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Krakauer Speaks at Forum to Address Sexual Assault

In the wake of the campus rape problem in Missoula that made national headlines and drew attention to the wide spread issue of campus/acquaintance rape occurring across America, Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven, wrote a meticulously researched and analyzed book titled: “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.” And tonight, Krakauer held a forum to create a discussion about sexual assault and how rape is handled by the justice system, particularly in Missoula, but also across the nation.

He made it very clear there would be no signing of his book, it was strictly a forum to address the subject of the book; to address sexual assault and questions from the community. He spoke eloquently and directly about the problem and how it is so frequently mishandled. I tried to attend the forum but an hour before the event even started, all 500 seats had been taken. Hundreds, like me, were trying to get into the event to hear him speak on the pervasive issue, but there weren’t enough seats.

So instead, my friend being the activist and grassroots organizer she is, gathered her contacts and network and created an event within 20 minutes where the forum was live streamed at a local bar. The video was jolty and sometimes cut out because the local station probably isn’t used to that much traffic all at once, but a huge group of people turned out at the bar to hear Krakauer speak. I am thrilled that he has taken on this issue.

This is a huge turning point in our history. People are coming to understand the pervasive problem of rape culture and how horrendously it affects its victims. (For one, trauma changes brain chemistry.)Here we have a small community turning out in droves to address the rife problem of rape and the mishandling of rape in the justice system. Throughout the forum, his words about the gravity of assault and the need to change how our justice system reacts to it, was met with tremendous applause.

One of the things that stood out to me the most was this:

There is such a small number of people who lie about being raped that the number of rapists who go free far outweighs anyone who lies about it. This is contrary to common misconception. That means, absolute majority of rapists go free. And those findings are only based on the victims who do come forward. An overwhelming majority of victims stay silent because they are afraid they won’t be taken seriously. And because they don’t want to relive the trauma.

In the forum (and in his book) he discusses a study that was thoroughly conducted that discovered rapists will rape, on average, six women. That means, he stated, that if a victim steps forward, police and authorities need to take that very seriously (and it would be in the polices best interest to do so) in order to prevent further rapes from happening.

The big picture is this: This book draws attention to a very horrific, and pervasive problem that needs to be addressed. If Missoula takes a hit for it, so be it. Victims lives matter too much for this issue to be swept under the rug anymore.

photo 3 Follow up: The footage I didn’t get to see due to the cutting-out internet connection is best summed up by this paragraph from an article by the guardian: “A Missoula audience gave the bestselling author of a book about the city’s mishandling of rape cases a standing ovation and then booed a heckler who had elbowed his way to the stage…” You can read the full article here.

Two Seemingly Iddy-Bitty Inequalities That Take Their Tole (And What To Do)

1.) At my job tutoring at an elementary school, I find well-intentioned people constantly commenting on little girls clothing or appearance. It’s teaching them at a very young age that their value lies in their appearance. In one particular instance, one of the girls I had just finished a tutoring session with, exclaimed to one of my co-workers, “I just spelled a bunch of words!” My co-workers response was, “Oh! I love your dress! It’s so pretty.” The young girls smile evaporated and she looked down at her dress. I wanted to yell, “She was just telling you something she DID! Not how she LOOKS.” She was so excited and that excitement turned to confusion. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional appearance compliment, but when it makes up such a huge part of what people are seemingly valuing about them, it takes it’s tole. As Lisa Bloom points out in her article from the Huffington Post,

“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.”

The unhappiness Bloom is referring to is the rising rates of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and lowered rates of self-esteem in women that hinder achievements and progress that everyone could be benefiting from. And it starts at a young age.

On the flip side, little girls start conversations about their clothes or their make-up, or their new jewelry or accessory by themselves sometimes. Some of it is just because they perhaps like that kind of thing, and that’s fine. But much of it is coming from us who are reinforcing this idea that how they look is of the largest value and importance, above what they’re actually doing. When the kiddos start conversations like that I say, “Oh that’s nice. And how were swimming lessons yesterday?!” And switch it to something they’re proud of doing; Something they have an opinion about or an activity that sparks their interest. Nine times out of ten their enthusiasm increases and they are engaged in telling me something.

