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Thursday, November 18, 2010

TSA + new scanners & "enhanced" pat downs = sexual assault

So, in case somehow you've managed NOT to hear about the TSA body scanners fiasco, allow me to inform you. On October 29th, new security protocols were approved by TSA to include newfangled body scanners that allow technicians to completely see underneath a passenger's clothing; for those who opt out of the full-body scans, they are to receive "enhanced" pat downs, which are like regular pat downs except that someone gets to grab your genitals and other sensitive areas on your body. WTF!!!! How on earth can TSA consider this a choice? Either let me see you naked (which is, technically, sexual assault) or I will grab your privates without your consent (also sexual assault). Apparently, even children aren't immune to the choice-that-isn't-really-a-choice-you-TSA-fuckwads. I've said it before (like out loud, not here on this blog), and I'll say it again: procedures like these do not keep us safe! In fact, they make it so none of us are safe, especially sexual assault survivors who have the misfortune of flying out of one of the airports listed here that are currently using the new scanners. Also, did I mention that these scanners are literally dangerous? This is outrageous, and I hope someone organizes a massive demonstration of passenger civil disobedience ASAP (the kind where you refuse anything but a regular pat down. who the fuck decided we should opt out and get fondled?? nu uh, not me); or at the very least, sues the bejeezus out of TSA and Homeland Security. Maybe if those departments go bankrupt they will have to stop making ridiculous infringements on the rights of regular, ticket-buying non-criminals! I'm sick of this shit, enough already!

I'd like to end with a quote from a brave man, John Tyner, who refused the scanner AND the grope at a San Diego airport, and ended up having to miss his flight:

"I don't understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying," Tyner said at one point.

"This is not considered a sexual assault," responded an unidentified airport security official.

"It would be if you weren't the government," Tyner snapped back.


So true, John, so true.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Burlesque and Aerialists at The Savoy in SB

So, I went to my very first burlesque show over the weekend for a friend's birthday. The show was pretty impressive considering I got there early and there wasn't a cover charge, tickets or anything. The performers (all white, slender women, of course) would do a 5-10 minute performance every half hour or so, alternating between burlesque, aerial stunts, and contortionism (?). Having never seen ANY such performances live before, I was in awe at their skill and bravery. The bar where they perform has been totally remodeled with beautiful leather booths and a swanky aesthetic that fits with the retro-cabaret vibe. The only part we (myself and the birthday guests) didn't like was the damn MC! He was supposed to provide the comic backdrop to the uber-sexiness of the performers, in his mime face paint and spandex pants, complete with a grating faux french accent. The worst thing about him, though, was the fact that he would sexually harass audience and performer alike in the name of a laugh; gotta love shameless objectification! Here I was thinking that burlesque was about strong women expressing sexuality and agency, but I suppose the people in charge couldn't resist throwing in some sexism, you know to appeal to "ALL"* their bar patrons. And of course, there was the whole male-sexuality-is-funny / female-sexuality-is-sexy dynamic going on.

We all decided that perhaps a female MC would have been better, maybe somehow made the whole show more feminist... but I could easily see a female MC pandering to the straight men in the audience, perhaps even trying to rival the guys in objectifying the female performers. It wouldn't be the first time... I think that a butch woman or a transwoman might balance things out, or maybe a gay man who ISN'T a sexist asshole (jury is out on the sexual orientation of the current MC). Too bad, because a club like that could REALLY tap into the queer/feminist community of SB, we need a space of our own now more than ever. I don't know if I'll ever patronize The Savoy again, is the performance worth putting up with a heavy dose of sexism every 30 minutes?

*conveniently forgetting that straight men aren't actually the only people who frequent this bar

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm an absentee blogger

Ok, I know last time I promised I'd be back and at 'em soon, but to be honest, life has just NOT STOPPED COMING yet. Work has become, strangely, my new main preoccupation. It's amazing how doing a job you love, as opposed to one you do for mere survival, changes you. And then the important business of making new connections here in my new home, putting down roots, settling in. If that weren't enough, my family has been going through some pretty massive changes, so I wasn't kidding when I said life has not stopped coming at me yet. Someday soon, I'll sit down and write an obnoxiously opinionated post, cross my heart and hope to die. Until then...

Oh yeah! And for those of you with the privilege, you best be voting today!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quick hits on current events

I feel like I need to ease back into writing here because I've been gone so long. Life has been chaotic and exciting and exhausting lately, so that's my excuse. Anyways, I just wanted to weigh in on a few things that I've seen around the interwebs so here goes...

