Monthly Archives: February 2014

Girls Can! (feminism + marketing = magic)

The end of the Olympics has brought us the debut of a new Cover Girl Campaign sporting the simple hashtag #girlscan , and right off the bat I’m hooked:

I love Ellen. And I love Pink. And whoever that hockey player is. And especially especially I love Queen Latifah. (U-N-I-T-Y YOU GOTTA LET ‘EM KNOW!)

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Oh! And I love that Sofia is speaking Spanish. Effing wonderful. Ok, but I get that not everyone will be amped about this. Corporations using this kind of marketing can feel disingenuous. And maybe it always will be a little bit, because they are still selling mascara. And it’s true that every woman in that video looks pretty flawless. But I still think this is a step up from silent models that function only as an image (an image meant to inspire insecurity and lead to purchases.) At least these women are speaking, and talking about facets of themselves that have nothing to do with beauty (at least not aesthetic perfection for perfection’s sake.) And to be fair, these ladies all are talented and have pretty iconic, off beat style. It’s not like they are all twiggy blondes (not that twiggy blondes are bad I happen to kinda like them but variety is the spice of life and variety in our beauty standards is also vitally important the the mental health and self-esteem of women everywhere.) And feminism going mainstream does have an upside. It means corporations are feeling the tides turning, and they get that this is what their consumers want (there is also a downside because voices with a lot of money then get to decide what is and isn’t on the agenda and that can skew the topics deemed ‘feminist’ and limit participation in the movement and marginalize some women and their concerns… but I’d prefer to save that discussion for later because sometimes I like to feel hopeful.)

Here are more wonderful gifs of these ladies being awesome. Girls hearing positive messages = good and for now, I’m gonna go with that. Dance how you want, play how you want, laugh how you want and do you. I think any act that boosts the self-image (and not just the beauty image, but their image of themselves as more than ‘pretty’) of any girl anywhere is one of the most positive things a person or persons can do. It’s an uphill battle with long reaching implications, and we should all be passionately involved in this endeavor.

cracks. me. up.
cracks. me. up.
she really does care about her fans, check her documentary 'Part of Me'
she really does care about her fans, check her documentary ‘Part of Me
i hear her live shows are bananas. that's cray.
her live shows are bananas. that’s making me dizzy just watching!.
killin it on Modern Family
killin it on Modern Family
yea you do! werk!
yea you do! werk!
i love when she raps. i love when she sings.
i love when she raps. i love when she sings.

I’ll give the final optimistic declaration to another dope chick:

yes.
yes.

The Co-ed Porn Star (A Real Life Saga)

The news of a Duke college freshman being outed as a porn star raised many issues that I feel passionate, yet conflicted about. Jezebel reported that it was a class mate that betrayed the young woman’s trust, and she has since seen fit to come forward and tell her side of the story. I’ll get back to her words in a bit.

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I want to start by saying that the kind of filth that people immediately began writing about her is a clear sign of our culture’s complete discomfort with female sexuality, if that sexuality is not in the explicit service of men. Boys at Duke asked for explicit information from partner’s she has slept with, and claimed that her porn work nullified her right to privacy and respect. Porn stars are whores and sluts, and those kinds of women don’t deserve to feel safe or dignified. Even if they are bright students at a top tier university.

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And moreover, women cannot possibly be smart and a sex object at the same time. Many of the comments were confused: Why do sex work when you are so smart? The idea that she may enjoy it, that she made a decision and doesn’t regret it, is no where to be found. Because once you become a sex worker you cease to be a full human (sluts and whores aren’t people who deserve respect, remember?) And here is the thing: no one is asking about the morality of her viewership. Because men can consume sex without fear of judgement or consequences. Indeed, even the term ‘sex-worker’ and ‘porn-star’ are so tied to females in the cultural mind that ‘male porn-star’ is the default label for men who shoot porn. Why do we shoulder women with the burden of keeping themselves pure? Why is sex a female responsibility, something we must guard and keep clean within ourselves, denying parts of our identity that men can display and explore freely?

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I’ll let her speak for herself in some of my favorite passages form her open response on XO Jane:

However, the answer is actually quite simple. I couldn’t afford $60,000 in tuition, my family has undergone significant financial burden, and I saw a way to graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I absolutely love. Because to be clear: My experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering... Of course, I do fully acknowledge that some women don’t have such a positive experience in the industry. We need to listen to these women. And to do that we need to remove the stigma attached to their profession and treat it as a legitimate career that needs regulation and oversight. We need to give a voice to the women that are exploited and abused in the industry. Shaming and hurling names at them, the usual treatment we give sex workers, is not the way to achieve this.

