A Wing & A Prayer

So much has gone on in June I can’t even keep up with my emails, let alone blog to you about all of it. But, while watching a female fan of Costa Rica sob in the stands of the World Cup after Greece scored, it struck me that many of you don’t know the grizzly truth behind the World Cup, and many other high-stakes sporting events: they’re hotbeds of domestic violence and sex trafficking. There are certainly a number of programs and organizations that are seeking to utilize sports to spread peace, but the current state of affairs is a sad one for victims of interpersonal violence.

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Back in 2011 a study was published, Beware, win or lose: Domestic violence and the World Cup, and its findings were shocking. When England lost in the 2010 World Cup domestic violence rates rose by 31.5%, and when they won, they rose by 27.7%. But no one seemed to notice this study, so Lancaster University completed a similar study, and found similar numbers. After analyzing the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups, rates of domestic violence in England rose by 38% when the national team lost, and by 26% when they won. These figures prompted English police to issue warnings to high-risk offenders of domestic violence leading up to the World Cup and lead Tender to create this chilling PSA.  With the World Cup raging on another two weeks, gun violence rampant in the US, and minor celebrities like Robin Thicke stalking his estranged wife on the most public of scales, what I ask of you is to pray to #GetHerBack to safety. All people – regardless of gender/identity, sexual orientation, age, race, religion, dis/ability, language, class, education or location – deserve to be treated with respect in their relationships. Period.

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So the Wing is the Football/Futbol link, and the Prayer is where you come in, dear reader. What I ask of you is to pray for all survivors of domestic violence, pray for the lovers in Nigeria and Algeria today whose partners lament their teams’ losses, and pray for the lovers in Germany and France whose partners are voracious in their teams’ victories. Pray for all the people in all of the countries who are experiencing domestic violence, and then go act in your community. Donate your time or money or supplies to your local DV shelter. If you hear something that concerns you call the police. This life is all we’ve got, everyone deserves for it to be as safe and long and healthy as possible.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence call 1-800-799-SAFE within the United States 24/7 for help.


Misogynist Mass Shootings

In light of the misogyny fueled murders in Isla Vista, California on May 23rd I wanted to share a paper I wrote for graduate school back in 2011. It’s all still sadly true. Rest In Peace kids.

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Students mourn the loss of life at UCSB

Analyzing Misogyny as a Challenge to Peace

Every year in the United States thousands of people are murdered by someone with a gun. In 2005 alone the number of shooting-related homicides exceeded 10,000.[1]  In 2003 a full 50 percent of women killed in homicides, where the weapon could be identified, were killed by guns, in single female victim/single male attacker scenarios.[2]  In 92 percent of these cases the women murdered knew their attackers. Periodically in the United States a number of women are killed all at one time, by one attacker with multiple guns (or one semi-automatic gun). While faulty gun-control laws and a broken judicial system are certainly challenges to peace, this paper will focus on misogyny as a major obstruction to peace in the USA and the ways in which peace education can combat the hatred of women.

On March 3, 1998 Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, stalked their classmates outside the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas and shot 15 women and girls, killing one teacher and four students.[3]  On September 27, 2006 Duane Roger Morrison, 53, entered Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado and sexually assaulted the six female students he had taken hostage. After releasing four of the hostages Morrison killed one girl and then himself as police rushed in.[4] Five days later, on October 2, 2006 Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, entered a schoolhouse in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, sent the boys and adults out of the room, lined up the remaining 10 girls, aged six-to-13, along the wall and shot them, killing five, before killing himself.[5]  On August 4, 2009 George Sodini, 48, entered the LA Fitness gym in Collier Township, Pennsylvania and shot 12 women, killing three, before turning the gun on himself.[6] This list of heinous hate crimes committed by men and boys from adolescence to middle-age against women and girls does not include the numerous other mass shootings that have taken place in which the perpetrators were men and the victims men and women. Young men in America are taking their anger out by shooting women but there is no public outcry against hatred of women because “we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected.”[7]

