Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's

This New Year's, this new year, like any new year, brings with it a plethora of possibilities. Chances to start over, to rid your life, and your psyche of all the bad, and make room for all the good. So here's some possible resolutions for 2012:

For the Men:

1) I'll start easy: Don't rape. When a woman says "stop," stop. When she seems uncomfortable, stop. If she's drunk, don't come close. If she pushes you away, go away. And I'd hope it goes without saying, that if she yells and hits you, you've already gone too far, and you should leave. And NOT call her any names, and respect her boundaries. She's not being crazy, or a prude. She's being a person, with her own wants and desires, and asserting them, as any man would without fear of repercussions.

2) Stop your friends from doing any of the above. Don't play those games of who can sleep with more women. Don't buy into the group mentality so prevalent in males.

3) Realize your privilege. You are allowed to be aggressive, to assert themselves. Women are expected to be timid, and are inevitably called, or considered "crazy bitches" should we speak our desires out loud. You can walk around at night and not be scared. You can have sex without being called a slut. You can walk through a bar without being molested. Consider these ideas. And work for equality in these areas.

4) Don't fight women...or anyone for that matter. Aggression isn't attractive. Manipulative behavior isn't attractive. Not to mention, getting arrested isn't attractive. In fact, all these qualities are entirely UNattractive, and more importantly, are behaviors that aren't acceptable in a parent, or any adult. Children are constantly observing everything around them. Omnipresent violence begets violence.

And for the women too:

1) Fight to end rape. Speak up. Find the courage to tell your story if you're a victim/survivor. And for everyone, say yes, when you mean yes. Say no when you wanna say no, Talk to the people in your life about the topic. Educate. Learn yourself. The personal and legal ramifications of sexual assault. What rape IS and how and why it happens, because learning about it, even as women, is the first step towards ending it. Men must stop raping, but women can help them get there.

2) Help. Women all over the world, of all races, socioeconomic classes, and education levels are trapped in abusive relationships. Dangerous relationships. Keep alert for signs of this in other women. If something seems wrong, it probably is. Talk to them, but don't pressure them. Just be there for them.

3) Don't make a resolution to lose weight. Unless you're clinically obese, appreciate your body. Exercise more, sure, but for the right reasons. Don't obsess. Look in the mirror every morning and say one thing you love about yourself. Feel beautiful.

4) Be assertive. Not just in relationships, but in life. In the office. Ask for that raise or promotion you think you deserve. No man would hesitate to do so. I'm asking men to be less aggressive, and women to be more so. Let's meet somewhere in the middle. A peaceable compromise.

I don't think any of those are too tough to handle. Especially for men who consider themselves poster boys for resilience. As Andrea Dworkin said, let's imagine a world without violence against women. Let's resolve this year, to end it. Call a truce. Let there be peace (to put it cheesily).

This year, let's love ourselves, and each other. Mutual respect.

Let's ring in the New Year right.

Friday, December 23, 2011


I'll be the first to admit I used to be on a dating site. I'm not embarrassed by this at all. In my profile on this site, I was upfront about this blog, and that I considered myself a feminist.

Oddly enough, most guys I spoke to, asked what exactly I meant by "feminist." I told them as best I could, and they either didn't respond, or expressed relief that I wasn't some "crazy feminazi that's angry with the world" (maybe not verbatim, but pretty damn close).

And at the time, I just kind of rolled my eyes. I knew most men would be scared off by my admission, and that was pretty much the point. If you can't handle it, then I don't want you to try. The odd part is, men hate feminists because they assume we hate them.

When, in reality, we're the ones that believe in men. I believe in the innate goodness of men all over the world. Feminists, and the people who fight against sexual harassment, assault, and domestic violence, regardless of gender, are the ones who have faith in the men who shun us.

I don't believe that men who rape or otherwise assault women are genetically predisposed to such violence. Or even irreparably socialized to this point. I've met men, not many, but surely some, who exemplify everything I believe men can be. Men who have grown up in the most masculine of cultures yet understand me and empathize with women in general. It's not impossible, and it is certainly not effeminate. They are certainly men to me, and to their friends. They can have fun, and joke around, and hang out at sports games and casinos, drink beer and eat wings, and play sports, yet somehow they maintain integrity. Somehow they get away with not demeaning or objectifying women. Somehow they act like real men should.