These words were, for me, a bit of a wake up call. I personally find most porn scenes to be hard to watch. Mainstream porn does not teach good gender relations or, for that matter, fun and healthy sex practices. However, it is not for me to say that this girl is confused or mistaken. Treating her like a child is a knee jerk, paternalistic reaction, and I had to check myself. If she feels that her experience has been empowering, well then that’s what it’s been. And it is true that not all sex work plays out this way, and those concerns or valid. But we must not treat all sex workers as victims. This is just as damaging as treating them all as a-moral sluts.

The most striking view I was indoctrinated with was that sex is something women “have,” but that they shouldn’t “give it away” too soon -– as though there’s only so much sex in any one woman, and sex is something she does for a man that necessarily requires losing something of herself, and so she should be really careful who she “gives” it to.

The prevailing societal brainwashing dictates that sexuality and sex “reduce” women, whereas men are merely innocent actors on the receiving end. By extension, our virginity or abstinence has a bearing on who we are as people — as good people or bad people, as nice women or bad women.

This quote is particularly well thought out and eloquent. Sex is not something that women ‘have’ and men ‘receive.’ It is not something women are bartering out for commitment or marriage or respect, and men aren’t brainless idiots bumbling around trying to ‘get’ sex from girls. At least, this isn’t universally true. Sex is something people share for a variety of reasons. No one is innocent in a consensual sexual experience. Each person is an actor, and all parties are both giving and receiving something. And no one has the moral high ground, because sex isn’t immoral. But for women who have ‘too many’ partners or the ‘wrong kind’ of sex or who enjoy sex ‘too much’, those transgressions are linked to their status as good or bad people. This story is as old as Eve (original sin is my favorite rage trigger) and as new as Beyonce, Miley, and really any well known woman who dares transgress into ‘too sexy’-ville. It’s fucking played out. The narrative is absurd and reductionist and hypocritical, to say nothing of it’s dangerous implications. Because if we think women who enjoy sex or have too much sex are bad, then why would be want to treat them with respect? Why should they feel worthy of non violent relationships or privacy or the right to pursue their passions? Whores can’t have passions.

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Now, I feel very strongly that a lot of sex workers are in danger and coerced. But ‘a lot’ is not the same thing as all. I also feel strongly that the industry needs to re vamp itself, make different kinds of movies with more variety in terms of plot, body type, race, gender variation and overall message (everyone should be authentically enjoying themselves, and not just as a quick and exaggerated moment of foreplay), but these concerns are not in conflict with my desire to support this person’s choice to do what is right for her. I mean, I sure as hell didn’t graduate debt free. And porn work isn’t for me personally, at least not right now. But who the fuck am I, and who the fuck is anyone, especially folks who consume porn and who are sexually active but really I just mean anyone, to judge her? Her experience is her’s to have. Having sex for money is not a choice all of us would make, but if it makes you itchy you may want to ask yourself ‘Why?’ Why is it that we are suddenly uncomfortable or angry when the identity of an actor in a porn film is revealed, and the narrative isn’t what we thought it would be? Why can’t she be a college student on a prestigious campus and also shoot explicit sex scenes? If it was a male actor, how would the reaction be different? Why are we so quick to demonize female sexuality?

yea. keep mulling that one over.
yea. keep mulling that one over.

Remember, your feelings and concerns are valid. But so are her feelings and experiences. Your feelings do not give you the right to condemn the completely legal decisions of other adults, they don’t give you the right to be mean or disrespectful, and they don’t give you the right to throw stones from the front yards of your very own glass house. Because we all live in a glass house.

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Furthermore, if you are truly concerned for her and her well being, you can advocate for the rights of sex workers to feel safe in their work place and you can work towards dismantling the system that strips them of humanity and dignity. You can also educate yourself on feminist porn, and use that knowledge to explore your own paradigms, fears and opportunities for growth. We all want to get off. But we need to start acknowledging the full-on, complex, unique and varied humanity of the folks who work to help us get there. (On and off camera.)

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Gender Options as Defined by Your FBook Profile (duh)

Alright Facebook, I’ll bite. What’s up with the 50-plus new custom gender options?

Full statement here.
Full statement here.

Now, yet again, plenty of people are already being critical of this move…

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and I have to say I think that’s an unproductive first reaction. The fact that they are dealing with this at all is stellar. And they put together quite a list! Here is the full list as assembled by Slate, 56 options:

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans*
  • Trans Female
  • Trans* Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans* Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans* Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans* Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Trans* Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

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I know, that list is cray! But don’t fret if you don’t know all those terms off the top of your head. Here is a helpful glossary from the Daily Beast! This list is pretty thorough, and it certainly proves that this did their homework, so brownie points for research and execution!