With so many incidences of deadly gun violence perpetrated by men in the United States, many people wring their hands wondering what is to be done to prevent such large-scale tragedies from occurring again. The problems faced are complex, and while it may seem easier to label each of the perpetrators of these gruesome crimes as mad men, “the vast majority of homicidal violence is perpetrated by men who have severe disorders of personality or character, but who are not technically ‘insane.’”[8] The non-fatal violence committed against women on an everyday basis–beatings, rape, assault–are individual examples of the overwhelming misogyny drowning American society. Commentators in mainstream media incorrectly identify mass shootings not “as different by degree, but by kind, because unlike most men who commit this kind of hate crime”[9] [domestic violence] the shooters overwhelmingly did not know their victims. In reality the mass shootings of women by men are merely magnified instances of violence against women and “few if any voices in mainstream media have discussed the connection between guns, violence, and American ideals of manhood.”[10] In 2005 alone 1,181 women–an average of more than 98 women per month–were killed by their partners.[11]  As a society, America must do some serious moral revamping if it wants to abolish its culture of misogynistic mass shootings and violence against women. To end the structural violence of misogyny, many institutions will have to undergo massive shifts in thinking, including the education system, the legislative system and the media, among others. This essay will focus on the institution of education.

Misogyny functions within the sexist system of patriarchy in the United States. To clarify, sexism is “systematic discrimination against women. Misogyny is the hatred of women that allows men… to feel entitled to beat women, discriminate against them, and control them. The patriarchy is… the overall system of male dominance that’s aimed at controlling women… and funnel[ing] women into social positions that are in servitude towards men. The patriarchy also has set roles for men, and a pecking order for them.”[12]  These explanations form the reasoning behind many definitions of feminism and are the motivation for the extensive number of gender studies programs cropping up in high schools, universities and graduate schools around the world. While feminism–the belief that all people, regardless of gender/sex/sexual identity/expression/orientation, should be equally valued and have equality of opportunity–is not taught in most schools across the country, strict gender roles that reinforce male superiority over females are. No ideology of hatred or inferiority should be taught in school but they are ingrained elements of the education students receive in the US.

All of the men and boys who have committed mass shootings in the United States were educated by this same institute of patriarchy. “It is impossible to separate those men’s feelings and their chosen response to them from their societal context, which includes how we define manhood, how we socialize boys, and yes, how young men learn – how we as a culture teach them – that blowing people away with guns represents the ultimate assertion of manly resolve, competence, and reclaimed honor.”[13] In the United States education system, in addition to performing poorly in literacy tests, it “is boys who are more likely to quit school early, to be in special education, to have behaviour problems and be suspended or expelled. Boys are far more likely to skip their homework, arrive at school without books or pencils and cause a disturbance that gets them kicked out of class. Boys are more likely to commit suicide or to be arrested.”[14] And boys and men are considerably more likely than girls or women to be the perpetrators of violent crimes like assault, rape, and murder. Given these bleak facts, it is obvious that America’s socialized gender roles are harmful to boys and girls alike, and it is imperative that the education of youth in America be revamped.

“There are many risk factors for violent behavior – family patterns of behavior; violent social environments; negative cultural models or peers; alcohol and/or drug abuse; and availability of weapons. Addressing some of these factors directly in school can inoculate children against risky behaviors.”[15] Peace education is the key not only to ensuring that boys and girls learn the materials taught in school, but also to stamping out misogyny and violence for future generations. In traditional teaching methods, such as the “banking method,” teachers project “an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression….” Within this ideology “the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.”[16] This “us versus them” mentality generally proves to be harmful.  Whenever someone is made to be the “Other” s/he suffers for it. When children are the “Other” they are subjected to the demands and ideas of the teacher – whatever they may be. This method of teaching “serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed.”[17] Because most educators are not aware of their own misogyny it can be very difficult to explain to them how their everyday behavior is supporting systematic sexism and hatred of women.