On the "controversy" over validating birth rape as well, real rape: this has been showing up on all sorts of big feminist blogs for the last couple weeks, and really I'm bothered by the idea that people wouldn't see survivor's experiences as reason enough to call birth rape a serious issue and another instance of violence against women in our culture. I mean, have you witnessed a hospital birth lately?? The way doctors and nurses patronize and/or outright walk all over pregnant women in labor is just infuriating. Yes, they may have a baby trying to come out of their vagina (which could arguably be traumatic enough in its own right) but that does NOT justify some asshole doctor shoving his hands or an instrument up women's vaginas without consent. Cara over at the Curvature has the lowdown on this one.

Sarah Shourd, a U.S. hiker who was imprisoned in Iran for accidentally crossing over the country's unmarked border, has finally been released and is on her way home. Apparently, the nation of Oman posted bail for her because she was having gynecological issues... So, if you're ever in a fundamentalist Islamic prison, just bring up your ladyparts and they'll release you posthaste (?). Strange. Unfortunately the other two hikers with her, a friend and her fiance, will stay in prison at least another two months until their trial. Here's wishing them the best and that their release will be as soon as possible.

The governor of Virginia declined to pardon deathrow inmate Teresa Lewis, who will be the first woman to be executed in the U.S. in over five years. David Grimes, Commonwealth's Attorney for Pittsylvania County, claimed that Lewis was "as evil a person as I've ever met," reminding us once again that the worst thing a Southern woman can do is kill her husband. I'm not saying that Lewis should be let off the hook completely here, but her two male accomplices aren't the ones sitting on deathrow, and they were the ones who actually pulled the trigger. It would be interesting to know if the tables had been turned, if Lewis' husband had killed her instead, if Grimes would have considered him "as evil a person" he's ever met. Somehow I doubt it. Amnesty International is among those asking for leniency on Lewis' behalf.

And finally, can we all stop ragging on the appearances of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha already?? They are singers/performers!! Not models! (And even if they were...) I am sick of female artists being judged solely on appearance and how fuckable they are as opposed to their work. TO ALL MALE RADIO DJS: no one gives a fuck if you think they are ugly women!! Do your goddamn job and play the music already. Besides, I'm positive neither of those ladies would EVER for a second consider sleeping with any of you. There, I said it.

Hopefully I'll be back soon with a coherent post ready. Toodles!

Monday, September 6, 2010

I'm alive!!

I'm here, alive and well, believe it or not. Just going through some transitions lately, and haven't had time to post. Seriously. Not that you were worried or anything. *smirk* I will be back to my irregularly-scheduled posting at some point in the future. I haven't forgotten about you, little ol' blog of mine!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pregnancy and me [possibly] being a bad feminist

So I'm not a huge fan of my older sister's in-laws and their extended family. Let's just put that out there. And recently my sister's sister-in-law, Ashley*, dramatically announced that after one year of trying to get preggers, she and her hubby finally succeeded. I wasn't there for the nauseating announcement, but reportedly the family cried. THEY CRIED. Because she was their little baby girl and she was finally having her dreams fulfilled as an unemployed wife and soon-to-be-mother. To be frank, this woman isn't exceptional, she's actually rather ordinary with a sketchy sense of personal responsibility (no time to get into that right now). She's not curing cancer or becoming the first female president of the U.S. She's merely doing what women have done, and been expected to do, since forever: get married, birth babies. I know that my contempt for her is tied up in the fact that I feel forced to compete with her for my sister's and nieces' attention, and that I have absolutely zero respect for her as a person, but all of a sudden I had the ammunition I needed to TRULY hate her. She was a breeder! Not only did she not have a college degree or a career, she was resigning herself to motherhood in her early 20s. She was giving up.

Except, I have to begrudgingly give her props: she is one of the very few people I know who deliberately got pregnant because she (and her husband) wanted a child. They weren't trying to save a failing marriage, they weren't letting God/nature/fate take the wheel, they weren't fucking irresponsibly. They were expressly trying to get pregnant in order to become parents. So for that, for being deliberate and knowing that they wanted to have unprotected sex to create a child, I have to respect them.

Did you know that 49% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned? This number astounds me. Meaning that somehow, along the way, LOTS of women just aren't getting what they need to be able to prevent unplanned pregnancy. I know that this is related to a lot of factors (inadequate sex ed, availability and access to contraceptives, like-minded sexual partners, sexual assault, etc), but I also know from experience that society discourages women from taking an active role in preventing unwanted pregnancy and planning desired pregnancy. Sure, women are expected to bear the burden for preventing pregnancy, we're also expected to be the "gatekeepers" of sex and only allow access to the "right" guy at the "right" time (after marriage, of course), so isn't it kind of contradictory to say that society also expects women to avoid planned pregnancy altogether? True! But thanks to sexism, the miracle of contradictory societal expectations for women abound.