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I fully support including Cis options, even though it’s not very common to self-identify as Cis. I kind of think self identifying that way is a nice way to show that you are an ally, but that’s just me thinking out loud. I think my personal favorite choice is two spirit, just because it sounds so lovely. My other favorite new function is the select your own pronoun option. The use of incorrect pronouns can be a very personally hurtful experience for some folks, and in most public spaces we generally don’t engage in pronoun check-ins (where you ask a person which pronouns they wish to be referred to by.) Being referred to as ‘him’ when you feel you are a ‘her’ or a ‘they’ or a ‘zhe’ (an example of gender neutral pronouns, which are not yet an option) is super awkward and isolating, and I applaud this functional link (which isn’t immediately apparent to folks even if they are open minded and respectful of fluidity.) That’s a big win!

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I don’t have it in me to criticize what I think is an important first step. Instead I will make my own wish list of what I’d like to see them do in the future with these options. Some people think gender options should be removed altogether, but I’m not convinced. I think defining gender for oneself is the most important and empowering tool, and to that end I would love to be able to type in whatever I want into the custom field (I tried yesterday to change my gender identity to ‘dope chick’, but it didn’t take.) It would also be cool is the Male/Female options weren’t removed from all the other options as if they were ‘normal’ and the others ‘other’.

other-ing, so lame.
other-ing, so lame.

Another tricky point is that these options are generally used by Facebook to shape advertising content. I think that sucks, for all sorts of reasons that run from personal privacy to gender assumptions to ad-overload in general. I don’t want my personal information being used without my knowledge as a marketing resource (and I know I’m shit out of luck with that at this point, but it’s still not cute.) And also I hate that my ads are all about fashion and babies, neither of which I focus any part of my life on at this time. And advertising is a classic chicken and egg question. Do they assign certain ads to women because we really do want/need all this shit, or do we want/need it because we are sold a bullshit view of ourselves and our place in the world by ads? (Hint: The answer is both.) So I think that until the gender options are ‘no string’s attached’, a pure choice of self-expression not linked to ad content selection, none of us will truly be free to be our ‘true, authentic selves’. At least not on our Facebook profile. But maybe that’s not even the point…

probably won't find your 'true self' in your online profile... #justsayin
probably won’t find your ‘true self’ in your online profile… #justsayin

I can’t wait for the moment when this crap doesn’t matter. As this move highlights, gender identity is sewn into how we talk about, refer to, categorize and relate to other people in lots of complicated ways. It defines romantic relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife), familiar relationships (mother/father, aunt/uncle), and it sets the tone for how we interact with other people. We make assumptions about their personalities and interests, and we make hundreds of those assumptions in a split second. But the binary system is so reductive and simple, it doesn’t begin to cover the complexities and grey areas that most humans exist with and within. Online interactions are not going away, and blending our real-world and online identities will only get harder as those identities continue to overlap and morph. A huge company like Facebook paving the way for more inclusion and fluidity is phenoms. Giving consumers the option to define their gender and pronoun choices and privacy options in their way and on their own terms is the ultimate goal, and I do believe this is a major victory towards that end.

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The Economics of Sex (OR misinformation and subjective data interpretation with dumb animation)

Here is an infuriating video from The Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture about how sex is a commodity and marriage is always good and men and women are operating under a strange and simple system that disregards their personalities and desires. I honestly had a hard time getting through it, so I’m gonna present my thoughts in a sort of live blog format. What follows is a (largely unedited) list of the thoughts I had while watching, so you can listen and follow along. Anything in italics are thoughts I’ve added after the fact to expound on the  more important(ly disturbing) points. And there are gifs because I love gifs and they make this whole thing easier to think about.

~first assumption: marriage is good and divorce is bad This is obviously untrue depending on where and when you are in history and who you are personally. Just a gross simplification of people’s lives. Completely stupid. 

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~is sex a commodity? Definition: a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee. So, no. 
~is it an exchange? Yes, but what is being exchanged is not axiomatic or universal.

~men have a higher sex drive- NO Just, no. 

britbrit
no.

~how can you possibly know that they link sex to romance less often? The general use of data to support their point without actual stats/sources and without mentioning that interpretation of data is not entirely objective is super manipulative. 

~female motivations: expressing love, commitment, affirming desirability, security. uuuummmmmmm what? how is that shown in the data? Also, those motivations are not gender specific, lots of people have sex for those (and other varied) reasons.

sex will happen when women want it to? what? relationships all work the exact same way all the time???!?