Due to the fact that most teachers in the United States are from the US, they have been raised in a patriarchal society with the same subvert misogyny that is a root cause of violence against women as the mass murderers. Because their students are “receptacles” they too get filled with not only their teachers’ ideas of proper gender roles (i.e. men are doctors and women are nurses) but also the value judgments placed on each gender (i.e. men are more logical and women are more emotional and their respective positive and negative connotations). “Millions of men in our society – and across the world – use violence against women as a way to control them or punish them for not fulfilling some role the man wants or feels entitled to from her – or from women in general.” When boys learn that society considers them superior to girls, girls must conversely be taught that as far as society is concerned they are inferior to boys. It is imperative then that teachers do everything in their power to teach that every individual, male or female, has equal worth and equal right to bodily integrity, personal opinions, and access to information and services. Social learning theory poses that children learn from observing the behaviors of others and will adopt the behavior if there is significant motive or reward for them to do so. When boys act tough and receive praise from classmates, older students or siblings and parents, this reward is internalized. Similarly when girls are praised for being “so polite and quiet” by teachers and parents they learn that women are supposed to be nice, pleasing, and unobtrusive. To combat the negative affects of strict gender roles teachers should model respect for all people and encourage constructive problem solving. Students should be rewarded regularly by teachers and parents alike for good behavior and recognizing equality in all people. Only when children are rewarded equally for the same types of good behavior will gender differences fade away.

In “many formal schooling systems, the integration of nonviolence principles in policies, programs, curricula and teaching-learning environments has expanded in recent decades. These programs essentially promote values and practices of conflict resolution and violence-prevention to overcome a culture of violence in schools and communities (e.g. bullying; gangs; corporal punishment; assault on teachers).”[18]  This culture of violence can no longer be tolerated by teachers, administrators, students, families and society. In a way that eerily mirrors the adult world, boys perpetrate most of the violence in schools, thus, boys must be educated to deal with their emotions in a healthy, non-violent manner, and be rewarded for articulating their needs and concerns, and solving conflicts through respectful dialogue. Scholastically every child must be taught that all people are of equal intrinsic value. All children must be taught that they have the right to express their feelings and how to deal with conflict in a healthy, non-violent manner. Birgit “Brock-Unte pointed out the devastation that militarism, war and male violence wreaks on females and argued that feminism is the starting point for effective disarmament. She pointed out that societies not at war were not necessarily peaceful societies because they still had considerable domestic violence.” Thus, it is no surprise that feminists have urged “schools to change their curriculum away from a competitive to a caring focus…”[19]to work towards gender equality.

“Greater gender equality will reduce the pressures on men to conform to damaging and rigid forms of masculinity. This is likely to, for example, reduce men’s ‘violences’ (i.e. violence in all its forms), and help to improve community safety and develop peaceful conflict resolution. It will also contribute to raising the next generation of boys (and girls) in a framework of gender equality.”[20] The structural violence of gender inequality is harmful to both men and women but some sectors of the United States are in a process of peacemaking. “Critical education and empowerment of ordinary citizens to be active in the peace-building process has been vital in the successful steps towards building nonviolent societies.”[21]

One important step all educators can take to end misogyny is to mind their and their students’ language. Language that alienates people also dehumanizes them and makes inhumane actions towards them possible and sometimes acceptable. Hopefully at some point the bastardizations in the English language that allow blanket statements to be made about whole populations will disappear (i.e. men are rational). People should hold one another in high enough regard to appreciate everyone’s differences and use terminology that is in no way derogatory, disrespectful or suppresses their individuality. Likewise gender should be brought up when it is appropriate and left out when it is not. In elections across the nation in 2010 female right-wing politicians verbally castrated their male opponents with gendered epithets such as “man up.” “In a country that sees masculinity – especially violent masculinity – as the ideal, it’s no wonder that this type of language resonates. But it’s a sad state of affairs when women in politics have to resort to using the same gendered stereotypes that kept all women out of public service for so long.” In a misogynist patriarchy like the United States the worst insult for anyone is to be feminine or feminized. This leaves women, who are “supposed to” be feminine, between a rock and a dangerous place.

