America’s Next Bill Clinton!


America’s rape culture

As many of you know, I’ve been feverishly working on a “gray rape” project for class this semester, and the more research I do, the more I get disappointed with human beings.

Let’s suppose a web-site or company advocates and eroticizes murdering people, you’d have a problem with it, right? Even if it advocated the murders of animals, I am sure you’d all have a problem with it.

There are no web-sites of such …a google search for “murder pictures” shows the first website is an anti-choice website that shows abortion pictures. That’s pathetic, but that’s another story on its own.

But let’s do this: a quick search of “rape pictures” turn up this: http://rapeu.com/ (trigger warnings of all kinds. Please use caution.)

Now, in the US, child pornography is illegal. Even “cyber child pornography,” which denotes photoshopped pictures of legal adults onto the faces of children, is illegal. The law is this way to protect children from being exploited and their lives from being ruined.

Yet, web-sites like these are legal? I absolutely don’t get it. By that logic, a woman is only protected under the law (by this, I mean protection as people and not merely “women”) until she’s 18, and then she’s thrown to the wolves, no longer owns her bodies, and can be the subject of rape? If it makes sense that fake child pornography is illegal because while it does not hurt anyone, it promotes a culture of children exploitation, then why is it that we are okay with promoting a culture of rape?

It’s no wonder people think of rape as a violent act that happens only in the night, committed by some stranger. Rape does not have to involve violence. Just because he says “I love you” after sex without consent does not mean it’s not rape. Just because dude bought you dinner does not mean it’s not rape if you say no.

These websites not only promote violent rape, but they also, at the same time, presuppose the idea of what “rape” actually means. Not only does it decriminalizes non-violent rape, it also eroticizes violent rape.

What does this mean? It means if you’re a woman living in America, your body and sexuality aren’t owned by you. It’s owned by a culture that’s making money promoting your rape, the violations of your bodies, and telling everyone that these are perfectly okay because, after all, they are fantasies.

The more I spend researching and in academia, the more I angry I become. Feminism is supposed to make us more compassionate and loving, but the more of this shit I see, the more pissed off I get.

Maybe I am doing something wrong.



A new take on violence …

It certainly took a lot of time to deconstruct, but I think I can safely say that I’ve come up with the conclusion that violence – no matter how justified, is not a trait belonging to the feminist movement – and that just as we speak out against domestic violence, we must also speak out against all other forms of violence.

I write this because my journey to feminism hasn’t been an easy one – it’s been filled with trials and tribulations – particularly dealing with my tendencies to display violent toward those who I deem misogynistic.

But said thoughts and actions, no matter how well intentioned, still reeked of the patriarchy. As feminism asks males to give up our privileges, we too, must also give up the things that we hold closest to. For me, it was the ability to prove to others that I can overpower them, and can render them powerless.

This idea of masculinity, then, is also a social construct. Just as we are socially constructed to believe men and women ought to behave a certain way, we are also socially constructed to believe that violence is a part of masculinity – that somehow, if one walks away from a fight, or shows a desire for peace, that one isn’t “man” enough.

I was ready to give up other privileges, but somehow, I was still reluctant to give up violence. Somehow, for me, to give up violence meant to give up a part of me – that to give up violence, I would no longer be a man, but rather, an “other.”

To truly give up privileges means we should give up the privileges we are uncomfortable with giving up – not just those we feel like giving up. For me, violence was one of those privileges I did not want to give up. I’ve come to realize that feminism is not meant to make us comfortable. It’s meant to challenge us – the way we think and the way we behave.

Consider this: in speaking out against misogynistic actions and the objectifications of women, we are speaking out against social constructs of what it means to be men. To be consistent with ourselves, we must, too, give up violence.

We have to acknowlege that we are affected by the Hollywood version of what it means to be a human being – what it means to be tough – and what it means to be a man. For most, this means embracing violence.

Just as social constructs have affected women negatively in others ways, they also affect women through violence. By my mere actions of embracing violence, I am sending the message to others that, indeed, violence is acceptable. While all of the violent actions I embraced were gears toward those I believed deserved such violence, through their anti-feminist actions, what I did not realize is those violent actions in themselves, were anti-feminists.

After all, the violent actions I take will only uphold violence – by embracing violence, I only reinforced the idea of what it meant to be a man – and while I won’t be affected, such actions have a domino effect, as it further fuels the violence cycles, and the recipients of said violent actions are women and teenagers, whose minds are still impressionable, and thus the cycle of violence continues.

Being a feminist does not mean we get to pick which forms of violence to reject. The truth is all violence is bad – and by picking and choosing, not only are we being incosistent with our feminist beliefs, it also means we are upholding the very things we are fighting against.

For those who have been so patient with me in my walk closer toward feminism, thank you.



“Are you a feminist?”

I am a journalist for the military – that’s how I make my living. Telling people’s stories is how I earn the money for feminist conferences – and to go to school.

My career has taken me places – both while I was in the military and now – where I’d written stories of young women and men being brought to a dark and hopeless place – war – that many, sadly, never returned.

I’ve written stories that touched lives and made people cry. I’ve written “fluff,” a term used in our circle to describe stories that raise morale and make people happy.