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~men want sex but women don’t? men sacrifice for sex but women don’t?

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~market value. no. there are cultural expectations, and no it isn’t entirely private, but sex is not a supply and relationships are not a price. To paraphrase a perfect Jezebel comment I read on this topic: I am not a cow. My vagina is not milk. My partner is not a customer. 

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~comparing pesticides to birth control is not so subtle and gross

~’lowering the cost of sex’ would apply for everyone… And this is where the metaphor stops working the way they want. People generally like it when things are cheaper, especially things they like a lot of. So really, from where I’m standing, everyone benefits if the ‘cost of sex’ drops. But ‘the cost of sex’ isn’t an actual real thing in terms of how humans live their lives so this is a dumb point all around.

~’sex was oriented towards marriage.’ THIS IS HETERONORMATIVE AND TOTALLY LIMITED.  Also, again, assumed to be positive. But I happen to think that more people having agency over their bodies and experiencing a greater variety of relationships/orgasms is super positive. 

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~yea the unanticipated side affect is more autonomy for everyone, mostly women, and we are still adapting to the gender role shift. It’s not a catastrophe comparable to THE ONGOING DESTRUCTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT. Not even close.

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~”in the past it really wasn’t the patriarchy that policed women’s relational interests, it was women. but this agreement, this unspoken pact to set a high market value of sex has all but vanished. but in a brave new world where having sex no longer means babies and marriage has become optional, the solidarity women once felt towards each another in the mating market has dissolved. Women no longer have each other’s backs. on the contrary, they’re now each other’s competition.” SO BAD. This is, for me, the most destructive idea, because it actually blames the entire problem on women. Women policing other women’s behaviors was not a result of a worldwide agreement to ‘set a high market value of sex.’ It was a result of patriarchal ideas about women’s sexuality, and the ensuing rules and options regarding sexual behavior and marriage. Getting an oppressed people to participate in their own oppression is a wildly smart and effective tactic that has been used by the elite and powerful for centuries. Women were always each other’s competition. Marrying has historically been one of women’s best options for climbing the social ladder and creating a better life for themselves. It was not about sisterly bonds anymore or less than it is now. And to blame women for their own devaluation is just such bullshit, it’s taking it back to Eve and original sin and I will not stand for it. I will not take it seriously as an idea and I will not internalize guilt or self-disgust and I will not accept that women are to blame for their own  institutionalized and culturally accepted oppression. 

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~so women control sex and men control marriage, but women want marriage and men want sex. THAT IS COMPLETELY SIMPLE AND OUTRAGEOUS. The only limits on humans behavior are societal norms and cultural expectations. If people tend to act in certain predictable ways, it is due largely to videos like this, that expound a divisive and dangerous perspective on relationships and gender roles.

~this video puts women as the gatekeepers of morality, specifically men’s morality. this is terrible for everyone but especially for men. This idea is not new, but it is just as damaging for men as it is for women. If men are just a-moral dummies wandering this world and women must control them (in part by controlling their own behavior) then humans have an extremely limited capacity for depth and for growth. It means that men are silly boys and women must act as every man’s mommy. It’s gross, and reductive, and it sells every single person on the planet short.

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~so in this world sex is a commodity linked to marriage, and no one can possibly want other kinds of relationships, to explore one of those things without the other, and only heterosexual sex/marriage exist and matter.  It’s really not rocket science kids. There are an immeasurable amount of reasons that a person would want to have sex, with whomever that person wants to have sex with. And it is true that sexual and romantic relationships are kinda tough these days because we are all dealing with the break down of traditional roles in a rapidly changing/ technology flooded world. But harder doesn’t mean worse. I fail to see how people being liberated to explore more options is bad. I fail to see how a world with less marriages is bad. I fail to see how the break down of gender roles is bad. I do see a world where (hopefully) folks will be less constrained by cultural ideas of who they should be or how they should act or who/what they should desire. Sex is not something to be traded for commitment, that idea is so passive aggressive and fucked up. If you want commitment you should ask for it and if you want sex you should ask for it and if you are still trying to figure it all out then just be as honest as possible but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Men are not all soulless animals looking for a trophy wife while trying to satisfy base instincts and women are not all worrying manipulators who are wielding their sex as a weapon while counting down  their remaining days of fertility. People are people, with complicated motivations and a variety of desires that may even be existing in the same moment and sometimes communicating is hard and this kind of distorted, reductive information is bullshit and I won’t accept it. Don’t allow anyone to dictate your desires or tell you the right way to get what you want. Women and men do not exist as separate groups that act as one singular entity, and no one is actually beholden to this garbage about what it means to be a man or a woman. You exist as you, and you act as yourself.  And you are probably great. 