One incredibly obvious reason I can think of for why women are expected to avoid actively planning pregnancy is that OMG women aren't supposed to be initiating sex in the first place!! THOSE SLUTS! Women are supposed to be desirable but chaste, with no sexual desires of their own, so when a lady tells her guy that she'd like to get it on for the sake of procreation... well that's just unladylike. Slut-shaming is an effective way to keep women from being able to discuss sex and reproduction openly and honestly with their partners, support networks, and physicians. If you can't bring up the topic of pregnancy without being/expecting to be shamed for being sexual, that's a very real obstacle to taking an active role in planning your pregnancy.

Another barrier preventing women from planning pregnancy is the notion that God/Fate/Nature will take its course and that "if it's supposed to happen, it will happen." The miracle of life cannot be controlled by mere mortals! How dare we lowly women try to intervene for the sake of our own selfish desires to avoid and/or ensure pregnancy! I see this all the time with married couples who want kids someday but aren't quite ready for them now; this usually involves half-assed attempts at preventing pregnancy that result in an oops! pregnancy. But they're married, so no one really cares that this couple was essentially having irresponsible sex, letting chance make the decision. (Sorry, but irresponsible sex is irresponsible sex, marriage or no marriage.) The idea that some external, omniscient force is in control of whether or not women get pregnant is perpetuated by all kinds of well-meaning people and institutions, but it is harmful. It further distances women from having agency in their own pregnancies.**

Obviously not all unwanted pregnancies result in babies; a good portion of these pregnancies are aborted. But for those that are carried to term, what is the impact on the children born from these unions? Is it fair to have to be your parents' "accident"? How many of these babies are resented? Given up for adoption? Abused? How does these couples fair after giving birth to an unplanned baby? What are the true repercussions of women not being allowed to actively plan/prevent pregnancy? I don't have the answers to these questions, but I sure wish somebody would get on that already.

Sexism regularly prevents women from taking an active role in planning their own pregnancies, and unfortunately that is not going away any time soon. But I'd like to reiterate the idea that trusting women to do what's best for them, to make the hard decisions despite overwhelming social pressure, is one solution. I don't know if it's feasible to expect that 49% statistic to shrink, to expect that every pregnancy be a desired pregnancy. That's the ideal, but in the meantime trusting women, providing access to contraception and abortion, being supportive and validating their decisions to keep or terminate an unwanted pregnancy, is crucial. I have to commend Ashley for giving the finger to society and purposely getting pregnant because she wanted to; it's an all too rare occurrence.

*Obviously, this is not her real name, suckers.
**This is not a criticism of women who are infertile and therefore cannot have "agency" over their own pregnancies. In fact, I think that women who seek treatment for fertility fall squarely into the taking-matters-into-their-own-hands-and-telling-society-to-shove-it camp.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The girl with the strong opinions about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

BEWARE! SPOILERS MAY BE AHEAD...
I just finished reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and... well... I had quite a few reactions to it. It took awhile for the pace of the book to pick up (at least a couple hundred pages in), and the author's constant fawning over Apple products (ipods, macbooks, etc) was fairly distracting, but the story was compelling. I L O V E D Lisbeth Salander's character, aka Wasp, who was truly a refreshing heroine: strong, intelligent, feisty, and definitely not a typical beauty. Not to spoil too much, but she manages to save the day more than once throughout the novel. But... I gotta say that's basically where the adoration ends.

The other characters are horribly predictable, to the point of being utter stereotypes. The rich, scandalous family and the working-class (ha! hardly) journalist with a strong case of Personal Ethics. Especially heinous is the middle-aged Mikael's absolutely astounding ability with the ladies, which I believe reflects more on the author himself than it does on the character. Much of the focus on economics and technology I assume are either too boring for the average person or too basic for those who actually know economics and technology.

