Follow by Email

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Smiting and Rape Jokes

So there's the guy on Facebook, God.  Who lets people suggest who he should smite every Tuesday.  He also tells rape jokes.  So visit his page and tell him to smite everyone who makes rape jokes, including himself. 

On Mothers and Family History

By: Liberate Zealot

I can't speak to the experience of mothers.  I have no children, and as I get older I actually feel less called to have children.  Which isn't to say I don't want them, but it used to be that I couldn't imagine a life without children and now I can.  Also the War on Women is makings me very scared of pregnancy, even though I live in a state that isn't restricting women's rights.

So this isn't about the experiences of mothers, or the relationships between mother's and children.  This is about the women in my family, many of whom happen to be mothers.  This is about their lives and experiences, the ways that they are amazing and average, how they changed the world, each other, and me.

Mary Sullivan, my great-great-grandmother on my mother's side was born in the late 1800s to Irish immigrants.  She lived through two World Wars, the Roaring 20s, and the Great Depression.  She lived in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. She had 5 children, two of whom were very unconventional. 
One of these was my grandmother Alice, who was born in 1916 and thus also lived through two World Wars, the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression, the Moon Landings, The Civil Rights Movement, and so many other amazing events.  I wish we had spoken more, but by the time I was old enough to ask about her life and growing up, she was too senile to hold a conversation.  Alice didn't marry until her late 30s, to a man nearly a decade younger then her.  They met while on vacation at a race track.  Even after marriage she worked outside the home for 30 years.  She was perpetually late, often just sitting down for a cup of tea in her slip when it was time to leave for wherever they were going. When her brother Robert (a cartoonist) came out in the early 70s, her only surprise was that everyone else was surprised.  
She had my mother and my aunt, who are only a little over a year a part.  They're close but very different women.  My mom loved school, and was a bit shy, she knew how to look like she was following the rules while still making mischief and going her own way.  My aunt was louder, hated school, and always got in trouble, even if it was really my mother's fault, even when my mother confessed.  They both married, worked, and had kids.  Both of them were fierce advocated for their children.  Now my mom works and spends a fair amount of time involved in town leadership activities and political campaigns.  She's still happily married and comfortably upper middle class.  She still also likes to cause trouble.  My aunt had premature twin daughters, one of whom died after several weeks and the other was chronically sick for years (though she's better now).  This changed her, and her husband couldn't handle this or the attention my aunt gave her surviving daughter. Since the divorce my aunts struggled for money, working constantly while barely making a living wage.  Her children also have issues with money and employment and depend of her more than she can afford, but she still gives them everything she can and more. 

My father had a great-aunt, Verna Zimmerman, who was absolutely amazing.  She was a Mennonite, a dutiful daughter who also managed to carve her own (unorthodox) path. She was the youngest child of the family, closer in age to her nephew (my great-grandfather) then some of her siblings.  She (and her two older sisters) went to college.  Verna studied nursing and eventually went over seas to be a nurse in India and China during WWII and afterwards.  There was often a lack of doctors so Verna ended up doing many of the surgeries and treatments, she always talked about one she had done to save a person's eye.  Verna was in China during the Communist Revolution.  She didn't want to leave her patients and so stayed until where she was had been taken by the Communists and had to be smuggled over the boarder.  This happened several times before she left China for good. She returned to the US to care for her sick and elderly parents, and when they passed she moved to Indiana to help found the nursing school at Goshen College in 1952.  She taught there and served on the board until she retired in 1975.  
My father's mother is also named Verna. She was the daughter of Mennonite farmers and became a farmer(wife) herself.  She (and her husband) never went to college.  She was a dutiful help meet to her husband (even if she often disagreed with him) and raised 5 independent children. She's social, enjoyed quilting and gardening and antiques and historical home pieces.  She knows more of the family history then anyone else, and is the one who told me about the elder Verna.  I think she wishes she had picked a similar path.  As they've aged my grandfather has become mean and she's become more isolated while caring for him.  She never got to travel the way she wished (it was always for religious work and never to see new places).  She loves her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, she loves being the center of the family, and the family story keeper. But I'm not certain she would have chosen this path if she could do it all over. 
Her daughter Joan also married at a young age and before attending college.  But Joan eventually did get a college education and works outside the home.  In fact, she's now the CEO of the company her father started. Joan is warm and earthy, the most relaxed and outgoing of her siblings.  She and her husband, and their children, love to laugh. 