“In discussions about violence, it is more accurate to use gendered words like ‘men’ and ‘boys’ whenever possible, as they comprise the vast majority of perpetrators of violent crime. It is not helpful to pretend that violence is a gender-neutral phenomenon, and it does not advance violence prevention efforts.”[22] By challenging the way men and women talk about themselves, their feelings, and each other, change in their mindsets is inevitable. The language people use is a key insight into their worldviews; thus, if what people are saying is modified what they are thinking will eventually also be modified. Educators have an obligation to stop the spread of such lies as “boys don’t cry” and insults like “you throw like a girl.” While very common, these simple phrases can be very harmful, perpetuating structural violence and gender inequality, and when backed by advertisements that continually show aggressive men and passive women, the combination can be deadly. And what is not being said is just as important as what is being said. “The failure even to discuss the relationship between cultural ideas about manhood and the pandemic of gun violence in our society runs across the board politically.”[23] The media, politicians, educators, and average citizens all have a responsibility to speak out against injustice, no matter how unpopular the truth might be.

In addition to overhauling the education system in the US legislation must be passed to enforce sensible gun ownership laws as well as to dole out appropriate punishment and counseling for criminals, such as stalkers, who often become more violent as time goes on. All forms of media–from TV to movies to radio and music to advertising to newspapers–must also take a stand against misogyny. Men’s sense of entitlement to and ownership of women’s bodies is fueled by the media’s sexist advertising.  Jean Kilbourne states in the third installment of her series of landmark films scrutinizing the use of women in advertising, Killing Us Softly 3, “Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step in justifying violence against that person.”[24] The media must be challenged to find another marketing gimmick–women must not be objectified and seen as commodities. The inequalities present in modern America have been stewing for hundreds of years, if not longer, therefore it will take a considerable amount of time for the bad habits of America and Americans to be broken. The task is not impossible though: overcoming misogyny is happening, one learning experience at a time. To un-teach sexism and hatred of women all of American society will have to undertake the chore of minding its tongue, reworking the sexist ideas imbedded within our lexicon (i.e. “rule of thumb”), and acting with compassion towards all people. The education system in the United States needs to undergo a complete overhaul of values, principles and methods if it is to overcome sexism. But revamping education alone will not eliminate misogyny or prevent another hyper-masculine display of violence through the mass slaying of women.

[1]“Expanded Homicide Data Table 7.” Sep 2006. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. 9 Sep 2009 <http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_07.html&gt;.

[2].”Females Murdered by Males in Single Victim/Single Offender Incidents.” When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2003 Homicide Data. Sep 2005. The Violence Policy Center. 9 Sep 2009 <http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2005.pdf&gt;.

[3].”Shooting at Westside Middle School.” SchoolShooting.org. 25 June 2009. Washington Ceasefire. 9 Sep 2009 <http://schoolshooting.org/attacks/westside-middle-school-jonesboro-ar&gt;

[4]Associated Press, “Details from Colo. school shooting emerge.”MSNBC 1504103728 Sep 2006 1-2. Web.9 Sep 2009. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15041037/&gt;

[5]“Fifth girl dies after Amish school shooting.” CNN.com. 3 Oct 2006. CNN. 9 Sep 2009 <http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/10/02/amish.shooting/&gt;

[6]“Police: Gym shooter ‘had a lot of hatred’ for women, society.” CNN.com. 5 Aug 2009. CNN. 9 Sep 2009 <http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/08/05/pennsylvania.gym.shooting/&gt;.

