Tag Archives: everyday sexism

On Lingerie, Street Harassment, and Making the Connections

There is a video making the rounds right now of a woman walking through New York City. A person wearing a back pack with a hidden camera walks in front of her, recording for 10 hours. She is catcalled more than 100 times. Watching this video make my skin crawl at certain moments. It is ever so familiar. It’s so banal that it breaks my heart.

Some of the comments I’ve seen in reaction to this video are really getting me riled up. And not the most extreme of them, because I am aware that some people think women are objects and that we should all be grateful for the attention and that all women deserve to be objectified and even violated. I don’t actually have the energy to fight against that kind of misogyny, I’m tired, and hopefully those folks stay in the dank dark hovel from which they so courageously anonymously comment.

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It’s this other kind of comment. The more moderate comment, which (to paraphrase) says ‘Some of those guys are scum, but some are just saying hi and it’s no big deal. You have to be able to say hi, right?’

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And this infuriates me. Because it assumes a few things. First, it assumes that sometimes the comments are harmless. I can assure you that this is almost never true. 1% of the time, if I’m being generous. So it’s statistically not worth mentioning. It also assumes that women cannot tell the difference between a polite greeting and a greeting with an underlying  motive. Again, I can assure you that we can. All of us. We know the difference between ‘Good morning!’ and ‘Hey there (I want to put my dick in you)!’. Because we are humans, capable of reading body language and subtext and vocal tone. ALSO: If you truly wish that you could simply greet other humans without being suspected of flirting or feared, then you can place the blame squarely on the harassers who have conditioned us that responding in any way to strangers is dangerous to our bodies and our psyches.

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And you know what? Sometimes maybe we get it wrong. But can you think for a second about how much energy, emotional energy, it takes to try and vet every comment/greeting/look that you get while out in the world trying to live your fucking life? Think about having to figure out which are innocuous and which are disgusting/loaded/disrespectful. Think about having to figure out if you are in danger every few moments. Think about having your guard up non stop, about not being able to be free and vulnerable and interact with strangers because you just might put yourself in a position to be harassed or followed or touched without permission. Think about if you were physically and emotionally drained by the act of existing in public.

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So I participated in a challenge recently, to support {my lingerie play}. Check out this dope performance/mission, check out Hollaback!, check out my video and post your own photo or video to their site or donate or talk to your friends.

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You can watch the video HERE!

Awareness, hopefully, can breed empathy (I have a LOT of feelings about empathy this week!) I truly believe that if everyone had to deal with the physic onslaught of catcalls and public objectification/sexualization each day, that folks would act differently. Cat calling and street harassment are expressions of power, and they minimize the total humanity of female bodied people. They are not complimentary. These actions reduce us to our bodies, and are rooted in the longstanding myth that our bodies (and desires) are dirty and out of control and shameful. But I will not be diminished. We are all beautiful, we contain multitudes, and our bodies are our own. They are beautiful, and they are beautiful right now. It bears repeating.

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we are all golden sunflowers inside {and out}
we are all golden sunflowers inside {and out}
all day erry day
all day erry day
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Real Talk: I’m having an existential crisis about hatred for women’s bodies, and it’s storming, and the struggle is too real

I know that a lot of what is written in the feminist blogosphere is done with a certain amount of humor, and snark. Sarcasm. Because we want to believe that what we are writing about is so obvious, that sarcasm is the perfect tool to reveal it for what is truly is. But honestly, I’m not sure I have a lot of snark left after this week, so I hope you will forgive this rather sincere and earnest post.

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I’m disheartened this week, by the recent Supreme Court rulings, but more so by the lack of outrage I feel. I know there is a lot written in anger, and that lots of my peers are upset. But outside of that rage bubble there is a collective shrug. An overall ambivalence, that this decision isn’t a big deal. The limitations aren’t very strong. Sincere religious beliefs are a fair enough claim for exception. This is about insurance, not about women.