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we woke up like this. flawless.

And you know what else, there actually was a time where sex was part of an economy. But it was women and girls, their bodies and minds and whole selves,  who were actually being bought and sold as familial property. This is not something to be nostalgic about nor is it a time to long for or extoll the forgotten virtues of. It was gross and patriarchal, a time where women’s bodies were not their own and where women did not possess full humanity. And it is a time that, frankly, we are not yet past despite some incredible progress. Until all women are free from the threats of sexual and reproductive violence and until women are economically independent worldwide and until this kind of video propaganda with this misogynist/homophobic/sexist worldview ceases to be disseminated (or have widespread support) we cannot truly say that we are beyond the historical moment of gender tyranny.

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Let’s get beyond it.

Stick to that Letter: Key & Peele cunnilingus skit

I laughed out loud, at my desk at work, while watching this. Before we discuss it’s pros and cons, lets just enjoy the comedy, brought to us by Key & Peele on Comedy Central.

Alright, alright alright. Catch your breath. Let’s start with the good stuff. First of all, any entertainment that portrays a sex education class for men with the goal of encouraging enthusiastic partner pleasuring is a WIN. Using humor to encourage mutual satisfaction is great. And some of that advice is actually quite accurate (don’t focus only on the clit, make letters with your tongue, gauge your partners response and stick with what is working). If you have an aversion to a particular act, maybe explore why that is. You of course have every right to say ‘not for me’, but especially in the case of cunnilingus, the issue deserves some thought, since culturally we aren’t taught to appreciate female anatomy or pleasure. Sex should be fun, and it should feel good, for all parties involved. There is no set script to stick to, no correct order, and no limit on what you can do (besides consent. It’s gotta be consensual.) Let your imagination run free and have fun!

get hype!
get hype!

But. It fell short for me in a few places. The word ‘bitches’ is just so jarring, when it’s used so often in such a short clip. I know they are playing characters from a very specific cultural segment, but I thought it was a bit much (although ‘learn your bitch’s snowflake’ was PRICELESS.) It’s a harsh word that doesn’t evoke respect or caring, and I think using ‘woman’ or even ‘lady’ could still have worked within the character’s universe. The only other moment I wish hadn’t happened was the line ‘Penises are easy. Vaginas are hard.’ Because that is just not true. The anatomy is different, sure. And it is true that penises are external, so visually they are easier to see and handle. But vaginas, labia, clits and g-spots are really not difficult to navigate. It may be true that female-bodied folks need more stimulation time, but I don’t have actual stats to back that up, and if they do THEN SO WHAT?! Take your time. Vary from the oh so boring script that is disseminated in mainstream porn. Act with care and enthusiasm, and notice to your partner’s response. Don’t assume all your partners will want the same choreography or timing, be ready to switch it up pay attention to everyone’s cues.

omg PREACH
omg PREACH

EPIC ADDENDUM: That advice works for all gender variations, so I think we all need to grow up a little bit and block out sexy fun time and freakin’ GO FOR IT. Don’t be scared to make mistakes, be open to feedback and trying new moves, and most of all up your enthusiasm. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake is a worthy endeavor, so broaden your horizons/challenge yourself to be a better partner/leave shame at the door/wild out. It may take time, and serious work, but I’m hopeful a more sex positive world (free of shame and violence) will emerge in the near future. *Note: This ending paragraph applies to everyone everywhere regardless of sex/gender/sexuality/any other demographic factor. Get. Into. It.

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**2nd Note: I know how optimistic/idealistic/borderline nuts that last sentence sounds. But hey, a girl can dream.

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V-Day Love

This post is just to say Happy Valentine’s. Check out VDay.org, celebrate love in all it’s forms, and first and foremost love and be kind to yourself.

Here are some of my favorite words about love by e e cummings:

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And here is a lovely Mary Oliver quote shared by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls:
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And finally, here is a message from someone important in all of our lives:
hughGifHi iloveyouhughGIF happyvdayHUGHGIF

Happy Galentines Day!

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You might be asking? Well, according to Amy Poehler

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Galentine’s Day is the answer to the oh so traditional and stifling Valentine’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate your fucking fabulous lady friends, because single or coupled we all need our friends and women should be celebrated for being unique and amazing people and not just for being pretty arm candy.