[7] Herbert, Bob. “Why Aren’t We Shocked?” NYtimes.com. 16 Oct 2006. The New York Times. 26 Jan 2011 <http://select.nytimes.com/2006/10/16/opinion/16herbert.html?_r=1&n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fColumnists%2fBob%20Herbert&oref=slogin&gt;

[8] Katz, Jackson. “Teachable Moment in Tucson: Guns, Mental Illness and Masculinity.” Huffintonpost.com. 17 Jan 2011. Huffington Post. 26 Jan 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/teachable-moment-in-tucso_b_809963.html&gt;

[9] Marcotte, Amanda. “These crimes don’t happen in a vacuum.” Pandagon. 5 Aug 2009. 26 Jan 2011. <http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/these_crimes_dont_happen_in_a_vacuum/&gt;

[10] Katz, Jackson (ibid).

[11]“Bureau of Justice Statistics Homicide Trends in the United States: Trends in Intimate Homicide by Gender table.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. 11 July 2007. US Department of Justice. 12 Sep 2009 <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs//homicide/tables/intimatestab.htm&gt;.

[12]Marcotte, Amanda. “Misogyny v. sexism v. the patriarchy .” Pandagon. 9 Apr 2008. 10 Sep 2009 <http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2008/04/09/7023/&gt;

[13] Katz, Jackson (ibid).

[14]Spears, Tom. “Boys’ school problems unique, severe, largely untreated.” The Edmonton Journal. 9 Sep 2009 1. 10 Sep 2009. <http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/Boys+school+problems+unique+severe+largely+untreated/1974157/story.html&gt;.

[15]Salomon, Gavriel and Baruch Nevo, eds. Peace Education: The Concepts, Practices and Principles Around the World. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. Print.

[16]Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2000. Print.

[17]Ibid.

[18]Toh, S.H.. Pathways to Building a Culture of Peace. 1st. Queensland, Austrlia: Multi-Faith Centre, Griffith University, 20007. Print.

[19]Salomon, Gavriel (ibid).

[20]“Man Made: Men, masculinities and equality in public policy.” Coalition on Men & Boys. 1st ed. 2009. Print.

[21]Toh, S.H. (ibid).

[22] Katz, Jackson (ibid).

[23] Ibid.

[24]Killing Us Softly 3. Dir. Sut Jhally. Perf. Jean Kilbourne. DVD. Media Education Foundation, 2000. Film.


Global Reflections on Street Harassment

Since January I and other bloggers from around the world have been writing for the Stop Street Harassment Blog. For me participating in the conversation about street harassment has been a cathartic experience, allowing me to reflect on how I deal with being harassed and how I view the men in my community who are harassing me and others. To bring Sexual Assault Awareness Month to a close, I’d like to leave you now with an overview of the past four months of the Stop Street Harassment Blog.

CreeperMove-HollabackDesMoinesIn April I wrote about the clash of sexism and racism when someone is harassed by a member of a different race. Ultimately no matter how many people of any given race harass you, they are still acting alone, and it is crucial that their sexism does not fuel our racism. Rocio Andrés of Spain also explored the individualism of harassers, but delved more into their humanity than I. She reminds us that they too are products of the society that we create, so we must try to continue to view them as human. She urges that understanding street harassers is not excusing them, but it is crucial to learning how we can prevent harassment to begin with.

In March I explained why self-care after being harassed is so important. Joe Samalin of New York listed TWENTY-NINE THINGS men can do to stop street harassment. 29! Katie Monroe of Philadelphia gave a shout out to HollabackPHILLY’s dance party and fundraiser put on by Get Lucid! which took place on April 5th. Also in March Rocio wrote about a missed opportunity to travel to Cairo as sexual assault and bombings stood in her way of exploring street harassment in the motherland. Pallavi Kamat of India wrote about the underlying causes of street harassment in Mumbai. Kriti Khatri of Nepal explained how street harassment can escalate to other, more severe forms of sexual violence. Brittany Oliver of Baltimore interviewed a woman in her community about street harassment and how it affects her. Joe also wrote in March how men’s silence in the face of harassment makes them allies to the harasser, not women. Brittany also wrote about Hollaback! Baltimore and their efforts to utilize local businesses to fight street harassment. And early on in March Katie explored how street harassment affects women cyclists in Philly.

