Category Archives: Violence Against Women

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.


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.

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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*
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  • 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.

 


Everything’s Bigger in Texas, Except Human Rights

You’re probably all really tired of hearing about Texas and our legislator’s stupidity so this will be my last post lamenting it for a while.

I know not everyone has a Twitter account but if you do, dear readers, I hope you saw Feminist Activism’s tweets this month on #OrangeDay, violence against women and slut-shaming. I must confess that I have been more active (but still not very) on Twitter this month because I have just been too tired to write a proper blog. There’s still so much that happened at the Capitol this summer that I want to share with you all, stories and pictures and testimonies, but I definitely burnt myself out on it. I’m also afraid I may be burning you out on Reproductive Justice since there are obviously so many other things to talk about too, like terrible Halloween costume ideas! I can’t promise you that this post will be the last one on RJ for a while, but I can promise you that no matter what I’m writing here, in my personal life I am always fighting The Patriarchy in every way I can. And just to appease you here are a few of my favorite signs from the Rally at the Capitol on July 2nd.

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One of many signs I made for the rally

One of many signs I made for the rally

As long-time readers know I am an abortion provider and work for a non-profit fighting domestic violence IRL. With the laws that went into effect this summer my reality in the doctor’s office has already changed profoundly. With women seeking the medical or pill-based abortion now force to use the outdated and less-effective FDA-approved method for taking Mifeprex and Misoprostol the cost and time commitment have increased exponentially. And until these laws reach the Supreme Court the fate of millions of Texas women who are seeking abortion will be up in the air. I am thrilled we will still be able to provide the same excellent standard of surgical care we have been since 1976,  and I hope will all my heart that our legacy of trusting women is allowed to continue. I know this isn’t the kind of in-depth feminist analysis you’ve come to expect from me and I apologize for that, but even superheroines need a break sometimes.

At this time I’d like to open the floor for topics you, dear readers, would like to see me delve into. Let me know what moves you in the comments!

 


Terrific Tenacity in Texas

Wednesday September 25th, 2013 was the evening the Lilith Fund celebrated its 10th Annual Reproductive Equity Awards, honoring those who fought for Reproductive Justice in the recent past. This year’s winners were all familiar faces: representatives Jessica Ferrar, Dawnna Dukes and Mary Gonzalez, and activists Brittany Yelverton, Jessica Luther and Andrea Grimes. Each of these women was an integral part of the fight against abortion restrictions here in Texas this summer, and their speeches reminded everyone present how special it was to have thousands of concerned citizens band together at the Capitol. Although I am not a native Texan I could not be more proud of the women of Texas had I been born here. 

Heroes in the fight for Reproductive Justice

Heroes in the fight for Reproductive Justice

Tuesday June 25th I arrived at the Capitol, eager to hear new feminist icon Wendy Davis filibuster her way into history. At 4PM the line to get into the gallery already wound around the rotunda and down the stairs, and it would only get longer from there. 

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20130625_210517I joined my friends and colleagues in the auditorium serving as the overflow room and hunkered down for the evening. Politics is a lot more fun when you get to cheer and shout and commiserate with those around you. Who needs a gallery!? Davis had to delay vote on the bill until after midnight, when it would expire. There are many excellent accounts of what transpired during Davis’ filibuster, but my most vivid memory is the people’s filibuster, the last 15 minutes of the night when the Republicans decided to call the vote.

Something stinks. And it's sure not Wendy Davis.

Something stinks. And it’s sure not Wendy Davis.

The line to the gallery swam from the third floor around the rotunda, down the staircase and around and down to the first floor. When the hour was approaching my fellow activists in Get Equal Texas and I went up to the third floor to check the scene out. The left side of the hallway was open, so we walked directly up to the doors of gallery, where we were met by State Troopers who told us no one was going in and no one was coming out.