It's the rest of them who think I hate them. I don't. I have more faith in them than apparently most of the world. I have enough faith in men that I believe they can stop violence against women. I believe they, and really, they alone, have the power within them to end the culture within which we live that fosters rape, and a rape mentality.

So why are feminists the bad guys? Shouldn't the women who write men off as inherently violent and savage and just plain mean be the bad guys? Feminists don't hate men. We love them, like a parent loves a drug addicted child. We know that how they're acting isn't really them. It's something else making them act this way, and really, it doesn't need to be like that. Things can change. Violence, like drugs, is not inevitable, and it's possible to quit. It's possible to change, and through resocialization, it's possible to eradicate violence against women.

So get off the drugs, men. I know you're better than this. I am not the bad guy. Nor are you. It's a culture we all buy into that allows this violent behavior to be normalized.

And it can change.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1 in 5

Somwhere between 20 and 25% of women have been victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. This wasn't news to me. Apparently it is to others. A recent study of almost 17,000 people randomly selected determined these numbers. The study was conducted by the Center for Disease Control (more commonly known as the CDC), in conjunction with the National Institue of Justice and the Department of Defense. These aren't small, insignificant jurisdictions.

These are governmental institutions. You'd think a survey conducted by the government would want to show a reduced crime rate, much like how colleges claim their crime rate is much lower than it actually is. Yet this study shows that women (and men) are more victimized than most people know, or want to know.

I say want to know, because the comments on the articles I've read are....well unsurprising. It's a known psychological phenomenon that people will hold on to their beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence. In both the NY Daily News (a conservative paper) and the NY Times (notoriously liberal), the comments after the article are virtually identical in their distaste and disbelief.

The most common thought? "I know many more than 5 women, and none of them have been raped. Therefore, this study is wrong." Excluding the statistical fallacy in this line of thinking, there's two other major problems with it.

(1) how many people do you know have said "oh hey, my name is __________ and i have a horrible story in my past that i'd like to share with you" or even if you've known them for years, how easy do you think it is for women to share their story? especially in a society filled with victim blaming, many women never tell a soul what happened. And, news flash, if you're the kind of man who doesn't believe this stat, and actively tries to negate're probably not the type of man a rape victim is going to confide her story to.

(2) many women who have been raped don't consider what happened to them "rape." these studies don't ask "have you ever been raped" and then give stats based on the answer to the question. They ask questions about their sexual history and whether alcohol, drugs, coercion or force has ever been used. The same women who say yes to experiences meeting the legal definition of rape, also say at the end (when that original question does come along) that they have not been raped. so of course your 15 women friends will not tell you they've been raped. they may not even identify their experience AS rape. but chances are, at least one of them has (and statistically, three or four of them have).

Next question: Well, if women don't think they've been raped, what's the big deal?

Good question. Problem is, whether women identify their experience as rape or not, they suffer the same psychological distress. I've often wondered if there is a difference, in fact, in healing times between these women (the one who identify as a rape victim/survivor and the one who does not label the experience). I would tend to believe it's more difficult for the one who doesn't see it as rape. Now this woman is left with PTSD (as one third of victims are - ps that means 8% of women overall) with no true understanding of why. Even scarier, over 25% of women contemplate suicide after the trauma.

Similarly, men say "i know many men, and they don't rape people." Well, statistically, 1 in 12 of them have. and better yet, 84% of these men say what they did was "definitely not rape." so why would you believe your friends are capable of rape? the rapists don't even think they're capable of it!

In the Daily News, the picture accompanying the article shows women protesting rape. Which led some commenters to display their confusion. people don't protest murder, because people who murder, well they don't care about your picketing.