bike womenThough February is a short month a lot was written by the Stop Street Harassment Blog cohort. Kriti looked at how using public transportation contributes to women being harassed in Nepal. Rocio contrasted the realities of sexual violence in places like Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the good things that are happening to combat street harassment in other places. She wrote about violence in war stating, “We love durings. As if there were neither after nor before.” Powerful stuff that! Pallavi highlighted some of the successful community engagement projects of Blank Noise in India. I dove into the link between street harassment and teen dating violence for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Sandria Washington of Chicago challenged the idea that more crossing guards would reduce girls being harassed on their way to school. Jeanette R. of California talked about racial profiling of men as a form of street harassment.  Joe explored how men can start to realize just how pervasive street harassment against women really is. February started with Andrea Ayres-Deets of San Francisco tearing open the ever-important idea that street harassment limits women’s political participation and participation in strategic nonviolent action.

In January Brittany encouraged everyone from Baltimore to Cairo to Meet Us on the Streets and give voice to the harassment that overruns society. Kriti highlighted the organization Astitwa and its success in changing how Nepali police address street harassment. Katie contrasted the differences between gender-based street harassment and bicycle-based harassment. For the anniversary of Roe v. Wade I wrote about the harassment of women seeking abortions and abortion care providers as a form of street harassment. Rocio explored how things like Scotland’s “Single Woman Policy” are just band-aid solutions to the gaping wound that is sexualized gender-based violence. Finally, back at the beginning, Pallavi reminded us that the streets are not only full of harassment, but in India they are far too often where young women go to die.

I’d like to thank the Founder/Executive Director of Stop Street Harassment, Holly Kearl, for giving me this opportunity to learn and share and grow.


Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr, oh my!

Dear readers I thank you for your loyalty, even when I’m not churning out Pulitzer-prize-winning blog posts you still come back regularly and show your support. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that! Because it can take so much out of me to really pour myself into a blog, I’ve tried to do smaller things to involve you, the community, in advancing equality.

If you’re not already a fan you should go, right now, and “Like” Feminist Activism on Facebook. There’s even a handy button for it right up there! arrow-diagonal-up

Do you know the email address to send ideas/requests for blog posts, or submit Guest Posts? It’s FeministSNVA@gmail.com. You could also stay involved by following us on Twitter @FeministSNVA #feminism #StrategicNonviolentAction #activism. And since I’ve been blogging over at Stop Street Harassment since January, you can also check out #EndSH @StopStHarassmnt, and the ever-lovely folks at @NDVH and @loveisrespect.

And much like the tweets I send out that are weeks apart and then all of a sudden appear in a flurry for an hour or so only to disappear again, Feminist Activism is also on Tumblr @FeministSNVA. Below is a smattering of what’s gone up on Tumblr in the past month.

bi awareness

 

Giving Thanks

 

Not Your Asian Sidekick

Stop Islamophobia

Trans WHM

Women's History

Join us in using social media for good!


MASKulinity: An Uncomfortable Act, Even for a Tomboy

victor-victoria-julie-andrews_lI’ve been un-ladylike most of my life. My mother grew up with five older brothers and as a single mother her tomboyish upbringing rubbed off on me. Some of my first baby pictures are in overalls and I never took issue with dirt or bugs, but at the same time for special occasions my mother would spend hours trying to get my stick-straight hair to curl and do her utmost to keep bows in it, even when under layers of church-dress-ruffles my knees were skinned. As I grew older I became more accustomed to performing femininity as was expected of my assigned gender.

Junior high school definitely stands out as a period of intense change, and desperately trying to figure out what I was or wasn’t comfortable with as far as my appearance was concerned. It didn’t help that in our “health class” the school nurse had me read aloud to the group of girls the dictionary definitions of woman vs. lady, so that we would behave like ladies now that we had hit puberty. Sixth grade revolved around grunge: Nirvana, Soundgarden, oversized flannel shirts, baggy jeans and Airwalks because I was in love with skateboarders, and my best girl friend…. Seventh grade was punctuated by really short shorts and trashy blue eye shadow and pink lipstick. By eighth grade though my best friend’s influence was strong, and I was wearing spaghetti strap tank tops with bell bottom jeans and barrel curl bangs (my best friend at the time was Mexican).