Get Equal Texas

#StandwithTXWomen

#StandwithTXWomen

We stood there, waiting, as a crowd gathered behind us, a sea of humanity, waiting, holding our collective breath. Before too long the entire hallway was jammed full of people in orange, going crazy with the pent-up feeling that “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!” I was standing at the threshold of the door, holding onto a brass railing for the few steps that lead into the gallery itself, with the crowd nudging me forward. The drone of people talking in the hallway sounded like a beehive, and when a State Trooper grabbed me by the arm to force me away from the stairs all I could hear was Tiffani by my side shouting “SIT!” as she linked arms with me. So we sat, arms linked, and others from Get Equal Texas sat too, then more and more people near the doors sat, until it was clear to the Troopers that we weren’t going anywhere. #StandWithWendy became #SitWithWendy and people throughout the Capitol were staging a spontaneous sit-in. Then the texts came in from friends in the gallery telling us to make noise….

And make noise we did.

Lead by Brittany Yelverton, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ Community Organizer, the hundreds of us crammed into that hallway chanted, clapped, stomped, booed, and screamed our bloody hearts out. We had sounded the alarm for every person in that giant building who cared about human rights, and for fifteen full minutes we gave everything we had, thousands of us, crying out for justice. And it worked!

Unruly Mob

The clock struck midnight and we kept screaming, just to make sure we weren’t imagining things. Of course the politicians played their dirty tricks and changed the time stamp on the official documents to show that a vote in favor of the bill had taken place before midnight even amongst the chaos, but too many intelligent citizen journalists around the country had already taken screen shots showing that the vote did not take place before the deadline.

Total hours at the Capitol: 9

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We were satisfied with ourselves but as you know it wasn’t enough to stop the bill for good, so in the words of the late, great Governor Ann Richards “I’m hardly satisfied. I’m outraged most of the time.”

Join us next time for continued coverage of Texas women’s tenacity. There’s a lot more to come, I promise you.


Tedious Tastelessness in Texas

© David Thomas Photography

© David Thomas Photography

I’ve had my ear to the ground regarding these pieces of anti-choice legislation since the legislative session started, since this is the biggest attack on my personal human rights and bodily integrity I have ever faced, and the last gem of the previous post (ASC requirements) is one that could put me out of work. The dates and days and nights in orange at the Capitol became a blur, and I am still physically and emotionally trying to recover from these “Special” Sessions. I’ve gotta rest up so I can get back out there again for the THIRD! Thank science for time stamps so I can tell you that my journey into this fray started with a simple sidewalk protest on Monday June 17th, around 5pm, just as I was becoming aware that orange is now the color of Reproductive Justice. I made a sign that read: 

Perry, Perry you’re so scary
You’ve hit an all-time low
You took our voice, we have no choice
And you forgot all about Roe!

Total hours at the Capitol: 2

One of the overflow rooms teeming with Texans for Reproductive Justice

One of the overflow rooms teeming with Texans for Reproductive Justice

Thursday June 20th me and my co-workers from both of my jobs, as well as another 700+ pro-woman Austinites, spent our afternoons and evenings at the Reagan building, testifying against the First Special Session omnibus bills in the House. That night supporters from all over the nation bought pizza and coffee and donuts for us so we could carry on into the wee hours of the morning.  Since anyone in the testimony room had to respect all 175 pages of the rules of “decorum” jazz hands were initiated there. After waiting from 6pm to testify, when the Chair shut the whole thing down sometime after midnight for being “repetitive,” I just walked up and gave them the punchline to my testimony. And shortly after I left some vagilante male allies shone the bat signal for all the world to see. “Let her speak!” became our rallying cry and the #CitizensFilibuster was officially underway.

Total hours at the Capitol: ±6

Come when you can, wear orange, stay 'till the end!

Come when you can, wear orange, stay ’till the end!

Sunday June 23rd I waited in line with many other eager Texans in orange to bear witness to the Texas House of Representatives debate the Senate omnibus bill. I arrived around 1:30pm.  The House recessed for a long while, during which lots of us in orange, the #TangerineVagilantes and #FeministArmy gathered in the rotunda to chant, clap, stomp and hold up our ever-witty signage. 

Orange Line

The line to get in to the Capitol on June 23, 2013

The discussion had started with House Dems debating whether they were dealing with calendar days or legislative days, to which Austin’s own RH Reality Check Reporter Andrea Grimes tweeted, “We can laugh about counting calendar days, but when #txlege outlaws birth control, that’s a skill we’ll all need to bone up on. #hb60.” The House didn’t reconvene until around 6:30pm, I think. So I gathered with the raucous bunch in the auditorium overflow room, which was just as well, since we didn’t have to abide by decorum. 

