Sunday, July 15, 2012

Petition to End...

I'm watching an old season of MTV's Real World and there's one girl, i think about 21, who has a much lower tolerance than anyone else. From day 1, she talked about how she blacks out way more than she means to. And when she gets "black out" (as we see), random men start talking to her. All too often, these men are at least ten years her senior.  And seemingly sober. He roommate sits her down after one of these nights saying she's nervous that someone might "take advantage of" her. Which is a common saying. You know, when a guy sees a really drunk girl at the bar and has sex with her, he's "taking advantage of her."

Except, no. No he's not. If he's sober, and he's preying on the drunk girl at the bar, if he goes after the drunk girl, takes her home and sleeps with her, that's rape. It is illegal by federal law to have sex with someone without their consent, and included in that law is the fact that you cannot legally give consent when you're incapacitated. That is not "taking advantage." Taking advantage is....buying things you don't need now but will later just because it's on sale. It's grabbing that $5 DVD you'll never watch just because it's in the checkout line. It is NOT sleeping with a woman because you know if she were sober she'd want nothing to do with you. That is NOT taking advantage. That is rape.

There's another euphemism for rape I can't stand. And that's date rape. Oh, you were raped by someone you knew? Ok, so it was just date rape. Yeah, like no bigs, I was just sexually assaulted, so it's totally okay to down play it by throwing the word "date" in front of it.

Rape is a physically violent act. Like any assault. Do we throw the term "date" in front of anything else? Like, oh i was totally "date robbed." I went on a date with this guy who got too drunk to go home, so after i let him sleep on my couch, he took all of my cash, credit cards, jewelry and keys. So it sucks but at least I wasn't really robbed. I was just date-robbed. Or what about date-carjacked? You know, when I was too drunk, so I let my boyfriend drive us home, except when we got back to my place, he kicked me out and stole my car. But, hey, it was my boyfriend, so that's like NBD.

Seriously, when a woman is assaulted by a friend, a date, a boyfriend, or husband, is it any less damaging? When someone is murdered by someone they know, do we throw the term "date" in front of it to show that it's not quite as bad as when a stranger does it.

Why do we ascribe so many euphemisms to rape?

Plain and simple. If someone says no to sex, he/she means NO. I don't care if the two people involved know each other. I don't care if one party is drunk. There is no such thing as "taking advantage of someone" there is no such thing as "date rape"

There is only RAPE

NO means STOP

Rape Jokes and Daniel Tosh

Given all the controversy surrounding Daniel Tosh and his rape threat joke, I had a difficult time looking up what other kinds of jokes this man tells. Because the number one reason I've heard for why this shouldn't be an issue is "well he makes fun of everyone!" Besides for the fact that laughing at a woman being gang raped isn't making fun as much as threatening, it also raises the question of why any of it is okay.

So I had heard that he made a joke about his own sister getting raped, which kind of removes all doubt that this man is entirely classless, talentless, and a disgusting excuse for a human. But does he ever say anything funny? Does he actually know how to be a comic, or does his act revolve around humiliating women and minorities?

To be honest, I couldn't find anything else quite so tasteless. Supposedly he makes racist and homophobic jokes, but if these and these are what people are talking about, then they are definitely not comparable to rape jokes. Those are more akin to the "women belong in the kitchen" bs. Stereotypical, unimaginative, and harmless.

But I did find two previous rape jokes made by Daniel Tosh. This one:

Anal sex is a lot like spinach: if you're forced to have it as a child, you won't enjoy it as an adult.

is horribly inappropriate. Why anyone would put child rape into a comedy is beyond me, but even inappropriate factor aside, this just isn't funny. If you're going to go out of your way to offend people, at least do it well. But the next rape joke is:

The first thing Michael Phelps should have done when that photo came out was call Kobe Bryant's publicist. Cuz Kobe was accused of rape, and all he had to do was settle in court for millions of dollars, change his jersey number and win a championship and that soulless town in LA couldn't be prouder. I just hope that when parents let their kids run around in #24 jerseys, they have the decency to say: 'well come on, number 8 was the rapist.'

THIS one I'm okay with it. It's been said many times before, and I'll reiterate. This joke, about rape, works because the ridicule is on the society that embraces a rapist. The joke is on us, not on the victim, or on the rape itself. It's a social commentary that makes sense, and has a comedic element. Clearly, now, Tosh does know how to be tasteful in his jokes. He just chooses to ignore sensibility sometimes.

So the real problem. If he makes fun of everything, why can't he make fun of rape?

Well, does he? Does he actually make fun of everything? Because as I saw, his racism and homophobia aren't truly offensive, anymore than generic sexism is. The quotes on his wiki page (where I found the two used) are pretty innocuous. I'd like to hear some of his material on the Holocaust. All I found was one tweet of "I hate Holocaust jokes, Anne Frankly they are very rude"  which is once again, fairly weak. It's not threatening.

If he had been making antisemitic jokes, and a Jew told him to stop, would his response have been how funny it would be to throw him in Aushwitz?

If he was making racist jokes and a black man told him to stop, would his response have been how funny it would be if five men hung him from a tree and burned him?

And would people still be defending him?

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Heels do a lot for a woman. They elongate and thin the legs and ankles. They make a woman appear taller and more confident and "stately," and because of all of this, women wearing heels in the workplace are seen as more sophisticated and higher class. It's a status symbol. A woman wearing heels (and makeup) to a job interview is more likely to get hired than a woman who chooses to avoid dangerous footwear and slapping dirt on her face. Ironic?