As my bangs grew out and my wannabe-skater-girl style became more comfortable I grew into my role as the brainy tomboy once again. It’s a role I’ve been comfortable with ever since. Even now, as a full-fledged adult it truly depends on the day whether I wear jeans and a T-shirt or a pencil skirt and heels. To be quite honest I’m more comfortable in jeans because it feels less like a performance and more like …existing. Too bad the androgynous look doesn’t work on everyone! So I guess I’m not the best at performing femininity either, but I have a hell of a lot more practice at it. Presenting as male or solely masculine–not just as a tomboy–not so much.

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Last week some brave male friends of mine joined me at a drag show and gender swap. They looked beautiful in their skirts, leggings, shimmery eye shadow and bold lipstick. I felt so grungy in my masculine garb. Even though the clothes I was wearing I am intimately familiar with (they are my partner’s so I have seen and felt and washed and folded them numerous times) I was flat-out uncomfortable in them. Since I needed men’s clothes that could hide my curves they were baggy on me, and felt colorless. Stripping myself of my daily routine of earrings and mascara I felt exposed and vulnerable, which only added to the poor façade I was putting up.

While the boys were seeking help in applying their makeup, figuring out how to line their eyes and which blush to wear, I was… bored. Men’s clothing, men’s fashion and style are no fun. They don’t get to play with color, they have little to no accessories and their face is what they get. And if men want to dress up they have to spend a lot of money (think three-piece suit) to look formal/fashionable. While I hate that women are expected to hide their faces with make up, I also hate that men don’t have the opportunity to play with color and shape and lighting.

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You may be wondering what my venture into “cross-dressing” has to do with activism but the personal is political, so even my friend and I choosing to rebel against socially constructed gender roles through our physical presentation is a political act. Most of the evening I was checking in with my friends to see if my machismo was holding up, if I was “passing.” The boys didn’t seem so concerned but for good measure I regularly reminded them that “ladies” keep their knees together and take up less space.

The whole experience was exhausting. I felt like my presentation was fairly convincing, that unless someone looked very closely they would not know I am a woman/usually present as female. Because of this I felt a huge burden to continuously “prove” my masculinity, walking with an uncomfortably exaggerated gait, standing with my shoulders back and chest out, sitting with my legs spread and staring menacingly with my lips and jaws tightened in a half-scowl. Whether or not I was actually passing… I don’t know.

I felt like I couldn’t smile, because my face, when content-looking, would reveal my usual identity. Later in the night as politics and alcohol flowed together to liven up our trio I know that I was smiling, but I never saw my own face do so while in my façade, so I don’t know if my smile did, in fact, erase all the masculinity I was trying to layer onto my decades-deep layers of femininity. I was reminded that night though that masculinity can be an uncomfortable mask for people who identify as men as well.

Whenever I would complain about my discomfort within my get-up my friend would commiserate and regale me with coming-of-age tales of small town Texas, and my heart would ache for all the boys in the world who don’t really want to be girls, but really would love to be able to wear a skirt, or lipstick every once in a while, just because they felt like it. There’s nothing wrong, at all, with men in skirts. So this is my call to action, dear readers: WEAR WHAT YOU WANT! And send me pictures of you flaunting non-traditional clothes for the gender you usually present as. I love you for who you are.

men in skirts


Stop Street Harassment

Since Feminist Activism aims to be the intersection of feminism and strategic nonviolent action, it makes sense that the idea of intersectionality is deeply rooted in everything I do. Nothing exists in a vacuum, so taking one’s gender, race, age, ability, religion, location etc. into account when trying to understand a given situation is a must. This understanding of intersectionality is crucial to a feminist lens and it is with this lens that I will soon be writing in another venue. I have recently had the honor to  be chosen to blog with Stop Street Harassment for the next few months!

tlynnOnce a month from now through April I and other activist writers will contribute to the discussion of street harassment in our corners of the world and ways we can work together to stop it. I will still be writing here at Feminist Activism too, have no fear! But I will also be linking to my articles on the SSH blog. If you would like to share your ideas of how to stop street harassment or tell your own stories feel free to do so in the comments, or by emailing FeministSNVA@gmail.com. You can also tweet @StopStHarassmnt and @FeministSNVA to add to the conversation. Thank you all for your continued love and support!