My real issue with the book, which extends to a lot of literature I guess, is the way in which sexual assault is portrayed. The author actually does an incredibly decent job of acknowledging rape culture, even citing statistics on violence against women in Sweden at the beginning of every new chapter. He makes an effort to put shit in context. But then... he decides to include incredibly graphic (read: triggering) sexual assaults against the protagonist which are perpetrated by a sadist (major BDSM fail). I mean, really?? The level of violence in the assaults is actually pretty UNcharacteristic of reality, and the average rapist is NOT actually a BDSM practioner; just a regular ol' Joe (Johann?). But, you say, this is fiction! It's interesting and stuff! Well, it just seems to me that all of his grounding-sexual-violence-against-women-in-reality is completely undone when Larsson creates one of the more outlandish rapists I've read in fiction. Why? Why would he go to such great lengths to create a fictional world that mirrors our own only to basically delegitimize the experiences of most rape survivors out there?

Also, it must be mentioned that I, a human being who actually works with rape survivors for a living, did cringe while reading the assault scenes. They're not pretty, or the least bit entertaining. In fact, I question the need to have those scenes in there at all. Who is Larsson catering to?? Besides, if sexual assault is as common as he says it is (it is) shouldn't he expect a good portion of his audience to actually be triggered by those parts of the book? What is the author's responsibility there, if any?

Finally, I take issue with the way Lisbeth Salander is written to respond to her being assaulted by 1) eschewing any and all options to take care of herself and 2) exacting violent revenge on her assailant. Again, what is the responsibility of the author in this case? He's creating a character who is horribly assaulted, traumatized, but he writes her in such a way that she just happens to not want any sort of counseling, hell she doesn't even need help at all. She's independent, dammit! Not once, anywhere in the narrative, does she express a need to actually deal with her heinous assault. While I'm sure that there are individuals out there who may identify with Salander, they are most likely in the minority. While this unrealistic portrayal of trauma is bad, worse is how Salander's response (attacking and literally marking her rapist) is supposed to be applauded by the reader. It's supposed to be justice in the purest form. I hate to say it, but it's so typical that a man would write such a ridiculous and completely awful revenge scene through the perspective of a female character.

I just don't get what Larsson is trying to accomplish here; was he merely using rape culture as a plot device? Was he actually trying to create some very flawed commentary on the experience of being a survivor in the modern world? Why create a fictional world based on facts only to have your characters go through something so statistically inaccurate that their only choice is to behave like vengeful robots? Why Larsson, why?! *Sigh* Still, I really do like Lisbeth Salander, and I think, for better or worse, I'm probably going to have to read the rest of the series to see if Larsson sees the light in the end.

UPDATE: Melissa Silverstein's take on Lisbeth Salander as "The Girl Who Started a Feminist Franchise."

Monday, June 21, 2010

South African doctor uholds rape myths with "rape-fighting" condom

Ok peeps, this is seriously HORRIBLE. On the one hand, I have to hand it to Dr. Sonnet Ehler's for deliberately taking action against rape in South Africa, which is commendable; on the other hand I want to slap her upside the head for perpetuating the stranger rape scenario! The only way this would effectively prevent (let's be honest, it doesn't technically prevent ANYTHING) rape is if women walked around 24/7 with one of these babies up their vaginas. WTF! Once again, here's a solution from a well-meaning individual who hasn't taken the time to educate themselves on the facts of sexual assault. It's like college administrators who put up more lighting outside after the number of reported rapes increases in their Cleary Report: it assumes that the rapes are committed by someone the survivor doesn't know and/or already trust. 80% of all rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows!! On that point alone, this "rape-fighting" condom is basically proven to be worthless.

In addition, this device limits the definition of rape to penile penetration of a vagina. This is incredibly problematic because it doesn't recognize all the other ways a person can be raped (digitally, anally, etc). Also, it only allows cis-women to be victims and cis-men to be perpetrators, which is just plain inaccurate. What about transgendered women who may not have vaginas? What about women perpetrators? You do not have to have a penis to be a rapist (god I hope that's the last time I ever have to write that sentence...).

The only good thing about this invention is that it is IMPOSSIBLE (or so they say) to remove the condom without a doctor's assistance, so if a cis-woman is wearing it and is raped vaginally by a cis-man, THEN it is a pretty good piece of evidence to have if a survivor files a police report against the perp (no word on whether or not it would even be admissible as evidence in a court of law). Too bad that she would STILL HAVE TO BE RAPED, and suffer the physical/psychological/social consequences, in order for this "rape-fighting" condom to even be useful. Not cool.

Nice try Dr. Sonnet Ehlers, but no gadget will substitute for good old-fashioned education and targeted rape prevention campaigns. In summation, "rape-fighting" condom: probably not very good at fighting rape.

UPDATE: Feministing's original and follow-up posts on Rape-aXe. Apparently it had made the rounds in the media years ago, wonder why it's coming up again?

