Follow by Email

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Babe, is this Sexist?

The winner for this installment of Babe, is this Sexist is all cleaning commercials ever!  

And the answer is YES!  THE VAST MAJORITY OF CLEANING COMMERCIALS ARE SEXIST! Shocking I know (not really).  Cleaning commercials are well known for showing cleaning as women's work (and also portraying cleaning as easier than it really is and somehow fun or romantic.)

Check out our Facebook Page in a couple of weeks for the poll to chose the next installment of Babe, is the Sexist?  And remember you can always leave comments on our Blog, Tumblr, Facebook page, or tweet us your suggestions for options in the poll.

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

Monday, 27 August 2012

Opening the School Year

By: Liberate Zealot

It's the first day of school in a lot of areas of the US.  It is in my state and the surrounding ones.  I had already intended to do a first day of school post, about gender neutral toys and play or something.  Instead I'm posting about a school shooting.

During the first lunch period of the day there was a shooting in the cafeteria at Perry Hall High School in White Marsh, MD.

I didn't hear about it from the news, or the school alert system that lets me know of school emergencies in the area.

I heard about it from a co-worker, whose daughter was in the cafeteria when the shooter opened fire.   She called her mom immediately after fleeing the building with the other students in the cafeteria.

Luckily the shooter is in custody and, as far as the news or my co-worker's daughter knows, there's only one victim.  As of now the victim is alive and being treated at the hospital.

No names are being released as of yet, and the motivation of the shooter is pure speculation.

All I know is that the gun violence continues. A student has been injured.  Thousands of people are scared for themselves and their loved ones. Thousands more are struggling with shock, worrying that this might happen to their school/students/children (themselves).  Lock-downs and emergency plans will be practiced with a greater sense of fear and urgency.

And the count down for when we can seriously discuss better gun control laws without "politicizing a shooting" has restarted.  For the forth time in two months.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

We Are Women Recap

By: Liberate Zealot

So after some issues (damn metro!) the roommate and I made it to the We Are Woman Rally right around noon.

Check out our Facebook Album for more imagines!

We missed several speakers and one performer. Mara Keisling, who spoke at the Unite Against the War on Women Rally, was back, but sadly I didn't see her speech.  However, all the speeches are up on-line if you care to check them out yourself.  And the bands, sounds system, and over all organization of the Rally was the best I've seen yet.

My favorite speakers were Rev. Charles McKenzie of the Rainbow Push Coalition in Florida and Soraya Chemaly of the Huffington Post, fem2pt0Btchflcks, and more.  They were both eloquent and impassioned speakers who, in my opinion, out shone the other speakers, in their ability and skill and the resonance of what they were saying.  Both spoke about current political and social issues, discussed individual acts, and connected them to the larger mentality and methods of the Kyriarchy.  Soraya Chemaly spoke about internalized misogyny and how the social and political issues are related to that and society's failure to see women as fully human.  This tied very nicely into discussion about the ERA which was the focus of most of the speakers. (along with plenty of disparaging comments about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan).

As a reminder the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) which would result in Constitutional recognition of women's humanity and personhood, has never passed.

However, I have to admit to a sense of disappointment with the We Are Woman Rally. Maybe it was the heat, or the length of the rally (10:30-4:00), but it just wasn't as good as other ones.  The speakers became repetitive after a while, and while they were all knowledgeable and "accredited feminists" many of them just weren't stirring speakers.  Most disappointing was the diversity of the speakers.  The vast majority were late middle aged white women. Few of them self disclosed as queer or from the "lower" class.  It was too homogeneous to feel representative of all US women.  And if I noticed this I can only imagine how alienating it might have felt to women of color, or those who've grown up without class privilege.

I can't help but compare it to last week's #sheparty which was led by Flyover Feminism and about the diversity within the feminist movement. To go from a discussion about needing better representation and the feminists in power, the privileged feminists, needing to be the ones to open their conferences, to reach out and gain the trust of our less privileged sisters, to a rally full of "official" feminists, dominated by white women.  Well, it was upsetting, and it made me angry.  We're supposed to be getting better in truth, not just paying lip service to diversity and intersectionality.