You Might Be a Rapist

I know the title is startling, unless you read it in your best Jeff Foxworthy voice, but I gotta get your attention somehow. *Trigger Warning: please contact RAINN for help* And if it made you think twice about that one encounter you had in college with someone who was way drunk, or that time you pressured someone into doing something they weren’t comfortable with, you might be a rapist.

india_assault_women

Since the New Year is quickly approaching and making resolutions is a thing people do I thought I’d make a list for you of things that may make you a sexual predator, so you can be sure to not do them in your lifetime. Heregoes, you might be a rapist:

  • If you think you have a “right” to have sex with anyone, including your spouse
  • If you think what I’m wearing means I want to have sex with you
  • If you think you’re owed sex for buying coffee or a drink or dinner
    bad date
  • If you stare, grunt, yell, honk or touch yourself when looking at someone you find attractive
  • If you masturbate to Toddlers and Tiaras *pedophile rapist*
  • If you think “nice tits” is an appropriate compliment for anyone other than your partner (who does not object to it)
  • If you think it is complimentary to harass strangers in public
  • If you feel compelled to only compliment strangers of the gender(s) to which you are attracted
  • If you date people with whose race/ethnicity you don’t identify because you think they’re “easier”  *racist rapist*
    zebhd_stl_2_h
  • If you use the word easy to describe people
  • If you prefer porn where someone is “asleep” or looks like they are actively being violently and non-consensually assaulted
  • If you think an underage girl is a predator preying on older men, is equally responsible for her assault or has any age other than her biological age *pedophile rapist*
  • If you think someone has to have sex with you to prove they love you
  • If you use diminutive pet words when talking to people in the service industry
  • If you refuse to use condoms/birth control… Assange *cough*
    prison-rape-ad
  • If you think prisons are funny
  • If you think high school football and/or football players are more important than women’s bodily integrity
  • If you LOVE American Apparel ads
  • If you believe that “real rape” is when a black man jumps out of the bushes with a gun and rapes a white woman *racist rapist*
  • If you think rape survivors whom you don’t find attractive (ie. larger, older or disabled) should be grateful
  • If you don’t take survivors’ stories seriously
  • If you think that successful, attractive men couldn’t rape anyone
    kobe-bryanti-do-what-i-do-quotes-1080p-hd-wallpaper-hd-wallpapers-basketball-nation-photo-kobe-bryant-wallpapers
  • If you support celebrities, politicians and international icons who are running from the law because of sexual assault charges
  • If you threaten people with rape when you don’t like what they say
  • If you think male-identified people can’t be/aren’t raped and assaulted
  • If you inversely judge men and women by the number of sex partners they’ve had
  • If you think that testing rape kits for DNA evidence is wasteful or should not be a priority for the justice system
  • If you think our legal system brings justice for survivors of assault
  • If in college you chanted about raping someone’s underage sister
    smu-frosh-chant
  • If you don’t recognize that someone drunk, sleeping or terrified cannot consent to sex
  • If you think “I know you want it” is a pick-up line
  • If you don’t take no for an answer
  • If you pester someone until their no is a “fine!”
  • If you think silence = consent
  • If you joke about rape
  • If you think rape is a women’s issue

consent

Ok, certainly many of these things do not actually make you a rapist, but they do absolutely make you an active, encouraging participant in rape culture, so stop it! Nothing but equality and enthusiastic consent will do!

Happy Holidays loves and remember: everyone’s race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, (dis)ability, class and age all factor in to how rape culture works for or against them, so check your privilege.

 


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