Category Archives: Women

The Trouble With Portraying Sexuality

There’s something that’s been sitting on my mind for a while now, and I wasn’t really aware of the cognitive dissonance until I had a recent discussion with a friend of mine. In feminism, a movement apparently in its third wave according to academics, yet still struggling to find a unified front on many issues, there is a bit of an issue when it comes to the public perceptions of female sexuality.

Basically, it boils down to two views. First, you have the idea that sexuality should not be shameful. Sex isn’t something to shame people for having. Doing such can cause all sorts of psychological problems, first off. It’s a completely natural process that, unlike most animals in the world, is enjoyable for recreational purposes and is not solely a procreational action.

Unfortunately, when it comes to shame over sex, women get the worst rap. We all probably know the double standard by now… men who have multiple partners are conquerors. They’re virile. They’re manly. They can hold their tally like a trophy, the quantity of their conquests far outweighing their abilities (or inabilities) in the bed itself. Meanwhile, women are to keep their sexual lives quiet. Women with multiple partners are sluts. Shameful. Dirty. Broken. In a weird twist, sometimes people that want to help protect women from being sexual victims apply the term “victim” all over the place, even when sex is fully consensual… because it’s inconceivable for some people that a woman might seek out and desire sex. So, there’s the faction that wants to eliminate sex as a dirty word and deed, particularly for women. If a woman wants to be a stripper, let her. If she wants to be a prostitute/escort (when legal), why not? If she wants to dress provocatively, she should be allowed without being called names, or seen as “asking for sex.” Consent is different from how one dresses one’s self.

But then, there’s the other faction. The faction that says they’re tired of women being objectified and seen as sexual pleasure units. That’s tired of cleavage and boobs and butt on every single advertisement. That’s tired of having products directed at women (and men) because of their chromosomal makeup. Tired of the media using tired, false gender narratives and tropes, like the damsel in distress. But, mostly, tired of just being deemed as sexual, being boiled down to physical bodies and sexual performances. Tired of being “Hot Girl #3” on the TV.

Now, some of these things are shared by both groups, like being tired of the tropes and the gendered products. But sometimes, even those things find fractions between the factions. Because, despite being feminists and desiring an equality between all genders and sexualities, there’s just too many problems and not enough solutions.

It is definitely a problem that women exploring their sexualities are seen as sluts and looked down on. It is also definitely a problem that society demands sexual performance from women. It’s a hypocrisy that continues to harm our social makeup where men expect sex from women, and women have the choice of either being degraded for complying or degraded for not complying. And then possibly being raped and blamed for it by society. It’s not exactly a kind world for women today (and the scary thing is that it seems like it might be kinder than it once was).

I’ll give an example of the disparity. In the BBC show “Sherlock,” a show I find to be quite fantastic, in season 2 we were introduced to what is perhaps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most infamous female character, Irene Adler. Appearing in “A Scandal In Bohemia,” she is the one woman Sherlock Holmes has shown obvious affection and admiration for. To quote,

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. […] And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

In the BBC show’s re-imagining of the character, she was recreated as a dominatrix, using her wits and dominance in the bedroom to put powerful people in compromising positions and obtain information she hoped to use to her advantage. In her first meeting with Holmed, she introduced herself in the nude as an attempt to throw him off his game. It worked. …but this portrayal exemplifies exactly the difference in the factions.

On the one hand, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with a woman willingly working in the sex industry. (We’ll skip the discussions of abuse and slavery for now to make the discussion simpler, but I wouldn’t count anyone coerced or forced into that industry in any fashion as working in it willingly.) There shouldn’t be anything wrong with a woman using her body or sexuality for any (legal) reason, even to win a battle of wits against a certain private detective. However, some feel that being portrayed as a sex worker diminished the focus on Adler’s mental acuity and ability as written originally by Doyle. It felt like a cheap gimmick, a typical jump in today’s media to make the woman a sexual being, an object of pleasure.

This is, of course, not helped out at all by show-runner Steven Moffat’s rather well-documented casual sexism and poor treatment of female characters in his other show, “Doctor Who.”

Personally, I think the Adler character (unlike many of the women in “Doctor Who”) was well done. The sexuality wasn’t really a focus the way I saw it. It was never portrayed in a gaudy, ridiculous fashion. Rather, it was run as a counter to Sherlock’s discomfort with the sensual, as sensuality requires physical and emotional responses that he has spent years ridding himself of for the sake of logic and reason. Others, like my friend, disagree.

The sad thing is, there’s not really a way I can see out of this sort of conundrum. It seems perfectly obvious to me that both factions have absolutely correct and poignant points. Both of these hypocritical philosophies of our society (particularly American) are damaging. On their own, they’re bad enough. Combined, they are a maelstrom of harm and sexism. And that’s just for the women. It damages men, too, as does our portrayal of men in the media. So, should one aspect be focused on more than the other? Can both be fixed without a complete reset of social norms and ideals? Or is this something we will constantly be fighting against, one way or another?