Friday, 17 August 2012

We Are Women Rally

By: Liberate Zealot

Tomorrow one of the roommates and I will be down in DC to attend the We Are Women Rally whose
mission is to bring national attention to the ongoing war on women's rights being fought by conservative representatives in federal and state legislatures throughout the country. We believe that women have the right to control their own bodies, make their own decisions about healthcare, receive equal pay for equal work, and be treated with respect by the men and women who represent them in their own state houses and in Washington.  Women are not a special interest group seeking special privileges; we comprise 50% of the population, and we are citizens deserving of the same freedoms and protections awarded to our male counterparts.  We Are Woman supports the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and the restoration of all the rights that have been limited or destroyed by governors and other legislators across the nation.  It is our goal to bring thousands of men and women together at the Capitol on August 18th, 2012, to tell our politicians, "No more!"  We are strong, powerful, loving and brave. We are America. We Are Woman.
Now, I also attended the Unite Against the War on Women's DC Rally in April which I planned to live tweet as @femarmregime but I forgot my phone.  Hopefully that doesn't happen again.  So if all goes according to plan I'll live tweet the We Are Women Rally, and then post pictures and do a write up. 

But before the Rally happens I thought it a good idea to go over exactly what's going on in the US that we need to Rally about. 

Here's a write up on the various acts that make up the War on Women as of April.  But more has happened since then, and there's also the specifics of who is running for election in November. 

Updates on the Bills and Laws of the War on Women

The Social War on Women

Mitt Romney

Paul Ryan

  • So Paul Ryan is basically all around horrible for women.
  • He's co-sponsored a Fetal Personhood Bill which would outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.
  • He supported the "Let Women Die Act," 
  • He voted to cute off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood
  • He voted against allowing US service women over seas from using military hospitals to access abortions
  • He's voted in favor of forcing women to hear about their fetus's "pain" should they get an abortion
  • His budget plans includes defunding or eliminating programs that support poor women and children such as VIC, Head Start, and Title X Family Planning Act, the Home Affordable Mortgage Program, and Medicaid.
  • Paul Ryan has a 0% rating from the HRC.  I'm sure they'd give him a negative percent if it were possible. 
  • He has a 13% rating by the ACLU, meaning he has an anti-civil rights voting record. 
  • Check out Ryan's full voting record.
  • Along with being on the GOP ticket as the potential VP, Paul Ryan is also running for re-election as a Representative in his home state of Wisconsin. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Attribution Theory and White Male Mass Murder

By: Liberate Zealot
Content Warning: Mass shootings, White Supremacy, Christian Supremacy, Eliminationist Language

In Education Attribution Theory students perceive their unexpected successes and failures and attribute these events to internal or external causes.  Do they think it's about internal and/or controllable things like their effort and ability or external/uncontrollable luck or their teachers?  Education psychologists and researchers have examined this theory among different ages, genders, and countries to understand the different ways students make use of Attribution Theory.  When I was studying Education I was taught, though not everyone agrees with this, that as a whole boys and girls have different types of Attribution.  When something good happens, like they unexpectedly pass a test, boys attribute it to themselves, their efforts and ability.  Girls are more likely to attribute this to luck.  However, this method of internal vs. external attribution flips when students unexpectedly fail a test.  Then girls attribute this failure to themselves (they aren't smart enough, they need to study harder), whereas boys attribute unexpected failure to outside influences, specifically an unfair/bad teacher. These findings are based on white children.  African American students are more likely to consistently attribute failure and success to their teachers, ability, environment, and luck (all sources outside their control).

The point is people attribute things based on how they're socialized.  White (cis)men/boys think that success is all them, while failure is attributed to the fault of some Other. Think about that for a moment and then start to apply that theory to the culture at large. Then go a step further and think about how this relates to the recent (and past) mass shootings and terrorist/hate crime attacks on non-christian religious centers. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Rapex and the enduring myth of the rape-prevention tool

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

As someone who has worked with rape crisis centres and many survivors of all gender expressions, I absolutely understand the desire to have a simple solution to rape. Whether it be avoiding a particular alley, a particular kind of person, a particular article of clothing, or by using a particular device. A simple solution to rape is the holy grail to survivors.