Today, perhaps, I asked the one question that made me proudest – a question that, when I was given the answer, touched me as none other ever did.

March is Women’s History Month – and in keeping with the Department of Defense’s guidelines to celebrate various months of diversity, my employers put together a panel of “successful women,” and in front of their hundreds of collogues, told the stories of how they became successful in a male dominated society.

The one-hour event culminated with a question-and-answer session from the audience. I am in the front row, studiously taking notes. Yet, to my disappointment, not a single soul mentioned the F-word in the one-hour session.

I was appalled because one woman related the following story when asked to relate a “funny” story about a woman living in a male-dominated organization.

“After I was hired, I was told that I was hired because I had the nicest legs out of all 15 candidates,” she said. The audience laughed. I was disgusted.

I raised my hand – it was, after all, a Women’s History Month panel – and to let it go by without addressing feminism – a major, if not single, contributor to the empowerment of women would be a travesty.

“How much do you think your successes are a result of feminism – and would you consider yourself a feminist?” I screamed from my front row seat.

I’ve asked a lot of tough questions in my career – and I didn’t consider this question to be tough. It should have been an easy answer.

Yet, the panel members sat there and stared back. One could almost hear a pin drop were it not for the murmurs of the audience. Apparently, I asked a controversial question.

“I’ll take the question,” said a kind woman on the panel. She is a doctor and a librarian – and we have a certain connection in that she is friends with my professors – and a member and major contributor to the Friends of Women’s Studies program at my school.

She continued: “When I went to the University of Michigan, it was at the height of the Vietnam War. I was raised at home to believe I can do anything I wanted to. I got the same things at Michigan. This was when feminism was at its early stages.

“I believe the actions, writings, commitment and passion of the early feminists opened many fields. I owe my life to feminism, and yes, I am a feminist. But I want you to know feminism isn’t just for women. Not only women should be feminists – but anyone who cares about the betterment of the world and give people opportunity can be a feminist,” she concluded.

It was beautiful. I grinned. In front of the hundreds and hundreds of military personnel, this woman had the courage to stand up and identify herself as a feminist. In front of a patriarchal society in which the word “feminism” is frowned on more than the other F word, she told the world she is a feminist.

Perhaps with her answer, the kind librarian – one who I’ve looked up to for guidance and conversations, changed a few minds. Perhaps she’s made people see that feminism isn’t about men-hating, it isn’t about not shaving your legs, and it isn’t about women taking over in a society.

It’s about women empowerment. It’s about the deconstruction of masculinity. It’s about creating a level playing field so that we may all have the same opportunity.

After the panel, I walked up to her and shook her hand. “Thank you for that answer – you made my day,” I told her.

Perhaps more than making my day, she also made history – in changing the minds of some people – those, who, for too long have had a misconception about feminism.



Elliot Spitzer, prostitutes and feminism.

Yet another politician caught red-handed; yet another media circus talking about infidelity, with “relationship experts” who give women advice of how to “keep their men”; yet, another case of a high-profiled sex worker being harassed day and night because of “weakness” of a politician. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that in cases like these, sex workers are treated like freak shows. Their personal lives at probed; the media camps outside of their homes for days at a time; their pictures splattered all over the Internet. Yet, the focus of the issue, the talk of the town, isn’t about her. It’s not about her plight. It’s about the impact this has on politics.

The issues the matter to people are not Kristen, whose service Elliot Spitzer sought, but rather, Spitzer himself. 

There will be discussions about Spitzer’s hypocrisies; there will be dialogue but how this has an effect on progressive politics; and Republicans and back-stabbing Democrats alike will ask for his resignation. The Republicans will call for Spitzer’s resignation because having sex outside of marriage, with a sex worker, at that, is “immoral.”

Yet, they don’t realize the immoral thing here is to ignore the dialogue about sex workers, and what brought them to become high-priced prostitutes. There is a victim to every story. In this case, Kristen is the victim – someone who, because of the failures of an andro-centric society, became just a part of the system.

She left home at 17, became a dancer, and eventually turned into a sex worker.  Yet, her story isn’t told. The lives of sex workers aren’t explored. That politicians are exploiting the plights of the very people they’re supposed to be fighting for isn’t talked about.  

Yes, her face will be splashed across your newspapers and internet sites. She will receive millions of hits on her myspace page. She will become an instant celebrity overnight – but no matter how you slice it, the media’s treatment of her is similar to the treatment of an object – a show. She’s something to be taken pictures of, examined and probed. Her story will never be told. Her voice will more than likely not be heard. What questions she is asked by the media won’t be about what brought her to doing sex work, or the lives and conditions of sex workers, but rather, her interactions with Spitzer. Unimportant questions to unimportant issues.
 

Isn’t it time we change the dialogue? Isn’t it time we put women’s issues first? Isn’t it time we give voices to women – even if said woman is “just a 22-year-old prostitute?” 

When we give something a voice, we give it power; we give its stories values; we bring forth the experiences from the viewpoints of the subjugated. Let’s give this woman a voice.

Let’s tell stories from her experiences. Let’s focus on the real victim here. Until we do, until we bring her story to light, it’ll be the same old shit again. Patriarchy. Aren’t we sick and tired of that?