I honestly have no idea what should be done about these problems, save this: We need to talk about them and realize they’re problems. While we may not agree on the solutions, as long as we agree something is wrong, we can start to work toward answers. And since the world is full of people smarter than me, maybe the answer is just waiting for someone to mention the problem to the right person.

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Women Can Fight Now, And That’s Bad, Apparently

If you haven’t heard, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has lifted the military ban on women serving in combat.

And judging by people’s reactions, you’d think he started shooting people in the face for fun.

As you may know, in America, women have been allowed in the military for several years at this point, but there has been a ban on women being allowed in special forces units and front-line combat units. Of course, unlike in wars before Vietnam, “front-line” is now a bit of a more obscure idea than an actual thing you can point to. The theater of war has spread in a far more chaotic, guerrilla style. So there have been, for some time, women that have had to fight for various reasons, as well as women that have died in combat.

So, you start to wonder what the heck everyone’s going crazy over with this ban being lifted.

Allen West, the now civilian that gets the Sarah Palin “for some reason we think what you have to say means something” treatment, thinks that women serving in combat will destroy the military, basically. The irony there is that West is black. I recall people complaining about the dissolution of unit cohesion and disparaging the state of the military when it was desegregated, or so my history teachers informed me. Yet, our military still stands. Then there was that thing about how gays would destroy the military… which also hasn’t happened yet, oddly enough.

If you want to see just how idiotic and ridiculous the arguments against women serving in combat are, you can just take a look at this excellent “Daily Show” bit that covers it quite well.

Is it going to be a smooth transition? Probably not. Change doesn’t always go smoothly. Are there going to be problems? Possibly. Sexual assaults might increase. We’ll have to increase diligence in stopping and prosecuting any instances of sexual assault, something we should have been doing already. But the argument that suddenly men and women will be too overcome with lust to do their job is ridiculous. They tried the same argument with openly serving homosexuals… and yet no news of men randomly shagging in the desert mid-gunfire.

The argument that women won’t be able to perform physically as well as men is also stupid. Yes, statistics show that women are not, on average, as physically strong as men. However, in the military, they have these physical performance tests, minimum requirements soldiers have to meet. Physical requirements that I’m pretty certain women have been meeting for some time now. Being that there are women in the Marines, and the Marines are generally considered to be the toughest branch of the military, I should think these women can hold their own, and possibly someone else’s at the same time.

There’s the argument about men being embarrassed… Is it wrong of me to say get over it? When you’re in combat, is embarrassment really the thing you should be worrying about? And isn’t that something you can, you know, get used to and get over? I don’t know about you, but “dropping trou” in front of other men isn’t something I’m super keen on. It seems like soldiers manage to get over that eventually, though, so why not with women?

And then there’s all the severely sexist and ignorant arguments. One guy started yelling about how women were wives, sisters and daughters and who would want to put them in harm’s way and subject them to torture? At which point, my response has to be the same people that want to put husbands and brothers and sons into harm’s way and subject them to torture. So, in my opinion, I don’t want to put anyone in danger. But women in the military have always been in danger. Some have been captured and, I bet, tortured. The whole chivalrous thing is just insulting to the men that are in the same position, deeming them as expendable.

Women can fight in combat roles now, officially. Good for them. People that want to complain? Get over yourselves.

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Could We Stop Punishing Rape Victims?

So, I know I’ve been talking a lot about rape lately… but has anyone else noticed that rape has been appearing a lot in national conversation? It’s weird. I understand it in the context of the slut walks and other protests, where women are attempting to shine a light on fallacious yet pervasive thoughts pertaining to sex, sexuality and consent… but it’s been appearing more and more in the political world, too. Conservatives on a federal and state level are moving more and more often to try and redefine rape or somehow contextualize  and categorize it instead of simply saying “Rape is wrong and illegal.”

I mean, we all should know that most social conservatives are very much anti-abortion. Speaker of the House John Boehner, for example, recently made the statement that he wanted to try to make abortion a “relic of the past.” Don’t be confused. He’s not supporting putting money into science initiatives that might research the safe and healthy removal and maturation of a fetus from a woman unwilling to continue with a pregnancy. No, he just wants to ban all abortions, except rape and incest, which anyone with any knowledge of human history, or even just American history pre-Roe v. Wade, should be able to at least guess means abortions will carry on, just more dangerously.

But now we’ve got rape entering into the abortion equation. It was thought that social conservatives were willing to swallow the “let a rape victim have an abortion” pill because, well, it’s sort of like letting someone that got stabbed go to the doctor and be healed. I know that’s a crude comparison and people will cry out about human lives being involved in abortion, but rape is a crime and pregnancy brought about through rape is an aftereffect, like bleeding out after being stabbed is an aftereffect of the crime of being stabbed. Again, not a perfect analogy, but you maybe see my point. You’d think we’d want to, as a society, not force people to suffer unwillingly with the aftereffects of criminal actions taken against them.