This, I'm certain, is why the Rapex has been doing the rounds on Facebook and Tumblr (and everywhere else I don't frequent, probably).

In terms of rape-prevention, it seems to have everything we commonly look for: a heart-wrenching story, someone determined to make the world a better place, and a cheap, tangible, and easy-to-use product that we can see and share pictures of.

Now, I have no issue if people personally want to try this device and incorporate it into their arsenal of self-defense tools. But, I have serious concerns about this device that prevent me from being able to endorse it as the tool-to-end-all-rape that many have lauded it to be.

*CONTENT WARNING - RAPE: I'm going to graphically describe some rape scenarios to illustrate some of my concerns, so if you think that might prove triggering, here's a photo of a kitten. Please procede no further unless you're up for it*

1. Not all rape is vaginal. And if this item becomes common, it is more likely that rapes in the areas where these are employed will perpetrated in other orifices.

2. Not all rape is carried out using a penis. If this item becomes common, it won’t take long for perpetrators to figure out to use an object to check for this device or to use an object to generally inflict rape upon their victim. Rapists don't exist in another plane, away from the social media that we use - if a lot of potential survivors are finding out about this via Facebook, so are a lot of rapists.

3. Another concern is retaliation from the rapist. What started off as a rape may turn into a severe assault or murder if they’re caught in this device.

4. People tout this as a way to incapacitate rapists because an object that punctures the penis sounds scary and painful. However, I know a lot of men who have one or multiple piercings on their genitalia, and they were all done without sedation or any kind of numbing agent, and they were quite capable of getting themselves home on their own power afterwards. The small size of the barbs would indeed make this item shocking and unpleasant, but I highly doubt it would be incapacitating.

5. I know the designer/ manufacturer states this device will protect against STIs, HIV, pregnancy, etc, because it won’t draw blood, but how do they know? Have they run human trials? Some rape victims freeze, but some fight back, and as such it’s not unreasonable to worry that a struggle would cause this to draw blood that could infect the victim with an STI or HIV/AIDS.

6. Women would have to wear these at all times to use them as a safety measure. When it comes down to it, a lot of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim - a partner/ ex/ family member/ friend/ acquaintance, etc, which further complicates using such a device.

7. The problem with low reporting rates cannot be solved as simply as charging a man who goes into the ER with one of these attached to him. He could say that (and it’s plausible that) his partner consensually engaged with him without telling him she was wearing the device. If she’s one of the women who’s decided to wear it at all times ever, then it’s plausible she could have even forgotten she had it in. The problem with low reporting rates is that victims often aren’t believed or are blamed for the crimes committed against them. This device doesn’t deal with the societal issues as to why that happens.

8. In terms of this being marketed to South African women and therefore immune to criticisms from North American women, if we're talking about people being raped as a tool of war, then often that is gang rape and object rape. If the victim is being raped by a solider, then the chances of being killed in retaliation are exponentially high.

I also need to address the issue of the White Saviour Complex when bringing up women from "Third World Countries" whom this would apparently benefit. Yes, I understand that women in areas of conflict, such as the Congo, are at an excruciatingly high risk of rape. Anything that can mitigate their risks is important. But, in opinion, marketing a passive device like this that could put them at even greater risk of retalitory violence, is short-sighted and dangerous. If there were simple solutions, the women living in conflict would have come up with them. There are no simple solutions when dealing with rape as a weapon of war.

9. On a note about its functionality, I use a diva cup, which is a silicone cup used for menstruation that is shaped somewhat similarly to the Rapex, only inserted upside down. From using those, I have my doubts as to whether the Rapex would stay in place in order to latch onto a penis, as is being advertised. Unless the Rapex were long enough to anchor itself on the cervix, it could just get pushed out of the way. And if the penis or object is large enough it doesn't fit in the Rapex, the Rapex could wind up getting pushed into the victim's cervix and cause even more internal damage.

10. Not everyone has the same access to justice or the same relationship with the justice system. While it feels very gratifying to imagine exacting painful, bloody violence upon a rapist, there can be very damaging and long-term consequences for the survivor for harming her assailant, even in self-defense. This is especially a concern for people whom are already regularly marginalized by the justice system, such as persons of colour, queers, trans*folks, undocumented immigrants, sex workers, and persons with mental disabilities, to name a few.

