Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NFL Cheerleaders

I attended my first ever NFL game this past Sunday, and I could not have asked for a better time. 1 o'clock kickoff meant I got to spend the whole beautiful day outside, and still get home early enough to get sleep before work. Plus, the Jets won with a last minute touchdown.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Except it could've been a little warmer. I was wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, and jersey. And during the time outs, and breaks, I noticed the dancers on the field weren't quite as bundled up.

It's late November in New York. Does anyone really want to prance around in a bikini? I call it prancing around, because this is not the World Series of Cheerleading. There are no flips and stunts. This is, quite literally, women dancing around with pom poms. And this is a dream for many young women.

They are completely unnecessary sex objects in a game that is historically misogynistic. A game that is dominated in fanhood by men, more so, I'd say, than most professional sports.

Anyone on the field during gametime is there solely for entertainment. The men for their athletic ability, and the women for their sex appeal. In that sense, being an NFL cheerleader is like being a glorified stripper. Except they barely make any money.

Yeah, I went there.

They're not leading cheers. They're not showcasing any athletic ability. They're not competing against anyone, for anything. And, apparently, they're not allowed to be seen with any football player. One cheerleader says that if a player is at the same club, the cheerleader has to leave. Presumably because they don't want rumors swirling about relationships. Because if a woman and man are seen together, that must be what it is.

If someone could provide one reason why there are NFL cheerleaders that doesn't include objectification, I'd love to hear it.

I think William Rhoden of the New York Times summed my thoughts up perfectly though. "While cheerleading at the high school and collegiate levels has become competitive and athletic, today’s N.F.L. cheerleaders are little more than props that reinforce objectified sex roles. The professional cheerleader has become feminized and eroticized." (Sis, Boom, Bah (Humbug): Cheer Squads Have No Place in the N.F.L)

Dear NFL, with the amount of sexual harassment controversy you've invited in over the years, isn't it about time you change up your marketing plan? Women, and men, deserve better.

And to the NFL cheerleaders: You're beautiful, and wonderfully talented. And you deserve better.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ugly Women Don't Get Abused

Sexual harassment is alive and well in corporate America. It's truly bad enough that women fear going to work because of the lewd jokes and comments made to them, even after pleas to stop. Add homosexuality to female, and it adds a whole other level to the playing field. Finally, add physical violence, in the workplace, that the boss admits happened but claims the abuser apologized, and thus was squashed.

Yes, Priscilla Agosto was slapped by a coworker, and nothing was done. I can't imagine ANY workplace condoning that kind of violence. But, oh! According to the owner of the real estate office for which she worked, the employee was ordered to apologize. So (s)he faced no repercussions.

Priscilla quit. Finally fed up with the constant harassment. Unfortunately, all too often the victim is forced to leave work, while the abuser goes unpunished. But wait for it:

"Odelia Berlianshik, the owner of the Williamsburg firm, denied the charges - and launched a shocking attack on Agosto's appearance.

"'Who would touch her? She's an ugly girl anyway,' she said of the former secretary. 'She made up a story because she didn't want to work.'"

Yup. And the owner is a woman herself. Not that should make too much difference, because regardless of gender, the owner would want to protect their own self from the lawsuit. But....that's the best you can come up with? You're put on the spot, and instead of taking the allegations seriously, and saying that your company would never condone such actions, you attack the victim? The harassment, yes, is alleged as of the article's writing, but the physical violence was not. How do you allow a work environment like that?

And news flash, Odelia, sexual harassment, like rape, is not about looks. Even if Priscilla was unattractive (which she's not), the way she looks is entirely irrelevant to any lawsuit. Any sexual abuse is about control. It's about proving one's superiority, of asserting one's power over another. It's not about sexual desire. This is one of the biggest fallacies involved in victim blaming.

Take this gem of an article from University of Central Connecticut from a couple of years ago, entitled "Rape Only Hurts if You Fight It:"

"Rapes glorious advantages are not, however, exclusively found from 2,000 year old examples. In actuality rape advantages can very much be seen today. Take ugly women for example. If it weren't for rape, how would they ever know the joys of intercourse with a man who isn't drunk. In a society as plastic-conscious as our own we are really to believe that some man would ever sleep with a girl resembling a wildebeest if he didn't have a few schnapps in him? Of course he wouldn't--at least no self-respecting man would--but there in lies the beauty of rape. No self respecting man would rape in the first place, so ugly women are guaranteed a romp with not only a sober man, but a bad boy too; and we all know how much ladies like the bad boy."

This actually got published. In a college newspaper, and no one on staff was asked to quit. Not even the writer himself. Although the paper has taken the article off its website. Attempting to sweep it all under the rug, but it was already saved for posterity in feminist blogs the world over. Now, including here.

Studies show that men and women are equally likely to victim blame. Although that's my own interpretation. Of all the studies I've read on the subject, I've seen equal amounts come to either conclusion - that men victim blame more than women, or vice versa. The idea is that men victim blame because they don't understand it. They can't empathize, and they don't want to feel grouped in with the rapist. So they blame the victim. Women don't want to feel vulnerable, so they distance themselves from the victim. In the end, the victim always loses.

Either we're telling them they're a slut, and they wanted it, or we're telling them they're ugly and that wouldn't happen.

This isn't about what you wear, how you walk, what you say. This isn't about your sexuality, your race, or your socioeconomic status. This is about control, submission, and patriarchy.

This is about basic, simple, respect.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Smart Like Mommy

Apparently that doesn't exist. No, apparently Mom's aren't smart. Apparently, they're just pretty. Dad's are smart.

Wasn't JC Penny recently forced by the blogosphere to halt production of their "I'm too pretty to do homework" clothing line? Maybe Gymboree should read more. Or hire some women clothing designers, or PR managers.

