I have stories about that, too.) Victim blaming is something so subtle it can slip by us without so much as a glance.

PosterHeartAfter my first two abusive relationships (G2 and G3), I was re-applying for a job as a dispatcher. During one of the interviews, the abuse came up in conversation. My interviewers informed me that these relationships proved I had poor decision-making skills and denied me the job. (Before you jump into legality, I can’t prove that was the reason. It was, though.)

It took me several years to get over the shame and the self-blame of those first two, but now I won’t apologize when I tell you that I have been abused. I won’t shrink away and say, “I…I know I should have gotten out sooner, but…” I notice the signs now, and I avoid them. In the case of G4, it took a while to notice the pattern, but when I did—and I realized it was slowly getting worse and worse—I got out, six months before the wedding.

Getting out isn’t as easy as it sounds, and I won’t look down on anyone going through a similar experience. Women in these situations need help and encouragement—not shame, not blame, not doubt. Strength.

My roommate once asked me what my biggest regret was, and I said I didn’t have any. “None at all?” “Nope. Because it’s all important. Our pasts make up who we are, and I like who I am. I wouldn’t be who I am without everything that’s brought me to this point. It’s all important.”

It’s a part of my history. I can’t change it, and honestly, I don’t know that I would given the chance. Not changing your past doesn’t mean you have to relive it, after all. I love and appreciate every lesson I’ve learned, however hard it was.

I don’t make billboards about my abusive relationships, but I don’t make any effort to hide them. And sometimes people still try to shame me—whether it’s with words, body language, or a sudden, superior attitude. It doesn’t work, though. Here’s a quick tip: you can’t shame me about my life, my choices, my hobbies, my aspirations, my friends, or my past. It’s pointless trying.

tumblr_lskm8yBOJJ1qewc6co1_500

You can’t shame me because I am not ashamed.


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


Why #1ReasonWhy?

feministplotDear Rosie,

WTF is this whole #1ReasonWhy thing? Why are a bunch of angry women tweeting that ALL MEN ARE PIGS AND SHOULD BE GATHERED UP AND SHOT?? Is this whole thing a RADICAL FEMINIST PLOT? And why should game companies care what girls think anyway? Everyone knows that the target demographic for games is males aged 18-25! All the tweeting in the world won’t change the fact that sex sells. Girls don’t even play REAL games except to get guys to like them. And if all these lady game industry types were any good at their jobs, their gender wouldn’t matter, would it? Why are they whining about sexism on Twitter instead of DOING something about it? Why don’t they all just go find an island somewhere and make girly games in a girl-friendly environment? Plus, men have to put up with name-calling in the workplace, so why shouldn’t women? And my ex-girlfriend treated me like shit, and the women I’m attracted to aren’t attracted to me, so they’re all cold-hearted bitches–why shouldn’t I treat them like shit? All I’m saying is that women should STFU and learn to deal with the fact that games are made for and by boys and men and if they can’t stand the heat, get back in the kitchen! HAR! HAR!

Signed,

I Don’t Get It


Dear IDGI,

You really, really don’t. #1ReasonWhy isn’t about you. It’s not an accusation–but if it sounds like one to you, you might want to take a look at how you treat women in games or in your workplace. It came about in response to a question. If only a few dozen people had taken up the cry, you could write it off as a small problem. But thousands did, and they’re still showing up a week later. This is an epidemic that a) has gotten worse, not better, in the 25 years I’ve been in the industry, and b) until now, we have quietly accepted as being just the way things are.

fngAs for your misapprehensions re: gamer girls and demographics, I cheerfully direct you to this article, which debunks them (with sources!) quite handily. You’re welcome.

On to the rest.

Yes, sex sells. You will sell more copies of your game if you feature a giant pair of tits on the cover than if you feature, say, a race car or an army man. But we make choices, don’t we? We decide, when we go into business, whether we are going to make products that contribute to societal disease or ones that do not. There was a time very recently when it was hard to find a triple-A MMO featuring female armor likely to protect the character in battle. Today I’m playing Guild Wars 2, and not only is my character fully armored, but her breasts don’t animate when she’s standing still. Way to go, ArenaNet!

Most game developers have, since I started working in the industry back in the late 80’s, stopped sprinkling “humorous” racial slurs into their games like the ones I lobbied (unsuccessfully) to get removed from the games I worked on way back then. As a society–and as an industry–we decided that we were above that. And once, I thought we were above sexism, too. But as I said, it seems only to have become more prevalent. I think that’s why #1ReasonWhy hurts so much–it’s a confirmation of something many of us have known for a long time but have been unwilling or unable to talk about in mixed company because it just wasn’t safe socially, professionally, psychologically. And not saying it out loud meant leaving it unconfirmed much of the time. It meant accepting the status-quo.

This week, all that changed. Women and men came together to talk about the issue–even as people like you, dear IDGI, peppered us with your troll wisdom and lulz–and some of us were comforted while others had their eyes opened and pledged to make things better. The national press covered the discussion–even as you berated us relentlessly for wasting our time (though you didn’t seem to have anything better to do with yours)–and helped to shine an even brighter light on the issue, bringing more supporters in from all over the world to speak on #1ReasonToBe and #1ReasonMentors about next steps.

This is why, IDGI. And though you don’t get it, so many more do today than did six days ago. While #1ReasonWhy is difficult (and even infuriating, at times) to read, to me it is a symbol of hope and a sign of progress. This is how we do it. A spark becomes a flame, and a flame catches the world on fire.

Burn, baby, burn.