Friday, June 18, 2010

On being in public

A few days ago I decided to stop in at a local grocery store on my way home from work and deposit my paycheck at the ATM there. Spur of the moment, but whatevs, I live on the edge ok?? So I park, walk into the grocery store and there's a middle-aged white guy using the ATM. I wait awkwardly (there isn't much space to just hang out, the ATM is located RIGHT at the entrance to the grocery store and I had to keep moving to get out of people's way as they entered/left), and the guy tries to engage me. He says something like "I'll only be a few more minutes, I swear." I was texting on my phone by this time, so I just kinda murmured in agreement, not really paying attention or even caring. I obviously wasn't interested in any witty banter with this dude, and I thought I made myself clear. Then a few seconds later, he says something to the effect of "See?? All done!" at which point was my cue to ... chuckle? give him a cookie? reward him for his ability to accurately predict how long his ATM transactions take? I gave him a painful wince and refused to make eye contact as he walked away. This was a relatively minor incident, nothing horrendous was said, no one was hurt, but it sure is annoying as fuck. What I don't get is, why when I (and most women) are in public, is it expected that our autonomy/personal space/right to zone out can be violated just... because? No reason at all, he just thought that I should engage with him, because I'm a nice girl and nice girls always give a smile when a guy engages them. But... I didn't really want to have anything to do with him, it wasn't anything personal (honestly, I hate going out in public alone, and I hate having to interact with people I don't know. It's stressful for me ok?!) but he just HAD to go and test that boundary anyway. It wasn't enough to just let me wait and text in peace; he had to talk to me and WOOHOO let me know that he was there. OMG a white man is standing right in front of you!! You should be paying attention young lady!!

Ugh. This is an everyday thing for me, to be honest. Just walking around my place of work results in all kinds of awkward intrusions on my private ruminations by men (it's a college campus! I'm not even on the street!*) And it's so fucking normalized that I'm the rude one for not responding to them bothering me. I think men don't understand what it's like to just BE in public and have people constantly try to talk to you or stare at you or compare your body to those of your companions or to have your ass loudly remarked upon in a crowd of people as if you can't even hear the fucker right behind you. It's harassment, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of feeling like "Shit, I don't want to go to the [insert public location here] alone, I'm gonna end up in some awkward sitch again and I'm going to feel responsible for it." I'm just trying to go about my day, people! Why can't I buy groceries or take a walk to the park or lay out on the beach without some asswipe insisting on making conversation with me? Am I so irresistible?? Am I REALLY that interesting?? Or is it because I look like I couldn't seriously be LESS excited about you following me to my car and repeatedly asking me for a date that you decided to do just that. People like this, people with no respect for boundaries, people who feel the need to assert themselves on others in public, people who MUST BE PAID ATTENTION TO DAMNIT, they are a glaring example of rape culture. No one has the right to another person's smile or conversation in public. No one has the right to bother or harass another person, to elicit a reaction, to make themselves feel better by forcing a stranger to engage with them in conversation. And I, for one, will continue to thwart these douches and their attempts to intrude on my public space by being as bitchy and unfriendly as possible :D

*I'm not trying to imply that "The Street" is any more dangerous, but that generally people have perceptions that this kind of stuff does not happen on private christian college campuses. This is a widespread myth that only perpetuates rape culture further, and prevents us from seeing it and addressing it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Getting back on track

Ok, so it's been awhile since I've written anything around here. Mostly because my life has been all over the place as of late! I had family visiting and I've been working a LOT and I've had job interviews up the wazoo and I've been wasting plenty o' time with this guy who I have no clue how he feels about me. Essentially, I've been busy.

One of the things that has kept me occupied has been watching re-runs of My So-Called Life on Hulu. It's way before my time (I was what... 9 years old?? too young for that shit) but at the same time I totally feel nostalgia for the clothes and the music and the iunno ISSUES of the 90s. Also, since not only have I never actually watched the show, it turns out I'm glad I didn't because there is some heavy stuff going on! I'm only on epi 3 of season 1 and already... 2 sexual assaults, several other assaults, underage drinking, talks about sex and sexuality... phew! I would have been in way over my head and most likely, I would have been Judgy McJudgerson on all the characters. I'm kind of surprised about how much Claire Danes' character, Angela Chase, is put through. It's almost like the writers wanted to torture a 15 year-old girl... almost. I think I'll probably write more about My So-Called Life as I watch the later epis, lots of stuff to deconstruct AND it's entertainment! Bonus.