2.) At my other job, I discovered the best response to a customer making crude and/or sexist comments to me while I ring up their groceries. Luckily I’ve only had a couple of men who have done this. (An example is the time this guy looked me up and down and said those hip huggers look real nice on you while he stared at my crotch.) Side note, it’s usually much older men hitting on me, which is a problem in itself. I could be the mans daughter or granddaughter. How do these guys not realize those kind of comments are unwanted? Several of my co-workers, female and male, have talked about how inappropriate that is and how uncomfortable it makes women in general: How it especially throws you off your guard at work, with no place to go, having to be polite at your job. So here’s what I said to a particular customer who is notorious for making female employees uncomfortable.

“Oh, you know, I actually don’t appreciate those kind of comments, especially in my work space.”

He didn’t say anything but seemed taken aback. Since then, I haven’t had to deal with him coming through my line again.

 

Source

Bloom, Lisa. “How to Talk to Girls”. Huffington Post, 2011, web April 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html 

A Window into the Political Debate Over Women’s Reproductive Health

Anybody else a little frustrated with what’s been going on in politics for the past several years? Recently, Idaho Lawmaker Vito Barbieri, asked if women can just swallow a camera for a vaginal exam. Ummmmm, Vito, in case you weren’t paying attention in Basic Human Anatomy Class, the vagina is not connected to the stomach or intestines. And last year,  Republican Lawrence Lockman of Maine said, “If a woman has [the right to an abortion], why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t [in most cases] result in anyone’s death.” Yep, he really said that. And yes, he is someone who has the ability to pass laws that impact our lives and bodies.

When are we going to put a stop to this idiotic politics that threatens the integrity and health of women?

Oh, but he apologized, so it’s ok. And let’s not forget former Representative of Missouri Todd Akin, not understanding basic female anatomy either, who had this to say in regards to pregnancy as a result of rape. “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” Nope, not true dude. And people like this are still in office making laws about the female body.

Let’s check out this now-famous photo from 2012: Below is the group of people appointed for the GOP panel about birth control and women’s health in 2012. Notice how there isn’t a single woman on the panel discussing women’s health? That should be an obvious problem, but surprisingly, it didn’t occur to them to put a single woman on the panel discussing issues that directly relate to women.

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Photo credit: Think Progress

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that having a buffer zone, an area to protect patients from protestors, around abortion clinics in Massachusetts apparently violates protesters freedom of speech. When a women goes in for an abortion, she often has to walk past a crowd of people berating and humiliating her over a private decision she has made about her own body. Women are frequently in danger, especially if protesters are in close proximity. But now, in Massachusetts where the buffer zone has become almost obsolete, a woman might have to walk past a crowd that looks like this:

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Women are often in danger of being harmed by protesters especially if protesters are in close proximity and if there is no buffer zone. Not to mention the hypocrisy. Gail Collins, author and writer for the NYTimes, pointed out that the supreme court’s decision to allow protesters to stand right next to the clinic entrance where women walk in, is hypocritical.  “…the decision came from people who work in a building where the protesters aren’t allowed within 250 feet of the front door.” So, the decision to allow protesters to berate, humiliate and endanger women at close proximity comes from people who are protected from protesters at a 250 feet distance. 

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Speaking of hypocrisy, if someone is going to call themselves pro-life, wouldn’t you think they’d want to support the living? Although I find George Carlin a little annoying, I have to admit, he stated it well:

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Across the country, politicians and people are trying to get bills passed that would corrode access to abortions services. One such bill in Montana just a few weeks ago was introduced. Brittany Salley-Rains, outreach and education coordinator at Blue Mountain Family Clinic said this about the bill. “Let’s be honest about the intentions of HB 479. This bill is masquerading as a compassionate effort to prevent pain and suffering, when in fact it would create it for women in Montana.”