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I don’t understand how people cannot see with certainty that this is about hatred for women’s bodies. How the very fact that contraception is controversial is irrefutable evidence that we live in a toxic, misogynist culture that values any life (hypothetical, corporate) over the life of a woman. And with other marginalized groups making strides, the rights of women are being legally thwarted at every turn. The law of the land was just altered so that folks who believe that women’s bodies belong to something or someone else can assert their beliefs at the expense of real people. And now the floor is open for companies to use their ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ to discriminate against women. And it is discrimination, which is made even more obvious by the fact that no other religious exemptions were granted. If you believe the blood transfusions, vaccines, or anti-depressants are immoral or sinful or whatever, well tough cookies. It’s only women’s bodies that can be sacrificed in the name of ‘Christian’ values. (Unless of course they allow this ruling to set a precedent for discrimination against LGBTQ folks, which is already trying to happen, FYI.)

Contraception isn’t magic, and it isn’t evil. And it shouldn’t just be liberals or self-proclaimed feminists getting upset about this ruling. Corporations being granted the rights of people should, frankly, upset everyone. And folks who are anti-abortion should be outraged as well, for indeed the best way to bring down the abortion rate is by providing comprehensive sex education and unfettered access to birth control. And yet, they’ve managed to trick many into believing that to be against one should automatically make you against both. Such a clever tactic. I believe that women’s health choices regarding her body should be her own, whether that choice be in avoiding a pregnancy or ending one. But for those who oppose the elective ending of pregnancy, this birth control exemption should feel like a huge disappointment.

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I want to know why they hate our bodies so much. Why, everywhere I look, control of our bodies is being taken from women and put in the hands of others. Into the hands of the Supreme Court, those 5 men who ruled that corporations have more rights as people under the law then women. Into in the hands of employers, who can now decide which kind of contraception, basic care in the eyes of the medical establishment and federal government, are acceptable for coverage. It’s in the hands of advertisers, the media, and internet trolls, who decide and proclaim which of us is beautiful, appropriate, feminine, and worthy. It’s in the hands of men on the street, who can comment and harass without fear because they are just complimenting you. It’s in the hands of rapists, who will claim that you were asking for it, and be justified when the police and the judge and even your friends and family ask ‘what were you wearing’ and ‘were you flirting’ and ‘how much were you drinking’. All these ways, the insidious and the obvious, are part of the reality of this culture. They are overt and subtle, they are accepted and sometimes frowned upon, but mostly they are tolerated. For now, we would rather uphold the power system of patriarchy that truly dismantle it.

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Ok ok, I’m using ‘we’ there loosely. In fact, I myself would really really like to dismantle the patriarchy, and I know many other capable adults who would as well. I don’t know why these things aren’t more obvious. I don’t know why folks can’t see the hate that is at work in this ruling, and indeed that is at work every day in large and small ways. I sincerely hope that all of the marginalized groups, all those that feel the weight of a culture that wants to keep them in a certain box (or cage), will come together. We have a black president, half of all states have legalized gay marriage, and women are over 1/2 the population. Let’s rally the troops and tell the establishment, the folks in power, the old white guys and all their allies, that their reign is over. That there is room for everyone’s voice, for everyone’s unique gifts, and for everyone’s love. So long as you are speaking about inclusion, empathy, true democracy and community. Equality. Creation instead of war. Love in the place of fear. ‘Yes we can’ instead of ‘No you can’t.’ True justice. Right now, I do not see justice for women. Only manipulation and control passed off as controversy and the protection of some freedoms at the expense of others. But maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe it’s just about paying for some medicines, and not others.

Here is something that will make you smile instead of sigh, just so we don’t end on a note of despair: 18 Empowering Illustrations, to remind us that our bodies are our own to create and control in whatever image we choose. Namaste. Have a good weekend.

#YesAllWomen

I wasn’t sure I wanted to share a story to add to the conversation started by yet another terrible act of gun violence. I don’t really want to talk about the tragedy, except to send out my deepest condolences and love to those who lost someone last week. You can read about what happened here, here, here, and my personal favorite, here.

But I do want to talk about the hash tag, and why I think this is one of the most important conversations needed between feminism and the culture at large. I think this issue, the issue of violence against women in our culture, is an issue that every single person should care about. It’s something each of us should try to understand, and fix. Because the fear that women walk around with everyday (and yes, it is indeed all women) is a burden that our culture creates. Out of thin air. And not only do we expect women to carry around this fear, we also expect them to mitigate the violence by dressing appropriately, and watching their drinks, and traveling in groups. We put the onus on them to protect themselves, instead of teaching our boys and men to lead compassionate and non violent lives.