She understands. She was alive pre-Roe.

She understands. She was alive pre-Roe.

I had to go to work from 4:45 to midnight but my co-workers and I (at a domestic violence non-profit) were watching the Texas Tribune live feed and guffawing at the risk of arrest for jazz hands and the ridiculousness that is ALEC’s newest It Girl pawn, “Representative” Jodie Laubenberg and #OtherThingsRapeKitsDo, and cheering for Representative Thompson hanging a hanger from her mic to punctuate her speech. By that time #TXlege #StandWithTXWomen (and variants) and #HB60 were also trending worldwide on Twitter.

Woo Wu!!!

Woo Wu!!!

I returned to the Capitol just after midnight and was in the gallery to see Representative Wu kicking ass. Kudos to Farrar, Dukes, Wu, Menendez, Lee, Mary Gonzalez, Dutton, Eddie Rodriguez, Howard, Burnam, Naishtat, Turner, Thompson and others for killing it on the floor and battling for women’s reproductive justice. Intersectionality at its finest. And kudos to the thousands of people who donated water, food, coffee and good vibes to keep us all going!

20130623_150911The reason we needed to prolong this process as much as possible, why hundreds of us came to add our voices at the Committee hearing and why our tireless Dems threw question after question around, was that the first special session was scheduled to end at midnight on Tuesday. If we could delay the vote on the bill so much that the legislature literally ran out of time, we would win, at least for a little while….

As predicted the bill did get through this second reading around 3:30am, so my activist friends and I from Get Equal Texas encouraged everyone leaving the gallery to stop on the 2nd floor outside where the representatives normally enter/exit so we could shame them to their faces. I led the charge with a classic borrowed from the LGBTQAI movement: I am somebody! And I deserve full equality! From there a huge contingent of people stood chanting pro-choice slogans like My Body, My Choice and We Won’t Go Back! The kicker was everyone getting fired up and chanting “Shame!” until some of the Reps who spoke up for us came out to thank us. That was the night I learned to use Twitter for real. 

Stairwells flooded with hope

Stairwells flooded with hope

Total hours at the Capitol: ±7.5

Stay tuned for the next exciting post on Texas’ woman problem: Wendy Davis’ filibuster.


Terrible Tragedy in Texas

The past month has been a whirlwind here in Texas, with severe, unnecessary and unconstitutional abortion restrictions being shoved down the people’s throat in the SECOND special session of the Texas legislature, to the tune of $800,000, called by our brainless leader Rick Perry. This post is the first in what will be a series describing my personal experiences in fighting for Reproductive Justice in Texas. 

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HB-1 and SB-2 have been signed into law already. They have four parts that combined make abortion almost completely inaccessible for the women who need them most. The first three parts, barring judicial action, will go into effect 90 days after Perry signed them. The fourth will go into effect in September 2014.

The 20-week “fetal pain” ban has been touted as “reasonable” by some but the current science does not show that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, rather it does show that with very few exceptions, a fetus is not viable outside the womb until roughly 24 weeks. And in a disgusting play of politics Texas legislators refused to consider exceptions for victims of rape or incest or women dealing with “severe mental health issues.” The only exceptions legislators conceded were if the woman’s life was in immediate physical danger (and to be clear, the author of AB-1 doesn’t believe a woman threatening to kill herself qualifies as immediate physical danger,) or if the fetus had such a severe abnormality that it would die within hours or days of being born. This language excludes parents from terminating a pregnancy where the baby would die within a week of being born, of course with the guise of the “health and safety of women” as their house-of-mirrors reasoning.  

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This new law also requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility where they would be practicing. This portion of the law is a blatant attempt to restrict how doctors practice medicine with regard to abortion. To earn admitting privileges a doctor must perform a requisite number of surgeries every year which result in a patient being admitted to the hospital for care afterwards. For abortion providers this requirement means they must be working outside the abortion spectrum because abortion has one of the lowest complication rates of any surgery. And the decision of whether to grant admitting privileges to a doctor or not lies solely with the hospital. The doctor has no recourse if s/he is being discriminated against for the type of medicine s/he practices.