Except now there’s Representative Paul Ryan trying to make certain abortions in cases of rape illegal, which I’ve mentioned before. To be more accurate, he’s signed on to co-sponsor the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would give states the right to ban all abortions. Which I feel like contradicts something that just had an anniversary… some Supreme Court case… I could be wrong, though. Anyway, the act would also allow rapists to sue women that attempt to abort the rape pregnancy if their state makes it illegal and she goes to another state where it’s okay.

But that’s not all! Ryan isn’t the only one throwing his hat into the “force women to keep pregnancies they were given in an act of crime” ring. No, now New Mexico is tossing its hat in there. New Mexico legislation has introduced a bill that would imprison any doctor and woman that go through with a rape abortion for up to three years. What’s their reasoning? It’s tampering with evidence.

At which point my head hits my desk.

I’m not certain, but I’m sure there’s a way to get DNA even from an aborted fetus that could help with that evidence thing. And with other Republicans trying to burden rape victims with the need to prove the rape was “forcible,” again trying to categorize rapes as though one were better than the other, we can see a pretty regrettable trend starting up.

Starting up… I say that as if this hasn’t been going on for years. It has. But it seems to be very frighteningly kicking into a much higher gear. And that needs to stop.

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Can Politicians Just Shut Up About Rape For A Second?

Politicians, with a particularly large percentage of them coming from the Republican party, have been having a bit of a word vomit problem lately when it comes to the subject of rape. You probably remember Representative Todd Akin discussing the differences of legitimate and illegitimate rapes, which sort of kicked off the parade of GOP politicians being unable to shut up about rape. Then you had Richard Mourdock talking about rape babies being a gift from God or some such… Both went on to lost their elections. But the GOP realized the whole rape thing was a bad idea to talk about and decided to stay quiet.

Ha, just kidding. No, not only did they not stay quiet, but Georgia Representative Phil Gingrey decided not just to bring rape back up, but to specifically bring up Akin’s comments. And then to attempt to defend them by saying Akin was partly right.

Now, I understand what Akin and Gingrey are trying to suggest… Gingrey flat says it.

“[…] and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape.”

But here’s the problem: Discussing rape in those terms is ridiculous and makes it seem like it’s a common occurrence. It might be somewhat common, but you know what’s even more common? Rape. Gingrey and Akin want to talk about not wanting to punish non-rapists, but they remain silent on how to improve punishment on actual rapists. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure their medical defenses are a load of crap. Gingrey says adrenaline can hinder the possibility of pregnancy, suggesting that rape is the primary type of sex adrenaline is secreted during… which is stupid, because he defends it by talking about couples consensually trying to procreate having too much adrenaline, thus entirely nullifying his point.

The discussion of “legitimate” rape is toxic on every level. It makes the subject turn to “Is the victim lying or not?” Now, I know we have an innocent until proven guilty system, so it’s up to the accuser to prove things, but rape is such a very iffy subject in court when it comes to evidence, and we’ve got a culture that loves to pin rape on the person that was raped. What we should do is make punishments for both rape and lying about being raped intensely severe. Make it so people aren’t as willing to falsify a rape claim, which has happened from time to time, as well as maybe deter rape and make any accusations of rape that much more serious, as the accuser is putting themselves on the line. Seriously, that’s the only type of political discussion that should be had. Treat rape as a terrible crime. Don’t attempt to justify or categorize. Even members of the GOP are saying that. Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, and Kevin Madden, a Mitt Romney campaign adviser, have basically both said that GOP politicians need to shut up about rape.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. Not when “moral crusaders” like Representative Paul Ryan are going to try to pass bills allowing rapists to sue the women they’ve raped. And make many forms of in vitro fertilization illegal… for some reason.

Yeah… the day the GOP decides to stop being morally reprehensible while claiming to be the moral representatives in government may be the day the world ends.

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Men: Born To Be Rapists?

So, a bit ago, I was talking about the not-so-nice guys of OKCupid and the Tumblr dedicated to pointing them out with its fair share of snark. The Tumblr has apparently been taken down for reasons unknown, though there is an archive you can view that hosts most if not all of the posts the Tumblr once had. Anyway, there was something that I wanted to talk about during that post that I realized kinda deserves its own conversation.

Victim blaming and the true colors of male (and, sadly, female) douchery.

A friend of mine posted this status update on her Facebook that has apparently managed to catch on enough for a random blogger to make a graphic out of it and now know who the original writer was.