Rape is different. Because quite a bit of rape can be prevented by better education of what rape IS. Because men who see that what they're doing is rape may just stop doing it. (I won't even delve into the comments about how the women in the picture didn't need to worry about being raped, judging by their looks....i think we can all see the problem with that comment)

Yes, 1 in 5 women will be the victims of rape, or attempted rape in this country. And really, this isn't that hard to correct. Sex education needs to include sexual assault issues. Men need to learn what constitutes rape. Men need to learn that pressuring a women, including verbally, into sex, is rape. Anytime "no" is not accepted as an answer, there's a problem. Don't assume she's saying no because she thinks society wants her to. Don't assume she's saying no because she doesn't want to appear easy. Don't assume she's saying no but she really means yes.

We've come far enough that women can say yes when they want to. Anything less, is a no. and it's a solid, non-negotiable, resounding NO. As in stop. As in, don't continue whatever it is you're doing. As in, if you continue, it's legally rape.

20% of women will be victims of rape or attempted rape. 33% of these women will suffer from PTSD. 25% will contemplate suicide. 8% of men have raped a woman. 84% of these men don't believe that to be true.

I believe all of those. Through my research, both experimental and academic, I believe them to be true.

And comments like those on these articles are simple proof that we have a long way to go.

Stats taken from either articles previously linked or: Curtis, David G. Perspectives on Acquaintance Rape. 5 November 2008.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

PA Alcohol Education

The liquor control board for the state of Pennsylvania recently started an anti-drinking (or anti-excessive drinking) PSA campaign called Control Tonight. Good idea in theory.

In practice? Not so much.

Their message fails in half of their posters. So much so, that one ended up getting pulled entirely. Three show completely understandable, and appropriate messages. Two show how excessive consumption can lead to sickness, and death via alcohol poisoning. One shows a man getting arrested because drinking leads to aggression, fights, and assault charges.

All three are true, and their messages convey that friends need to look out for these warning signs, and help prevent these dangers. Getting sick is an inevitability with drinking too much alcohol. Fighting is a crime that the posters are blaming on the criminal. Good points. Good execution.

Now the next three, in order of offensiveness (starting with the most innocuous):

"He's too wasted to realize [the condom] broke" Really, what was he going to do if he did realize it? A broken condom is a problem if you're sober or drunk. This is completely irrelevant to drinking. The poster would be much better off had they said he was too wasted to use one at all. That's a big oops. This poster, as is, puts blame on alcohol where no blame is needed.

"She's never cheated on her boyfriend. Until now" Many problems. One is that this is the poster where they chose to use the minority couple. When blacks are often stereotyped and portrayed as hypersexualized, using them as the cheating woman and preying man poor taste. And that's what the picture shows. A drunk girl hanging on a guy who has his hand gripping her leg. He doesn't appear drunk, or happy, or really as anything but creepy. Which means he's taking advantage of her. None of this is the alcohol's fault. She shouldn't be cheating on her boyfriend, and he shouldn't be preying on drunk girls. What am I being warned against? Creepy guys, or infidelity?

"She didn't want to do it, but she couldn't say no" Of course, this is the one that was pulled. Where does one begin? The picture: a pair of legs with her underwear around her ankles lying on a bathroom tiled floor (the same floor with the broken condom actually). Actually, when I first saw the a, I thought it was a vodka ad...(which was even more appalling). But that's how sexualized it is. It isn't inherently disturbing. It's attractive. That's problem number 1.

Number 2 is the caption. Drinking leads to bad decisions. Like going home with someone you don't know very well. The problem is date rape tends to happen with two people who DO know each other well. Not the stranger you met at the bar (although him too). It's the guy you've been on a couple of dates with. It's your friend, it's your boyfriend. And getting drunk and/or making a bad decision isn't really why someone gets raped. It's why someone rapes. And the focus needs to be adjusted to that.

Number 3 is that of course, it's victim blaming. Don't drink too much, or you might get raped. Don't go home with someone, he might rape you. If you pass out, you can't say no to sex. Oddly enough, being drunk IS saying no. In all 50 states. Alcohol does not make you responsible for any crime committed against you. In fact, nothing does. Whether its robbery, assault, or rape, the only person or thing responsible is the person doing it. Sure, keeping your wits about you certainly helps to increase your safety from all of these possibilities. But I don't want to hear someone telling me I should stay sober, lest I get raped. Or robbed. Or assaulted. I want to see more preventative measures be taken against the perpetrator. Not the victim.