Additionally, doctors must now follow the outdated FDA protocol for administering the medications Mifeprex and Misoprostol to induce a medical abortion. As it stood many providers followed protocol approved by the National Abortion Federation, which calls for the patient to receive one pill of Mifeprex in the doctor’s office and then be sent home with four pills of Misoprostol which she would insert buccally (between the lip and gums) 24-48 hours after the Mifeprex. FDA protocol requires a patient to take three Mifeprex in the office and return two days later to insert two Misoprostol vaginally (a practice with higher incidences of infection) before going home to pass the pregnancy. Both protocols require the doctor to urge the patient to return for a follow up exam in roughly two weeks. The differences may not sound severe but FDA protocol would make this process nearly three times more expensive, and with Texas’ mandatory 24 hour waiting period after an ultrasound, would make for four separate days a woman would need to find childcare, take time off work, and drive or be driven to the Ambulatory Surgical Center.

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That’s right, the fourth prong of this law would require that even the administration of medications that induce abortions be performed in an Ambulatory Surgical Center. Don’t look for a logical reason behind that one, it absolutely doesn’t exist. In fact, there’s nothing logical or reasonable about anything in this legislation. The physical requirements for an office to be considered an Ambulatory Surgical Center include things like, having both men’s and women’s locker rooms, sterile ventilation systems, back-up generators, painted cement floors and hallways wide enough to spin a gurney. All of which are completely unnecessary to providing safe abortion care. Abortion is already at minimum 10 times safer than childbirth, and women are “allowed” to do that in their own living rooms. This provision alone is likely to cause 37 of the state’s 42 abortion providers to close their doors. And, combined with requiring admitting privileges, has the possibility of shutting down nearly all of Texas’ abortion providers, leaving our vast state with one destination for women who need to terminate, much like Mississippi or North Dakota. The glaring difference, obviously, is the huge size of the state and the overwhelming population of women of reproductive age in Texas.

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Here are some basic facts on abortion in the United States, just in case you were wondering what about this procedure that more than one-third of all American women experience by age 45 is so scary.

  • Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended
  • 42% of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level
  • 27% have incomes between 100-199% of the federal poverty level
  • 1/3 of all women seeking abortions travel more than 25 miles to access services
  • 54% of women who have abortions were using contraception when they became pregnant
  • 61% of women who have abortions are already mothers with at least one child at home
  • 88% of abortions occur before 12 weeks in the pregnancy
  • Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money
  • Fewer than 0.3% of abortions result in the patient being hospitalized for complications  
  • In 2006, publicly funded family planning services helped women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 860,000 unintended births and 810,000 abortions.  

In my next post I’ll get into my experiences at the Capitol. Be good to yourselves, dear readers, and love one another. 

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My Right to Bodily Autonomy

SA Awareness & Prevention Month

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence* Take care of yourself. If you need to talk to someone, contact RAINN.

Meet Us On The StreetThis week, April 7-13, is International Anti-Street Harassment Week and April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Abortion Wellbeing Month, an overlap that is very personal to me. I have been harassed on the street more times than I can count. I am a survivor of sexual assault, rape and childhood sexual abuse. I am also an abortion provider. Though these might not seem to have anything to do with each other, since my assaults thankfully did not result in pregnancy, they are intrinsically linked. Each assault I have endured and the violence I face as an abortion provider are affronts to my right to bodily autonomy. My tragedies, however, have shaped who I am as an individual: I am a warrior for equality.

Not Public SpaceThe restricting of access to abortion and sexual assault both serve one purpose–to control women by controlling their bodies. For women in the United States and around the world to be well, to be whole, equal and productive citizens women must first have the right to control their own bodies. The right to say no to unwanted physical contact and the right to make informed decisions about what medical procedures we choose to undergo are basic human rights. If I have sex and get pregnant and do not want to continue to be pregnant, I have the right to terminate the pregnancy because my body is mine alone and the responsibility for caring for the pregnancy would be mine alone. If I am a stranger, if I say no, if I stay silent, if I am crying, you have no right to my body. Consent is sexy and only an emphatic YES! means yes.