It says the following:

Men should be offended when someone claims that women should prevent rape by not wearing certain things, or not going certain places, or not acting in a certain way. That line of thinking presumes that you are incapable of control. That you are so base and uncivilized that it takes extraordinary effort for you to walk down the street without raping someone. That you require a certain dress code be maintained, that certain behaviors be employed so that maybe today, just maybe, you won’t rape someone. It presumes that your natural state is rapist.

Now, I don’t actually know how much victim blaming you’ve ever heard, particularly when it comes to rape, but it is a shockingly popular trend amongst men, and sometimes even women, to blame the victim (read: woman, as the majority of rape cases are male rapist(s) and female victim(s)) for something she’s done. Our politicians have been getting into the ever so subtle swing of doing that all the time lately, something to talk about later. Just think about all the politicians that have decided to not simply say, “Rape is wrong and should be severely punished” and instead want to qualify rape, as though some non-consensual sex is better than others.

And then you run into the ordinary jackholes that do things like this wonderful picture, which was apparently done by a guy but, if you look at the right, posted by a woman with the comment “Made me laugh lol.”

The reason calling people out for their God awful lines of thought – like the partner in a relationship is obligated to sexual activity with you when you demand it, or is required to meet a certain standard of physicality set by you – is a good thing is because of victim blaming and how horrendously it treats everyone. When we start saying, “It’s the victim’s fault,” then we easily move on to “Got what they deserved.”

Can you think of any moment someone deserves to be raped? I really hope that answer is no.

It’s thoughts like that that cause depressing statistics like this graph by The Washington Post. People just decide that the victims are lying about it or seeking attention or something. And, as that graph shows, too many victims are often too afraid to even report their rape. The environment we’ve created can’t be helping.

But like my friend said, it also makes rape seem like a natural, okay thing because rape is just one of those things men do, like farting. “Shouldn’t have eaten that Taco Bell! Now I have gastrointestinal distress.” “That woman shouldn’t have worn that short skirt! Now I have raped her.”

It throws our humanity and evolution into higher thinking beings back to the age of the primordial ooze. What’s worse, it creates a scenario wherein people believe all rapes occur that way: Woman got drunk, dressed like a slut, walked where she wasn’t supposed to, etc. I know I’m kind of narrowing my scope to heterosexual rapes of women, but that tends to encompass a majority of known rape cases as I recall, and the majority of rapes people blame the victims for. Point is, rapes very often occur in homes by people the victim knows, such as a boyfriend. Alcohol doesn’t need to be involved either. I know a metric crap ton of women that have gotten very very drunk in public and private places and manage to get home entirely unmolested. From what few stories of being raped I’ve been told about, alcohol wasn’t even involved.

If we’re going to start trying to do some good in the world, trying to turn this problem around, we need to stop lying to ourselves about the “why” and “how” of the conversation. We need to stop blaming anyone but the person taking the unconsented action. We need to start educating children on what consent is, and start warning them about the effects things like alcohol can have on it. Maybe then, that graph I linked to won’t be so freakin’ depressing.

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The War On Men

…so, I fell a little bit behind the past couple of days. My bad. I don’t have a legitimate excuse… or an illegitimate one either, really. So I guess I’ll just start writing.

I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but there’s been an article tossed around online that actually shares the same title as this blog post… that wasn’t actually intentional, but I’ll go with it. The article can be found on the Fox News website and takes an interesting twist on the whole “war on women” debate largely inflamed over the past year and presidential campaign.

By interesting, I want to clarify that I mean pretty stupid.

As so many of the privileged classes and groups enjoy doing, there is many times a tendency to look at actual discrimination and turn it on its head, complaining that the majority is actually the group being discriminated. For example, the legalization of same-sex marriage is seen by many as discrimination against Christians. Which would be idiotic. No rights are infringed, no churches forced to perform ceremonies, no beliefs or practices outlawed. Same thing happened with interracial marriage and slavery.

Well, this go round, we actually have a woman disregarding the so-called “war on women” by turning it on its head and saying that there is, in actuality, a war on men.

Apparently, women becoming a larger part of the workforce and higher education is a problem, according to the author of the piece. Feminism is destroying the desire of men to marry, which is clearly a bad thing. Apparently, it’s because “women aren’t women anymore.”

What is that even supposed to mean? Well, my guess is that there is a prototypical woman Suzanne Venker has in mind when she says that. Even though she flat admitted that she didn’t really think that much about what she wrote, so she might not have had anything in mind. Anyway, this prototypical woman defines women with certain characteristics, characteristics that have apparently started to alter and disappear since the “sexual revolution,” while men remain true to their prototype.

To be fair, women are departing, by and large, from the 1950s Mrs. Cleaver stereotype, but I don’t really know that that was ever something women had to be confined to. While society tried, there were always women bucking the trend. It just seems that, in recent years, more women have felt empowered enough to cast aside those gender roles.