People are still trying to get personhood bills passed into law; bills that say life begins at fertilization, which would not only outlaw abortion but it could also outlaw birth control, plan b, and have other ramifications. Ted Cruz, the man who is, oh, I don’t know, running for president, is one person who supports personhood amendments, not to mention is against abortion for victims of rape and incest. (Just a side note, he also was one of the main people responsible for the government shutdown in 2013 that cost our economy $24 billion dollars. Thankssss a lot Ted Cruz.) Gail Collins, breaks it down what personhood means. “Personhood is an anti-abortion movement that holds that life begins at conception, giving fertilized eggs all the rights of a human being.”

I don’t think a fertilized egg should ever take precedence over the currently-living woman with human rights of her own. And I don’t think someone has the right to impose their beliefs on another person, especially when it means taking away their bodily rights and forcing them into motherhood. And I’m not alone in my thinking. 54 percent of people under 40 think abortion should be legal.  To be pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion. It means you’re pro-safety net and pro-human rights.

Although I really do get that people who call themselves pro-life are trying to come from a place of compassion, what they end up doing is harming currently living people and children. Like a 13 year old who gets pregnant and cannot support herself or another living thing. What about her life? Ideally, a girl wouldn’t get pregnant in the first place at such a young age if she wasn’t ready, and that’s exactly why we need methods of contraception and progressive sex education which are proven ways to prevent abortion, something most people who are anti-choice are ironically against.

Let’s not forget; abortion is an issue about an already living human being. It is about the woman herself who is already breathing and living and has human rights of her own. Human rights, like the right to make decisions about her own body and life. A woman is not an oven or an incubator. She has rights over her life. As justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human…” If I could hold a sign in front of protesters who protest abortion, it would say this:

Women’s lives matter. 

Sources:

Baumann, Lisa. “Lawmakers Weigh Bill to Increase Abortion Regulations” March 2015. Web. 2015. http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/lawmakers-weigh-bill-to-increase-abortion-regulations/article_bacd7564-bbc8-50cd-b5f2-26e5210b77ec.html

Chapin, Laura. “A Race to the Bottom on Women’s Rights: Ted Cruz’s 2016 bid epitomizes the GOP’s new abortion extremism” U.S. News. March 2015. Web 2015.  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/laura-chapin/2015/03/23/ted-cruz-ignites-2016-race-to-the-bottom-on-abortion-and-womens-health 

Collins, Gail. “The Eggs and Us: The Abortion Wars Rage On”. Nytimes. June 2014. Web. March 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/28/opinion/gail-collins-the-eggs-and-us.html

Johnson, Luke “Shutdown Cost $24 billion, Standard and Poor Says”. Huffington Post. Oct 2013. Web. March 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/government-shutdown-cost_n_4110818.html

Lauchman, Samantha. “Republican Lawmaker Apologizes for Saying Men Should be Able to Rape Women if Abortion is Legal”. Feb 2014. Web. March 2015.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/28/lawrence-lockman-rape-_n_4874586.html

Moore, Lori. “Rep. Todd Akin: The Statement and Reaction” Nytimes. Aug. 2012. Web. March 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/rep-todd-akin-legitimate-rape-statement-and-reaction.html 

Purple, Matt. “Under 40 Poll: Young People Are Still Pro-Choice” Sept. 2014. Web. 2015. http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/national/under-40-poll-young-people-are-still-pro-choice/nhP5y/#__federated=1

Silverstein, Jason. “Idaho Lawmaker Asks If Women can Swallow Cameras for Gynecology Exams, Question Goes Viral” Feb 2015. Web. March 2015. www.nydailynews.com/news/national/idaho-pol-asks-women-swallow-cameras-gynecology-article-1.2127025

Wittes, Benjamin. “Confirmation Wars: Preserving Inependent Courts in Angry Times” July 2009. Web. March 2015. 

Uncomfortable Encounter Turns Uplifting

What at first was an uncomfortable encounter ended up being an uplifting situation. So, this 50 something guy came through my line at the local grocery store where i’m a cashier. He started hitting on me, fiercely. When older men hit on me, it’s not a compliment, it makes me feel unsafe and insecure. When guys hit on me in a disrespectful way, I feel like I’ve been knocked down a peg, reduced to my body and it’s not a great feeling. So the guy put the merchandise on the conveyor belt, looked me up and down and glanced at my name tag, glomming onto some topic to chat me up about.