If rape were audible

While hapless pundits wonder if violence against women is something that women really worry about, from Stubenville, Ohio to Delhi, India rape and sexual assault happen every moment of every day all around the world.

Laugh:Kill- M Atwood

And each attack transforms its victim and its perpetrator. The healing process for survivors can be long and painful but so many initiatives now exist to put an end to sexual violence that the tides may be turning. Women in Kenya have filed a lawsuit against their government for failing to protect them from rape! From tackling street harassment with Meet Us On The Street and Hollaback! to a mom taking on Facebook‘s “controversial humor” pages glorifying sexual violence to Denim Day to the No More, Who Are You? and Where is Your Line? campaigns to comics and cell phone apps, more and more people are realizing that the strength of our numbers will ultimately win.

Not in Kansas

Unfortunately in the US abortion rights are backsliding.

If men could get pregnant

While France has made contraception and abortion free for all women, here in the US we are still fighting for the right to buy prescriptions for birth control at our local pharmacies. North Dakota has banned abortion after 6 weeks, has only one abortion provider AND has a 72 hour waiting period. Ohio is working to make abortion illegal, as is Alabama. Iowa is trying to restrict abortion access for female inmates. Texas is seriously thinking about making it that much harder to get an abortion.  Kansas lawmakers have been granted the right to lie to their patients and disrespect rape victims while making all abortion basically illegal. And Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina are in on this racket too. Sadly, recent news has shown us, as has history time and again, that without access to abortion women die. The United Nations has recently declared that denying abortions is tantamount to torture.

ResponsibilitySome states are defending Reproductive Justice; Oregon is considering a bill that would require Crisis Pregnancy Centers (non-medically licensed religiously affiliated centers that lie to women to prevent them from having abortions) to disclose what services they actually offer and comply with federal medical regulations regarding patient confidentiality. Also, Washington is trying to mandate insurance coverage for abortion care, and New York is attempting to broaden the availability of abortion. One recent victory for women in the US is the ruling that Emergency Contraception, also known as Plan B or The Morning After Pill, must be made available over-the-counter for all women. Health professionals and activists have been fighting for this for years and even though some states still oppose regular daily oral contraceptives, making EC more available will reduce abortion rates, which ultimately is everyone’s goal. And though Christian and Republican arguments against birth control and EC defy logic, it is a reasonable assumption that if everyone had access to comprehensive sex education and contraception that the rates of unintended pregnancy, and by default abortion, would be lower. The voice of reason now, our voices, must be heard if we want to see any change in this War on Women.

Fierce FloresOne courageous lawmaker this week, Assemblymember Lucy Flores (D-Nevada), disclosed to the public that she has had an abortion. Her compelling personal story of abortion being a positive life-changing experience for her comes at a time when most women would never dream of telling anyone they had an abortion. Though more than 1/3 of all American women will have an abortion at least once by age 45, a good 80% of my patients believe they don’t know anyone else who has had an abortion. The trepidation that women feel at disclosing this is both maddening and understandable: Flores has received death threats since admitting she does not regret having an abortion. This stifling of choice, and backlash against women who exercise their legal right to abortion, is one more spark igniting violence against women in the United States.

North Dakota

If we want equality, and I know some people don’t, we must respect women. We must respect women’s right to bodily autonomy. If women’s bodily autonomy were respected the rates of sexual assault would plummet, and women who have abortions would not be demonized for their choices. For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, share resources with your friends, be supportive of those who have been assaulted, speak out against rape jokes, and volunteer with or donate to your local rape crisis center. For Abortion Wellbeing Month, share your stories with your friends, be supportive of women or couples facing unwanted pregnancies, speak out against politicians interfering in medicine, and volunteer as an escort at your local clinic, or donate to your local abortion fund. Below are some tips on respecting bodily autonomy: what constitutes consent and how male allies can get in on the good fight and stop rape and street harassment. As always any comments, links, ideas and critiques are welcome as long as they are respectful and constructive. Carry on, dear reader, the fight for human rights needs you!

Only Yes Means Yes

Teach Men Not to Rape

6 Things Men Can Do To Stop Street Harassment


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