But, Venker says that’s bad. See, feminism has apparently sexually liberated women to the point that now, unlike ever before in history, men can sleep with women without having to marry them. Ignore how “We can sleep with them without being married to them” is a different reason to not marry than “women aren’t women anymore.” Further, women are apparently defensive and angry, thinking of men as the “enemy.”

Now, I’m not a woman, but I want to take a crack at this: Women that are trying to fight against gender stereotypes and being forced into gender roles are actually mad at society. Are some women mad at men? Sure. As society is still largely patriarchal, there can definitely be some interchanging of what gets the anger.

Whatever women are upset at, as all of them are totally just seething at something, it’s apparently made men pissed. Men are tired of being told everything is their fault. Woman’s unhappy? Your fault. Also, you’re a man, so there’s something inherently wrong with you. These are, apparently, the messages of the modern feminist woman. And men are so put off by it, they don’t want to be stuck with a woman the rest of their lives, settling for “sex at hello.”

So, apparently, feminists will just have sex with a man at the drop of a hat, but they totally hate men and think they’re the enemy.

But it’s okay, because there’s a way to fix all of this! Just be more like ladies, ladies, and let men be men. Then, all those men that you hate but want to have sex with the moment you meet them and want to marry will totally be into marrying you.

…I haven’t been doing much commenting on what I think of this article, partly because I’m hoping my tone will be clear enough. But, really, is there anything I need to say about this? It should be obvious why this piece is a piece of trash. Why it’s ridiculously stupid, why it’s backwards and anti-feminist and, really, just anti-everybody. It’s really just a sad sign of how badly we need to keep pushing equality, pushing against the idea of a “typical” man and a “typical” woman, pushing against confining gender to certain tasks and duties.

Either that or Venker’s completely right. If so, none of my feminist lady friends are really feminists because they not only haven’t treated me like the enemy, but they also haven’t been trying to sleep with me after my first word to them. If Venker’s right, I’ve been hanging out with the wrong feminists. Because, as a man, sex is all I need.

Ugh.

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Oh Look, More Terrible Things Said About Women

And by members of the GOP, no less! Who would have expected such a thing?

…look, let me clear this up really quickly: I don’t think that the Democrats are all guilt free when it comes to treating women disrespectfully. There are Democrats that are just as awful toward women, toward gays, toward minorities as we keep hearing over and over again about Republicans.

But I’ve been hearing a LOT about Republicans saying terrible things. And it’s often powerful Republicans. Members of the state or federal legislature, for example.

I mean, here’s a recent one. Representative Joe Walsh from Illinois has decided to jump on the “Screw that Sandra Fluke woman” bus and continue to bash her for… well, trying to suggest that health care directly affecting women should have some women discussing it, and maybe health care providers should start covering birth control pills, which are necessary for some women to control hormones and cure ovarian cysts and the like. I don’t know if you remember Fluke back when Rush “Weather Balloon” Limbaugh decided calling her a slut made sense, but she popped back into national view this week with a speech at the DNC. And a bunch of Republicans attacked and belittled her. Walsh told her to “get a job.” Because, clearly, she’s got no job and just wants Americans to pay for her contraceptives, with the implication that Americans should be paying for her ability to have care-free sex.

It’s wonderfully disgusting, don’t you think?

But that’s nothing. That’s really just rude and uncalled for, especially compared to this next thing. Also said by a Republican.

But the great horrific, M. Night Shamallama-esque twist on this? It’s said by a woman.

In Arizona (which, despite having a female governor, is one of the absolute worst places for women legislatively, as well as minorities), a cop named Robb Evans drove himself to a bar 8 beers in, flashed his badge to skip on the cover, went up to a woman, put his hand up her skirt and rubbed her genitals.

Clearly, this is a case of sexual assault. A jury convicted him of such and the police force fired him.

But trial judge Jacqueline Hatch, appointed by Governor Jan Brewer, decided the jury was wrong. She decided jail time was unnecessary, sentencing Evans to probation and 100 days of community service. He also won’t have to register as a sex offender.

Then, she said this to the victim: “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you.”

It’s pretty much the exact same as the old mainstay, “If she hadn’t dressed like that…” Except it’s even worse. People can dress provocatively, sure, not that the statement still has any merit or truth at all. But now, apparently, women should just not leave their houses. They should expect to be sexually assaulted at places like bars.

It’s doubly awful. First, it paints men as these basely driven creatures with no control over their sexual impulses. It suggests that we’re pretty much out there to rape. That’s just what we do. “If you just hadn’t been a woman, I wouldn’t have had to rape you!” It’s a pretty awful portrait of men, and no man should accept such accusations. We’re not sex addicts or rape machines.

But worse than that, it basically tells women that rape is completely their fault. That someone else’s choice is their fault.

Imagine this judge, Hatch, presiding over the case in Aurora, dealing with the shooting. “Well, if so-and-so wouldn’t have been there that night, she wouldn’t have been shot and killed.”