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Before you start in with the ‘but wait! not all men are like that’, read that paragraph again. I did not claim that all men were violent, or that all men are rapists. I said that women are afraid, and I said that we don’t teach men and boys to have enough compassion. We stunt their emotional growth. This affects everyone differently, the same way that women deal with their internalized fear and shame differently. Not all men are violent, and not all women are victims. But each and everyone one of us is affected by the saturation of gendered violence that the culture perpetuates. (Here are some enlightening stats, facts, and numbers.)

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My #YesAllWomen story is not unique. It’s not, in fact, the only personal story I could tell about experiencing gendered aggression or violence. I’m not going to tell it to you because I think it’s particularly special. The reason to tell it is because it is all too typical, because we need to add as many drops as possible to the bucket of our voices, so that people start to understand. I was out one night with friends, mostly guys, at a crappy bar on Bleeker street to which I will never go back. We were all playing beer pong, and when my game was over I went to the bar to get myself a drink. On the way through the crowd and back I was groped a couple of times, but since this is something that happens frequently I pushed my way through the crowd only mildly irritated. Back at the beer pong tables I was approached by a man who began chatting me up. No big deal. The conversation escalated quickly, and he started saying really nasty things to me. Things like ‘Have you ever been with a black guy before?’ (none of your business) and ‘I bet I know just how you’d like it.’ (nope, not true, also not relevant) and ‘I’d like to…’ (not worth repeating.) Not polite conversation for a complete stranger. He asked to dance with me and I tried to demurely deny but he pulled me towards him and began to grind against me. He put his hands all over me, even on my thighs under my dress. I tried to make eye contact with my friends, but I wasn’t able to non-verbally convey that I was completely uncomfortable and intimidated. Finally I stepped back and excused myself to the bathroom. He’d been asking for my number, saying he wanted to take me and my friends out to clubs he promoted, bottle service, blah blah ew. He asked for my number again, and when I said ‘I don’t think so, not tonight.’ he spit one final word at me as I turned away. ‘Bitch.’

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So then I went to the bathroom and cried. I was angry, and ashamed. I knew that he was a jerk, but I also felt that I should have stopped him. I should have been more aggressive, and talked back. I should have known better. I mean, I’ve done the reading! I’ve done the writing! I’m a bona-fide self proclaimed feminist! How could I let him treat me this way? Why did I get this drunk? Why did I wear this dress? Why did I let him say those things, and touch me like that? Why was I letting him make me feel so worthless?

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I tried in vain to get my friends to leave with me. They were also pretty drunk, and still playing beer pong and having fun, and again they couldn’t understand what had happened. I left the bar and walked home alone (dangerous) and crying (pathetic.) To their credit, the next morning my friends asked what had happened. In the light of day we had a conversation about men and masculinity, about hitting on girls in bars, about crossing the line, about why I’d needed them to come with me. I’ll always be grateful that they cared enough to ask, even if they hadn’t been able to understand in the moment.

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So that’s it. My story happens hundreds of times a night. That guy, whoever he was, he is a scum bag, but he’s not importantly or uncommonly scummy. Every woman I know has a story about being cat called, hit on, or groped, only to be insulted once they rebuffed the man’s advances. It’s a particularly hateful and breath-taking bait and switch, and it reveals the person for what they truly were all along: a person who doesn’t respect you or deserve your body or your attention for a single second longer. Wanting control over your own body, or simply not being attracted to someone, does not make any of us worthless. It doesn’t make us bitches or sluts. You don’t owe anyone gratitude or sex. But sometimes, the voice inside me that knows that this is true is drowned out by the overwhelming messages of misogyny and violence that I absorb on the streets everyday.

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The thing about this conversation is that it isn’t about this kid who had guns. His viewpoints really aren’t that extreme, and you can see that if you care to explore the heinous online communities he was apart of. The important thing to remember is that every woman you know walks around wondering if the next guy they don’t smile at when prompted, the next guy at a bar they ask not to touch them, the next stranger on the street or the next date they decide they don’t want to sleep with, will hurt them. Will take what they feel entitled to. And so we don’t always speak up, we don’t fight back. We try to protect ourselves and avoid the violence all around us, and no one suggests that maybe we should try to heal some wounds and take steps to teach empathy and respect so that violence isn’t an option.