What else do heels do for women?

They vastly increase pressure put on the knees and toes. With just a three inch heel, the pressure is increased up to 76%. How many women wear 4 or 5 inch heels? This increases their chance of developing a debilitating condition - osteoarthritis. And women already have a higher susceptibility to bone problems like osteoporosis. The spine is forced to readjust to the change in alignment, causing increased stress on the back, and negatively affecting posture. Since the calf muscle of a woman in heels is shortened, contracted, the muscle can remain tight even after changing footwear. Eventually, a woman who wears heels regularly may experience pain when switching to flats, or even barefoot. 

And how about those gorgeous pointy tips? You know, shoes like this one:

Where the toes are nicely crunched together? Just looks so damn comfortable doesn't it? It can cause bunions, which are bony outgrowths on the foot. That way, even if you think your foot looks oh-so-pretty in those glorified elf shoes, they're gonna look pretty destroyed once that shoe comes off, what with your toes permanently cramped together. It can even cause your toes to become bent (called hammertoes). The foot is now disfigured, regardless of footwear. 

There's even more - all of which can be seen here: On Your Feet: High Heels' Effects on the Body

So why do women continue to wear these painful and dangerous footwear? Style? Fashion? Impress the opposite sex? Many women will say they genuinely enjoy wearing them. I love the way they look! They make you feel elegant. At what price?

Years ago (but as recently as the early 1900's), the Chinese used to bind the feet of women from the time they were small children. Their feet wouldn't grow, and the smaller the foot, the more attractive the woman. It was an obviously painful process which started with breaking the arch of the foot and binding the toes to the ankle. The foot grew into itself. It was designed to make women more feminine. They were unable to walk normally - only able to shuffle along. It's believed to have been started by the upper-class, showcasing that they didn't have to work, and of course, middle and lower class began emulating that. The lower class families would bind only the foot of the eldest daughter (since the rest did have to work). 

Eventually, foot binding was outlawed. So the Chinese found a way around that. They created shoes that caused women to walk in much the same way those with bound feet did. 

I am certainly not suggesting that the feet binding practices are in any way comparable to heels, as one requires breaking the bone of a child no older than 5 while the other is a fashion choice women make on their own. What I am saying is that the idea behind the two are the same. It's designed to hold women back, to make them more feminine, and in both cases the belief was/is that they became more attractive. In both cases it causes severe strain on the body (obviously foot binding vastly more so). 

I don't expect high heels to be outlawed, or even want them to be. I think in a free country, such personal choices should not be criminal. I only draw the comparison to show that women are hurting themselves, causing bodily harm for fashion. For style, for grace, for elegance, for things that men don't need to worry about.

Men wear ties. Which are uncomfortable sure, but is there lasting harm done to the body? No. And is there anything else men are expected to do that is at all comparable to the myriad things expected of women? 

I think my legs look great in heels. I think my face looks prettier with makeup on. And so I do wear them both occasionally (once a month perhaps). So perhaps I'm a hypocrite when I talk about these things. Because every time I wear either, I'm buying into a patriarchal society that values women's beauty over women's health. 

We all are. 

I see no reason for women to put themselves at harm, while men do not. And for beauty no less. 

Health and well-being should always trump everything. Especially beauty.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


A lot of people (honestly myself included sometimes) believe fighting against violence against women is a futile effort. After all, women are genetically weaker (and by that I mean on average, women have lower levels of testosterone, and thus less agression and strength), and don't those who wish to commit crimes always prey on the weak? As long as there are people who wish to do violence, there will be violence against women. And crime will never end.

True - there will always be people who aim to harm. There will always be men and women alike who murder and steal and rape. I don't believe that we can ever 100% eradicate any of those. I do believe we can decrease their prevalence, but how? Like I said, afterall, we are the weaker sex. We are more vulnerable. The average woman can't fight off the average man. So, of course, men will continue to prey on women.

Fair enough. Honestly, okay. I can understand that. What I don't understand, what I will not embrace, and why I continue to fight, is the lack of outrage about this.

You know who else is vulnerable to attack? Children and the Elderly. What child can fend off a man? What senior can do that either? They are as weak, weaker even, than the average woman. Yet they are not the victim of predatorial acts half as often as women of any age. Not only that, but when they ARE, the whole of society goes crazy.

How can someone do that to an innocent child? How can someone do that to a little old lady? How can someone attack someone so helpless - or isn't that the general idea behind these statements?

So where is the outrage for women? Do people believe we are strong enough to fend for ourselves? And if they do honestly believe that, then why are we told to never walk alone at night? To cover ourselves up, to keep our keys in our hands, to avoid certain streets?

We are told we are weak, that we must be careful, that we must protect ourselves, or have a man to protect us. Until we are attacked, and then it's our fault - we should've been able to fend for ourselves, or should've been smart enough to avoid it all together.

I don't envision a world where no man, woman, or child is ever abused, raped, or killed. I believe that to be an impossibility, no matter how much we evolve. But I expect one day that those who commit those crimes are treated as the scum that they are. I hope that one day, violence against women won't be treated as an inevitability, but be met with disgust.

Violence against the weak is seen in every animal species. I wouldn't expect humans to be different. We are, however, different in our ability to empathize. To understand right from wrong.