This may seem counter-intuitive, like, "Why don't you want victims to fight back? Every victim wants the rape to end as soon as possible so how can you try to tell them not to fight?"

Frankly, not all victims react the same when they are being assaulted or after their assault. There is no right or wrong way to survive an assault because all one has to rely on in the moment is their instincts and ability to gauge threat/benefit to fighting back. Even if someone wanted to fight back, sometimes the body's natural reaction is to freeze.

Also, not all victims are abused and attacked by strangers or by people they know but whom they could conceivably physically hurt back without being inflicted with even more severe punishments. Take as an example the recent cases of Cece McDonald, and Marissa Alexander, two women of colour who were jailed for acting in self-defense. No, these were not rape cases, but the same denial of access to justice applies.

11. The Rapex doesn't actually stop rape. In order for the Rapex to be used as a weapon against the assailant, the victim has to be penetrated. Perhaps the duration of the rape of shortened, but this isn't a rape-prevention device in the traditional sense. Maybe its use will prevent future victims because of the damage and potential legal consequences meted out upon the rapist, but that's a pretty big but. More likely, in the future the rapist will use an object to check for the device or assault new victims using other orifices. Either way, the potential safety of future victims is a lot of responsibility to erroneously place on a victim whose first and only responsibility should be to their own safety and healing.

12. Aside from the practical use of the product, or how it may or may not be circumvented by rapists, devices like this and the Rape Drug Straw, are doing the exact same thing that all the other rape prevention strategies do - they take the onus off of rapists to not commit crimes and onto potential victims to juggle every rape prevention technique out there to stop their own rape. These tools can all provide some individual level of safety, and can prevent individuals from becoming victims. They cannot and do not stop rapists from working around these new tools to create new victims. If I use the rape drug straw, maybe I'll detect a drug that could have had serious and long-term effects on me. That's a good outcome. But that doesn't stop the rapist from trying to use those drugs on persons who don't have the straws or from trying to incapacitate me with alcohol or violence. This isn't a design flaw with the straw, it's a flaw in thinking that this will stop the net number of rapes.

And when we use these products and they fail, or if they're available and we don't use them and are assaulted, then there's another open opportunity for victim-blaming. If one victim uses this and another doesn't, then there's another open opportunity to pit "good" victims against "bad" victims. Even being skeptical of these items in the war against sexual violence is enough for people to question my "dedication" to ending rape, as opposed to having a practical understanding of the realities of rape and not letting Liam Neeson guide my self-defense measures.

All in all, I can see why someone would want to design such a “simple” solution, but because of the concerns I’ve mentioned and more, I absolutely cannot support this device being touted as a “rape prevention” measure.

The funny thing is, there are some very simple ways we can help reduce rape. We can not give rapists a social license to operate. We can not make rape jokes so that we make our culture safer for survivors and less amenable to rapists. We can believe people when they report. We can understand the many different forms rape takes, and hold abusers accountable for the crimes they've committed, rather than let them off because their rapes weren't rapey enough.

Let's hope those rape-prevention tips catch on more so we can really make a dent in the number of rapes.

Thanks for hanging in there for this tough topic. Here's a funny ermine.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Babe, is this Sexist?

This installment was about song lyrics, and we had songs from a variety of genres.  The voting was close, but we have a winner!
Taylor Swift's "You Belong with Me"

And yes this is sexist! This time of the internalized variety.

  • Female competition over men, where you can't build yourself up without putting the other woman down.
  • Hatred of Other Girl.
  • Slut-shaming up the wazoo (maximized in the music video).
  • Conflating relationships with ownership.
Now yes, unlike some of the other songs that people could vote for, there is no use of sexist slurs in this one, or objectification of women. But this subtle form of sexism is just as problematic.  The tropes it employs are so prevalent in society, and it's target audience is young girls who will internalize this sexist message because Taylor Swift is their hero and a "good girl". 

If you have suggestions for the next installment of Babe, is this Sexist? you can leave information in these posts, message us on Tumblr, or post on the F.A.R. facebook page.

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