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And one last thing. If you’re first reaction to these stories and tweets is to go on the defensive, to quickly mention that some guys are great and innocent and respectful, then I’d ask you to stop for one moment, take a breath, and listen. It’s not about the fact that not all men rape or hit. It’s about allowing women the space to express themselves regarding a phenomenon that affects us, it’s about remembering that even if you are not violent or if you’ve never had this type of experience, it doesn’t negate the overwhelmingly universal experiences of others. Sadly, I think that the issue of violence against women is a thread that connects womankind, across race and class and sexuality and nations, in a way that other feminist issues do not. If you already know how to treat the people around you with respect and consideration, then this conversation isn’t about you. And the best way you can help is to listen, and to speak up when you see or hear people expressing misogyny in any way. Use your knowledge, use your voice, to enlighten others. The more voices, the more drops in that bucket, then the more folks will be able to see that the bucket is really an ocean, and that ocean is an ocean of tears, and that we are all affected by and responsible for it’s depth and breadth.

Mad Men: Seas 7 Premiere, Time Zones *SPOILERS DUH*

Friends, readers, loves of my life, let’s talk about Mad Men.

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I decided to take the plunge and re-cap all the juicy gender issues this show serves up as a way to ease the pain caused by the show’s impending end. I started binge watching this show with Claire Bear back on 96th street, and it continues to be the best show on TV (in my humble opinion). I love that watching it is more like the experience of reading a novel than a short story, and I love that the details make the show feel historic while the writing makes it accessible and contemporary. I think it perfectly reflects how much progress we have made, and how little, often in the same exact scene.

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Alright, enough love professions, let’s talk about this premiere. I want to talk about Joan, which won’t shock you if you’ve ever engaged me in a conversation about Mad Men before. I think Christina Hendricks is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and her character and her beauty stand out in a show full of beautiful and complex women. This episode was fun because seeing her spread her account wings is truly thrilling for me. Back in the day, Joan was a secretary waiting for a husband. She first advises Peggy that the right moves will land her in the country, and also to stop dressing like a little girl if she wants to be taken seriously. Oh season 1, you were so retro! She eventually found a doctor to marry,  but he was a bum, and she started to realize that the things she’d thought she wanted weren’t making her happy.

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So she kicked him out, confident she could raise her son on her own. Of course that is Roger’s kid and not Greg’s, but as far as she is concerned Roger is unreliable and she is a single parent. She knows she will need to focus on work to keep her family afloat. One of my favorite moments on the show is when her and Peggy chat after Don announces his engagement. Both women have traveled a pretty windy road to get to where they are, but being focused on their careers allows them a unique bond. They understand that their accomplishments are overshadowed by the men they work for, even when those men are recklessly getting engaged to their secretaries. Second marriage cliches not withstanding, they get each other.

And Joan get’s herself a partnership, in an episode that truly showcases this actress’s talents. But she still isn’t satisfied, and last season we watch her land her first account: Avon. She was ruthless, and frankly insubordinate, but she got it. This episode Ken sends her on a meeting with the head of marketing at a shoe account. Right away their meeting is awkward, due in large part to his not subtle condescension. He doesn’t bother to hide the fact that he’s disappointed, but makes it a point to imply that this is silly because any man would be an idiot to be disappointed to be meeting with her. He also references her perceived availability by commenting that ‘It must have been hard for you to keep this seat empty.’ He basically dismisses her, leaving after only a few moments without allowing her to engage with him.

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Not one to give up, Joan heads to a university to get some help from a professor in what I assume is business. She has a weird moment in the professor’s office, because she is always very guarded about perceived advances (especially with business associates, especially since Jaguar.) Which is totally understandable since she spent most of her life being coached to believe that her desirability was her most valuable trait. Moments like this stem from her own insecurities, indicating that she still believes that other people don’t take her seriously. And who can blame her, when schmucks like the shoe guy are so dismissive! But she rebounds, impresses the professor, and buys the company more time with the shoe account.

