Saturday, May 18, 2013

Love, not Lust

When women fight for the right to wear revealing clothes without being harassed, people invariably say that men are visual and sexual creatures. That if a woman wants to wear low cut shirts, or short skirts, that's totally fine, but they should expect a certain amount of ogling, of men staring at their breasts, and are even, perhaps, inviting a certain amount of touching. A woman who chooses to wear revealing clothing is also choosing a certain level of harassment.

If she doesn't want the attention, she shouldn't be putting it on display. After all, sexual attraction is the most innate of animal behavior and what are humans, but highly developed animals?

What this fails to consider are the myriad cultures throughout the world in which women and men both freely walk around almost entirely nude. The Matis, Matses-Mayoruna, Huaorani, etcare all cultures in which the women routinely go topless, and both men and women have minimal clothing to cover their bottom.

Somehow, they seem to manage just fine. The men in these cultures do not spend their days staring at the chests of the women. They are perfectly capable of not raping every one they come across. Even the men and women who travel to these areas for research manage to keep their eyes and hands appropriately placed.

So the idea that it is "human nature" to stare at a woman's breasts, or to actively steer vision and thoughts elsewhere when confronted with a naked woman, is patently false. It is not the plight of man to be inexorably drawn to these "dirtypillows". It is, in fact, a facet of our culture, our society, not our species.

And it can, therefore, be changed. Women have no reason to not wear whatever it is they desire. Low cut shirts, high rise skirts. It should not be acceptable behavior to ask women to alter themselves in any way in order to squelch their own objectification. Rather, we should be instilling in our men a respect for women that can transcend their need to stare.

So don't tell me that a cheerleading skirt is too distracting or that even looking like women's breasts is obscene. Don't tell me that men can't help themselves, and don't tell me that women invite the attention. Don't tell me that it is a woman's own fault for not covering up.

It wasn't too long ago right here in America that women who dared to wear pants were inviting harassment. Women in bathing suits at the beach even had their own area to avoid men's stares. In other cultures currently, women need to have their faces and bodies covered up at all times, lest men be overcome with lust. Many find this ridiculous now.

So, in the past century, men have managed to reduce their lusting enough that women are free to swim in public without harassment. We can show off ankles and shoulders. Hell, even bikinis are acceptable in certain areas!

Why not take this even further? Men can certainly control their lust even more. The objectification of women is no more an innate behavior than the preference for bacon. It is simply a product of our culture.

So don't sell yourself short, men. You are capable of wonderful things. You walked on the moon! You can absolutely learn to love, not lust.

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 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.