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So text your besties and remind them how incredible they are. Plan a date where you can celebrate each other and your special relationship. Take some suggestions from this amusing Buzzfeed article. Cause lets face it, we are all gonna need each other when we’re in our 8th or 9th decade and the world is an even scarier place. Case and point:

So here is a public declaration of my love to my most special ladies. I already sent this via group text (duh) but I’ll say it again: You all inspire me every single day.

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Alright, alright. I’m done being sentimental. For now. Ish.

If you are looking for an excellent way to celebrate tomorrow, check out the V-Day website. The V-Day organization was started by Eve Ensler, most famous for her play The Vagina Monologues.

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery… In conjunction with the 15th anniversary, V-Day launched its most ambitious campaign to date – ONE BILLION RISING. The concept of the campaign is simple. If you take into account the statistic that 1 out of 3 women will experience violence in her lifetime, you are left with the staggering statistic that over 1 billion women on this planet will be impacted by violence. On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, 2.14.13, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence.

Watch her inspiring monologue about her ultimate dream: ending the sexual violence epidemic worldwide.

Remember, Valentine’s Day is just another day. It is culturally laden with heteronormative gender roles and expectations, but that is all complete bullshit. Celebrate whatever love you want, whenever you want. If you want roses, get roses. If you wanna do the planning, tell your partner you are taking the reigns. If you want gifts, well giddy up and exchange gifts. Think outside the box. Have fun, no stress and no pressure allowed. Don’t let the media make you feel bad about your current romantic situation or about your relationships or desires. Do you. And if you are feeling a little down, find a V-Day event near you and get inspired. Or better yet make a Galentine’s pact to take action! All of the love in your life is important, and we all take it for granted too often.

Yea, just, celebrate all kinds of love, everyday.

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Victim Blaming- *Rape Culture

I have just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal, by James Taranto, which has left me feeling nauseous and sad. Not a cute combination. Taranto is a member of the editorial board at WSJ, as well as the ‘author of its popular Best of the Web Today column’, so he is not just random dude.  The article is entitled ‘Drunkennes and Double Standards: A Balanced Look at College Sex Offenses.

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Right off the bat, I know I’m in for it. Sex offenses aren’t balanced. There is a perpetrator and a victim. Rapists are to blame for rape. So, yea, what’s his overriding argument?

What is called the problem of “sexual assault” on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike… If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn’t determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver’s sex. But when two drunken college students “collide,” the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.

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He also mentions false accusations, which as I’ve stated before make up around 2% of all accusations on a generous day. Women are not getting drunk and consenting to sex, then making false accusations fueled by their regret and resentment. “Had she awakened the next day feeling regretful and violated, she could have brought him up on charges and severely disrupted his life.” This almost never happens. Women are not slinging accusations willy nilly, especially given the nature of an investigation, the toll it takes, and how often victims are harassed and shamed when their stories are actually true. He goes on, “What is called the problem of “sexual assault” on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike.” And this, this is an interesting sentence.

I do not disagree that alcohol consumption, in excess, is dangerous for both men and women. I also don’t disagree that having sex while black out drunk is a bad idea for both men and women. For one, drunk people are usually measurably less responsible, so contraception is likely disregarded. Boundaries can also be crossed due to diminished communication, and usually drunk = sloppy which can result in a sub par experience for all. But the most important issue here is who can give consent. If neither party is capable of making rational decisions, then what follows is a messy grey area. Which can be emotionally damaging, or just awkward.

waitaminute

HOWEVER.

There are a whole lot of assumptions when you make the claim that BOTH PARTIES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT. You assume that everyone is the same amount of drunk. You assume everyone has positive intent. You assume that men are victims at the same rate as women. You assume we live in a world where sexual assault is an accidental oops, where men are just confused by ladies who claim to be liberated but are really pretending and then want to save their own reputations by destroying someone else.

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Again. Cause none of those things are true. What is true is that rape happens at an alarming rate, everyday, to all kinds of people. It happens to men and women. It happens to college students and to high school students, to children, and to adults of all ages. It happens across race and class lines.  And the only way to prevent it from happening is to teach people how not to rape. It’s to teach everyone that violence and aggression are not linked to ‘real masculinity’. It means teaching everyone what true consent means, and it means decoupling sex from shame. Women should not have to stay sober to avoid being raped, because that doesn’t work anyway. Are there good reasons to help college age kids learn to control their levels of intoxication? Absolutely. Is one of those so they don’t get raped, or accidentally rape someone? No.

The author also sites a widely circulated article from Slate last year to boost his argument, quoting the author:

…she offered the same advice to college men: “If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.”