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And the reason we should all be rooting for Joanie? Because her struggle is still happening today, every day, for women everywhere. I can site multiple instances of being dismissed or not taken seriously by someone while at work, usually by customers. In fact, I’ve had customers specifically ask if a man is available (while working at a store that sells technology, FYI.) And women still aren’t getting paid as much as men, and the Senate just blocked passage of The Fair Pay Act, because some folks don’t think equal pay is a real issue. Balancing a family and a career continues to be an issue and a discussion mostly centered around women, because women continue to complete the majority of household and child care tasks. Joan breaks my heart a little because she had to face extreme and total disappointment before realizing how great she was at her job. She truly came from a time and place where college and/or work were just stepping stones to your real life. I admire her so because instead of staying unhappy and clinging to the vision of the life she’d wanted, she kicked out her no-good husband and kept right on moving. She accepted that work made her happy, and she changed courses. Her ascension, for me, is even more riveting than Peggy’s because Peggy was always a little weird and I don’t think she was ever truly hoping to marry quick. Joan is strong but vulnerable, she is hard working and even ruthless, she is gorgeous and ethereal and I just can’t wait to watch her wiggle her way into accounts.

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Female Privilege: It’s actually Patriarchy, You’re confused, Go Home.

Here is an article making its way through my newsfeed called 18 Things Females Seem Not to Understand (Because, Female Priviledge.)

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Really_seriously_WHAT

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In fact, that’s such a huge bunch of malarky I brought ole’ Joe back to point it out. Here is the really really misinformed and stupid list, with my rebuttals in italics. Please note, this is not rocket science, its patriarchy.

1. Female privilege is being able to walk down the street at night without people crossing the street because they’re automatically afraid of you. Male privilege is being able to go wherever you want whenever you want without the fear of sexual assault. It’s being able to walk up to your door late at night casually, without turning down your music and having your keys ready and looking over your shoulder to be sure you aren’t being followed. (1/6 of women nationwide will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. An assault will occur every 2 minutes.)

2. Female privilege is being able to approach someone and ask them out without being labeled “creepy.” Male privilege is being able to walk down the street without being bombarded with comments on your appearance as a reminder that your body is not your own. It’s being able to enjoy an adult beverage without worrying about being groped or hit on constantly. 

3. Female privilege is being able to get drunk and have sex without being considered a rapist. Female privilege is being able to engage in the same action as another person but be considered the innocent party by default. Male privilege is being able express yourself sexually without fear of being called a slut. It’s being able to let your guard down with friends/strangers without fearing assault or date rape. And that article you link doesn’t mean what you think it means…

4. Female privilege is being able to turn on the TV and see yourself represented in a positive way. Female privilege is shows like King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond where women are portrayed as attractive, competent people while men are shown as ugly, lazy slobs. Male privilege is living in a world where men are heroes, actors, adventurers and villains. It’s a world where you aren’t constantly represented as the sidekick or in need of rescuing, or hyper sexualized.  PS The examples listed are definitely harmful, because patriarchal ideas/images are also harmful to men.

5. Female privilege is the idea that women and children should be the first rescued from any sort of emergency situation. Female privilege is saving yourself before you save others and not being viewed as a monster. Um, children should be rescued first. But without valid stats I refuse to believe that this is a valid concern in this century unless you’re watching Titanic.

6. Female privilege is being able to decide not to have a child. Male privilege is never having to worry about unwanted pregnancy. It’s never having to bear and give birth to a baby, wanted or unwanted. It’s being able to walk away. 

7. Female privilege is not having to support a child financially for 18 years when you didn’t want to have it in the first place. If a man is paying child support, a woman is actually caring for the child. Being a single parent is not a privilege. Also see #6.

8. Female privilege is never being told to “take it like a man” or “man up.” This is patriarchy working against men, but while we are on the subject of name calling: male privilege is never being called a bitch, slut, cunt or whore for any number of actions including but not limited too looking sexy, not looking sexy enough, wanting sex, not wanting sex, walking down the street, existing in public spaces, not speaking, speaking, riding a bike, having a drink, accepting a drink, not accepting a drink, breathing. 