Imagine that. Imagine how quickly she’d be defrocked. Yet, apparently, when talking to women about sexual assault, it’s fine?

Yeah, I’m suggesting she should lose her job for this and for the statements she made. This isn’t just an “apologize and forget” moment. This is a fundamental lack of understanding of law, a broken philosophy that punishes victims and protects criminals from proper sentencing.

The very idea that women should be held responsible for the actions men take against them – “You shouldn’t have dressed like that,” “You shouldn’t have been there” – is disgusting.

Sure, there are things women (and men) can do to avoid having things happen to them. Don’t walk around naked. Don’t go down dark alleyways. Avoid places where people get shot every couple of minutes. But we should not be demanding women dress a certain way and go to specific places, otherwise rape’s their fault. If applied to any other crime, this line of reasoning would be laughed out of court. But for some reason, since it’s being levied against a woman and deals with her sexuality… Well, women should just KNOW better.

It’s disgusting. It’s reprehensible. Hatch should be fired and the jury’s original verdict should be put in place. And if you meet anyone that makes that type of argument? Slap them. Slap them reeeeeeeeeeally hard. For me. EVERYONE should be offended and disgusted by such statements and philosophies. EVERYONE should want them to stop.

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The Problem With Movements

I was pondering the other day on the nature of sociopolitical movements.

They’re really weird, don’t you think? But amazingly so. They happen typically from some sort of organic collective of shared emotions, often caused by some inciting incident, and they can wreak all sorts of havoc on the status quo.

Movements today seem to lack that a bit.

Based on cursory knowledge of some of the more successful movements of modern history (the Civil Rights movement, Gandhi’s drive to free India, ending apartheid), here’s what I observed (and I’ll define successful during this):

1) There is a problem some person or group of people wish to fix.

2) They stir up fervor amongst the apathetic, ignorant and disorganized.

3) A leader grows out of the movement.

4) They hammer their disdain for the problem over and over again.

5) There is a martyr of the movement, usually being the leader.

6) They succeed in fixing the initial problem.

Now, I wish I could honestly say that No. 5 was optional, but when I thought about it… Martin Luther King Jr., killed. Gandhi, killed. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned. (Not all martyrs need be killed, after all… right? …Merriam-Webster’s second definition gives me wiggle room. I’ll take it.)

As for success, that’s No. 6. They resolve the problem they set out to resolve. For example, the Civil Rights movement had an extremely specific goal within their general manifesto of “Hey, can we please be treated like equals?”: Desegregate the nation. Now, other sects within the movement had some different goals added to that, but generally, that was the movement’s main goal. Gandhi got India free from the U.K.’s rule. Apartheid ended. These are successes.

So, let’s think of the movements we’ve seen in today’s day and age. The Tea Party movement. Feminism (third wave, I suppose). The gay rights movement.

While some have been working for years (gay rights) and some for, well, a couple of years (Tea Party), none have been extremely successful. Here’s a breakdown.

The Tea Party movement had the organic growth movements need. They’ve gotten number 2 solved (depending on your definition of ignorant). We’ll pretend they’ve even had number 3 nailed. And they’re certainly hammering their disdain for their interpretations of problems over and again. But they fail in a few places. First, they don’t really have any specific problems they want to hit. They do have several they’re upset about, though, so that’s not a huge issue. They certainly have no martyrs, though, no one willing to fully give themselves to the movement and lose everything. And, quite simply, they had too many people they considered leaders, like Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann. But more on that in a bit.

Third wave feminism (I specify third wave because first wave, based on my understanding of it, was a successful movement that afforded women the right to vote.) has yet to succeed because it currently holds too general a manifesto, firstly. Instead of systematically taking out issues one by one, the modern feminist movement rails against all the issues simultaneously. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s noble, and it’s right. But it’s inefficient and ultimately accomplishes little, unfortunately. Or not much very quickly, at least. And due to the lack of specification of goals, infighting has cropped up all over the place, people dictating who is and isn’t a “true feminist,” something I attempted to talk about before and failed miserably at. Fighting from within while trying to target every injustice simultaneously makes it difficult for a movement to truly grow. It stagnates before it can really achieve the third step of gaining a visible leader.

The gay rights movement definitely has the first part: Legalize same-sex marriage. Legalize same-sex adoption. Let gays donate blood. Criminalize harassment via sexuality. A few others, I’m sure, but those are the first few specific examples I can think of. The gay rights movement even had an inciting incident: The Stonewall Riots. Not every movement gets one of those. But the gay rights movement finds itself faltering with no leader and no highly visible martyr. In actuality, Matthew Shepard is that martyr, but with a lack of organization and leadership, that martyrdom has become something only the truly passionate in the movement remember with sadness. Some people that are pro-gay rights don’t even know who Shepard is. And as for leadership, perhaps the most visible leader of the movement is Dan Savage, who is too divisive and confrontational to be a truly effective leader of a movement. As opposed to supporting the movement, he often satisfies himself with lambasting the people in opposition of it, which isn’t how the successful movements found success.