Number 4 is the trigger factor. One third of all rape victims experience PTSD after the attack. This number is the same whether the victim sees herself as having been raped or not. So now you have between 20-25% of women as rape victims, and 1/3 of them as having, or having had, PTSD. That means that 8% of women can be triggered by this poster. Even having no personal history of such attacks, I was brought to tears by the image alone. Shock factor goes a little overboard here.

They eventually pulled the poster, after such outrage ensued, leading an almost equal number of people to vilify us who found it offensive. I think one person said it perfectly:

Katelyn Cummings
How effective do you think this messaging is? Your scare tactics have continued to fail, and even if they work, I imagine it is only to make people feel shitty about themselves after the fact. Imagine a women gets raped only to have this kind of messaging telling her that she should have had a little less to drink. I think it's irresponsible and insensitive.

(bolding mine)

Telling people to be careful is not victim blaming. Telling someone to be a responsible drinker is not victim blaming. But plastering a woman's legs in a post rape, sexual pose, and saying "doesn't that suck? you shouldn't have gotten drunk" is a problematic campaign.

And I'm glad it's gone.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Media Headlines

Rochester, N.Y. area teen charged with setting fire to home, killing father, 2 brothers

Dozens arrested in Occupy DC protests

Police: Female student stabbed by two girls from a rival school

Police: Customer Punches Cabbie in the Face; Fox Island Man Stabs Neighbor

Man Charged with Inappropriately Photographing Target Shoppers, Man Hospitalized Following Dispute on Harding Avenue

Cabby raped me, says ‘drunken’ passenger

To me, one of these headlines is not like the others. Only one of them has the implication of lying in it. Only one focuses on the victim's flaws/character/state of mind, and only one neglects the criminal aspect of the story. All except the last one involve either the police (and what they believe happened) or arrests that were made, or horrors that "happened." The last one is nothing more than an accusation in a headline. Baseless, as compared with the others.

To top it off, the accuser is drunk. Readers would be inclined to believe in all of these stories based on the headlines...except the last. The article on rape invites the reader to make their own judgement, and steers that judgement towards acquittal.

The woman is saying, not the police. The woman was raped, not the cabbie raped her. Police say two girls stabbed a third. A teen was charged with killing his family.

Rape myths are perpetuated in news media in subtler ways than this. I'd say this one is fairly obvious. But a study was done during the Kobe Bryant rape case asking what the effect of these rape supportive headlines was on the general population.

What harm does a <10 word headline do? A lot. And it is much more prevalent than you'd think. In 555 headlines, 6% implied the victim was lying, and over 4% contained victim blaming ideas. They were also more likely to use the term "accuser" rather than "alleged victim."

People who read these headlines, and then the articles are more likely to believe the victim is lying, even when faced with evidence to the contrary.

Men are more likely to show rape supportive beliefs after reading headlines with rape myths than after reading sexual assault headlines without such myths.

And what do these headlines do to a possible trial? With every other crime, the media tends to pit the public against the defendant (think Casey Anthony, OJ Simpson). In rape cases, the opposite is true. The media goes out of its way to question the victim (think DSK, Duke rape case).

Is it any surprise that allegations of rape decline in the aftermath of high profile cases? That suddenly, women are afraid to tell their story after a news media rips apart the character and past of previous victims?

How can we promise justice to these victims, if we torture them into dropping their case prior to trial? Why would anyone come forward when every past discretion and every sexual encounter in your life is subject to media scrutiny? When the media is poised to pit the world against you, and in doing so, pits the world against women everywhere?

It's time victims of (alleged) rape were treated with the same empathy afforded victims of other crimes. It's time to stop the second victimization associated with media harassment of these survivors.

It's time to stop perpetuating rape myths via every aspect of media, whether it's advertising, magazines, music, tv shows, movies, or the news itself.

End victim blaming in the media, and end victim blaming in society.

And end rape.