The girls and women who are my cousins range in age, personalities, and interests.  They're doctors, college professors, cheerleaders, waitresses, vet techs, chefs in training, nurse practitioners, they have cognitive/learning disabilities, mental illness, emotional disturbances, they're mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, golden children and black sheep. 

These women have taught me so much.  The importance of helping others, but not sacrificing yourself. They taught me the rules, and how to break or bend them. They've been trailblazers, unconventional, and traditional and conservative. They've taught me about history and family and the connection of these two. They taught me how to love and hate at the same time. They've inspired me, and have been a warning. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Babe, Is This Sexist?

Crossposted in full at the F.A.R tumblr

So, we love tracking the search terms that lead people to this sight.  "Feminism + Sailor Moon" and similar versions are in the lead, but sometimes a very sexist search leads people here.  Hi Misogynists!

And the winner was:
"are all women crazy"

Well I feel a bit crazed knowing some people actually typed that into a search engine. However,

Seriously, women are not a monolith m'kay.  Nor is their anything wrong with having a mental illness, to suggest otherwise is ableism. And if you ever feel like women as a group are mad or crazy remember this word ... Kyriarchy. Oppression isn't great for anyone's stress levels or mental health.
Please submit any options for next week's installment of Babe, is this Sexist? in the comments.  Then check out our Facebook page on Monday to vote in the poll. 

Go to the "Babe, is this Sexist?" Masterpost

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Insults and Oppression

By: Liberate Zealot, Insidious Beast, Mirthful Misanthrope, and Mistress Malcontent

Content Warning: Sexism and slut-shaming, Ableism, Homophobia, Religious supremacy, transphobia, racism, fat shaming, ageism, gaslighting, every type of oppressive language we could think of 

So you're a progressive/feminist/queer/social justice activist and you're arguing with mean and insulting people and you want to insult them back without engaging in oppressive language. Because being good doesn't mean you always have to be nice.  Here's a post of non-oppressive insults.  But, we're doing a post on what insults are oppressive, and what type of oppression they fall under.  Because, it's a sad fact that our language and culture is so Kyriarchal that many of us don't even realize the oppressive roots of the words that are in common usage.

 Also some of these words have been reclaimed by the people they oppressive.  Please be aware of the difference between people within an oppressed group using words that are traditionally used to oppress them and an outside group using such language.  Religious supremacy is very tied to racism, just as body insults/policing and ableism are related, so those sections will be grouped together as some words fall under both both categories.  I'm separating classist and racist terms, but there is also a great deal on intersection between those as well (such as ratchet and ginger).  Also ageist is often linked with sexist slurs, same with sexist and classist slurs. Basically a lot of slurs are intersectional.

None of these slurs are positioned based on priority or seriousness of the slur.  All words are alphabetized, with non-English words at the bottom of the list.

Naturally we're going to miss some, if you have any to include please mention them in the comments!  We're trying to include ones from a variety of languages and countries, but because of our locations we're, unfortunately, English-centric.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Babe, Is This Sexist?

So there were only two votes, but the option they both went with is so stomach turning that we're confident many more would have voted for it.

And Oh My Holy Flying Spaghetti Monster is this SEXIST!!!  Seriously my brain cannot break down the sexist-ness of this commercial to describe it.  I remember it showing all the time last year or so and by mind was boggled that this amount of overt Patriarchal control was considered acceptable. 
  • Parents do not own their children! 
  • Slut-shaming anyone?
  • A Father destroying his daughter's property because it makes him uncomfortable about her sexuality is not funny!
As always please feel free to leave suggestions for next week in the comments.  Voting will go up on our Facebook page on Monday so you can pick your favorite option for the next installment.