Really, though, I think the Internet might be to blame, partially. When it comes to movements, it’s both a blessing and a curse. On the internet, there is a moment, a brief momentary spark, where your movement can catch fire. For many internet-driven movements, the damage doesn’t have to be massive. A few tens or hundreds of thousands of signatures, a mere drop in the bucket of human existence, on someone’s Change.org petition can get the job done. For movements that need a bigger support system, like the ones I’ve mentioned, the internet can be a bit more of a problem. See, thanks to the internet, things can move quickly. That’s how SOPA got stopped, after all. Things are also mercilessly recorded, allowing for more pointed pettiness and vicious tearing apart. And what’s worse: Everyone can be a leader on their own.

Hell, look at me on this blog. I’m constantly talking about things that I wish would change, things that need to be fixed. And I know there are others that agree with me. But I’m not the leader of any movements. I’m barely even an active member of any. At best, I’m often and intellectual supporter. And why is that? Because on the internet, it seems like that’s all you need. You can get so many like-minded people to swarm upon your opinion and lift you up that you feel like a leader. For years, I was generally considered to be one of the leaders of the gay rights movement… on the Gaia Online forum. And by years, I think I mean two, maybe three or four. The internet moves quickly and unsustained dialogues can be forgotten. For that period of time, my posts, my literature was reposted and debated all over the internet. I had several hundred vocal supporters, and more silent ones. People asked if they could print my posts off and hand them out in real life.

And while I’m not saying that didn’t necessarily help… It’s simply not enough. With the internet, too many people can be too vocal simultaneously. Before that, though, a single person’s voice could shine above the rest of the maddening crowd with clarity and charisma.

For making Progressive or Todd Akin look terrible, or spreading the word about Kony or Trayvon Martin, or getting people to love or hate Chick-fil-A… the internet is great. It’s fabulous for all that. The problems are somewhat general and don’t require much action to fix. Just a tweet, email or share. Some would call it armchair activism, or slacktivism. It can get results, even if the result is eliminating some ignorance, but it simply doesn’t require much.

Other movements need more support, more power behind them. To see women and the GLBT community treated as equals, it takes more than a tweet, email or share. It takes feet on the streets. It takes organization. It takes leadership. It takes vigilance, seeking to destroy the problems facing them one at a time.

…Tweet, email or share if you agree, I suppose.

EDIT: To add to this, someone pointed out that Gandhi and MLK died after the main crux of their movement’s goals were met. They were both still martyrs for their movement, MLK being jailed unjustly and Gandhi going on hunger strike. What their deaths accomplished, however, was permanency of acknowledgement. Now, any movements spawning from the original, or any goals the movements want to revisit, have a permanent figurehead and reminder, a permanent leader to refer back to. Not every movement needs their leader to die, of course. But consider how much stronger and longer lasting those movements have been over the years. Movements like… Well, Christianity.

Just some additional clarification and food for thought.

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“That Stupid Twilight Slut”

I almost hate myself for talking about this, but…

Did you know that Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson broke up? Oh. Em. Gee.

For those of you living under a rock and not knowing what I’m talking about, first: Where do you live and can I stay there? Second, I’m about to ruin your ignorance bubble.

Stewart and Pattinson are the actors of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in the inexplicably popular “Twilight” film series, based on the inexplicably popular “Twilight” book series. Their characters are the two lead protagonists who are apparently in love… it’s a bit difficult to tell from the segments I’ve read and seen. But whatever. Anyway, the romance “blossomed” on set and off. Mostly off, I shouldn’t wonder. They’ve been dating for a while… I think they were engaged maybe? I really only notice the covers of the stupid magazines in the grocery line. And they tell me their relationship was an even better romance than Bella and Edward. It’d have to be, I should think.

Anyway, recently, pictures leaked revealing Stewart with another man. That man just happened to be the director of her most recent film, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Rupert Sanders. Sanders just happens to be married with children. Keep that in mind, that’ll be important.

The fallout when this went public was, of course, very bad, for Stewart in particular. Pattinson moved out of their shared apartment and went radio silent for a while. Meanwhile, all the magazines and other publications (slightly hyperbolic, not all did this of course) went bananas. They all jumped all over this story, many calling Stewart a slut, “trampire” and many other colorful phrases.

Meanwhile, Sanders has gotten out of this seemingly unscathed. I can’t say I’ve seen anything at all talking about Sanders. I’ve seen some defenses of Stewart, but they are few and far between.

Which gets me to the crux of the post. Why exactly is Stewart getting slammed so hard?