Violence against children and the elderly are WRONG. We all know this to be so.

Violence against women is just as wrong, but much more prevalent.

Get Angry.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ode to Xtina

When I was younger, I didn't think I was a feminist. In fact, I believe I mentioned previously that I once wrote a paper for a history class about how women should know their place in the world and stop trying to mess with appropriated gender roles.

But, around the same time as that paper, I also did a project on how even Buffy the Vampire Slayer perpetuated gender stereotypes. I think I was probably just trying to do whatever would cause the most contention.

But throughout high school, really ever since tween stars became the new hot thing (about the same time as boy bands), my favorite musical artist was Christina Aguilera. Besides for the fact that between her, Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, and even Jessica Simpson, she obviously had the best natural voice, and greatest range, I loved the person I perceived her to be.

As an impressionable teenager, she became my idol. When "Genie in a Bottle" came out, people around me questioned her integrity. The lyrics, and the dancing in the video, were too suggestive for someone so young. I defended her as an up and coming artist who was listening to producers in order to eventually make her own way.

Which she did. She became her own person, a strong woman, an independent woman, and my idol. Horrible rumors surfaced about her promiscuity. People talked about her outfits and called her names. Yes, she wore pretty crazy outfits (most notably this one - VMA 2002), and yes, quite often they showed a lot of skin. But it wasn't so much the outfits I loved as her reaction to naysayers. She said once that she didn't care what people said about her. She wore what she wanted to wear, and that was it. And it was the greatest response I had ever, and have ever, heard. You don't like what I'm wearing? Well, conveniently, I wore it to please myself, not the rest of you.

When she went on tour and lost weight, rumors swirled about an eating disorder, when in reality it was long hours of dancing and little time for food. She fought the rumors. The media came back when she gained weight, and vitriol reigned. Again, she turned a blind eye, and maintained her confidence in her body and self.

Christina has never been anyone but herself. No matter what the media was telling her she should be, she wore what she wanted to wear, when she wanted to wear it. And it wasn't a Lady Gaga thing, not a shock value, not a desperate attempt to get into the public eye. It was who she was. and it is who she is.

Recently, she came under attack for calling out her fellow Mouseketeer Tony Lucca on his final song in the competition -  Jay Z's 99 Problems (But a Bitch Ain't One). As a side note, with the birth of Jay Z's daughter, he vowed to never use the term bitch in his music again. His daughter, not his wife, got him to start respecting women. Whatever, at least he's there. Or trying to be. In any event, Xtina wasn't thrilled that Lucca used a song that's supposed to win it or lose it for him whose bridge is "I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one."

So what happens? The media pounces on Christina. What a bitch! (The irony of calling her a bitch because of her commentary is apparently lost on most people). A few choice comments:

"please, put some clothes on.. no one wants to see you half dressed... you need a new stylist if you want to be a professional and be taken seriously. Sexy does not mean slutty... maybe check out What Not To Wear!"

"She is a [sic] Overweight Diva - who thinks she is so wonderful. She dresses like a HO and she has issues."

"Christine [sic] shows up every week dressed like a $10 hooker and she thinks the song lyrics are degrading to women????"

(All quotes taken from People Magazine: Tony Lucca & Christina Aguilera Clash Over B-Word on The Voice)
The idea of attacking a woman's look when we disagree with her opinion is not new. It is reserved solely for women, but it is not new. Christina did the right thing. She voiced her opinion on a show where she is the judge. Not only does she have the platform to say what she wants, but this woman has been a champion for women's rights since she stepped into the limelight 13 years ago. So why the hate when she speaks her mind??

Especially about a rap that is not only about the degradation of women, but is by a champion of misogyny. Yes, Christina  had commented negatively on Lucca's voice previously. Isn't that her job? 

Where were these critics during American Idol and SImon Cowell's reign? What, really, was the big deal here?

It was a woman, voicing her opinion, on the negative portrayal of women. So, in retaliation, we negatively portray the woman who could say such blasphemy...

Christina, you are beautiful. No matter what they say. Words can't bring you down.  

It was in good part due to Aguilera's attitude that I learned to accept myself in middle school, into early high school. And I can't thank her enough for that. 

The world needs more famous women like Christina Aguilera. More female teen idols that exude confidence (btw she says that's the best way to attract a guy. I also like that answer) no matter what people are saying. 

So Christina, keep fighting the good fight. And  you'll forever remain my #1 female idol.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


There are some topics that, when used in jest, I won't tolerate. One is when someone says "kill yourself." When I was in high school, and my friends said that as a form of "fuck you," I got them to say "severely maim yourself" instead. The idea being of course, that should that person listen to your advice, only the second one gives you a chance at their forgiveness.

One is calling people "retarded" when you mean stupid. It's a horribly offensive term, and the only person who appears stupid is the person who thinks those two words are synonymous.

And of course, jokes about violence against women. I used to run with a guy who asked me once, on one of our runs, why I could use "kill" in jest, and clearly, I was okay with talking about maiming people, but use "rape" in the context of "that test raped me" or "he totally raped me in Call of Duty," or just good ol' fashioned "shut up and make me a sandwich" or this or this and my tolerance is gone. And it isn't because, as so many critics like to say, because I have a "stick up my ass" but rather because things like domestic violence and rape are so pervasive, and yet so misunderstood.