Tell me how sad that quote makes you.

this one?
this one?
or this one?
or this one?
nope, this one. definitely.
nope, this one. definitely.

The author of that piece, Emily Yaffe, would tell her son that it’s not in his self interest to find himself accused of rape. Not that he should respect women. Not that he should be sure to only engage in consensual sex. Just that it would be bad news bears FOR HIM, for his life, if he were in a situation that allowed him to be accused of raping a drunk girl. The lack of empathy and compassion in that line of thinking is truly astounding.

The end point of Taranto’s piece is that chivalry should make a come back, because men and women are different, despite feminists instance of equality, and the balance of power in sexual encounters is uneven. He is only 1/2 right. The balance of power is still often tilted in the direction of men. This does not mean, however, that women are naturally more prudish or inclined towards monogamy. It means that we live in a culture that perpetuates base misunderstandings about gender and that de-values the bodies and well being of women at an alarming rate. It means that we all must strive to be more honest with ourselves and with our partners, and to treat our sexual partners as actual humans and not as a different species that we must apply different rules to and ‘figure out’. Yes means yes. You do not have the right to ever touch another human intimately without their expressed approval. And sure, I’m down for giving out basic safety advice like 1) learn to control your consumption 2) travel in groups 3)be aware of your surroundings. But that advice isn’t limited to just young women, and it applies to violence prevention in all forms.

Because the only advice we need to give on rape prevention is: Don’t rape anyone.

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Sochi Sexism

See what I did there! Alliteration!

The buzz coming from Sochi is that, well, it’s still kind of a rough situation over there. But the games start today, so they need to get it together! Yesterday, to [distract from the below-par facilities/animal rights violations/ rampant homophobia] advertise and drum up some enthusiasm, Russia released some insane photos of their female athletes. As you scroll through, practice this fun tool for figuring out if what you are seeing is ‘gender issues’: reverse the situation. In this example, the question is ‘Would male athletes be photographed this way?’

Curling.
Curling. Alex Saitova
Figure Skating.
Figure Skating. Ekaterina Bobrova
Freestyle.
Freestyle. Catherine Carpenter
Hockey.
Hockey. Svetlana Kolmykovan.
Short track.
Short track. Tatiana Borodulina
Skelaton.
Skeleton. Elena Nikitina

Look kids, these women have great bodies. They are bodies they work hard to maintain for their high level, outrageously difficult athletic endeavors. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be photographed to appear sexy, but do they have to take all the ‘athletic’ out of it? I can’t tell these aren’t lingerie models, and that’s selling them short (so is the tacky aesthetic, but that’s another story for another day…) I want to see how powerful they are. I want to see what their bodies are capable of, other than sitting on a bed in heels.

Here is a sexy shot of Andy Murray:

andymurray
Shirtless, yea, but in action.

Or how about this beast shot of Kenneth Faried:

naked and alluring but still 100% athlete
naked and alluring but still 100% athlete

And here is a link to Sports Illustrated Sexiest 25 Male Athletes. No undies, all either clothed or in their gear. Sexy, but not posed like underwear models. Not that there is anything wrong with being a lingerie model. But female athletes work incredibly hard to have the skills and stamina needed to compete at high levels. I don’t want to see them stripped of that work in a photo that reduces them so being eye candy. Why can’t they be athletic, strong and powerful eye candy? Because, duh, they are. And women can be lots of things (hot, smart, funny, sexy, powerful, assertive, vulnerable, caring, ETC) all at the very same time. Cause all humans are complicated. And unique. And exquisitely, complexly wonderful. Well, most humans…

justsayin

lets keep it real
lets keep it real

Mais Oui. But of course! *Rape Culture

Well, I was not prepared for how real this video was going to get. This is a short french film from director Éléonore Pourriat entitled Oppressed Majority.

Trigger Warning: This video depicts sexual violence and harassment. Also features brief female nudity from the waist up.

Powerful. It is striking to me how disconcerting it feels to see men overpowered and disrespected by women, and so forcefully. And yet we are surrounded everyday by images of violence against women, images of disrespect and abuse, so that they are almost benign. From high fashion to Instagram, women’s bodies are violated and distorted.

high fashion ad. is she dead? passed out? does it matter?
high fashion ad. is she dead? passed out? does it matter?
still sexy even with a bullet through her head
still sexy even with a bullet through her head
a real life sexual assault during an Ohio state homecoming. by standers photographed and posted online rather than calling the police
a real life sexual assault during an Ohio state homecoming. by standers photographed and posted online rather than calling the police. It went viral and the girl was largely blamed/ridiculed.