The comments on the HuffPost article are pretty telling. Maybe those are what JC Penny and Forever21 are reading.

Because they seem to be missing the point. This isn't about clothing. It's not as simple as "don't buy the shirt!" or "babies can't even read anyway!" This is an example of a broader societal problem. It's evidence of a society that values men's brains and a woman's body. There is a MAJOR problem when, after almost a century of women pushing for equality, there is still a big enough market to sell clothing that advocates stupid women (as long as they're pretty).

Apparently, Gymborees excuse was that they also had a "Handsome like Daddy" onesie. Great. Where's the "Smart Like Mommy" one though? In a culture where 25% of women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize, shirts like these are dangerous. Quite literally, when you consider the rise in eating disorders. Girls as young as 3 are afraid of being fat.

I don't have any children. If I did, I wouldn't buy any shirt that valued a woman's looks over her brains. But that is irrelevant. What I want is for people not to even consider making these gender dichotomizing clothing lines. For women to be seen as intelligent as men are perceived to be.

For women to be valued for their intelligence. For intelligence and "booksmarts" to be as encouraged in women as it is in men.

So the next time you see a baby girl, compliment her on something other than her pretty hair, dress, or shoes. And maybe one day, girls will value themselves for something greater than their looks.

And eventually, maybe society will follow suit.

Over It

I am over rape.I am over rape culture, rape mentality, rape pages on Facebook.

I am over the thousands of people who signed those pages with their real names without shame....

...I am over people demanding their right to rape pages, and calling it freedom of speech or justifying it as a joke.

I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don't have a sense of humor, and women don't have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really[...]funny[...]

I am over how long it seems to take anyone to ever respond to rape.

I am over Facebook taking weeks to take down rape pages.

I am over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable.

I am over the thousands of women in Bosnia, Burma, Pakistan, South Africa, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, you name a place, still waiting for justice.

I am over rape happening in broad daylight.

I am over the 207 clinics in Ecuador supported by the government that are capturing, raping, and torturing lesbians to make them straight.

I am over one in three women in the U.S military (Happy Veterans Day!) getting raped by their so-called "comrades."[...]

I am over the fact that after four women came forward with allegations that Herman Cain groped them and grabbed them and humiliated them, he is still running for the President of the United States.

And I'm over CNBC debate host Maria Bartiromo getting booed when she asked him about it. She was booed, not Herman Cain.

Which reminds me, I am so over the students at Penn State who protested the justice system instead of the alleged rapist pedophile of at least 8 boys, or his boss Joe Paterno, who did nothing to protect those children after knowing what was happening to them.

I am over rape victims becoming re-raped when they go public.

I am over starving Somalian women being raped at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, and I am over women getting raped at Occupy Wall Street and being quiet about it because they were protecting a movement which is fighting to end the pillaging and raping of the economy and the earth, as if the rape of their bodies was something separate.

I am over women still being silent about rape, because they are made to believe it's their fault or they did something to make it happen.

I am over violence against women not being a #1 international priority when one out of three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime -- the destruction and muting and undermining of women is the destruction of life itself.

No women, no future, duh.

I am over this rape culture where the privileged with political and physical and economic might, take what and who they want, when they want it, as much as they want, any time they want it.

I am over the endless resurrection of the careers of rapists and sexual exploiters -- film directors, world leaders, corporate executives, movie stars, athletes -- while the lives of the women they violated are permanently destroyed, often forcing them to live in social and emotional exile.

I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you?

You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren't you standing with us? Why aren't you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?

I am over years and years of being over rape.[...]

And getting sick from rape, and depressed from rape, and enraged by rape.

And reading my insanely crowded inbox of rape horror stories every hour of every single day.

I am over being polite about rape. It's been too long now, we have been too understanding.

We need to OCCUPYRAPE in every school, park, radio, TV station, household, office, factory, refugee camp, military base, back room, night club, alleyway, courtroom, UN office.

We need people to truly try and imagine -- once and for all -- what it feels like to have your body invaded, your mind splintered, your soul shattered.

We need to let our rage and our compassion connect us so we can change the paradigm of global rape.

There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated.


The time is now. Prepare for the escalation.

Today it begins, moving toward February 14, 2013, when one billion women will rise to end rape.

Because we are over it.

-Eve Ensler

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NYC Subway System

NYC Subway platforms are littered with advertisements, some graffiti, and the ubiquitous "if you see something, say something" signage. But recently I noticed a new one, at least one present at the Times Square/Grand Central Station shuttle platform. It said "a crowded subway is no excuse for an inappropriate touch."

I was taken aback at that, not because it's not true (because obviously it is), and not because it should go without saying (because we all know it still doesn't seem to sink in for most people), but because I had never seen anything, anywhere, speak up about sexual assault, and its prevalence in society, and especially the subway system.

It's no big secret that the subway is a dangerous place. It's dark, it's underground, it's home to those who have nowhere else to go, and it's either crowded enough or empty enough to get away with just about anything.

According to one study almost 2/3 of subway riders have experienced sexual harassment and 10% have been assaulted. With 5 million subway riders a day, reporting these offenses seem almost like a waste of time - who's ever going to find the offender?

In an age of camera phones, one woman got it right. Shayne DeJesus took a picture of the man who sexually assaulted her while waiting for a subway and now he's looking at jail time.

What if every woman fought back? What if women didn't have to expect this kind of behavior on their morning or evening commute? What if every woman who faced this kind of abuse got a picture of the perp and handed it over to police? It wouldn't be too difficult to get mugshots in the subway system itself.

How many people would be deterred?

A crowded subway is no excuse for unwanted touch. Shayne DeJesus proved that fighting back, and reporting assault to authorities works.

So holla back ladies. Because sexual assault is never something to be taken lightly, or taken alone.