“Julia. Ya know, the Beatles have a song about you.” And he proceeded to sing quietly to me under his breath and then said “That’s a nice song, don’t you think?”

I just tried being professional throughout his attempts to flirt with me and tried not to make much eye contact. The singing could have been kind of funny if it weren’t coming from someone who had me trapped at my workplace and from someone eyeing me sexually.

Luckily, the encounter was brief but as he turned to leave he gave me one more look up and down and said “Wow, you’re looking real nice in those hip-huggers.”

Just a little comment; enough to make me feel vulnerable and enough to jab at my comfort and security. First of all, hip huggers? The phrase definitely told his age, but it was also a way for him to comment on a part of my body.

And I’m sorry to say, I think I had the classic response which was to look away and say, “thanks” uncomfortably.

I tried to shrug it off like no big deal, but damn: It made me really uncomfortable. But what made the situation uplifting was when I was counting my till in the count-down room and mentioned it off handedly to my co-workers, who were immediately appalled.

“What?!” One of them said, a nice guy who’s expecting a baby with his wife. “You can report him you know.”

And then one of my managers over heard our conversation as he was walking out the door and took a step back and said “What happened?” When I told him, he took it very seriously and encouraged me to call a manager over next time so one of them can pull the guy aside and tell him that kind of behavior isn’t tolerated at the Good Food Store.

The fact that they were all taking it so seriously and that my manager was making sure to put his female-employee’s comfort at the top of the totem poll was very encouraging. I felt rejuvenated. Yeah! it did make me feel like shit, and people shouldn’t be permitted to objectify others and make them feel unsafe. Other grocery stores would probably be inclined to say something along the lines of, “Well forget about it, he’s a paying customer” and put the customers demeaning persona ahead of the well-intentioned workers. But, not where I work!

At first, my posture slumped after the encounter and I felt demeaned, but after talking to my co-workers and manager, I felt empowered and more secure in the place of my work, knowing that they have my back and won’t allow creepers to be creepin’. I don’t deserve such creepy disrespect and neither do other people.

What would you say to someone who was inappropriately hitting on you at work?

 

Women’s Rights: What’s the Big Whoop? Part Two.

So women’s rights: What’s the big whoop in the U.S? I mean, don’t women already have all the rights they need? Short answer is nope. Things are pretty great for us here, but there are a lot of shortcomings too. When young girls are starving themselves to worship the unattainable “ideal” skinny body, something’s not right. When our society is shaming women for their sexual encounters and is perpetuating a culture that has become known as rape culture, we have a problem. When women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work… hmm, that’s an issue. When laws are still getting passed trying to say what women can and cannot do with their own bodies (like forcing them to be mothers) we have a problem. This is scary stuff happening in our own country. We’re talking about women’s basic human rights being chipped away. And the United States is the main role model for the rest of the world. Think about the implications of that.

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As I sit here writing this in the Barnes and Noble café, there is a mural of 11 famous writers and not one of them is a woman and only one is not white. There are plenty of great women writers (and non-white writers) that could be up there such as Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird or Jane Austen or Maya Angelou. But for whatever reason, this bookstore has no example of good female writers. It’s just one more example of the world we are surrounded by that hardly ever acknowledges the awesomeness of women. In a course I took in college, one of the theorists we studied had a good analogy for the subtle difficulties and discriminations that women face day to day. Sure, there are no female writers depicted in this mural. No big deal right? And sure, everything on TV represents women with having no interesting qualities except a hyper-sexualized body. No big deal right? And little girls play with big-boobed, skinny, white women barbies and cooking tools since there are few other options available. No big deal right? And there are way more derogatory terms in language to depict women than men and a plethora of words to put women down, but that’s big deal right? Well the analogy is this: A bird is not caged by one wire, but it is the multiplicity of wires that surrounds and encages the bird. Meaning, little things really add up.

I’m just so glad people world-wide are starting to take action, big and small. Women and men are standing up for women’s rights and saying things like, “look how messed up the media is.” Generally, I think people are becoming more aware of the issues. People are beginning to wake up and it is friggin’ exciting.