It's not because I don't have a sense of humor. It's not because I'm ultra-PC, or that I hate any joke that may offend someone somewhere maybe. It's because as of right now, people don't understand rape. It's because we currently live in a culture that not only allows these crimes to happen, but a culture that embraces it and normalizes violence against women.

As long as rape myths prevail in headlines and articles about sexual assault victims, as long as people believe that women use rape as an excuse for drunken sex, as long as people honestly believe women belong in the home and not the workplace, as long as violence against women is sexualized in the media, well then as long as that is culture we live in, I will not tolerate these kind of jokes.

Eventually, I hope, this country, and maybe one day, this world, will not view women as a marginalized minority (when in fact we are the majority), and one day rape and violence against women will not be the poisonous epidemic that it is now. One day, domestic violence calls will be the exception and not the norm for police calls.

And when that happens, you can make all the rape jokes you want. Because when that happens, I'll know that not only the speaker, but anyone within earshot is looking at rape as they do murder - a violent crime. And once we can see the joke as JUST a joke, and not a symptom of the rape culture in which we all live, well then, maybe I can feel differently. Honestly, though, I  believe that when we reach that point, these rape/domestic violence jokes won't be quite as "funny" as they are now.

Until then, I'm going to look at any and all phrases that regard violence against women as something to laugh at as problematic.

People laugh at rape when it's a serious problem. And that's why I can't laugh at rape when it's a joke.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


This may be the longest any feminist blog has gone without writing about everything that is wrong with Cosmpolitan magazine. I admit it that it's a (very) guilty pleasure, and I do read it fairly often. And as often as I appreciate the tips and stories in it, I get angry at some of the ridiculously outdated advice they continue to give (among so many other problems)...

So, to start: the cover. Cover model Demi Lovato who has battled (and beat) an eating disorder, is the woman of the issue. She is interviewed inside about her past struggles and mental illness (bipolar disorder). As in every issue, Cosmo shows a handwritten mini interview - with multiple choice questions like what kind of guy they usually go for. So one question was "I couldn't date someone who didn't love my _____" Lovato's answer? "CURVES!!!".

Which is great! What a perfect answer for someone battling an eating disorder. It is truly wonderful to hear about a woman who is proud of their body. So what does Cosmo do to celebrate such security and confidence? They airbrush her curves, in essence eliminating her waist from the cover photo. So hey, thanks Cosmo for once again juxtaposing a great confidence boost like a celebrity who loves her body with a picture of that same woman that's designed to make women hate their own bodies.

If only it ended there. Then i come across some true-to-form Cosmo advice. In their column, "Ask Him Anything," one woman writes "If you meet a cute guy at a party, what's the best way to initiate exchanging phone numbers?"Now, if it were me writing the answer, I'd probably say something akin to:

Why is this a question? The best way to initiate an exchange is to say "hey, it's been really great talking with you, do you mind if I get your number so we can do this again sometime." That seems reasonable to me, and if a guy wanted to get my number, I'd expect him to say something along those lines as well.

Cosmo's answer? "[...]Let him initiate it - it makes him feel manly to be the one picking you up [...]"
Seriously? Are we living in 1950? Are women still not supposed to speak up, or out, or go after what they want? I have never subscribed to that idea. Ever. When I want a guy, I go for him, and it's also never failed me. Bottom line, to me, is, if you ask a guy for his number and he doesn't like the fact that you're so forward, then, seriously...why are you still attracted to him? That's definitely a deal breaker for me. I'd prefer my men to respect a woman with the confidence to do what they want.

Next crappy piece of advice in their " Your Biggest Love Qs (Answered in 20 Words or Less)" column"

Q: My boyfriend is gaining weight, and I'm not that turned on by him anymore. Can I say something?

My answer? Break up with him. Not because he gained weight, but because if something that trivial and superficial can affect your feelings for him, the relationship is obviously doomed. You should be turned on by HIM, not his looks, or his physique, or his weight.

Cosmo's Answer? Yes, tell him, but nicely. Suggest the two of you hit the gym more often.

Really Cosmo? Let's celebrate superficiality! Let's help make men feel just as self conscious as women, cause hell, why not? If your boyfriend is obese, then sure, for his health, it's important to help in some weight loss. But just to have him be your object of lust? If you can't see the problem with this advice, then God help us all...

In the same column, is some advice that I actually talked about, in depth, in a previous post...

Q: After five years of dating, my boyfriend still hasn't popped the question. Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

My answer? Who cares? What's more important, the man you love, or a materialistic ceremony that celebrates a lifelong committment, although in 50+% of cases, people break up (on average after 10 years)?? 

Cosmo's answer? Tell him you want to get married, and if he's the right guy, he'll marry you.

ARE YOU NUTS?! I can't think of a worse answer. Literally, cannot fathom worse advice to give a woman, let alone the 3+ million subscribers and other casual readers. Here's a better idea, Cosmo, if he's the right guy, she shouldn't feel the need to pressure him into doing something he doesn't want to do. And if she's the right girl, and he doesn't want to get married, they should be able to talk about it without breaking up, and without problem, regardless of outcome. For the last time, marriage is NOT the be all end all. Relationships are NOT a means to an end. People are not pawns, used solely to increase likelihood of that piece of paper that says there's a committment. Marriage is supposed to be a celebration of love, not a celebration of verbal coercion...