9. Female privilege is knowing that people would take it as a gravely serious issue if someone raped you. Female privilege is being able to laugh at a “prison rape” joke. No one should laugh at prison rape jokes and if they do they’re not nice. Also, every compassionate person I know takes rape seriously regardless of who the victim is. Also plenty of people don’t take rape seriously for men or women, because those people are ignorant and heartless.

10. Female privilege is being able to divorce your spouse when your marriage is no longer working because you know you will most likely be granted custody of your children. The burden of childcare should be given to whomever is most capable. Any imbalance is evidence of a faulty justice system. 

11. Female privilege is being able to call the police in a domestic dispute knowing they will take your side. Female privilege is not having your gender work against where police are involved. Male privilege is being 60% less likely to be the victim of domestic violence. Oh, and the police have been known to ask questions such as ‘Why’d you lead him on?’ and ‘What’d you do to provoke him.’

12. Female privilege is being able to be caring or empathetic without people being surprised. Please be more caring and empathetic. Not having to be caring or empathetic is actually a male privilege, and it sucks for EVERYONE.

13. Female privilege is not having to take your career seriously because you can depend on marrying someone who makes more money than you do. Female privilege is being able to be a “stay at home mom” and not seem like a loser. Um, seriously? Male privilege is not having to worry, ever, about balancing the needs of your career with the needs of your home. It’s not feeling pressure to be awesome at your job and a super mom. It’s not having to deal with the ‘to Lean In or Not Lean In’ debate. Dependence is not a privilege. PS Stay at home dads are awesome. 

14. Female privilege is being able to cry your way out of a speeding ticket. You got me. Crying my way out of a ticket totally makes up for centuries of second class citizen-ship, sexual slavery and forced marriage, an ongoing sexual violence epidemic, and the fact that women on this very day in 2014 still make 77c on the dollar of men

15. Female privilege is being favored by teachers in elementary, middle and high school. Female privilege is graduating high school more often, being accepted to more colleges, and generally being encouraged and supported along the way. Since you have no stats to back this up, I’m assuming this is based on personal experience. I’m sorry if you felt this way, but I can assure you there is not a conspiracy among educators to favor girls (although there is a very real achievement gap, it’s not along gender lines.) 

16. Female privilege being able to have an opinion without someone tell you you’re just “a butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeard who can’t get any.” Yea that does seem hurtful. So do words like bitch, slut, cunt and whore, which are plastered all over the comments on any female opinion disseminated on the web. 

17. Female privilege is being able to talk about sexism without appearing self-serving. Actually, when women talk about sexism it’s a matter of survival. 

18. Female privilege is arrogantly believing that sexism only applies to women. Sexism obviously doesn’t only apply to women and no educated person I know would claim that. However, it is not applied equally. The patriarchy is hurtful to people of all genders and all sexualities, and the work of feminism is to defeat the patriarchy and thus free us all from it’s dangerous confines. This article is proof of rampant misunderstanding and a heartbreaking lack of empathy. 

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Patriarchy is damaging to us all, and this article is a weird and twisted expression of that. However, when men are adversely affected by patriarchal rules and standards, that does not equate to women having ‘privileges.’ This dude is in serious need of some Miss Representation education, in the form of this upcoming documentary ‘The Mask You Live In.‘ The more that articles like this circulate, the more the pernicious and disgusting rumor that men and women are enemies will flourish. We are not from separate planets, we are not opposites, we are not natural adversaries. We are all caught in a system with inequality at it’s core, and we should all fight to unravel the rules and regulations that limit our growth and potential.

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PS It’s important to remember and acknowledge that while we are all constrained by patriarchy, historically speaking, the rules for men have been more fun and placed them in positions of power. Same goes for white and heterosexual privilege. Acknowledging our own privilege, and being aware of how different privileges mutate and overlap is wildly important, and soul searching is required. It requires a lot more nuance that our Thought Catalog author showed himself capable of, but fear not! Mad Men is actually a really excellent place to watch nuanced characters deal with the privileges and constraints of patriarchy, and it’s available now on Netflix. Watch, enjoy, discuss gender issues, and look out for my forth coming blog-recap of Season 7, which premieres this Sunday.

 

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.

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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/

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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.

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#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.