Go to the "Babe, is this Sexist?" Masterpost

So Sexy It Hurts

By: Liberate Zealot
Content Warning: Sexism, Kyriarchy, Racism, Slut-Shaming

The idea that certain things are "sexy" or "too sexy" and therefor "inappropriate" is all over.  In various countries, among liberals and conservatives, feminists and religious extremists, there's the idea that a woman's body (more so than men) wearing certain clothes or doing certain things are so sexual (and objectifying) that they are bad and inappropriate.  Now different cultures have somewhat different standards (and these have also changed over time).  However, the overreaching standards that gain more and more prevalence are based on "Western" ideas.  And the "West's" ideas of sexuality and being "too sexy" are based on centuries of colonialism, "Othering", and the Kyriarchy.  

Western Europe and the people who came from there and conquered the lands that would become the US, Canada, and Australia had specific ideas about the acceptable role and appearance of women, and also ideas about "the savage" non-whites/non-Western Europeans.  These ideas have created our current ideas of not only what is "inappropriately sexy" but also what is considered "sexy" at all.  So to dismantle the Kyrirachal framing of things as "too sexy" and slut-shaming we need to look at how current standards of "sexy" and "too sexy" came into being.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Oh, gigglesnort. Another victim-blaming joke. Again.

The following is cross-posted from the Damsel in de Tech blog. Click here to see the original.

You might not have noticed, but I spend a lot of time on Slutwalk Facebook pages, as well as other forums addressing sexual violence and rape culture. And once every couple of weeks, someone will watch Dave Chappelle and decide that this comedian has cornered the market on sensible advice regarding clothing. Usually they just post a Youtube video, but on occasion they will make a comment without citation in an effort to seem original. Like this, for example:
If i dress in a police uniform people come up to me officer, officer help me please.
I say EXCUSE ME but just because i dress this way does not make me a police officer. So ladies you're right.
Just because you dress a certain way does not make you a whore...but you are wearing a whores uniform.
Ah, yes. The ol' "whores uniform" bit. Slut-shaming comedy at its finest (read: most boring, unimaginative, lazy and subjective).

There are obviously a few problematic things about this whole concept of the "whore's uniform", and the idea behind it that women who dress a certain way have no right to be anything but accepting of responses they get because of their attire.

Upfront, I want to address what I think is the most obvious: when people post this on the Slutwalk page, a movement dedicated to addressing sexual violence, they are saying that it's ok to rape sex workers.

You might be thinking, "Whoooooa. Back up! Just because they should be treated like whores doesn't mean they should be raped! You're reading too much into this innocent and sensible advice!"

(insert much pearl-clutching, huffing and self-righteous indignation)

Yes, I will say it again, using this analogy on a page dedicated to survivors of sexual violence means you think it's ok that rape and violence justsohappentobe "workplace hazards" for sex workers. It means that you hold onto the victim-blaming rape myth and Just World Falacy that bad things are ok to happen to people who you feel fall outside your narrowly-defined box of "good" and that bad things only happen to them because they "made" it happen by not adhering to your vague advice.

Now, perhaps you've never thought about it in this context before. It's entirely plausible, and even likely, that these associations never occured to you and that you were "just making a joke". A joke doesn't absolve you from responsibility for what you say or give you a free pass to say what you like without thinking. Part of growing up is developing our critical thinking skills, and here's an opportunity for you to exercise yours.

Back to the 'uniform' analogy, police officers don't just have navy slacks and a shirt. They have visible patches and identifying badges which let citizens know that they're legit and to also make them identifiable should they have complaints filed against them or break a law. They are supposed to all look immediately identifiable so that if someone needs help, they know who to go to, or if they respond to a call that the people there know police are on the scene.

Let's also not ignore the fact that it's illegal to impersonate an officer, and with very good reason. Police officers have authority over regular citizens, and have weapons and restraints. Someone impersonating a police officer can (and do) abuse the appearance of authority in order to manipulate, rob, and assault people.

Speaking of dress codes, how do "whores" dress? Is it climate-specific? Is it culturally specific? Is it class-specific? Are they susceptible to the same whims of fashion as "the rest" of us? Do all sex workers dress like Julia Roberts from "Pretty Woman"? If a sex worker decides to wear jeans on a given day, does that throw the whole order into chaos and mean that any women wearing jeans are now "dressed like a whore" by virtue of of their denim choices? What about highly-paid escorts who wear Gucci and Versace? What if a woman has extremely large breasts? Does she need to wear a potato sack to avoid "displaying" them?