Next advice column problem: Colum titled "15 Times to Always Say No," one of which is when "the lame-looking dudes at the end of the bar just sent you and your girls a round of shots. Because if you said yes, then you'd have to actually converse with them. *Shudder*"

Two issues with this advice - (1) nothing, including a guy buying you a drink, should make anyone feel compelled to do something they don't want to, like talking to a guy. If a guy buys you a drink, all you need to say is "thank you." Past that, it's entirely up to you. And problem number (2) is why not talk to the "lame-looking" guys? Why not give them a chance? You have no idea who they are, or what they're like, and clearly they're at least nice enough to buy you a drink. Again, put your superficiality aside and just live your damn life.

Last major problem with this issue? "Girlie Decor That Won't Freak Him Out" - an article about how to make your living space more appealing to men. Here's a better idea, Cosmo readers, how about you decorate your home....the way you want. If you want pink, do pink. If you love unicorns, buy unicorn adorned items. Who the hell cares what anyone else thinks? You're the one living in it. Does anyone honestly think men are decorating their homes to appeal to women? No, because why should they? Same idea as mentioned previously, if a guy doesn't want to come over or spend time at your place simply because you have too many "girly" things, then why are you with him at all? If he cares about that, you shouldn't care about him. A home should reflect your personality, and who you are. It should not reflect the personality of the (apparent asshole) men you're bringing home from the bars.

Dear Cosmo,

I am not a drone. Not an object. Not a marriage obssessed, superficial bimbo. Please stop treating me as such. I am a woman. I am independent, I have my own personality that I love and that I love others to know about. I choose the people I allow into my life based on how they interact with me, the real me. I don't alter my looks, my personality, or my home based on the man I'm hoping to attract.

Three million subscribers. Three million women listening to this advice every.single.month. Countless others who buy off the stands. People who believe in these words.

It's time to stop, Cosmo. Your reach is too ubiquitous, your ideas too pervasive. Step up, and starting working for WOMEN. Not for men.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sexual Assault Trials

I was speaking with someone recently about how cops keep getting acquitted on rape charges despite pretty solid evidence. Whether juries are prone to acquittal for everyone, or if being a police officer grants them more leniency. I would think that civilians would be harsher towards police, since they're supposed to upstanding citizens - since they are responsible for arresting criminals, it seems even more egregious a crime when it is the cop who is the perp.

Yet we know that Franklin Mata and Kenneth Moreno were deemed innocent, and now another NYPD officer (although this one was off-duty) Michael Pena was also not convicted of rape (Although he was convicted on other charges, including predatory sexual assault). In Pena's case, his defense was not that he was innocent (plenty of witnesses saw him assaulting this woman and using his gun as leverage), but that no penetration occurred, and thus, no rape. Despite his DNA being on her underwear, despite her statement of pain, despite marks on her vagina, despite witness testimony. Apparently this is not enough.

So why the acquittal? Why are so many rapists (MOS or not) found not guilty on these horrible charges even in the face of overwhelming evidence? My friend's belief is that cops get off easy because juries don't see them as repeat offenders. They're not the stranger in the bushes that are attacking any woman they see. In which case, we really need more education on sexual assault in schools. Because when a vast majority of rapes are NOT the sociopath in the dark alley, we really need to start convicting the first time offenders, cops or not.

My friend also suggests that rape is so difficult to prove because the act itself is legal, it's just the force that is not, and coercion is hard to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. Also troublesome is that NY law requires male to female penis to vagina penetration, or vice versa (as a side note, this desperately needs updating). So although sex might be proven, is the force? Hence the Moreno/Mata acquittal. And when the force is proven, is the actual penetration clear? Is it clear that it wasn't another object that was used? (In which case it only counts as sodomy). So without the man's DNA inside the woman, actual rape is almost impossible to prove.

Can we remedy this?

Should we remedy this? The justice system (rightly) revolves around the theory that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Where there is doubt, there should be acquittal.

So is there anyway that we can get better justice for the victims of this horrible crime? Can we make it any easier, without negatively affecting the very foundation on which this country was built?

Honestly, I don't know. The first step is obviously changing NYS law to reflect federal law (“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”) I believe I still would have voted both those cops guilty. Fortunately, because of the other charges, Pena is still facing a possible life sentence.

These victims need justice. Cops or civilians need to do their time for a crime that causes severe lifelong psychological damage to its victims.

Let's figure out a way to deliver.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Male Privilege

For those men who think sexism is dead. For those who think feminism should've ended with the Suffrage Movement. For those who just don't see the big deal.

If you can walk down the street at night and not feel compelled to cross to the opposite sidewalk when you see a member of the opposite sex walking towards you, or someone walking behind you...that is male privilege.

If you can walk down the street without fear of harassment, without people hitting on you, and cursing you out when you ignore them...that is male privilege.

If you can pick someone up at a bar, and return to their place without fear of being raped, or without being verbally or physically coerced into sexual acts you don't want...that is male privilege.

If you can speak your mind without someone calling you a derogatory term, crazy, or if you can speak your mind and be taken seriously...that is male privilege.

If you can feel comfortable exercising your sexuality, in any way, in any manner, with however many people you want, without being publicly shamed...that is male privilege.

If you are not expected to wear clothes that are uncomfortable, and cause damage to your back and joints...that is male privilege.

If the advertisements you see don't depict your gender in hyper sexualized, photoshopped, unrealistic ways...that is male privilege.

If your intelligence is not called into question based on the color of your hair...that is male privilege.