Celebrity is certainly a factor. Before this scandal, there likely weren’t many who knew who Sanders was. Many still don’t. Meanwhile, we have Stewart and Pattinson’s existences shoved down our throats. So, certainly, the fact that they’re famous doesn’t help. But the vitriol leveled against Stewart is perplexing. Well, not perplexing. Not really. It’s just a sign of the perpetual sexism our society has gripping it.

Did Stewart do something bad? Yes. Reprehensible? If that’s the word you want to use, sure. But so did Sanders. You can call Stewart a slut or whatever. But if being a slut is defined by, in this situation, sexual infidelity, then Sanders is a slut, too. Personally, I think the word “slut” is useless beyond the perpetuation of gender separations and stereotypes. When used against women, it’s used to bring shame. Against men… Does it really get used against men in any negative way? It’s good that some women are attempting to eliminate the negative stigma associated with the word, but personally I think elimination of the word altogether would be better. It’s too inherently divisive and sexually charged, and seems to insinuate gender roles.

The horrific irony behind this entire thing is how women have been dragged into this double standard of hate and treating women as sub-par to men. “Twilight” was bad enough. Women fell in love with characters that embodied abusive, unhealthy relationships for any gender… but specifically targeted at women. And now, there are women attempting to slut-shame Stewart while completely ignoring the married man that consented to the affair, despite his and Stewart’s relationships.

Am I saying Sanders is worse than Stewart? No. They both did something that, in my mind, is irredeemable. Cheating is an immediate last straw for me, I’m pretty certain, and they cheated on their own partners and knowingly with someone with a partner. But, even so, it’s immensely unfair, wrong and kind of disgusting to rail against Stewart and Stewart alone.

If you want to blame someone for an affair, blame both parties. They both knew what they were doing and who they might hurt.

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The Rape Debacle

So, I’m guessing you’ve probably heard about GOP Congressman Todd Akin’s comments during his senatorial bid in Missouri about rape. He’s the guy that tried to say women don’t usually get pregnant during “legitimate rape.”

Since then, there have been some rather stern and strong rebukes and disavowments from everyone, the disavowing coming mostly from the GOP. The Republican National Convention Chair has called for Akin’s removal from the race and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has even gone on record stating he “can’t defend” Akin, as well as stating that he is not against abortion in rape cases. An interesting position for Romney to take, but perhaps a necessary one after Akin’s comments.

Because, see, here’s the fun thing: This sort of commentary on rape isn’t new. Not from the GOP and their commentators. Anyone else remember Liz Trotta talking about women getting “raped too much” in the military?

Why do people feel the need to attempt to defend rape in any fashion? Or to qualify it as some sort of natural thing that happens? I mean, yes. Technically speaking, rape does occur in nature. That’s why some animals, like ducks, have evolved to develop anti-rape biological features. Which clearly must be what Akin was thinking about when he said a woman has biological routines to shut a rape pregnancy down. But Trotta practically suggested that men can’t help themselves. I mean, put men and women in close quarters and the rapings are just going to happen! It’s only natural!

So, somehow, this becomes insulting to men, who are now being compared to mindless, baser-instinct driven animals with no conscious ability to choose, as well as demeaning to women, who are told that men know women’s bodies better, or at least well enough to make laws that, frankly, entirely ignore the desires and traumas of a woman already traumatized.

And where does all this trouble come from? From attempting to differentiate rape. Attempting to qualify it. There are people trying to defend Akin saying, “Ah, but aren’t some women who cry rape lying?” Who the hell cares? Weeding out those women, which I believe the FBI says make up about 8 percent of the reported cases of rape, is entirely pointless, dangerous and ultimately harmful. Much like voter ID laws, but that’s beside the current point. After all, as the above link mentions, less than 50 percent of rape cases are reported.

Now, I’m not getting into statutory rape here. The definition of “choice” when it comes to age certainly becomes a sticky mess. Can a 15-year-old girl choose to sleep with a 17-year-old boy? Yeah, but that still counts as statutory, even down here in Alabama. Visa versa on the genders counts, too. It may sound like I’m qualifying, the thing I’m kind of writing against, but for now I’m going to consider statutory a complicated area of rape where consent’s definition is muddled by age and maturity.

In the consenting adult world, however, the definition is clear. If a person says stop at ANY POINT, you stop. It’s done. Men, women, the choice for sex is individual and distinct. To try and define it as “legitimate” or “more serious,” or to suggest that there’s a way to be raped “too much,” as though there’s a just right amount… it’s shameful.

As President Barack Obama said, “Rape is rape.” The idea that people need to debate rape and the results in any fashion is a simply disturbing one. The fact that discussion on the subject, particularly relating to abortion and emergency contraception for female victims of rape, is a discussion run largely by men in the legislative world is even more disturbing. Hopefully, some good can come of Akin’s word vomit: A look at how wrong we’re handling rape as a legitimate problem and how we can fix it.

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