These are the everyday images we all live with, part of our collective consciousness. The director uses that film to turn that consciousness on it’s head, which is particularly brilliant.

Let’s clarify the world view that results from this collective and damaging consciousness. These images are only possible in a culture where violence against women is seen as a given. Feminists use the term ‘rape culture’ to describe a culture where rape is normalized, and people are taught how not to get raped instead of how not to rape.

preach!
preach!

Rape culture means that women are responsible for rape. It means that we police women’s bodies and behaviors. It means we can’t conceive of ‘nice guys’ or ‘talented guys’ being predators.

This issue is particularly prevalent right now with the release of a letter written by Dylan Farrow, restating her allegations of a sexual assault committed by her then father, Woody Allen, when she was 7. Her statement has garnered plenty of support…

To be blunt: I think Woody Allen probably did it, though, of course, I could be wrong. But it’s okay if I’m wrong. For two reasons… The second reason it’s okay if I’m wrong is that I’m probably not wrong. It’s much more likely that I’m right. Because I am not on Woody Allen’s jury, I can be swayed by the fact that sexual violence is incredibly, horrifically common, much more common than it is for women to make up stories about sexual violence in pursuit of their own petty, vindictive need to destroy a great man’s reputation. We are in the midst of an ongoing, quiet epidemic of sexual violence, now as always. We are not in the midst of an epidemic of false rape charges, and that fact is important here.

~http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/woody-allens-good-name/

julieKtweet lenatweet msfoundationtweet ronantweet

But of course there are also plenty of haters and doubters. A lot of folks don’t want to outright call her a liar, but instead suggest that while she truly believes that it happened, that it did not. A lot of people can’t bring themselves to believe that this talented director has engaged in this criminal violent behavior (although the more ambiguous fascination with younger women seems palatable.) Even friends that I thought understood about these things cited the now imfamous Daily Beast article at me, which spends quite a lot of time excusing ‘creepy’ behavior and insinuating that Dylan was “disturbed” and thus isn’t telling the real truth. Plenty of name calling and mud slinging and accused-defending goes on when sexual assault accusations go public. We also tend to engage in a lot of cultural forgetfulness. But that first support quote is super important to remember:  false accusations are incredibly rare, statically insignificant. The balance of power between individuals is not equal. If you start from a place of skepticism when listening to a victim’s story, then you truly don’t understand this issue.

I think that last stat would shock a lot of folks... from http://www.rainn.org/statistics
I think that last stat would shock a lot of folks… from http://www.rainn.org/statistics

This is something everyone should be outraged by, because this kind of thinking affects us all. If we are all confused on what sexual assault (and sexual assailants) look like, then we are probably also confused on exactly what it means to give consent. That has drastic implications for all sexual relationships. ‘No means no’ is actually not as accurate as ‘Yes means yes’, and our cultural ambivalence regarding consent trickles down and leads to street harassment and the idea of ‘friend zoning’. If women are made to be the gate keepers of their bodies, they are stripped of their humanity and exist only as a sex object to be won by any means necessary (including trickery, coercion, and force.)

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All of this dehumanizing behavior also strips women of their ability to be sexually empowered humans, and then you have a whole population experiencing shame and guilt around their bodies and their desires, folks who cannot positively participate in their own sexuality. Which is terrible.

exactly. not cool.
exactly. not cool.

And when you make a person an object, you get the kind of culture that normalized the violent images shown above. Because an object doesn’t deserve compassion or empathy. And this overall lack of compassion for women’s bodies creates the imbalance we all feel everyday.

from a talk on rape in native american communities, where sexual violence exists in epidemic proportions
from a talk on rape in native american communities, where sexual violence exists in epidemic proportions

That is why Oppressed Majority is so jarring, because that power shift is so dramatic.

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I’ll end with this epic snark from Lauren Conrad, responding to a sexist and gross question from a radio personality. Just another everyday moment of sexism. It’s not just about the loud moments of sexual assault and violence, it’s also about this kind of small moment that is still hurtful, disrespectful, and wrong.

laurenGIF1

#werk
#werk
well played!
well played!

These are the moments, large and small, that we must all work to prevent through education and healing for both men and women, if we are to have any chance of a truly respectful and fulfilling coexistence. Rape culture affects all of us negatively, and the future of women’s safety and our sexual health as a culture depends upon it’s dismantling. It will need to be a team effort the likes of which has never been seen, but I do believe (on optimistic days) that folks everywhere are waking up, and seeing collective effort and momentum gives me much hope. Speak up and speak out. You’ll be in good company.