To say that feminism is dead, or that there is no further equality to be had, or that feminists are looking for the upperhand, or just reasons to hate men, is false. Women are not treated equally, for all the reasons listed above, and more. Men continue to have the upper hand in virtually every aspect of life, and until women can feel comfortable in our own culture, the feminist movement will be alive and kicking.

I want to go out and not wear makeup or heels. I want to be able to walk around at night and not be fearful of that random male, regardless of age or race or attire. I want to walk around without be harassed by men on the street. I want to feel comfortable going to a guy's house, without fear of being raped, and called a liar when I try to press charges. I want my actions in the bedroom to be private, but, should they become public, I want the person who released private information to be shamed, not me. I want to see ads that show women of all sizes with their clothes on in stances that are appropriate for the item they are advertising. I want to call people out on their bullshit without being called crazy, or accused of just "PMSing." And I want to be blonde without people assuming I'm a ditz because of it.

I want to be as free as a man. And until that happens, I will keep fighting.

And there will be resistance, because no one likes to see a woman step out of place.

“Equality is not a concept. It's not something we should be striving for. It's a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who's confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”
― Joss Whedon (Producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Open up any newspaper or turn on any news station and you're guaranteed to see something about Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17 year old child who was shot and killed by a cop-wannabe neighborhood patrolman the night of February 26. The country is rightly outraged that the man responsible - the man who pulled the trigger of the gun that released the bullet that killed a defenseless boy - was not immediately arrested.

Trayvon should have been safe walking to and from a store to pick up skittles and a soda, regardless of dress or time of day. Everyone is so well aware of this right to safety that no one has questioned his decisions.

Yes, he was alone. Yes, it was night. Yes, he was wearing a hoodie. But only one man has tried to claim that the boy even partially deserves the blame for his own death because of his choices.

And the public is, again, rightly outraged. How can you tell someone that they shouldn't wear hoodies at night, lest the be deemed suspicious? Who cares what he was wearing? A young man is dead because a crazed man decided he couldn't control himself in the face of such an obvious threat to the neighborhood as a man in a hooded sweatshirt.

If you read the comments on the article I linked to, you'll see that everyone is appalled that someone would even suggest his clothing had anything to do with his murder.

STANCHAZ says "Mr. Rivera: you should be ashamed of your inane, insensitive comments, and your attempts to create "excuses" for the inexcusable actions of[...]Zimmerman."

ANTLIVE says "so what if the kid wore a hoodie, now sweaters are illegal? ill tell you what, your mustache makes you look like a 70's porno actor, so should someone shoot you? appearance doesn't make the person, its the people who judge with the quickness."

SUZANMONTANA: "Sounds like Geraldo has been crushing his skittles and snorting them. Thats the craziest thing....Trayvon did nothing wrong."

No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. No matter their clothing choice. No matter the time of day or night at which they were out. No matter the gender or race.

Victim blaming solves nothing. Prevents nothing. Rest in Peace Trayvon.

The only thing responsible for his death is George Zimmerman.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why, People, Just Why?

(In response to a question asked by MTV's The Challenge "Have questions for Johnny or Mark? Here's your chance to ask 'em. We're gonna grab the best fan questions and ask them during The Challenge after show."

I'm not sure what bothers me more. The fact that someone would actually post this comment, or the fact that the two "likes" are from females.

Why couldn't he just ask who Johnny would want to have sex with? Why did he have to make the question involve a violent crime? Why is rape considered an appropriate crime to promote? AND WHY HASN'T MTV DELETED IT?!

There isn't much to say. It makes me sick.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Marriage vs Committment

One thing I will never understand is women's obsession with marriage. Well that's not entirely true - I mean, I certainly think about my future wedding. But what I want most in my wedding, is the man I can spend the rest of my life with. The details are really irrelevant.

The average age of a person's first divorce is 30. The average first (and second) marriage lasts 7 years. Yet, despite these disappointing statistics, women are still putting a wedding ahead of love. Take Jennifer Aniston in "He's Just Not That Into You" - she breaks it off with Ben Affleck after 7 years because he never wants to get married, or Phoebe from Friends, when she breaks up wtih Mike for the same reason. Even Monica almost broke up with Chandler when she thought he would never marry her (And if you know all those endings, then I know what you're thinking, so...) My ex boyfriend had an ex who pressured him for marriage and when he never caved, she left him after 5 years and married someone else.

When was the last time you heard about a man leaving his girlfriend because she doesn't want to get married? Either in real life or otherwise? Why are women still putting such a high priority on a wedding? On what amounts to a piece of paper stating a lifelong commitment, followed by a big expensive party?

Why can't people see the logical fallacy involved in leaving the man you want to spend the rest of your life with, so you can have a wedding? Women are literally willing to lose the love of their life in favor of materialism!

The most important aspect of a wedding is the love between the bride and groom. And that love will be there with or without a wedding. More than half of all marriages end in divorce, and yet, still, women are putting the pressure on themselves, and on their SO's to partake in an expensive probably-not-once-in-a-lifetime event.

Where does this start? The pressure to get married? It's not even the pressure to meet the "prince charming;" it's the actual white dress vows ring cake affair that we're pressured to have.

I'll be more than happy to settle for that prince charming (and a nice diamond ring). And if I had to choose between the man I want to spend the rest of my life with or that ring, I'd undoubtedly choose the man. Because I'd want the same from him.