I'd like to take this opportunity to speak on the idea that appearance dictates how people are treated and is therefore a valid reason for treating someone poorly. Along with the Dave Chappelle "whore's uniform" quip, close behind is usually a comment on how people wouldn't show up for a job interview wearing something skimpy.

This notion is steeped in classicism, racism, and sexism. It allows for people to feel ok about treating someone poorly or thinking poorly of them if they don't have the resources to buy "respectable" clothes. It allows for them to feel ok about othering people who don't fit into the very white and cissexist paradigm of men wearing suits and women wearing a slightly more varied but still very narrow selection of clothing. It allows for people to feel ok about patronizing women who dress too femininely, or to assume a woman who dresses too masculinely is a dyke or ballbuster.

Frankly, the skit by Dave Chappelle may seem super clever to some at first, but if you spend any amount of time breaking it down, it doesn't make for a valid or even relevant argument. And it's certainly not an argument to present to survivors of sexual violence because we know that clothes do not protect us, when many are assaulted in their PJs, in prom dresses, in jeans & sweatshirts, in parkas, in wedding attire, in any manner of dress and most often by someone they know. We know that persons of colour, trans*folk, disabled persons, and immigrants are at an even greater risk of sexual violence, because of their perceived level of disposability in our culture. Wearing turtleneck won't make them or anyone else safer. Changing our culture will.

DC - Unite Against the War on Women

By: Liberate Zealot

So I promised to live tweet the rally, and then lost my phone (yay ADD!) right before heading down.  However, I had a roommate to be my photographer and I'm doing a post on it now.

The Washington DC rally was in the same place the Feb. March for Choice was last year (Upper Senate Park)  which I went to last year.  This one was much better organized, they had more time, so the sound equipment was so much better (there was a stage and we could hear everything, even at the back of the crowd).  There was music and a wonderful variety of knowledgeable and skilled speakers who came from a variety of organizations and perspectives.  It really was, at the title of the rally said, about uniting against the War on Women. 

The speakers included Catholics, protestants, atheists,  college students, middle aged people, men, women, immigrants, people born in the US, white people, people of color, cis and trans women, and poor and middle class people.  They were all very talented and insightful, but I did have 3 or 4 favorites. 

  Mara Keisling is the founding executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. In her own words she's a white, over educated, middle class, middle aged, transgender women.  She spoke about trans people having politically controlled medical care, how that and trans people in general relate to and suffer from the War on Women.  She also spoke about intersectionality, and violence and hate. She specifically spoke about CeCe McDonald.  A young, poor, black trans women who is undergoing trial this week for murder charges related to her and her friends defense of them selves while being targets of what should be classified a hate crime. 

Callie Otto and Eric Orantes started and head the The Catholic University Students for Choice.  They discussed the differences between Catholics and Catholic institutions when it comes to abortion, contraceptives, and the separation of church and state.  They also spoke about their work to educate their peers about safer sex and to help them get access to contraceptives (condoms) while facing the risk of expulsion if they didn't successfully navigate following the letter of the law. 

Melody Hensley is with the Center for Inquiry an organization that works for a secular and scientific society.  She spoke about being a foster child, and poor, and a statistic.  She spoke about her own abortion at the age of 20.  She spoke about the importance of choice and trusting women.  How having an abortion when you're not ready or able to be pregnant or a parent is just as responsible as having a child when you are able and ready.  She spoke about the connection of reproductive rights and economics. And the law and politics being based on science, not religious dogma. 

Derrick Ashong is a naturalized citizen.  He spoke about growing up in West Africa and Arabia among Muslims (while not being one himself).  He spoke about how the US can be an example to other countries, and a source of hope among people who are striving for equality.  He also spoke about the importance on continued struggle and not resting on our laurels.  How rights must be fought to get, and how we must fight to keep them while also fighting for all our rights and real, true freedom and equality.

Now one of my favorite parts of any protest/rally/march is seeing all the signs...