What are we saying to the man we love when we tell them a wedding is more important than them? Is this the most pressing issue facing women today? Not by a longshot, but I think it's important for everyone to focus on the truly essential things in life.

And what's more important than love?

If there's anything, it sure as hell isn't a wedding.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Self Deprecation

I went to a hockey game last night with a small group of quite fun people. The group sitting just behind us was also a funny, energetic, hockey-loving bunch, that helped fuel my intrigue in the game.

Unfortunately, there was the token girl who was trying to hard to hang with the guys. Inevitably, that requires self-deprecation. Not just self, though - it's one thing to make fun of one's own person, but don't bring the whole gender down with you.

"I had a lot of problems with Verizon because, well, I'm a girl (haha!), so I'm like always dropping my phone..."

HAHA! Isn't it like so hilarious how clumsy and incapable of taking care of electronics women are? I'm sure the guys she was with had so much more respect for her, and women in general, after that comment.

How often do you hear men talk like that? "As a man..." or "since I'm a man..." or other similar phrases, if used at all, or used in conjunction with pride. Women seem to have missed that memo.

We equate any inadequacies, perceived or actual, to our gender. And publicly. Because women don't have enough obstacles to overcome, so it's good that anytime we talk about our flaws, we make sure to mention that it's standard practice for the female half of the species to have such imperfections.

I wanted to say something to that woman. About how, as a woman, I rarely, if ever drop my phone, and only once had any problems with my phone. In 10 years.

And, that, as a woman, it offends me that she would talk about my gender in that way. That if she is clumsy and can't take care of her own expensive electronics, then that is her problem, not women's. But, admittedly, I didn't.

I wonder if it would have made a difference. I pick my battles, and a sports arena during a close game is not the best venue.

I have my flaws, but those are my flaws, that I alone am responsible for. That I alone can strive to change. Attributing imperfections to the fault of women everywhere serves to help keep a patriarchy in place. How can we ask men to respect women when clearly, we aren't even respecting ourselves?

Being a woman does not mean being clumsy, or dumb, or a bad driver, anymore than it means we have to clean and cook and be Suzy Homemaker.

So, to the woman who sat behind me at last night's Rangers game, please show some pride in your gender. Some respect for what it means to be a woman. There is no need to belittle women, especially in a culture designed to tear us down.

Stand tall, strong, and proud. Because that's what it means to be a woman.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nothing to do with Feminism

One of my good friends from high school co-wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the failing War on Drugs.

Tony Bennett Is Right That Legalizing Drugs Would Save Lives

"First it was Michael Jackson, then it was Amy Winehouse and now the magnificent Whitney Houston. I'd like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs. So they have to get it through a doctor, not just some gangsters that sell it under the table."

That's what Tony Bennett said at a pre-Grammy Awards party on Saturday night, shortly after learning of the tragic death of Whitney Houston, and he's exactly right. One of us (Neill) is a former police officer who fought -- and lost friends -- on the front lines of the failed "war on drugs." One of us (Katharine) learned about the commonality of human pain in another difficult way, spending two years in a residential facility ("rehab"). She wasn't there for drugs, but many of those struggling alongside her were.

Continue reading HERE

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I realize the Super Bowl was a little bit ago but bear with the tardiness.

I'm sure every woman remembers the H&M ad with David Beckham. Let's be honest, the man is gorgeous. And when it came on, I'm sure the women I was with at the time were all intrigued. And I'm equally sure all the men were thinking the same thing.

And then one of them said it out loud.

"Every man in here is definitely gonna be hitting the gym tomorrow. We're all looking at ourselves like damn..."

Well men, welcome to the life of a woman. If men really do look at that ad and feel inadequate, well then imagine that on tv, on billboards, in magazines, at bus stops, made you feel that way.

I think the H&M ad was over the top, in that objectification of men is certainly not what people mean when they look for gender equality. But at least he was advertising underwear! If it was for...say, a domain host like, then I'm sure there'd be more confusion over the use of an almost naked man.

The truly odd part about advertising is that it seems companies are marketing to the wrong gender. Victoria's Secret ads have gone so far as to show completely naked women in their ads. Assuming heterosexuality (since that is the majority), men will be more intrigued than women towards these ads. The people who would actually be the consumers aren't even shown the product!

How are naked women supposed to garner female customers?

Likewise, how is the image of a naked David Beckham supposed to entice male customers? Can't we all just agree that the objectification of PEOPLE, male or female, is not only inappropriate, but seriously poor marketing.

Everyday women are bombarded with images of scantily clad models....models who despite having ideal (per societal standards) bodies, are further photoshopped to look even thinner, younger, taller. These images are used to advertise everything from diet pills to shoes to vodka to cars.

I'm, in some respect, glad that the H&M ad made men feel uncomfortable. I just hope they realize that that feeling is the norm for half the population. I hope men notice the images of women a little more, and not in the way they have been, but through the eyes of a woman. And I truly hope that the comparable images of men are not going to become the norm.

Take a look around, men. It shouldn't take the objectification of a man to turn the light on.

Seriously, companies just need to hire better marketing personnel.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

MTV Finally Caught On

I am an avid MTV Reality Show Watcher. As much as people love to make fun of Teen Mom (1 and 2), Jersey Shore, Real World, and the Challenges, I watch all of them. Every week. Especially the Challenges.

Teen Mom inevitably shows domestic violence, and prefaces and ends each episode with a help line for those viewers who may be suffering also. Jersey Shore exemplifies the worst of young adults with their excessive binge drinking and sexcapades. And Real World and the Challenges are infamous for the sexual harassment. Both the show and the challenge have the same set of rules for castmates. No drugs, no violence. Committing either sin is automatic exile from the show (although you're still in the pool for later challenges). At least one rape occurred on air (behind bathroom doors), and one still alleged sexual assault apparently on camera, though never aired.

And that second instance, after the victim filed a lawsuit, I guess MTV got nervous. Originally their contract for any show states that non consenual touching resulting in STD's or pregnancy may occur and MTV is not liable (although apparently should you actually become pregnant due to consensual or nonconsenual sex, you're automatically kicked off the show). So really even if Tonya's telling the truth, she'll have a hard time winning, having signed that contract.

Nobody likes bad publicity. Not even MTV who can call every claim baseless, and show the contract everyone willingly signed to not sue over sexual harassment or assault. So now it seems the rules have changed.

Last night, on the Challenge, MTV sent all the castmates to a club (as often they do to stir up drama), and lo, an incident happened. Honestly, all I saw was Mandi dancing, and then a black box covering her breast that had apparently popped out. Turns out a cast member named Vinny had untied the back of her shirt, to make the whole thing drop. Vinny never denied doing this, and while he worried he'd get kicked off the show, that was the closest he came to seeming apologetic about it.

He voted Mandi into the elimination duel the next night.

But enough about what an asshole he is, I honestly didn't expect him to leave. While I don't remember an exactly similar incident in previous seasons, I'm almost certain there have been enough sexist talk and bikinis coming off, and grabbing, that I'm sure things at least that bad have happened on the show. So when Vinny expressed his anxiety about leaving to Mark, Mark agreed MTV doesn't allow it.

WHAT?! Since when?? Not to say I'm not happy about it, I am, of course, but happily surprised that indeed, Vinny was kicked off the show (still without apology). Goodbye, and Good Riddance.

More importantly, Hello. To MTV's apparently new zero tolerance policy to sexual harassment (and presumably, hopefully, assault). Although they've never been good at sticking to past precedents, I do believe this is a big step in the right direction for the network. Physical abuse and substance abuse have long been punished; finally MTV is recognizing that sexual abuse is equally the network, and more importantly, the cast.

By MTV now recognizing this as grounds for dismissal, it makes it more likely that the viewers (I'll admit most of them are young and impressionable) will see it as something dangerous. Something to avoid. For right now, I'm not concerned with the rationale involved in young boys when they decide not to rip the shirt off a girl. For now, I don't need them to be thinking about how they need to respect women. Right now, I just want it to end.

And finally, MTV is helping to do just that.

End Sexual Harassment.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Unpopularity of "Feminism"

"5. Much like scientists think creationists are lazy-minded, women aren't keen on men who make sweeping generalisations about our "mysteriousness". It's one thing to say that you have trouble understanding particular women you interact with, or to admit that you find romantic relationships challenging. But to say that we are all a mystery could be taken as someone positioning himself to dismiss and marginalise us; to imply that our opinions and ideas don't matter because we're intrinsically inexplicable. And that would be a disgrace. In future, if you are going to make a sweeping generalisation about women, try phrasing the sentence with the word "people" in place of "women". Does it make you sound daft? Maybe a little bigoted? It's OK. Few experiments work the first time."

(from Top tips on women for Stephen Hawking)

The context is that Stephen Hawking, one of the smartest people on the planet, who knows...well basically everything there is to know about the universe, said the last mystery he would like to unravel is understanding women.

Apparently that's an insult of the worst kind. There's a reason why so many women, who align their ideals and beliefs with the feminist movement do not label themselves as such. And it's because so many women who DO label themselves, are loudly offended by anything, and everything, men say or do. Which, oddly, annoys the rest of us.

I first saw this article posted on the Miss Representation Facebook page, and the comments at least, as a whole, give me confidence. I hope that other people see that the "feminists" who get enraged everytime someone mentions women at all are the minority.

Pam Ross: Wow[...]This kind of hypersensitivity is the very thing that stops me from referring to myself as a feminist. It's this kind of argument that causes the separation, dismissal and marginalization of feminists -- this petty, bloody-mindedly pedantic cry-babyism. So infuriating.

But my personal favorite was
Laura Lee: HER reaction proves HIS statement--he says "I'm confused about you" she hears "you're difficult and unimportant"

Ain't that the truth?

Clearly, we ARE a mystery. I don't even understand us half the time. And I certainly don't find that to be insulting. I think men are confusing also. They don't find that to be offensive. Causing problems based on such a simple comment only serves to reinforce the stereotype that women are overly sensitive and can (and will) make a mountain out of a molehill (or in this case, an anthill).

Men and women are entirely different creatures, who somehow manage to come together to procreate. Our bodies are different AND our brains are different. It is certainly not sexist to call out these differences, provided they are not rendering either gender subservient. The term "mysterious" does not denote marginalization.

If we're all going to be on the same team, we need to work together. We need to LAUGH together.

And finally,

As Tracey Mac commented, "Interpreting vague comments in an offensive manner is looking to be offended, which is what a lot of feminists do and accordingly why they get a bad rep. We need to focus on shit that actually matters otherwise it's just zealotry and credibility is lost."